Best Thought Out Software and Toys for Christmas 2007
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Best Thought Out Software and Toys for Christmas 2007
If you are like most value conscious parents today, you are probably pretty tired of the constant marketing push of dolls that look like a street walkers or for the boys, something out of Dalton’s Inferno. Even worse are books which glorify the occult as “innocent fun” and computer games which demean women and revel in perpetrating violence. Do these toys and games really portray the types of personality traits we would like to see our children develop? Also, what about education? Recent test scores in our public schools show a lack of mastering basic skills. What if we could find toys and software for our children that both engage and enlighten at the same time?
Here is our short list of some of the BEST, most innovative toys, games and educational software we’ve seen rise far above the mundane pack.
Leap Frog - Fly Fusion Pentop Computer
The Leap Frog Fly Fusion Pentop Computer allows students to store and upload their writing, drawings, music via an MP3 player to the computer. This is an upgrade from the Fly Pentop 1.0 released previously. More than that, the pen itself, as the name implies, is a computer replete with a camera which processes what the student writes in order to help with Algebra, Science, Essay work or other studies. Quite an amazing piece of equipment!
Our resident student tester, age 13, test drove the Fast Comp Math and Journal modules.
Our student tester was able to upload the platform software and then the modules herself without any adult supervision. She remembered to have the pen plugged into the computer while doing this, otherwise the modules will not be synced. Best of all, our teen was able to run and configure the programs herself. You need to be connected to the Internet in order to activate these modules and your computer needs a minimum of 516 MB of RAM. Keep in mind that many laptops need at least that much space just to boot up so additional RAM made be necessary. We ran the Fly Fusion on our HP Laptop which has a respectable 120 MB of memory, (that's 1.2 GB), far more than most PC’s made just a few years ago. This system is compatible with Window's Vista and XP but does not work with Macintosh.
Fly Fusion Journal-A penny for your thoughts? This is a great tool that gets children to express themselves in both writing and drawing of ideas. Better than that, the built in camera allows the student’s printed writing and illustrations to be photographed, (remember the Fly Fusion has an onboard camera), stored and then transferred to the child’s computer screen. The system offers an active workspace and easy access to all of the uploaded modules. Additional modules can be easily ordered online.
Fly Fusion Fast Comp Math - Calculated moves! The Fly Fusion Fast Comp Math module offers help in math computations. When students encounter a difficult math problem, they can get help from their Pentop computer. The solutions add to the student’s ability to write out a problem and examine its components leading up to its solving. There are certain nuances involved with using the pen itself which are resolved with proper positioning and use of the given symbols. However, our teen tester quickly mastered them and went on to get the sought after solutions.
Pros: This system is very portable and will provide students with hours of homework assistance, subject support and fun. Modules such as the Brain Teasers, Music Studio and MP3 player add an interesting option for creative downtime. Students can enjoy these less academic related modules while still learning something. The system is feature packed and addresses many areas of academia including exploration into Spanish and French languages. Our teen student tester was able to upload all of the modules on her own without adult supervision or help.
Cons: Your child’s laptop will need to have ample RAM space and continuous Internet access especially when uploading the modules. Therefore you may have to figure adding Internet service and a computer upgrade into the total cost of purchasing this system. On the positive side, most newer laptops have a built in wireless air card so your child will most likely not need paid wireless service unless outside of a “hot zone“.
Visit online at www.flyworld.com
Messengers of Faith by One 2Believe
One2 Believe Biblical Action Figures and Toys
In a world full of new toys that present dubious role models for children, these Biblically based heroes are making a refreshing entry into the toy market. Well made and quite affordable, children can make their favorite people of the Bible come alive in play and teaching time. As a child, I remember how important visual cues were to me. My parents would read me beautifully illustrated Bible Story books before bed. The pictures were so colorful and vivid. I still remember those pictures! More than that, they covered heroes of both the Old and New Testament. It made an incredible impact on me and kindled my love for God and His Son.
Well, these toys do the same thing, only in 3-D. Each set has a booklet which explains about the person while encouraging the child to read, (or have read), the Biblical account.
Perhaps our favorites are the Messengers of Faith Series. These dolls, Noah, Moses, David, Esther, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Mary, all tell their story in clear, audible speech. They are so well made that I have used them as teaching aids in my music ministry. While these are Christian oriented toys, the Old Testament Messengers of Faith have been very well received by Jewish believers. We must remember that it is the Judeo-Christian beliefs upon which our society is founded. There could be no New Testament without the Old and we found these toys to be far more inclusive than exclusive.
The Nativity Set is especially precious because it is made to be explored, unlike those ornamental versions made to go under the Christmas tree. These are very affable figures and encourage children to see that the adults and children of the Bible were people just like us. These people were afraid, had concerns about everyday worries and were mocked for their faith. Jesus said to him that overcomes as he overcame, he would give a reward. This gives the child and us courage to have confidence in God’s promises which Peter said were even for those who were afar off. Part of the beauty of these lessons from the Bible is to put ourselves in the scene. God is no respecter of persons so what He has done for people in the Bible, He can do for us. Children will learn this lesson quite well in their playtime which can really be a time of blessing and edification.
Pros: These toys are extremely well made and a great value for the dollar. Voices are clear and the bodies are fully articulated to add to the child’s imaginative exploration of Bible accounts. Children will notice the detailed clothing and beautiful eyes on the Messengers of Faith Dolls.
Cons: None although some of the soft sandals on Peter and Mary Messengers of Faith could be a little tighter to stay on better.
Visit their website at www.one2believe.com
Deliverance - Moses in Pharaoh’s Court by West Creek Studios
Screen shot of Moses in Pharaoh’s
Court Computer Game
Moses is courageous as is his brother Aaron as they move through the obstacles set before them in the Pharaoh’s court. This game has action and scripture combined that show that the Israelites did have obstacles to conquer. Our teen student tester enjoyed this lively alternative to the mindless violence and sexual exploitation often found in other computer games. The challenges were engaging and the graphics very realistic with a 360 degree range of vision.
We think games like this show that Biblical heroes were not one dimensional but adaptable according to their circumstances. Bravery as shown by taking action and determination are in fact very desirable attributes. Deliverance is a well done, high quality video game which combines action with scriptures showing that the two needn’t be separate.
Pros: Fantastic computer graphics, action packed challenges.
Cons: Is not compatible with the newer Microsoft Home Vista but will work with Windows XP.
Visit online at www.thedeliverancegame.com
Switched On Schoolhouse 2007 Curricula
by Alpha Omega Publications
Finally, a complete, quality, educational curriculum that also instills values most parents hold as important. No internet access is needed in this freestanding 5 module set. It uploads easily from CDs and guides your child through the same grade level studies as the public schools. We previewed the 9th Grade Curriculum which included the following courses plus one elective:
Earth and Natural Sciences
Introduction to the New Testament
History and Geography
Elective: Home Economics
All offer three-D animation, multimedia presentations and much more. One of the challenges of home schooling is not to isolate the child from beneficial experiences of a well rounded education. Interaction with teachers or instructors outside of the home can help offset this. Our children range in age from 27 to 13 and all were homeschooled with additional instruction in art, music, European Culture and culinary arts, being provided by private tutors.
Switched On Schoolhouse encourages a child to explore academia while exemplifying good morals and life lessons from the Bible. Proficiency in a subject is somewhat empty if your values are so eschew that you can not benefit yourself or others from that knowledge.
Our resident teen tester was able to upload all of the installation CD’s and subject software without any assistance. There is an onboard Installation Wizard that helps to show the steps involved which our tester accessed on her own. Switched On Schoolhouse does not require Internet access in order to run. Online registration is available for those who do have Internet service but this is not a requirement. This is a full curriculum with the same subjects and more just as offered in regional high schools. The use of graphics and multimedia keeps the student engaged while allowing them to check their progress periodically throughout the lesson. Our student tester enjoyed the course work and games associated with the History & Geography module especially. Activites included choosing the correct definition and filling in the missing word to complete the sentence. This system is feature packed with special pop ups in the Teacher's area such as a complete Periodic Table of the Elements and other helps.
The difference in choosing this curriculum over others is the emphasis on moral values and character building which are often lacking in our schools. This curriculum likewise does not tout Darwinian theory as fact. Therefore Switched On Schoolhouse offers a welcome respite from this sort of dogma while allowing the student to freely explore alternatives to any unproven theory.
Pros: We gave Switched On Schoolhouse an A+ for ease of installation and use. Not everyone has Internet access and SOS does not require it so the system is ready to go right out of the box. On top of that, SOS has an excellent tech support team to trouble shoot any programming or setup problems which may arise. They even offer Accredited Distance Learning via their Alpha Omega Academy. A very committed company.
Visit AO online at www.aophomeschooling.com
Editor's Note: Please keep in mind the current state of our public schools in America. Secular humanism has slowly encroached on any display of personal liberty in matters of faith. In many public schools, our children are even prohibited from saying a silent blessing before eating their lunch. Everyone should see Ben Stein’s new movie, Expelled, to get an idea of what happens to serious scholars who even dare question Darwinism. This sort of draconian enforcement trickles down to students in our schools as well. One may or may not necessarily agree with all of the religious creeds and conclusions presented by some of the manufacturers and publishers represented in this review. However, we all should be in agreement on the need to return to morality and Biblical values playing a part in our childrens’ educational experience. Likewise children of faith should have the freedom to express their beliefs.