Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review of Salem Ridge Press

Like most homeschoolers, I love books.  Thus, when asked to review three books from Salem Ridge Press, I was delighted.  In exchange for my honest review, I was given one physical book, Hilda the Briton, and two ebooks, Marie's Home and The American Twins of the Revolution free.

Given that Salem Ridge Press has historical fiction ranging from the time of Ancient Egypt to Colonia America, it was providential that I received the books I did! Hilda and the Twins (as we began to refer to the Emma Leslie and Lucy Fitch Perkins books pictured above actually fit seamlessly into my daughter's curriculum.  Marie's Home, set during the French Revolution, was just as providential.  The French Revolution is a sister to the American Revolution, as I'm sure Daniel Mills, the founder of Salem Ridge Press knows! What a clever way to study two subjects together which often are studied separately until college.  As with so many things homeschooling, living books make the connections that elude age-appropriate textbooks.

Salem Ridge Press is the brainchild of a former homeschooler.  By republishing out-of-print books, Daniel Mills allows children to experience the caliber of books that were taken for granted by their grandparents: books replete with adventure, character, and strong story lines.  With titles in categories including historical fiction, allegory, adventure, and younger readers, Salem Ridge Press has something for everyone.  Although Mr. Mills approaches his business from a Christian perspective, it is important to note that not all of these books are necessarily explicitly Christian: they are just good, wholesome books which should be enjoyed by everyone!

There are so many things to love about Salem Ridge Press, beginning with the website.
Greeted with the image of a bookshelf in front of a fireplace, one knows immediately that she is in the presence of a true book lover.  For me, it was love at first sight! Second, one is able to search the book listing four different ways: alphabetically, by author, by age, or by time period/location.  It is so easy to find exactly the right book either to entertain your child or to supplement your current history study.  Third, the books themselves are true treasures.  They are very well constructed, with nothing of a cheap home publisher feel.  The paper is nice and thick, and the covers are bright and attractive with vintage-style covers.  The feature most appreciated by my daughter was the running glossary at the bottom of the pages.  When a potentially unfamiliar word is introduced, it is defined at the bottom of the page.  What a wonderful way to introduce kids to the idea of L.I.U. (Look It Up)!

Each of Salem Ridge Press's books is priced $10.95-$28.95, with most titles available for around $12.95 for a softcover edition.  After reading this review, are you pretty sure you want to buy a Salem Ridge Press book, but not exactly sure which one is for you? Head over to their website where you can read the first chapter of every one of their books! Do you have a favorite online bookshop? Check out all of the booksellers who carry Salem Ridge titles!

There is nothing not to love about Salem Ridge Press.  Wonderful books, responsive customer service, and widely available products! Although I received my three books gratis, I have little doubt that my daughter will urge me to buy more! You don't have to take my word for it, though.  Be sure to check out what other members of The Old Schoolhouse's Homeschool Crew have to say about Salem Ridge Press!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review of Math Essentials

Math is a tricky subject in my house, not because it is difficult for my kids, but because they (at least the oldest two) are so far ahead in math that it can be challenging both to keep up with them, and to find the right programs that engage them both at their intellectual and at their maturity levels.  I was, therefore, quite excited to have the opportunity to receive a free (in exchange for my honest review) two-month subscription to Math Essentials.  Math Essentials is a subscription service offering everything from lesson videos, to printed exercises, to an evaluation center where you can test your child's knowledge of every aspect of math.

For $195 per year, a family receives a subscription to every aspect of the site.
Prior to committing this amount of money, one is able to sample many parts of the site for free, including some of the video lessons, which were the component of the site my family used the most.

I'll admit that I tend to challenge (not push! Never push!) my children when I know that they can handle it.  Thus, when presented with the perfect opportunity to have someone else teach my nine year-old daughter (who currently does 6th-7th grade math), I jumped at the chance to have her work a little harder.  I promptly showed her the list of available video tutorials, and told her that Pre-Algebra would give her a great jump on this year's math.
She agreed to give it a try.  Pre-Algebra has been a great success for two reasons: I haven't been teaching it, and she has been able to watch the lessons or, more precisely, parts of the lessons, more than once.  A couple of times she told me that the lessons explained things *too* in-depth -- that she got the concept long before the instructor (who you don't see) was done explaining, but that was a huge plus in my opinion! A couple more times, she didn't quite "get" something, so she brought it to me and I explained it a slightly different way.  Problem solved.  I have loved having someone else teach math for me.  Having three younger kids, being able to "offload" any subject is a huge plus, especially when it is one that I don't really enjoy teaching anyway.

We have not spent as much time in the other areas of the site (I want her to finish Pre-Algebra!), but a thorough perusal has convinced me that there is a wealth of material here.  All of my kids love the speed drills, which are available on the printed worksheets, or on the site itself to do electronically.  They are available in all ranges of difficulty.
Math Essentials also offers final exams for each of its subject areas so that you can check to see whether your child has really achieved mastery.
 Also, for those parents whose states have more rigorous homeschooling reporting options, or who just want to be sure that their children are where the state says they should be, Math Essentials also has correlations to national standards.
 Although there are still a few technical issues that this site is working on, they are very minor, and should be completely ironed out soon.  To be honest, I didn't even really notice them.  I have thoroughly enjoyed using Math Essentials, and I am seriously contemplating purchasing a subscription when our evaluation period is over.  I would encourage you to read what other Homeschool Crew members had to say about the product here: Crew Reviews of Math Essentials, and I would also suggest touring the Math Essentials site and trying out the free demos to see if this product is right for you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Review of Time 4 Writing

For many parents, writing is one of those subjects that just seems too intimidating to teach.  Even if we are competent writers ourselves, we may feel ill-equipped to pass on that skill to our children.  Unfortunately, for many parents, it is also the subject for which it is most difficult to find a suitable curriculum.  Maybe, just maybe, many homeschoolers think, it would be better if we could just hire a writing tutor to come and teach our children this one subject.  No fancy curriculum, no gimmicks: just solid writing skills.  Time4Writing has heard our prayer!

Time4Writing comes to us from the same company that offers Time4Learning to so many satisfied parents.  While the product may be the new kid on the block, then, the company is not.  For the reasonable cost of $99 per eight week course, your child will have a certified teacher teaching him writing.  The course offerings range from elementary through high school levels, and cover everything from basic parts of speech to college-prep research paper writing.  It doesn't matter what level your child is at: you will be able to find a course to fit her ability.

I really appreciated this flexibility, since my nine year-old daughter is an advanced writer.  I wasn't compelled to put her in an elementary level class, just because that level was what her age dictated.  Instead, I registered her for Middle School Essay, and it proved to be a reasonably good fit.  Were I to do it over, I would register her for a High School level class, as I think she would actually have learned more at that level.

You need nothing for this class other than an Internet connection.  Your interaction with the teacher is through email (messaging) only; there is no video chat.  All of the assignments are laid out for the student from the moment of registration, and as she works through them, she submits them online to her teacher.  The teacher then grades them, comments on them, and returns them within 24 hours.

Time4Writing would be ideal for students who perform best for teachers other than their parents, at least in the subject of writing.  I have always known that my daughter is an excellent writer, but with only me to impress, she tends to be sloppy and imprecise.  When she knew someone else would be reading her work, however, all her commas were in place and all of her infinitives were un-split! What a joy! This course is also perfect for homeschooling households in which more formal subjects like writing tend to take a backseat to more fun subjects like (fill in the blank!).  If it's one of those subjects that you know you should get around to, but you just hate to sacrifice your read-alouds or your nature study, or whatever else you would have to give up, then give Time4Writing a try!

The feedback that both student and parent get is almost immediate (turnaround time on assignments is supposed to be 24 hours, although with our instructor, it would often go longer than that), and it is easy to track your progress on the "grades" section of the site.  My daughter's paragraph is in the blue rectangle.  Her teacher's comments are in red, and her grade is noted by the left-hand arrow:

Although I was fortunate enough to receive the course free in exchange for my honest review, I think that for the right family (like those discussed above) it is worth the $99 asking price.  You really do experience a one-on-one tutorial relationship with a qualified teacher.  If you want to give Time4Writing a try in your homeschool, be sure to visit their website:

If you still have questions, they can be reached the old-fashioned way at:


6300 NE 1st Ave Suite 203, 
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33334

Don't let writing languish in your homeschool when there is an affordable, easy alternative just one mouse click away!

See what other members of TOS' Homeschool Crew thought of Time4Writing and its sister products Time4Learning and Spelling City here!