Learn Math Concepts using Movement

My family recently received a complimentary copy of the Gymathtics DVD review as a TOS Homeschool Crew member.

Photobucket    Exploracise Gymathtics is a DVD program that combines and uses exercise to introduce and reinforce mathematical concepts for grades 2-5  in a kinesthetic, auditory, and visual manner, while promoting physical fitness.

Recognized, among other awards, as one of Dr. Toy’s 100 Top Children’s Products for 2009 and Creative Child Magazine’s DVD of the Year for 2009, the DVD provides upbeat music and basic exercise demonstrated by a woman and four children of varying ages.

The DVD has four parts:

Shape Stretches Warm Up – This segment focuses on various stretches and introduces the concepts of
“a line”, “circle”, and “polygon.”

Counting Calisthenics – This segment includes aerobic movements while counting, forward, backwards, skip counting, place value, and prime numbers.

Pattern Power – This segment has children doing jumps, squats, and lunges, while practicing growing and repeating patterns.

Well-Being Wind Down – This segment ends the exercise routine with cool down stretches while discussing
healthy life style habits to include in a daily routine.

The kinesthetic approach to learning can be very effective and helps children retain concepts in different
subjects including math. I can see where this program would assist children in their learning after
they have gotten used to the physical routine movements and could then focus on the concepts being presented.

The DVD was too young for my 13 year old son to enjoy, although other 13 year olds may enjoy it. My
other son, a few years younger, does not enjoy formal exercise routines. He prefers to get exercise
while “playing a game.” So the exercise routine format was a turn off for him. He was so busy learning
the physical movements of the exercises, he wasn’t paying too much attention to the math concepts
being presented.

But, as I mentioned earlier, I think once a child gets used to the physical routine and follows the DVD
a number of times, then the math concepts will be reinforced with the repetition. I could have used this
when my older son was in 2nd or 3rd grade; he was my more active auditory learner who did not like
sitting still for long. I encourage those homeschool families with “wiggly learners”, and “kinesthetic
or auditory learners” to give this DVD a try if you are looking for something to physically engage
your learners in learning math.

This DVD can be purchased for $24.99.

For more reviews of Gymathtics, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew reviews.

Do You Have a New or Struggling Speller or Reader?

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew our family received a complimentary one year membership to AVKO for the purpose of offering our honest review.

Photobucket      If you have a new or struggling speller or reader, possibly one with dyslexia, you may want to check out what a membership to AVKO Educational Research Foundation can offer you.

AVKO Educational Research Foundation is a non-profit organization with the following mission statement:

  1. To determine what makes the learning of reading and spelling so difficult for some and so easy for others.
  2. To determine what it is about our language that good readers learn without being taught that poor readers don’t.
  3. To determine whether or not that which poor readers don’t learn is ever systematically taught and if it isn’t, if it can be.
  4. To devise techniques and materials to enable teachers (or parents) to systematically teach poor readers and/or poor spellers that which schools presently are not teaching.
  5. To widely disseminate its discoveries of techniques and materials that enable dyslexics to learn to read and to spell.

With a Basic Membership, you receive the following benefits:

  • 25% off AVKO printed materials
  • Hundreds of dollars worth of free ebooks
  • Access to the Members Only section
  • AVKO newsletter with freebies, discounts, resources, and promotions
  • Access to workshop recordings in MP3 format
  • Supplemental curriculum materials including worksheets, word games, and activities
  • Access to Pretests and Placement Tests
  • Access to Answer Keys to Unscramblers and Family Reunion Exercises on the site in the Engaging Language Kits

The Deluxe Membership provides you with the benefits listed above plus the following additional items:

  • 25% discount off all materials ordered
  • Read-only access to all AVKO materials (excluding Sequential Spelling and Engaging Language Kits
  • Access to AVKO’s newest ebooks – Word Family Supplements 1-7 for Sequential Spelling and Spelling Remediation Test Kit

