TOS Sweet Critique: IXL



COST: $9.95/month or $79/year

RECOMMENDED AGES: Pre-K through early high school



IXL is an interactive site designed to help students practice math skills.

It covers Pre-K math through algebra.  Plans are in the works to also offer subjects such as geometry and trigonometry.

IXL Screen Samples

As children progress through each exercise, they earn awards that show up on a virtual game board.

IXL Awards and Games
Parents have access to a parent dashboard where they can view reports such as progress made over time, types of math completed, medals and awards earned, proficiency, and much more.

IXL Family Reports

IXL lists the follow benefits associated with membership in the program:


Babydoll isn’t a math lover.  At all.  So reviewing anything math-related can be a tough task for her.

IXL isn’t designed to be a play-all-the-time math game, it’s designed to be practice.  With any practice in an area you aren’t too fond of, there’s a certain amount of tedium.

Babydoll thought the awards system could use an overhaul.  She prefers to be able to “use” her awards in a system like this: plant a tree, buy a skirt, outfit an avatar.

I guess maybe it feels more gratifying to her after having to sit through math practice!

It may just be an age thing {she’s almost 10}, or perhaps just her personality, but this was her biggest issue with the program.  Uncovering pictures on a game board just wasn’t enough to hook her.

There is definitely an element of surprise on the themed game boards for each level, so other children may absolutely love uncovering items for each theme.

As a parent, I appreciated the parent dashboard.

When you’re using something like IXL, you need to know it’s working.  I need to be able to see proficiency and mastery, among other metrics, and in this IXL delivers.

I also liked it’s bright colors and fun graphics.

Definitely check it out if you’re in need of a more fun way to “drill” your child in math.  This just might do the trick.

They offer the option to practice for free {up to 20 questions per day} so you can see if it’s something that would work for your family before committing to membership.


True Confessions:  I was provided with a membership to this site in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.


TOS Sweet Critique: Pearson Homeschool myWorld Social Studies – Grade 5

Pearson Social Studies Grade 5

Pearson Homeschool LogoWHAT: Pearson Homeschool myWorld Social Studies – Grade 5

COST: $69.99




Pearson Homeschool has tried to provide homeschooling parents with curricula that makes use of a variety of learning methods:  game-like drills, videos, workbooks, and more.

They provide science, reading, language arts, math, and social studies products.

The myWorld social studies products are for Kindergarten through 6th grade, and cover reading maps, how the US came to be, historical figures, and more.  A focus is put on helping the student see how they fit into the communities they are a part of and how events and people are all related.

The myWorld bundle comes with a student worktext, myStory Video DVD-ROM, and Teacher’s Resource Library DVD-ROM.

Students are encouraged to write in the worktext as they circle, underline, write, and more to make the lesson real to them.  In addition, each lesson has a real-life story that relates to the material, making the lesson even more applicable to the student.

Video field trips are featured on the myStory Video and the Teacher’s Resource Library contains lesson plans, hands-on activity ideas, and much more.


Loved it!  Both of us!

This bundle marries everything Babydoll and I love in a curriculum:  workbooks, reading, multimedia learning, and projects.

The Worktext

The worktext is colorful and engaging.  And let’s face it, what child doesn’t like to write in their books?

The first thing the student is asked to do is to draw a picture of themselves and write their name on the cover.  Awesome.


Nine chapters cover aspects of Building Our Country such as The First Americans, Life in the Colonies, The American Revolution, and Civil War and Reconstruction.

Each lesson within a chapter contains the Big Question {or what the student will learn from that chapter}, vocabulary, reading passages, and questions they can answer right in the book.

The text contains a variety of questions as well:  categorization, drawing conclusions, cause and effect, etc.

Also {and one of my favorite parts!}, there are myStory Ideas throughout, and these, my friends, are so cool!  Your child can head to Tikatok and answer these questions, illustrate them, etc., and at the end of the book, if you so choose, you can print out your child’s work.  A year’s worth of stuff in a tidy little book that they’ve illustrated.  Win.

Another cool thing is the Stop! Wait! Go! section at the end of each lesson.  Your child can tell you to stop {because they need help with…}, wait {because they have a question about…}, or go {now they know…}.

And don’t forget the videos.  An icon throughout each lesson will tell you when there is a corresponding video for the lesson.

Each chapter ends with a study guide and review and assessment.

Pearson Social Studies Grade 5

The myStory Video DVD-ROM

The videos on this DVD are engaging and interesting.  Babydoll enjoyed watching them.

We’ve done electronic field trips before and love them.  While they’re not quite the real thing, they’re still really neat to view.

I think she found it a welcome break in the lesson.  She loves to read, but she also isn’t a fan of writing, so I think the videos provided just enough “fun” to keep her hooked.

The Teacher’s Resource Library DVD-ROM

This DVD has pretty much everything you’d need to teach these lessons.  Lesson plans, maps, extra activity ideas, it’s all there.

I’m torn, though.  While I love the idea of a small footprint and the shear magnitude of info on the DVD, I’m also  partial to print teacher’s guides.

Probably not a big deal, because of course I can print the items I need, but I am a workbook lover just like Babydoll

Final Thoughts

We enjoyed this product so much!  I actually can’t wait to take a look at other Crew reviews since some folks got to review things like Pearson’s reading product.

The product itself is a quality product {I can’t stop holding the worktext, there’s just something about it; it’s perfect!}, a wealth of information is covered, and it’s done in a fun, engaging, and relevant way.

My one disappointment was that some of the online activities mentioned within the work text are not available for homeschoolers.  Pearson did mention this in the guide that came with the materials, and I understand needing to be cost efficient.

Babydoll and I, however, are box-checkers, and we really wanted to complete the activities on the site.  I spoke with a Pearson rep and was told I could purchase a license on my own, which I eagerly wanted to do, but the sales rep I talked to didn’t know how to help me.

I’m sure that since this is something new for them, everyone isn’t quite sure what to do with us!


See what other members of the Crew thought about the Pearson products they reviewed by clicking the banner below.


True Confessions:  I was provided with a copy of this product in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  We really did enjoy it though!

TOS Sweet Critique: Mobile Education Tools StoryBuilder

StoryBuilder app homescreen

PhotobucketWHAT:  StoryBuilder app for iPod Touch, iPad, & iPhone

COST:  $5.99




StoryBuilder app homescreen

StoryBuilder is an app by Mobile Education Tools that is designed to help children:

  • improve paragraph formation
  • improve idea integration
  • improve inference abilities

While it is dependent upon the settings you choose, your child is presented with a picture, and possibly a narrated question, that is supposed to encourage them to create a story.

StoryBuilder app for iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone

StoryBuilder app for iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone

Your child can record, repeat the question, skip the picture, and then when they’re finished {generally five or seven questions}, they can listen to their entire story or email it.

You have the option of customizing your child’s experience by allowing for narrated questions, number of questions, and more.

StoryBuilder app settings

You can even sign up for an account for the Parents’ Center.

StoryBuilder app Parents' Center


At first, Babydoll was not at all a fan.  She’s nine, going on 10, and she thought the narration and pictures were a little too “immature” for her.

However, Daddy came to the rescue.

By answering seven questions about a particular image {a busted up giraffe}, he created a narrative that had all three of us laughing hysterically.

This got Babydoll excited about using the app.

She immediately ran off to come up with a silly story for us.

When she came back, she had put together a silly little story about a man who had been splashed by mud after his car broke down.

Then, something became apparent to her.

She had simply answered the questions that had been asked.  When these were put together into a story, it made no sense.  Information had been left out.

The app teaches children how to answer questions in a way that many of us learned to answer questions: by restating the question in the answer.

Once she realized this, Babydoll was able to better craft her story.

She did about three more stories and was done for the day.

I think this app can be very effective if you stick with it and help your child along at first.  It takes some inference skills to really be able to work this, but once it’s been established, it can be fun.

Also, I personally don’t think this is an app that can be used as a game that a child can play everyday.  Sure, it’s fun, but it’s not mindless entertainment.

I think after a while of continuous play Babydoll would start to view it more as work than fun.  Then again, she also isn’t a fan of grammar/language arts.

All-in-all, I would recommend this to you guys, just be sure you’re prepared to be silly to show your kids how it works.



