The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

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School Zone Interactive Review by Jenefer Igarashi, Christine Field, and 2 others

Pencil-Pal Software

"The Old Schoolhouse Magazine adores the School Zone On Track Software....Kids love it!"

Much to my dismay, my children love the computer. I was hoping that at least ONE would have even a smidgen of loyalty and take the side of their terribly old fashioned, happy-to-be-out-of-date mother, who wishes we could go back to the days of the 1700s. Alas, it is not to be.

What I cannot deny, though, is the impact and positive influence that educational software has brought to my household classroom. It is very odd when your Kindergartener, who hates all manner of lessons (primarily English), begins begging to jump into a program that teaches exactly that.

I brought home a SchoolZone Pencil-Pal Software program for our youngest daughter, Emmiko. When I showed my Emmi, and told her, "Look what I have for YOU!" she did get relatively happy. At first glance, it looks like a very bright, animated, fun, and cheerful workbook. She asked to examine it right away and said it looked "neat." When I told her to take a peek at the very back - in the inside cover, Emmi flipped it open and she (literally) started dancing around gleefully and shrieking, "A CD! A CD!" And once it was installed, she did not want to stop "playing" with it.

The CD was very easy for her to use and understand. The segments were extremely interactive, the material was consistent and age-appropriate, and it covered the basics subjects. All of my children (even the teenager) were impressed with the "movies" that were a part of the program. These were short clips that were amazingly sharp and clear, and reminded me of a segment that would play onPBS, the Children's Network Programming. Emmiko loved it, and her younger brother was nearly on top of her head, trying to watch everything she was exploring.

What I liked the most, though, was the workbook that came with it. Computers are wonderful, and I am sure they are the wave of the future and vitally important for blah blah blah, but I am still very much a "sit-up-straight-and-work-your-lessons-with-a-pencil-and-paper" teacher, and like the way the lessons in the workbook are laid out. The software part is a nice way to complete the daily lesson with reinforced "fun learning."

-- Product Review by: Jenefer Igarashi, Senior Editor, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Phonics Review Grades 2-3 and First Grade Pencil-Pal Software

It's really nice to know that you don't have to wait for the next major curriculum fair to purchase supplemental materials for your child. School Zone products can be purchased inexpensively on the Internet or at your mass-market retailer! School Zone offers a complete line of workbooks, card sets, mats, CDs, and other software to provide a little extra review or a little spice to a bland curriculum.

Focusing on major subject areas, School Zone has materials available for phonics, reading, math, spelling, and related language arts. The workbooks are bright and cheerful. The CDs are fun!

I had a chance to peek at Phonics Review Grades 2-3 and First Grade Pencil-Pal Software.

The Phonics Review was a package consisting of a workbook and a CD. The workbook offered exercises from the short "a" sound to prefixes. The CD had six games your child could enter into to review these areas. We had fun playing these games!

First Grade Pencil-Pal consisted of a nice sized workbook covering language arts, science, social studies, and math. On the accompanying CD, your child was introduced to Captain Bingham Bear and his crew on the First Grade Cabin Cruiser! Once on board, your child could enjoy jokes, dot-to-dots, an art studio, movies, and educational games. What a fun trip!

What I appreciate about School Zone is its availability and the helpful tips it gives parents within each volume. For example, in these two volumes, suggested additional activities ranged from making a word box to suggestions for making up story problems. These materials are easily accessible, user friendly, and fun!

-- Product Review by: Christine Field, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

School Zone Software

This product is awesome! I have done a lot of searching for a program like this. Not only does it teach spelling, but phonics as well. My five-year-old son LOVES it! I have a hard time getting him to sit down and work in a workbook, and this is the same thing - only School Zone has made it fun and exciting! Colorful, musical, fun - and most of all he is learning! There are also fun games in between the exercises, and the printable progress reports make him feel proud of what he has accomplished. I would recommend this to every parent for their child! I can't wait to try School Zone's other products!

-- Product Review by: Chris Calhoun, Homeschool mommy of four, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Preschool Beginning Sounds CD-ROM and Workbook

If you are teaching multiple ages, you appreciate having a repertoire of activities to constructively occupy your younger children so you can take time with your older students. Computer learning time can be one way of filling that need. School Zone has a wonderful new software for early learners that all of my kids enjoyed. The Beginning Sounds kit came with a CD-ROM and corresponding workbook, so I can get two kids learning at once. The graphics were excellent and the cute, mellow music was a pleasant change from the often too-hard or too-silly music in children's programs. Set up was so easy; even I with my limited computer experience could do it. There was a short sample lesson in the beginning that clearly explained the activities, and after each activity you are rewarded with positive feedback. There is even a recess time with a short, fun game to play after a few pages are completed. These games are a good exercise in hand-eye coordination. I don't incorporate much computer time into our curriculum, but this was easy enough to use that I didn't have to keep running back to answer questions while reinforcing the children's awareness of letter sounds. The focus was on initial sounds in words and identifying the alphabet, as well as following directions. This is the most entertaining and directly educational software we have ever tried.

-- Product Review by: Jennifer Pepito, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine