Microsoft Student includes a whole bunch of neat stuff but what I opened first was Encarta Kids 2008.
Right after I opened the program Catherine (who has impeccable timing) came into the kitchen and asked, "What's that?" So I didn't get a chance to look it over first. In fact, the computer was hers for the next couple of hours as she explored the animals and science sections. When I finally kicked her off I asked her if she liked it.
"It's awesome! Now that's the kind of softwhere I like!"
She's enthusiatic about it to say the least. I got a chance to watch her use it and it did seem to offer a lot of what I was trying to find with my hours of googling. Lots of articles, videos and audio files that Catherine found informative. It was a little shallow, I couldn't find a diagram or animation on lunar eclipses for instance, but it's an encyclopedia and not meant to offer in depth coverage of any subject. What it seemed to do well for Catherine was whet her appetite for more information.
Encarta Kids also includes games. They are all simple matching, sorting and quiz types games. I did notice a gaffe or two. A question on prehistoric people should not be in an ancient history quiz category. That aside Catherine enjoyed them and kept calling me in to play with her.
Next I tried out Encarta Premium. It has a similar interface to Encarta Kids where you can navigate folders by subject matter but that seems to really limit what you find. Much better was the search function. Euclid was nowhere to be found when looking through the biography folders but whe I simply searched his name I was treated with a nice article.
Other tools which were included were Microsoft Math, report templates, writing help and foreign language dictionaries. I didn't spend too much time looking at most of those as I don't have much use for them at this time. I did however look at some of the reports because I had one worry. They were all MS Office or MS Works documents. Not everyone runs those programs so I set Open Office (the very good and very free alternative to Microsofts offerings) as my default, went into Student and attempted to open them. Success! Open Office did the job perfectly.
- While Open Office will open MS Documents, Encarta will not use my default browser, Opera, to access the web. Instead it handcranks old Internet Explorer until the thing decides to start. Granted, even if it would use Opera I probably couldn't access Microsoft sites with it so I guess that's not a big deal.
- Why on earth can't all the text in Encarta Kids be accompanied with an audio track of the same? Not all kids can read or read well and often even when they can it's not how they best learn or retain information.
- My daughter loves it. Enough said on that.
- It has cut down on the time I spend googling. I really appreciate having so much information at my disposal without all the work.
- There's so much included! I may not have explored the templates, MS Math or language dictionaries too much but these are things we'll definately have use for in the future and it will be so much easier to have it sitting on the computer rather then searching the web for a lab report or french translation.
I'm quite happy with Microsoft Student 2008. Despite some minor problems it fills a gap in our homeschooling resources and has become an often used piece of software. My daughter enjoys Encarta Kids, I'm glad to have Encarta and just those two features alone would have been worth the price for me.
NOTE: Contest is now over.
On to the giveaway! I have a code availible for one lucky person to win a free download of Microsoft Student 2008. Just leave a comment (that includes some way for me to contact you) and I'll consider that your entry. I'll have Catherine pick a name out of a hat next Monday and I'll announce the winner then! Good luck!
NOTE: If you leave an email address please make sure to put in spaces or write out 'dot' or some such thing to protect yourself.