To give you an idea what kind of information these ebooks and materials have to offer, I will describe them below:

The Patterns of English Spelling Volumes 1-10 with Word Families in Sentence Context

This book contains all the word families with lists of words following each vowel-consonant pattern, “r” and “w” controlled words, suffixes, prefixes, and Latin and Greek roots. It provides sentences using the words following these patterns in context for dictation. The idea behind using this book would be to refer to the word family having that root word your child is having trouble with and have him copy that root repeatedly as it is used in a list of words, so he sees it being using in multiple ways. Like the Charlotte Mason method, he is copying the correct spelling of the word and when he writes it incorrectly he corrects it himself.

This 1,631 paged book normally sells for $359.90. So if you want to develop your own spelling program using roots and word families based on consonant/vowel patterns, you might be interested in this website.

The Reading Teacher’s List of Over 5,500 Basic Spelling Words

This 134 paged ebook lists the most common spelling words in order of difficulty. It is also referenced to The Patterns of English Spelling, described above.  This is a good reference if you want to put together a spelling program that progresses from easier to more difficult words. It normally costs $29.95.

The Teaching of Reading and Spelling: Starting at Square One and The Teaching of Reading and Spelling: a Continuum from Kindergarten through College

These books are valuable for parents of those children just beginning to read and spell or those who are having trouble picking up on reading and spelling. The “Square One” book is a beginner level giving detailed instructions to the parent how to approach teaching your child the sounds of the alphabet and writing the letters. I was quite impressed as I read through this title.

The other book, “Kindergarten through College” is more of a book of theory in teaching your child to read, write, and spell. It discusses the “learning to read and write processes”, and the “spelling and reading connection.” It contains diagnostic and prescriptive tests and activities and materials for the classroom. So if you are looking for a book about theory behind Mr. McCabe’s method of teaching reading and spelling, this would be the book you would read.

To Teach Dyslexia

This last ebook describes Don McCabe’s journey, the founder and author of these texts, as a dyslexic and teacher forming his philosophy and methods in teaching reading and spelling to dyslexic children. It is an entertaining, interesting, and informative read. It simply states what it is like to be dyslexic, how a dyslexic person perceives and learns, and how Mr. McCabe’s methods are used.

Other Membership Resources

The remaining resources on the website are activity worksheets and reading comprehension and dictation material. You will want to preview these before working with them with your children, as I thought they were more adult oriented. I enjoyed reading some of them (quotes, puns, etc.), but I would not necessarily use them with my children for their reading and spelling instruction.

I thought the ebooks were the real bargain for the price of a Basic Membership of $25. A Deluxe membership is $100.

If you would like to read more reviews of these membership benefits, visit the Homeschool Crew.

American Heritage Education Foundation

  I was provided with a CD of American Heritage Education Foundation’s “An Adventure in Liberty” for the purpose of writing a review as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew.

For over a year now one of the biggest discussions as part of last year’s presidential campaign and since the election has been a discussion of the constitution and the principles our country was founded on. All of that discussion has provided several starting points for discussion in our family. These discussions have not necessarily been political in nature, but idealogical and more about human characteristics and values that led to the founding of our nation.


The American Heritage Education Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation, has developed materials to be used as a supplemental curriculum to assist teachers in providing insight to the values that underly our country’s foundation. It comes in three levels – elementary, middle, and high school. The middle and high school levels include the same topics as the elementary materials, but go into further depth and additional topics. This makes it easier to plan lessons for the multiple ages in your home.

Each topic focuses on one or more of four themes – freedom, unity, progress, and responsibility. These topics are listed in chronological order according to the time frame in which they occurred in the formation of our country, starting from 1622 to 2000 depending on the grade level of the materials. You can choose to study these topics in chronological order or study them according to the month that is assigned to that theme and study a different theme each month. To give you an idea of the topics for the levels, I will list them for you:


  • The Monarchy Game (a game to play to look at different forms of government)
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • A Famous Signature (a study of John Hancock and his part and responsibility in our country’s formation)
  • George Washington
  • U. S. Presidents
  • The Great Seal
  • Thanksgiving
  • The United States Flag
  • The Star-Spangled Banner
  • The National Motto
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • The Pledge of Allegiance & Creed
  • America the Beautiful
  • What is an American?

Middle School  (This level includes most of the topics above plus the additional ones listed below)

  • Lives, Fortunes, Sacred Honor (Focuses on 10 of the signers of the Constitution and their sacrifices)
  • U. S. Constitution
  • Bill of Rights: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Our National Documents
  • The Gettysburg Address

High School (This level includes a number of topics from above plus the following)

  • The Mayflower Compact
  • Federalist 47 (Federalism vs. Anti-Federalism points of view)
  • The First Amendment
  • Entrepeneurs in History (Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Hill, Rockefeller)
  • American’s Creed
  • Religious Expression in Public Schools

Each topic has a lesson plan to follow with activity sheets or materials to be used as manipulatives for activities to reinforce the concept being presented. The favorite activities we tried were scrambling and putting in order lines from the Gettysburg Address and making a collage of what being an American means.

My favorite topic for character development in the Middle School level was looking at the sacrifices that some of the signers of the Declaration of Independence made in the name of a cause they thought worthy.

Because we are studying the Renaissance and age of exploration right now, we are planning on using more of these resources toward the end of our school year as we look at the beginning of our nation.

These materials are free if you download them from the American Heritage Education Foundation. You can also request a copy of their CD with curriculum materials for all three grade levels for free. If you would like to receive a written copy of these materials, you can place an order for $19.50 for each grade level.

For more reviews about these materials from other Homeschool Crew mates, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew.

Teaching Physics to Middle Grades

   I was provided a copy of “Christian Kids Explore Physics” from Bright Ideas Press for the purpose of a review for the TOS Homeschool Crew.

Have you encountered the situation yet where you have older children in middle or high school and they are studying an upper level science topic and you wish you could still some how coordinate their science with your younger children? I have. With my older son studying physical science this year, I wanted to some coordinate his science class with my younger son. That way I could make connections between their experiments on lab days or read “living books” together on the same topic.

physics book pictureI was excited to receive Christian Kids Explore Physics and give it a try. The first thing I did was take a look at the Table of Contents. Wow! It covered such a great variety of topics within the physical science area; and, here’s the lovely coincidence. It closely matched the contents of my older son’s physical science program for high school, of course in a more modified form for grades 4-8.

Here is an overview of the areas covered in six units:

  • The Foundations of Physics
  • Matter
  • Mechanics
  • Matter in Motion
  • Energy in Motion
  • Electricity and Magnetism

Each unit begins with a list objectives to be learned, vocabulary, and materials needed for experiments in that unit. The units vary in length with 4-7 lessons that average about 3 or 4 pages. Every lesson finishes with a review of about five sentences to complete about the lesson.

After each lesson, there is an experiment that begins with a short explanation of the scientific concept explained in the lesson and demonstrated in the experiment. A list of the materials, steps for the scientific procedure, and questions to consider about the concept follow. We copied the experiment pages and referred to them during our scientific process, wrote down the answers to the questions about the results and our observations about the experiment, and put them into a notebook we keep for our science studies.

At the end of each unit is a unit “wrap-up” with fill in the blank sentences to complete information learned from the unit.

This book has a conversational tone to it with pertinent and to the point information about the scientific concepts being discussed so it is easy to understand and retain the most important facts. The quick review questions at the end of each lesson and the cumulative unit review is great to aid in retention. I love the experiments to demonstrate each concept presented.

We also read a book alongside a lesson when there was a good “living book” demonstrating that lesson’s concept. For example, both my guys were reading a lesson about atoms and molecules, so we all read together “What’s Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew?” We also made our own versions of an atom out of playdoh. Then we made different kinds of molecules from a kit we have, using pretend atoms of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.

The book ends with an appendix of books and resources you can use with this book. It’s a great list of “living book” ideas, activity kits, and multimedia resources. There is also an appendix with the answers for the lesson and unit reviews.

To look at sample pages from this book, the table of contents, or purchase this book for $34.95, visit Bright Ideas Press.

To read reviews of this product and others published by Bright Ideas Press, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew.

High School Career Planning Tools

We recently received a free trial of the ACT Advantage DISCOVER program with the intent to review this product for the TOS Homeschool Crew.

When you were a child or in high school, did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? Or, did you take career exploration tests and discuss career options with a guidance counselor? Are your middle and high schoolers beginning to discuss with you jobs, majors, colleges, or future job outlooks? The ACT Advantage DISCOVER program is a wonderful tool for homeschoolers to explore their options for the future.

PhotobucketYou can use this program to determine your child’s interests and abilities and how they relate to possible career choices or your child can research different careers, majors, and colleges. The program is divided into the following the sections:

  • Inventories
  • Occupations
  • Majors
  • Schools
  • Job Search
  • My Portfolio


There are three inventories your child can complete to determine what career options might be of interest to him. The first is the Interest Inventory. Here through answering questions, you child will receive an analysis of where his interest lies in four different job-type sectors: People, Data, Things, and Ideas.

Depending upon where your child’s answers lie in the quadrants, career suggestions will be offered. If your child shows interest in activities that involve spending time with people, jobs that work with people will be listed. similarly, if your child likes working with numbers and enjoys facts and figures, he will receive a list of possible occupations dealing with math or data.

Your child’s results are presented in a variety of ways: in a circle broken into the four interest quadrants or a list of jobs. You can print this information or your child can click on the name of a job in the list online to explore details about that job. If your child prints the list, he can come back to the program and type in the name of one of the jobs and read information online at a later time. This information is also stored for later use and your child can find his results in his Portfolio.

Abilities Inventory

Your child can take an inventory that asks him his opinion of how well he works with different things in the areas of the four quadrants: People, Data, Things, and Ideas. The results of this inventory work in the same way as the Interest Inventory, reflecting in which quadrant his abilities lie. If your child has completed both inventories, the list of compatible career choices will show “A’s” for Ability and “I’s” for Interest so that you can visualize for which jobs your child has the interest and ability.

Values Inventory

This inventory questions what your child feels is important in his activities. For example, is it important for him to work with people or alone, inside or outside, or earn a large income. The results of this inventory is written in a list with a numbered rating system. It also appears on a summary with the other inventories your child has taken to reflect any overlapping of career suggestions from all three inventories.


From here, once your child has a starting point with his list of suggested careers that match what he has answered in his inventories, he can begin to explore some of these suggestions. Or, he can begin exploring careers not on his list, but in which he feels interested. There is a large variety of ways in which your child can find information about a given job: an alphabetical list, typing in a keyword, by major, or a search by characteristics, just to name a few.

Once he has found the listing for an occupation, the information available includes:

  • years of school/type of education
  • work tasks, settings, characteristics of the job
  • abilities needed, training required, courses, experience
  • salary and job outlook
  • category of the kind of job in which it falls
  • related civilian and military occupations
  • personal qualities and what workers in this position say is their likes and dislikes about the position
  • contact information to use to gain more information


If your child wants to discover what kinds of jobs would be the result of earning specific majors in college, he uses this option. Again, he can use an alphabetical list, keyword, occupation, or category from one of the four quadrants to find this information.


To research which schools would have his major, is located in a specific region, or offers specific opportunities on its campus that interests your child, he can use this option. There are many aspects that he can eliminate or add to his selection process until he has a list of colleges that have what he is looking for.

Job Search

To practice job searching skills, your child will gain a large amount of knowledge and obtain valuable skills by using this section of the program. It offers guidance in the following areas:

  • How to find a job
  • Resumes/Cover Letters
  • Interviews
  • Internships
  • Apprenticeship Information
  • Apprenticeable Occupations

My son and I found this program very helpful and enlightening. It was fun to see the results of the inventories and see which careers came up on his list. He had fun looking through the different careers and the information about “what it takes” to get there. I enjoyed and found the “School” information very helpful.

I also found the format of the program fairly easy to use because each section followed the same basic search format. There was also an “instructions box” on each screen to guide you toward your next step in using the program.

Under a section of “Resource Materials”, there is a DISCOVER High School Curriculum Guide. Using this guide as a format for lesson plans, using the program, and adding your own interests in “Life Skills”, you could use this program for a credit course or half credit course in high school on your child’s transcript.

I highly recommend this program if you or your child is looking for guidance in preparing for a specific career or just trying to decide what classes might be good to take for a broad range of careers. To explore some sample portions of this program or try a free 30 day trial, visit ACT DISCOVER.

This program is available for $19.95 for a 3 month or for $24.95 for a 6 month site license. I think, well worth the expense.

Read other reviews of this program with the Homeschool Crew.

ABC Teach

My family and I were able to try out abcteach.com for free for thirty days in order to review its membership site for the TOS Crew.

abc_logoA website providing over 35,000 worksheets, clip art, and educational tools for its members, abcteach.com is a resource for all of your subject areas for your youngest children to your middle schooler. New items and materials are added weekly, including current events themes and seasonal items.

This website has their materials organized in the following categories:

Language Arts                                                                                                    Math
Science                                                                                                                     Social Studies
History                                                                                                                     Theme Units
Writing                                                                                                                      Reading Comprehension
Spanish, French, German                                                                            Learning Centers
Border Papers                                                                                                       Languages/ESL
Spelling Units                                                                                                        Testing
Handwriting                                                                                                           Teaching Extras
Graphic Organizers                                                                                            Puzzles/Games
Hands-On Activities                                                                                          Arts and Crafts
Holiday/Seasonal Materials                                                                         Thinking Skills
Report Forms                                                                                                          Think Green/Teach Green

Within these categories, you find reading comprehension worksheets complete with reading paragraphs and questions; seasonal activities, calendars, bookmarks, and writing prompts; montessori style manipulatives; and book units complete with content vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking questions, writing prompts, and book report forms for quality books including Caldecott winners.

I enjoyed the many kinds of comprehension sheets that covered a large variety of topics from science, history, social studies, and the arts. I am using some of these to supplement our reading of living books and our narration in hard to find topic areas where it makes more sense to efficiently cover those topics.

I am also using the math worksheets to provide extra practice for my guys in areas where they could use some additional problems beyond what is covered in their present math programs. They have especially enjoyed the seasonal word problems.

Worksheets are also available for practice and application of literary devices and poetry, as well as analyzing literary elements, including practice in character analysis. I appreciate the fact that the skills incorporated in these activities and others incorporate all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy and higher thinking skills. There are even a number of exercises you can print off to practice using higher order and critical thinking skills, including determining fact and opinion, utilizing logic, and distinguishing fallacy.

I think the most unique feature of abcteach.com is their abctools where you can make your own abc sort, bingo, crossword, and spelling list pages, handwriting sheets, and papers with custom borders. Take a look at the many tools available here.

For lapbooking fans, you can make your own shape books from many forms with lines or without. They also have all of the clipart you could ask for.

Other helpful features are the graphic organizers for all of kinds of charting, diagramming, fact notating, and brainstorming. These organizers are a great addition to your notebooking alongside your written narrations on notebooking pages. These pages serve as another valuable form of written narration.

If your child loves worksheets or you are looking for a handy tool with which to make interesting shape books for your lapbooks and notebooks, abcteach.com may fit the bill for your family’s needs. Membership can be purchased for $40 for one year, $70 for two years.

Read other Homeschool Crew reviews to gather more opinions about abcteach.com.


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