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Resources for Your 'Little Edison'; Criticism for Rosetta Stone

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, September 05, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 71 September 5, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible. :-)


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Notes from Heather
-- Criticism for Rosetta Stone
Helpful Tip
-- Vocabulary Challenge
Winning Website
-- Biology Corner
Reader Question
-- Resources for My Little Edison?
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

This Stone Sinks:
Rosetta Stone Doesn't Translate Into Good Value


This week one of our Homeschooling Gifted email group members
shared some strong opinions about Rosetta Stone. It used to
be that you could access RS through the local public library,
but since they pulled the plug on that offering there are many
homeschoolers considering big budget outlays for securing their
own copy of this veritable icon of homeschooling curriculum.

I was impressed with Jen's evaluation (especially given her
credentials), and I think you will be, too! Knowledge is
power -- and with the economy as precarious as it is I feel an
obligation to help our readers make the wisest choices possible.

Read on for an informed opinion -- and a budget-saving option!

-- Heather

P.S. To be fair, they do have an endorsement by none other
than Michael Phelps (for what its worth!) Here is a link to
a free demo from RS: http://www.rosettastone.com/offer/phelps


Rosetta Stone vs. Auralog's 'Tell Me More'

"I wouldn't pay one red cent for Rosetta Stone. I know it's
supposed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it
really doesn't live up to its reputation. It's really good for
vocab review - if you can get it free or cheap - but that's really
all it is. Glorified vocab and phrase review. It doesn't really
go into grammar, culture, syntax, or anything deductive - it
assumes that older children and adults learn completely inductively
(like a young child), which just isn't true much of the time.

If you're going to pay for something, I'd go with 'Tell Me More'
from Auralog. It's got the good things about Rosetta Stone (the
interactive computer-based program) without the deficiencies.
It's also a full course, beginning to fluency in one program, and
allows you to have multiple users (I think up to 8?). It costs
much less, as well. It covers vocab, culture, grammar, usage,
syntax - for all levels.

I know there's a special on it right now at Homeschool Buyer's
Co op, which is free to join; depending on how many people join
the special [by September 21st], you can get it for as much as
50% off. Here's a link:


I majored in linguistics and teach foreign languages; I've never
had a student who has had a good experience with Rosetta Stone yet.
It was originally made for people like international business reps
and peace corps volunteers - people who had to be able to quickly
function in a language - not for actually learning the language.
However, they figured out that they could hit the homeschool market,
so they did. In my opinion, it's just not worth it." -- Jen


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net


*** http://www.helpme2teach.com***

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Helpful Tip

New Vocabulary Words Challenge


"My kids read a lot, as do many homeschooled kids. Because they
read far beyond their grade levels they often run across words
they don't know. Often they end up just guessing at the meaning
of these words based on context -- and have no idea how to properly
pronounce them.

To remedy this, I purchased a small notebook for each of them. I
instructed them to write down any new words they come upon while
reading and then look them up. I then award prizes for completed
definitions. One prize for 25 words, another for 50, another for
100, and a new book for 200 words. After 200 my kids start over.
They love the rewards and I love knowing that they are increasing
their vocabularies and improving dictionary skills."

-- Read while perusing the member "wisdom" page at:


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

Biology Corner

The Biology Corner is a resource site for biology and science
teachers. The 'Lesson Plans' section contains classroom activities,
labs, and worksheets. There are also quizzes, web quests and more.
This site provides materials that should compliment almost any
biology or life science curriculum.

-- Cindy Prechtel, http://www.homeschoolingfromtheheart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I have a young 'Thomas Edison'. My early elementary-age son
can't do enough experiments to satisfy his curiosity. Does
anyone have suggestions on chemistry kits, books, or other science
resources that I can use to channel his desire to learn about
science? And are there any things, in particular, that he could
use at his age with little adult assistance (I've got three to
teach!)? I have done the oil/vinegar, vinegar/baking soda, and
food coloring experiments -- and used a few experiment books --
but I am out of resources! Thanks." -- Diana

Our Readers' Responses

"Hi Diana -- I have a couple of grandsons that are into science
projects. I found and subscribed to a 'Super Charged Science'
newsletter. The woman, Aurora, gives us experiments to try at
home -- and she also has a tele-class every week. You may be
interested in checking it out:


It's free, which is great!" -- Jan A.


"There are some wonderful resources for science out there --
Treasure Box Press, Tobin's Lab and Homeschool Science Tools are
my 3 favorites! If you just google the names of these companies
they will just pop right up. Treasure Box Press sounds like it
would be a great start. They sell science kits with or without
the topical book included. My kids have done several and love
them. They sell many science topics that come in a box that
looks just like a treasure box. Tobin's lab has some wonderful
products and science kits too.

I'd also suggest owl pellets. This is simply beginner dissection.
Owls eat their prey whole and spit up the parts that do not digest,
such as bones and fur. They are firm and dry, and if done care0
fully your son can reconstruct the entire skeleton of whatever
the owl ate. Tobin's Lab sells these. He could do this on his
own, too.

Homeschool Science Tools has a lot of fun kits and is a bit more
professional looking. They have a great newsletter that I recom-
mend you sign up for. I have purchased from each and they are all
great companies. Oh, and I can't forget Lego Education! They
have some wonderful kits of simple machines that are about $20
each: build a merry-go-round, conveyor belt, pulley, etc., and
they really work! These he could do on his own by just looking
at the manual and following along." -- Michelle in Oregon


"Diana -- Check out www.superchargedscience.com This website has
a treasure trove of resources - and free science experiment ideas!
You can order science kits from them as well as sign up for their
free newsletter with great projects. Aurora Lipper, the founder,
is so excited about science - she is contagious! I saw her at the
homeschool convention in my state and it was unbelievable how many
kids gravitated toward her booth due to her enthusiasm. I highly
recommend any of her programs. Her staff is also great and always
available to answer any questions that may arise with the science
programs." -- Mardi


"The Snap Circuits electronics kits are awesome! You can see a
picture of one of the many snap circuits kits at this link:


This link is for the kit with 100 different projects. I bought my
son a bigger set with 300 different things that he could build and
he played with it for hours." -- Andrea


"We like the Backyard Scientist, especially the kits. The kit on
making slime was probably their favorite; the recipe is included
at the end of the booklet so you can make it over and over again.
Lego kits and K'Nex kits are another way for kids to explore science
concepts without a lot of supervision." -- Belynda


"Check out the 'Discover and Do' DVDs available from Sonlight.com.
See the experiments done, then do them yourself. Experiments are
short (30 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on the type) and fun to
watch. It is engaging!" -- Chris from VA


One of my favorite resources online is www.stevespanglerscience.com
You can sign up for emails with great projects to do with your kids.
Some of them require buying supplies, but they don't all require
extra things and we usually try those out. We have purchased a few
fun things, too. Depending on your location, there is even a hands
on science boot camp (for a fee) that you as the teacher can attend
to get tons of ideas from." -- Shawn G.


Hi Diana -- There is an awesome science newsletter that I receive
once a month via e-mail. It's free and full of all sorts of experi-
ments you can do with your children. It's called Home Science Tools
but the URL says home training tools - www.hometrainingtools.com
Once you are there you can click on the link for science projects
if you just want to get ideas from their web site, or you can sign
up for their free newsletter. The newsletter sign-up is on the left
side of the page toward the bottom.

They have a new pre K-4th grade newsletter that may be just what
you are looking for." -- Holly S. in Indiana


"I suggest getting him a hammer, some safety goggles and a book on
rocks. I loved breaking apart rocks when I was kid (only I didn't
use the goggles.) He can look for fossils, gemstones and learn to
identify different kinds of rocks that he finds in the yard or drive-
way. (He can also see how vinegar and baking soda effect them!)

Also, the 'Weather Wizard's Guide to Clouds' is a great little hand-
book with photos of different kinds of clouds that can be used to
predict weather. Give him the book and a notebook to make his own
records in - he will learn weather as as well as the importance of
collecting data.

American Science Surplus has lots of fairly cheap items online and
in their catalog that can be the basis for future experiments as
well. Your local library should also have books on ideas for
science fair projects that he could do." -- Cheryl


"My family of scientists loves to bake together. All the pouring
and mixing really satisfies the mad scientist in us all, not to
mention playing in the soapy water as they clean up. Very hands-on!
We've even explored the chemistry of cooking and baking such as
why does it need salt, or what does the baking powder make the mix
do? What will happen if you leave an ingredient out? It's less
costly than expensive kits. Plus, they still talk fondly of the
day we did litmus tests by mixing purple cabbage juice with almost
every liquid in our kitchen. Have fun!" -- Elizabeth G.


"I recommend Robert Krampf's Experiment of the Week. These are
free weekly e-mails. The experiments normally use common house-
hold items and are very enjoyable. You can subscribe at:


We also enjoy Beautiful Feet's History of Science. This is a liter-
ature approach to science, but includes experiments also. You
wouldn't have to buy all the books; most of them you could borrow
from the library. You would need the Study Guide and the resources
for the experiments. www.bfbooks.com

Tobin's Lab -- www.TobinsLab.com -- is a great resource for science
materials, as well." -- Mary Beth


"Try Quickstudylabs.com. The classes during the year cost, but he
also does a free summer club for kids about ages 7 and up. We did
the summer club and it was a blast -- I can't wait for my little
engineer to turn 8 next fall and try the classes during the year."
-- Anne M.


"A company I've used is Educational Innovations. Their website is:


They have the neatest science gadgets and activities." -- L.W.


"I have stumbled upon some books written by Gravitas Publications.


They write Chemistry, Biology and Physics books geared toward
elementary age children. What is nice about this company is that
they let you preview entire books, work books and teacher's guides
before you buy them to see if you are interested -- and they are
written in Pre-Level 1 and Level 1. I think the books are pretty
fabulous and will be using them when my children get a little older
than preschool age." -- Anissa


"Check out www.SteveSpanglerScience.com and sign up for his weekly
newsletter and science experiment." -- Karen W.


"Dear Diana -- I found such a nice science experiment book; it's
a Priddy book called 'My Big Science book'. It has really nice
color photos of every experiment and they all use things that can
be found around the house. You can find it at www.priddybooks.com
and probably at any major retail bookstore." -- Heather T.


"For experiments that a child can do themselves:

Mr. Wizard's Kitchen Science
(There are videos of the old shows too)

We bought kits and books before that and sometimes the experiments
just didn't work. Mr. Wizard's stuff works (almost always) and the
stuff in this book is usually on hand.

We liked the Klutz Battery Book too, but my daughter (8) can't do
the stuff alone because the pieces are too small and delicate --
she has good fine motor control, but sometimes I get frustrated by
the little pieces." -- Venus in MA


"For your 'young scientist' look into these science kits -- Home
Science Adventures at www.homeschoolscience.com . We have used
a few and have enjoyed them." -- The Epps Family

Answer our NEW Question

"I'm looking to either purchase or use a free interactive spelling
software that I can add my child's spelling words to. I would like
for them to be able to play games, do worksheets and other cool
things to help them with their spelling. I have tried Spelling City,
but the online program locks-up while my child is working in it all
the time. I also have a software package called Success Deluxe 2008;
it comes with a spelling DVD, but it's pretty boring and you have
to make your own spelling questions and put in answers. I just
don't have a lot of time for all this added work. Are there any
out there you can recommend?" -- Renee


Do you know the perfect resource for Renee or have other ideas?

Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!

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