Friday, June 27, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Veritas Press

History is one of my favorite subjects but it is the most challenging to teach to my daughter who has special needs. She is such a literal, hands-on learner that it is often difficult for her to comprehend things outside of her personal experiences. That is why I always look for engaging ways to teach the subject. I am happy to report that we found a great tool for that with Veritas Press.

For the purpose of my review I received a one year subscription to the Veritas Press Self-Paced History program. We chose Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt for our course.

We also received a set of the Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Flashcards.

I absolutely love that Gess is learning history from a solid biblical perspective! The Bible is part history and it is reliable so that should be the way we teach it.  The program starts with creation and adds in historical events on the timeline as they happen.  Having these components in unison is important to me.

The Veritas Press Self-Paced History is a complete one year course that it done totally online. Do you know what that means? I don't have to do any work!  It is a course that my child can complete independently. In fact as you begin you are asked to promise that you will not help your child with the work. With my daughter having special needs she seldom gets to work on her own. She tends to need my help and instruction for at least some things, especially math. But with Veritas Press she logs on and completes the work all by herself! That makes her feel more grown up and gives me a much needed break.

I do have access to go in and check to see how she is doing.  In the parent section you will find a supply list, card sample, and reading list. We didn't do the additional reading with it, but that is available if you choose. You can also see what lessons they have completed and the scores they received on worksheets and tests. Gess recently completed her review test for units 1 through 4 and got a 100%!  Her total score is a 98% which is pretty great for independent study!

Of course I still help my daughter if she has trouble understanding something but I do not give her the answer to questions.  She really hasn't needed my help much for anything. The work is pretty straightforward and the system is easy to navigate. The only time she got confused was when she needed information from her flashcards but that was because we started before we actually received them.

It is important that the student be prepared before they take the test as the test scores cannot be changed once they are submitted. You can repeat any lesson at any time, but it will not change the score of the previous session. You do appear to have a chance to retake the test if you don't actually hit submit at the end. During one test when Gess got stuck on a question she went back into the lesson to the section where the answer was, viewed the video until she heard the answer, and then went back to the quiz and started over again. I was cracking up. She didn't ask for my help or anything. She seemed to know exactly what to do and where to go to find out. That was pretty ingenious to me!

The program itself is easy to navigate and really enjoyable. Once the student logs in, the program begins with the lesson right where they left off. Gess did about one lesson a day 4 to 5 days per week except the week she was off at camp. She loves doing these videos. They are narrated by a character named Simeon along with the Sphinx of Egypt, who apparently can talk. There are a few others you meet along the way as well.

Each lesson will have about 26 slides but none of them are very long. Each segment has a different purpose. They start with an intro from Sphinx and next is the memory song. This is great because every day they learn part of a song that will help them memorize all 32 main events of Old Testament and Ancient Egyptian history. Gess loves the song and has it pretty well mastered, at least the first part since for now they are only focusing on the first 16. Here she is singing along one morning.

She would sing it more if there was a way to access it without starting a lesson but since it is at the beginning of them its not hard to find it if you want to do that. They also have the lyrics in a printable format under attachments.

After you sing the song Simeon comes and starts teaching you about history. He will teach you vocabulary words, names, and important events. When the lesson is based upon Scripture, which the earliest lessons are, they actually have it on the screen so the child can read along. Here is a Scripture they were using to teach the kids about dinosaurs.

They break the lesson up by having interactive activities to help you retain what you are learning. These are usually pretty fun and fairly easy, even for my Gess. Here is one about what sacrifice Cain and Abel offered up to God. This one really cracked Gess up. You had to place the item on the correct alter. You were given options like bananas and cute little bunny rabbits. Gess giggled when each of them burned up on the alter. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing but it definitely helped her to remember who offered what sacrifice.

Here are a few other examples of interactive reviews and games.

As I mentioned earlier some of the questions are off of the Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Flashcards, which they do show briefly in the lesson itself. While these cost extra you really need these in your hand to complete some of the lessons. They are also good to review by themselves.

The front has a beautiful illustration with its title and a Scripture reference when there is one. They are numbered as well as color coded - blue for history and purple for bible. Some of them have both colors.

The back of the card has the title of the event, important information about the event, and the date that you need to know for quizzes and tests. There is also a list of other resources for teaching it.

Gess has absolutely loved the program and has really excelled at it. Of course so far she is still in very familiar territory as it has not yet gotten to the parts that are not in Scripture. She finds Simeon and the other characters entertaining and they explain things clearly.  Having several interactive activities is also a plus. She seems to enjoy those very much as well. There are even a few you can do offline. We intend to the build our own ark soon. This is one program I have truly not had to help Gess with at all.  It's very rare that she calls for me and when she does it is usually because she forgets some of the information is on the card rather than from the video.

While I wouldn't mind more information in the parents section, I can see enough to know that she is comprehending her work. However, I do not like that the student is unable to change their score if they have a really bad test. No matter how many times you repeat a lesson, it will keep the first score. However, I do understand that they want their scoring system to be as accurate as possible but when you have a child with special needs that is a concern for me. For now though, Gess has done great so that hasn't been an issue for us so far.

The Veritas Press Self-Paced History: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt is $199 and is for students in grades 2-6. This gives you full online access for one year starting from the day you actually begin the class. If you order the corresponding flashcards I suggest that you don't start until you actually receive them since they are essential to the class. I will admit that the price is not usually in my budget, but because my daughter rarely has things that allow her to work totally independently this one is worth it to me. We will probably purchase other sets after we complete this one.

The Old Testament & Ancient Egypt Flashcards are $19.95.

To learn more visit the Veritas Press website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below. There you will get to read about other courses that Veritas Press Self-Paced History has to offer as well as some from their Veritas Press Self-Paced Omnibus I which is for students age 12 and up.

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Free Friday: 3 Months FREE A+ Interactive Math

I have used and reviewed A+ Interactive Math in the past. Currently they are offering a special for the summer. Right now you can try it FREE for 3 months! This comes with no strings attached, not credit card information, or any other thing that might make it too difficult. If you are wondering if this program might work for you, this is the time to give it a try!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Go Science DVDs

Library and Eductional Services is a family owned wholesale distributer. They offer books, DVDs and other CDs that are in line with Christian principles. In addition to offering these wholesale prices to resellers and large groups such as churches, schools, and libraries they also offer their services to homeschoolers. It is certainly refreshing to be able to buy high quality content at discount products. I really love that I know the videos I purchase will have the values I hold dear.

In fact, all of their science products are evolution free. As you know, my daughter loves science. It is her favorite subject so when we had the opportunity to review their newest Series 2  Go Science DVDs, I jumped at the chance. Having reviewed and loved the first series of Go Science I knew my Gess would be excited to learn more about science with these. For the purpose of my review I received two videos from the Go Science DVDs Series 2:

Volume 2: Life Science / Weather

Volume 6: Chemistry 

The Go Science DVDs are geared for children ages 4 to 12. The videos are about an hour long and consist of a compilation of small segments that explain a scientific principle through experiments and demonstrations. Each segment lasts around 5 minutes or so, give or take. In each of them Ben Roy is addressing a group of children from which he chooses a few to be his helpers. Together they learn something new and exciting about science.

While the main focus is teaching about science they also try to teach lessons about God. The theme of these videos is that learning about science is learning about God.  In fact, each segment ends with the statement "Remember every time you learn more about science, you learn more about our Creator: God!" They seem to vary on how much they actually emphasize a biblical principle though. Some barely mention it at all and some turn out to be great object lessons. For example the segment on Instant Snow reminds us that Jesus makes our sins white as snow. The Liquid Nitrogen Cloud was an excellent example of the cloud God used to guide the Israelites through the dessert.

Some of the experiments can be done at home while others are for viewing purposes only. I found that the Chemistry video had the most hands on activities that we could actually do in our own kitchen.  The Life Science segments seemed to more demonstrations than actual activities while the weather segments had hands on activities most of which were not recommended for use at home. Of course that doesn't mean that they were not entertaining to watch. Some were very exciting and even a little frightening, or so thought my Gess when she saw the title "Fire Tornado." We certainly don't need to play with fire at home but it was neat to watch it!  So, while my first instinct is to wish they were all things we could repeat ourselves, we really would miss out on a lot if they were. It is fun to simply watch and learn the lesson involved.

Below are photos from one example of a simple experiment that we were able to do at home and learn a little thought from Scripture too.  This was from the Chemistry DVD and was a lesson on surface tension. What you do is take some milk and food coloring and watch as the surface tension is broken up by some soap. It's a beautiful display, although I had once less color than was recommended. The example he used from Scripture was that we were to let our light shine before men and when we do that we can sometimes break the tension among people.

My only problem with video is that they are not more in depth about science or the bible. I would love to see the scientific concept as well as the biblical truth expanded on.  It would be lots of fun if they turned each segment into an entire show. Some were so short that you really didn't get an explanation at all and that left you confused while others did a great job explaining both points well.

These videos are good for just fun viewing at home or as a tool to supplement your science studies. They can also be good for object lessons in Sunday School or transition times at your local Co-op. For me, its just nice to have some science videos to watch that you know will encourage biblical truths rather than trying to suggest that science is somehow at odds with the bible.  That is one thing I really love about these videos. As they say at the end of each episode, "Every time you learn more about science, you learn more about our Creator: God!" That is so true!

The Go Science DVDs can be purchased individually for $8.97 each or you can buy the complete 2nd Series of 7 DVDs for $59.82. The website has a couple of segments for you watch so you can see just how fun these can be. To learn more visit the Library and Eductional Services website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

A Week At Camp Barnabas

While Gess has been to church camp in the past, I have had always had to go as her counselor.  There are also always some activities she can't do well, or competitions she can't compete in equally, or just some times she can't keep up and needs to rest. This year we did something different.  For the first time Gess went to camp without me.  For the first time my husband and I had an entire week to ourselves. For the first time I was able to leave Gess and not have to worry about how she would handle things or how those watching her would handle her.  For the first time Gess went to Camp Barnabas.

Camp Barnabas is a camp geared specifically for special needs children.  They have camps for ages 7 to adults for every challenge your special one might face such as intellectual, physical, developmental, chronic illness, and more.  Campers are assigned their own counselor who follows them throughout the entire camp experience. They sleep in the cabin with them and help them do whatever needs to be done. From eating and showering to the fun stuff like swimming and canoeing, these volunteers are there specifically for your child.

The one to one counselor ratio was the biggest reason I knew I could send Gess and not worry. At a typical camp where a counselor has several girls it is easy for Gess to get lost or run off on her own without being noticed. It is also difficult if she has needs that the others do not. The counselors are not always free to leave the other girls and help Gess through her situation. Therefore, knowing that someone was there looking out for Gess was extremely important to me.

They also allow siblings to come along and it is a great time for them to meet other kids who really know what it is like to have a sibling with special needs.  This also gives parents one week a year where they can have some time off with the comfort of knowing that all their children are well cared for, happy, and having the time of their life.  A worry free week of relaxation is something most parents of children who have special needs seldom ever get!  We certainly do not!

I was also thrilled that this was a Christian camp.  Most of the teen volunteers are CIA's which are Christians in Action that come from all over the country to serve.  They have bible devotions and songs that emphasize biblical principles.  This is important to us as parents but also to Gess who loves to praise and worship God. In fact, she received a J.E.F.F award while she was there!  J.E.F.F. stands for Joy, Enthusiasm, Fun, and Fellowship.  Her award was for being the most prayerful!

While I was excited and ready for Gess to go to Camp Barnabas, I was blown away by just how amazing it is. It is not only nice and large structurally, it is very well organized.  They take this very seriously and do this out of honor for our kids and for God. They truly feel as if this is a ministry that is a calling from God, not just some fun camp to run. The love and respect we received from everyone there was absolutely amazing!  I can't thank them enough!  If you have a loved one with special needs you will want to consider sending them to Camp Barnabas.  This is something I hope Gess will do every year for the rest of her life.  Here, your loved one gets to do and try everything and for once, feel as if they belong.  Instead of having to adapt to the activities they participate in, the activities are adapted to them!  How cool is that!?  To learn more about them, check out this video.

Here are a few photos of Gess' week at camp.  These are limited because I wasn't there!  I was at home enjoying two hour bike rides, steak dinners, and peace and quiet with my husband!  For the first time I could relax knowing that my daughter was perfectly happy and safe at Camp Barnabas!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Free Friday: Summer Reading Passport Printable

Speaking of summer reading, Raising a Self-Reliant Child has the coolest idea to motivate your reader to read this summer, or anytime. Check out the beautiful FREE reading passport printable she made. We are definitely going to do this! I will save it for after the summer reading program when Gess seems to slow down a bit.  Click on the image to check out the blog and find a copy of your FREE passport.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Reading Books

My goal for both Gess and myself is to find books at the library simply by browsing the shelf. I don't want to have a specific book in mind, I want us to just search. In both fiction and non-fiction we found some interesting reads. In fact, we found some books we might not have otherwise thought of!

Gess is up to 4 books read now.  Her first two were from The Magic Tree House collection. I made her find something different after that.

She seemed to enjoy this one about Sir Lancelot. It was in the fairy tale section.

This book her and I read together for a review we are doing. I would have her read a chapter all by herself. Then we read it together the next day for review, so we could answer review questions about it.

My first book was The Hobbit. I can't believe I just read this. I loved it! I will, however take a break from reading more in the series just yet. However, I have caught both of the movies and while I enjoyed them immensely, I do believe the book is better!

I have also finished the following:

This book was a nice casual read. I do have to say though, that while many of the letters were interesting only some were funny enough to make me really laugh.

I enjoyed this novel which is apparently not the only Rabbi Small mystery out there. I will have to find more of these as  I enjoyed it.  In this one you follow the Rabbi on his journey to Israel and partake as a mystery unravels around him.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

No More Gymnastics

Gess tried dancing when she was 7 years old. She liked the dancing but the recital at the end was a bit too much for her.  That summer we tried gymnastics. At the end of summer I gave her a choice. Did she want to keep going to gymnastics or go back to dance? She was for gymnastics all the way and has loved it ever since!

That was 5 years ago. I am saddened to say that our gym is closing down. We were so tremendously blessed to have had it as long as we did. Her coach is an amazing athlete that you probably continue to hear about in the future. I have a feeling he is moving on to coach on a more competitive level. At one time he held the record for the mini-trampoline for Team USA. He is sure impressive. While Gess didn't excel at gymnastics, she certainly enjoyed it!

Here she is with her coach, Casey Finley. You might have seen him on TV last year as one of the American Ninja Warrior contestants, or on NBC doing flips on a trampoline while wearing skis before the Sochi Olympics.

Gess had some fears along the way and Casey was so patient yet firm in helping her overcome them. The rope was one of them. While he never got her to climb it, he did get her to swing on it!

She could also do a great flip!

We will miss all the fun she has had and more importantly she will miss Coach Casey. But she will remember all the lessons that she learned.  What fun times!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: We Choose Virtues

A Virtue, according to Miriam Webster, means a "morally good behavior or character." That is certainly something I want to instill in my children and something very much needed in society in general. We Choose Virtues was created to help with just that. Using memorable catchphrases for every virtue they help children not only learn what a virtue is, but what it means to actually be virtuous.

We had the opportunity to review the parenting cards and a few of their other products in the past. These were a wonderful tool and really helped my daughter, who happens to have special needs. It has been a great success and these phrases are still used in our home to this day. Since we had such a positive experience with them I was eager to review the Youth Virtue Journal now that Gess is becoming a teen.

Along with the journal you also get these downloadable PDF files: Youth Mentor's Handbook, Youth Character Assessment, and List of Scriptures and Bible Heroes. I was also given the Mentor Meeting Report PDF.

The Youth Virtue Journal is for youth between the ages of 12-18 and sells for $17.00. It was actually prepared for a state court system to use in its mentoring program and has not been changed or adapted for a home environment. Therefore the handbook, while interesting and motivating to encourage one to mentor, doesn't really help a parent working with their own child at home. While you learn a little bit about the lay out of the journal in the guide it is mostly tips about mentoring in general and offers very few specifics about how to use the journal itself. If you have a journal in your hand and are working with your own child, it is not very useful. However, I have found some of the advice inside the manual useful when ministering to children that I work with at church.

The Youth Virtue Journal covers 9 of the 12 virtues that the children sets do. I am not sure why they omit diligent, kind, and self-controlled. Working with middle school kids at church, I can tell you that self-control is greatly needed in this age group. Still, the virtues they do cover are important and include: attentive, content, forgiving, gentle, helpful, honest, obedient, perseverant, and respectful.

They use similar, though different catchphrases and antonyms. It is important that a child knows what being virtuous is as well as what being virtuous is not so I like that they include both. That way if a child sees that behavior in themselves they can recognize if it is or is not in line with being virtuous.

The journal is bound nicely, has thick glossy pages, and will hold up to a youth who doesn't take very good care of things. However, it has this dark, mechanical, robotic theme that I don't really care for.

There are two sections to the journal. The virtue journal is in the front, but during each lesson it has you go to the dream journal which is in the back. There are also pages to send home to the parent so again, they are good if you are using with a mentor, but not if you are working with your own child.

They begin each section by having the student write down in their dream journal first. Instead of writing about the dream, they simply have room to write a single word or phrase to state what their dream is. The rest of that section asks them to analyze it and consider what it will take to reach that dream. They discuss obstacles in the way, virtues that might help them obtain it, and a place to record when that dream was realized.

I really struggled with this part of the journal for two reasons. One was because of my daughter's special needs she doesn't really understand abstract dreams or goals, so this was difficult for her to do. To her a dream is something you have when you go to sleep. Even if we use the word goal, she doesn't have any. She hardly even knows what she wants for her birthday or Christmas!

The other problem was with the concept itself. To me, it seems contradictory to suggest that one should use virtues for selfish reasons. Morally good behavior would suggest that you do something even if it does not benefit you personally. I feel as if they are trying to motivate the child by suggesting that virtuous behavior will "pay off" in the end. I understand that it is good to point out how your behavior can and will affect the outcome, but I did not think this method was a good approach for doing that, so we didn't focus on this much.

Each chapter is divided into sections. You begin by discussing the catchphrase and antonym. After that you have several chapter segments where they reflect and respond to the virtue. The first is to go write in their dream journal. After you "take a moment to dream" you come the section in the "Take a look at me now."

Now this part I thought was really great. They give you 14 questions to ask yourself about the virtue you are discussing. It gets you to think about just how much you either possess or lack that quality. I found them really appropriate for self examination. For being attentive you get a few like:

Do I observe the world around me...or am I too distracted by entertainment?
Have people tuned me out because I talk too much?

Some of the questions for Obedience are:

Do I only obey when the consequences are harsh enough to force me?
Am I cheerful when asked to help or do I mope and sulk?

After answering these 14 questions you place where you think you are on a scale from 1-10.

While there is a place for it in the journal, there is also an assessment chart that has all of them on it. They can do this before they start and then later to evaluate if they have improved at all.

Then they have the "Take a look around" section which is also good and builds on the assessment. It has you look at others around you and see how this virtue, or lack of it, has affected your relationship with them. You might be asked who do you know with that virtue and what impresses you about them?  Has anyone ever hurt you by not using that virtue and if so are you willing to forgive them?

Next is "Take some good advice" which is full of quotes from various people both past and present. This section had quotes from people from different countries, backgrounds, political views, and belief systems. It has a couple of quotes from the bible but attributed them to the author of the quote rather than the reference. They even have quotes from fictional characters like Dr. Suess. While most of them were alright, I was not thrilled to find a quote from Homer Simpson in the mix. Even if the quote might have been fitting, the character speaking it is not one I would use to promote virtue in any format.

After that the student is to write down what advice you, the mentor, give them. This is all up to you and what you think needs to be said. You are not instructed or told what to share at this point, probably because it will vary based upon the needs you see in your mentee.  This is when I would refer to the memory verse and bible lesson worksheet they included. To me this was the best part of the whole experience even though it wasn't in the journal itself. When Gess was studying "I am Perserverant" we learned in Nehemiah about how Judah rebuilt the wall of the temple even though they were under attack and opposition from all sides. "Keeping one hand on the work and the other on their weapon," they completed the task! (Nehemiah 4:17) Now that is an example of perseverance!

Then they have the student take time to reflect and respond to what they learned and are supposed to commit to actually living out the virtue by putting their name within the catchphrase.

While I love the concept of We Choose Virtues and consider their children's kits extremely beneficial, I was disappointed in the Youth Journal. While it may serve a purpose for at risk youth in a court system, it did not really suit our needs for use at home.

To learn more about the Youth Virtue Journal as well as their Parenting Cards visit the We Choose Virtue website. They are currently offering some great discounts right now.

For MAY-JUNE use Promo Code: BIG50 for 50% off their set of 12 11x17 Kids of VirtueVille Posters

Or for JUNE-AUGUST use Promo Code BTS20 for 20% off anything in their We Choose Virtues Store.

Also be sure to see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about their products by clicking on the banner below.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Learning Wrap ups

Have I got some fun products to tell you about today! This latest review had us really wrapped up doing some neat hands on activities to help with both reading and math. Learning Wrap ups were created by a teacher who was looking for a new way to teach math facts to students who were not responding to flash cards and drill sheets. Now they are adding even more products that are trying new approaches to reach students. Having a daughter with Down syndrome who responds more to hands on learning I thought I would give these products a try. For the purpose of my review I was given all of these!

Learning Wrap ups Basic Math Intro Kit w/o CDs $44.99
Learning Wrap ups Vocabulary Intro Kit $35.99
10 Days to Multiplication Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo  $12.99
10 Steps to Addition Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo  $12.99
(I already had the wrap ups so simply got the books but these are great if don't want to buy the entire kit.)

1st Grade Math Learning Palette 1 Base Center Kit $71.99
3rd Grade Reading 1 Base Center Kit $61.99 Subscription $60.00 for up to 5 users. Currently you can get a 20% discount if you use the coupon code: Homeschool

Let me begin with the Learning Wrap ups Basic Math Intro Kit. The kit includes a wrap for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions. These are great for beginners learning these facts or older students who need practice.

They also included the addition and multiplication books that come with the combo packs. Gess really struggles with her math facts. Even at the age of twelve I can not get her to memorize them due to her special needs, so I was anxious to give these a try.

The wrap-ups work by taking the string and starting with the column on the left you say that number +2 (or whatever one you happen to be working on) and pull the string over to the answer. Then you come back to the left column and find the problem below that and do the same thing. The back has lines on it that match the answers. If your string covers those lines you wrapped it successfully.

It took us a couple of tries to get the feel of it. At first I was afraid Gess would never get it but after a couple of sessions she was wrapping away, at least with help from me. It's still too much for her to hold it and wrap but she needs help with lots of things like this, even tying shoes. Kids who don't have those struggles will do just fine.

The workbook was rather simple, but it was helpful. I liked the way it introduced adding twos which was a frog hopping over one lily pad to get to the next. Now Gess will say out loud "2+3=hop over 4 it's 5" Hopefully she will get past that part, but at least that helps her do the math in her head. They also had word problems, pages to mark down when you practice your wrap up, practice problems, and hands on activities.

In spite of Gess struggling working the wrap it has been a tremendous help in learning her addition facts. Being able to visually see the answer and then wrap the string around it does something for her, and she is learning them! Other than 2+1 and 2+2 she didn't know any of these consistently, but here she got some answers that she never had before. I had trouble shooting the video and helping her at the same time so I end it abruptly, but here she is doing a few of the problems. You can also see how the wrap works.

The Learning Wrap ups Vocabulary Intro Kit is a similar way to practice reading skills for children on any level who need to practice these skills. It includes a wrap for antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, and compound words. We would randomly use these as extra practice, but some were tough for her to do because of her special needs. The vocabulary level seemed to be on a middle elementary level with words like rein, boastful, and inventive. The compound words were tough for Gess too, but we actually improved her vocabulary as we discussed them. I think it would be fun to combine them with our vocabulary and spelling lists. In the future I might make a list based upon a wrap, study the words and practice by wrapping. I bet her test will turn out really well then!

We really liked all the wrap ups, even if Gess needed help. The only problem was that sometimes the string might be hovering over a potential answer making it hard to see. Otherwise they were a fun tool to use.

Next we got to review their Learning Palette. When I saw these online I was interested but I was a bit concerned that the cards might be too hard for Gess to read. I figured the print would have to be really small to fit it all in. However, when they arrived in the mail I was super impressed! These things are very large so they work really well for her. You can get a feel for the size as she holds it.

The concept is fairly simple. The middle of the card has the questions while the outer layer has the potential answers. The problems are color coded and you place that particular disk in the slot. After you have answered all the problems you turn to the card over to see if you are correct. You can see in the second panel how the outer section of the answer card is color coded to match the disk that should be placed there.

While we used the 1st Grade Math Learning Palette Base Center Kit the math kits are available for grades 1-5.

Since Gess still struggles with math we started with the basics. This kit comes with the Palette and 6 card sets that each has about 12 cards in it. You can also purchase the palette and card sets separately if you don't want to purchase the entire set at once. The topics covered in my set were:

Numeration 1.1 - Numbers 0-10 and Introduction to Addition and Subtraction
Numeration 1.2 - Numbers 0-100
Numeration 1.3 - Money, Simple fractions, Addition and Subtraction through 18
Algebra Concepts
Geometry & Measurement
Probability and Statistics

We jumped around and have done a little from each category. While Gess struggles with adding, much of it is review.

I love that some of the cards have visual helps for the concept and others do not. For instance the earlier cards let you use a number line to add while later ones do not.

The 3rd Grade Reading Learning Palette Base Center Kit was also a fun way to practice reading skills. These kits come in grades K-3.

While Gess' reading skills are bit above these, due to her special needs these particular skills are important for her to practice so I got the highest level they offered.  This kit also comes with the Palette and 5 sets of cards. These titles include:

Prefixes and Suffixes
Reading Comprehension
Synonyms, Antonyms, & Homophones

I was impressed with some concepts that she knew that we had not really covered very much. I also found that these were helpful in building her skills as she was unfamiliar with some of the vocabulary words. Here she is working on pronouns.

I think these were a bit tougher to do for her than the math ones. It's easy when the answers all are numbers, but to have to match words to definitions there were just too many choices and she would often overlook them. I had to teach her to work on ones she could find easily first and then use deduction to find ones she may not know.

The last product I reviewed was This site is for grades K-5 and allows you to have access to all of the learning palettes in a digital format.

When you log on you get to choose whether you want to do math or reading. Then you choose the level of tiles you want to use. They actually call it levels rather than grades which is nice because children like my daughter sometimes are bothered by doing work they know is in a different grade. Then you choose which pack and which particular card you want and then click the load button.

We had the hardest time getting this to work on our school computer. It simply would not let it finish some cards and therefore it didn't log them as if they were done. The tiles were in the correct spot but it wasn't giving proper credit. It did work on my computer but we didn't know that until later in the review. It will depend on the size of your computer screen as to whether or not your child will be able to read all the cards easily, at least for children with vision struggles like Gess.

These work exactly like the physical palettes. While it was nice to have access to all the cards this just didn't seem as much fun to Gess. Maybe she would have enjoyed it more if she didn't have the physical palettes at home but she would much rather do those than play online. I agree with Gess it just doesn't seem to quite lend itself to a fun online experience and I struggled to get her to use this.

They do have a progress report so you can see how your child did, which is at least something you can't do with the actual palettes. It is also convenient if you want to work on many different card and level sets at one time. offers a free Demo if you want to try it out. You may find that your child likes it much better than Gess did.

While the online experience was not as fun for us, Gess really loved doing the physical Learning Palettes. She never once complained about having to participate and one time asked to do a Learning Palette for our family board game night! I am all about making learning feel like a game and it seems they have done that for Gess. We use them often!

Gess also preferred practicing her math facts by using the Learning Wrap ups. While they were hard for her to do by herself, she did seem to enjoy them. I actually love that it works her motor skills as well as her math and vocabulary! She definitely seems to be learning from them. I think all the wrap ups are a great way to practice anywhere. We even took some on a road trip with us.

To learn more about all these products from visit the Learning Wrap ups website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.

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