Category Archives: review

Etiquette Factory Review

I have a strong belief that teaching manners to our kids is SO important. Teaching our kids to have manners is to teach them to know how to socially behave in different situations and show respect to others and themselves. We use manners when we patiently wait before interrupting a conversation, calmly accept the word “no”, and kindly share our toys with others. Those three examples just happen to be three of my daughter’s biggest etiquette hurdles. You can imagine my delight when I was
asked to review an amazing curriculum centered on teaching manners to kids.

What is Etiquette Factory?
This is a great tool to help you teach your kids manners! Etiquette Factory is a 12 week course to teach your child a variety of social skills… everything from telephone manners to table etiquette. Each etiquette skill is focused over the space of one week. The etiquette skills are broken down into three phases according to your child’s age. It would easily fit into any school setting- from preschool to high school (because those big kids may need to learn manners, too).

There is a fantastic movie component to this curriculum. Miss Manners, the most well behaved southern lady I have ever seen, teaches the kids by clearly defining each manner, telling stories, singing songs, and reviewing important skills. I love the DVD- it makes it SO easy to teach my daughter her manners in a way she can easily relate to and it’s super easy for me!

While the DVD is fabulous, take time to read the teacher manual! There are some great additional activities, discussion questions, and treat ideas to help your kiddos understand their etiquette! This manual provides you with a detailed schedule for teaching your child her manners. There are lessons for 5 days a week. Each lesson takes approximately 15 minutes- but can easily be adjusted to take longer or shorter if needed. I would stress the importance of not rushing the program to ensure that your kiddo really understands and solidifies their knowledge of each etiquette skill.

We started the Etiquette Factory program as soon as we received it! My daughter LOVES it. We will role play each of the etiquette skills with her stuffed animals, listen to the accompanying CD in the car (another great tool to teach your kids manners), or snuggle up to daddy and watch the DVD.

We love this program (and the lovely Miss Manners) so much that we did this fun culminating activity! I printed a pic of my daughters face and turned her into Miss Manners! I then asked her to tell me different rules of etiquette and wrote her responses on the flowers on her hat.
I highly recommend this program to any parent or teacher- there is nothing like this program available and it is SO well done!

 Happy Teaching!

JumpStart Review

I must admit I love reviewing educational products. Its a great way to supplement my daughters education while familiarizing myself with some incredible resources! I was asked by JumpStart to write a review of their site in exchange for a 6 month membership. 

JumpStart.com is an educational website that offers an interactive learning adventure for your kiddos! The website is designed for 3-12 year old kids and allows them to learn a ton while playing award winning games. 
There are different lands (based on ages of kids). 
Some of the lands include StoryLand (for ages 3-5), AdventureLand (ages 5-8), MarineLand (ages 5-8), FutureLand (ages 9-12), and Poseidon’s Hangout (ages 9-12). There are other lands that would work for children of all ages- like  Uncle Milton’s Amazing ScienceLand- I think this was designed just for my daughter!
JumpStart provides you with an online avatar called a Jumpee (totally customized by your child) that will learn and explore in their educational adventures. The avatar not only play games but can interact with other jumpees that are online as well. Since my daughter is only 4 we didn’t do much interacting. Just playing 🙂

Two great parent/teacher resources in the JumpStart program are the game guide and the game manual. In the game guide you will learn more about how to use the JumpStart site effectively. There are sections on how to get started with JumpStart, finding the perfect games for your child, and info on membership. In the game manual you will get a more detailed description of installing JumpStart and how to navigate the games. Sadly, as computer savvy as I think I am, I needed this section. I definitely would recommend reading this section prior to starting your JumpStart experience!

Pros…. Educational, love the avatar element that allows kids to personalize  their learning experience, variety of levels and activities so your child is bound to find something they love!
Cons… I found their site to be a little difficult to navigate. Of course I was trying to figure it out BEFORE I saw the game manual… I could have saved myself a lot of searching!  And due to my sensitive stomach, the 3D animated graphics made me dizzy (I can’t play lots of video games for this reason). 
With that said, the customer support was helpful and my daughter really loves playing the games. And at the end of the day, thats what counts. 
I would recommend JumpStart to anyone who wants to supplement their child’s learning with online games. 
Happy Teaching!

Speekee Review

I am back from a crazy Easter weekend, a book reading binge (the Hunger Games series- couldn’t put them down!), and a brief stomach bug. And I bring you a MUCH overdue review of Speekee!

 Ever since my daughter was a baby I have had a desire to teach her Spanish. I started with basic colors and word lists found online. I even printed a couple Dora and Diego worksheets with the hopes of Boo learning Spanish! There was no professional strategy to her Spanish learning, just a bunch of thrown together ideas. Until I was asked to do a review for Speekee (I think this would be an appropriate place to say that they did give me a free two month subscription to their site).

Speekee is a Spanish learning website for kids. They have 10 episodes of “Speekee TV” which is actually filmed in Spain (cool, right?). But it doesn’t end there. Speekee offers additional resource activities and an amazing teacher resource/planning guide that makes my educator heart sing!

The teacher resource section is also known as the scheme of work. There are 10 units of comprehensive study that go right along with the episodes. Each unit has an overview where expectations are clearly defined and new vocabulary listed. I recommend using this resource along with the videos to enhance and enrich your child’s Spanish learning experience.

Boo watching one of the fun episodes of Speekee TV

Pros…. Educational, several different lessons based on children’s interests, good price point, easy to use and navigate the site. Best of all (in my opinion) is the teacher resource guide! A great planning tool to turn the 10 Speekee TV episodes into a comprehensive Spanish learning resource!

Cons… Like all Spanish software there is an element of truly being immersed in the language and having social interaction that is missing. However those opportunities can be given to your child and integrated easily with your Speekee study. Also an iPad app would be cool to learn and watch movies on the go :).

I would definitely recommend this site to anyone interested in teaching their child in Spanish! Heck, even I will be learning it right along with my kiddo!

Happy Teaching!

Montessori at Home! Review and GIVEAWAY

Feeling lucky? St Patricks Day is the perfect day to win a giveaway!!

For those of you that have followed my blog for awhile you know that I absolutely LOVE the Montessori approach to teaching young children. The materials, the structure, the scope/sequence of activities… it makes my teacher heart sing! During the beginning stages of my Montessori experience I was on my own reading books from the library and googling Montessori activities and lessons to do with my toddler. While I found there were some good resources, I still felt like I had no clue what I was doing.

Until I had the opportunity to read John Bowman’s Montessori at Home! book.

It is a one-stop shopping Montessori experience. John explores the world of Montessori by first explaining WHAT the Montessori approach is all about. Things like the three step lesson, how to choose activities for your child, and preparing/displaying/demonstrating learning materials. This was SO helpful for me as I was starting out!

After thoroughly introducing the Montessori approach, John lists several activities for the following areas:
Everyday Life
Sensory
Science
Mathematics
Reading and Writing
Digital Life
Art and Music
Geography and Culture

This section of the book is filled with so many wonderful and detailed ideas to teach your child. Many of these activities use everyday items, which is great for those of us on a budget! When I first was given a hard copy of John Bowman’s book last year, I marked so many pages of ideas and lessons to do with my little girl that my book ended up looking like this:

If THAT didn’t convince you that this book is incredible, check out this list:

Top 10 Things I LOVE about Montessori at Home!

1. John Bowman was actually a preschool Montessori teacher and director. He also started three Montessori preschools! With those qualifications, I KNOW that he is very familiar with the Montessori method and the best way to teach it.

2. Montessori at Home has is a very well-rounded resource when it comes to Montessori activities. It doesn’t just focus on sensorial activities or Maria Montessori- it has it all.

3. It is a very easy read with lots of pictures. There are also links to other materials- which makes having an eBook very convenient.

4. Did I mention there are lots of free printable materials at the end of this book? So you can start your Montessori experience right away!

5. I love the appeal this book has to ALL of us working with kids- whether you are a daycare provider, preschool teacher, tutor, home teacher, or a parent/grandparent. We can all read and glean ideas to better help our children understand their environment and master skills such as reading and math. And there is such a variety of activities that I am positive you will find ones that work for you and the children you work with!

6. As mentioned earlier, there are massive amounts of ideas. Many of these are collected from other amazing Montessori teachers and moms found in the blogosphere! I can tell that John has spent hours researching engaging activities and quality lessons for his book.

7. This is a GREAT resource for Montessori beginners- like me. I don’t feel like I have to spend hours googling the different aspects of Montessori because it is all found here!

8. I love the fluid organization of this book. It’s easy to locate information and the sequence of materials is logical and practical.

9. It is now available on pdf! Which I love for two reasons: first, there is no wait time for the book to come in the mail, and second, I can use my pdf reader to bookmark pages so I’m not going through as many post it notes! You can always print the book once you have received the pdf.

10. The price is CRAZY good! It only costs 8.95! An amazing deal if you think about how much it would cost to send your child to a Montessori school!!

I also have to add that our Montessori Jar is included in this book which I am pretty excited about!

Montessori at Home is partnered with another amazing site: Montessori Print Shop. This site has over 1,000 Montessori-based pdfs- some are free while the rest are available at a very reasonable price. There is a special bundle of resources that include activities from most areas of the Montessori at Home book.=”clear:>

GUESS WHAT??? Two lucky readers will get:

A free copy of the Montessori At Home! Second Edition eBook from John Bowman
The Montessori at Home! bundle of 21 printable materials from Montessori Print Shop.

And GUESS WHAT else? EVERYONE who enters will win a free download of the Mom Bloggers Talk Montessori eBook. Pretty cool!!

Want to win? Here’s how:

Leave a comment and tell me your favorite learning activity you do with your kids!

You might be wondering, can I have extra entries? Why of course! (Just leave an additional comment for each of these)

Like the Home Teacher on Facebook
Like Montessori at Home! on Facebook
Like Montessori Print Shop on Facebook

Good Luck! The giveaway ends one week from today- Saturday, March 24, at 11:00 P.M. (Mountain Standard Time)

Good Luck! This is an amazing giveaway and I can’t wait to see who wins!

Happy Teaching!

Bubbling Math Review

If you are looking for a good math facts app, this might just be the one for you!

Bubbling Math is an app designed to help kids practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. It is great math practice, designed well, and there are lots of levels to unlock as the child wins trophies (cool, right?) But the thing I love most about this app is the parent section.

The cute answer bubbles change with each challenge- making it more motivating to complete just to see the changes!
Screenshot showing one of three levels. Each level has three challenges.

I LOVE that I can see how my daughter is doing with her math facts on this app. I can see the problems she missed- what a great way for me to see which facts I need to work on with her. As a former elementary school teacher, it is important for me to have my daughter not only playing educational games but to help me as her mom know how I can best help her.

My favorite feature: the parent section! Nice way to see the problems your child missed!

I also love that I can also decide the game speed. This was critical for me, since I still have to aid my daughter with manipulatives to answer the problems.

You also have the ability to decide on the operations (add/subtract/mulitply/divide) and difficulty level (easy/medium/hard/expert) you want your child to complete. There is a wide range of children (and even adults!) that can use this app.

It’s nice to be able to choose operations based on my daughter’s ability. Great feature!

I would rate this app 4 1/2 stars- I would love to see the ability to add multiple kids… for all those that want to use this app for your whole family. I just have one child now, so it works perfectly for us, but sometime down the road we might have another little one. I would also love to see the answers that my daughter got RIGHT. We could celebrate the accomplishments of her milestones as she masters specific math problems.

Boo really enjoyed playing this game! I thought it would be more of a struggle to get her to play a math game, but she was hooked right away. The feature that sold her was the fun answer bubbles. Small detail that garnished big results!

Overall, I am very impressed with the layout, design, and structure of this app. Although I received this app for free in order for me to write this review, I would spend the money to buy it!
Happy Teaching!

Kinderbach Review

I have taken years of piano lessons. Eleven years, to be exact. My husband is an excellent pianist. You would think between the two of us, we would be able to handle teaching our bright three year old to play the piano. I taught her a few things… glissandos, octaves, middle c, fingering… you know, the basics. I wanted piano lessons to be fun, and at the time they were very short, sweet, and to the point. What I found that my approach to teaching her piano wasn’t as structured or captivating as I wanted. I started doing some research online about different teaching methods and came across KinderBach, a site dedicated to teaching piano lessons to young children. I immediately signed up for the emails and after only a few days I was hooked! I just had to learn more! And I did something that I have never done before… I approached Karri about reviewing her product. And she was kind enough to send me a free DVD and allow me the opportunity to share with you all about her incredible, educational piano program!!
When my daughter and I sat down to start our first Kinderbach piano lesson, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. I knew beforehand that this would be geared towards young children, but I didn’t know how engaging a music lesson could actually be!
My daughter geared up for a KinderBach music lesson
What I love:
  • Teaches rhythm and basic counting practice. And while I knew my daughter could do this, I realized how FUN it was for her and I should allow her the opportunity to have fun with rhythm instruments.
  • Playing rhythm instruments with sheet music

  • Engaging…even for my overly active daughter. Our piano lessons using my slopped together technique lasted about 5 minutes. Now she can easily sit through a 20 minute lesson. And she loves it!
  • Now that’s captivation! Remember this girl is always on the go!!

  • This may sound crazy, but I love that I don’t have to spend time trying to create my own piano program. This is already done and it’s SO darling!
  • There are hands on activities while watching the lessons. One minute you are circling black keys on an activity page, the next you are tapping on rhythm instruments or locating keys on the piano. The activities are so varied that it holds my daughter’s attention span. The instruction comes with the activity pages divided into lessons, and even my daughter who doesn’t typically like coloring gets involved with these pages.
  • Listening to piano instructor Karri and determining if sounds are loud or quiet.
    Coloring her activity pages while watching the instructional DVD

  • As a classroom teacher, I always believed that the interest and excitement of the teacher played an important role in helping students to learn. Karri is an energetic, entertaining, knowledgeable teacher who makes it easy to learn! My daughter just LOVES her!
  • We can enjoy a piano lesson again and again… even in our jammies! I love that I can replay a section of the lesson that was thrilling for my daughter, or replay a section that she struggled with for extra practice.
    Our favorite activity so far… a creative approach to teaching the location of piano keys.

We finished the first lesson begging for more…so we watched it twice! And we just completed the second lesson and my daughter was laughing and having so much fun. And isn’t that what learning is all about at this age? I highly recommend this product to anyone who wants to teach their child how to play the piano! There is a free online trial… so throw your fears and intimidation of teaching your child how to play the piano aside and give this program a try! I am confident your preschooler will love it!
Happy piano TEACHing!

Educational Toy Review

A little post to let you know that I have been given the chance through CSN (seriously, so nice!) to review another product. As a teacher I LOVE being able to receive an extra educational toy and check it out to see if it REALLY works, and how much learning actually takes place. My plan is to choose something that I can add to our restaurant playtime kit. (This is one of my daughter’s favorite things to role play right now!) I am thinking either more Melissa and Doug food sets or a cash register…. decisions, decisions! I am leaning towards a cash register JUST because CSN has one that has educational games and supposedly counts money! I found a website that has free printable menus that I want to download and laminate- and I also want to pick up some cheap serving baskets for this kit as well.

Back to the holiday planning… I love this time of year!
And if you are interested, they have some extra tall bar stools as well!

Picnic Table Review

I had the opportunity recently to review a Little Tikes picnic table through CSN stores. I have been eyeing a little table that she could use outside, and when the opportunity came for me to receive and review this product, I was tickled pink!

What I love about this product:
  • It is super lightweight- I am such a wimp and I love that I can lift it from our kitchen to our backyard with ease. And although it is lightweight- it is not cheaply built. I can even sit on the bench without causing damage!
  • It is small. We don’t have a lot of room in our home, so I love that this table will fit nicely in our small kitchen. And it is just the perfect height for my 2 1/2 year old girl. It is also folds up pretty easily (small muscle work on my part) and can be stored in tight places.
  • I love the umbrella. It just looks cute. I really don’t see any MAJOR use with the umbrella yet. . . but it sure looks nice!
What I would improve:
  • When you fold up the table there is no way to “lock” it in place, so you have to be careful when transporting it.
  • I believe that anything that is made for a toddler that has holes in it should provide a plastic plug. The hole for the umbrella (when the umbrella is not in use) is very distracting for my girl. We have had small piles of bread and fruit directly underneath the hole. . . hmmm, wonder how that got there??
Overall, a fun product- it is a small table and I would not recommend it for kids older than 3, just because you wouldn’t get the most use for your money, but it is cute!
Happy Teaching!

Meet Me At the Corner Review

I was recently asked to review a new website called Meet Me At the Corner which posts a series of virtual field trips through a child’s perspective. Each episode includes a child host as the tour guide, a suggested reading list, and a Learning Corner of some follow up activities geared to kiddos ages 8 to 12.

As I watched several of the videos I was really impressed with the quality. The kid anchors really know their parts well and ask some great, intriguing questions to people they interview along the way. They have some amazing field trip videos that are ready to be watched with the option of uploading your own virtual field trips!

The latest episode is entitled An American Cowboy: Interview with Bob Norris, at T Cross Ranch in Pueblo, Colorado. Allison, a student anchor, interviews Cowboy Norris about quarter horses, ranch life and what it’s like to be a cowboy. There are links on this page below the video to The National Cowboy, Western Heritage Museum, The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, How to Make Cowboy Jerky, and How to Draw a Horse. Fun stuff!

Although this is geared for upper elementary kids, I know that any age group could benefit from watching these clips. My almost 2 year old LOVES airplanes so this episode entitled Airplane Builder would be perfect for her! Never underestimate the learning potential of your little one!

As a former second grade teacher, I KNOW my kids would love to watch these. Whether you are learning about anything from bird watching to trout fishing consider adding one of these Meet Me at the Corner clips into your curriculum.

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