May 1999

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.

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Kids! Spanish from Syracuse Language, JumpStart Preschool from Knowledge Adventure and The Baby-sitters Club 4th Grade Learning Adventures from The Learning Company

Kids! Spanish from Syracuse Language and Knowledge Adventure

Syracuse Language and Knowledge Adventure offer a Spanish language learning course on CD for kids ages 6 to 10 called Kids! Spanish, which is truly for kids. This is a fun and interactive educational CD packed with great graphics, sounds and cute characters to teach, and entertain, the beginning Spanish language student.

The activities are organized in five difficulty levels starting with colors, fruits, shapes and numbers and ending in prepositional phrases, common expressions and commands in Level 5 with everything in between. The method incorporated is learning by immersion where children learn through imitation with audio and visual cues.

After a quick installation, you'll find yourself in a very simple main screen with Muppet-like cartoon characters lurking among the level buttons. Clicking on any of the five level numbers will display the activities for that level, as icons. Kids should start with Level 1, and then progress to more difficult lessons. For example, from Level 1, clicking the fruit icon gets you to the fruit lessons. Clicking on any fruit gives the Spanish meaning. And, if you'd like to record the Spanish you've just heard, there's an audio recorder at the bottom of the display. Click the record button and then speak into your microphone to record your Spanish for immediate playback (click the playback button). Of course, this requires an audio card and microphone. But all multimedia computers have audio capabilities, and if you don't have a microphone, they're fairly inexpensive (you should find an adequate microphone for less than $10).

Kids! Spanish is a very thorough and interactive course in Spanish for kids. You'll find this CD fun and educational while learning some basic Spanish in no time. It even includes a language audio tape that I can't understand because it's completely in Spanish. But anyone completing this course will definitely understand the tape. I'm still trying to understand computers so I'll just pass this CD and tape on to my kids.

Kids! Spanish sells for a under $30 and will run on any 486DX2/66 MHz or faster multimedia PC with 8 megabytes of RAM and a double-speed CD-ROM drive. For more information contact Syracuse Language Systems at 1-800-797-5264, or visit their Web site at

JumpStart Preschool from Knowledge Adventure

Okay, kids, ages 2 to 4, are you ready for a new JumpStart Preschool? The software engineers at Knowledge Adventure knew that you loved the original JumpStart, so they decided to offer you a newer and better version for 1999. It has improved graphics, motivational rewards (this is important information for the parents) an assessment technology that customizes for a child's individual needs and more.

After a very quick installation, enter your name and you're on the way to a jump on learning with fun activities, music, sound effects and some very friendly animal characters as your guide. You'll have some fun with phonics, numbers, letters and a bit of geometry (for preschool kids that is). The activities include painting while looking for hidden numbers, a player piano for some songs, playing ball while matching colors, completing a painting while looking for hidden letters, connecting numbers, adding toys to the toy box to learn letters and their sounds, and more. When you've completed an activity you get a trip on the magic train to different kingdoms for some fun animation and songs.

Becky, my 4-year-old daughter can handle this CD on her own. She spent about an hour learning and playing before we left to go to Burger King for lunch and a toy. As I was watching her easily move through the activities she said, "The magic train ride is my favorite part." Becky completed four paintings and was rewarded with some stamps and a train ride to Ruler Land to meet the king who sang a ruler song.

JumpStart Preschool has a street price of $19.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, 486/66 MHz or faster and a Power Macintosh. Both computers require 16 megabytes of RAM and a 4x CD-ROM drive. For more information contact Knowledge Adventure at 1-800-545-7677, or visit their Web site at

The Baby-sitters Club 4th Grade Learning Adventures from The Learning Company

This is a two CD software set for girls, based on the Scholastic book series, The Baby-sitters Club by Ann M. Martin. CD 1 covers 4th grade geography, math, language arts, social studies and science. CD 2 includes multi-player learning game offering various subjects including careers and noteworthy woman. It also includes pictures of the club members, and access to the Baby-sitters Club Online Clubhouse on the Internet. You'll find great graphics, video, sound effects and music throughout the activities that will keep your 4th grader busy for hours.

The activities include Kristy's Map Maker, Abby's Wacky Word Kicks, Stacey's Count On Me Game, Jessi's Trina Ballerina Game, Inside Your Locker, That's My Dog, BSC (Baby-sitters Club) and Concentration. From within BSC Brain Blitz, a multi-player game on Disk 2 you have five puzzlers: Save the Garden, Don't Wake the Baby, Big City Sounds, Ice Cream Challenge, Scrambled Sitters and Lightning Round.

After an easy installation from CD 1, running the program gives you several options. You can enter Stoneybrook school and play the activities, read the on-screen manual or visit the BSC on the Internet. Click on Play and you're asked by a BSC member in an on-screen video, to sign in and then open your combination lock to enter your locker. You'll hear real sounds of kids in the hallway as a BSC member welcomes you to Stoneybrook and tells you about the activities. Click on one of several lockers to access the various activities. Clicking on Stacey's locker, and then on her game box inside, gets you to the Math Maze to answer math questions (with the help of an on-screen calculator). In Kristy's locker you'll access the Map Maker game for a geography lesson. And in your locker you'll find two games and a scrapbook to view your prizes received for games played.

In CD2 you'll find Brain Blitz, the quiz show style game. Before you play, you can click on BSC members photos for a video and information about each of the students. Then you'll click Let's Go to begin the game. First select the number of players (1 to 4) and type in your name and the names of the other players if your friends are playing. After selecting the difficulty level (1 to 4) and the number of rounds (1 to 3) you're on your way to learning with lots of questions on lots of subjects. For any correct answer you get a charm and points.

The Baby-sitters Club 4th Grade Learning Adventure sells for $34.95 and works on any multimedia PC, 486/66 MHz or faster machine with Windows and the Apple Macintosh, 68040 or Power PC processor, or better. Both computers require a double-speed CD-ROM drive and 12 to 16 megabytes RAM. For more information contact The Learning Company at 1-800-716-8506 or visit their Web site at

Howard Berenbon