Monday, October 22, 2012

REVIEW: Samson’s Classroom Family Subscription by Samson’s Classroom

Haylee (age 8) and Holden (age 4.75) have been playing with a family subscription to Samson’s Classroom.  Holden is a little younger than the recommended age, so I’m going to focus on Haylee’s use of the site for review purposes.

Perfect for grades K-5, Samson's Classroom is an online series that helps students become better readers. Students can play engaging games that focus on 3 core building blocks; sight words, spelling, and reading comprehension.
Sight Words, Spelling, Reading

About Samson's Classroom

Samson’s Classroom is a revolutionary new approach to educational software. It is an "umbrella" product that is really many products rolled into one. The purchase of any product under that umbrella automatically gives you access to every other product. Even better, new product releases and upgrades are added to your package at no additional cost. Instead of purchasing a software package that is out of date as soon as you install it, Samson’s Classroom provides you with access to an expanding suite of products and a dynamic learning community that is growing by leaps and bounds every day.  Sight Words with Samson

Sight Words with Samson
Sight Words with Samson is an absolute must for all beginning readers. This software product is the complete package for teachers and administrators looking to give their students the necessary foundation they need to become successful readers. This engaging product is proven to help early readers master the 224 most commonly used words in the English language.

Spelling with SamsonSpelling with Samson
With more than 5,000 words and counting, Spelling with Samson is the most comprehensive spelling product on the market. This amazing software package captivates students and provides educators with all the tools they need to improve the spelling ability of their students. Join the thousands of teachers from across the country that have already made Spelling with Samson a part of their classroom.

Reading with SamsonReading with Samson
Reading with Samson combines everything you have come to expect from the Samson product line with a new patented user feedback system. The end result is a cutting edge software product that helps students analyze reading material and learn how to draw conclusions and answer questions based on that material.

Watch a video here.  The quickest way to learn about Samson's Classroom is to watch the demo video. It's about 3 minutes long and shows the software in action.

Try out a free demo here.

Give Samson's Classroom a try. We won't force you to set up an account to try it, that's so annoying.

You can order here.

You can sign up for a subscription using your credit card or pay using a school purchase order.


Small School
Large School


As the parent/teacher, you can log in to your account and set up the user(s) with their own individual login id’s and passwords.  You can use the dashboard for a quick view of the number of games played and the top performers in your class.  You can use the scoreboard to view progress reports in each area of the site and each content area within those sections.  You can see what exercises have been attempted and how they performed.  You can also set up custom spelling lists or just use the default lists provided.  I found that oftentimes when adding custom lists, many of the words were not in the site’s database.  It has the option to request that those words be added, but I have no idea how long it takes them to actually add the words you’ve requested.  In the meantime, those words are not included in the spelling games.  As a teacher, I really wish I had the authority to override this and manually add the words.  I hope they add this feature down the road.  With Haylee’s spelling word lists changing every week, she’s not getting to practice all of her words before I have to go and change the list for the next week.
In the Reading with Samson section, children read a passage and then answer questions about what they have read.  This is excellent reading comprehension practice!  Normally, Haylee really dislikes reading comprehension exercises, and this tends to be one of my kids’ weakest areas in the elementary years.  However, this was actually her favorite part of Samson!  I asked her what the attraction was…what it was that made it so enjoyable for her.  She said if she got it wrong, it took her to the pertinent section and highlighted it in red to help her find the correct answer, as displayed in the picture at right.  But the real motivation was earning the “hammer points.” 
Earning hammer points allowed her to go and play “Hammer Time,” shown at left.  In Hammer Time, she watches a strength meter and attempts to press the space bar to swing the sledge hammer when the strength is at its highest point.  The higher the meter when she swings, the more points she earns.  I really wish the point collection earned her some sort of further reward, like playing special games.  But instead, it just compares her points to a high score board.  Despite this, the Hammer Time game alone is still enough motivation to make her want to keep playing in the Reading with Samson section.
In the Sight Words with Samson section, children are taken through various lists and levels of sight word practice.  Each list contains five steps, and each step provides a different sort of game to practice sight words. 

In the first list, the games include:
  • Study Words – Each sight word is spelled out slowly and then used in the context of a sentence.  Children simply listen and watch and click to move on to the next word in the list until the list is completed.

  • Missing Letters – A set of letter tiles is displayed at the top of the screen.  A sight word is read aloud and then spelled orally.  Then the child is asked to click the correct letters in the correct order to spell the word themselves.

  • Letter Scramble – A set of word tiles is displayed on the screen.  A sight word is read aloud and used in a sentence.  The child is asked to click on the correct word tile.  Then the tile is creatively swept from the screen in various ways, making it fun to watch.  The child continues until all of the letter tiles have been removed.  Haylee told me that this is her favorite of all of the Sight Word games.  She likes watching the different ways that Samson removes the correct answer from the screen.

  • Spell Words – A sight word is read aloud and used in the context of a sentence.  Blank tiles are displayed indicating the number of letters in the word, alphabet tiles are displayed underneath, and the child must click on the letter tiles to spell the word correctly.

  • Missing Words – An ocean scene is displayed, as seen at left.  The child sees a sentence with a missing sight word, hears the sentence read aloud with the sight word included, and then must click on the missing sight word they heard, thereby opening the lid of the treasure chest and revealing the jewel which Samson pops up to remove from the chest.  If an incorrect answer is given, bubbles come out of the chest instead, and play continues with the next word.
As the child continues these 5 games with all of the lists, a chart is displayed indicating whether or not the child mastered each step of each list or whether the child needs improvement.  Needs improvement indicates that a perfect score in that step was not achieved for the given word list.  At any time, the child can choose to play any step of any list again if they would like additional practice.  When the child has achieved a perfect score in all 5 steps of a given word list, they earn a star.  The total number of stars earned is displayed on the achievement chart, along with which karate belt color has been earned.  The goal of these games is to continue earning higher levels of karate belts.

In the Spelling with Samson section, the child can choose to practice their spelling words in one of four games:
  • Study Zone – Here, the student is shown their entire spelling list and given the option to print the list on paper, as well.  The student can click on each word on the list to see it spelled and used in a sentence.  They can also click to hear it spelled, read, and used in a sentence orally.

  • Missing Letters – The spelling word is displayed at the top of the screen with a portion of the letters missing from the word.  The narrator says the word and uses it in the context of a sentence, and the child must choose from 3 combinations of possible answers for the missing letters at the bottom of the screen.  Each answer has a karate chopping board pictured above it.  If the child selects the correct answer, Samson, dressed in his karate robe and belt, successfully chops the board in half.  Points are awarded for correct answers, and if the child achieves the high score in their class for the given spelling list, they are awarded a championship belt and warned that classmates can try to steal the belt by scoring higher on that spelling list.

