The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

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Learning Resources Review by Lisa Barthuly & Family

Learning Resources

Get ready for buckets full of fun and learning!!! I want to introduce you to a tremendous source for homeschooling products, Learning Resources. A quick look through their catalog reveals that they have hundreds of products to help homeschoolers learn everything from language arts and math, to science and early education skills. The following review covers many of their most popular products and some new items on the market. Whether you need complete curriculum ideas, or just need to fill in a few holes here and there, it would be well worth a journey through their website,, or calling and asking for a catalog (1-800-222-3909). To avoid being terribly redundant (a little redundancy is okay, but I don't want to put you to sleep), here are some consistent things about all of the products discussed in this review:

  • Solid educational value - Learning Resources offers traditional types of learning products, creative new ways to learn, and educational games and toys. Even the games and toys will have your kids learning great skills while having a bit of fun!
  • Activity guides - Nearly every product includes great activity guides with full instructions and creative ideas for using the product in a variety of ways.
  • Manipulatives - Learning Resources takes the idea of manipulatives to a whole new level! They have traditional Cuisenaire rods, plastic frogs and worms for counting and sequencing, monkeys on a tree for learning to measure, and Reading Rods with letters, words and pictures for learning phonics. These are the most hands-on products I have seen!
  • Colorful and fun - If you are tired of boring educational products, you will love Learning Resources! Everything I looked at is bright, cheerful, interesting, colorful, easy to use, and captures my children's attention.
  • Multi-sensory - Most kids learn best when several senses are utilized at the same time. That is why I love that these products are very multi-sensory, utilizing sight, hearing and movement very effectively. This is particularly important for kids with special needs who benefit from learning things in many different ways through all of their senses. It also means that you can often use the same product effectively for one child who is very visual and for another child who is a very kinesthetic learner.
  • Great quality and reasonable prices - The products are well thought-out and organized. They are practical with convenient holders for pieces, etc. I'm a bit of a tightwad, but I was still impressed with the prices. You can probably find some cheaper items for a few of these products, but you would be hard pressed to find better quality for the price. Everything I looked at should last through the rough and tumble of at least a couple of children, if not a whole brood, for years.
  • Different ways to approach the same skill, for different styles of learning, and with multiple levels of difficulty - They don't just sell one type of manipulative for math, or one phonics program. You can pick and choose the best combination for your particular child's needs. Most of the items can be purchased in an economical set with everything you need, or individually if you only need the activity cards or manipulatives, etc.
  • Where can you buy these great products? Directly from the company at (1-800-222-3909), or from most teacher supply stores, discount chains and toy stores.

Preschool Products:

  • Smart Snacks ($12.95 each) - What child doesn't like to play with their food? These clever and realistic looking snack-shaped toys allow your child to learn while playing with pretend food. The quality and durability are excellent! Recommended for Pre-K and up.
  • Sorting Shapes Cupcakes - This set consists of six cupcakes with their own matching muffin pan. Each of the cupcakes breaks apart to reveal a hidden shape that fits together with the other half to make a cupcake. Then each cupcake matches the shape in the muffin pan. Each cupcake also has frosting on top with sprinkles in the shape that is hidden inside. These are wonderful for learning shapes, for pretend play, and for fine motor skills.
  • Counting Cookies - Ten pretend cookies with a matching blue cookie jar make learning to count lots of fun. Each cookie has a number from one to ten on the back, and a matching number of toppings on the front. This gives children many ways to conceptualize numbers, counting and sequencing.
  • Rainbow Color Cones - I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream! Kids love ice cream and these great cones and ice cream scoops are great for learning colors. The set comes with two ice cream cones and eight colored ice cream scoops. Each scoop is a different color with the color labeled on the inside. The scoops can fit on top of the cones and on each other to make a tower of ice cream. A few of the pieces were hard to separate at first, but I think they will loosen up as the kids play with them. My three-year-old, Benjamin, likes to say the color and then put the scoop on top. Then he pretends to lick the whole thing. He loves to practice his colors with these.

