Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beloved Books - The Sugar Creek Gang on CD!

I've mentioned a zillion times on my blog that, growing up, everyone in my family was an avid reader. We loved books. I know my love for books came from seeing my parents always reading. Because of that, I always had a book in my hand as well. It started out with The Bobbsey Twins and The Boxcar Children and soon advanced to Phyllis Whitney Mysteries and The Hardy Boys. I remember my brother and I reading the Bicentennial Series and fighting to be the first one to read each book when it was released.

One of the many wonderful qualities that my wife has is that she is an avid reader as well. So, our home is full of books. We really have no more room for books in our small home but can a person really have too many books? I think that when children see their parents reading and are surrounded by books, they grow to love books and become voracious readers themselves.


From the time that they were babies, we have endeavored to instill a love for reading into our boys. We have read books to them, listened to books on tape, and, of course, given them books to read as part of homeschool. One of the first homeschool products we were given to review on The Schoolhouse Review Crew were some books on CD that the kids absolutely loved. We listened to them while traveling one year on vacation and all of us (including my mother-in-law) laughed so hard our sides hurt. So, when I heard that Beloved Books was going to send us a whole volume of Sugar Creek Gang books on CD, I was thrilled! We have quite a few of the Sugar Creek Gang books on our shelves but they are just a little bit above Joshua, my middle child's, reading level. I was hoping that he would enjoy these books on tape and I was not disappointed. He loves them! Just this evening as I was writing this review, my oldest came in and asked what I was writing about. When I told him he commented about how much Joshua has talked about this series of books on CD. I like them too. Let me tell you why.

Number 1 - They are Christian based. According to the back of the CD package Paul Hutchins, the author of the Sugar Creek Gang series of books, originally began as an evangelist. His ministry was cut short by illness, but while recuperating he tried his hand at writing and found that he had a great talent for it. That's how the Sugar Creek Gang began.

Well, I never like it when someone has a serious illness, but I am always amazed how God uses things in peoples for His Glory. I am sure glad that Paul Hutchins began writing these books. They have always been favorites of mine, mostly because of their Christian values. In this day and age so many books for children come out with disrespectful characters that are always trying to get even with someone else. Sometimes, even the "good" characters are made to feel like they have to fight evil with evil. That's not the way God intended, and that's not what I want my children to learn. There are enough natural evil influences in our world without getting extra bad influences in books.

You never have to worry about those types of influences in The Sugar Creek Gang. I have always been impressed at how Christian principles are taught in these books. Having two disabled children and another who is a cancer survivor with an artificial eye, we have had our share of dirty looks and teasing from others. In these books kids are taught to be kind to others no matter what their situation in life. Paul Hutchins uses hymns, Christian poems and of course, the Bible and interweaves them with nature and adventure in every one of his books. I would be hard pressed to tell you anything questionable about these books at all. You will not be disappointed.

Number 2 - They are extremely well done. Although these recordings were done some time ago, they aren't the grainy, old fashioned sounding recordings that you sometimes get with radio recordings of old. You wouldn't be able to tell if these were recorded yesterday or 30 years ago.

Several years ago, Paul Ramseyer had the desire to record the Sugar Creek Gang books and put them on radio. They were originally recorded and broadcast on Northwestern College Radio in St. Paul Minnesota for their "Adventure Time" broadcasts. Now, let me tell you. Sometimes when you hear about a "book on tape" you wonder if it is going to be some dry, boring, monotone person doing the recording. Are they going to just read the book like someone reading aloud in a class? Are you going to fall asleep listening? Well, let me rest your worries. These audios are anything but boring! Paul Ramseyer put emotion and excitement into each story. The recordings were a hit when they first came out, and, even in this computer game - kids stuck in front of a screen world, they are still a hit today. At least they were with Joshua. He was intrigued and hooked from the very first word that came out of Paul Ramseyers mouth. He really put passion into the recordings. They were something that he felt passionately about and you can tell. Beloved Books has also made sure that when they produced them on a CD for others to purchase that it was done in a quality manner. They are very well done!


Number 3 - They are educational. Remember I mentioned that there is a lot of nature in this book. Well, not only do a lot of the things that happen in the Sugar Creek Gang books happen outside, but the author interweaves nature lore throughout his books as well! And of course they also have the aforementioned Christian hymns and poems intermingled that will educate the reader too. Imagine that, a book that is not just fun to read but educational as well.

