Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Homeschooling Stuff Worth Checking Out, Edition 1

I'm not at Super-Blogger status, so I don't get compensated for reviewing homeschooling material, but I wanted to share some things that have worked well for us lately.

I stumbled on the Headsprout Reading Program last month and tried out their free trial. I got it for my 6-year-old, who is just learning how to read, and she wasn't that interested when she first looked at it. But my 3-year-old was nearby and begged to get to play it when the 6-year-old left it. By the end of the first episode, she had learned several letter sounds and was having a blast with it.

Now everytime she sees the letters she learned, on signs, cereal boxes, etc., she proudly points them out like she has just discovered an amazing treasure. After struggling with teaching reading with my first two kids, it is such a joy to see excitement in reading.

Once CarriBear (6) saw how much fun Lil' Diva (3) was having, she decided the program was actually pretty cool, and often watches over Lil' Diva's shoulder, helping her out when she gets stuck. So CarriBear is actually learning without what she considers the "work".

The true test came when it was time to print out the first reader. Lil Diva was so excited to get her book and spent all morning carefully coloring the pictures. However, she couldn't read it. She could easily do all the lessons in the online games, but couldn't make the connection to reading actual printed words. But, it is still early for that, and her excitement and interest in "reading" that came from this program is worth the effort, even if she doesn't actually read for another year or two. She now picks up every book she can get her hands on and "reads" it to herself, which is a great first step.

Plus, CarriBear breezed through the reader with no problem, so I know the program is working for her, even though she isn't doing every exercise. As they say, sometimes teaching others is the best way to learn, and she has spent plenty of time showing Lil Diva the "right" way to play the Headsprout games.

I'm not sure yet if the program is worth the high price, but I would definitely recommend checking it out to see if it is something that might work for your family. It has gotten many great reviews. So far I feel like it is working better than Starfall and some of the other free reading programs we've tried.

BeachPea and I pulled this game out the other day - Snapshots Across America - and I had forgotten how fun it is. It really seems to help the kids learn their US geography - BeachPea was able to find the states on her cards almost immediately after the first couple rounds - plus it's fun and easy to play. You drive your car across the country, earning cards for each U.S. attraction you visit. Our favorite part of the game is when it's over and we go through our cards and pick out which of the places we would most want to visit. I'm still dreaming about the Key West vacation I would take :).

If you want to check out more reviews on this game, Amazon carries it:

The last product I was introduced to by Dana at Crazy Maize World. We ordered the Times Tales free trial download and my kids really enjoyed it. They had all the times tables memorized from the trial by the end of the first 20 minute lesson. The program uses cute drawings and stories to help kids memorize. Much more fun (and effective) than regular flash cards. You can order the free download here:

Free Times Tales Sample Download

Amazon also carries it, tho' I ordered my copy a few weeks ago and they have been out of stock. Hoping it will come soon.

That's all for now. Now back to freaking out over the rest of this year's curriculum, which I still have to decide on. Can't believe August is coming up so fast. Where did the summer go?


  1. Snapshots across America looks SO good. I think i'm going to get this one...

  2. Thanks for the reviews - I was thinking about ordering Snapshots at one time, but didn't know anyone that had used it. I'm doing the same as you....pouring over all the lesson plans, schedules, etc etc etc. It's that time already! Amazing.

  3. That's great that the older daughter is learning by helping the younger one. Maybe feeling like the "big" girl is good motivation for her!
    You mentioned in your comment on my blog about wanting to read the Left Behind Kids series to your kids. I would say maybe read them yourself first. They are good but my 7 year old gets a bit "lost" sometimes. My boys (ages 10 & 12) are LOVING the books. We are only on book 3 and there are alot to go, so we'll see how the rest of the series goes.
    But they are definitely geared toward preteen and early teens.
    enjoy your day... hope you get some sun time!

  4. Thanks for the Headsprout recommendation! I just ordered it for my 6yo Aspie daughter, who is having a hard time learning to read. I think this will give her a great boost!

  5. Great ideas! We are using Sue Patrick's Workbox system, and I have been trying to think up some "fun" activities to add to our day. I forgot all about Starfall! I am excited to try out the Times Tales as well.



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