The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

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Tom Snyder Productions Review by Holly Cameron

Tom Snyder Productions has produced a great number of very helpful products. While most of these were written for the public school arena, we can use almost all of them for our home school purposes just fine! I'll review the ones that were sent to me, but this is just a taste of all that Tom Snyder Productions has to offer. You'll have to check out the website for their other goodies! I think too often we don't consider material written for public school use, although much of it is very good, as is shown here with these products. Some of them require a little tweaking, but I've found that adapting them to our own home school has been extremely easy! That being said, I'll review a few of their products.


This is THE timeline generator to have! You can create any timeline you choose, you can add pictures to them and print them, all from the comfort of your computer chair! You get a binder with a CD attached. The CD contains hundreds of graphics, sample movies, and sound. There is a set of sample time lines, a virtual tour of Timeliner 5.0, and an electronic version of the Teacher's guide. The binder contains a print version of the Teacher's guide. Imagine anything you've ever wanted in a timeline, and you can create it with this program! Do you just want a daylong timeline that shows what you did yesterday? Do you want a weeklong timeline? How about a yearlong timeline? What about a historical or geological timeline? All done in a snap with this program! You can even merge multiple timelines with the click of a button. Two or more themes can be presented in one timeline, using different colors or fonts to highlight differences. You can make a timeline of your grandmother's life and a historical one. Then, with the push of a button, you can see that during World War II your grandmother was so many years old! You can add labels and graphics to any timeline you wish, and you can also add your own graphics by copying them from the computer! This way, you can actually scan in real photographs, and copy them onto the timeline you're creating! The value of this program in a home school is obvious! The teacher's manual is extremely comprehensive, and once you have gone through the walk-through provided, you will find yourself creating masterpiece timelines over which your friends will gasp! Your kids will be able to produce high quality, professional timelines of which they will be proud. I can't stress the delight I had in working with this program. There is just so much possible, I can't even begin to describe it all! Trust me, you won't be disappointed!

National Inspirer 4.0

This is a virtual scavenger hunt that will have your kids learning the geography and resources of the United States faster than you can imagine! While written for a classroom of kids, this program can be used just as effectively with a house full of kids! Written for teams of up to four children each, the idea is that, given a list of clues, a packet of maps, and a travel log, the students will be able to navigate themselves virtually across America following the clues. In 10 clues, they should find themselves at their goal. There are bonus points awarded along the route. The kids are given the maps and clues and then go to their desks and plot out the route using the clues. Once their route is plotted, they come back to the computer and input their information. If they have successfully navigated, they will end up where they are supposed to end up and receive even more bonus points. The clues are pretty easy to figure out, but there may be more than one correct answer, and the one they choose will determine how many points are awarded. For example, one questions states, "You have 10 moves to get points at any state that is a producer of dairy products." Another says, "You have 10 moves to get points at any state that is a major producer of soybeans." Each of the maps provided offer a different view of the country. One map will have the major exports of each state on it while another will have the population density of each state. The points are awarded based on a state's ranking in the production of a resource as listed on the Travel Log that each team receives. For example, Iowa produces more soybeans than Nebraska. You'll earn nine points for soybeans in Iowa and three points in Nebraska. Teams can employ lots of strategies to complete a trip successfully. Basically, they should try to earn the most points possible. This would be a great co-operative program to use on those days when you have two or more families in your house. The students will enjoy what they're doing so much, I suspect that they won't even realize how much they're learning about their country! The nuts and bolts of the program are easily understood, and there is a walk through for the teacher. There are lots of customizable options, and the students can even write their own questions for other teams to read and follow. A lot of the teacher's guide pertains to classroom use, so don't let the size of the binder overwhelm you! The basic program is easy to load, and easy to use. You'll have fun doing this with your kids! I'm using it with my kids, and we live in Canada! It's a great way to get them familiar with the U.S. without overwhelming them! After you've played this program a few times, you'll be able to recite which state has the most poultry production, and which state provides the most potatoes. Give it a try; you'll be impressed!

-- Product Review by: Holly Cameron, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine