Monday, August 26, 2019

The Super Power of Homeschooling: Resources

Taking charge of your children’s education is an overwhelming venture some days. Compared to a public school counterpart, we may be doing the work of several people all by ourselves. Whether you are just starting your homeschool journey or have been at it for years, there are seasons that can feel really lonely and daunting. Doing life differently is just like that. The good news is that modern homeschooling has a superpower we forget about sometimes: Resources.
Are you looking for age-appropriate read-aloud books? Maybe you need a different way to approach Algebra? Wondering when anyone has time to clean their house? Is your child struggling with communication and social skills? Can you afford to homeschool? Do you need help heading into high school, and wondering what to do about a transcript? These are all things that can burden a parent down when they don’t know where to start. Homeschool parents get used to sifting through things that won’t work, in order to find a great thing that will. When you are overwhelmed, find those that have done some of the sifting for you. Through social media, organizations like SchoolhouseTeachers.com and The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, and local co-ops, you have access to hundreds of parents just like you working to get the little souls entrusted to you pointed in the right direction.
Sometimes in our feelings of isolation, we end up bemoaning how different our situation is, rather than celebrating the freedoms we have in being different. As a homeschool parent, you are afforded a wide berth in determining and pursuing what is best for your children. Whatever their need or interest is, there is an internet and homeschool community full of possibilities. From worksheets to schedules and methods to mentorship, homeschooling parents are establishing this village of resources and support for other parents venturing out onto this unique path.


Every homeschool parent you meet will have a bag of resources to share with you, if you ask them. They have tried, failed, succeeded, and shifted so much that they have advice and experiences that can help you. For the lean times, the challenging times, and the wonderful times, every home educator has resources to share with you. We all have experiences we’ve learned from, and love the chance to share the fruits of our struggles with someone who could really use it! It usually isn’t a problem getting other home educators to talk with you, it’s getting them to hush about it that is the hard part!
Every time you start to feel burdened and overwhelmed by the unique needs of your job, remember the myriad of people and places you can call upon for help!
-Originally published at Homeschooling with Heart, a blog of The Old Schoolhouse.

Friday, August 23, 2019

My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping: An Online Planner Review


Planning is the worst and also my favorite!  New planners, color coded dividers, and a handy new app can always get me excited.  However, actually using the new method or supplies long term is another thing altogether and something I'm sad to say that I struggle with regularly. Today we're reviewing the Annual Membership Plan from My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping.  We talked about this online planner back in 2016 and this time around they have added some elements so we are happy to revisit it!

What We Received:

We were given a the  Annual Membership Plan to My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping which includes online access across all platforms to their program for unlimited students.

How It Works:

From first login, the program prompts you set up your school, school year/semesters, students, subjects, classes and lessons.  This program can do an enormous amount of record keeping and reporting for you depending on how you set it up and how you use it.  There is a lot of work to get everything set up properly which can be overwhelming at first.  Thankfully, they have a searchable blog full of tips, video tutorials, FAQs, downloadable guides and email/phone support for help.  The most useful and pertinent thing it can do is track courses and create a transcript, an important element on all homeschooling parents of high school students.

It also can be a great assignment tracker where students can login and check their own schedule for the day/week.  This can be especially helpful for older students working independently.  In the lesson section, it will even divide up pages and activities and assign them strategically over a section of time.  


Whether you are just keeping track of attendance,students' reading or a full grading system, this program can give you a picture of where everyone is at with a click of a button.


It also is a complete online calendar that color codes all student activities, including mom's chores and to-do lists.

In addition to all of the added tutorials and help, one of the biggest changes to the program since the last time we looked at it is the Teacher's Aid.  Under this heading, you receive notifications for things that need to be done like enrolling a student, adding lessons to a class or questions about attendance or awards.  It points out areas you may have missed or simply where you left off last.

What We Thought:

My oldest is 8 and we have yet to allow any of our kids a personal device so the immediate value of this program for our family is strictly record keeping and organization for mom.  Since I struggle with follow-through in record keeping,  MySchoolYear.com has become like a training program for me to keep track in preparation for older grades when it becomes absolutely necessary.

While this program can do a ton, it requires a ton of set up that seems daunting in the face of just a pen and paper.  However, the product of a complete record and organized assignments your independent kids can access themselves is an important thing too.  When you are willing to put in the time at the beginning watching the tutorials, reading the blog and getting everything set up, this program is a gem!  It's accessible everywhere so no matter what device you have access to, you can check someone's assignments or set up a new lesson.  