  • Spelling Scramble – The child must direct Samson around the screen using only the left and right arrows in order to collect all of the letters, all the while trying to avoid being caught by the spider that is chasing them.  The letters are collected into scrambled spelling words at the bottom right of the screen.  After all of the letters are collected, the child is shown one scrambled spelling word at a time and is asked to click the letters in the correct order to spell the word correctly.  This game could be so much fun, but Haylee found it very frustrating and was highly disappointed as a result.  The reason is because Samson’s direction is based on his perspective, which means that the left arrow, for instance, could be to the left or right of the screen, depending upon the direction Samson is facing at the time.  Personally, I found it easy to get used to, but my daughter did not.  She was very upset because she always got caught by the spider, and it took her forever to collect the letters because she couldn’t seem to overcome the perspective issue.  Getting caught by the spider only delays you briefly, thereby affecting your score, but it still upset her.  I think perhaps for a young child’s game, it would make more sense developmentally to let left be left and right be right instead of using the perspective aspect for controls.  I think unscrambling their spelling words is great practice to learn the words, so it’s too bad that getting to that portion of the game requires being frustrated first in what should be the portion that is the most fun.

  • Crunch Time – Samson is shown standing on an iceberg in the ocean.  The narrator says a spelling word and uses it in a sentence.  The child must type out the correct spelling of the word in a timely manner.  The longer it takes, the more bites that Wally the Walrus takes out of the iceberg on which Samson is standing.  If Wally eats away the whole iceberg or if the child spells the word incorrectly, Samson falls into the water and emerges  frozen into an ice cube!  This is pretty funny to see.  Then the child tried again until the word is spelled correctly.  As each word is correctly spelled in time, Samson jumps along to the next iceberg, and the process repeats until the word list is completed.  Then he jumps ashore and safely crawls into an igloo.  Again, the child has the opportunity to achieve a championship belt for having the high score in the class for this game.  This game is a lot of fun and has the added challenge of a time limit to spell each word.  Haylee liked this game best of all of the spelling games, and she thought it was so funny every time Samson fell into the water and turned into an ice cube!
Overall, I think the site is a lot of fun and has a lot of potential.  However, I think it could be better with a few changes.  Aside from the minor changes I’ve suggested above, I think the biggest thing for me as a teacher was the fact that all of my students had to work on the same content at the same time.  What this site lacks is the ability to assign the level or list to each individual child.  Every user begins in the same place and works their way through every level and list.  I suppose that’s fine, but when using custom spelling lists, each child has access to all of the custom spelling lists at once.  My kids are almost 5, 8, and 13.  They are obviously at varying levels of ability and would at no time be working at the same level.  So I think a major improvement would be to allow the teacher to assign levels or word lists to students individually.  Then each child would be able to log in and only access their own grade-appropriate content.  I overcame this with the custom spelling lists by naming the lists with the child’s name rather than the actual name for the list so they would know which list to select for practice.  But this would become cumbersome if I entered multiple lists for each child.  For now, I’m just editing the list each week so there is only one list available with each child’s name.  But that takes away my ability to leave on previous lists for additional practice.

In any case, I would encourage you to give this site a try.  It definitely has a lot of learning value in terms of spelling, sight word, and reading comprehension practice through fun and engaging activities.  The bottom line is that we will definitely continue to use it.  And don’t forget that you can try it for free without even signing up for an account, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try and seeing for yourself if it’s a good fit for your children.

Check out what other Crew members had to say about this site by clicking the banner below.
I received a free family membership to Samson’s Classroom for review purposes, but all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

REVIEW: Deep Blue Kids’ Bible by Abingdon Press

My 8-year old daughter, Haylee, has been doing her bible study using the Deep Blue Kids’ Bible by Abingdon Press.

Kids will dive deep into God’s word with the CEB Deep Blue Kids Bible. This engaging, interactive Bible offers four-color icons and illustrations throughout with a wealth of notes, devotionals, Bible trivia, and other interactive elements to capture inquisitive young minds. Plus the CEB Deep Blue Kids Bible will encourage a thirst for God’s timeless message as young readers join three life-like kids in discovering the Bible and what it means to their lives. Available in printed ImageFlex, hardcover, imitation leather, and DecoTone bindings. 5 3/8” x 8 3/8”. Ages 8–12.  


Discover It book introductions include things you’ll discover, people you’ll meet, places you’ll go, and word’s a who’s who guide, main theme, key verse, and basic timelines that connect the events they learn in school to the biblical text.  

Bet You Can! reading challenges denote specific portions to read within suggested timeframes enable kids to experience a rewarding sense of accomplishment while developing a foundation of Bible reading.  

In-text notes cover four key developmental areas: Sailboat notes highlight positive character traits and emotions; Umbrella notes address challenging character traits and emotions; Lighthouse notes discuss age-appropriate theological concepts; and Life Preserver notes give context to passages that are confusing or hard to understand.  

God Thoughts / My Thoughts life application feature brings out major Bible themes and encourages age-appropriate response and reflection.  

Did You Know? callouts focus on fascinating Bible trivia while explaining biblical customs and practices.  

Navigation Point foundational verses to memorize are highlighted within the Bible text.


5 3/8” x 8 3/8”

8 point type

1536 pages

4-color throughout

Presentation page

In-text subject headings

Translation footnotes

 8 full-color maps exclusively from National Geographic

Haylee, age 8, is the one using this bible.  She has been using it for her daily bible readings, and I also began using it for her parent read-aloud bible readings.  We’ve been sure to include the use of all the extra features this bible contains.

You can watch a great little video that introduces you to all of the wonderful features of the Deep Blue Kids’ Bible here.  It will give you a good perspective on just what sets this children’s bible apart from the many others on the market today.

In the front of this bible, kids are introduced to the characters who are shown throughout the book.  Their images are really cute and look like everyday kids you might know.  Then it explains each of the special features that are unique to the Deep Blue Kid’s bible.  It lists the books of the bible, explains how to use the bible to look up scripture, and then lists key verses kids should read and check off.  Then it has a brief introduction for adults, a list of abbreviations and terms, and a list of measures and what they equate to by today’s standards.  Then it gives some notes on the Common English Bible translation itself and how it came about. 

I had initial reservations about trying out a new translation but was willing to give it a shot.  I’ve always been partial to the NIV myself and have provided my children with NIrV translations for the school-related bible study.  But I have to say that after using this one with Haylee for a number of weeks, I have not yet found any specific translations that troubled me.  In fact, we both found the word choices easy to read and understand, and it flowed quite nicely.  So for now, I would say that I like this translation so far and have found it to make the bible more accessible for a child’s level of understanding and use of language.

Now let’s discuss the special features of this particular bible.  Each book contains an introduction.  It summarizes the purpose of the book, who will be mentioned and how they may be related, places you’ll hear about and what those places are called today, and memorable scripture from the book.  Haylee found these introductions helpful whenever we started studying a new book.  It gave her an idea of what it would be about and what to expect in our daily reading. 

