Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A TOS Review: Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens

Having a time set aside daily for prayer and contemplation is important. I think it’s one of those habits that can be introduced at a young age.

Recently, we had the chance to review the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens. This unique journal was created by Liz Lassa from the Spiritual Circle Journal.

What I Received

I received the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens. It is 94 pages long; 65 of those pages are journaling pages. There are 16 summary pages at the back of the journal that can be used recording Scripture, etc. The journal itself is spiral bound with a sturdy front and back plastic cover.

What makes this journal unique is it guides the user through a meaningful prayer life and devotion time using bullet points (circles). It helps those who might have difficulty paying attention or knowing what to prayer for stay on task and develop good solid habits.

This particular journal is intended for ages and up. However, it can be used with younger children with help from you via dictation. The journal pages are sturdy enough to be used for special scrapbook and art projects. Painting, pasting and coloring are all encouraged.

The journal pages are different from anything you’ve ever used before. There are 9 different spaces to help your child journal.

These spaces (or open graphics) each are intended for a specific use.

This is a sample pic from the website. Isn't it cute?

JOURNAL ENTRY (JE) – cloud shaped: Asks, what are you thinking about today? Anything making you excited, stressed, happy, or sad?

CONFESSION (C) – heart shaped: Anything you should say sorry for? Ask God for forgiveness.

PRAYER (P) – backpack or satchel shaped: Need help or guidance with something? Anything bothering you? Ask God to help you.

LYRIC/VERSE (L/V) – musical note shaped: Has a line of a song or Bible verse caught your attention?

GOD MOVING (GM) – car shaped: Have you noticed God doing something in your life? "Coincidences" or "it just so happened" moments? Dots connecting? Things you didn't make happen?

THANK YOU/ADORATION (TY/A) – note shaped: What can you praise or thank God for? Tell Him about it.

MESSAGE (M) – book (Bible) shaped: What is the most important thing you learned from your devotional, Bible reading, Sunday school class, or sermon/mass? Any words, verses, phrases or themes repeated lately?

LESSON LEARNED LIGHT BULB MOMENT (LL/LBM) – light bulb shaped: Have you learned a life lesson lately or had a "light-bulb" moment? If you could do something over, what would you do differently or the same?

ACTIONS (A) – shoe shaped: Anything God wants you to do for others? Something He wants to work on within you? Take action!

There is an encouraging teacher/parent guide included in the journal, as well. Basically, we are given hints and tips on how to use the journal, plus some extra inspiration to when it comes to the matter of spending time with God.

My Thoughts

This is such a thoughtful and well-conceived product. We are in the habit of making a daily prayer journal, but this goes much further. For one, it is used only once a week. For my ADHD/Dyslexic boy there aren’t so many empty lines and pages for him to contemplate.

We are in the middle of a big move and Josiah has struggled some. I think having an outlet for his worries and concerns has been so beneficial to him. We’ve also been able to search out God’s Scriptures about God’s plan for us and how He always is with us. I can see the Spiritual Circle Journal being such a blessing in the next days and months. 

There is also  Spiritual Circle Journal for adults! Check them both out. 

You can connect with Spiritual Circle Journal via the following social media sites. Don't forget to click the banner below for more reviews.

Instagram:  @spiritualcirclejournal
Twitter:  @liz_lassa

Spiritual Circle Journal

Friday, August 26, 2016

My Favorite Homeschooling Product (it might surprise you!)

So my friends and fellow reviewers from the Schoolhouse Review Crew are revealing their FAVORITE Homeschooling product.

I'm about to drop some magic on you.

Your homeschool life will be revolutionized. You will spend sleepless nights tossing and turning thinking, "why in the world did I not think of this before?"

Of course, I am exaggerating just a bit. If you do find that magic homeschool pill, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

That being said, I do think my favorite homeschooling product is pretty, stinkin' great. You find it in the most humblest of places. It can be found at a small-town grocery store, a big box store or the best teacher supply store in the universe.

It is...(drumroll, please).....


I know!

Spiral notebooks are versatile, handy-dandy and CHEAP!

Here are some ways I use them.

I use them daily for Josiah's assignments. He has his own notebook SPECIFICALLY for his assignments. I can adjust and change what I need to. I can leave him little love notes (such as; your momma loves you boy...but clean your room!).

