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Last week The SchoolHouse Store set up residence at a new blog. You need to go on over and check it out at www.homeschoolblogger.com/storespotlight. They are going to have a lot of great stuff in store for you.

Last week they did a drawing and gave away 10 of the Homeschool Planners to some of their earliest subscribers to the blog. In addition, they are giving away a $100 store gift certificate once they reach 1,000 subscribers! And they are already over half way there!

The Store Spotlight blog offers midweek markdowns (a new item 1/2 off every week), interviews with the companies whose products they carry, and random FREE products!

With a little help from a friend and some fancy assistive technology, I recently read a book written by a fourteen year old homeschooler that I found delightful and intriguing. I seldom try to read anything that is not printed in braille anymore because it isn’t worth the migraine I get, or the time it takes to plod through the blurry words on a CCTV even though it magnifies to 78 pt font with brilliant contrast. Reluctantly, I began in order to better write this review. It didn’t take long before I found myself wanting to read longer than I could. A friend helped me at times reading it and tactually signing it to me as she went along. That is a feat in itself, believe me. You know I had to be interested to go to those extremes. Read it I did to the very last word.

I found the plot to be believable enough to imagine the three teens sneaking to the top deck during a shootout between the FBI and smugglers during a boat chase. Adventure is the genre which, especially for the audience of pre-teens and young teens, does take leaps into the imagination. It is fun at this age to imagine kids your age doing dangerous and exciting things. The story doesn’t have to be totally believable and a little preposterous is often desired. With this title, you definitely get adventure from the FBI shootout to fighting over treasure and millions of years old fossil that some believe to be Evolution’s missing link between ape and man. Don’t worry about the evolution. The author and publisher are Creation believing Christians who hope to thrill your young student while helping him to learn the foundations of Evolution and Creationism, so they could defend their beliefs like two of our book’s heroes. Their young cousin believes in evolution and hearty debates are scattered throughout the book. Through their harrowing adventures, the young cousin seems to get closer to the fact that God might actually exist and have something of interest to him. Of course, you have to read the rest of the series to find out if our two heroes continue to testify for their faith and if Christ can capture the young man’s heart. The story should keep you interested enough to finish the series.

Media Angels does a good job bringing a quality printed paperback book to publication. The audience is pre-teen and early teens. Younger children unless really interested in science or anthropology might find the book over their heads. I found the printing to be a quality dark font on a crisp, contrasting white without the white being too blinding. It really helped my eyes to pick up the print. The age group will find this helpful as well since they are transitioning usually at this time to the smaller print and longer chapter books from the books of intermediate readers to more advanced.

The young author is the daughter of the publishers. Despite her age, Christina Gerwitz did a good job producing a story that holds the attention of her targeted audience while educating them on a complicated topic at the same time. That is quite a feat. Some strict English-minded teachers might find a few spelling and grammar errors, but none are terribly distracting to the intended audience of readers. Errors are being fixed with each printing, so they should diminish with time. Considering her age at the writing, I wasn’t concerned with these errors at all. In fact, it can encourage other young potential authors to give novel writing a try. They do not have to fear that their grammatical skills would undermine their efforts completely. Editing is always needed, but a student should be encouraged to try their hand at writing. In addition, the literary world needs more Christian authors entering into the genres of adventure, fantasy, and even horror. Our children are attracted to these literature types at this age. We need to provide them with Christian titles with which to explore and dream.

Felice and Jeff Gerwitz sell this book, its sequels, and other wonderful books by other authors on their website at www.MediaAngels.com. Felice also has a new venture at www.ScholarSquare.com where she is encouraging parents to create teaching videos for homeschooling and Christian audiences.

Books are things that most homeschoolers love and can’t seem to have enough of in their home library. The right books at the right price are difficult to find, though. Most of us are looking for quality books that are grounded in biblically-based values. Homeschool Library Builder (HSLB) is a web site founded by homeschooling parents to do just that for you.

As stated in their tag line of “Fill your library without emptying your wallet”, the HSLB site is definitely where you can find new and used copies of all the books you need to operate your homeschool. The web site is organized very well. You can search by category, site specials, title, curriculum, fiction, nonfiction, picture books, and many other categories. If you can’t find a book, they can search for it for you, as well, which is often a tedious process. That is a wonderful service.

