TOS Review: Bytes of Learning

UltraKey Bytes of LearningAs my kids get older, I realize the need for them to become more and more proficient with technology. While my son, a high school junior, is quite comfortable with computers one area that needs work is his typing skills. At this point his style is still more “hunt-and-peck” than anything else. So, I was excited to give the UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning a try.

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This program is completely web-based, which is nice because we can access it from anywhere. It offers pretty personalized lessons, allowing you to set your own goals or choosing to allow the program to set goals for you. It also offers reports for parents on skill checks, games and more. You can easily track your child’s progress, seeing which skill checks they have passed complete with errors. This allows me to know if I need my son to go back and redo something.

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Lessons are a mixture of videos and slides, and the narrator speaks in a pleasant, even tone. As students type, a picture of the keyboard is on the screen with a model of where their hands are supposed to be. This was helpful for my son as he became comfortable with the proper positioning. Lessons begin with an introduction and some initial activities with specific keys, then move on to typing words and sentences. Students are given plenty of opportunities to practice before moving on to the Skills assessment. In addition to lessons on keyboarding, there are also very helpful videos on proper posture, finger placement, and even stretches you can use between lessons.

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Since Bytes of Learning is a self-paced program it is very easy for kids to complete on their own. They simply log in and start. My son spent about 15-20 minutes a day working on lessons, which was the perfect amount of time, keeping him from getting bored or losing interest. It was also really easy to fit into our already hectic days.

UltraKey Online also offers games which allow students to practice their skills while having fun. I appreciate the fact that the games also allow students to practice other important skills like spelling and even state capitals. My son enjoyed the games and you can get reports on those too and students earn printable merit awards as they complete levels. He liked challenging himself to improve his score each time he played. The rhyming game was his favorite.

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The UltraKey family subscription allows you to add three, five, or eight students at a time for a cost of $29.95-$49.95. I think this program is appropriate for all ages, even younger students. As a parent, I appreciate how easy Bytes of Learning is to manage, the interface is very well set up and it’s really easy to review your child’s progress. I would definitely recommend this program if you are looking for an easy typing program to get your kids comfortable with keyboarding.

UltraKey Online Family Edition 

To learn more about the UltraKey Online Family Subscription, connect with Bytes of Learning on Facebook:

Bytes of Learning

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UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 


TOS Review: Innovators Tribe

Innovators TribeDo you have a middle school or high school student interested in subjects like engineering or architecture? Are you wondering how to incorporate courses in those subjects into your homeschool? Well, for this review we got to check out the online course, Thinking Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe, designed to give students in grades 6-12 a taste of what it’s like to be an engineer. They also offer a similar course in architecture!

Thinking Like an Engineer 

Thinking Like an Engineer offers interactive lessons that your child can follow at their own pace. Hands-on projects are also a part of the course and the 3D CAD design software is included in the program so your technical needs are met. The course consists of six units that are divided into multiple lessons on topics like roller coaster design, types of bridges, introduction to 3D design, nano-engineering, and more.

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The program begins with an introduction to engineering, lessons on the types of engineers there are, and some activities to get kids going. Lessons vary in length, with some being around 20 minutes long and others (specifically the activities) taking as long as two hours. For those lessons, we broke them up into shorter chunks, to suit my 11th grade son’s attention span. One thing I really like about Thinking Like an Engineer is that the activities do not require a lot of special materials, which can be difficult to locate for a busy homeschool mom. In general students use paper, card stock, tape, scissors and an engineering level (which can be found online) to complete the challenges.

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My son enjoyed the narrator, Mr. K, who was lively and fun to watch. The lessons are a fair mix of videos and slides, which kept him from getting bored. (there are even a few bloopers at the end of some lessons which made him laugh) As your child moves through the course, their progress is tracked, making it easy for you to see how they are doing. If they skip a lesson, it shows up on the dashboard as a bouncing icon, so they can easily go back and finish it.