Ink in our printer is sometimes a precious commodity. We can be down to our last nickle, but my trusty spiral notebook is there to save the day. We can use it for notebooking, copywork, math review, journaling...and the list goes on!

We do a lot of read alouds in our homeschool. The spiral notebook can be used for a reading time doodle pad. In fact, Josiah has a spiral notebook specifically for doodling. This isn't to say that the starting lineup for the Broncos isn't written across the top of his current copywork page.

I also use the spiral notebook for personal lists, homeschool lists and scratching out to-do lists and recipes. I have purchased spiral notebooks for pennies. And you know how I feel about cute. IT MUST BE CUTE! A little washi tape and sparkly stickers can transform a simple, bimple ho-hum notebook into a work of art...worthy of my grocery list.

So there you have it! The Spiral Notebook. And my favorite homeschooling product.

Click on the banner below to read about other favorite homeschool products.

Favorite Homeschool Product

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A FREE Zendoodle download (This is the Day)

Hello, my friends!

So it's that time of year! How are things going? Have you settled into a back-to-school routine? I even hate to admit this, but we are woefully behind on my estimated lift-off of Josiah's freshman year.

I have a VERY good reason, but I can't spill the beans just yet.  This postponement has actually been very good for me personally. Do you ever just feel you are running on all cylinders and can't keep up with your to-do list?

I see that hand, sister!

To celebrate new beginnings everywhere I am sharing with you one of my little doodles. Here is the thing. I enjoy doodling. My doodles aren't perfect. They are just what they are.

You can click on  this link to download your copy. It will take you to Google Drive. It is a PDF file so you will need Adobe Reader. If you don't have Adobe Reader it is easy enough to download and it is free. The watermark (SassyFrass) won't be on the on the file. 

Print off as many copies as you want to. I like coloring my doodles with colored pencils or gel pens. A hot cup of tea is also a must while doodling. 


Thursday, August 18, 2016

A TOS Review: FlipStir Puzzle

OOOO fun! There is nothing like puzzles. We’ve been known to spread a 1000 piece puzzle and work on it during those chilly days over our Christmas break. Recently, we had a chance to review a different kind of puzzle. It is the FlipStir Puzzle by Enlivenze LLC.  We are currently during a study of the Solar System so I asked for the FlipStir Solar System puzzle.

The instructions for the FlipStir Puzzles are straightforward.

Shake. Stir. Solve.

Sounds easy enough!

However (and you knew the “however” had to come eventually), there is a bit of a twist.  The puzzle includes 10 pieces. They are contained in a plastic cylinder with a lid that CANNOT BE REMOVED.

 You solve the puzzle by using a funky looking stick (wand) with a flat hook on the end.

The Level 2 puzzles, of which the Solar System puzzle is one of, have curved pieces.  This makes it just a bit more challenging.  Level 1 puzzles have straight sides and are easier to assemble.

The intended age for the puzzles is 7 years to adult. In our house, we had a teenager and a forty something gal working on it.

There are a few different puzzles available. 

Rainbow Pencils
Tyrannosaurus Rex
Statue of Liberty
Periodic Table
Solar System

I was the first one to try my hand at solving the puzzle.  It took me a minute to decide how it worked…and I had to look at a picture of the finished puzzle. It really didn’t take me too long to complete it, but I am persistent and have a bit of a puzzle solving brain.

Josiah then took over. He was fascinated by it. Within the first few minutes he said, “I think we need to try and find a way to get the pieces out!”  He worked on it for a bit longer then took it off to his room to “study it some more” (his exact words).

Josiah has always had difficulty solving big or complicated without help. He is dyslexic, so I am not sure if that has something to do with it or not.

But, he eventually conquered the day.

I think this is a fantastic product for sooo many reasons.

For one, there are no way you can lose the pieces. Can I get a witness? How frustrating is it to get to the end of a puzzle and have a piece or two missing!

These puzzles are also easy to contain. In fact, I threw the puzzle in my travel bag when we recently went on vacation. They also don’t take as much room up in the game closet.

They are also a terrific way to keep hands busy. I think they provide excellent fine motor control exercises.

I won’t sugar coat Josiah’s experience. He did struggle. Again. If your child struggles with a similar issue this puzzle will be a challenge. However, challenges are good for us. They teach us to persevere. I think those cozy days with the 1000 piece puzzles have paid off. 

This is a keeper! 

You can connect with  FlipStir via the following social media accounts. 

Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews! 

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

A Sweet Song

Every Fifth Sunday of Every Year our church holds a service at a Nursing Home in Joplin.

We usually have quite the crowd (though nothing can beat the crowd we had the week after the Joplin tornado).

Our attendees are folks who have found themselves in the deepest winter of their lives.

Before their bodies started to fail they all were all manners of things.



Farm Wives.

Secret Service Agents (true story).

In their "other" lives they might have never passed through each other's circles. But here they mingle over Bingo games, Watercolor classes and Ice Cream socials.

The church service every week is always performed by a volunteer church. They are not divided by denominations.

Our service focuses heavily on the music. The song book we bring to share at the Nursing home is filled with the old camp meeting songs that were part of my childhood.

I'll Fly Away

Victory in Jesus.

Count Your Blessings.

A few months ago, I was seated behind an amplifier singing harmony to "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb" (natives in this part of Missouri pronounce it 'warshed). I looked out to the crowd. There were several who clutched their song books singing enthusiastically. They had showed up to church with fluffed hair and clean blouses.

There were those who just smiled and nodded their heads to the music.

And there were those whose just stared vacantly at the ceiling. They had been brought in by aids...You could see that age and disease had taken its toll.

One dear lady grabbed my attention. She was staring up in the ceiling with such sweet smile on her face.

What was she thinking?

Was she remembering days gone by?

Was the message of the song one that she clung too?

Was it just the music that was appealing to her?

That smile spoke a thousand words.

This morning while I was up and about running errands I thought about my day to day interactions with people.

The grocery store clerk with the worried brow.

The lady at Wal-mart who was conducting a conversation on her cell phone no one should have to hear (including the person on the other end).

That driver who was impatient with me for driving the speed limit.

It doesn't have to be an old sacred song that gets the message across.

I have to do it through kind words, a ready smile and patience...lots of patience.

I don't know the stories of those I encounter. Some of those stories are written in chaos, brokenness and pain.

I hope my song is a sweet and filled with hope.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Help! Our Homeschool Doesn't Measure Up!

Hello, my friends. Welcome to the Schoolhouse Review Crew 5 Days of Homeschool 101 Blog Hop. Today the topic is Encouragement. If you have missed my post on making your curriculum work for you, read on over here. You can also check out my post on Planning. And don't forget to read my post on Home Management and Homeschool Traditions.

We've been faithfully watching the Olympics this week.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

I am not, or have ever been, an athlete.

In fact, I was one of those little scrawny girls who always got picked last when we played team sports on the playground.

My sport was daydreaming and daisy picking.

You can imagine that sports, in general, have no appeal for me. Sometimes I just don't get it.

The Olympics, however. Now that's something different.

I would love to feel how it would be to have such power and control in my body.

Almost 20 years ago, I had a devastating car wreck. It left me broken.

I still struggle. I won't go into all my issues, but let's just say that I won't be running any races in my lifetime.

What I have learned is that I can still do something. Just because it's hard doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. It took me years and years before I could walk a mile without great difficulty.

Sistah! I can't even begin to tell you what that little walk did for me. I felt victorious!

It wasn't a marathon. Or even a 3K. But for me it was the Olympics.

Let's apply this principle to our homeschool.

There might be goals and expectations you will never meet. You might never finish that rain forest diorama. You might never get through Great Expectations. There might never been Greek or Latin in  your curriculum.

It doesn't mean that what you are accomplishing isn't worthwhile! 

It is easy for us to look at all the shiny and exceptionally efficient homeschoolers online. They seem to be superhuman. And everything looks like so much fun! Of course, we don't everything that happens behind the scenes.

We have to STOP measuring ourselves against pictures on a screen, words written from 1000 miles away or even against those homeschoolers just down the street.

We've all had great expectations for our homeschool. We want our kids to be learners for life. We want them to embrace challenges and never give up.

I've learned that I need to model those things for my son. I need to show him the priorities in my life.
He needs to see a consistent prayer life, a faithful marriage and a character without reproach.

If our days are filled with time together, beautiful art, music and words, if we face each challenge with a cool head and calm heart, if we take our struggles to the Lord, if we love....those are things worthwhile.

I want to leave you with a verse.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. –Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

Have faith, my friends. Keep the faith. You are doing beautifully.

You can read more encouraging posts by clicking below or heading on over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog. I wrote the intro post!

5 Days of Homeschool 101

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Help! How can I make our first day back to Homeschool special? #5dayshomeschool101

Hello, my friends. Welcome to the Schoolhouse Review Crew 5 Days of Homeschool 101 Blog Hop. Today the topic is Homeschool Traditions. If you have missed my post on making your curriculum work for you, read on over here. You can also check out my post on Planning. And don't forget to read my post on Home Management.

We sent Josiah off to Kindergarten 9 years ago. I can remember weeks before, carefully picking out his little outfits, purchasing new tennis shoes and letting him pick out a lunch box. We took pictures of him combing his little hair, eating breakfast at the table, standing up tall and big with his backpack and holding Daddy’s hand as he left for school.  I bawled and squalled like a baby.


My little boy is entering his Freshman year. Some things have changed. Home has become his school. His little outfits are not so little so more. In fact, I appropriated a pair of gray Converse tennis shoes he wore a few years ago for myself. I am still using his Spiderman lunch box as a medicine bag for me and his only backpack is a Speedo bag that he carries back and forth to swim team practices.

I remember my first day of High School vividly. We had just moved from a really small town to a bigger town out of state. This High School was huge compared to what I was used to. But, my momma had bought me two brand new pairs of cool jeans from JC Penney’s. I just knew everything would be okay.

I just had to share this picture. I think I was 16. I'm on the right. This was taken at Kid's Camp with my friends, Lavonna and Karen. We worked in the kitchen and dining hall. It was a great summer. Don't you just love those jeans? A girl could conquer the world with those jeans.

Now before I start throwing you my tips and tricks, I do need to let you in on a little not/so/secret fact. I really never stop homeschooling through the year. Granted, Josiah asked to have a little bit more a summer break this year, but for the most part we keep schooling year round. It just looks different. Our summer schedule is really light. He continues reviewing math. We have copywork and we read. We might work through a review product, but it is nothing like our fall/winter schedule.

To celebrate the full shebang, I always like to have some fun and special treats in store for my favorite boy. I generally set a date to begin our full schedule and let him have some time just to chill for a week or so previous.

Homeschoolers don’t have the same kind of anxiety issues approaching a new school year (at least not the kiddos).  I’ve heard of some homeschool mommas talk about the absolute exhilaration of their students ready to start a new year.

Umm. My student is not quite (nor has ever been) that excited.  I used to think it might be my delivery, but then decided it had more to do with his temperaments and priorities. My priority was to provide Josiah with an excellent education. His priority was to make the next level in Star Wars Battlefront.

I have discovered, however, that I can provide simple and fun experiences that are guaranteed to make memories.

Here are some ideas that you might use yourself.  I have to tell you that while going through my pics to find some for this post, I was a blubbering mess. I kept finding treasure after treasure of my baby boy. I am just a puddle. Really. 

1.     The First Day of Public School is a free day for us. In fact, we love to go about the town and hit our favorite spots without the crowds. I am already picking out the movie at our cheap movie house!

2.    On the day we actually start school ourselves, I will let Josiah make cupcakes for breakfast. This tradition started years ago when I was teaching him how to read directions on a cake mix box. It was a hit!  I've heard of some homeschoolers who celebrate with something like a pancake breakfast. A pancake breakfast at our house is like a Tuesday. Nothing exciting. Just a Tuesday. We have pancakes frequently. Cupcakes on the other hand....

3.   The whole trend of taking pictures with the little signs happened started well after we began homeschooling. I am going to do it this year to commemorate Josiah’s Freshman year. Hopefully, he will refrain from making Zombie faces.  The rest of the year we can expect pictures like this one to come out of our homeschool.

4   Josiah could care less about picking out his school supplies. I, however, am a school supply addict! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE school supplies. It makes me happy to pick up a cute notebook and a sparkly pen. Try a little sparkle in your homeschool day. I have a coupon ready to purchase a new set of sparkly pens to begin our new school year. I like the Gelly Roll pens by Sakura.. Hobby Lobby has them BTW. 

Since we enjoy a cupcake or two for breakfast, I will take Josiah out for his favorite Chinese Food dish on our first day. This is one of our little traditions for special occasions. A Mom and Son date for Chinese Food. You can’t get any better than that! There have been years, however, that we didn't have to plug nickles (or plug pennies for that matter) to rub together. We smeared some peanut butter on some bread, grabbed a couple of apples and headed to the park for a picnic. That was pretty special. 

     We always start a new book on the first day.  I’m thinking about taking it back to some old school favorites. I’m waffling between The Lemony Snicket series and the Harry Potter books. We’ve been experiencing some stressors as of late and we need some comfortable favorites. 

So those are some things we do that help make the first day of school special.

My best advice for starting out a "school year" right is to start the way you want to finish. With purpose. With optimism. Set a pace that you can keep. Learn to say no to unnecessary busyness.

For now, just enjoy the days. They go by quickly.

you can read more about Homeschool traditions by checking out more blogs below or clicking here. 

5 Days of Homeschool 101

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Help! I Need Homekeeping Motivation #5dayshomeschool101

Hello, my friends. Welcome to the Schoolhouse Review Crew 5 Days of Homeschool 101 Blog Hop. Today the topic is Home Management. If you have missed my post on making your curriculum work for you, head on over here. You can also check out my post on Planning.

Let’s talk about Homekeeping.

Some of you are rocking it. You are the Queen of your castle!             

Between you and me, I might be the Queen but my crown is a little tattered. Not to mention my castle.
When I need Homekeeping  inspiration I have a few resources that help me put polish in my spit.

Jen isn’t a homeschooler, but she is a Christian youtuber and provides plenty inspiration concerning healthy eating, workouts and keeping the house spotless. There are whole videos of her just cleaning. I find them fascinating. So that is what it looks like!  I have made many of her recipes. Yum!

The LifeGiving Home : Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming

This is one of my new favorite books by Sally & Sarah Clarkson. There are nuggets of homemaking wisdom for every month. This mother and daughter duo challenge our faith and inspire us to be better wife, mothers, daughter and children of God. Sally Clarkson is a treasure.

I ordered this book a few years ago. I was tired of feeling frumpy. I was missing some of the little touches I loved to add to our daily life.  I adore this little book. The author, Jennifer L Scott, has a few other books that look just as interesting. She also has a youtube channel I follow. You can also check out her blog The Daily Connoisseur.  

This book by Sarah Mae not only provides daily homemaking challenges for the challenged homemaker, but leads us through a devotional. It is intended to be a 31 day plan. I really loved it because it helped me refocus my priorities.  Sarah Mae has a terrific blog. Check out her 31-day Challenge.

I discovered Fly Lady years ago. While I am not the most faithful adherent, I have still practice many of her tips and tricks daily. Whatever life throws at me, I still manage to declutter for 15 minutes day. I can do that! Fly Lady has tons of resources…even for the homeschooler! In fact, she has a link for a homeschooler who gives you step-by-step instructions for managing your day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put on the Fly Lady podcast for crisis cleaning.

Homemaking Blogs

There are lots of bloggers online who have taken on the mantle of providing homemaking mentoring for those who need instruction or inspiration. I am listing just a few.

·         Hilary Bernstein – check out her Homemaking 101 series.
·         Clean Mama
·         The Christian Homekeeper
·         Time Warp Wife
·         One Good Thing by Jillee – check out ‘clean’ under the solutions tab.

So there you go, my friends. I hope I’ve given you at least one or two resource ideas that will encourage you (or at least give you some tips on how to keep your shower clean). Don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek out a real life mentor. I was blessed to have a mother who taught me how to, not only manage my home, but to think of our home as a haven for those who reside there.  I have also found that some of the precious older members of our congregation to be a wealth of wisdom and ingenuity.

Go forth my friends! Make your castle as shiny and precious as you are!  Check out other great articles on Home Management by clicking here or below. 