But, that's not the real reason I mentioned that they are educational. I was intrigued with the fact that, out of the six Sugar Creek Gang books included in Volume 1, we owned at least four of them:

  • The Swamp Robber - check - we own it
  • The Killer Bear - check
  • The Winter Rescue - check
  • The Lost Campers - check
  • Chicago Adventure
  • The Secret Hideout - thought we did but can't find it.
After I realized how many of them we own, I thought it would be perfect for Joshua to follow along in the book while it is being read. We own the original books, which, by the way can still be purchased. There are revised editions available, but these recordings are done by reading the originals so I didn't have to worry about things being different between the book and the CD. This worked for a little while. Joshua was able to follow along with ease. Then, later, he came to me with an apologetic look on his face explaining that he really meant to follow along, but they were so exciting that he would lose track of where he was and finally just put the book down and got lost in the recording. So much for good ideas!

Finally, Number 4 - They are a great bargain. I know of books on tape that can cost nearly $20 a piece - even for not-so-long books. Right now Beloved Books has six volumes of the Sugar Creek Gang series with six books on each volume and each volume is just $54.95 each! That's less than $10 a book! Or, you can buy the entire series for just $279.70. Just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above to find out more.

As usual many of the other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed Beloved Book's Sugar Creek Gang on CD and you can find out what they had to say by clicking here. Happy Homeschooling!

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was given a free set of  Sugar Creek Gang Volume One books on CD from Beloved Books in order to try out and give my honest review on this blog.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How is the Tinkel Family Like Russia?

There are several things that are different between BCM in the United States and BCM in Canada. Language and culture are two of the obvious things that I can think of. There are, however, several similarities as well, and those are the things that I want to focus on today. I especially want to focus on things that BCM does in Russia and things that we do here in our small town in Tennessee.

Of course one of the major things are children's ministry. Although BCM now stands for Bible Centered Ministries, it originally stood for Bible Club Movement. Bible Clubs to children was the original purpose of BCM and it is still a main focus. Just as we minister to children here at Good News Mission, so do BCM's missionaries in Russia.

A similarity that isn't as well known, though, is that, just like our missionaries in Russia, we do teacher training. BCM realized a long time ago that, no matter how many missionaries we recruit around the world, we wouldn't be able to reach all of the world's children. We had to duplicate ourselves. That's why BCM has developed a couple of different teacher training programs - Sharing Christ With Kids and In Step With the Master Teacher. Sarah and I, along with a fellow missionary of ours, have partnered with churches and other organizations to train others on how to better reach children for the Lord.


We would love to do as many teacher trainings in the Southeast as they do in Russia. If you are interested in hosting a teacher training at your church or maybe even your home, please click on any of the links above or contact us by clicking on one of these links - email or To find out more about BCM International please click here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Proud Parent Pictures - Come Look!

Okay, so I tricked you a little. These aren't pictures of my biological children, but pictures of my Compassion International kids. We sponsor six of them - one financially and five as correspondence sponsors. What is a correspondence sponsor? A correspondence sponsor writes to kids who don't have any one else to write to them. Many times companies give large blocks of money to sponsor several children but, since no one person is actual their sponsor, the kids have no one that writes to them. Other times it's just individuals who want to sponsor a child, but for some reason can't write to the child themselves. That's where the correspondence sponsor comes in. As correspondence sponsors, we know that we aren't the financial sponsor, but the kids don't know that. They think we are the financial sponsor as well. Compassion doesn't tell them any differently because it would be too confusing to most of them.

It really doesn't matter if they are correspondence children or children that we financially support, we love them just the same. Recently we got updated pictures of three of our correspondence children. All three are very special to us in their own way. Let me tell you why...