TRUE CONFESSIONS:  I was provided with a copy of this app in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.


TOS Sweet Critique: Heritage History

PhotobucketWHAT:  Heritage History British Empire

COST:  $24.99

RECOMMENDED AGES:  Fourth grade reading level through high school



Heritage History offers a number of products, to include CDs containing living books, study guides, maps, and more.

The British Empire CD, specifically, has 57 books, over 50 maps, a study guide, and more, and covers 18th and 19th century world history.

All of the books on the CDs were published prior to 1923 and are living books, meaning they’re not written from an analytical, fact-driven perspective.  They’re written more as a narrative.

The curriculum is designed to cover the major and important parts of history, not every little mundane fact.


This was an entirely new way of teaching for me.  I just recently learned about living books, and I have to say it was intense for me!

That’s not to say I didn’t like the curriculum, it’s just a stretch for me right now.

What I did love about the CD is the wealth of information contained.

It contains maps {a ton!}, a timeline, a compendium of “characters” from the British Empire, information about battles, etc.

So, even if you’re someone like me who prefers a less living books approach to teaching, the CD still has an amazing number of resources that would likely come in handy.

Plus, since the books are meant to be read for fun, your avid reader might still enjoy reading the books as supplemental material.

I appreciate the fact that Heritage History has taken the time to provide an extensive study guide and curriculum guide so that you can really understand the purpose and method behind this type of education.

They really do give you all you’d need to successfully teach this for an entire year, even if you’d never heard of a living book.

All that said, I’d recommend it regardless of your teaching style.  At only $30, you’ve got an extensive library of resources that can enhance any history curriculum.


See what other members of the Crew thought by clicking here.

True Confessions:  I was provided with these materials in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

TOS Sweet Critique: WriteShop Junior Book D


WHAT:  WriteShop Junior Book D

COST:  Teacher’s Guide:  hard copy {$39.95} OR eBook {$34.95} AND Activity Pack:  hard copy {$39.95} OR eBook {$29.95}

RECOMMENDED AGES:  Grades 3 and 4, although it can be used with reluctant writers in grades 5 and 6 {reluctant 3rd graders might want to start with Primary Book C}



WriteShop Junior is a homeschool creative writing program for upper elementary students.

Using fun graphics, engaging games and activities, and age-appropriate methods, WriteShop Junior helps you teach the writing process and self-editing skills to your child.

The program comes with a teacher’s guide and activity pack {student worksheet pack AND Fold-N-Go grammar pack}.


Oh man, I love it.  LOVE it!

Babydoll can’t stand writing, and the writing program we originally started with didn’t do much to make her like it either.

I think part of the problem is my inability to teach the process.  I’ve never been a follower of the actual process, although after going through it in college, I see the benefit.

While I know how I sit down and write, I can’t communicate to Babydoll, who hates to write, how to sit down and write something.



The teacher’s guide does a phenomenal job of walking you through the entire process of teaching your child to write.

It doesn’t just tell you which lessons to do on what day.  You are given ideas to create a portable or permanent writing station, several sample schedules to follow, tips on how much you should help your child, and more.

After just reading through the first portion of the teacher’s guide I felt like I would be better equipped to teach Babydoll the writing process.

You are given an easy breakdown of advanced prep, materials needed, and other helpful tips for each lesson.  They’ve designed it in a way that allows a more confident teacher to take what they need and go, while someone like me who is a little uneasy about the whole process can really get the guidance they need.



The activity pack is full of everything your student will need to complete WriteShop Junior.

The fonts and graphics are fun; Babydoll was quickly enticed.



I definitely recommend trying this product if you’re looking for a writing curriculum.

I had all but given up, hoping that as she progressed through her other studies we could find ways to tie writing in.

I am so happy that we had the opportunity to give this a try!

Want to purchase for yourself?  They’ve kindly given us a coupon code for you!!!

Use CREW15 for 15% off any WriteShop Primary or Junior purchase now through June 15th!


Find out what other members of the Crew thought about WriteShop here.

Several different levels were sent out to Crew members, so if your child is not in this grade range, you might find an appropriate level in another review.

True Confessions:  I was provided with these materials in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.