The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

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Learning Resources Review by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC

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.

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, . . . !
    And another perspective on the Math Mat Challenge Game:
    AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! We absolutely love this game! It has been a huge hit with my family and beyond! This interactive floor mat is a fun, great way to strengthen your children's math skills. The Math Mat has six different games and two skill levels and covers numbers, counting, addition and subtraction up to the number 20. The player is given multiple questions and has a certain amount of time to step on the correct answers. It is fun for the child to hurry around or across the mat to step or stomp on the correct answer. At the end of the game, they are given a score. The game speeds up as the child scores higher. We liked this aspect, as it motivates the child to beat their last score. Our kids love to cheer each other on as they play. Even our two year old has a great time, as the older kids help him to run around and stomp on the correct number. The age range is 4-7 years old but I even observed a 13 year old enjoy playing. The mat, 34" in diameter, doesn't take up much room and is easy to fold up and put away. My family is very impressed with the company that produces Math Mat. Their products are of great quality and highly educational. Math Mat Challenge is an excellent tool for learning
    -- Carol Pelster, TOS reader
  • 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 ", 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 es 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.
  • Sorting Shapes Cupcakes: What a yummy way for your toddler to learn shapes! These six cupcakes, covered with vanilla frosting and different colored shaped sprinkles, come nestled in a blue cupcake pan. The cupcakes pull apart into two pieces and reveal a shape inside. Once apart, the children are to match the top portion of the cupcake to the bottom piece. Then they match it to a shape in the bottom of the pan. The shapes include circle, square, triangle, half-moon, clover and star. Children seem naturally drawn to play food which makes this an easy way to learn. My toddlers enjoy learning about shapes during our cupcake time. This toy also is good for developing fine motor skills as they have to put the cupcakes together and into the pan. We have found this product to be durable (my children put it to the test) and well made.

--Product Review by: The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine