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Ultimate Typing™ Product Review

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , — dailynews @ 4:00 am



Ultimate Typing™ from eReflect uses video lessons, online demonstrations, interactive lesson suggestions, and fun games to teach basic and advanced touch typing skills—and it works for all ages. It’s especially good for kids. Because children can use the software to play games, they learn to type without realizing that they’re spending time studying.

Things I really like about this program include -

One license, multiple users – With Ultimate Typing™ 2015, you’ll get five user accounts for the price of one. Homeschoolers love family accounts!

Installed on any device-Computer-based training doesn’t have to be restricted to one computer. Once you have your account set up, you can access the software through any internet-enabled device. You can also download the software on multiple devices. Since Ultimate Typing™ 2015 is cloud-based, all of the user data is stored and synced across devices, so no matter what machine you’re using to practice with, all of your user information is always current.So – your children can use the family computer, their own laptops, and/or other mobile devices to practice touch typing. Typing in the car? You bet!

The program offers a mix of games and activities – Ultimate Typing™ 2015 uses a variety of lessons, activities, and games so that kids – and adults – don’t get bored while learning. Even better, status points are awarded for each activity and lesson completed, which motivates the student to keep practicing.

Expert video tutoring -Ultimate Typing™ 2015 uses video instruction to explain everything about hand position, finger movements, and keystroke sequences before each lesson. The user gets a complete visual guide to typing, and even a short course on ergonomics!

Integrated into any lesson plan —This program has atext import function. I LOVE this! You can link to online articles and other document resources that you’re using for lessons in history, English, science, or literature, and the software will use that text in its typing exercises. How cool is that!?! You can have each child use the same text, or individualize it for their particular lessons. Since they’re reading the text as they type, they’re learning more than just the correct typing techniques. It’s multi-tasking!

It’s affordable and the company offers a money-back guarantee – Ultimate Typing™ 2015 is affordable (less than $30) and they offer a money-back guarantee PLUS $50 if you’re not satisfied with how quickly your children are learning to touch type. From their website -

We’re so confident that Ultimate Typing will help you triple your typing speed—and increase your accuracy—that we will put our money where our mouth is.

If you’re not able to type blazingly fast with laser-like accuracy after using our software, we will not only give you a full refund of your money…we will also pay you $50!

FYI – the company also offers Speed Reading™, Ultimate Vocabulary™ and Ultimate Spelling™.



I like when companies offer multiple products. If I find one I like, there is a pretty good chance I’ll like their other products as well. It just makes choosing curriculum a little easier!





This is a guest blog post from Carreen Schroeder



Thanks to a dear friend of mine for sharing with me a debate she had had with one of her sisters, I have had the burning desire to tackle this post.

My friend homeschools her youngest child but her older children all went to public schools. Her sister is a high school science teacher. When my friend mentioned to her that she would take her older children out of school on their birthdays, her sister was aghast, stating that this practice harms the children. They would ‘fall behind’ in school and would never be successful. Hmmm. It really got me thinking about how I used to be as a public school teacher – the paranoia, the stress, the very narrow-minded vision of what constitutes ‘falling behind’ and ‘success’ in the greater scheme of things. Does spending a special day – your child’s birthday – with your child, making her the focus
for that one day, hinder her or does it strengthen her in a multitude of ways? I guess it all boils down to our own personal definition of ‘success’, so here it goes:

“Success”, in the Webster dictionary, has two varying definitions:

the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame

the correct or desired result of an attempt

To read more, click here.


Carreen Schroeder of New York Adventures in Homeschooling, has been a certified teacher in Ontario and in New York State since 1999, holding an Ms.Ed in Elementary Education, a B.A. in French Language and Literature and a Specialist in Special Education. She has been homeschooling her youngest of three daughters since 2012 and is passionate about assisting homeschooling families with free resources and homeschooling services. Visit Carreen at:

Youth Digital Product Review

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , — dailynews @ 4:00 am




Youth Digital offers introductory, online tech courses for kids ages 8-14, empowering them to become digital creators, designers, animators, programmers and developers. The courses are fun, extremely interactive and very effective. In each course, students create a project from start to finish and learn important skills and software as they design and refine their projects. At the end of every course, students have an entirely new digital skill set and a finished product they can play with and share.

Courses include:

Mod Design 1 (their most popular course)
3D Printing & Modeling 1
3D Game Design 1
3D Game Design 2
App Design 1
Game Design 1
Game Design 2
3D Animation 1

These courses teach kids to program and code in Java, make Mods in Minecraft©, animate movies, model and print in 3D, design video games, develop their own mobile apps, and more.

Most courses are available for both PC and Mac, but not all are Mac compatible.

In the courses, students watch videos, respond to questions, earn badges, complete quizzes, and finish assignments as they step toward mastering critical technology skills and professional-level software. Instructional support is a mouse click away–all you need to do is click the Help button.

I took the 3D Printing & Modeling I course, which included 12 modules—about 30 hours of classes. This course teaches students how to make characters, buildings, cars, and scenes, using the professional program Blender (3D modeling software). You can see a video of the course here.

As a non-y person, I liked the ability to review material over and over again, until I got it down (and I did have to review multiple times). I liked that I was being taught a professional program—that I was being asked to stretch my abilities and learn something that is actually being used—rather than learning a less challenging option. And I appreciated the humor of the teacher, especially in assuring me (and others), that Blender Blunders are common-place, and easy to fix (I tend to freak when I make a technical mistake).

I found the course to be challenging, but doable. This is certainly a class you might want to take alongside your child. Maybe your student can even help you (I asked my son for help—although as mentioned previously, instructional assistance is available through the website).

Youth Digital’s mission is to transition kids (and olders) from being passive consumers of technology into tomorrow’s technology creators and innovators. That’s a pretty lofty goal—but after taking this course, I think it’s one they can achieve.

Reading Aloud: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , — dailynews @ 4:00 am

 read aloud


Reading Aloud: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Do you want your children to love learning, to love reading, to love books and be able to express themselves well? Of course you do. Do you need credentials or special training to make this happen? Absolutely not. You need only your voice, your child and books. Read to them. Read to them everyday and often. Read aloud over and over and over. It is that simple.

The Importance of Reading Aloud from Birth

Reading aloud is a gift that keeps on giving. It is a child’s ticket to language development—speaking, reading, and writing. From birth, a child’s language begins developing. The more multisensory exercise the brain gets, the more it will develop. Right from the start talking, singing, rhyming, playing, reading, and cuddling provides this stimulation. Reading aloud provides precious focused attention for a child and the parent. It is therapeutic down time full of uplifting benefits!

Reading aloud builds a critical bond with the parent through the sharing of sounds, letters, words, stories, questions, answers, emotions, problems and solutions. Long before children can read independently, their grammar, language conventions, phrases and expressions develop because of exposure to the language of the stories and the reader. Talking about the illustrations and stories- the words, ideas, and values shared- lays the foundation for speaking skills. This is where children pick up whimsical, colloquial and historic expressions. From interaction with books and their parents, children learn about the world around them, learn to solve problems and to express themselves.

Opportunities to Read Aloud in Everyday Life

Beyond books and stories, words abound. Look around you. Have a conversation about labels, cards, advertising, signs, license plates, mail, food containers and recipes. Remember though, a fruitful exchange is not one-sided. There must be give and take even if a parent helps the child by suggesting words, or helping the child point or clap, even laughing together counts! It is the exchange that builds language and instills a readiness to read.

Reading aloud is an expressive language experience. Voices, like music, have rhythm and a beat. There are pitch and volume changes, inflections and drama! Children naturally model the rhythm of the words read over and over by the parent. Be sure to read aloud with energy and expression. Have fun with it!

The Value of Repeating Words and Phrases

There is repetition in stories and a lot of it! Repetition is immensely valuable. It builds comfort and reassurance about language. It exposes children to many facets of reading—various print styles, letters, text, words, punctuation, the concept of whole stories (beginnings, middles, endings), patterns, word games, questions and answers. Repetition allows children to feel so comfortable and familiar with a story, they’ll join in recalling words or whole lines long before they can truly read. Books become reliable friends shared over and over. There is no such thing as a book read too many times! Repetition builds a child’s confidence, reassurance, and positive reaction to stories, setting the stage for wanting to read the words.

Many adults fondly recall being read to among their happiest times. Isn’t it wonderful that so much good language learning can occur during such a blissful event? There is no age limit for reading aloud. The benefits are never ending. Read aloud as long as you can; as long as children will allow it.  Older children will often enjoy being read stories, poems or books they might not choose to read on their own. Another gift! Even adults enjoy hearing a story or book read aloud.

Give Your Child a Map for Reading

Children, having been read to regularly, will have been given a map for reading. Print begins to make sense because of the rhythm, rhyme and repetition of reading aloud. Parents add to their children’s wealth of experiences every time they read a story or book aloud. Children gain knowledge from both the story and its language but also from the very valuable exchange of ideas with the parent.

Every read aloud moment is an effortless teaching opportunity, so go grab a book!



Math is a Skill –

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , — dailynews @ 4:00 am

math book

Math is a Skill

This is a guests blog post written by Logan Schoolcraft


Math is a skill. Just like welding, carpentry, running, singing, or any other worthwhile endeavor. Maybe people don’t give it enough credit, since it’s one of those things that we seem to use on a daily basis.

Perhaps that is part of the problem with some people’s math “skills”—they take them for granted and really don’t work on them. It’s like exercise. If you think you walk and do a lot of physical stuff during the day, but actually you don’t, you are probably not going to be in shape.

On the other hand, if you take time every day, (or some regular routine), to exercise, you’ll start to see and feel the impact it makes. The same is true of your math skills. Keeping sharp doesn’t mean doing math problems (or exercises) all day long. It simply means not letting the already developed skills deteriorate. If you do enough to develop new skills, then all the better.

I made a connection the other day when reading about Abraham Lincoln. He made the comment he was going back to his office to, “practice some more law.” That line got me thinking. He wasn’t going to go fill out another form and have someone sign it (even though that might have been done), but he was going to go look into more law. Law itself. Maybe read on it, study an old case, or develop his own current case.

It’s this “practice some more ____” that I want to instill. If you consider yourself a professional anything, then odds are you do quite a bit of that; whatever it is. Likewise, if I want to be a professional at math, then I need to do quite a bit of it myself. Just a little every day of direct study works for me.

Yeah, I’m one of the people who probably doesn’t need to practice and hone my math skills— especially the basics. But I have to tell myself that I’m not the same person who learned the basics years ago.   Things will look and feel different. And I’ll come away with something new learned. Hopefully, I’ll be able to apply that to even more stuff I’ve learned along the way!

So don’t think of math as a bore or a class to be forgotten. Think of it as a skill to be held up and honored for all it can do for you. And if you get the chance to learn a little more…take it! (It won’t hurt you.)


“Habits are at first cobwebs, then they become cables.”

-Spanish Proverb



Logan Schoolcraft is a private math tutor specializing in distance math tutoring. You can find out more about him and his services at




As they say, “All good things must come to an end”…. and FREEBIE FEBRUARY is no exception.

Tomorrow is the last day.

If you haven’t checked FREEBIE FEBRUARY out, please do so now, while there is still time.  If you have visited the page, please click over again.  A number of new listings were added throughout the month–and we don’t want you to miss a thing.


Bucket of Snow –

winter children's toys a shovel and a bucket with the snow on the white


Bucket of Snow

This is a guest blog post written by Donna Lasinski from has a freebie listing in our FREEBIE FEBRUARY event – please check it out.


How much water does it take to make a bucket of snow?  Make a few guesses with your kids about how much water will be in the bucket after the snow melts. My boys thought that it would be about the same—that a snowflake equaled a drop of water.

They were so surprised to learn how little water it takes to make a full bucket of snow. Now imagine together how much snow would stack up on one of the really rainy summer days.

What you need:

  • bucket
  • snow

What you do:

  1. Fill a bucket of snow to the very top.
  2. Set the bucket in the sun or indoors.
  3. Watch it melt and compare how low the level of the water is to the height of the full bucket.

What did your children learn?


Donna Lasinski is a mother of 3 sons and the author of the Parent Guide to Summer and creator of ThinkStretch Summer Learning Program. also has a winter program to help prevent “brain freeze”.

Red Apple Reading Product Review


Did you see that Red Apple Reading is offering a freebie during’s FREEBIE FEBRUARY event?


Red Apple Reading provides a systematic, fun approach to developing and strengthening core reading skills. The entire program is designed for children ages 3-9 who are reading below a 3rd grade level, and includes three online level options—Park Planet, Island Adventures, and Carnival Fun. All online programs include access for 3 children, a downloadable workbook, lesson reviews, unit reviews, a parent dashboard, flash cards, games, free access to members-only apps, and more.

Regarding the individual programs—

Park Planet – Level B – Best for Ages 5-7

This program includes 76 online lessons, 300 activities and 30 hours of instruction. It works best for young readers just beginning to put sounds together to read words. It covers short vowel sounds, word families, 100 sight words, digraphs, blends, long vowel sounds, and a review of letter sounds in the ABC Tree.

Island Adventures – Level C – Best for Ages 6-9

This program includes another 75 lessons, 375 activities and 35 hours of instruction. It includes more advanced phonics skills, 200 more sight words, vocabulary, and beginning reading comprehension skills.

Carnival Fun – Level A - Best for Ages 3-5 (coming soon)

Due for release by the end of the year, this preschool level is FREE to Complete Package and Lifetime members who purchase before its release (that’s great!). It will include practice in critical pre-reading skills like phonemic awareness, letter sounds, vocabulary, blending, memory, sequencing, and more.

I reviewed both Levels B and C (the Complete Package). Here are the things I liked about these two levels–

  • Lessons have a structured format that works well, and we all know that kids like structure. Lessons begin with animated instructional videos, are followed by fun practice activities and end with a review and quiz. I actually enjoyed the quiz. It’s broken up into segments with encouragement along the way—it wasn’t quiz(zy) at all!
  • The animated video lessons, activities, games and rewards are attractive, fun and motivating. I enjoyed the sounds effects.
  • During the lessons, each new skill builds on the last, so you get a logical learning sequence that encourages rapid progress.
  • Intelligent Question Logic differentiates the practice questions for each child, changing the difficulty of the questions as the child plays in many of the activities.
  • There is a reward game at the end of every unit, which is fun/rewarding.When kids have fun learning, that’s always a plus!
  • Kids can work independently (it’s suggested they work 20-30 minutes daily (1-2 lessons), three to five days a week; or with the parent, when using the supplementary materials.
  • Students can work at their own pace and revisit lessons for extra practice.
  • Kids can access the lessons anytime, anywhere, from an internet-connected desktop or laptop computer—no software to install (I like that).
  • The program/website is easy for kids and parents to use.
  • As a parent, it’s easy to create and edit child accounts, adjust settings for how often you want to receive Progress Report emails, download the User Guide and free resources, etc.
  • Red Apple Reading was developed by experienced classroom teachers, reading intervention teachers, a school psychologist, a speech pathologist, animators, web developers, and parents of school-age children. A lot of people had input.

Want to learn more and see how it works? A Free Trial of the complete first unit of both Park Planet and Island Adventures can be found here. Red Apple Reading—a great supplement for kids just learning to read!


More Homeschool Travel with Rebecca

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures,Travel — Tags: , , — Rebecca Kochenderfer @ 4:00 am


To Tour Or Not To Tour

This blog post is written by Rebecca Kochenderfer, co-founder of


There comes a time in every traveler’s life – the monumental event of all monumental events. You take the plunge, throw off your independence and sign up for a group tour. Old Me had a disdain for what I thought of as “those weak-minded sheep who can only travel if they have a Travel Yoda and a Luggage Sherpa.” New Me (a kinder, gentler, more open-minded Me) was lured in by the ridiculously low prices. And to be honest, I was tired and too lazy to plan out my own darn trip. So I took the leap and signed up for a Christmas Markets Tour through Gate1 Travel.

Since I was drawn in by the prices, let’s run the numbers and see if you really do get more for your money when you take a group tour.

- Airfare first. Gate1 charges $700-$800 for a round-trip ticket from Sacramento to Munich. (no kidding, that’s their real name) charges $1,200.

- Gate1 charges $720 for six hotel stays. charges $1,000 for those same hotels.

So far, tour travel is looking pretty good. I paid Gate1 $2,000 for airfare, six nights in a hotel, two day-tours, two dinners, bus transportation, and a guide (his name was Mykel, not Yoda, and he was awesome). If I had paid for all of that “a la carte”, I would have paid $2,300, not including the cost for the bus and the guide.

But would you do all that, a la carte? Traveling on your own, would you cram four cities, two day tours, and a partridge-in-a-pear-tree all into just six days? Plus there’s the group in group travel. I don’t have any illusions about myself. Sure, I’m a nice person. Smart. Caring. A fine friend. But I’m not a high-end extrovert. I feel a little self-conscious in groups and let’s face it, I’m not that cheery after 6:30 AM wake up calls day after day. Still, I am all about personal growth (and getting a lot for my money) so I went on the Christmas Markets Tour… and loved it.

rebecca tour picCold and tired, but really happy

The tour guide was wonderful and the people on the tour were nice. Best of all, I learned A LOT (Gate 1 guides are great at teaching you about the country you are in).

But I’m not sure I would tour it again. If life had a rewind button, I think I would do it differently. More is not always better when it comes to travel. Sometimes it’s better to slow down and smell the snowflakes.

If you’ve always wanted to see the Christmas Markets of Europe (and they are worth the crowds and the cold), this is what I would recommend:

1) No need to race from Munich to Nürnberg to Salzburg to Vienna (after a while the markets and the crowds all start to look the same). My advice is to make Vienna your home base and visit Salzburg from there (save Munich and Nurnberg  for another trip).

2) Instead of staying in a hotel, rent a roomy AirBNB apartment in Vienna’s city center. I found some beautiful places for $170 a night (the Vienna hotel room on our tour was so tiny we had to step over our luggage in order to get to the bed).

3) From Vienna, take a day tour to Salzburg one day and to Bratislava another day. You’ll find some excellent tours on I also recommend taking  a walking tour of Vienna and going to the Mozart and Hayden concert (even if you are not normally a classical music aficionado,  this concert is a winner. Everyone on the tour loved it).

I think a la carte travel gives you the best of both worlds. You can enjoy the convenience of the short tours without the grueling  “forced march” feel of a full-on tour. And it only costs $400 more ($1,200 for the airfare, $1,000 for six nights in an apartment, and $200 for the tours and concert through For a total of $2,400.) Best of all, no 6:30 AM wake up calls and you get to explore and play at your own pace.

Which brings us back to the big question – to tour or not to tour? If you want to visit as many places as possible in a short time (or if you’re going to a country that is harder to do a la carte — like India or China), then a group tour might be just the thing. But if you want to relax on your vacation (and not return home totally exhausted) then I encourage you to give a la carte travel a try. This way, instead of rushing your way through a vacation, you can relax and build a custom vacation that works for you.




Bookemon Product Review


Did you see that Bookemon is offering a FREEBIE FEBRUARY listing?  Check it out here. is a website where you (your kids) can create your/their own custom books—it’s a great way to add creativity, technology, and fun to any homeschool program. Just

  • Create a FREE account – credit card information is not requested (of course, they’re hoping at some point, you’ll want to purchase one of your creations, but it’s not necessary)
  • Upload pictures and type in desired text. You can start from scratch or use their templates
  • Save eBooks for FREE or order (and pay for) printed copies
  • E-mail your newly made books to friends, family, teachers, mentors, etc

Bookemon even has an area on their site specifically for educators–a secure spot for school projects. It can be found here. Regarding the Bookemon’s Educator Program:

  • It’s free to create your own edCenter, a secure, private online environment to make school (homeschool) books & school projects collaboratively
  • As a member, you receive special 10% discounts to purchase your own books (if you decide to do so)
  • You also receive up to a 40% discount when purchasing a Young Author Press package (only if desired—not necessary)
  • It’s easy to use management tools in the edCenter – to oversee student activities

What I especially like—

  • The Bookemon site and the bookPress app are free—something homeschoolers appreciate
  • Want to share your final Bookemon product? You can easily e-mail it to family and friends
  • The making app on iPad (bookPress ) lets you share your book or pages with your family and friends using Twitter or Facebook. Kids really like this option
  • Young Author Press lets young authors (K-12) publish their stories and writings in full color books with ISBN-13. Your kids can be recognized as published authors

I went onto the site, and quickly made a book using their template—it’s a short, cute book that includes pictures of my pets. The template was for 20 pages—I didn’t have that many pictures—it was easy to delete pages and make a much smaller book. It was also easy to experiment, and fix any mistakes (I made a few). I then e-mailed the book to myself and received the following e-mail from Bookemon—

My e-mail address has invited you to view this book with the following message:
“this is cool”

To read the book or purchase, use the book link below:
Read Book Online (it was linked, but I removed the link for this review)

To read the book on your iPad, install the bookPress app and click on the following link:
Read Book on iPad (again, I removed the link).

This activity was fun. I felt creative—even using their template.

This is a great way for your kids to share assignments/projects with you, their grandparents, and others. They’ll be proud of the end results. They’ll WANT to make books as part of a book report, state report, biography, etc. They’ll probably make birthday, holiday and sports books in their spare time. You might even find yourself using Bookemon time as a reward—as kids will want to be on it so much.

Fun. And fun learning is forever learning!

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