Feyber wasn't the first child that we sponsored, our special Marcelo from Bolivia was. However, Feyber was the first correspondence child that we received so he is very dear to our hearts. He is from Colombia and we have been sponsoring him for almost three years now. He is a fantastic boy who has to put up with a bunch of sisters and no brothers! His birthday is just five days after our oldest son's birthday. And I mean just five days! They are five days apart in age. Please pray for Feyber and his family.
Although Somi is our third Compassion child, he is the first one from a non South American country so he is very special to us as well. Somi is from Indonesia and lives in a remote village in a round hut with his family. It has been a real learning experience for the boys as we learn about how Somi lives. He is a very special boy and we are so proud of the way he prays and helps lead music in his Compassion project.
If you know the history of our sponsoring children with Compassion International, you may wonder why Yvone is special. After all, she is our six child and we already sponsor another child (Emmanuel) from Africa. However, if you really knew our history of sponsorship, you would know why Yvone is special. It's because she is our only girl. Yep! We have five boys and just one young lady - Yvone. When we first began to sponsor with Compassion, we chose boys because we have three boys of our own. Our boys have always been very active in writing to our sponsored children, reading their letters and studying where they are from so we picked boys because we thought they could relate to them. Finally we decided to sponsor a girl and God gave us Yvone. She is special and calls us her Father and Mother. We love our special girl from Rwanda.
It is so much fun sponsoring children with Compassion International. It is also exciting when we get updated pictures of them. We love seeing how much they have grown and changed in the two years since the last photograph was sent to us. Sponsoring is also special to us because we know that we are helping children that are far less fortunate than we will probably ever be. If you would like to sponsor a child with Compassion International just click here - ad it will take you to the US Compassion International site. If you are not from the United States, there are directions on the US Compassion site on how to get to the Compassion site that services your area. Please prayerfully consider sponsoring a child. You won't regret it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

There's Nothing Taxing About the National Tax Training School!

Okay, my parents told me to never tell a lie so I am going to admit this up front - I, Tim Tinkel, know nothing about Federal Income National Tax Course ! Smiley Yep!You read correctly. After six weeks of reviewing it, I know nothing about it. Well, all right, you caught me in a little white lie. I have looked it over a little and I've heard Sarah talk about it a lot. You see, when asked if we wanted to review this adult level course by the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I asked my wife if she would be interested and she jumped at the chance. She has been wanting to go back to school for a long time and this would be a good course to start out with. It's an on your own no time schedule course that has to do with how to prepare taxes. The only requirements are that the course has to be completed within one year. Also, since we are full time missionaries and deal with low income folks, learning how to prepare taxes would fit in perfectly with what we do. So, Sarah has been the one using this course and thoroughly enjoying it. Therefore, from here on out it is going to be Sarah and I writing this review in an interview type format!

Me: Are the materials that were sent to you quality materials?

Sarah: Yes! I received a large three ring binder that included twenty lesson assignments (plus an ethics section), self check practice problems and examination problems. The letter enclosed with it said that I would receive the Final Examination, State Tax Guide, Case Studies Portfolio, "Building, Marketing, & Operating a Profitable Tax Practice" book, Federal Tax Reference handbook, and the California Supplement (if applicable) after I complete lesson 17. However, since I am reviewing these materials they sent them to me earlier than they would usually send them to a regular student. They were also of very professionally done.

Me: Tell me about how this course is set up.

Sarah: There are twenty lessons that take about eight hours each to complete. After the lesson is completed there is a practice "self examination" test that you can take in your book or, they have just come out with online version. Either version can be taken as many times as you want. You then take the actual test, again, in your book or on the computer. Either test is un-timed, but after the written test is sent into the The National Tax Training School or the submit button is pressed on the computer, you can not retake the test.

Me: Were the materials easy to use.

Sarah: Yes! The Federal Income National Tax Course is like "tax preparation for dummies". It's written to where anyone could understand it, even if have never understood the tax system before. It is very concise and it's a lot of material but very easy to read and digest. I was worried that it was going to be hard at first. When you first receive it it is a bit intimidating because it is in a huge three ring binder and it seems like there is a lot of material but, after I began working through it, I wasn't intimidated at all.


Me: What are some of the things you've learned so far?

Sarah: So far I've learned about general principles, exemptions-filing status, tax computation, and a lot more. I'm looking forward to learning more about how to help the people we work with prepare their taxes. The Deductions and the Tax Credit sections are two of the lessons that I am anxious to read. I'm wanting to know about ways to get more money back on income tax returns both for us and for the families that come to us for help.

Me: What will you be able to do with course after you have completed it?

Sarah: I will get a certificate from the The National Tax Training School upon successful completion of the Federal Income National Tax Course that will help me set up a full-time or spare-time tax practice if I choose to. It is fully accredited and recognized (Tim's listed the organizations below). Depending on which course the student purchases, there is also *1-3 years of post-graduate support that they will receive.