If you actually join which is free, you can get some great benefits. One is, as a member, every purchase earns you book points. You earn a book point for every dollar that you spend. Fifteen book points will give you one dollar in your account toward future purchases. That is a pretty good deal. Many other sites have worse reward deals than that.

In addition to the Frequent Buyer Program, HSLB families also use their site for other purposes for the benefit of their members. They facilitate fundraising, marketing for small, homegrown products of members, and charity donations through special book purchases. If you want to raise funds for your homeschool association or other organization, they have a program that doesn’t put your organization’s money at risk or even involve your group ordering. You may have a new product that you need to market, but being small that can be very expensive if not impossible. HSLB has a free service that allows you to advertise in their monthly newsletter that reaches a wide audience around the world. There isn’t a better way to get that new business off the ground. Probably one of the best member benefits is charity fundraising. They have special selections of books that the proceeds go to certain charitable needs. Recently, they members raised money for an autistic boy who needed a service dog. You get a great book and help someone out that might not get help from anywhere else. With all these benefits, membership is truly a reward.

HSLB is a really great site to get all of your families library needs. Check them out at www.hslibrarybuilder.com and if you like it, don’t forget to sign up as a member for free!

You might be looking for something a little extra, or you might be needing a full curriculum that doesn’t need you to do a lot of preparation and supervision. Time4Learning.com might be your answer. It covers K-8th curriculum for math, English, Reading, science, and Social Studies. It is automated and student-paced. All of the lessons are animated and colorful. They are flash and shockwave based, so you do have to make sure that you have the latest versions of those free programs. Students find the lessons to be fun and engaging. Many of the younger ones don’t seem to realize they are “doing school.” They seem to think it is play time which is a good thing. The lessons are individualized to a degree with the student being placed at the beginning where the parent feels they are most comfortable learning. Students then complete lessons in a sequence decided by the Time4Learning. Parent can make some adjustments if needed. Students can also go back and do completed lessons as often as they wish.

The program is subscription-based meaning you do have to pay a monthly fee per child  to access it. The fee is $19.95 per month for the first child and $14.95 for the second child. You can get a free trial to try before you buy, and even a 14 day money back guarantee if it just doesn’t click with your child. The fee isn’t too bad when you consider all of the lessons you can provide to your student in an interactive format.

Many special needs students can easily learn and progress on this program if they are dyslexic, autitistic, ADD/ADHD, etc. The format is a good fit for many of those disabilities. However, I can’t access the site because I am DeafBlind. I had to get a hearing/sighted person to use the review access and tell me how it went. It is hard writing a review like that, but I am doing my best. Therefore, my blind and DeafBlind students would not be able to use the program either because their assistive technology can not access the flash and shockwave lessons. My Deaf only students can probably do most of the site, although they would have to learn that they missed a question if it didn’t change the screen or if the problem was reset because those clues are only auditory. However, the vast majority of students do not have these severe problems, so I can’t expect them to try and accommodate my students.

Most students will find the program easy and fun to understand. That alone will assure success in many cases because the frustration level is lowered tremendously. The program doesn’t have harsh failure responses. You merely try again which takes the pressure off a child who has been too used to failing and gives up easily with other parent-led programs or harsh response systems. The student doesn’t feel the humiliation as badly with the computer.

There are also games to play that are fun to play during break time such as Tetris and Pac Man. Those games are good for eye and hand coordination practice to some degree, but mostly they are just plain fun. These games can give them hours of entertainment.

Parents have the ability to print out practice sheets to use off-line and progress reports to help track improvement. There is also a forums area where parents can share tips and discuss homeschooling issues. Customer service is provided by phone or email, so if problems do arise, you do have help to save the day’s lesson.

Overall, Time4Learning is a well-done online program that can be useful in many ways. Regardless of how you use it such as a supplement, a summer program, or a full curriculum, your child should benefit from it and enjoy doing their lessons.

If you want more information, go to www.time4learning.com.

Author Ed Dunlop has completed another title in the Terrestria world. The first book in his new Tales from Terrestria series is Quest for Thunder Mountain. The book was written to help young adult readers experience the wonder of finding and doing the will of the King. There is  The Old SchoolHouse review at www.Talesofcastles.com. To launch the book, there is a good, but simple contest that you can enter. The prize is one of 15 copies of the new book, Quest for Thunder Mountain. Head on over to http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/HSBCompanyBlog/610676/ to find out all about it. Good luck!!

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