Throughout each book, there are lots of explanations that are highlighted.  The “Life Preserver” sections are particularly useful in helping kids to ponder further and understand the symbolism and parallels they can find in everyday life.  I think it makes scripture less of a puzzle for them and helps it to be more real and accessible to them.  The “God’s Thoughts/My Thoughts” sections are like little mini-bible studies for kids to engage in some self-examination and personal application of scripture.  Haylee is a bit immature yet, but I’m hoping these will help her start to piece together how the bible can help her in her everyday life.

The “Did You Know” sections are very helpful in understanding the customs and beliefs of people in bible times.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand the significance of things that have different meanings in our own culture and times.  It also gives little-known facts and trivia that I have to admit were often even new to me! 

The “Sailboat” sections highlight positive character traits that kids can see demonstrated in scripture, while the “Umbrella” sections do a great job of helping kids learn how to deal with negative feelings and emotions and difficult situations. 

The “Lighthouse” sections cover cornerstones of faith and dedication to God.  They help kids to understand how our faith in God plays out in our daily lives.  It talks about things like how, when, and why we pray and how that brings us closer to God.

The “Navigation Points” suggest key verses that kids might want to memorize, while the “Bet You Can” notations challenge children to read a section in a given amount of time.  We didn’t find these as particularly helpful as some of the other sections.  I can see how the time challenges might motivate some kids, but when it comes to the bible, I don’t generally encourage speeding through, but rather slowing down and thinking about what you’re reading!

In the back of the Deep Blue Kids’ Bible, there are a lot of additional resources such as a dictionary, a subject guide to emotions kids may feel and what scriptures can help them deal with that, a topical guide, devotions, reading challenges, and full color maps.  These are all very helpful tools that will have lasting value as Haylee continues to study and learn how to apply the bible’s teachings to her everyday life.

DSCF2129Overall, I’m very impressed with the Deep Blue Kids’ Bible!  My impression is that it’s a very well-designed study bible for kids that gives them useful tools and insights that make scripture more meaningful for even elementary aged children.  Personally, I think it’s appropriate even for adolescents and teens, and even adults who maybe have never used a study bible before and could benefit from the sidebar discussions included.  I guess you could refer to it as a family bible because it can help prompt further discussion amongst members of the whole family of all ages.  I would definitely recommend it to those looking for a truly accessible bible for their children.

Haylee has enjoyed it very much and is not struggling as much with her daily readings.  She enjoys reading the little extras that are included and has decided to continue using this as her primary study bible.

Abingdon Press provides links to online booksellers who carry this product on this page.  Prices vary based upon which cover style you choose.  My review copy has the soft ImageFlex cover, which Amazon carries for $17.81 at this time.  That’s a very reasonable price for an excellent children’s study bible.

You can read what other Crew members had to say about the Deep Blue Kids’ Bible by clicking the banner below.


I received a free copy of the Deep Blue Kids’ Bible for review purposes, but all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.

Monday, October 15, 2012

REVIEW: Federal Income Tax Course by National Tax Training School

My husband, Steve, is trying out this Federal Income Tax Course by National Tax Training School.

Our Federal Income Tax Course is designed for persons with no previous experience in the tax field or those with some experience who wish to get a more thorough training in all pertinent phases of federal income tax preparation for individuals. Completing this course will train you to prepare tax returns for individuals and small businesses.

In addition to providing you with a solid foundational training in taxation, this course includes the essential material you must know to pass the Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) exam.

The most complete, most up-to-date tax preparation course available!
This highly acclaimed tax course has taught thousands of people how to become successful tax professionals, specialists in preparing individual and small business tax returns.

Written in an easy, accessible style, this nationally-accredited course guides you through Federal Taxation by way of 20 easy-to-master lesson units, each requiring approximately eight hours of study. A serious student can finish the course and receive his or her certificate in as few as 8 weeks. And you'll be studying in the comfort and privacy of your own home or office. (If you need more time, the School allows you up to one year.)  A Complete Comprehensive Course! (not a simple "test prep" program)

Upon successful completion of our tax preparer course, you will have the knowledge and confidence to prepare Individual and small business tax returns for clients anywhere. You will find yourself able to start and operate your own tax practice, or accept a well-paid position in an accounting or tax preparation firm.


Our regularly updated and revised text clearly explains tax laws and regulations, teaching you exactly how to apply tax law to all actual client situations. This is the only foundation on which you can build a successful tax practice.
    A clearly written, easily understandable step-by-step text that includes hundreds of practical examples, real life illustrations, and sample computations that bring tax preparation vividly to life.  In fact, the course materials, which are yours to keep, will serve you well throughout your career as a tax professional.

    "Real Life" case studies give you an opportunity to test your skills in preparing actual tax returns for different taxpayers and small business enterprises. These are designed to familiarize you thoroughly with the various tax forms and schedules you will use as a tax preparer.

    Specially formulated tax planning problems will give you "hands-on" practice in devising tax-saving strategies that help you develop your own tax planning expertise.

    For the duration of the course and for up to four years (depending on which option you enrolled under) after your graduation, every student is assigned a skilled, experienced instructor, a practicing accountant who is current on all tax preparation procedures and knowledgeable about the day to day realities of operating a professional tax practice. This personal service is one of the cornerstones of the NTTS course's effectiveness and popularity.

    A series of examinations - one after each master lesson unit - is designed to monitor your progress. Each examination is carefully reviewed, graded - and if need be - commented on by your instructor who will gladly give you any additional help you need.

    Once you graduate from the National Tax Training School, you will be given full access to our online, annual Tax Change Bulletins. This privilege will be in effect for up to four years after your graduation (depending on which option you enrolled under). During that same period you will also be able to contact your instructor with any questions that will arise as your tax practice grows, without additional cost!
Enrollment Fees:

OPTION 1 - Standard enrollment includes three 4 full years of post-graduate support

          A) Pay in full with enrollment: $795            

          B) 3 Payment Plan: Three payments of $275

               First payment due with enrollment; Second payment in 30 days; Third payment in 60 days.

               Total: $825

          C) 6 Payment Plan: Six payments of $140

               First payment due with enrollment; 5 Additional automatic monthly charges of $140.

               Total: $840

OPTION 2 - same course as option 1 - includes one 2 full years of post-graduate support           

          A) Pay in full with enrollment: $495           

          B) 3 Payment Plan: Three payments of $175

               First payment due with enrollment; Second payment in 30 days; Third payment in 60 days.

               Total: $525

Additional Shipping fees apply see enrollment form.

Cancellation and Refund Policy
You may cancel your enrollment within 15 days of your receipt of the course materials and receive a complete tuition refund.