Language Arts Products:

  • Reading Rods Phonics Activity Sets ($29.95 each) - These four Activity Sets create a comprehensive and complete phonics learning program for kids from recognizing letters and their sounds, to spelling and putting words together in sentences. The motto is, "Build It, Read It, Write It." The key difference between this and most other phonics programs, is that each book-like Activity Set includes about 100 phonics manipulatives, called Reading Rods, for letters, pictures to match with letter sounds, blends, and words. Inside the carrying case, there is a pocket for the Reading Rods, an activity tray for working with the manipulatives and cards, a dry-erase board, marker and eraser for writing practice, a booklet of additional ideas and games to utilize the sets, and 20 double-sided activity cards. The activity cards provide wonderful practice on the various skills and additional helpful information. I love the practicality of these sets, as well as their thoroughness. Everything is in one convenient kit that combines solid phonics instruction with practical hands-on activities utilizing several fun methods of learning. Kids who are very hands-on or are struggling with traditional methods would likely find these Activity Sets very helpful. They would also be wonderful tools for review, or for additional practice with other phonics programs.
  • Letters & Sounds - This set introduces the letters and helps children learn to match the sounds with the letters. It also introduces alphabetical order, practice writing letters and words, and building simple words. Recommended for Pre-K and up.
  • Word Building - This set takes children to the next level by helping them learn to combine the letters and sounds to create words. The Reading Rods have consonants, vowels, blends, vowel combinations and word families (word endings that can be combined with many different beginning sounds to create different words, such as "at, -in, -ad, -all, and ave"). These activities are designed to help kids learn the short and long vowel sounds, work with rhyming words, recognize spelling patterns, and understand how different combinations of letters can create the same sounds. Recommended for Grades 1 and up.
  • Sentence Building - The next step is obviously putting these words into sentences that make sense! This kit not only works with kids on building sentences, but also on understanding parts of speech, synonyms and antonyms, and punctuation. The Reading Rods are color-coded for nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and punctuation marks. Recommended for Grades 1 and up.
  • Spelling - We mustn't forget spelling in this mix! The Spelling set includes consonant and vowel Reading Rods, and provides practice at learning spelling rules and patterns, and using words in the correct context. Recommended for Grades 2 and up.
  • Reading Rods Readers: Phonics Foundation Sets 1 and 2 ($67.95 each) - I looked at the first set, which focuses on short and long vowels and initial blends. The second set teaches ending consonant blends, silent-letters, digraphs, vowel patterns, etc. Each set includes 16 short readers (in a sturdy box) with entertaining stories, teacher's helps in the front cover, focus words and sight words, and additional activities in the back cover. Each reader focuses on a different skill, and there is an activity book and a review book included. The set also includes a bucket of 108 Reading Rods, which are color-coded interlocking blocks of consonants, vowels, blends, and vowel combinations. The Reading Rods give kids a hands-on way to practice everything from letter recognition and letter sounds, to spelling and rhyming. For example, to help kids understand the letter family - at, different beginning sounds could be placed on the blocks -a and -t, to form hat, sat, rat, etc. Then a different ending letter could be used to form ran, man, etc. I found the stories and pictures to be light and engaging, with lots of humor and repetition. These sets provide an excellent introduction to phonics, a good review of skills learned with more hands-on practice, or a great way to hone-in on a few sticky skills. Recommended for Grades 1 and up.
  • Reading Rods Alphabet Books and Bucket of Phonemic Awareness Rods ($47.95 for the set) - This is another excellent manipulatives-based set for beginning reading skills! The Alphabet Books are a set of 26 short books in a storage box, with one book for each letter of the alphabet and an activity guide. They have several colorful pages with one word and one picture each, and plenty of activities to practice the word. The Reading Rods are color-coded for vowels, consonants, and pictures of words used in the books. For example, one activity in the "M" book is to change the word "mouse" to the word "mop" and say it. This great set could be used for early reading skills to teach the letters, all the way up to practicing spelling with more difficult words. Another great hands-on tool, especially for kids who thrive on manipulatives or are struggling with traditional methods. Recommended for Pre-K and up.
  • Word for Word Phonics Game ($29.95) - Here is a game that uses the same great color-coded Reading Rod manipulatives discussed above for a fun way to practice phonics. There are rods for consonants, vowels, blends, word families, and word endings. The goal is to make as many words as possible out of the allotted Reading Rods in two minutes. There are several variations depending on the skills you want to practice and the level of your child. The game is fast-paced and fun, as well as a wonderful way to practice phonics skills. It could be played with one to four players, and is recommended for Grades 2 and up.
  • Pharaoh's Phonics Game ($17.95) - Another great phonics game for kids ages 7 and up! The board has four pyramids, one for each player, that have to be filled in with words made from the square word building cards. Each player chooses one vowel that must be in each of their words, and then they use the other vowel, consonant and blend cards to make words that fit in the required spaces. Pharaoh's Phonics is basically an easier, shorter, fast-paced version of Scrabble. The board and pieces are colorful with a fun theme. There are a couple of variations on the game depending on the needs of the child. My son, Josiah, really enjoyed the challenge and came up with some great words! This is a very nice way to practice phonics skills in a mildly competitive, hands-on, fun format!
  • Crossword Toss Game ($17.95) - Yes, it's another phonics game! This game takes the prize on creativity and fun. It is set up like a ball toss from a carnival, complete with vowel and consonant cubes to form words and toss for prizes, a pop-up game board, and 84 prize cards. The rules are a bit complicated, but overall this is a fun and educational game! Each player rolls the letter cubes and then forms as many words as possible. Every letter that is used in a word can be tossed onto the game board cups for prizes (adding a bit of fine motor skill). Each of the prizes is spelled out with a missing letter that can be filled in at the end for points. This game would be great for kids who need an active, bright, fun game to interest them in practicing phonics. It combines nearly all of the senses and provides a solid educational foundation. Recommended for Grades 1 and up.
  • Phonics Ad Libs Books ($9.95 each for two levels of phonics and a grammar book) - If you need a fun way to practice phonics and grammar, you might enjoy these books. The Phonics books have two levels, for Grades K-1, and Grades 1-2, and he Grammar book is for Grade 3. There are a variety of activities, such as fill-in-the-blank stories and puzzles, covering a range of topics, such as blends, digraphs, diphongs, vowel sounds, word sentence construction, prefixes and suffixes, and parts of speech. The activities are fun and educational enough to use as a warm-up or a lesson.
  • Scrambled Word Building Activity Books ($12.95 each for Grades 1-3) - Maybe you are more of a workbook kind of family? Here are some great, inexpensive workbooks for practicing phonics for Grades 1 through 3. These workbooks are different, though, because like so many of the Learning Resources products, they have manipulatives to make the activities more hands-on and concrete. There are 70 alphabet cards in the back that tear out and then store in a handy pocket in the back cover. The cards allow kids to practice what they are learning and try different combinations to find what works. For example, Activity 28 in the Grade 1 book gives kids the letters "d, -o, -r, -w, and l," and asks them to make two two-letter words, three three-letter words, and a four-letter word, building to the final five-letter word ("world"). These workbooks are a great trade-off between hands-on activities and traditional workbooks, with lots of fun activities and challenges.

Math Products:

  • Math Mat Challenge Game ($29.95) - Throw away those boring flashcards! How about a fun and kinesthetic way to learn numbers, counting, addition and subtraction? Picture a 34" flat, colorful mat with big number buttons around the edge and control buttons on the bottom. Kids press the buttons by stepping on them as they run around on the outside answering questions and having a ball. The more you guess correctly, the faster the game goes. It's the perfect activity for Grades Pre-K and up kids who usually enjoy lots of movement and fun sound effects while they learn. You can even play with your kids, trying to race to answer the question first. I'll be keeping an eye out for the multiplication and division version, the fractions version, the phonics version, . . . !
  • Let's Tackle Math! Patterning & Sequencing ($44.95) - What does tackle - as in fishing tackle - have to do with math? Plenty with this ingenious set of 252 bugs, frogs and worm counters, complete with tackle box and activity book! I love this set, partially because of the tremendous fun and educational value, and partially because I have three sons and don't particularly enjoy having real frogs on my kitchen table. The counters come in lots of fun shapes (grasshoppers, bees, beetles, caterpillars, dragonflies, spiders, four varieties of frogs, and four different lengths of worms), each with five colors of the critters. The activity book, which fits neatly in the sorting tray, is a 25-page book of sorting activities and games. The child just matches the counters to the activities in the book and fills in the missing space. These counters would also be a wonderful early counting tool, or could provide practice with colors, or alike and different questions, or measuring, or even learning about different species, etc. My nine-year old son likes the sequencing, and my 3-year-old son uses them to sort colors. I would love to see Learning Resources write a few more advanced sequencing books to continue the learning with this great set! Recommended for Grades Pre-K and up.
  • Talking Clever Clock ($34.95) and Clever Clock Workbook ($4.95) - The Talking Clever Clock is like the GeoSafari of time telling. A large yellow clock with movable hands sits on top of an LCD screen with a matching analog clock and digital readout. There are several games kids can use to learn to tell time and practice time-lapse problems. It even has a stopwatch feature. The sound effects help keep the learning fun, while the games and the LCD analog clock reinforce the concepts. The one drawback is that it only works for multiples of 5 minutes (such as 7:35 or 3:10, but not 7:33 or 3:08). Overall, an excellent product that would be very helpful for kids who need some real hands-on practice to learn to tell time. There is also a 32-page Clever Clock Workbook that takes students through the steps of learning to tell time using the Clever Clock. I would recommend using both to bring the concepts to life! Recommended for Grades K and up.
  • Buy It Right Shopping Game ($19.95, comes in U.S. or Canadian Currency versions) - Learning goes to the shopping center in this fast-paced game about money recognition, adding and making correct change. Kids move around the game board while purchasing items to fill their shopping cart. This is a great way to practice money skills while having fun. Kids can use the included calculator for making change, or you can require them to use pencil and paper or mental math. Another fun and educational game! Recommended for Grades 1 and up.
  • Folding Geometric Shapes ($32.95) - Where were these great shapes when I was learning geometry? The set includes eight shapes (cube, cylinder, cone, square pyramid, triangular pyramid, hexagonal prism, rectangular prism and triangular prism). Each shape has a clear plastic casing and a softer, flat form of the shape called a net. The net can lie flat and then fold to cover the inside surface of the shape. Think of the applications! Maybe your kids don't quite understand the difference between perimeter and area. The net can be used to show what the shape would look like if it could be flattened out, then it can be put in the casing to show the 3-dimensional shape. Or the casings can be used to study volume (fill them up with rice and measure to see if your calculations are correct). Or the net can be folded in two to see if the shape is symmetrical. My son loved working with these shapes and seemed to develop a better grasp of geometry from them. Maybe in the future, I would like to see the surfaces work with a dry erase marker so measurements can be written directly on the shapes. We had a little trouble with the lids staying on, although a bit of adhesive tape easily fixed this. The quality is very good so they should last throughout the school years. It comes with a brief guide for using these great shapes to explain geometrical concepts, including formulas for perimeter, area, surface area, and volume (although I'm sure you remember those formulas from school, right?). This is one of those products that you will find yourself pulling off the shelf over and over to explain something.
