Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Gecko Monitor Software Review and Giveaway

The Good:
Does the important stuff well and out-of-sight. Simple to install and use.

The Bad:
Keylogger did not always work. Price is fair, but not down to today's expectations.

The Bottom Line:
If you need a stable, discreet monitoring software, this is it.
If you want free and basic, it's not.
If you want to filter internet, that's a different product.

When I was asked to review this product, I was thinking about how clunky my present internet filtering program is and how I would not mind replacing it. When I installed Gecko (which was an absolute breeze), I realized that it was not what I was looking for and doubted that I would have much use for it. Surprise! I did.

It just happened that at this time, a certain tween has been doing computer programming AND, um, uh, “testing” of the games – I mean “programs”. So it has been a little programming and a lot of games. Well, the issues became clearer when Gecko began taking screen shots every so often. Suddenly, I knew what was going on throughout the hours. Yes, there was the online homework and math help sites, but there were also a number of hours where the Gecko screen shot showed no change in the code, just more games. It gave us all a common data set to talk about time management and setting limits. I am sure it will come in handy as the children get older and use the computer(s) more and more often.

The screenshot feature was very helpful, but Gecko also tracks the keystrokes (careful! even your own passwords!) web sites visited, applications used, printing activity, and so on. The “Timeline” feature is handy, just giving the highlights over time so you can quickly zoom in on activities as needed. You can even set it up to send you email reports, although gmail gave me a bit of trouble (not Gecko's fault).

One trouble I had was that the keylogger did not work all that well or that the files were somehow lost. They tracked me as I was testing it, but I could not find the archives over the past couple of weeks.

All in all, it is a handy program that does exactly what it says it does, and discreetly. If it is worth it to you, then spend the money. Less than $40 is cheap compared to the myriad problems that the software may point out before it gets too late.

If you are interested in a monitoring program AND an internet filter, there is nothing that beats the following: place the computer in the middle of the house within easy sight of everyone.

If you would like a free trial of this software, the first 10 people to leave a comment will win a chance to try!
Here's how:
1. Let me know what your biggest kid internet concern is.
2. Leave your email address

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: Knight Costumes

Pros: Good service, nice quality costume, good value.

Cons:  The helmet seems to run slightly small compared with costume, but still works.

Summary: If you are looking for nice quality costumes in any size with lots of accessories to choose from, check out Costume Supercenter!

For school, my son K had to give a "history live" presentation in costume as "King Richard the Lionhearted".  After researching what King Richard wore, he chose the "Deluxe Dragon Slayer" knight Costume to do his presentation in. Truthfully, he wasn't really a knight...but he was a medieval warrior and this seemed like a great match for the part.

I am always amazed at how small they are able to package these costumes! It arrived in a small package, but came out looking great without any ironing or effort. The costume seems well made and includes everything pictured except for the black pants. K was impressed at the shiny silver fabric part of the costume that looks like chain mail.  The body of costume seems true to the sizing chart offered on the website.  The helmet however seemed a little snug although workable (your experience may be different due to variations in head sizes! :)

So if you would like to be a dragon slayer, or King Richard...I would recommend this as a great option! :)

Disclosure: We received the Deluxe Dragon Slayer costume mentioned above  for  review. The opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by the companies providing the product. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review: Tangbaby Fake Cake Greeting

Pros: Funny, awesome, unique, affordable, handmade gift.  No envelope needed... delivers right to your recipient's mail box as is!
Cons:  This cake card looks so real it might make you hungry when you look at it...but it is NOT edible! :)
Purchase: at the TangBaby on

Summary:Whether you are looking for a great April Fools Day Card, a calorie-free birthday gift, or just something fun for someone special...this is an awesome gift idea!

Review: This is such a fun birthday, celebration, thinking of you, anytime occasion thing to send to your friends and family! Each slice of "cake" is hand crafted and made for the mail carrier to "serve" right in to your loved-one's mail box! Imagine getting your mail and finding this laying on top of all of the bills! :)
 Check out more delicious looking cake cards at TangBaby!
 Rainbow cake card, a nice slice of fake postcard cake.

Disclosure: The opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by the companies of the product. No other compensation was received.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: Superman Costumes at Costume Discounters

Pros: Fast service, nice quality costume, true to size, good value.

Cons:  This costume is so neat that now the little brother wants one too! :)

Summary: If you are looking for nice quality costumes in any size with lots of accessories to choose from, check out Costume Discounters!

My son chose this costume because his little sister begged him to; she wants him to wear it when she wears her Supergirl costume!  What a good big brother he is!

Our Deluxe Light-Up Superman costume came in the mail today, only three business days after we ordered it from Costume Discounters! Although the package was very small and light-weight, the costume seems very well made.  This Man of Steel costume includes the one piece body suit (including huge muscles) and a detachable cape.  The Superman emblem on the front of the costume lights up, which my kids thought was really cool! :)

The length and fit of the costume seemed true to the sizing chart offered on the site.  Since K usually wears slims, the costume fits over clothes, which is better on a cool fall day anyway. 

Another great feature about this company: Costume Discounters guarantees the lowest price on the web, or they will match the price and also give you 20% off. They also offer free shipping on exchanges, allowing you to try their costumes risk free!

Disclosure: We received the Superman Costume mentioned above  for  review. The opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by the companies providing the product. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Time4Writing Review: Extreme Paragraphs

Pros: Small time commitment,personally coached by individual teacher, simple way to develop practical skills

Cons: Small icons were at first confusing to navigate after logging in, would love to see more teaching videos, animations to teach writing concepts, or interactive lessons like Time4Learning.

Summary: Overall a great little course with lots of helpful writing tools. My daughter was able to finish with minimal time commitment. Writing teacher was helpful and kind. She usually graded assignments within a 24 hours. Instructions were simple to follow and explained well. I feel that my daughter learned some useful information and had fun using her imagination to write paragraphs.

Full Review: After reading the parent info on the site, we decided that the "Extreme Paragraph" course looked like the right level for our 8 year old. J started off her writing course introducing herself to her teacher Mrs. Jennifer. The course began slowly with exercises and assignments to practice writing all the parts of a paragraph, beginning with topic sentences. 

Each lesson began with a short video clip that explained the concept that she would be learning. Then practice activities and quizzes came before the assignment. After completing her assignments, J's kind writing teacher, Mrs. Jennifer graded her writing and left a grade and helpful feedback to either correct the assignment, or to move on to the next lesson.

J seemed to fly through the lessons and quizzes with ease, but took a lot longer finishing the writing assignments. Once she was finished she was proud of her accomplishment and very excited to get feedback from Mrs. Jennifer.

Overall we thought the course had a lot of useful writing tools and clear instructions. My daughter learned some useful information and had fun using her imagination to write paragraphs. She seems a little more confident and has even expressed an interest in writing a book someday. :)  At the end of the course, J earned an Extreme Paragraph writing certificate. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

About Time4Writing...

My third grade writer is now more than half way through her "Extreme Paragraphs" course on Time4Writing! So far she likes it and has been able to fly through and stay on track even though we took a few days off while we were out of town. Her kind teacher, Mrs. Jennifer,  has offered good feedback to help J write the best paragraphs.  So far she's practiced writing topic sentences, supporting details, and  closing sentences. She has also learned about using good sentence structure, transition words and adjectives.  Her favorite thing to do is write stories from her imagination. Stay tuned for the full review as soon as she's finished!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teaching your kids to ride a bike...the easy (and cheap) way.

So after having tried all kinds of methods and after many tears and crashes, training wheels, no training wheels, running with little biker,etc...we've finally learned the secret! 

I was recently searching on line for the best ways to teach children to ride on two wheels and learned that bikes with no pedals, which are often quite pricey, work amazingly well. My hubby also heard that the best way to teach adults and kids with special needs is to just take all the pedals and training wheels off. 

We had kids "bike" by pushing with their feet in big "walking on the moon" steps. We made it a game to see how long they could balance without touching their feet to the ground. A few short weeks of practicing and they were balancing for about 10-20 seconds without touching the ground.
We put the pedals back on, and just like magic they all took off riding!

*Note:When removing the pedals, the left pedal is usually threaded differently than the right pedal to avoid unintentional unscrewing during riding. The LEFT pedal is RIGHTY-LOOSEY (clockwise), LEFTY-TIGHTY (counter-clockwise). 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Coming Soon: A Review of Time4Writing

We will be using Time4Writing as a summer writing program for the next couple of months.  We are excited to get started with the interactive lessons.  Our online tutor will correct our work and give us writing tips on how to sharpen our writing skills.  Come visit in a few weeks to see how we like it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Time4Learning

  • Fun lessons cover lots of material in small amounts of time. 
  • Animations, colorful graphics, and interactive funny dialog keep kids engaged. 
  • Clear explanations and feedback for right and wrong answers. 
  • Parent access to quizes and grades, easily printed for record keeping.  
  • Clutter free schoolwork, great for big families or small living spaces.  

  • Using Time4Learning on a tablet is a little tricky and can be slow.  
  • Parental controls do not include the ability to digitally assign specific lessons or assignments.

If you are a busy parent and looking for an effective educational tool that your children will love to use either as a curriculum, supplement, or tutoring alternative for preschool through 12th grade...Time4Learning is a excellent resource!  

Try it:  

There are many things to love about time4learning...but I will keep it simple and just name a few.

1. Effective teaching tool
Time4Learning is both fun and really great at teaching concepts and skills to a large spectrum of learning styles.  The lessons are very well written and designed to help children learn and retain the material. We were pleased with how well our kids did on standardized tests this year.

2. Makes life easier
I don't know about you...but as a homeschooling mama of four, it's hard to juggle everyone's schedule some days. This program is kid and parent user friendly and keeps track of where everyone is at. If a subject comes easy for your child, they can fly through...if its more difficult, they can watch the lesson again until they get the concepts.  Work that is finished and graded for you is easily printable for record keeping and reporting.

3. Stuff Free!
Having had a child in public school, I was amazed at the volume of paper that came through the door! It was a constant battle to stay on top of it all and I found myself having to recycle 99% of it to reclaim the space it took up in our house!  Although Time4Learning has optional printable supplements to go with lessons, the work is almost completely digital. It is an ideal curriculum for families living in small spaces as it eliminates the need for many text books. It's also great for traveling as all you need is a computer (or tablet) and an Internet connection. 

Overall we really love this program (we have been using it for years) and we are excited that Time4Learning is launching their new high school program this fall! We hope Time4Learning will become more iPad friendly in the future.  

Disclosure: The opinions we have expressed are honest opinions and have not been influenced by Time4Learning. Compensation was received for this review.