Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Review of the Review Process

Over the past year, I have had the privilege of being a reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. I have reviewed all kinds of products, from an extensive collection of historical maps, to soap, to online preschool piano lessons. (You can see the complete list of what I reviewed over to the right in the sidebar.) I have experienced some great things. I've also had some difficult times. Unapologetically, I'd like to share some of my thoughts with you.


At the beginning of the year, each crew member (reviewer) was given a "first mate," as a mentor. I'm not 100 % certain, but I believe that person was there to answer questions, and encourage new reviewers throughout the year. The reason I'm not certain, is because I only conversed with my fm through emails a few times. I didn't ask that person a lot of questions, as I know she was very busy, just as I am. I know each of us has our own personal lives happening. I do wish, however, I'd been able to get to know her better, so that I might learn from her previous experience as a reviewer.

As a former-computer-problem-person, I think reviewers need to be told that there will be lots of e-products and online programs. I wish I'd been given the choice of receiving curriculum in ebook format OR printed version. I know the economy's tough on the vendors, just as it is on my family, but I am reviewing a product for them. I think they'd want my best review. And they would have, had I had a physical product in my hands. I did, by the way, work extra hard on those particular ones, even though a couple of them cut off my access to their site before my review was due. (I wish I'd had this new, faster computer in the beginning too!)


I was so glad there was a forum where the reviewers could meet others, ask questions and get answers. Being able to discuss things with other reviewers was the best part about my review period. It was nice to know what other reviewers thought about a product.

I had a little difficulty in posting my reviews. In order to post the link to my review, I needed to remember in which month I received the product. They were organized according to shipping date. I think maybe for future years, the products could be organized by due date, instead. That would have made posting much simpler.

Although it's nice to be able to see lots of different programs before you purchase one, I felt overwhelmed by math! Over the review period, I reviewed 8 math programs, 5 of them due in one month alone! It might be nice if products within one subject area were spread out over the 9 months. In fact, there may be a better way to spread out products in general. The reviewer would be able to concentrate on one item and give a more thorough review.

Overall, I am glad I was given this opportunity. Thank you to all the vendors who traded their goodies for my review. Thank you to TOS for bringing together this team of homeschoolers. I met some super ladies (and one gentleman) whom I might never have known. I am learning lots of new things about homeschooling. I have gained plenty of experience in multi-tasking (mommy, wife, teacher, business owner, cub scout leader, singer and the list goes on!). I hope I have been appreciated. Maybe I have inspired. I know I'm one exhausted lady on today, the last Friday of May. This is the conclusion of one stepping stone in my life's journey. Now I'll have to think of some things to blog about!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cerebellum

It's been an exciting year being able to review some great products. For this final one, I'll tell you a bit about a DVD I reviewed.

From cerebellum corporation, I received Light Speed chemistry AP Exam Prep. Other than the fact that I abhorred chemistry, probably largely due to the icky teacher I had, I think this DVD would have helped me 17 years ago.

"This exam prep provides students with a comprehensive review of critical chemistry topics. Stoichiometry, Kinetics, Thermodynamics...the essentials are made easy and fun! "
It "...provides tips and strategies on passing the test, and gives insightful advance on writing the short-response answers. "

The two disc set also comes with a digital workbook on CD-ROM that includes handouts, quizzes and activities that reinforce the topics discussed on the video.

If you need this DVD, it'll help you to know that the topics are:

Atomic Theory and Structure
Chemical Bonding
Nuclear Chemistry
Gases
Stoichiometry
Equilibrium & Kinetics
Thermodynamics
and much more!

even though I haven't the faintest memory what those things are!

Should my children decide to learn chemistry, despite Mommy's distaste for the subject, I can see this video coming in handy. Energetic students (or actors that look about high school age!) present the components in the DVD, making it highly appealing. Here's an example.




If you're interested in Light Speed chemistry AP Exam Prep, you can purchase it for $14.98 right here. Oh, looks like it's on sale right now for $11.24! If you'd like to read what other reviewers thought, you can do that here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lobster Network

Lobster Network is a one of a kind application that allows users to share, trade, sell and organize products of their choice. By setting up communities in Lobster Network with their friends and neighbors, users can expand their accessibility to almost any type of item. After joining the network users can search for any number of items to trade, borrow or buy. Users also have the ability to place items for sale to any other users (member or non-member).

What I have understood so far, is that you sign up for the free site, enter some of your personal belongings that you want to share, trade or sell. Then wait for someone to bite. While waiting, you can check out what others have to loan.