  • Measuring Monkeys Measurement Game ($17.95) - Imagine monkeys racing to the top of a tree, trying to hold on to their bananas and inch (literally) their way to the top. I tried to think of a clever way to practice measuring and had zip, zero, nadda great ideas! Learning Resources came up with a hilarious game that has kids practicing measuring in ¼", ½", ¾", and 1" increments, without any of the usual complaints. Kids have to measure correctly to move up the tree. There are two levels of play on the double-sided spinner to accommodate the needs of your child. This game would be fun practice for kids just learning to measure, or a great review for reinforcing concepts. Recommended for Grades K through 2.
  • Connecting Cuisenaire Rod Kits ($39.95 each for Grades 1-3 Addition and Subtraction, Grades 2-4 Multiplication and Division, or Grades 3-6 Fractions and Decimals classroom kits) - Cuisenaire rods are one of the absolute staples of homeschooling math, although I have to admit that we had never used them before. We used lots of homemade manipulatives, such as pennies, poker chips, cardboard cutouts, etc., but I will never go back after looking at these high-quality Cuisenaire rods in the addition and subtraction kit. The kits come with 155 Connecting Cuisenaire Rods, 60 Overhead Rods, a teacher's guide, and 48 double-sided activity cards. The rods are color-coded for each length, i.e., all one-unit rods are white, etc., easily connect together, and are measured in 1 cm increments. The teacher's guide shows the basics of how to use the rods for teaching addition and subtraction, including activities to teach the commutative property of addition (that the numbers can be added in any order), place value, finding missing numbers, etc. My favorite part of the set is the activity cards that use the rods to teach progressively more difficult addition and subtraction problems. If your kids are hands-on learners, then Cuisenaire rods are an invaluable tool to make abstract math concepts come to life.
  • Deluxe Fraction Tower Activity Set ($23.95) - This set is like Cuisenaire rods for fractions! It starts with 51 interlocking Fraction Cubes that fit neatly into a Fraction Tower Base. The cubes cover fractions with denominators of every number from 1 to 12, except 7, 9 and 11. The student can compare different combinations of cubes to see what fractions are equivalent, or for adding and subtracting fractions. There is also a wonderful activity guide that includes ideas for a huge variety of fraction concepts, and 12 double-sided activity cards that allow students to practice various concepts. The card is placed on the Fraction Tower Base and then the rods can be matched to the activities. Fractions are a challenge for many kids who need a concrete, visual, hands-on way of understanding how things can be divided into parts and manipulated. These rods could be used independently with the Activity Cards and Activity Guide, or could be used with your own curriculum. The rods and Activity Cards can be purchased separately or as a set, and there are additional types of rods (such as decimals) and Activity Sets available. Recommended for Grades 1-6.
  • Pizza Fraction Fun Game ($17.95) - I'm sure somewhere in America there are a few kids who do not like pizza, but I don't know any! So take a subject that many kids struggle with, such as fractions, add a fun pizza theme, and you have a great way for kids to practice fractions. The Pizza Fraction Fun Game consists of 13 realistic looking pizza shapes cut into a variety of fraction sizes. With three different double-sided spinners, you can play seven different games to practice a variety of fraction topics, such as identifying fractions, adding and subtracting fractions, and making equivalent fractions. For example, kids can take two ¼ slices and fit them over a ½ slice to see if they are really equivalent. Or they might need to trade out pieces that equal the same amount, or figure out which combination of fractions gives them more needed pieces, etc. The games are easy to play, provide wonderful practice, and will have even fraction-phobic kids begging for more. What a wonderful way to make a fairly abstract topic, into something concrete and fun! Recommended for Grades 1 and up.

Science Products:

  • 10 Easy Steps to Teaching books ($14.95 each with six different science topics, three for Grades K-2 and three for Grades 3-5, and four professional development topics available) - These books are designed to be used as either ready-to-use units or as supplemental material on each topic. They include lessons plans, background information, charts and graphs, hands-on activities, additional resources, and even flashcards that fit into a handy pocket in the back cover. For example in the weather book, there are charts to fill out to study the weather, experiments to learn about weather, instructions to build a barometer and a psychrometer, charts and graphics to understand different types of clouds, workbook pages for the kids to fill out, etc. These guides are simple to use, very comprehensive, contain excellent experiments and activities, and can easily be adapted for your child's interests and level. There are downloadable samples of these and many other Learning Resource books online at!
  • Spotlight on Science Kits ($14.95 each with 12 different topics available) - These kits are everything you need for great science fun and learning in a convenient box. I reviewed the Cookin' Up Science kit, which contains 24 experiment cards, an activity guide, and a variety of materials such as a thermometer, magnet, balloons, 2-V light bulb, and beans. Each activity card gives instructions and explanations for an experiment on the front, and interesting background information on the back. Cookin' Up Science demonstrates the amazing science going on in our kitchen everyday - who knew? You can crush a soda can using only air pressure, clean pennies with salsa, make raisin submarines, grow mold, and make candy or goo! I liked this set because the instructions are easy to follow, the background information is helpful, the questions use Socratic reasoning to discuss what happened, the experiments use only items found in the kit or commonly found at home, and my 9-year-old science-lover thought they were great! Recommended for Grades 4-8.

Building Products:

  • Gears! Gears! Gears! Super Set ($39.95) - If your kids like playing with gears, and you like the educational value and fine motor practice that goes with gears, you are both going to love these sets! The Super Set comes with 150 pieces of spinning, twirling, colorful fun, all in a sturdy bucket. There are green base pieces, various sizes of gears, pillar extenders, six-way axles, square pillars and a crank handle. The gears can be connected several different ways to create an unlimited number of unique inventions. My 9-year-old son made all kinds of neat creations and even my 3-year-old thought these were great fun. Little did they know that they were also practicing coordination, fine motor skills, and creativity! This is the best set of gears I have seen! I was impressed with the bright, colorful, well-built pieces, and with the many ways they can be used together. The gears can be used just for fun, for a reward after schoolwork is completed, or for specific projects, such as exploring how gears are used in all kinds of ways.
  • Gears! Gears! Gears! Classroom Kits ($149.95 for a 3-station kit or $259.95 for a 6-station kit, available for either Grades K-2 or Grades 3-5) - The classroom kits were designed especially for classroom use, but would be wonderful for homeschoolers as well. Each station comes with over 100 pieces in a sturdy box, with an 80-page Teaching Guide that includes blackline masters and many activities to explore the unique properties of gears. Each station also includes a motor so the gear creations can move, and many fun pieces such as googly eyes, springs, cranks, and wheels. It is unbelievable how many different ways they can be used. I would like to see these kits available in one station units for homeschoolers, although a couple of families could buy a 3-station kit and each use one station, making it more economical. This is a phenomenal set of gears with an excellent Teaching Guide. Your kids won't even know they are learning something along the way! And if you like these products, take a quick look at the other gear products available through Learning Resources, such as Dizzy Fun Land, Under the Sea, The Beginner's Building Set, The Oogly Googly Set, and The Robot Motorized Set!
  • M*Gears Motorized Building Set ($36.95) - M*Gears are the next generation of gears for children Grades 2 and up. There are 350 pieces, with smaller gears, a huge variety of accessories, and a motor to make the inventions come to life. The instruction manual provides wonderful, easy-to-follow guides for assembling everything from a road racer car, to a gear loader, to a skateboarder, to a sky chopper and bulldozer. My 9-year-old son had no difficulty assembling the projects and was overjoyed with what he was able to build. He thought this set was better for kids who like to follow a design, while the regular gears were better for kids who like to create their own projects. I think he is right, although the M*Gears certainly leave plenty of room for creating new and wondrous creations!

Misc. Products:

  • Daily Core Curriculum books ($19.95 each for grades 1-5) - These books contain 120 warm-up lessons, ideal for use at the beginning or end of the day (or while the baby is crying) to help kids get their juices flowing. Each lesson contains one question in language arts and math, and the lessons for Grades 2 through 5 also include science and geography. The lessons include a wide-range of questions, including many that can be answered through reasoning or general knowledge, and some that might need to be researched in a dictionary or reference book. Each lesson also contains a "Did You Know?" box with an interesting fact to peak the child's interest. There are downloadable samples of these and many other books online at!

Cookin' Up Science
by Learning Resources

Science kits are an excellent way to give our children hands-on science time in our homeschool. The Spotlight on Science kit Cookin' Up Science, by Learning Resources, is a great introduction to chemistry, biology, and physics for ages eight and up. There are twenty-four experiment cards that include experiments on acids and bases, chemical reactions, metal plating, carbonation, plant growth, fungi, oxidation, compost recycling, magnetism, insulation and more. The included supplies are a light bulb, hand lens, thermometer, magnet, eight-page "activity guide," five stir straws, coffee filter, three round balloons, and navy beans. The list that you are required to provide yourself is longer, but most items are easily gathered from home. Certainly, we always have old socks around, but we might need to purchase Styrofoam cups. Corn syrup and a 1.5 volt battery are the other two things on the list that I don't have on hand at the moment.

The experiment cards have clear instructions on one side, and "more info" on the other side that gives more explanation and vocabulary. The "Activity Guide" offers helpful ideas and instructions as well. Plus, it all stores in its own sturdy box!

I found Cookin' Up Science to be easy to use with clear instructions, just the right amount of additional information, and enough experiments to tickle an interest in further study.

For information on all that Learning Resources has to offer, see their webpage at Other Spotlight on Science kit topics are weather, motion, the rain forest, volcanoes and more. If they are anything like Cookin' Up Science, they are worth looking into.

--Product Review by: Diane Wheeler, Senior Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Rainbow Color Cones
Learning Resources

Learning Resources, Inc.
380 N. Fairway Drive
Vernon Hills, Illinois 60061

Rainbow color cones are the yummiest way to play around with colors. Intended for my infant and preschooler, these ice cream cones have made a big hit with just about every child that comes into our home. What little one doesn't like ice cream? Not only good for teaching and having fun with colors some number concepts can be taught as well. How about a triple scoop of differing flavors? If only I could get my 4 year old to stop licking them all the time! These Cones are quite durable , My 11 month old (who enjoys ice cream for teething), and five year old can not hurt them no matter how hard they try. We use these scoops to entertain the baby while we get our language and Math done, They serve many purposes in our home. There are two cones and 8 interchangeable scoops of different color.(color names are printed on the underside of the scoops).

--Product Review by: Stacey Salmonson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Learning Resources Products

380 N. Fairway Drive
Vernon Hills, IL 60061

Do you have any favorite companies that produce consistently great products? You know, the companies that make products that are fun, great quality, interesting, easy to use, educational, versatile, and don't break the bank to purchase. Learning Resources has quickly become one of our favorite companies for all of these reasons and more. We have reviewed many of their products and haven't even come close to finding a rotten apple in the bunch. All of the products we have reviewed are things that we can easily use in our daily homeschooling, and often for a wide variety of purposes. They are fun, bright, interesting, capture my kids' attention, and consistently use solid educational principles to teach all kinds of different skills. And no other company that I have found makes better use of the concept of manipulatives, not only in math, but in every subject. Browse through their catalog and you are sure to find some products that will allow your kids to practice whatever skills they are working on at the time, but still grow to more difficult levels as your child progresses. Below is a sampling of some of their best and brightest for the new school year.

Smart SnacksTM ABC Lacing SweetsTM - I remember as a young child taking my allowance (a whole quarter) to the little store around the corner to buy a little bag full of candy treats. This wonderful play set reminds me of the jars of sweets that would line the counters at the store. It is filled with 31 colorful 1 3/8" beads, each with a letter printed in capital letters on one side and small letters on the other side. There are 21 consonants in a variety of colors, and 10 vowels all colored red for easier recognition. Two strings are included for lacing the beads, and a little candy scoop completes the set. Beyond the obvious fine motor practice, this set has limitless opportunities for play with letters, spelling, and phonics, creating patterns, and even practicing colors and counting. Recommended for ages 3 and up.

Smart SnacksTM Mix & Match Doughnuts - This set consists of a dozen realistic doughnuts with 12 removable frosting patterns. The different patterns can be used for matching pairs or memory games. These are also wonderful for learning to count, for pretend play, and for fine motor skills. Our four-year-old son loved both of these Smart SnacksTM items! They are well-designed, yummy to play with, and have many educational possibilities. Recommended for ages 3 and up.

Deluxe Decimal TowerTM Activity Set - If you like Cuisenaire rods you will love this set of cubes for decimals! It contains 51 interlocking Decimal TowerTM Cubes that fit neatly into a Fraction Tower Base. The cubes represent the most common decimals from 1.0 to 0.0. These can be used to compare different combinations of cubes to see what decimals are equivalent, or for adding and subtracting decimals. There is also a wonderful activity guide that includes ideas for a huge variety of decimal concepts, and 12 double-sided activity cards that allow students to practice various concepts. The card is placed on the Decimal Tower Base and then the cubes can be matched to the activities. Because decimals are abstract and often challenging to understand, these cubes can be a great way to provide a concrete, visual, hands-on way of understanding how things can be divided into parts and manipulated. They could be used independently with the Activity Cards and Activity Guide, or could be used with your own curriculum. The cubes and Activity Cards can be purchased separately or as a set, and there are additional types of Activity Sets and cubes available, such as fractions, which have already been reviewed for The Old Schoolhouse®. Recommended for Grades 1-6.

Addition and Subtraction Activity Sets (also available for Counting and Numbers or Time and Money) - This Activity Set creates a practical, hands-on, concrete way to teach and practice addition and subtraction skills. The kit comes in a sturdy, portable case that opens like a book and holds all of the supplies in their own pockets. There are 100 Math Rods® including: 20 yellow picture rods and 20 red picture rods each with 8 different picture images, 50 number rods, and 10 math operation rods. There is also an activity tray for working with the manipulatives and cards, a dry-erase board, marker and eraser for writing practice, a booklet of additional ideas and games to utilize the sets, and 20 double-sided activity cards. The activity cards provide wonderful practice on the various skills and additional helpful information. This set takes Cuisenaire rods to a whole new level. Kids who are very hands-on or are struggling with traditional methods would likely find these Activity Sets very helpful. They would also be wonderful tools for review, or for additional practice with other math programs. We loved the flexibility and durability of this product! Recommended for ages 6-8.