5 Days of Homeschool 101

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Help! I'm hiding from my homeschool planner! #5dayshomeschool101

Hello, my friends. Welcome to the Schoolhouse Review Crew 5 Days of Homeschool 101 Blog Hop. Today the topic is Planning. If you have missed my post on making your curriculum work for you, head on over here.

I am a pretty awesome planner.

If I do say so myself.

What I have discovered, however, is that I tend to OVERPLAN. I take days to plan out weeks and months of homeschool lessons. I have every page #, experiment and field trip recorded in my cute little planner. 

Do you do this?  What happens to me is that I have a beautifully thought out plan. Then life happens and I get way behind with my beautifully thought out plan and then discouragement sets in.

I’m. Never. Gonna. Get. Anything. Done.


The cold monster makes a sneak attack. Math happens. Or doesn't. Josiah discovers that he enjoys reading about the Wild West and would like to spend more time researching outlaws and the gold rush. 

Pretty soon, nothing in my planner looks familiar and I've taken to hiding it in the bookshelf so I am not reminded how far behind I am. 

Shew. I know that nobody has ever felt this way. 

You can imagine that I’ve needed to take a different direction in my planning madness.

If you are a faithful reader of my blog you are undoubtedly shaking your head in confusion. I have stated many times that “I am not much of a planner.”

This is the thing.  It doesn’t mean I can’t plan. It means that I have discovered that my previous method of planning madness wasn’t effective. It just didn’t work for us.

I decided to go simple.

I still need a basic plan of action, but I need to be flexible. What if Josiah needs more time with a math lesson? What if we want to extend our Civil War unit? What if we want to take an impromptu field trip to the cupcake store? For scientific observation purposes only, you understand.

Once a week or so, I sit down with homeschooling lists, curriculum and books.  I’m about to lay down for you the secrets of my success. Of course, you realize that my “success” is relative.  I am a homeschooler, after all. I take it where I can get it.

1.       Before I sit down to plan I make a snack. I am not responsible for anything that happens when I’m Hangry. You probably want to keep it simple, but  you can make it a true event try making these Chocolate Zucchini Brownies or this recipe for Low Carb Pancake Muffins (I’m trying these out this week!) You can thank me later.

2.        I brew a fresh pot of tea. My favorite tea is Sweet and Spicy from the Good Earth. I use my favorite tea cup. It makes me feel fancy and productive.

3.       I bring out my secret weapon. A simple (but cute) spiral notebook. In it I have written down our reading list for the year. I also have included the composers, poets and artists we want to study. I check my course of study I wrote down at the beginning of the year. Am I on track? Do I need to rethink some things?

4.       I then look through the curriculum and books we are working through. Do we need to repeat anything? What supplies will I need for next week? Do I need to add or take away any projects? Do I need to print anything off?  If I do need to print something off, I do it ASAP or at least send it to the printers. I have a guy (who knows a guy) who will print stuff off for 5 cents a copy (BW). You can’t beat that when you are getting ready to tackle a notebooking project.

5.       I threaten my teenager. If he doesn’t put away those dishes in the drainer he is going to find himself in a world of hurt. Moving on.

6.       Then it is time to write out a simple assignment list. I have goals for the whole week. For example, I might want Josiah to finish the chapter on fossil fuels. I would like for him to read Psalm 23 every day. We are also reading through Treasure Island. How long do we need to read every day to get through the book?  I don’t necessarily write down assignments for every day at the beginning of the week in my pretty spiral book. Having weekly goals have made a huge difference.

7.       Every day, after our school day, I take out Josiah’s assignment book. It is a simple spiral notebook. He doesn’t care if it looks cute.  I add what I would like him to do the next day. I include any chores and activities that we have on the agenda. He enjoys checking things off his list.

8.       I pretend that Josiah ate all the chocolate zucchini brownies. Planning is hard work!

Just a few notes. I obviously do a bit more planning at the beginning of every year. I look through my curriculum. One of the advantages of being a curriculum reviewer is that I have a bunch of it. I am a firm believer of USING WHAT YOU HAVE. If I need to add or purchase anything I do so at our local homeschool used bookstore or on Amazon. During really lean times, I have purchased textbooks from The Thrift Store or use an out-of-print textbook found online to use as a guideline. I supplement it with notebooking pages, lapbooks, documentaries, field trips and art projects. The internet is a wonderful source for homeschoolers.

Don’t stress out about this!  Everybody has a different style of planning and administration. If you need more structure then create more structure for yourself. If you are a loosey goosey (welcome to my club) don’t chain yourself to a strict schedule. Leave time for fun, games, walks in the park and a nap or two (and a few more of those brownies!)

You can read more about Planning by checking out the blogs below or clicking on this link! 

5 Days of Homeschool 101

Monday, August 8, 2016

Help! My Homeschool Curriculum Isn't Working!

Hello, my friends. Welcome to the Schoolhouse Review Crew 5 Days of Homeschool 101 Blog Hop. Today the topic is Curriculum. 

So the curriculum that you’ve heard everybody rave about (including me) finally comes in the mail. You carefully plan out daily lessons….You can’t wait until your kiddos start the work.  You just know it is going to be THE ANSWER.

It’s now weeks later. You have reached your limit. IT ISN”T WORKING! What happened to the promises of engaging lessons, thriving students and a satisfied momma? You can’t even believe you let a handful of eager reviewers (including me) talk you into spending money on something that isn’t right for your kids.

Before you start sending me carefully worded emails (aka nasty notes), I want to let you in on a little secret that most veteran homeschoolers are aware of and practice on a regular basis.

We understand that every child learns differently. We also know that even the best curriculum will need adapting to fit the needs of our students and our family. 

Many moons ago, I taught a workshop to a group of Sunday School teachers on “How to make your Sunday School Curriculum work for you.”  I gave them a list of things they could do to enhance their lessons. I realize now that some of those precious teachers didn’t necessarily want to hear how to change things up…they wanted a magic solution that would suddenly bring their lessons to life.

Most of tips I am about to give you will require some effort on your part.  But you got this. You have made the brave decision to educate your children. You know them best. You can use that beautiful curriculum as a guide to help you turn your school day into a triumph.

1.       Know your child’s learning style.  Not every curriculum is a great fit for every learning style. But here is the good news. You can adapt any curriculum to meet your child’s needs.  There are several good online tests to help you determine learning styles. The Vark Questionnaire For Younger People is one. Here is another one from Education Planner.

2.       Does it seem a little dry for your energetic learners? Consider adding a project, experiments or other hands-on activities to your lessons. You don’t have to make every day a party…but adding a project or two will make things seem brighter.

3.       Some curriculums seem repetitive. This is where you can use your judgement. Does the math book contain too many problems for your child to finish without feeling overwhelmed? Assign fewer problems. You can ascertain fairly quickly if the subject has been mastered.

4.        Adjust the schedule. My son struggles with math. I can generally tell right away if this is going to be a particularly difficult subject.  We might spend the majority of our math class using the white board and working out the problems in the book together. I then assign him very few to do on his own initially.  Sometimes this takes longer than the curriculum suggests. Don’t be afraid to drag out a lesson. You goal is for your child to learn…not to get through the book.  If you have a wiggle worm, maybe you need to adjust the length of the lesson AND assignments. Don’t beat it to death.

5.       When you feel that curriculum doesn’t provide enough material or practice it is easy enough to stretch it out. You can find plenty of worksheets or books to add to your subject. 

6.       My son is dyslexic.  If I chose curriculum for him based on his reading level we would never get anywhere. A good portion of the time, I read aloud his science and history reading. Sometimes we take turns. I adore audio books, so those are a mainstay in our homeschool. Another trick I like to practice is to check out books from the library that coordinate with our lesson. By giving him high interest, low level reading material on that subject he can connect more with the material.

7.       If you child struggles with a lot of writing, consider giving assignments orally. I had a kiddo in my 1st grade class that had been held back because he struggled with writing. I found that the boy had a brilliant memory and I started getting giving him quizzes and tests orally. It made a big difference in his grades and self-esteem. We tackled his writing issues as a different issue completely.

8.       Consider “modeling’ an assignment or project. My son does better if he can see how something is supposed to look. I often will complete a notebooking page right alongside him.  It takes a bit more work, but the results are much more satisfying.

9.       If you have children of different ages and learning styles using the same curriculum, there are ways you can adapt it for everyone. Let’s say the lesson in your history book is on the Panama Canal. Your hands-on learner will thrive with a lapbook project or building project (a model would be cool!) Your visual learner will enjoy watching a documentary or checking out a book at the library that contains a visual history of the time period. Search online for a podcast or lecture about the subject for your auditory learner. Auditory learners also enjoy music. You might find music for the time period. Those simple add-ons will make a world of difference!

10.   Don’t feel like you have to use every page of the book. Really! In fact, a favorite hack of mine over the years has been to take a textbook I’ve found at The Thrift Store and simply use it as a guide. If that is the only curriculum you can get you can make it your own!  Turn chapter questions into discussions. Use lapbooks and notebooking pages as your workbooks.  Pinterest is a great place to find all manner of ideas and printables.

You are the master! Make your curriculum work for you. Don’t be intimidated to change things up.

You can find more posts about curriculum below! 

5 Days of Homeschool 101

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A TOS Review: CTCMath (an online math curriculum)

Math. It’s not quite our “jam.” However, you kinda need it! Right?

We have been reviewing the Homeschool Membership from CTCMath this summer to see if will pass the muster for possible use this fall.

CTCMath is an online interactive math program. Kiddos K-12 can use this program.  Most importantly, students can learn at their own pace. 

Now I am the homeschooling parent of a One and Only, but when you purchase a CTC Homeschool Membership you can have accounts for up to 10 students. Each student receives his or her own login and password. My Teacher Account allows me to check in on my student and see how he is progressing. Now there is a different price for multiple student account, but it isn't that much more and it doesn't rise with the number of children you have. 

I can also assign certain topics for my student to complete. This is how I used the program with Josiah. I wanted to give him some remedial help to work through this summer. It was easy to pick and choose what I wanted him to focus instead of starting at the beginning. 

First of all, CTCMath can be used as a complete curriculum. It is simply more than just some review games. There is thorough instruction being given here. 

It is also interactive. There is an instant quiz after every lesson. There are also printable worksheets available for your student to print out. 

Most importantly, (and this is a biggie for us!) lessons can be repeated as needed. You can pause the video. Replay the video. You can repeat a concept if needed and don't have to worry about moving on if your student hasn't quite mastered it. 

From my account, I was able to go through a lesson and grab some screen shots for you so you can see what transpires during a  typical lesson.

I have decided to embarrass myself with anything resembling High School Algebra (though I rocked College Algebra way back in the day). I am heading back to 2nd grade and starting with Multiplication. In fact, multiplication is been the focus of Josiah's review this summer so it's only fitting. 

You can see at the very top of the screen an option for 3 diagnostic tests. I LOVE this. It allows me to see where Josiah is at. 

You can't see this box very well, but it the results of a diagnostic test I had him take on basic addition. It gives an efficiency rating, shows the number of times he took the test (once) and what date he took it. 

 The lessons themselves begin with a video. They are simple and straightforward. They also don't last very long. Yay!

After the video the student answers a group of questions pertaining to the lessons.

One of my favorite parts of the program is that immediately after answering all the questions, the student is taken to a screen of all the questions and answers. You can see that the wrong answers are corrected with red, allowing the student to see where he went wrong.

As I mentioned above, there are also printable worksheets available. I plan on utilizing this feature more when we jump into our fall semester. 

Here are a few things I want to tell you. 

No matter what grade your student is in you have unlimited access to all the lessons. That is terrific for those of us who have students who need challenging or those who need extra help. 

You do need a reliable internet connection with speakers or a set of headphones. 

CTCMath has the same teacher voicing ALL of the lessons. That is consistency right there. Josiah likes him because he sounds like Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings movie fame). I believe Pat Murray is Australian so that could explain the connection. 

I also love Mr. Murray's belief that students don't need a lengthy lecture or explanation when learning math. My college algebra teacher happened to agree. He was a Russian nuclear physicist who insisted that "Americans made things too hard." Mr. Murray also believes in a multi-sensory approach to learning..which is absolutely apparent in the lessons. 

I really, really like this program. This is a keeper! 

You can connect with CTCMath via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. 

CTCMath Review
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