Follow My School Year on Social Media:

Would you be interested in hearing from families with older children?  Check out other Crew Members' reviews to find out what their experience was.
Annual Membership Homeschool Record Keeping  {My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

CTC Math: An Online Math Curriculum Review

For today's review, we are revisiting an old friend!  CTCMath was a great asset when we reviewed it in 2017 and this time we were able to put the Family Membership, to greater use since I have two students actively using it.  Since our review last time, they have added some great features that have enhanced the program quite a bit, including a fun game for practicing multiplication.  Wherever you fall in your math needs, CTCMath offers an online multi-faceted program to help students get caught up or get ahead in their math skills.

What We Received:

We received a 12-month Family Membership for up to 5 students.  Since I only have 2 children old enough to use the program, that means I have space left on the account.  The program goes through high school and even includes Calculus! I could go in and brush up on all my math skills in preparation for the day when my kids need help and I'm so rusty that I make it worse!

How It Works:

With the family membership, we set up 2 student accounts and I have one admin/teacher account.  Through the admin account I can assign tasks (lessons, diagnostic tests, etc.), track everything they have done, when they logged on, how many questions/lessons they completed, and their scores on everything.  Assigned tasks can have various due dates or length of time to work on it, making long range planning very doable.  A new addition this time around has been the User Guides.  This is a collection of videos that explain different administrative tasks and options.  I discovered that I could assign review sheets  - something I didn't know until I watched  some of the User Guide videos.  There are also a couple of videos about a new Question Bank Wizard option they have where you can customize worksheets. When you're new to the program and trying to figure out how everything works, these videos are super helpful!


When a student logs on to their account (each student has separate login info), they see this panel of choices: 
  • Lessons
  • Tasks
  • Results 
  • Settings 
  • History  
Tasks is where anything I have assigned the student will show up.  However, at any time the student can go to Lessons and pick from all grades and topics in order to learn, practice or test a concept.  So, if my third grader is suddenly struggling with subtraction concepts, we can revisit first or second grade lessons to clarify and practice.


An interesting note about CTCMath is that all of the lessons are voiced/taught by the same instructor which provides a certain level of continuity and familiarity that we find comforting.  Although, it may just be his fun accent that we like! Who knows?!



A new feature that we have really enjoyed is the Speed Skills and Times Table Shoot 'Em Up.  Speed Skills is a straight forward timed test of basic skills.  The Times Table game is a fun spaceship style game where you shoot the correct answer to the presented multiplication problem.  You have the option to practice a number family or play mixed to earn points and maintain lives.  My third grader definitely preferred this method of math practice!



What We Thought:

Since this wasn't a new program to us, jumping back in was very easy.  The new games were a big hit and not complicated at all.  The review sheets and new question bank wizard has increased the variety of assignment options which in my opinion keeps things interesting.  With clear explanations and plenty of excellent graphics, we have nothing but praise for this great program!






Follow CTCMath on Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ctcmath/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ctcmathofficial
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.au/ctcmath/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWn5e6974bpIEAe46VnovZw
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ctcmath/

Wondering what middle school and high school students think of CTCMath? Check out the Crew reviews below to see what families with other ages thought.

Math 12-month Family Membership {CTCMath Reviews 2019}
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Pitfalls of Year-Round Schooling


In my final installment of this Year-Round Schooling series, I'm talking about the difficult aspects of year-round schooling.  As much as we would all like to proclaim the perfection of our lifestyle choices, everything comes with baggage and difficulties.  One choice creates various issues that another choice would solve.  It simply depends on which difficulties you are comfortable with facing.  While I love the flexibility and advantages it gives our family, there are unique pitfalls that we have to watch out for.

Feeling Left Out.  It rarely seems logical  that I should feel left out since not following the crowd gives me incredible freedom in educating my children.  Yet, when everyone is posting back to school pictures or doing all the summer things, it's hard not to get caught up in it sometimes.  And it usually has nothing to do with the actual thing, but just not being a part of what's currently happening all over Facebook.

Losing Track.  If you aren't great at record-keeping or lesson planning (like me) never having a clear beginning or ending can result in not having a clue where you're at other than just knowing everyone is learning every day.  It's not the worst problem to have, but the older your students get, the more it will matter.

