Sweet Critique: Reading Horizons

I, fortunately, began homeschooling after Babydoll had learned to read.

Of course, I helped her, and I went into her classroom each week and listened to all the students in the class read to me.

But, actually having the responsibility of teaching her?  I don’t know if I could have handled that.

Then again, I also didn’t know about programs like Reading Horizons.

Reading Horizons is a web-based program that utilizes a multi-sensory approach to teach the “42 sounds of the alphabet, five phonetic skills, and two decoding skills.”  It also makes use of the Orton-Gillingham approach, which utilizes all three types of learning: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

While the program seemed intense to me at first, I actually came to love how much the program teaches.  Even though Babydoll has been an excellent reader for years now, she still learned quite a bit.

The core skills of phonetics and alphabet sounds are a great foundation for any reading program.

I enjoyed all the information and delivery of the opening video to the program, and it has an excellent user interface.  The program utilized a fun font, and I thoroughly enjoy that they describe the child’s dashboard with the reports and stats.

If you have a child who needs to learn to read, one who is a struggling reader, or just want to hone their skills even further, this is a great program to use.

Reading is one of those subjects so personal and different for each child, that it really can be hard to determine if something is right for your family before trying it.  Reading Horizons gives you a free trial so you can test-drive it.  How sweet is that?

You can visit the Reading Horizons site, linked above, or learn more about them on Facebook and Twitter.!

True Confessions:  I was provided with access to the Reading Horizons program in order to facilitate my review.  All opinions are my own.


Sweet Critique: Moo Kitty Finds a Home

Moo Kitty

Photo Credit

Most of my life I’ve never been a fan of cats.  Not sure why, but it probably had something to do with the fact that I was allergic to them.

Then, we were asked to take in a kitty that couldn’t move with its owners.  I didn’t want to.  Until I saw a picture of the cat, that is.

The cat we took in was our Princess, and I have loved her ever since.

After Princess, we got Winston, our dog.

Between the two of them, they’ve converted me to a full-blown animal lover.  Well, at least of the two of them.

As I became more involved as a pet owner, I quickly realized how many homeless pets there were.  Sometimes it’s not intentional, other times it is.

Like it or not, it’s a reality of life.  I’m about exposing my daughter to the realities of life {in an age-appropriate way, of course} because I feel it better prepares her for how to handle these things.

For this reason, I absolutely love Moo Kitty Finds a Home, by Valerie Lee Veltre.

How can you not love a book that has beautiful illustrations, a great {and never done before?} story, and an extensive educational section that helps readers choose homeless kitties?

The story is great.  It is interesting, thoughtful, yet easy enough for any age to understand.  I’m not going to lie:  I got a little sad for Moo Kitty.  You can’t help but get emotionally involved with this book.

The author did a great job of keeping the information basic enough so that your child won’t be traumatized by some really sad experiences that Moo Kitty could have had.

While I did love the story, I think my favorite part was the back of the book.  Veltre gives the reader great information on why it’s a great idea to adopt an older cat, tips for adopting an older cat, and help with the selection and settling in process.

I think this is a phenomenal way to educate your child about a problem in our society, and then help them take action to make some change in the world around them.

And while this isn’t a huge thing for some people, I love the quality of this book.  It’s a good size book, just the size you picture when you think about sitting with your kids and reading a story.  The pages are thick and smooth and I just love the way it feels!

I think this is a great book to share with your kids; Babydoll really enjoyed it.

Want to learn more about Moo Kitty?  Check out Facebook and Twitter!

True Confessions:  I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate my review.  All opinions are my own.


TOS Sweet Critique: Zane Education


WHAT:  Zane Education

COST:  Free {for demo versions of the videos}, $8.99/month {all videos in one subject}, $12.99/month {all videos in a grade}, $17.99/month {all videos}; yearly pricing available as well

RECOMMENDED AGES:  Kindergarten to adult



Zane Education is a site dedicated to providing subtitled videos on a variety of subjects.

The site has thousands of videos for hundreds of subjects such as music, art, history, and science.

Zane uses what they call The Missing Piece ©, which is the use of subtitles in the videos to enhance understand and learning.

In addition to the subtitled videos, Zane provides quizzes, encyclopedias, dictionaries, lesson plans, and more to enhance the material.


We’re a big fan of educational videos in our house.  Babydoll enjoys watching them, and I love knowing that she’s learning at the same time.

I also think they do a great job of driving home a concept or new material.

Zane has taken this concept a step further with their subtitles, and there’s one key aspect of this I love:  the direction on how to use them.

The idea of having your child watch and listen, then just watch {and read the subtitles, without sound}, and then teach it back to you is genius!

I would think this could be a great thing for a reluctant learner, as it would be more fun than a traditional report.

Also, it gives children practice with public speaking, presentations, and more.  Good stuff!

I appreciate the lesson plans and quizzes, although we really wouldn’t make much use of those.  Videos are more for learning enhancement in our house, as opposed to the actual lesson.

For many homeschoolers, though, this complete solution would be great; you have everything you need to cover an entire subject there in Zane.

I’d like to point out one thing: I probably wouldn’t let my child have at these videos without supervision.  For instance, there is a “Health and Sex Education” section that I wouldn’t want my nine year old to stumble upon.

I understand the reasoning behind having it there, but that’s something I wouldn’t want anyone else covering with my child.  If you control the videos watched, it won’t be a problem.


Find out what other members of the Crew thought about Zane Education by clicking the banner below!


True Confessions:  I was provided with a Gold membership to Zane Education to facilitate my review.  All opinions are my own.

This is my last TOS Crew review.  While I have enjoyed my time on the Crew, it is time for me to step down and focus on other things in my life that need attention right now.  I am grateful for all the wonderful opportunities the Crew has provided me with, and perhaps some day, if they’ll have me, I can return.


TOS Sweet Critique: Super Duper Publications – HearBuilder Following Directions

WHAT:  HearBuilder Auditory Memory Software Program

COST:  $69.95




HearBuilder is a CD-ROM software program designed to help children become better at memory and comprehension, thereby becoming better at following directions.

From their site:

HearBuilder Auditory Memory teaches key strategies for remembering numbers, words, sentences, and stories.  This research-based software includes five essential listening activities:

  • Memory for numbers {3 – 7 digits}
  • Memory for words {3 – 5 words organized by syllable}
  • Memory for details {1 – 4 details}
  • Auditory closure {sentence completion}
  • Memory for WH information {2 – 3 sentences/2 – 4 questions}

Each child is on a mission to become a successful toy maker and build a great toy factory.

Their missions take them through a variety of situations where they must stop the crazy plans of Dr. Forgetsit.

The Home Edition CD can be used with 1 – 4 children, allows you to monitor your child’s progress, print progress reports, and assign levels of play and background noise for distraction.



Babydoll is always down for playing video games.  I needed her to pick up some memory and comprehension skills to help her follow directions better.

Seemed like a win-win.

I was right.

While I mistakenly started her at a level too low for her, she enjoyed the toy factory and missions aspect of the game.

Speaking of levels, I love how you as the parent can set the level based on the child, so they don’t have to sit something agonizingly boring to them.

How do you know which level to set the game to?

The folks at Super Duper Publications have provided a handy chart in the booklet that comes with the CD.  It gives you examples of what a direction might be at each level so you can determine where your child best fits.

For a child {such as mine} who needs to see their progress, this game is great.  Your child has a “lobby” with doors to each part of the factory.

Above each door is a meter that monitors where they are in their progress to building their toy factory.

A certificate of completion hangs above the door if they’ve finished that part.

The progress reports let you see which levels your child has completed and how they did on each one.

I would definitely recommend this to any parent really.  I’ve never met one who told me that their child had great comprehension and memory techniques that helped them always follow directions.

And at least during one phase of their little lives they go through that “What? Squirrel!” phase…

Know what’s even better?  Super Duper Publications has given us a coupon code good for 30% off so you can snatch this thing up {use without the exclamation point}:  BLGAM30!


To find out what other members of the crew thought, just click the banner below!


Sweet Critique: Best of Summer Recipe Bookazine


I am unconscionably late with this review.  It’s crazy.  But, life’s been crazy so it just kind of happened…  I never take something that I don’t then review, though, so it’s going up now!

If you’re a regular here on Sweet Phenomena you know it’s no secret that we love to cook in this house.

Summertime is one of those seasons where everyone likes to cook; they like to get outside and grill, use fresh produce, visit farmers’ markets.  It’s all fun!

I was recently sent a copy of Best of Summer, a bookazine with 157 recipes, all 400 calories or less.

This is a great little thing to have in your kitchen.  Not only are there tons of great recipes, but it’s also got some great tips on throwing a party, grilling, and more.

One of my favorite recipes?

It’s labeled as a “farmers’ market favorite” – Two Cheese Corn Gratin.  Um, yum.

You can find out how to build a better burger, create some killer desserts, and share some great drinks with family.

At only $9.99, this is a killer collection that I would recommend to anyone who likes to cook or entertain.  It will be useful no matter the season!