TOS Review: God’s World News

I am always looking for ways to encourage reading at my house. My younger son (in 7th grade) is not a huge reader, not because he can’t, but because he doesn’t want to. I have found in the past that magazine subscriptions are one way to get him to sneak in little snippets of reading here and there. So, when we got a chance to check out a magazine from God’s World News I decided to give it a try. The company offers several different magazines for children of all ages. We got to check out a few issues from Top Story, their middle school level magazine.

Each 32 page issue features a number of different articles, editorials, and other content aimed at kids interest levels while also teaching a Biblical worldview. As part of the subscription, we even received a world map that we could use to track where the stories in each issue took place. I thought this was a nice feature, great for teaching geography, but also, reading the articles and visually connecting them to a place on the map seemed to make those faraway places seem more real to my son. There is even an online version of the map for each issue that coordinates with the wall map they send you!

Now, when we signed up for this review, I wasn’t sure how interested my son was going to be in the content of Top Story. He is easily bored and is most focused on legos, comics, and superheroes. However, when I handed him our first issue and asked him to take a look, I was pleasantly surprised. The August issue had articles about immigration, airplanes, and one on the Arizona wildfire tragedy that was of particular interest to my son since my husband is a firefighter. Each issue also has several News Shorts that contain short articles on hot topics in the news. I appreciated the biblical tie-ins in the articles, such as the one about flying and how God meant for man to take risks and try new things while exploring His creation.

The September issue had a feature on Robots which my son really enjoyed. There were also articles on mining and a biography of Alexis de Tocqueville. In October the focus was on movement and there were articles on the various patterns of movement for people through the ages. I felt each issue was a really good mix of current events, biographies, and feature articles. The magazines are colorful, and the included quizzes and activities make this a nice addition for our homeschool. I sometimes used the quizzes for a reading grade for my son, and we did some additional research on some of the topics.

A subscription to a God’s World News magazine also gives you access to exclusive online content. With your customer number you can log in on the website and receive answer keys to the quizzes in each edition, download a digital copy of the edition, and lessons related to articles in the magazine. The October issue had a lesson explaining the Ames Room illusion (which was related to geometry), with a Biblical connection and a quiz. It also had a lesson giving more detailed information about cutting-edge cancer treatments with a written assignment to go along with it.

The issues also include biographies of various people, and on the website there is additional information and quizzes. Subscribers receive emails from God’s World News each week with details about what additional content is available on the site.

I also got a sample of World magazine, the God’s World News magazine for adults. It was chock-full of thoughtful articles on a wide range of topics that were good for discussion between me and my husband. Some of the articles were appropriate for my high school son as well. I would recommend previewing each issue as some of the topics are somewhat “heavy”. One issue I received talked about the biblical view of the death penalty. It was a great article that really got me thinking, but it’s not something I would necessarily feel is appropriate for my kids at this time.

God’s World News offers magazines for kids from Pre-K to high school. A yearly (10 issue) subscription is only $28.00, which I think is a good price for the magazines and the online content that you get. Top Story contained a lot of interesting articles with a biblical focus that encouraged my son to read and think about how to apply God’s principles to the topics he was reading about. I would definitely recommend a subscription to anyone. The factual content of the magazine can be worked into your schooling in many ways, or you could read it just for fun.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about their subscription to God’s World News, click here:
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TOS Review: VideoText Interactive

Oh upper level math, you will be the death of me….Well, not really, but sometimes it feels that way. I managed to scrape my way through algebra in high school, but honestly, geometry felt like trying to learn Chinese. I swear my friend and I passed because we were in a class full of trouble makers at the time and we kept our mouths shut and the teacher was grateful. So, this year, I was trying to figure out what to do with my 10th grade son for geometry. Thankfully, I was offered a chance to review VideoText Interactive, which provided the answer to my question.

With Geometry:A Complete Course I was given online access to the course for a three year time period. The geometry course includes six modules with a total of 176 lessons. Once the course has been completed, students can claim credits for geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. It is recommended that students complete the Geometry course after finishing VideoText Algebra. Depending on where your child is in their math sequence, this could be used for grades 9 and up.

In general, lessons follow the same format. In some cases, there will be a quiz on the previous material before students can start the next lesson. In that case, the parent administers the quiz and then reviews it with the students. There are two versions of each quiz, so if my son did not perform well on the first quiz, he and I would review it together, and I would have him take quiz two before moving on. From there, students watch the video lesson. As the video plays, the objective for the lesson is displayed to the right of the screen, reminding students of the focus of the lesson.

The lessons themselves were not long, and my son found them easy to watch. I usually watched the videos with him, mainly because if he had a question I needed to know what to do as well. Occasionally if I was busy, he could watch a video on his own, and then I could rewind and review it if he needed help, but I found it best to just watch them together. We also found it helpful to print out the course notes page prior to the lesson. This is a page that includes important information that your student can refer to when working on the problems. My son liked to use this page to take notes.

After watching the lesson, students complete the worktext page, which is basically practice problems. You can choose to print these out if you want, but in the interest of saving ink, my son completed the work in a notebook. The worktext is simply a textbook PDF and some of the assignments were lengthy, so I usually had my son complete the odd or even problems. One of the things I really LOVE about VideoText is the complete solutions manual. You get all the answers to every problem, which makes it easy to figure out mistakes. I found this VERY helpful.

Now, as the parent, you receive a separate login from your kids. As the parent, you have access to complete PDF’s of all of the course notes, solutions manuals, tests, and answer keys. You also have full access to all of the same lessons your child does. I found this convenient because if there was something I wanted to print out I could find it easily. The only drawback I really found to this program is the fact that there is no automatic grading. You have to record your own grades. It would be great if there were a scoring option, but other than that, I think this is a really solid program.

My son didn’t “hate” it (and he loathes math, so that says a lot). It was easy to accomplish in the sense that the program is well set up and easy to use. You just log in and complete each days lesson in order, so it takes very little prep on the part of the parent. The instruction is very clear and precise, and the length of the videos make them easy to watch.

The cost, however, could be prohibitive for many families. At $299, VideoText Interactive is not cheap. Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that I got this as a review, it would definitely NOT have been in our budget for this year. However, that cost does include pricing for two students for three years worth of material, so when you think about it that way, it really isn’t bad. At any rate, I would say that it is worth a look.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this Geometry course, as well as the VideoText Algebra course, click here:

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TOS Review: The Presidential Game

My kids and I love Family Game Night! We are always on the lookout for new board games to play together. That’s why I was excited when I was given the chance to review The Presidential Game for the TOS Crew. I thought it looked like a fun game that could also teach some valuable lessons!

The team game designed for ages 11 and up has won the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval Award as well as The Gold Award from the Family Review Center, and I think it deserves both.

As I mentioned, The Presidential Game is played in teams with each team choosing to be Democrat or Republican. Now, I will say the directions were a bit confusing to me at first, with a lot of detail about how to keep a running tally of votes for each state, but my husband read them and got it right away, and once he explained it I had no time following along. The game suggests keeping a tally of votes on the record sheet after each turn, but we got so busy and excited about playing that we just kept track of the votes using the interactive web map.

My husband and oldest son chose to be the Republicans, so my younger son and I were the Democrats. Each team has to come up with a strategy for what they will do on each turn. You can choose to either “campaign” in three states or “fundraise” in one. If you think about it, this is very similar to how real campaigns work in politics. The campaign team decides which states and events to focus on with the idea being to concentrate on those states where the candidate is likely to earn the most amount of votes. Naturally, states with larger numbers of electoral votes (Florida), get more attention than states with fewer votes (Alaska).

After you decide what to do, you roll the dice and allocate your votes to each state. This is where the strategy comes in. You and your partner have to look at the votes you have, and compare them to the votes your opponent has. You then have to decide which states are of the most value to you. For example, in our game my husband and older son pretty much got a lock at California in the beginning. Therefore, even though the state is worth a total of 55 electoral votes, my younger son and I chose to focus on other big number states (like Florida, New York, and Texas) since we thought California was a loss. We figured that by winning the other states it would cancel out the Republican lead.

Another facet of the game is the Politics cards. When you fundraise, your team draws a card at the end of the turn. Some cards work to your benefit while others work against you. Each card represents a scenario that would typically effect voters opinions. For example “Your opponent was found wearing a blue tie to a Republican event, add 5 votes to the state of your choice.” Actually, a few of these cards fell our way and we ended up winning California with them!

Another cool thing about this game is the Interactive Electoral Vote Web Map. When you receive your game you get information about how to access the web map online. As each turn is played, you click on the map to track the votes in the states. States are marked red when they are under Republican control, blue for Democrat control, and tan for neutral. The condition of each state can change with every turn. After you decide how long your campaign is going to last (a full 30 weeks translates to about an hour of play time), you track the votes each week and declare a winner at the end (or when one side gets to 270 electoral votes).

Now, I said that family game night is fun for my kids and I, but I will admit, my husband doesn’t really relish it. He is just not a big board game player, and he entered into this game reluctantly. However, once we started playing, and he got into discussing strategy with my son, he said “I really like this game!” And that, for him, is a ringing endorsement. As we played, my husband talked to my boys about how, in politics, strategy is really important, and sometimes luck has a part to play too. We talked about the difference between the electoral vote and the popular vote, and why and how candidates choose the states they are going to focus on. All of these are great lessons for getting kids to understand how this process works.

I think The Presidential Game is a fantastic choice for both fun and learning. It is one thing to discuss the campaign and election process with your children, but playing the game makes it so real and crystal clear to them. The Presidential Game costs $35.00, which I think is a great price. I know this is a game we will play again and again! (In fact, after their loss, my husband and older son promptly challenged my younger son and I to a re-election!)

To see what other members of the crew thought about The Presidential Game, click here:

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TOS Review: Seed Sowers

We read out loud regularly as part of our homeschool. Sometimes I choose books related to what we are studying, other times I just choose fun books to read. We aren’t big on a lot of biographies and non-fiction. However, when given the chance to read this book from Seed Sowers, I thought we would give it a try. A family book, meant for ages five and up, it looked really interesting. Now, we haven’t read a lot of missionary stories, because I just know that the story lines of some of them would be too much for my emotional kiddos, but this one was a little different.

The book, Seed Sowers, written by Gwen Tolliver, is a collection of short stories about various missionaries. Each chapter is its own unique adventure. We read one chapter at least 3-4 days per week, and it took us about three weeks to finish the book. My kids loved hearing about the missionaries and their experiences in far away places.

One thing that stood out to us in this book is that it reaffirms God’s remarkable providence in the lives of his people. While many of the missionaries experienced frightening events and some close calls on their journeys, each time God moved to protect them and allow them to do His work wherever they are. I thought the stories were the perfect length for reading, it took us about 15 minutes per day. Another thing I liked is how the stories whet your appetite enough to want to know more.

After reading these stories, my boys wanted to know more about the missionaries and their works. Each story ends with a short follow up that gives you more information about the missionaries and where they went after their story took place. We have looked up people like Rose Dobson, Dorothy Shaler, and Gloria Gray. We have also looked up information about Bible translation, and my kids really took to heart how many people there are that cannot read the Word in their native language.

While we used this book just as a read aloud, you could easily do more with it for your homeschool. If you wanted to, you could easily use this a stepping off point for a geography study. You could highlight one story a week, and after reading it, study the country and culture where that story took place. Or, with older students, you could encourage them to do some research on that particular culture, people, or even on the life of that particular missionary.

This would also be easy to work into a study of Bible history, using it to emphasize the work of Bible translators around the world. The author has worked for Wycliffe for many years, and she has a wonderful way of bringing these stories to life. After reading Seed Sowers, my kids wanted to learn more about the missionaries our own church supports, which was nice because at the time we finished reading it, our missionaries from South Africa came to our church for a visit. My boys were much more interested in listening to what they have to say, and I think that was because we read the book.

If you are looking for a book that provides a nice introduction to the work missionaries do around the world, I would highly recommend Seed Sowers. It is available for only $12.50, and it is definitely worth it!

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this book, click here:
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TOS Review: Time4Learning

Online learning has so many advantages. Lessons are prepared for you, grading is done for you, and all your child has to do is log-in. For this review, I was very excited to get a chance to try out the Time4Learning website with my 7th grade son. We got a six month subscription for the seventh grade and have been using this for his main math, science, and vocabulary curriculum for this school year.