Me: Is there anything else you would like to say about this course?

Sarah: I have really enjoyed it so far and am looking forward to finishing it. As I mentioned before I have found this to be very professionally done and easy to understand. I would recommend this course to anyone that has an interest in knowing how to do their own taxes or who would like to start their own tax preparation business. The computer part of the course is brand new and they are still working out the bugs. Soon, however, you will be able to take the whole course on-line if you would like.


Okay, now this is just me, Tim, talking. Do you think that you'll have to take out a loan on your taxes to pay for a course like this (Is that even possible? I'll have to ask Sarah.)? Nope! If you want just one year of post-graduate support the cost is $495. If you want three years of post-graduate support the cost is $795. Don't let the price scare you, though. Each plan has payment options for you to choose from. Oops! *I just looked at their website and they've changed their post-graduate support to two and four years instead of one and two years! Even more of a reason to apply! Just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above for more information.

Many of the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members reviewed the Federal Income National Tax Course as well and you can find what they had to say by clicking here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was sent the Federal Income National Tax Course for free in order to use and give an honest review on this blog.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wealthquest for Teens

I remember when I was a young teen - maybe even preteen and my family lived on Grandpa Schickling's small farm. Grandpa set me up in the strawberry business. I can't remember exactly how much, but he planted a bunch...and I mean a bunch... of strawberry plants, taught me how to take care of and harvest them, and off I went making money. I know I never became rich, but I had quite a business going for a few years. Unfortunately, I was never really taught how to handle money. Oh, I was taught to give 10% to the Lord, but that was about it. Soon, the little money that I earned was squandered and spent foolishly.
I've learned, since, how to handle money a little better and, now that John Allen is a teen, I knew it was time to teach him how to handle his money. That's why I was thrilled to receive Wealthquest for Teens to review with the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Wealthquest for Teens has been really great for our oldest. I think it has been a real eye opener for him on how to handle his money.
When we first received our download information about Weatlthquest, the author, Jill Suskind, sent us a really neat letter with a six week lesson plan for using Wealthquest. Unfortunately, we only have six weeks to review products and we were on vacation part of that time. However, we did get quite a bit of it done and look forward to using the rest. I'll talk about our experience using the parts that we did get done, and just tell you the other things that were included in our lesson plans.
I'm not sure if the letter is included in the regular package or if it was just included for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I do know, however, what the website says is included. When you purchase the program, you receive the online seven module video seminar, a downloadable ebook for teens called "Basic Seminar Quickstart Guide" and a free Parent's Guide.
John Allen really enjoyed the Wealthquest for Teens interactive online seminar. It was easy enough that I just let him work on it on his own, but I did watch some and worked with it a little myself. The seven modules included:
  • Welcome, Intentions and Overview of the Program
  • Your Habits and Attitudes Determine Your Net Worth
  • The First Thing You Need in Order to Become Rich: Income
  • The Second Thing You Need in Order to Become Rich: Knowledge About Money
  • The Third Thing You Need in Order to Become Rich: A Great Money Management System
  • The Fourth Thing You Need in Order to Become Rich: A Really Good Reason!
  • A Look At Financial Freedom

These modules were extremely informative. I really like the authors concept of "rich". She doesn't put a money value on it, because rich is considered "the amount of money you need to have the life you want and to make a difference in ways that matter to you." She doesn't teach ways to become rich or ways to save lots of money, but she instead teaches good money management habits that, if learned, can serve you well the rest of your life. The online modules had questions to be answered on your computer that could be printed out later on.
After the Wealthquest for Teens modules are completed, the "Basic Seminar Quickstart Guide" ebook comes into play. This 33 page ebook is to be used after the online modules. It first takes you through a quick review of the modules. The book then is divided into 30 one page segments that are to be used for the next 30 days to guide you in to implementing what you have learned. Especially the "Silo System". The Silo System reminds me a lot of something I learned (finally as an adult) from Dave Ramsey, but is a little different. They encourage you to have six labeled containers as pictured above that you are to put you money into as soon as you earn it. The six categories are:

  • Future Financial Freedom 10%
  • Heal the World 10%
  • Saving for Big Ticket Items 10%
  • Learning 10%
  • Fun Money 10%
  • Necessities 50%
We are adding a seventh for tithing, although you could probably consider the "Heal the World" category for that. At any rate, this system has been a learning experience for John Allen and has been a great review for me as well. I won't review all of the names and topics, but the rest of the chapter/days in the ebook have been just as informative. John Allen found these very easy to read and use. Instead of printing all of the pages out, we chose to do it off of the computer in a separate notebook. Although they are divided into days, if wanted, more than one chapter could be done each day.
After the ebook is completed we were given a link to use This neat website allows you to set up an account and use the silo system that was taught in this seminar and ebook. We haven't had time to use this, but it looks fascinating and will, I'm sure, be very useful.
The free downloadable parent guide is equally as useful. It gives an overview of the program and talks about allowances, the mistakes parents make with money and children, and how to help their children through this program.
So, usually huge seminars like this cost $100's of dollars or at least enough that you need a system to save up for it. However, Wealthquest for Teens is only $39.95. We are really enjoying this and I'm sure you will as well. Just click here or on any of the hi-lighted links above for more information.
As usual, Wealthquest for Teens was reviewed by many of the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members as well and you can find what they had to say by clicking here. Happy Homeschooling!
Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was sent for free Wealthquest for Teens in order for us to use and give an honest review on this blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Korean Air Commercials and the Aspergers Side of Me

If you've been reading my posts for very long, you know that I have a humorous side. You also know that I have a deep faith in God. I'm a very imperfect person that is very thankful for God's grace. I am also a little adventurous. Ha! I have to be with my family. You probably know that I have three very unique boys. The oldest, John Allen, being a cancer survivor with an artificial eye and his two younger brothers, Joshua and Jacob, being on the autism spectrum. Life is never dull, and I think my posts - even my homeschool product reviews - have reflected that.

What you may not know - unless you are a faithful reader who has been reading this blog and my previous angelfire blog from the beginning - is that I also have a thoughtful, almost melancholy side. My wife says that I think too much and analyze things way too much. I think this comes from being a little on the autism spectrum myself. When I was young there wasn't such a thing as autism. At least it wasn't as prevalent and was certainly not talked about like it is today. Those who knew me when I was young would attest that I certainly was different. I see myself in all of my children, but I see my younger, different, self in my two younger boys. Maybe not as severe, but still different.

Joshua has asperger's syndrome. One of the traits of an asperger's child is that they fixate on certain things and then learn all that they can about those things. Joshua can tell you almost anything about Thomas the Train, Helicopters, Football, and...ugh...WWE Wrestling. To this day he can hear a helicopter before we can and can almost tell you what kind of helicopter it is by the way sound.

So, what does this have to do with Korean Air Commercials? For some reason, since the new (or now old) Korean Air Commercials aired with the giant people walking around a small world, I have been enamored by the mystical music. For some reason I have never been able to understand the lyrics. For the past year or so I have been trying to find out where the song came from. No, I have not been as fixated as Joshua would be, but every couple of months I'll go on another search. Finally, today, I found it. It's from a duo called "Luna Seeds" and the song is called "Compassion". I love the song and the lyrics. It fits both the adventurous and the melancholy side of me. Below is a YouTube video of the song with the lyrics below. I thought you might enjoy it.

Simple joy,
  A calling to walk this world. no more fears,
The secret of life unfurls.
Be gentle with yourself when you're falling down.
Re-set yourself and trust these feelings pass with time.
Earthly joy,
The shadow of time dissolves.
High on lows, the whisper of dreams untold.
Be gentle with yourself when you're falling down.
Re-set yourself and trust these feelings pass with time
Be gentle with yourself when you're falling down.
Re-set yourself and trust these feelings pass with time

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ZooWhiz-A Review-(and the revelation of "little known Tim fact" #bazillion)

So, what is "little known fact about Tim #bazillion"? Well, if you haven't figured it out by the name of this review, it's the revelation that I always wanted to be a zoo keeper. Yep, that, or a forest ranger. Don't ask me what zoo keeper and forest ranger have to do with each other because I'm not sure myself. Maybe the fact that both of them require being in the outdoors. Perhaps it's because you work with nature in both of those occupations. My recollection was that both required you to work with animals. Even a forest ranger studies and works with animals that live in the forest. Well, alas, as you well know, these and most of the other bazillion dreams of mine never came to fruition.

But, I can always live vicariously through my children and that's exactly what I have done with my youngest child, Jacob, and a fabulous online educational program called "ZooWhiz". ZooWhiz is fun (at least my six year old would tell you) and it's also educational with tools for your child to keep up with what he is learning, and also for the parent to keep up with what the child is doing. Before I talk about the parent aspect, though, let me talk about the program in general.


ZooWhiz, as you probably can figure out, has to do with running a zoo. This zoo, however is a little different. It has four very special sections - Learn and Earn, Arcade, Biodome and Milestones. Let's take them one by one.

Learn and Earn - You might think that, by its name, the Learn and Earn section is the only area where kids learn. However, Learn and Earn is only one of many learning sections in ZooWhiz. It is probably the most learning comprehensive section, and, to your children, it may be the most important because it's where you can earn the special coins to play the arcade games and purchase your zoo animals.

Learn and Earn has three sections - "Maths", "Words" and "Reading". Each section is further divided into age ranges  and activities which the parents assign and manipulate from the parent center (which I'll talk about later) or just let the program assign the activities. Since ZooWhiz is designed for ages 5-15, I'm sure that there are all kinds of activities that a child can do depending on their age and abilities. Since Jacob was our child that worked on ZooWhiz, I'm going to talk about the activities that he was given to do. Don't forget that many other members of the TOS Review Crew reviewed ZooWhiz and their children are of different ages so you can check out what they had to say by clicking on the link given in the last paragraph of my review.

Maths - is, of course, the mathematical aspect of ZooWhiz. Let me tell you up front that when they say that the activities are age and grade specific, they mean it. The makers of ZooWhiz have done their homework and the activities correlate with many curriculum from around the world. I found that the activities that Jacob was given were exactly what he needed for his ability.

Jacob loved and soon mastered the number recognition, counting and matching activities. He was able to quickly move on to the very basic adding and subtracting problems. Each time he gave a correct answer he was given a congratulations or an affirmation of some sort to make him feel good about learning and encourage him to move on. As he continues to work on different problems he will move up the different "steps" in the math area which means that more advanced activities will appear as well as review activities of what he has learned. When he has completely covered and mastered all of the activity steps in the 5-6 year old age range, he will be moved up to the 7-8 year old range. For now, he still needs more work, but is learning quickly!

Words - Each academic section has age ranges that are slightly different For the Words section, Jacob is working on the "Early Learning" step and is learning to recognize letters, the differences in letters , beginning sounds in words and doing the matching and shape activities that all early learners must do to be able to properly identify and write shapes and sounds. Since we have done many of these things before, he is quickly advancing through this section.

Reading - Again, since Jacob is just beginning school this year and because he is on the autism spectrum, we are moving slowly but steadily through ZooWhiz and he is working on pre-reading skills such as pattern matching, sequencing, and spotting differences in objects. He is having a lot of fun and is looking forward to the beginning sounds and actual reading word sections.

We found the activities in the Learn and Earn section to be right on grade level for him. The problems are also easy to answer. When I say easy to answer, I'm not meaning academically easy to answer. They do challenge his thought process. What I am meaning is that it is physically easy to answer them using the pad on a laptop or the mouse on a computer. There is no special equipment needed or awkward thing that needs to be done to answer them.

And, of course, he enjoys the coins that he earns. Which brings me to the next section.


Arcade - Okay, what kid doesn't like an arcade? Jacob is no different. He loves the reward games that he can choose to spend his coins on and play in the ZooWhiz arcade. Each game cost about 50 coins a (a child is rewarded with much more than this when they answer the Learn and Earn questions and are given 100 bonus coins just by entering ZooWhiz each day). Each game is also time limited so that a child is not playing games for a long period of time and not going to the learning sections to properly exercise his brain.

I'm not going to go into much more detail on this section only to say that games included are usual games that you can find on computers or on the internet. Games like Tetrow, Bubble Plunge, Rainbow Congo, and Paint-N-Play. I like how the selection of games is right at Jacob's level and that they are pre-screened to make sure that there is no objectionable content. We've reviewed and worked with other online programs that use similar reward arcade games, but we've found content that we was highly objectionable and had to monitor what our children played. I really appreciate how the makers of ZooWhiz have chosen fun games where I don't have to worry about the content.