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There are about 14 design challenges in the course and let me tell you, they were not easy. In fact, it was interesting to watch as my son figured he would easily be able to complete a few of them and then found out he was wrong. I am glad that this course really did force him to think carefully through the challenges and problem solve along the way. These are skills he can apply to other areas of life whether he becomes an engineer or not.

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We both felt this course was very interesting, and I would often sit on the couch with him to watch some of the videos (we did skip ahead to check out the part about the scariest bridges, which was pretty cool!). My son appreciated that he could work at his own pace, because with juggling other high school courses being on a tight timeline would only stress him out. We would get together on Mondays and look over his work for the week and then set some goals for what he would complete in Thinking Like an Engineer for that week. It may take him some time to finish the course, but he is enjoying it and he is learning and that’s all that matters. Since it offers a total of 30 hours of work, I am going to give him a 0.25 credit for the course as well.

If you have a budding engineer in your family (or architect or capenter) I would definitely recommend checking Innovaters Tribe out! To see what other crew members thought about the courses we got to try, click here:

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Captain Bayley’s Heir (Heirloom Audio Productions)

Heirloom Audio Productions Have you ever wanted to travel to the Wild Wild West? Did you ever wonder what it was like to travel to unsettled areas and deal with the adventures you would find there? If you have, you definitely want to check out this review of Captain Bayley’s Heir from Heirloom Audio Productions, because it will take you right there!

Captain Bayley's HeirFirst, let me say, we have reviewed for Heirloom before and are always pleased with what they have to offer. In fact, I have a few expectations now whenever I get to listen to their audiodramas: 1. a stellar cast: Yes, they have amazing talent for all of their stories. From Brian Blessed, who features on the majority of their recordings, to others like Jade Williams and Ian Porter, you are getting a top-notch performance from everyone! These people really seem to LIVE their characters, which helps you get totally lost in the story. 2. Amazing soundtrack/sound effects: whoever does the sound recordings for Heirloom should be commended! Their sound effects/music/etc are always on point and perfectly suited to whatever is happening in the story. Like, if you close your eyes, you really feel like you are there!

So, without giving too much away, this particular story, based on a classic GA Henty novel, features the story of Frank, an English lad falsely accused of theft when it comes to his inheritance. He flees to America to escape the charges and encounters the Captain on his journey. In addition, he travels across the country in the heart of the Gold Rush, ecountering raids, stagecoach robberies, buffalo and more along the way. Of course, he alos encounters the Lord and learns a lot along the way.

So, why do we love Captain Bayley (and the other audiodramas from Heirloom) so much?
Mainly because it is pure, wholesome family entertainment. You can listen to this with kids of all ages (the first one of these I reviewd, I think my youngest was 11, now he’s 16) and never have to worry about what is going to be said. We enjoy saving the CDs for road trips when we can all listen together, but you can also put them in a CD player at the house. The chapters are conviently divided, so it is easy to pick up right where you left off each day!

Also, these audiodramas are just plain exciting! I have two boys who are now older teenagers and they have spent many years listening to these, and they always find them entertaining. As a homeschool mom, I appreciate the historical content, because I can see how you could easily use this story as part of a larger unit study/history study if you wanted too.

In additon to the CDs, you also gain access to bonus content which includes a study guide. I always enjoy these study guides, because even though we primarily use the audiodramas from Heirloom for entertainment, I still like to know my kids are getting something else from listening, you know? The study guide includes discussion questions from each chapter which range from basic recall to questions that require a lot of synthesizing information and drawing conclusions. We use these strictly for discussion, but you could absolutely have older students write their answers to them if you wanted.

Helpful vocabulary and background information is also included as well as Bible studies related to the story. On the whole, the study guides help take Captain Bayley from an exciting audiodrama to a real teaching tool. If you want to access the extra materials you need to sign up for the Live the Adventure Club which is a new feature Heirloom offers that allows you to connect with other people listening to the same story you are, gain access to extras and more. I know, sometimes you don’t want to sign up for one more thing, and to be honest, I get that, but it’s worth it.

In short, we totally enjoyed this product! To learn more, connect with Heirloom Audio on social media here:

Heirloom Audio on Facebook

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To see what other members of the crew thought of this product, click here:


Captain Bayley's Heir {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 


TOS Review: Apologia Marine Biology

Apologia Educational MinistriesOne of the things I find complicated about teaching high school is getting in all the elective credits. Sometimes it can be difficult to find interesting courses to fill those needs for your child. However, I do have a kid who loves the ocean, so the Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage set with the Audio CD from Apologia Educational Ministries seemed like a good fit for us!

Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage SetThe Advantage set itself comes with the student textbook, notebook, and tests and answer keys. We loved the full-color textbook which has a great layout on each page. The pictures/charts/diagrams etc help break up the text, which is great for my son who has trouble focusing when there is nothing but words on the page. This program features 16 modules on topics like: Life in the Sea, Marine Invertebrates, Marine Ecology, Coral Reefs, and much more.

Each chapter includes a few experiments that can pretty much be completed with things you have at home. I like this feature since purchasing a lot of very specific items for labs is often expensive. Directions are clear and easy to follow, meaning you can easily do the labs even if you do not have a lot of science experience. There are questions sprinkled throughout the chapter that help students articulate what they are learning, and each chapter features a review at the end that your child can complete before they take the test.

Apologia Marine Biology is a creation-based program, which I like, and interspersed in the chapter are sections called “Creation Connection” which links what is being learned in the chapter to evidence for creation. If you did not want to focus on this, you could skip this part, but I felt it led to very good discussions between my son and I and helped him sharpen his viewpoint on creation in general.

The appendices offer a glossary, additional study guides, and a list of required lab materials. Basically, my son and I would work our way through the chapter, with him doing the reading and answering the questions, and when we got to the end of the chapter, he would complete his review and take the test. If he did not do well on the test I would have him go back and complete the additional study guide for that chapter.

One thing that helped him complete the reading on his own is the Marine Biology 2nd Edition Audio CD. Read by Marissa Leinart, the CD offers a complete word-by-word reading of each chapter. This is great for reluctant readers like my son who are often intimidated by the sheer amount of reading in a textbook. Ms. Leinart reads at a comfortable, steady pace with appropriate volume and inflection so kids don’t get bored. The CD also offers and introduction and student notes section as well. It is important to note that this is an MP3 CD so you will need a compatible device to use it.

Marine Biology 2nd Ed Audio CDAnother really good part of the Advantage set is the student notebook. Seriously, I cannot stress enough how, whenever you get any Apologia program you should ALWAYS purchase the student notebook. It is so worth it! First of all, the notebook includes a daily schedule with reading/labs/questions all spelled out for you, which is in itself a huge bonus! The notebook also includes all the questions in the chapter, so your child has one place to record all their answers and you aren’t chasing papers around. Lab forms and chapter reviews are also included, so you really don’t need to purchase additional notebooks/binders etc. There is plenty of room for students to write and take notes too.

Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage SetThe test book and answer key are also a great component of the program. By high school, kids need to get used to taking tests and I don’t want to have to make them up on my own, it’s just additional work I don’t need. A complete answer key makes it easy for me to grade everything at a glance, so I know if we need further discussion or study on a topic or if we can just move on.

Altogether, we thought Marine Biology was great, and for less than $100 for the main set, it also has a great price! To learn more, connect with Apologia on social media here:

Apologia on Facebook

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To see what other members of the crew thought of this program, click here:


Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage Set {Apologia Educational Ministries Review}Crew Disclaimer


TOS Review: Apologia Educational Ministries – Internship for High School Credit


So, high school is all about preparing for the future, right? And what better way to prepare your child for their future than to have them do an internship in high school? Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? But, how do you set up said internship? And track it? And assign credits for it? Don’t worry, Apologia Educational Ministries is here to help! For this review, we got to check out their Internship for High School Credit workbook, and it helps answer all of those questions!


The book starts with a basic introduction to internships and ideas for how to find an internship, how to figure out what to intern in, and how many hours are needed to earn credit (75 for one-half credit). This equates to about 5 hours per week, which is pretty manageable for a  summer or fall internship. I liked the fact that they spell all of this out for you in the beginning because that is the kind of stuff I have trouble figuring out.

Internship for High School Credit also offers sections on writing a resume and introductory letter, with samples, which was very helpful for my son. He learns best when he has concrete examples, and things have changed so much since I wrote my resumes, I like having examples too.

There are two sections in the workbook, one for each semester, in case you wanted to do a full year internship (which is about 150 hours). There is also a wrap-up section at the end with activities for your student to complete once their internship is done. So, you can decide on your own how long you want the internship to be.

At the beginning of the sememster, students set goals for their course, whch they are supposed to set with their supervisor. From there, they have weekly assignments that include a table where they track the dates and hours they worked, and then a series of questions to answer. The questions range from ones that get the students focused on their workplace (like observing the atmosphere and how people interact with each other there) to ones that get them thinking about their future career path (like researching colleges and degrees that will benefit them, thinking about what kinds of technology they will use on the job). At the end, students and their supervisors rate their performance, and there are several writing assignments including essays and writing a thank you note.

My son has been planning to do an internship with the children’s pastor at our church, as he has been interested in becoming a children’s minister himself for quite some time. When he began his internship a few weeks ago, the three of us met to go over what he would be doing and to set goals and a schedule. Since then, my son has been completing the weekly activities with me discussing them with him each week. I also sign off on his hours for the week. Our pastor also signs off on his hours and usually offers some feedback too.

So far, I am very happy with the Internship for High School Credit program. I feel like it has given my son’s internship real direction that it might not otherwise have had. I also feel like the questions have given my son a lot to think about, and it has led to some great discussions about his future both with me and with our pastor as well. If you are interested in having your child complete an internship and don’t know how to get started, I would highly recommend checking this out.

To learn more, connect with Apologia on social media here:

Apologia on Facebook

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To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program and the How to Homeschool course they got to check out, click here:

Homeschool with Confidence & Internship for High School {Apologia Educational Ministries Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer


TOS Review: Memoria Press (First Form Latin)

Memoria PressI believe languages are important and to be honest, I’ve always been interested in Latin. I find it fascinating how much of our current vocabulary is derived from a variety of Latin roots. Really, knowing Latin can improve your vocabulary over all which is something that can benefit any high school student, but especially those interested in career paths involving science or medicine. So, I was excited to get to check out the First Form Latin Complete Set from Memoria Press for this review.

First Form Latin Complete SetFirst of all, when they say complete set, they mean complete set! I was absolutely amazed by everything that came in the box! There was a teacher manual, teacher key, student text, student workbook, test book, flash cards, pronunciation CD, and instructional DVD! Yes, I know that’s a lot, and I will admit, I was a little overwhelmed at first, just looking at it. However, Memoria Press also does a great job of coordinating all the pieces and parts to make it easy for you to use everything.

The teacher manual for this program is your best friend. It very explicitly lays out the order of each lesson for you. It also explains how you will use each part of the program. Now, keep in mind that First Form Latin was originally designed to be used in a classroom setting, so some of the activities (like games, choral recitations etc.) assume that you have more than one student. However, you can easily adapt it, either by taking on the role of a student yourself (which is what I did because I wanted to learn Latin anyway), having siblings take on those parts, or perhaps using it in a co-op setting.

Memoria Press offers a variety of Latin programs for all ages and I did First Form with my 10th grade son. Not because it is aimed at high school students, but because this is simply where you start with any older student. The good thing about this program is that prior experience with Latin is not required for the student or the teacher! I will tell you that there is a learning curve when you first start using the program, but that is because it is just so meaty! Since the lessons follow a predictable pattern, you kind of get into a groove after you’ve done it for a bit.

There is a suggested weekly schedule, which I followed, and lessons take about 30-45 minutes total, but you could break that up into smaller segments if you needed too. Students take quizzes each week, which I think is a nice feature, and you do quite a bit of review work through the flashcards and games, so they don’t forget what they have learned. You can also use this with the Famous Men of Rome curriculum to add in some history studies too.

My son enjoyed learning Latin with his mom, and while he doesn’t always like all the drills that come with it, he does see how useful they are. The student text and workbook are very straightforward and were easy for him to use. At the beginning we did the workbook together, but after we started moving through the lessons, we would complete some activities together and then he would finish the lesson on his own with me correcting it afterwards. It is really important that you take the time to go over the workbook activities with your child because that feedback helps them to learn.

Overall, we have really enjoyed First Form Latin, and I am seriously considering moving on to Second Form Latin when we are done. If you are looking for a very thorough, yet still easy to use Latin program for your child, we would definitely recommend this one. To learn more, connect with Memoria Press on social media here:

Memoria Press on Facebook

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To see what other members of the crew thought of this program and the others that we got to check out, click here:

Latin, Nature and Trees {Memoria Press Reviews}Crew Disclaimer


TOS Review: The Typing Coach

The Typing Coach

In this day and age, technology is only becoming more and more important. It is very likely that whatever job our children get, computer skills are going to be a must. I want my son to be comfortable with typing on a computer, particularly because he has some issues that make handwriting difficult for him. So, I was excited to try The Typing Coach Online Typing Course from The Typing Coach with him.

The Typing Coach

The course is self-paced, which is nice because you are able to have your child work in the way that best suits them. At first, my son was pretty slow and getting through each lesson took quite a bit of time. However, as he practiced and got more comfortable, he was able to complete lessons at a much quicker pace. Lessons include audio and video learning as well as printable student packets that show the student what to type. These reminded me of the typing book I used in high school when learning to type on a typewriter. You know, the flip books you set up and typed from? I kind of liked this part of the program!

When you first log into the course there is a nice section with instructions for how to use each section as well as a video tour which is great for visual learners like my son. I highly recommend reading these and watching the video with your child. There are only seven lessons in the course, but the idea is to keep practicing each lesson until your child masters that section, so depending on how they are doing, the amount of time you spend on the course will vary. Like I said, in the beginning, lessons could take my son more than a week to get comfortable with, but he started going faster after the first few lessons.

Once you read all of the course information, students start with a practice test of sorts so they can get an idea of where they are at and compare their progress at the end of the course. From there they go into lessons on topics like having good posture, home row keys, number row, top row, etc. For each lesson students will need their student packet (which was over 16 pages, plus the tracking sheet and learning checks). I would say that this might be the only drawback for the program if you do not have an efficient printer.

For each lesson, students are literally “coached” along verbally by the program’s author. My son thought he had a pleasant voice and it was helpful to have him directing the lesson as he worked. Students follow the instruction he gives as they practice typing on their computer. We simply opened Microsoft Word and then my son typed as he listened to the lesson play.

Each lesson offers a very good amount of practice in my opinion. Students stroke the same letters repetitively until it almost becomes second nature. The author reminds students to maintain good posture as they work. During breaks in the lesson, light music plays in the background. I will say that for this part of the program, students really do need to be auditory learners, as they have to follow the verbal instructions, typing each letter they are told to type, and there is no video to go along with this part.

At the end of each lesson, students are given instructions for further practice before they move onto their learning check in the practice and testing center. Here, they will take typing test to see how well they have mastered that section. The goal is to complete the test with zero errors before moving on. I will be honest, my son struggled with this at first, especially since he had to go back repeat the lesson if he got any errors. However, I feel his accuracy is going to be so much better because of that, I think it’s a good feature.

Lessons can range anywhere from 20-30 minutes long, so if you have a fidgety child, you may need to break them up into parts. Overall, I feel like this is a solid typing program for anyone who wants to learn how to type. To learn more about this program, connect with The Typing Coach on social media here:

The Typing Coach on Twitter

To see what other members of the crew thought of this program, click here:

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer