Sunday, March 25, 2012

Action Alert

Do you worry about what your kids are doing on the internet?  I might be the biggest fan of the internet but there are so many dangers especially for our children who might not be very discerning.  A bit of inquisitiveness can turn ugly fast!  And along comes Action Alert to help you protect your children and monitor their computer activity.


Action Alert comes in two versions. There is a free version that you can get started with right now with a quick download or you can purchase the Maximum Protection plan.

One of coolest features of this program is the activity video recording.  You can literally see everything that your children have looked at minute by minute. You also can also be alerted if certain words or phrases are typed. You create the list and as soon as that word is typed you receive instant notification via email or text. You can even shut down internet access remotely if you are concerned by the notification you have received.

Action Alert also offers site blocking, time restrictions and content filtering among other things. Visit the FAQ page for more information.   

You might wonder what the difference is between the Free Action Alert and the Maximum Protection.  Here are the differences.

Free Version - Includes a web filter to ensure safe searches, website blocking that prevents access to a constantly updated list of websites, time use controls – it even sends texts or e-mail alerts when dangers are detected. All of this PLUS free tech support where calls are taken at their Arizona based support center.

Maximum Protection – Action Alert sends a message to your cell phone or e-mail when an event occurs that you should be aware of. This message lets parents know they should take a look at the computer and probably have a talk with their young computer user.

Through the Action Alert Manager you can block certain hours of access by
clicking on the squares in the grid, you can also set a daily time limit and shut down internet access.
If your computer is set up with multiple users you can apply different settings for each person
 or you can use the same for all.

"Action Alert is an easy to use, patent pending, award winning computer safety solution that gives parents everything they need to create a "kid safe" computing environment. Simply installing Action Alert onto the family or kids PC gives parents an easy way to filter and block unwanted content, control when the computer is used and for how long and be informed when dangers or suspicious activity occurs. (like if a child gives out personal information online) Action Alert maximum protection allows parents to review all computer activity as easy as watching a DVR. This unique feature provides an easy way to create the environment that is constantly recommended by experts - an environment where kids know that their parents are not shut out of their “online world”. " -from Action Alert

I think Action Alert is an excellent way to keep my children safe online and for my husband and I to monitor their computer activity.  I previewed this on a PC but intend to download this onto all of the computers the children use in the near future.  I did have an issue that I needed to contact Action Alert with (a forgotten code) and they got back to me right away with the information I needed.

One thing I did not like was that when you install Action Alert it automatically changes your home page to Action Alert.  I am not computer savvy enough to know if computer smart kids can figure out ways to get around Action Alert.

Photobucket Photobucket
Action Alert has received significant national media, including a feature on NBC's The Today Show and along with many others; Disney's iParenting has awarded our technology as one of its best safety products for kids. And Action Alert is the only product recommended by the Child Safety Network

As mentioned you can download a free version of Action Alert or purchase the Maximum Protection version for $29.99.  (If you download the free version you will be offered to upgrade for just $19.99.) Note that Action Alert is only for Windows based computers.

I recommend that you read what others are saying about Action Alert on the TOS crew blog then check it out for yourself.

disclaimer: I received a free Maximum Protection subscription to Action Alert in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Progeny Press

We were recently given the opportunity to review two different Progeny Press study guides.  Both guides were in an interactive pdf format. I received the student interactive guide as well as the answer keys.

Progeny Press has over 100 study guides for literature, covering kindergarten through high school. Progeny Press study guides concentrate on critical thinking, comprehension, literary analysis, and Christian application. Our goal is to teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it. -from website


Each guide begins with a synopsis of the story and a short biography of the author followed by background information.  It is recommended that the student read the entire book and complete some pre-reading activities to go along with this such as mapping and short research projects.  Once the student has read through the entire book they begin to go through the guide chapter by chapter.  The sections begin with vocabulary...sometimes there is matching, sometimes students will write out definitions type them), other times there are fun activities like crossword puzzles.  Then there are a variety of questions to be answered.  Click here for an interactive sampling of a variety of studies where you can get a feel for it.

Sample of drop down boxes for entering answers.

As I mentioned, they recommend you read through the whole book first but I think that it can cause confusion when answering some of the questions. For instance, one question in the first section asks the student, "What questions do you have about Daniel that the author has not yet answered after two chapters of reading?" I think after reading the whole book it makes it more difficult to answer questions like this because you already do know much more about the character because you have read the entire book.  I'm not sure that I see the benefit in reading it all ahead.  Also, if you have a student that doesn't love reading they probably will not want to read the story twice.  (I like to read and I don't usually like to read the same book twice...especially fiction.)  I recognize the idea behind it I just don't necessarily think it's practical.

The Bronze Bow guide is 60 pages long while the answer key is only 8 pages making it ideal to print out for easy correcting without switching back and forth between two pdf documents.

The interactive feature on these make these a great tool especially for older students.  My daughter was able to complete her assignments and e-mail them to me for correcting.  I can't say that she was as thrilled with it as I am but it IS schoolwork. :)  I know that she didn't like the way the vocabulary word bank was on one page and the page where you put the answers in on another so she had to flip back and forth and found that frustrating but you could easily print out the word bank page to eliminate that problem.  One study should take about 8-12 weeks.  So for a high school student you would probably want to choose 4 studies for a year of English literature.  This seems to be an appropriate amount to me.

I especially like how these guides incorporate the Bible.  I think we will be using more of these studies in the future.

If you have questions please visit the FAQ page or ask here and I'll answer if I can.


The Bronze Bow study guide is available as a pdf interactive document for $16.99.   Pride and Prejudice is also available as a pdf interactive document for $18.99.  CD and booklet versions are also available at varying prices. There is a $3 processing fee for each pdf order so if you plan to order more than one you will want to take that into consideration and order at one time to save money. The company manually sends the studies so note that it may take a day or two to get your study.

 Go to Progeny Press to see their extensive line of study guides. You can search by genre or grade level.

Read what others are saying about Progeny Press guides on the TOS crew blog.

disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Bronze Bow Study Guide and The Pride and Prejudice Study Guide in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Art of Argument

We've recently been given the opportunity to review The Art of Argument by Classical Academic Press, an introduction to the informal fallacies written for junior high students. Learning the informal fallacies in our culture (not to mention an election year!) is a valuable skill all students ought to learn.


A description from the website:
Junior high aged students will argue (and sometimes quarrel), but they won't argue well without good training. Young teens are also targeted by advertisers with a vengeance. From billboards to commercials to a walk down the mall, fallacious arguments are everywhere you look. The Art of Argument was designed to teach the argumentative adolescent how to reason with clarity, relevance and purpose at a time when he has a penchant for the "why" and "how". It is designed to equip and sharpen young minds as they live, play, and grow in this highly commercial culture. This course teaches students to recognize and identify twenty-eight informal fallacies, and the eye-catching text includes over sixty slick and clever, “phony advertisements” for items from blue jeans to pick-up trucks, which apply the fallacies to a myriad of real life situations.

This text comes in a workbook format with clear explanations and many updated illustrations and examples to insure understanding and mastery. The text aims at the practical application of the informal fallacies through an analysis of current social, commercial and political issues, which are discussed and evaluated. This practical application should insure that students continue to evaluate arguments, detect fallacies and reason well long after the course is completed.

Students master 28 fallacies (such as begging the question, the straw man, ad hominen, et al) by studying many pertinent examples. The text features a variety of:
Real-World Applications
Phony Advertisements
Dialectic Discussion Questions
Fun extras such as a humorous skit for students to perform, and the famous short story, Love is a Fallacy by Max Shulman

The Art of Argument DVD Set, a DVD video series featuring three experienced logic teachers and four capable, enthusiastic students discussing the 28 fallacies presented in The Art of Argument. This video series will be a valuable resource for every student using The Art of Argument.

The Art of Argument DVD Set contains:
5 DVDs containing a total of more than 8 hours of video
28 videos—one for each fallacy contained in The Art of Argument text
Fun outtakes, extras, and “logical” humor
View a sample chapter from the book and a sample of the Teacher's manual. THEN
Watch a sample video from the series of the straw man fallacy.

We are not really big fans of the videos but you can be the judge of what you think by watching the sample I posted above. That being said I think it's nice to see them discussing each of the fallacies and would help students that prefer a video to reading the book (though you need the book too). The Teacher's book contains the student text with answers to all of the exercises, and has the tests and answer keys.  I would say that you need the Teacher's edition in order to teach this properly (unless you are an expert on fallacies) but there would also be value in just reading through the student text together.

I would recommend this course for anyone wishing to teach informal fallacies and logical argument to their students. This is recommended for junior high students but you can easily use this with older students which is what I did.

You can purchase  The Art of Argument Basic Bundle for $88.95. This includes the student book ($21.95), teacher's edition ($24.95) and full DVD set ($54.95).   Visit Classical Academic Press for other classical subject curriculum including Latin, French and other languages, Bible, poetry and more.


See what others are saying about The Art of Argument on the TOS crew blog.

disclaimer: I received The Art of Argument book and first DVD in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hero Tales

Hero Tales from American History as read by Hal Young is a delightful 3 part audio series from the author of Raising Real Men.

Part One

Did you know Theodore Roosevelt wrote a book for children?

He did. He wrote a book to teach character and virtue through the stories of American History.

He’s been called “The Most Interesting American” and his book is just that!

Hero Tales makes it even more interesting by turning it into an audiobook and adding sound effects. Ships creaking, gulls cawing, cannon fire, even angry French mobs come together to make history they’ll never forget…

In Part One listeners will learn about George Washington, Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, the Battle of Trenton and Dennington. You can listen to a sample (Daniel Boone).

I really enjoy listening to these stories. Hal Young's soothing voice makes these perfect for bedtime listening or listening in the car or anywhere else for that matter. The sound effects add interest but are not overpowering. These are valuable stories that all children should hear and know.

You can purchase Hero Tales in a variety of ways...on CD or as an mp3 download.

All Three Volumes Hero Tales @ $15.00
Hero Tales Part One CD @ $7.00
Hero Tales Part One MP3 @ $4.00
Hero Tales Part Two CD @ $7.00
Hero Tales Part Two MP3 @ $4.00
Hero Tales Part Three CD @ $5.00
Hero Tales Volume Three mp3 Download @ $4.00
Buy 10 Part One CDs @ $40.00
Or 10 Sets for Gifts! @ $100.00

Shipping Rates Orders under $15 incur $2.50 shipping; $15 and over is free.

disclaimer: I received Hero Tales Part One on CD in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reading Eggs

 Looking for something really fun to help your child with their reading? Reading Eggs is a web-based reading program for children 3-13 and my kids love it!

From the website:
Reading Eggs now has 100 big lessons. These 100 lessons are perfect for 4 to 7 year olds who are learning to read.
We are still building more NEW lessons for our older Eggsplorers as part of Reading Eggs World. This world is perfect for 6-8 year olds who already know the basics of reading but who still have much to learn about reading, writing, spelling, and comprehension. This exciting new world has lots of new lessons, a creative story writing factory, new games and will soon have many wonderful new books to read in Storylands. The learning focuses on building reading fluency and comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, and a range of writing skills including grammar and punctuation.
In Reading Eggs World, children have their own house to decorate, a big new shop and an avatar that can walk and travel to many new destinations on Reggie’s bus. Children are able to choose their own adventure from a wide range of activities and places to go.

The entry screen where your child chooses between Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress

Your child will begin by taking a reading assessment to find out what level to start at.  They put them at a much lower level than they need to be but I think this might be to ensure that nothing is missed. You can change your child's level at any time or have them take the assessment test again.

From the parent dashboard you can adjust your child's level or
 have them redo the placement test.
As your child progresses through Reading Eggs they move along a map,
unlocking new maps as each section is completed.

At then end of each map, there is a quiz. Quiz results are emailed to you so you can see how your child is doing.

printable activity sheets are available for every lesson

a sample of a colorful activity sheet available for every lesson

a sample of one of the activities

Besides the fun reading instruction there are lots of fun activities for your child as well from the music cafe to puzzles (which reinforce the words they are learning to read) and just plain fun activities like decorating a house.
Children use the golden eggs they earn to purchase items for their playhouse.
The puzzle gallery offers many ways to practice skills while having fun.

puzzle games and the number of eggs that can be earned by completing each section

The only problem with Reading Eggs is getting them to stop using it.  Oh and Reggie's voice can get a little annoying, but the kids don't seem to mind.  I have also noticed that my younger children will tend toward just playing the games and not doing the lessons.  However, there is a place in the dashboard to turn the games off if you wish to. I highly recommend you give Reading Eggs a try.


Sign up here for a 2 week free trial. (no credit card required) Or click here to try a sample lesson

A 6 month subscription to Reading Eggs is $49.95 and a 12 month subscription is $75.  Receive a 50% discount on subscriptions for additional children (added at the same time). Companion books are also available for purchase.

If your children are older you may wish to try Reading Eggspress.  Reading Eggspress is for 7-13 year olds and encourages further development of reading skills.


Read what others are saying about Reading Eggs on the TOS crew blog.  Check out the Reading Eggs FAQ if you have questions.  OR feel free to ask me here and I'll do my best to answer.

disclaimer: I was given a free 3 month subscription to Reading Eggs in exchange for an honest review.
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