Biodome - The Biodome is really cool. It's where you get to shop for new animals (after you've earned the coins in the Learn and Earn area and providing you didn't spend them all in the Arcade of course). The zoo shop has all kinds of animals - almost every type of animal you can think of! They have the usual tame animals and wild animals, but they also, (since this is a computer game and they can do such things), have extinct animals and even mythological creatures. You can buy anything from a bloodhound to a lion to a sabre toothed tiger to a dragon! What a selection they have. And, you can shop for them by different categories. Below, you see where you can view all of the animals at once, but they also view just the desert animals, the ocean animals, the mountain animals, the extinct animals or any number of other animals from any of the fifteen categories.

After purchasing them you can view all of your animals and read all sorts of interesting facts about them like the scientific info (kingdom, phylum, order, class, etc.); interesting facts and details about the animals; their habitat; their diet; and their threat level. Jacob has loved the father/son time that we have had together reading about the different animals that he has bought. You never know what interesting fact you might learn next. Like, did you know that dragons love eating beautiful princesses? Really, most of the information is a lot more...well...informative, but I just thought that tidbit was kind of fun.


Milestones - This is the section where a child or parent can check up on the progress that is being made. It is very easy to navigate and tells with a graph that you can click on to find out exactly what the child has learned. It even will tell you the exact problems that your child has worked on. You can find where your child's problem areas are as well as his strengths. It also tells you how much he has mastered in his age section and how much more he has to master before moving on to the next step. A child or parent can even change the age range that the child is working in with one exception - you can only move up levels, you can't move down. So if a child does it, he will only be making the problems more difficult. That prevents children from clicking on a lower age level only to work easy problems and earn more coins. I have found the Milestones section to be very valuable in following Jacob's progress.

The parent area is a separate area that only the parent can access. Right now, the makers of ZooWhiz are developing this area. Right now a parent can manage his families accounts by adding children or moving a child from playing for free to a premium account. He can also set the "Age Floor" for each child. Remember I said that a child can only go up an age level and never move down? That is because the parent has previously set the lowest level that a child can go. If a parent doesn't set the age floor then ZooWhiz will automatically set it to one year below the child's current age. Soon the parent will be able to assign his child different activities and view a child's progress right from the parent area, but those features aren't quite ready yet. They will be available soon, however.

As I have mentioned over and over above, we have really enjoyed ZooWhiz. I find that the biggest critic of online educational programs is the child using them, and Jacob really loves using this one. And, he is really learning as well! ZooWhiz is a fairly new program so a few cliches have been found here and there, but they are quickly being corrected by the makers and we have found nothing that has really hindered our use or the fun of the program.

A quick note on the free account verses the premium account. The free account is very basic. Although it has all of the same features of the premium account, the are limited features. There aren't as many games to play in the arcade area, there aren't as many animals to choose from in the biodome and the other activities and features are limited as well. I think that you will find the premium version very affordable and it will very much enhance your child's use of ZooWhiz.

So, how much does a subscription to ZooWhiz cost? Well, there is always the limited access free version, but, then, there is also the premium version that gives maximum motivation to your child, unlimited access, detailed progress feedback, premium integrated content selector right now with more things coming soon for just....are you ready for this...$14.95 a year if you take advantage of the special that is going on right now! What a deal! Just click here or on anyone of the hilighted links above for more details.

As usual many of the other TOS Review Crew members reviewed ZooWhiz and you can find out what they had to say by going to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. Just click here - Happy Homeschooling.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Review Crew I was given a free one year subscription to ZooWhiz in order to try out and give my honest review on this blog.

Friday, October 5, 2012

On the Go? Get a Box of I.D.E.A.s!

Life with autistic children is often very difficult. Not only are there tremendous challenges with behavior and other things, but there are also challenges in trying to schedule life around them. At least two days a week at our home is filled with taking one or both or our autistic blessings to some sort of therapy or doctors appointment. Another day is filled with a homeschool Bible study that my wife takes the boys to. That leaves very little time for the regular academic studies that they need. I know, I know, there are plenty of websites and curriculum that are very adaptable - in fact sometimes made - to be used on the road or in waiting rooms. Having special needs children sometimes makes using those types of studies difficult. Often they aren't made to be used with our types of unique students. Sometimes you find that they aren't adaptable the way that you would like them to be adaptable. Frequently they aren't a good fit for your child at all. And, what parent in that situation has the time to wade through dozens and dozens of curriculum to find just the right one anyway. After all being extremely busy is the problem to begin with!
Well, the Tinkel family has been tremendously blessed by being on The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. Many, many times we have gotten items to review that have been just what we have needed. Items that I would never have begun to consider for our homeschool. Some I had never ever heard of. Some I had heard of but had some type of misconception or misinformation and thought that that curriculum just wouldn't work for us. Some I incorrectly thought was just not worth the price. Whatever the reason, God sent that particular thing to us in a time that we really needed it.
Recently was, again, one of those times. We were blessed to receive Box of I.D.E.A.s': World War Two based on Pearl Harbor. Box of I.D.E.A.s are...well...just what they say. They're a box of ideas centered around a specific theme. These "ideas" are different though because the "I.D.E.A.s" in Box of I.D.E.A.s stands for "Ideally Dynamic Enrichment Activities". Each box comes with at least 10 ready made modules that take little to no preparation. All you do is grab one to use at home or to stick in the car for use in the waiting room. They can even be used in the car if you have an older child who can handle the reading. Our whole family loves them. There is something for every one of our boys - and our boys are pretty much spread apart.

Let me give you an example of the first module that we did from our download of Pearl Harbor (Box of I.D.E.A.s can be either ordered as a physical box with everything ready to go, or you can purchase a PDF download where you print out each module but then some preparation is involved). Module One is titled "Before Becoming A Base" and talks about the Islands of Hawaii and what they were like before World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. How did Pearl Harbor get its name? What were the islands like before they became a major tourist destination? Those are some things that we discussed during this module.

Like all of the modules we began by reading a short but interesting essay of pre-war Hawaii and especially of the pearl industry which was one of the prominent industries of the time. After that, we had choices. Each module has what is called a "Portfolio Piece". A Portfolio Piece is an activity that you can put in a notebook or portfolio that records your journey through the themed Box of I.D.E.A's that you are working on. Joshua and I worked on the very neat portfolio piece where we observed and measured different types of pearls. Each module also has extension activities, well researched website choices, and another activity (often a game) that further studies the theme of the module. Although the age recommendations for Box of I.D.E.A.s are for ages 9-16, the game of  "Go Hunt" that was included in module one is right down his alley. It is similar to "Go Fish" but the cards that you are trying to gather talk about animals that are on the endangered list, why they are on that list and where those animals are found. John Allen, on the other hand, finds that the internet is where he likes to get his information. That is why I am very pleased that the website ideas included are well researched to make sure they are family friendly and also factual and interesting. All of my kids benefit from the extension activities. The ones for this module included researching extinct animal species, checking out photos of different types of pearls (Joshua enjoyed that one) and asking family members if they had a string of pearls or some other pearl jewelry that we could look at and study.
As I mentioned before, each module in a Box of I.D.E.A.s is very interesting and informative and, after you finish all of the modules, you will have a thorough knowledge of that theme. Our modules ranged from what Pearl Harbor was like before it became a navel base to how it became a navel base to the time leading up to the attack to the days, weeks, months and years after the attack. Most of the time everything  (directions, materials, etc) is included in the module, but occasionally there might be something small that is also needed. When that occurs, it is prominently mentioned on the front of that module so that no one will be disappointed once we get to the doctor's office. Of course, the modules in Box of I.D.E.As don't have to be used on the go. They can be used at home as well. Although there are websites mentioned that can be used for further study, the whole purpose of Box of I.D.E.A.s is "to get kids off the computer and around the table".
You can check out Box of I.D.E.A's ever growing list of themes by clicking here or on any one of the links above. We love them and are looking forward to perhaps trying out more. Like maybe the one that is totally devoted to salt? Or maybe the one that has to do with...laundry? Yep, laundry! Or...oooo...maybe the new one that they are developing on WWII Innovations. Oh, I can't decide! But at the price of just $79 for the physical box, $49 for the download pdf version, and $4 for extra student modules, we can dream and buy for years to come!
Other members of the TOS Review Crew received different modules to try out and you can find what they had to say by clicking here. Happy Homeschooling!
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Review Crew I received a free download of Box of I.D.E.A.s : World War Two in order to try out and give my honest review on this blog.