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!


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.