For my son the program is really easy to use. Once I registered him, he simply logged on each morning and got to work. When he logs in, he clicks on the lessons tab and this pulls up all the subjects available. In science, he studied electricity and magnetism. The lessons usually consisted of a short reading passage with a series of multiple choice questions at the end. I thought the information was a good basis for a science program, but for a 7th grader I felt the need to beef it up with some books from the library and some additional experiments. Currently, science on Time4Learning only goes up to 6th grade, so 7th and 8th grade students will be working on the 6th grade lessons in this subject.

I really liked the vocabulary section of the Language Arts program. It had sections on synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, idioms, and Latin and Greek roots. Vocabulary building is something we have been working on, and this is one of the best programs I have found so far. My son enjoyed the animated lessons, which I thought were very focused and well done. I watched the lessons as he did them and I thought the instruction was spot on for a 7th grader. Typically he would do the lesson one day and take the quiz the next day. I also liked that the quizzes were automatically graded and I could look at his score on my on log-in (but more about that later).

The math on Time4Learning was also GREAT! We stared with the first section, number systems, and studied exponents. We were moving along fine until we got to fractions with exponents. At that point I realized we needed to review fractions. Time4Learning makes this easy because you have access to the grade above and below your child’s level. We switched to 6th grade math and completed the section on fractions before going back to his regular grade level. I think this is one of the BEST features of the website. It makes it so easy to customize your child’s learning in each subject. If your child is ahead in math, move them up a grade. If they are struggling in Language Arts, move them down one level. This flexibility makes the teaching so easy! Math was similar to vocabulary in that my son would complete a lesson one day and take the quiz the next.

When he finished up his work my son enjoyed playing on the Playground section of the website which features all kinds of games and links to fun websites for learning and playing.

Another thing I love about Time4Learning is the parent resources. Parents have access to detailed lesson plans for each subject the child studies. You can use these lesson plans to plan additional activities if you want, or search the lesson plans for a specific topic you want your child to study. Parents can also access and print a list of spelling words, a reading list, and a list of items needed for science lessons.

In the Student Records section, parents can schedule their child’s activities, adjust the grade level and timer settings, and view a record of their child’s work. I found this very helpful. After we got comfortable with how the program was run, my son would often hop on the computer if he got up early while I was making breakfast, and get started. When he did this I simply logged in on my parent account and looked at what he did that morning. Quiz grades were also provided. I noticed a couple of lessons in vocabulary where my son did not do so well, so I had him go back and do them again.

On the whole, we are loving Time4Learning. This easy to use program is a great way to simplify your homeschool if you are having a busy season. It is also an excellent addition if you just want to do a few subjects on the computer. I will say that this program is best suited to kids who enjoy learning on the computer. I have tried computer-based programs with my older son and they were all a complete failure. He enjoys computers, but he just does not like doing school on them. Fortunately, my younger son absolutely loves “computer school” so this program worked great for him.

Time4Learning has a program for grades PreK-8th as well as a high school program. The subscription for grades PreK-8th costs $19.95 per month. I think this is reasonable for what is offered. You could use this as your main curriculum or as a supplement. The Time4Learning website has demos available if you want to check it out.

To see what other crew members had to say about Time4Learning, click here:
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TOS Review: Notgrass Company: Draw To Learn

I have used several curriculum products from the Notgrass Company in the past and I have always been pleased with their stuff. Therefore, I was very excited to find out we were going to get to try a book from their Draw to Learn series. Aimed at kids in grades Kindergarten through 8th, these books take kids through books of the Bible and lets them illustrate the passages as they go!

Each one of the Draw To Learn books has over 150 lessons. They can be used with any Bible translation you choose. On each page, the child reads the assigned passage, and then illustrates the lesson following the directions on the page. Kids may be asked to draw a specific part of the passage, or to draw something that represents the message of the passage as a whole. With kids on the younger end of the spectrum, you could read the passage out loud and then have them complete the drawing, but for older kids, this is definitely something they can do on their own.

The book I used with my 7th grade son is Draw To Learn Proverbs. I was really excited to get this one because it’s the one I really wanted. I just feel like there is so much for boys at this age to learn from Proverbs, you know? Anyway, I sat down with my son, showed him the book, and explained what he would be doing. And that was pretty much it!! He took off with this Bible study and really did it on his own. He enjoys drawing, and he just started youth group and has been getting into reading God’s Word, so I did not have to prompt him to do this at all, even in the summer!