Snap It Up! ® Match Three and Snap It Up! ® Money - Okay, I'll admit it: I thought these games looked rather easy straight out of the box. But I've learned some humility since then and see the power of these fast-paced, fun games. The idea of the games is to find three sets of three cards that form a match; only everyone is playing at the same time. With Match Three, you are looking for three cards that have something in common, such as articles of clothing, foods, things that start with the letter r, etc. The cards have a variety of colorful pictures that can be matched in many different ways. The Money game involves finding three cards that equal, through addition or subtraction, the amount shown on the deck. For example, if the card on top of the deck says 40¢, you could use two quarter cards (which added together equal 50¢), and subtract a dime card to equal the 40¢. There are two different levels of cards to match, so you can increase the difficulty as your child is ready. It sounds easy, but we found it to be much more challenging and educational then we thought. The hard part is that because everyone is racing to sort through their cards at the same time, the pressure is on to think quickly! I loved the use of critical thinking skills and the ability to figure out a problem from several different angles. Even the speed of the game made us concentrate harder. Recommended for ages 6 and up for Match Three and ages 7 and up for Money.

Factor Frenzy - If you liked the Math Mat Challenge Game from Learning Resources® (already reviewed), you're going to love this tabletop mat for practicing multiplication and division! Start with a 32" vinyl mat with colorful buttons that allows up to 4 players to compete on answering multiplication and/or division problems, add a fun game-show atmosphere, complete with electronic announcer, and kids suddenly think math is fun. Level Two gives the problem with a factor missing, such as "8 times what number equals 48," thus providing excellent practice with factors and higher-level thinking about multiplication and division. Now if you prefer boring flashcards because they are character building, you won't like this fun product. But if you have kids who enjoy a challenge and are motivated by games and a little friendly competition, or who are kinesthetic or auditory learners, this game is just what the doctor ordered. We liked the fast pace of the game, the two levels of play and three different games, and the chance to practice a boring skill in a fun, new way. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Take FourTM Word Game - Now this is what I call fun (and not just because I won twice in a row)! The setup is similar to Scrabble, except everyone builds their own crossword, separate from the other players, and everyone plays at the same time. Each player starts with four tiles and builds words in a crossword fashion, until someone uses their four tiles and yells, "Take Four". Then everyone takes four more tiles and continues building. You can change and rearrange your words anytime you want; it just takes up more time. You earn points only for tiles that are left when the first player uses all of their tiles, but that's bad because low score wins. You also earn double points for the letters that spell any word that is not really a word or is misspelled, so it pays to be careful. There are several varieties, including bonus word cards where you try to build certain words that you draw on cards. Not only is this game just plain fun, it is a great way to practice vocabulary, spelling, critical thinking and problem solving with your kids, without feeling like you are "doing school"!

-- Product Review by: Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Learning Resources

Alphabet & Numbers Tracing Stamp Set
Phonics & Grammar Ad Lib Books/Level 1
Game Board Books
Skill Sharpeners Book Series

Learning Resources has some fun learning tools available! The Alphabet & Numbers Tracing Stamp Sets are a big hit in our household! The children make their own writing practice sheets, they teach correct letter formation, and the 7 year old writes letters and notes with them. These stamp sets come in a sturdy plastic case, and have endured hours upon hours of use, very durable! Lots of fun!

Phonics Ad Libs is fun with phonics. Level 1 works on skill building activities such as initial, midddle and final consonant sounds, & short and long vowel sounds. This 48 page workbook has fun worksheets built on these skill building activities, in a "fill in the blanks" format. These silly stories are fun to figure out!!

Game Board Books:Addition & Subtraction is a neat workbook sized heavy duty tagboard 'book', that when opened has a velcro pouch on one side and all your game boards on the other. Learning Resources has a few different versions of their "Game Board Books", phonics, and time & money. These each have 6 games in them, are for ages 6 and up,and make wonderful travel games, co-op games, or just a fun learning game at home. Subtraction Pond has made 'learning minuses' enjoyable! All 6 of these games focus on math skills, come with all game pieces needed, and make learning math skills a 'game'.

Skill Sharpeners Reading w/cdrom is FULL of skill sharpening ideas for our children! This cdrom can not only create worksheets and instructional posters, it works with word families, consonant digraphs, vowel digraphs, blends and so much more. You can create crosswords, create games, make flash cards, it contains over 600 words, sentences, and graphics, WOW!

The supporting book provides worksheets that cover completing sentences, sequencing, using a 'word bank', answering questions, using picture clues, classifying, predicting, compare & contrast, fact or opinion, following directions, graphs & tables, critical thinking, generalizing, homonyms, and MORE, even an answer key! At $17.95 , I think this is a bargain! Definite recommendation!!

--Product Review by: Lisa Barthuly & Family, Produce Reviewers, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine