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April 25, 2007

Let's Get Ready for 1st Grade

Today is Three Kid Circus Auditions' stop on The Parent Bloggers Network review-tour for the awesome, award-winning Let's Get Ready for... titles produced by Cedar Valley Publishing. Let me just start off by saying that I wish I had requested both titles, because these books are fan-freaking-tastic. Since I was sent the 1st Grade version, my review will focus on that title alone.

Packed into this lightweight volume is literally all the required curriculum that your kids will be expected to master in 1st grade. Think I'm kidding? I showed this book to my son's 1st grade teacher, and she couldn't spot a single concept from the standardized curriculum that was missing from this book. And my son, who is in the final month of 1st grade, also recognized these concepts as things he covered in class this year.

The information is organzied into kid-friendly pages full of colorful illustrations and large text. Each concept has its own page, perfect for introducing or reviewing. Unlike many of the popular worksheet books available, this book is something that even my four-year-old was happy to sit down and flip through the pages. There is no pressure here, only solid information that I believe would be beneficial to every parent and student to have at their fingertips before the school year even begins.

Academic requirements are so much more intense than they were when we were kids. Take the mystery out of wondering what your child should know, and pick up a copy of Let's Get Ready for">Let's Get Ready for 1st Grade (or Kindergarten) today.

To see what the rest of the Parent Bloggers Network Reviewers had to say - check it out here.

April 9, 2007

Cozi - Software for Busy Families

Today is the first stop on The Parent Bloggers Network's latest product tour for the fantastic new family management software, Cozi. As the chief appointment setter and keeper, tracker of all things schedule, as well as shopping master of the TKC universe, I spend a lot of time jotting things down. I scribble them on the calendar. I send myself emails. I write on scraps of paper. I'm pretty good about keeping myself straight, but the rest of my family is in the dark much of the time. It can be exhausting to explain to your husband for the 17th time that no, he can't book a tee time for this weekend because you already have plans with friends. He should know this stuff...but how? Half the time, this information is scribbled in the margin of the magazine I was reading a week ago. It never made it onto the calendar...not that he's really good about checking that, either.

Enter Cozi. From a single intuitive command center screen, I can quickly enter the family's schedules, appointments and parties for the upcoming weeks. It took me five minutes to set up the kids' school hours, my husband's work schedule and evening appointments, a few social activities and holiday plans. Jumping down to the bottom of the same screen, I was able to enter our constantly updating list of grocery and household items that need to be replaced.

Because, oh, how the grocery lists fry me. I make them and shop to them, but it is that midweek out of milk and that one thing you can't remember trip that always kills me. I spend $20 on miscellaneous crap that has nothing to do with the lightbulbs that were the only other item I needed. Even worse is asking my husband to stop on the way to pick up a few items. He'll get to the store and call me, and if I'm busy, or scattered, we always end up with that one crucial thing missing.

But! Get this! I programmed Cozi's toll-free number into each of our cell phones, and then gave it a call from the aisle of our local grocery store. Cozi read me my grocery list (because I don't have text messaging - that is another option...makes me ponder texting, to be honest) right there in produce. I thought I had everything, and yet I had missed several items. Have a few kids, lose a few brain cells, no worries. You've got Cozi to remember that you are out of laundry soap.

My husband has been able to check the time and location of a dinner meeting via his phone, and we've been playing around with adding family photos to create a custom collage screensaver. You can also send email or phone messages quickly from the same screen.

Cozi is simple, effective and free. Free, free free free free. Which rocks. GIve it a shot, and see if your family doesn't think you're a scheduling genius.

April 5, 2007

BrainQuest DVD Game

Today is TKC Auditions stop on the Parent Bloggers Network tour for Brighter Minds Media's new Brain Quest DVD game.

When I first accepted this product for review, I thought it would be a computer game. Which is cool, because my kids are starting to really enjoy using the computer. When I received it, I realized that this is actually a DVD that plays on the television, using the remote as the controller. This thrilled me to no end, because as a blogging mom, it can be really annoying to jockey for time on the computer with your offspring.

I grabbed the kids and settled my six-year-old and eight-year-old on the couch with the remote. After a round of rock - paper - scissors to determine control of the remote, I fired up the disk. Within moments, the kids had figured out the controls and were wizzing along through the questions.

We found this game had the perfect balance of easier questions and tougher subjects - they were challenged but not frustrated. I especially appreciated the lack of dramatic sound effects when a child failed to answer correctly. I wandered away to assist my youngest with a project, but stayed in earshot of the game in progress. My kids were working as a team, high-fiving and occasionally reasoning out answers before selecting an on-screen choice. They played for 45 minutes, with nary a fight. Somebody call Guinness - I think we have a new record.

Best of all, the kids have been regurgitating factoids, and quizzing each other and their friends. Brain Quest certainly sparked their interest and has encouraged them to learn more. The accompanying little flip book Q&A has been a lot of fun in the car, with the kids taking turns.

This is a really wonderful product - the kids love it, it is easy to use, and perfectly geared for ages 6-8. I highly recommend this game.

For more reviews, check out my fellow reviewers over at The Parent Bloggers Network. To purchase Brain Quest, visit Brighter Minds Media, or click here.

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