Thursday, May 23, 2013

{Review} My Home School Grades

Do you have to keep track of your homeschool students’ grades for reporting?  Do you like to keep track of grades for your benefit only?  Are you looking for an easy program that does not include planning?  Are you looking for a program to record these grades that is accessible from any device?  Then I have a great recommendation!

My Home School Grades came about in the fall of 2012 when the CEO, John Echols and his wife were looking for something to help them keep track of grades and create a transcript for their freshman student at home.  They searched all the available programs offered and each one lacked what they were wanting for their family.  Mr. Echols joined forces with self-taught web designer, Jordan,  who developed the site and program.

The program is easily accessible whether you are using a computer, tablet or smart phone.   If you have access to internet, then you have access to My Home School Grades.  The program is also designed to do most of the work for you.  Once you are signed on, the program fills in the students’ last names automatically which helps with reporting and transcripts.  There are also preloaded publishers in the system with curriculum and lessons already laid out.  All you have to do is add the grades as the work is completed.   Other easy areas to navigate are Activities which include things like sports, choir and organizations as well as a transcript creator.

I was excited to use this program!  I have personally used one or two other programs offered to most homeschoolers but they had lengthy user manuals and/or they required that I enter lesson plans of the curriculum we were using.  That was time consuming and redundant since we use curriculum that includes a lesson plan for the year.  I found myself giving up and not using those other programs to their full potential.

My Home School Grades does not have any place where you add in lesson plans.  This is strictly a way to record grades and activities for each of your students.  The best part of adding the grades was that I can decide if I record each grade as a letter (A, B, C), a percentage (90%, 85% 70%) or a fraction (84/90, 90/100, 50/50) and the program shows the cumulative grade for each subject.

You will find that many common activities that homeschool students are involved are included in the activities area already but you can also add whenever necessary.  Activities our family will be recording will be volunteer experiences for Legs, sports for Dude, dance and theater for Little Red and dance for Chubbles.  I am sure there will be other activities to add as the kids get bigger too.

One thing I didn’t expect with My Home School Grades was that when it is time to create and send in transcripts to colleges or other institutions, all I have to do is go into one student’s page, clink on Transcript and it is immediately created and ready to be printed.

You can visit My Home School Grades to watch tutorials on how to use the program and to sign-up for a 14-day free trial.  After the trial, you can purchase a lifetime subscription for $49.99.  This allows one family to add as many students as they need to serve them.

Pros: This is another product that I think is amazing!  I am so blessed that our family was allowed to review this product and be allowed to continue to use it throughout our homeschooling career.  I really think this program is going to be a huge blessing for many.

Cons: I have not found anything in this program that I did not like.  Some families may find that the publishers or curriculum they use is not in the system but Mr. Echols has said they are working daily to add more and if you would like to see a particular one, please send them an email and they will work to get it added.

This review is part of Mosaic Reviews: A medley of review perspectives.  To see other perspectives, please visit here after May 23rd.

The next review will be Apologia book, How Do We Know God Is Really There?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

{Review} Waterproof Bible

Are you an avid beach comber?  Or how about someone that likes to hike?  Or just someone that likes to be outside a lot?  During any of these activities, do you like to take your Bible with you but you worry about the weather or environment conditions ruining your Bible? Whether it is a traditional book or electronic version?  What is a person to do?

The Waterproof Bible is perfect for you.  Bardin & Marsee Publishing has created a Bible that is 100% waterproof inside and out.  Their “Waterproof Bible lets you take the word with you anywhere.  Water, mud and pretty much anything else wipes right off.  Available in NKJV, NIV, ESV, NLT and KJV.”

Our family received a copy of the New Testament version which included Psalms and Proverbs.  At first, it was hard to allow God’s word to be allowed out in the elements but after taking deep breaths I allowed Dude to drop it in a bucket full of water and then we left it out in the rain.  This included some expected mud to land on the Waterproof Bible.  Another time I let Chubbles drop it into the pool at the hotel while on our vacation.  One last test was during our youth fishing event.  Legs reported that her friends thought she had lost it when the Bible was put into the pond.

*Pictures to come soon*

Bobby and Anna at Bardin & Marsee Publishing made the Waterproof Bibles completely waterproof, dry quickly, are much stronger than paper, are usable with writing utensils (ball point pen, pencil, or dry highlighter), and adapt well to all extremes or reading environments.  When we brought in our Bible in from our tests, we opened it up on its spine to allow it to dry overnight as the directions indicated.

The kids are excited to come up with more ways to test our Bible.  Dude wants to take it into the shower with him and the little girls want to take in into the bathtub with them.  I have to consider those because they already like to take long showers and baths.

I am pretty sure Legs is going to take it with her to the annual church camp.  I am sure that it will get a lot of testing throughout the entire youth group.

Pros: This product is amazing!  A lot of thought was put into the creation of this product and it is a great value.  We have been able to take God’s word with us where we would not have before.

Cons: I have not come up with after reviewing this product.

I thought this would be a great present for a new graduating student to have with them wherever they go.  You can look at all the options and order your own copy here.

This review is part of Mosaic Reviews: A medley of review perspectives.  To see other perspectives, please visit here after May 17th.

The next review will be My Homeschool Grades.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

{Review} Ooka Island

“Mom, I want to do big kid school.”  I have heard this from Chubbles more often than I care to admit.  Then something came in the mail that changed her tune.  Ooka Island came into our house and I hardly ever hear Chubbles ask to do school.  Now I hear joyful glees as she “works” on her school but she thinks she is just playing.

Ooka Island is a computer-based reading game for ages 3-7 which teaches phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.  Ooka Island was created by Dr. Kay MacPhee using the Eye/Ear Method in an adaptive learn-to-read technology.  But wait, this program is not all online.  Dr. MacPhee has also created downloadable workbooks that coordinate with the online books as well as a sing-along songs app for the iPhone and iPad with songs from Ooka Island.  Parents and educators also have access to downloadable motivational tools, online progress reports as well as the ability to purchase any of the 85 books (not e-books) that match the ones in the game.

Ooka Island can be purchased in three different editions: home, school and homeschool.  Pricing is different for each but for the homeschool edition I received, the subscription cost is $12.95/month or $124.95/year for one child.  If you have multiple children using the program at the same time, then the cost is $19.95/month or $149.95/year.  If you purchase before June 1st, 2013, you can request a code for 30% off the purchase price.

We received our installation software on a USB drive but it also comes on a cd or as a download for PC or MAC.  The install took about 10 minutes and once I entered our log-on information, Chubbles was able to play right away.  She is having a great time playing the games and following along reading the books with the built-in e-reader.  Within the first hour of play, she had completed two books and felt so proud of herself.  The program immediately sent me an email with a report of her progress.  I also went online to check her scores for each game or activity.

The program saves Chubbles’ progress so the next time she logs-in, she will start right where she left off.  It takes approximately twenty minutes of guided learning time to “find” an ebook.  Then it is about ten minutes of following along with the e-reader before Chubbles get to spend time in free play.  Each boy and girl will have to follow the Learning Flow so no one can go straight to free play time in the program, they earn it.  I love that!

Chubbles really feels independent but it has been great to see each of the older ones spend time sitting next to her offering support while she plays.  I think I have spotted Little Red and Dude wanting to play too which couldn’t hurt to review and improve their reading skills.  It might be something to consider for me to purchase the group subscription.

Pros: This program was easy to set-up and Chubbles was able to start right away.  The games and activities do not move too fast and are appropriate for the level of reading as boys and girls progress.  I love the options for reinforcements away from the computer as I am one who is concerned that children spend too much time with technology and not enough time with hands-on learning and playing.  I also think the price is inexpensive to other programs I have researched.

Cons: As with many homeschool families, the cost could be a factor.  Also, as I did research as I do with any curriculum or program I am considering for our homeschool, I found that Ooka Island is aligned with Common Core Standards which would benefit school programs required to follow the standards.

You can find out so much more and order your own copy at Ooka Island.

This review is part of Mosaic Reviews: A medley of review perspectives.  To see other perspectives, please visit here after May 13th.

The next review will be the Waterproof Bible.