Although I think the idea of Lobster Network is a good one, so far, my access to the site for review purposes really hasn't done me much good.
I have heard that some users are sharing Lobster Network with their homeschool support groups, but I am not a part of a group. I do not have a huge network of connections. So for me, I'll be happy to pass the word along should I encounter someone, but Lobster Network just isn't for me at this time.

You'll find Lobster Network if you click right here. I suggest you read what the owner has to say too. She explains it quite well! If you'd like to read what other reviewers thought, just click the Crew graphic below.
I reviewed this product with no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ideal Curriculum

"Preschool Curriculum" is a niche market. Having a preschool/daycare in my home, I receive little pamphlets and brochures almost every other week with the newest resources available. As my review year is coming to a close with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I reviewed month one of Ideal Curriculum's Transportation theme kit.

Ideal Curriculum says on their website that each of their monthly curriculum kits include
"•Daily lessons and activities for literacy, math, calendar, oral language, and science/social studies
•Teaching guides
•Workbook
•Music CD
•Science, sight words, and concepts about print books
•Supplemental activities"


And the Skills Taught are


"•Letters and Sounds -Letter Names
•Phonological Awareness -Listening Skills
•Concepts About Print -Print is all Around
•Sight Words -Name Recognition
•Math -Rote Counting"

Ideal Curriculum would be great for a facility preschool teacher just starting out, that wants to provide the children a little something more than just daycare. She could pick and choose so that the children wouldn't have too much deskwork at their fragile age. A homeschooler might use this curriculum to supplement what she already uses, or just as a change for the little guy who wants to "do schoolwork" with his older brother.

The songs provided with the transportation kit were cute and Babyman (2) loved them. There are some printable pages for those who teach using worksheets. I really liked the real-photo books provided. However, I have so much stuff on my shelf like this already from my preschool teaching days, that I would not have purchased Ideal Curriculum.

You can order your Ideal Curriculum Kit here. My readers can get a 10% discount by using the code welovekids before May 31st. To read what other reviewers thought, go here.

I wrote this review in exchange for the product above. I did not receive compensation and the opinions are expressly my own.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beeyoutiful

In exchange for my review of their product, I received from Beeyoutiful a free eight ounce bottle of Berry Well.
From their website...
"Never fear the flu when you keep Berry Well on hand. Each ingredient in this pleasantly fruity syrup holds its own against flu, colds, and a swarm of bacterial and viral infections."
Those ingredients are elderberries, raw honey, bee propolis, organic echinacea and raw apple cider vinegar.

Now, there were several things that made me nervous about Berry Well right away.
1. I don't do liquids.

2. I have tried bee pollen capsules in the past and it seemed that they made my allergies worse.

3. Hero is allergic to bee stings.

4. I've never heard of this company.

5. I typically do lots of research before I try anything new.


My solution was to call my big sis. She's my natural remedy go-to-gal. She reassured me about many of my concerns. So I decided that Middleman and I would try Berry Well.


Although I have a very strong gag reflex (which is one reason I don't take cough syrups or any other medicinal liquid), my tablespoonful of Berry Well actually wasn't that bad. The elderberry flavor is quite tasty. However, the vinegar did turn my stomach a bit. Middleman (5) excitedly drank his teaspoonful and promptly asked for more. I hadn't planned for Babyman (2) to review the syrup, but he asked where his was, so I relented. He loved it.


We didn't take Berry Well "regularly" as I didn't really know how often that was supposed to be (although that info is not printed on the packaging, I did eventually find it on the website). We did try it several times, and the boys plenty more than me!

I received the suggestion to put Berry Well in a water bottle and I did that on one occasion for Middleman. He and his baby brother drank it together and enjoyed every minute of their "Berry Bottle."


For the most part, I felt like we were reviewing the taste of Berry Well. No one has been sick since we've been taking it, so I don't know if it's kept us healthy, or if we wouldn't have been sick anyway. It has not made my allergies worse, so that's good news. It really hasn't made the three of us feel any different.


I'm pretty novice when it comes to natural medicines, so it's hard for me to recommend something that didn't make me go "wow, we felt so great!" If you'd like to try Berry Well ($18 for an 8 ounce bottle-whew!), or any other product made by Beeyoutiful, check out their website. They have lots of products to choose from. If you'd like to read what other reviewers thought about Beeyoutiful, you can do that here.