Since it is summer, we only did one lesson each day. I think that is a fine pace, and you can easily complete this book in one school year. However, with older kids, you could probably do two lessons a day if you wanted to. Basically, after my son would get done with his illustration, he would bring the book to me and we would talk about the passage, his picture, and how the two were related. I think that having him draw his own picture for each passage he read really helped him think about and internalize what the message of the passage was. This is his picture from Proverbs 9:1 about the house of wisdom being built with seven pillars.

After reading this we talked about examples of good pillars to build your house (and life) on versus bad pillars to build on. This is a really important discussion for where he is in life right now…getting ready to start middle school. He will face so many big choices in the coming year, and I want him to be wise when making decisions.

These Draw To Learn books are wonderful. If you are looking for a simple, but effective and fun, Bible curriculum to use with your kids, this is it! The books themselves only cost $14.95, which is so reasonable. I think you could easily use this with multiple kids at different ages by just buying each of them their own book. Read the passage together as a family, then have your kids each create their own illustration. If you want to know more about Draw To Learn, check out the Notgrass website where you can look at samples.

To see what other members of the Crew had to say about this and the other products we got to check out, click here:
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TOS Review: Bible Study Guide For All Ages

I love finding new ways to engage my kids in learning about the bible. For this review, I got try some products from Bible Study Guide For All Ages. I have looked at this curriculum several times over the course of our homeschooling, and I am really glad to have finally gotten to check it out.

The first product we tried were the Advanced Level Student Pages. Both my son and I liked these a lot. The target age for this part of the curriculum is 5th and 6th grade students. My son is going into the 7th grade, but they were still appropriate for him. Our student pages were for the first 26 lessons of the curriculum and included lessons on the book of Genesis as well as the book of Daniel.

Each page is tied to a specific passage of the Bible and is divided into sections. The first section, “Remember it?” consists of a few questions that recall parts of the story. Some of the questions are fill in the blank, some are true and false or multiple choice. The Memory Workout portion ties into the Bible Book Summary Cards, which I will talk about in a minute. This portion also encourages kids to learn songs, retell Bible stories using pictures, and memorize books of the Bible. In the “Guess What” section you learn an interesting historical fact related to the Bible story. The Map section was one of my favorite portions of the lesson. The map is printed right on the page, and clear directions are given for labeling. We used our Bible Map and History book to fill it, and it was neat for my son to get an idea of the physical places these events occurred.

Some lessons include time line sections. Again, the time line is printed right on the student page, making it really convenient. Students fill in the events right on the page. Get Active allows you and your kids to do an activity that reinforces the lesson. For example, in one activity students are blindfolded and told to find their way around the room without touching anything. Then they are allowed to find their way around the room following cues given by the parent. The point is to illustrate that faith should be placed in those that are trustworthy.

The Discover section was probably my son’s favorite part of the lesson. It includes an illustrated representation of the lesson and has students do activities like labeling, answering questions, and solving word puzzles. This was a lot of fun for him, but he was still actively working with the Bible story and I think it really helped him remember the story.

Advanced Level Student Pages are sold in packs of about 26 lessons each and cost $5.95 each. I think this is very reasonable, and the nice thing is, you can coordinate these with the other student pages, and use this curriculum with all of your elementary age kids!

The second product we got to try were the Bible Books Summary Cards. These are great just on their own, but they are also used for the Memory portion of the student pages. The 8X10 full color cards are visually appealing. On the front, they feature illustrations that depict key stories from that book. On the back of the card there is a summary of the book as well as questions about the book.

These cards are a great way to teach your kids about the Bible. You could hang them in the room for a visual display, or use them as flashcards. You can also purchase these as 11X14 posters that come in black and white and can be colored by your kids. The full set of 66 cards costs $24.95, and these can definitely be used for years to come. I am considering laminating them so they will last even longer.

We really enjoyed these products from Bible Study Guide For All Ages. I would strongly encourage you to visit their website and look at what they have to offer. To see what other members of the crew had to say about these and the other products we got to check out, click here:

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