My husband, Steve, was the lucky candidate to sign up for this federal tax training course.  In his initial shipment upon registering, he received a welcome letter along with one very large binder containing lessons 1-20.  It was a lot of material, and some may find the volume a bit overwhelming.  This is the reason for split shipments.  Upon completion of lesson 17, the second shipment is triggered containing additional materials.  We received it early so we could review it during the review period.  The second shipment contained several books and materials:
  • Federal Tax Handbook 2012
  • Building, Marketing & Operating a Profitable Tax Business
  • ATX Solutions for Tax and Accounting Professionals (Tax Year 2011) Evaluation Version Software
  • Final Exam
  • Practical Case Studies Kit
  • Certificate Order Form
  • Guide to State Personal Income Taxes
  • IRS Tax Return Preparer’s Test Candidate Information Bulletin

Steve’s initial impression with the first two lessons was that the material was really dry, because it contained a large volume of terms and definitions.  But he said that once he got beyond that, he realized the practical application of the information and was able to begin dealing with scenarios.  The third lesson covered tax calculations, and this was when Steve felt the course began to get interesting.  In the fourth and fifth lessons, he covered inclusions and exclusions to gross income.  In the sixth lesson, he learned about gains and losses on the sale or exchange of real estate properties.  By this point, he could honestly say he had learned some things he didn’t know before and could see how it was all coming together.  Each lesson built upon the one before it.  This is as far as he got during the review period.  He said each lesson took approximately 2-3 hours of time investment, so he mainly worked on it during the weekends when he wasn’t working.
Each lesson is broken down into subsections that are both labeled and numbered to make it easier to reference specific material down the road.  Lots of examples and scenarios are provided to show the variations in the application of each topic.  Great detail is provided to ensure thorough understanding of the material.  Significant terms are bolded throughout the text to draw your attention to them. 
The layout of the material is broken down into lots of small chunks with bullet points, indented examples with completed calculations, and small paragraphs of information.  This format makes the material easy to read, follow, and reference later when necessary. 
Each lesson includes a self-scoring practice test.  This gives each question immediately followed by its answer and a reference to which sections of the lesson from which the information came.  The instructions tell you to use a sheet of paper to cover the answer until you come up with the answer yourself.  However, Steve found that a bit inconvenient and wished that the answers were contained on a separate page.  He felt it made you not work as hard to find the answer knowing that the answer was printed right there.  There is a total of 20 questions in each self-scoring practice test.  After completion of this, you move on to the written test, which you complete and mail in for grading.  Pre-addressed mailing envelopes are included, so you need only provide the postage.  The average turnaround time seemed to be within a week.  The graded test is returned to you by mail along with a printed answer key with explanations and calculations included.

The vendor informed us that they are in the process of creating an online version of the course.  It is currently in beta testing.  We were given an opportunity to try it out if we chose.  The manual is available in .pdf format.  Steve did take some of the tests online as opposed to mailing them in.  This allowed for immediate grading.  He strongly preferred using the hard copy of the manual for study and reference, but particularly enjoyed taking the tests online.  Initially, he took the written test and attempted to transfer his answers to the online test.  However, he didn’t realize that the questions were not listed in the same order online vs. the printed test!  As a result, he had to retake the test and was given an alternate version for his second attempt.  He did not make that mistake again once he realized what had happened!  Overall, he liked the combination of the printed study materials and the online tests, which provided immediate feedback and saved postage in the process. However, he said he would not like an all-online version of the course.  He felt the manual itself would be too difficult for him to maneuver in digital format because of the need to flip back and forth.

In summary, Steve said it was exactly what he expected a tax course to be.  It’s a lot of material to cover, but it was well-laid out and thoroughly discussed so it could be more easily digested.  He felt the layout was essential to being able to tackle the material in small chunks in manageable periods of time.  It made it as unintimidating as you could imagine a tax course could be.  Steve has no previous tax or accounting experience and hasn’t even prepared his own taxes in nearly two decades (that’s my job!), but he feels he will be well-prepared to take the certification exam upon completion of the course and subsequently be able to prepare not only his own taxes but those of others, as well. 

In difficult economic times, he feels good at having this course under his belt, as becoming a certified tax preparer could lead to potential income in the future should the need arise.  This makes the investment a good one to consider.  He would definitely recommend this course to anyone considering using tax preparation as a source of future income.

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about this course by clicking the banner below.


We received this course free of charge for review purposes, however all opinions are ours and reflect our family’s honest use of the product.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

REVIEW: “Pilgrim Story” Online Course by Dayspring Christian Academy

We were very blessed to be able to review the “Pilgrim Story” online course by Dayspring Christian Academy

Your Price:  $99.00

The Pilgrim Story is a self-paced, interactive online course for grades 3 through 6. 

Access to the course begins within 48 hours from purchase. You will have access to the program for six months from the date of registration. The course does not meet at a specific time. You may access it at any time that is convenient to your schedule.

The Pilgrim Story teaches children about one of the most important times in our nation’s history. It is America’s foundation. This self-guided, interactive history course teaches students the true history of the Pilgrims from original sources. The Principle Approach method of education is used, which holds a providential view of history. Students are taught the importance of Christian character and other biblical principles, such as self governance, hard work, and perseverance. Students also learn the biblical principles of Christian liberty.

Lessons include: King Henry, Geneva Bible, Liberty of Conscience, Leaving Leiden, Conditions on the Mayflower, Building Christian Character, the Mayflower Compact, and much more. Students witness the providence of God in the lives of the Pilgrims and the founding of America. This interactive, self-paced course consists of five units totaling 17 lessons complete with assessments and ideas for further study. Appropriate for grades 3-6.

Activities in the course include crafts, application, live action, map-making, and much more—all designed to get students involved in the learning process. Principle Approach students are taught to think and reason from biblical principles and apply them to every area of life, so reasoning questions are also included.

Each lesson takes between 30 and 45 minutes to complete. Enrichment activities will take additional time. Students learn to manage the notebook, an important element of a Principle Approach education. Each lesson also comes with student note sheets and a vocabulary list.
This engaging online course culminates with a virtual field study to Plymouth, MA.

Instructor: Mary Stauffer

Mary Stauffer has taught third grade at Dayspring Christian Academy since 1994. She has led more than 20 guided tours of Plymouth, MA, and uses the words of our forefathers as found in primary sources to teach the Pilgrim story. She also lectures on the subject to the community and is passionate about teaching and preserving the truth of our nation’s past.

Haylee (age 8, 3rd grade) was the lucky recipient who got to try out this wonderful course!  When you order this course for your student and log in, you set up your student’s profile.  Then each time your student logs in, you’ll see link to launch Pilgrim Story.

There are 17 lessons plus 5 unit tests and then the reward of a virtual field trip to Plymouth, MA at the end!  You get 6 months to complete the course, so we figured with 26 weeks and 22 activities plus the field trip, we could pace ourselves at 1 lesson or test per week.  This also gives you time to do some of the optional activities if you choose to do so.  There are opportunities included for writing essays if you have an upper elementary or early middle school student, and it’s simple enough to skip them if your child is in 3rd of 4th grade or is not yet ready for such assignments.

As you begin a lesson, you are taken through a very engaging presentation of slides with accompanying audio narration.  The slides remind me of a PowerPoint presentation with someone explaining the material and telling the story as you go along.  The male narrator’s voice is very interesting and easy to listen to.  I liked that.  I’m always afraid with audio accompaniments that the speaker’s voice will be monotone and boring, but you need not fear that here.  The slide format works well here because it gives the student time to record their notes before clicking “next” to move on to the next slide. 

In the introduction to each lesson, you are told what resources you’ll need to download and print for use with the lesson, and there’s a tab you click on to select those items.  This is easy to do before you begin the lesson, although I personally had difficulty with printing the .pdf files.  It took such a long time to process each one before it would finally print that I really had to do this in advance of Haylee sitting down to do her lesson.  I noticed the large file size of the documents, and I think this is because the beautiful pages are all bordered with the Pilgrim Story images.  Even the pages of quotations have an aged scroll background.  So I’m thinking the intense graphics are the reason it took so long for my printer to begin printing them.  I loved how attractive the pages were, and I think it made them visually more attractive for Haylee rather than “just another worksheet,” so I just had to prepare myself to set aside a block of time for printing ahead of time.  Then all of the pages went into a binder that was her student notebook.  I believe this notebook will be a great keepsake to study from in the future, and we plan to keep it for future reference.

Each lesson has a note page you print that contains most of the highlights of the lesson with fill-in-the-blanks.  As HDSCF2113aylee went through the slides, the missing text for the worksheets is underlined on the screen.  While that may seem overly simple, it was actually an excellent way to make sure Haylee was paying attention to each of the finer points of the lesson, and it clearly helped her retain the facts by writing them out.  I could tell it was effective because there are little quizzes built in to the lessons to check for recall and understanding.  Haylee rarely missed a question, so I could tell she was really learning and remembering what she had learned.  I was very impressed with how much information she was retaining.  In addition, in the just the first unit, she got to work on a mapping activity, translation exercises, and a chart of her internal and external properties so she could be mindful of God’s many blessings in her life.

I watched the lessons with her and found them to be so very informative!  I learned a lot myself.  I hadn’t actually heard of the Geneva bible before, and I was very interested to learn more about it.  I liked the way the course helped differentiate between the Church of England, the Puritans, and the Separatists and their beliefs, and there was an excellent interactive activity where Haylee had to click and drag statements into the right columns to compare how their beliefs differed.  Again, she did really well with this, so I could tell she was paying attention and finding the course material interesting even to an 8 year old.

Even my 13-year old son sat in on some of the lessons, and they worked on them together.  He was almost as interested in the course as she was, and he is in 8th grade.  So although Dayspring suggests the course should be used for grades 3-6, I could see where older children would also benefit from listening in at the same time.  Honestly, I found it fascinating myself! 

Throughout the lessons, the message that God is behind all things working them for good is prevalent.  The narrator really helps children to see God’s hand in history and the positives that have come as a result of events that have occurred over time.  But it’s communicated in a way that helps the listener reason it out for themselves and see the truth in it.

As a parent, you can log in and click on “course administration” to look at a user report that shows grades received by your student throughout each lesson in the course.  Unfortunately, the quiz grades did not show up for us.  They all showed 0%.  I’m not sure why.  I was with her when she took them and know that she got 100% correct on most of them, but those grades were not recorded.  However, the unit exam grades were successfully recorded, so you can still award a final grade for your student if you choose.  It gives you the final percentage achieved for the course at the bottom of that page.  Also, if you forget which lesson comes next, you can see on this page which lessons have been completed and then launch to the next lesson right from that page.

Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the content of this course, and I would definitely recommend it to friends.  The $99 price tag is fairly steep for a single course, but since you could have one child taking the course but others listening in on the lessons, you can make that investment stretch just a bit farther.  I like that you have a full 6 months to complete the course so you don’t have to feel rushed through the lessons, and you can speed up or slow down your pace as things come up in your child’s schedule.  This course definitely has a lot of meat to it and serves the purpose of both history and religious studies.  This is a course that we will definitely choose to continue after the review period is over, and we are looking forward to learning so much and enjoying the variety of activities in the remainder of the course.

We did notice that in Unit 1, Lesson 3, “Life in Scrooby,” the slide that revealed the answer to question #10 on the note sheet was missing from the lesson.  When notified of the omission, Dayspring’s customer service did respond with the correct answer to the question so that we could continue on.  However, I’ve not yet seen the correction made within that lesson.  It probably takes some time to edit the presentation with both its written content and its accompanying audio.  But at least they did respond quickly with the information that was needed.

Check out what other Crew members had to say about this course by clicking on the banner below.


I received access to this course free of charge for review purposes, but all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.

Monday, October 8, 2012

REVIEW: Classroom KinderBach iPad App by KinderBach

We recently tried out the Classroom KinderBach iPad App (School Version) from KinderBach


Piano Lessons Made Fun and Easy

iPad and iPhone App


Simply discover Piano on Your iPad!

KinderBach's App for iPad or iPhone brings the teachings of Karri Gregor to your device. The KB App features Levels 1, 2 & 3 and offers a year's worth of entertaining music education for 3 to 7 year old children through video, interactive coloring pages and games. Miss Karri introduces preschoolers to the keyboard characters with stories and fun tunes. Kids will enjoy playing simple songs, identifying music direction and pitch, learning rhythm notes and their beat value. Levels 1 to 3 cover proper hand and finger position, as well as note reading by pattern for voice, and keyboard.

• The most fun and engaging piano and music app on the App Store

• Improves all forms of musical skills including the Piano itself.

• Try the first game and two lessons for FREE, then choose which lessons you wish to purchase for your children. Lessons can be purchased one lesson at a time, or at a reduced rate for an entire level.

• No subscription required, once you purchase a lesson it is yours for good.

• Hours of content for children of all ages over the 3 Levels, each containing 10 lessons.

• 150 videos allow your children to work directly with Karri Gregor to learn concepts and skills.

• Keyboard included in the app for use during the video lessons.

• Six Mini-Games are unlocked as you purchase further lessons to learn more advanced concepts. The first Mini-Game is included with the application along with Lessons 1 and 2.

Classroom KinderBach: School Version

In-app purchases can be annoying. We understand that. If you have tried the free lessons and know you want to buy the whole app's content, you can purchase "Classroom KinderBach: School Version" This app is exactly like the KinderBach App but the in-app purchases are removed and the full cost is put up front. Originally created for schools so they can take advantage of Apple's educational discounts, this app provides convenience with one purchase for all levels and lessons.

CAUTION: Make sure you are connected to WiFi to avoid unnecessary load to your data plan. Video lessons are downloaded the first time you play them not at point of purchase.

Both Haylee (age 8) and Holden (age 4.75) tried out the Kinderbach iPad app, but Haylee clearly had the most interest in it from the very beginning, so she was the one who continued to use it the most.
Although the tone and pace of the program is clearly designed with preschoolers in mind, that did not bother my daughter at all.  She played right along with the lessons using rhythm sticks to learn the beat as well as the on-screen piano keyboard when needed, and she just increased the pace of the lessons to suit her when she was in the mood. 

The iPad app allows you to print the worksheets for each lesson using an AirPrint function.  There is a link in the lessons that allows you to go to Apple’s list of approved AirPrint printers.  I did not have this capability, so I was unable to print directly from the app.  The vendor communicated that you can purchase the workbooks in .pdf format for a small fee, but they did not indicate the exact cost.  I did find this link on the website that indicated each book level costs $12.88 (3 levels). 

As an aside, I actually did have access to printing the worksheets from the online version, only because there was an initial delay in getting access to the iPad app, so the vendor gave us access to the online version in the meantime.  Because of that, I can still attest as to the content of the worksheets.  My daughter was able to use them in conjunction with the iPad lessons.  The content of the worksheets was most certainly preschool level, but she enjoys coloring, so she did most of the worksheets anyway.  I also believe that reinforcing learning by writing it down or seeing it in print is a good method for retaining information, so I was happy to give her the worksheets to complete.

Haylee absolutely LOVED the catchy songs in the video lessons, and she was caught singing them on many occasions!  She happily sat for extended periods completing multiple lessons at a time.  She has a tremendous amount of interest in anything on the iPad to begin with, so having the KinderBach lessons on the iPad was a real bonus for her.  We found that Karri Gregor’s voice was very soothing and pleasant in the lessons, so you never got tired of listening to her.

The lessons themselves covered small chunks of learning that would not be too overwhelming to a very young child.  I really like this approach.  The app is colorful and engaging, and the use of the main character, Dodi the donkey, is a really cute way to get kids interested in the learning. 


Whenever the keyboard is needed in a lesson, it appears on the bottom of the screen.  Amazingly, it produces a very accurate piano sound and allows children to learn to recognize the grouping of 2 or 3 black keys together and be able to play songs, as well.  Both Holden and Haylee really liked the onscreen keyboard.

The iPad app also includes six mini-games to play to practice skills.  The games represent learning from each of the 3 levels.  We initially had problems with one of the games crashing the app.  The vendor communicated that Apple had done an update that affected the functionality of their app, and they quickly worked on correcting that.  It apparently was not something that had been an issue up to that point.

If you’d like to view more screenshots from the app, you can view it at iTunes here.

At $26.95 for all levels in the Classroom app, you can’t go wrong if you have preschool to elementary aged children in your household.  I think the distinct advantage of the app vs. the online version is that you own it forever rather than only using it for a subscription period.  This allows your children to continue entirely at their own pace, and that’s worth a lot in my book.  Or if you’d like to try it out first, download the free version of the app and try out the first game and two lessons for free.  Then you can make an in-app purchase of individual lessons as you desire or purchase the entire program for the $26.95 I mentioned above.

The bottom line is that this is a great little music app.  My children had zero exposure to the keyboard or piano prior to using this program, so starting with lessons on proper finger placement and the like were right on target for them.  This is a great tool for beginners.

Read what other Crew members had to say about the iPad app as well as the online version by clicking the banner below.


I received the KinderBach iPad app free of charge for review purposes.  However, all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.


This coupon code gives 30% off any order - homeschool, classroom, online or DVDs.

Coupon Code: TOS_crew2012

Expires: 12/31/2012

Also the KinderBach App is on sale This Friday, Oct. 19th, 2012 ONLY. The app will be discounted over 50%, down to $12.99! No code needed just the link to the Classroom KinderBach app in the App store:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

REVIEW: Salt Box by Box of I.D.E.As.

We were fortunate to get to review the Salt Box by Box of I.D.E.As.

Box of IDEAs are ideal for teaching multi level students, focusing on age 9 to 16. Designed to get kids off the computer and around the table, Box of IDEAS are great to supplement your current curriculum but can also be used for homeschool group activity, summertime learning and as a break from the normal routine.

Each Box of IDEAS...

  • is easily portable to provide excellent waiting room and traveling activities to create learning opportunities on the go.

  • is filled with interesting topic-focused activity based learning.

  • contains 10 (and sometimes more) modules with exercises designed around a captivating aspect of the Box topic

  • provides 10 (or more) engaging and thought provoking portfolio pieces to record the student's journey through the box.

  • is packed with many additional ideas and suggestions for delving deeper into an area of interest.

  • has a variety of thoroughly researched web links to encourage further exploration of the topics.

  • A timed SAT style summary test is included in each box

Salt (Physical Box) - $79.00

Our Salt Box of IDEAs is a comprehensive look at salt and how it has helped to shape history, nourish our bodies and even build and destroy empires. This Box delves into history, geography, science, language, political systems and much more. Salt—something that your children see and probably use every single day—can be a wonderful stepping stone to opening their minds to so very much. Modules include:  

The History Of Salt - A gateway to learning world history through the ages. Take a ‘salty journey’ through time! This module gives an overview of how salt has had an influence in the world in so many ways - from building empires to starting wars. The portfolio piece gives your child a chance to use their imagination and recreate history how THEY want to do it while the chronology of the activity portion helps them to learn the sequence of world events while having fun playing a game.  

The Science Of Salt - Bring science into your home through experiments with salt. Make science FUN! All the supplies are included in this module to allow your kids to set up their own 'laboratory' and investigate the answers to some burning salt questions! A lab write up encompasses the portfolio piece to go along with the actual experiment activity.  

The Salt March - An entre into the history of India and Mahatma Ghandi, one of history’s most important figures. The history of India is long and storied and this module will open doors for you to direct your kids to a more in depth investigation of this most interesting place - from civil disobedience to a culture so different from their own. The portfolio piece is a matching exercise while the factual chronology of the activity that deals directly with the Salt March itself will give them greater understanding into this singular act of civil disobedience that helped free a country from foreign rule.  

The Salt of the Earth - Your children will love learning about their own country and those around the world as well when they become part of the investigation to find out where exactly salt is produced. A huge variety of countries are involved in salt production and through the portfolio piece, which teaches graphing skills, to the activity mapping exercise, your kids will enjoy their hunt for the highest, and lowest, salt producing countries of the world.  

Need For Salt - Humans and other animals need salt to live - without it we would cease to function. The key is to get enough without getting too much. In an effort to teach responsible nutrition and give your kids the ability to quickly and easily read food labels, this module delves into how much is too much and what we actually require. By finding and listing high and low sodium foods and then making up a daily meal plan while keeping within certain limits, kids can acquire a skill that will serve them well for a lifetime of healthy eating.  

Preserving With Salt - When mankind realized that food could be preserved with salt, the whole world changed. People were suddenly not tied down to one place, exploration was suddenly possible and making it through the winter a more likely event. This module concentrates on food safety and the facts of preservation - the why and the how as well as key terms. Math skills come into effect in the portfolio piece while the fast paced board game will make learning the facts of preservation lots of fun!  

Too Much Salt - While most people are aware of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, many don't realize just how common salt lakes are. They are a source of salt and a source of life for many creatures. Your children will learn all about salt lakes and their functions as well as how they are formed in this informative module. They will use critical math skills and logic to solve problems regarding volume, area and salinity.  

The Wall That Salt Built - Take your kids on a Chinese adventure! While most know of the Great Wall, few are aware of salt's role in its formation. The portfolio is designed to make your children use their minds to understand why salt was so important while the activity portion of the module concentrates on the construction of the wall itself over hundreds and hundreds of years.  

Where Salt Lives - Salt can be found in several different places from which is it extracted for our use. This module will take you and your kids to all the places that salt lives before it travels to your local grocery store! The portfolio exercise will have your children critically reading a newspaper article regarding salt mining and then answering detailed questions about what they have read. The activity deals with all of the places salt can be found and your child must reason as to where each fact is referring.

The Language of Salt - Salt proliferates our language and that of languages the world over. Whether a single word, an idiom or a place name, salt is everywhere attesting to its importance throughout history. This module gives an overview of how salt helped to form many common sayings, names and words. The portfolio challenges your child to decipher the meaning behind some common salt phrases while the activity has them matching words, phrases and place names with their definitions and origins.

I absolutely loved that this product arrives ready-to-use.  One thing that keeps me from doing unit types of studies is the materials you must gather together to complete a unit.  That’s not so with Box of I.D.E.As!  The physical box arrives containing 10 large individual Ziploc bags, and each bag contains absolutely everything you need to complete a module.  The fact cards are sturdy, the photos are clear and vivid, and all of the instructional materials are printed and ready to go.  At any time, you can randomly grab a module and complete it in about 1-2 hours from our experience. 

Let’s take a look at a couple of the modules we completed to give you an idea of what is included in a module and what kinds of study are involved.

Where Salt Lives was the first module we examined.  On the Introduction sheet, we started out by reading a bit about the different ways that salt can be extracted from its three sources.  This was pretty interesting!  We had never studied anything about salt before, so this was all new information to us. 

Hayden got to read an included article called Salt Mine in the News.  After reading the article, there was a sheet of questions he had to complete.  Hayden enjoyed the article, and I liked the fact that it gave him practice in reading comprehension.

In the Extensions section, we looked online to find out where the closest salt mine was located.  We analyzed from what we read what the most efficient and most expensive extraction methods would be, and Hayden researched online to verify his thoughts.  Then he was excited to make his own solar evaporator.  Unfortunately, we had tons of rain and overcast skies for a couple of weeks straight, so it took a while to see this process in action.

In the Web Links section, we were able to go online and watch a video of a salt harvest, pictures of a salt mine, and read a discussion on salt domes and how they relate to oil dDSCF2089eposits. 
Also included in this module was a Salt Habits Activity Mat.  This was a page of beautiful illustrations showing the three sources of salt along with a set of fact cards.  The object of this activity was to have Hayden read each fact and reason out which of the three salt sources to which it pertained.  He had to sort the cards into those three piles and then flip them over at the end to match up the photos and see if he was correct in his reasoning.  He enjoyed this activity a lot and only missed one!

Another module we completed was The Wall That Salt Built.  We did a great amount of study on China and the Great Wall in our study of countries in the Eastern Hemisphere a few years ago, so Hayden was very interested in testing out his knowledge with this one.  On the Information Sheet, we read about salt’s impact on the building of the Great Wall of China and the wall’s long-term purpose. 

In the Extensions section, it suggested that we find out what other trade items China used other than salt, do some reading about the Ming Dynasty in China, and explain why Marco Polo was important in European and Chinese history.  We have studied so much about China in the past that we were able to answer most of these without doing additional research, and it was nice to see what we remembered on these topics.  We ended up using these as more of discussion topics than research opportunities.

In the Web Links section, we got to look at different materials used to construct the Great Wall, read information about Chinese culture over time, and look at links regarding modern Chinese history.
Also included in this module was a card game.  A whole page of instructions for play and scoring were included, bDSCF2090ut we chose to use the cards a little differently.  Instead of turning it into a card game with multiple players, I had Hayden spread out the decks on the table and manually match the Centuries, Components, and Sections cards into sets and read the facts again in matching sets.  Hayden found this to be a difficult task.  I tried to help him with it and found it difficult, as well.  I’m not sure we understood how to identify which cards matched, as there were no indicators on the backs of the cards as to what constituted a correct match.  So we concluded that in the card game, you probably achieved a match just by having a card from each category to place down in a set.  So our plan of action changed, and we decided just to read the facts on the cards.  The facts were very interesting in and of themselves, so even doing it this way had redeeming value to us.  We learned a lot about the different sections of the wall.  We hadn’t realized prior to this module that the Great Wall was actually a bunch of shorter walls joined together.  You learn something new every day!

In the other modules, we encountered a broad range of activities, including science experiments, a board game, a laminated meal planner with dry erase marker (to record what you eat and analyze the salt content), and additional card activities.  I think the next module we plan to complete will be The Language of Salt.  Hayden told me he’s looking forward to trying out his understanding of the idioms that contain the word salt.  I think I’ll enjoy that one myself!

Who knew there was so much to learn about salt and its many impacts on history, science, and language?  The Salt Box of I.D.E.As. will surely change the way you think about salt.  Personally, I never gave it much thought before using this product, but now we see how much a part of our lives it really is.

The bottom line is that these modules and activities provide real learning in a fun and very engaging way.  I love that each module is self-contained and includes everything you need to do the activities so that it’s truly “grab and go.”  What a fun way to broaden your thinking and explore a topic!  You can think of each module as a sort of mini unit study.  You can spend as much or as little time on it as you choose, picking and choosing the extentions and activities you want your child to complete.  I wanted this to be fun, so I chose to let Hayden direct his own learning with these and do the portions he was most interested in doing. 

Another nice feature of the Box of I.D.E.As. is that there is an exam included for the student to fill out after completing all of the modules.  A teacher’s answer key is also provided.  This is a nice way to sum up the learning and see how much your child retained from the many modules of information.
The physical box I received costs $79.00, but you can also order the downloadable .pdf version to print at home for a reduced cost of $49.00.  Just weigh in your mind the value of your time and materials in printing, prepping, providing game pieces, and supplies for experiments.  In my family, my time is a valuable commodity, and I think I’d be far less likely to use the modules if I had to prepare them and gather materials myself.  The quality of the photos was really vivid, and all of the cards were printed on heavy cardstock.  The materials were durable, and I could use them again and again.  That difference in cost of $30 could make the difference between using it or not using it due to the time and preparation involved in setting it up.

This product was so wonderful that I hate to mention such a small error, but one of my modules was mislabeled.  It should have said Very Salty but instead was mislabeled as History of Salt.  The sticky label on each bag gives you a summary of its contents so you don’t have to pull everything out to decide if you want to choose the activity.  This is a very minor error, but I thought I should mention it since I’m reviewing the product.  This in no way affected its use but was obviously just an oversight in packaging. 

Also, we initially noticed that there was no answer key included for the individual modules, so as a parent, you’d have to read the modules and check the answers yourself. When this was pointed out by reviewers, however, the vendor did email us an answer key to the questions for the whole Salt Box during the review period. I think it’s normally included and was inadvertently left out of the review kits. 

If you enjoy shorter cross-curricular unit studies that can be completed in a couple of hours, then the Box of I.D.E.As. products are right up your alley!  They have a variety of topics to choose from including World War Two, Quilting, Laundry, Eleven, Pearl Harbor, and many more to come.  They are intended for ages 9-16.  If you’d like to read about the Salt Box or the Pearl Harbor Box, then click the banner below to check out what other Crew members had to say.


I received the physical Salt Box free of charge for review purposes, but all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

REVIEW: Zoo Whiz Premium Membership by

My kids have been enjoying a Zoo Whiz Premium Membership at


Detailed animal info

As a PREMIUM Zoologist, you’ll have full access to all the detailed information on all the animals, both FREE and PREMIUM, that you have purchased for your zoo. You’ll be able to investigate each animal’s habitat, diet, threatened status and more. ZooWhiz is designed to ignite your love of animals and develop it into an informed passion! Children with FREE Keeper accounts can only access general information regarding each animal’s scientific name and taxonomy.  

Maximum motivation for your child

As a PREMIUM Zoologist your child, will have full access to all of the motivational fun and intrinsic reward and reinforcement that is built into ZooWhiz. They’ll be able to access the full range of animals, play all of the Arcade games and access the detailed information on each animal. They’ll also be able to access and print achievement certificates when this ability is added.  


Parent created content selections (coming soon)

With a Premium Zoologist subscription for your child, you’ll be able to use the Premium Integrated Content Selector to pre-select the educational activities that you want your child to work on by subject, age, level, and question category, matching them to their progress.



Unlimited 24/7 access for your child

With a PREMIUM Zoologist subscription, children have unrestricted access 24/7 to ZooWhiz. With a FREE Keeper account children can answer an unlimited number of educational activities while at school and spend the coins earnt freely. Children can also access ZooWhiz for FREE from home, however there is a limit to the number of activities they can answer and coins they can spend.  

Detailed progress feedback

With a Premium Zoologist account for your child, you’ll be able interact with your child’s learning more fully. You’ll be able to access the powerful reporting options to review their overall progress and see all of their results step by step. You’ll even be able to drill down and see exactly which activities they got right and wrong.  

Achievement certificates (coming soon)

With a PREMIUM Zoologist account you’ll be able to earn certificates as rewards for progress. The certificates will be awarded both for completion of set numbers of activities and for attaining specified standards.  

Age floor control

With ZooWhiz, you’ll be able to set a minimum age for ZooWhiz activities for your children. You’ll simply input your child’s age and they will be locked out of all activities that are less than 1 year below the specified age.  

Emailed progress reports (coming soon)

With a Premium Zoologist subscription for your child, you’ll receive optional emailed updates detailing their progress.  

ZooWhiz is now in Early Release Stage 2

Sign Up
ZooWhiz is developing rapidly and can now be used in both FREE and PREMIUM modes. We've recently implemented many PREMIUM features with more to be released in the coming months. You can start using ZooWhiz for FREE today. If you'd like to take advantage of introductory Half Price offer you can upgrade your child's FREE Keeper Account to a PREMIUM Zoologist Subscription. In the mean time we'll continue to add new features to make ZooWhiz even better for all! Learn more about it here.  

PREMIUM Zoologist Subscriptions have been enabled giving kids, parents and teachers access to a whole range of new features

  • Some of the PREMIUM features are still under development and will be released over the coming months.
  • The Trusted School Communities features have been activated ensuring the safety and privacy of school’s use of ZooWhiz
Major features to be released in the coming months:
  • School Management Accounts
  • Parent and Teacher Custom Content selections
  • Promotional material for schools and teachers to let parents know of the benefits of ZooWhiz
Satisfaction Guarantee for PREMIUM Zoologist Subscriptions for home and school
  • 14 Day 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
  • If you are not fully satisfied with your Premium Subscription to ZooWhiz you may contact us to request that we cancel your subscription within 14 days of its commencement. We’ll then send you a full refund for any money paid.

ZooWhiz is an awesome site that allows children to practice targeted skills in a variety of subjects, including math, punctuation, grammar, reading, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, and word skills. Children begin with some free coins, but they can enter the “Learn and Earn” section to answer skill-targeted questions in a fun animated environment to earn additional coins. Then they use the coins they’ve earned to play fun mini-games in the “Arcade” section or to buy animals in the “Biodome” section.

All 3 of my kids have played on this site (Hayden-13, Haylee-8, and Holden-4.5), though my younger two had the most interest in it to go back and play again and again.  The site is recommended for ages 5-15+.  You can take a tour at

You can view specific sample activities at different levels for each area of content by clicking the images on this page.

I absolutely love that I have the option to set the age level for each child in each area of content.  Being a homeschool family, each child goes at his or her own pace for each subject.  For my kids, their math and reading levels are above their typical grade level, so I was able to set the age level for those specific content areas a little higher to match their own levels of performance.  That adds a lot of value to the site in my opinion!  And you’re not stuck in that one level once you set it.  You can continue to adjust the content as you deem necessary, and that is truly wonderful.

For my 4.5 year old, he’s just beginning to read on his own, so when he’s working in the “Learn and Earn” section, I do have to sit with him to read the questions to him so he knows what to do.  That issue could be easily remedied if they offered the questions orally for those not yet reading well.  Fortunately, they do encourage users to give feedback and suggestions on how to improve the site, so I will definitely be suggesting that option.  But Holden really enjoyed earning coins so he could go and play the fun arcade games and buy new animals in the Zoo Store.  He really used up his coins quickly, which encouraged him to keep going back and earning more coins with the educational content.  That’s a real plus!

My 8 year old could play this completely independently, and she truly enjoyed all of the games as well as the “Learn and Earn” section.  The site really offers lots of opportunities for learning in such a variety of subject matters, and I love to have Haylee play this game after school.  It’s a great opportunity to continue the learning and practice in a fun and engaging way so a child hardly even notices they are learning.

My 13 year old played a few times and said he liked it and found it was fun.  But he’s more aware of the learning aspects of the activities.  The last thing he wants to do with his free time is play learning games, but that’s just him.  He’s at “that age.”  That doesn’t mean he won’t use it.  It just means he won’t use it as often as the others.

I really can’t say enough good things about this site.  It is so colorful and engaging.  The educational content is wonderful and covers such a variety of topics.  I love the concept of rewards for efforts that this site is based upon.  If your children love animals and like learning about them, then they’re likely to really enjoy the zoo theme of this site, as well.  Not only can you try out limited portions of the site with the free membership, but you can upgrade to a premium membership without any risk since you can cancel within 14 days with the full satisfaction guarantee.  So you have nothing to lose!  Give this site a try!

You can read what other Crew members had to say about Zoo Whiz by clicking the banner below.


I received a Premium Membership to this site free of charge for review purposes, but all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.