Out of Season Lessons.  If you ever find yourself way off the traditional 9 month school year, some curriculum and lessons won't line up as nicely as they could.  Apples and pumpkins are perfect for the fall and butterfly stages were meant for the Spring.  Unless you plan it right or switch lesson plans around, sometimes things will just be out of season.  It's certainly not the end of the world, but it's something to be aware of.

Breaks Must Be Intentional.  Sometimes life decides when and how you will take a break.  When someone gets sick or an unexpected opportunities present themselves, you just go with it.  Other times, school might feel like it goes on forever.  Homeschool parents already struggle with mental overload and not having predetermined, clearly defined breaks may feel like too much.  That's why we are strategic about our vacations throughout the year and respect mom's burnout!

Year-round schooling isn't for everyone and not even possible in some situations, but if you ever find yourself in an emergency state with your homeschooling, don't despair!  Giving yourself permission to seriously go with the flow in this season of life might be the best thing that ever happened to you!  By keeping these pitfalls in mind, you and your family can thrive despite irregular events!

2019 Annual Not Back to School Homeschool Blog Hop
Kristen Heider @ A Mom's Quest to Teach -Theme: A Quest for a Great Homeschool Year
Patti Pierce - Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy - My Favorite Homeschooling Things
Wendy @ Life on Chickadee Lane - 5 Days of Nature Study
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning - Homeschooling my final 4 
Christine @ Life's Special Necessities - Yes! You Can Homeschool Your Special Needs Child
Sally M - Tell the Next Generation - Tips for Homeschooling Struggling Learners 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Reasons You Need Year-Round Schooling


This week I'm participating in a Not Back To School Series and talking about Year-Round Schooling. Since so many of our lifestyle choices go against the grain already, I'm sure it's not a surprise that we would go with a year-round schooling approach.  But, have you ever thought about why you might choose it?  Let me give you a few reasons you should consider it.

- Health is more important than someone else's schedule.  Especially in the elementary years, there is such a conflict between what their little body needs (more rest, lots of outdoor play, etc.)  and what is socially and schedule-wise accepted.  Year-round schooling allows for sick days and growth spurts with ease.

- Weather waits for no man.  Days great for playing outside or taking that field trip do not respect my schedule.  From frigid cold winters to blazing hot back to school days, there's plenty of days better spent indoors.  When a great weather day comes along, you don't want to be so tied to a schedule that you can't enjoy it.  Year-round schooling allows for a more enhanced nature and science education because you are allowed to do more outside!

- Your local public school teacher recommends it! What does every teacher worth their salt recommend for summer vacation? Keep up your reading.  Do 5 minute math drills every morning.  Educators know that we all do well when we continue working on our skills and maintain learning engagement.  It's a fact.that completely stopping the learning process for large gaps at a time creates a large amount of work to get caught up at the beginning of the school year.  Year-round schooling creates an ideal learning routine and enhances students' retention.

- Life rarely goes as planned.  A realistic part of efficient planning is the ability to be flexible when it doesn't go the way you intend.  There is a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure to get back on schedule when we experience curve balls in our life.  There will be extended illness, deaths, financial, marriage and housing issues.  Life is just like that.  Year-round schooling assumes there will be complications and allows ample time to maneuver around them without as much stress.


2019 Annual Not Back to School Homeschool Blog Hop
CREW @ Homeschool Review Crew - 2019 Annual Not Back to School Homeschool Blog Hop 
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses - ABC of Homeschooling
Dawn @ Schoolin' Swag - Adding Fun to Your Homeschool Day
Erin @ For Him and My Family - Large Family Homeschooling
Lori @ At Home Where Life Happens - Learning Life Skills
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling - Homeschooling the High School Years
Monique D. @ Early Learning Mom - Homeschooling With Autism
Yvie @ Homeschool On the Range - 5 Days of Upper Grades Homeschooling
Abby @ Making Room 4 One More - Time Management for Homeschool Moms
Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool - 5 Days of Homeschool Questions
Amy @ the WRITE Balance - Year-Round Schooling
Annette @ A Net in Time - Homeschooling.
Betty @ Lets Get Real - Homeschooling High School
Cassandra @ My Blessed Mess - Eclectic Homeschooling Kimberley @ Vintage Blue Suitcase - Roadschooling with a Teenager
Yvonne @ The Life We Build - 5 Days of Relaxed Homeschooling
Destiny @ Some Call It Destiny - Encouragement for the Homeschooling Mom
Karen @ Tots and Me...Growing Up TogetherA Peek into Our Homeschool
Kimberley @ Vintage Blue Suitcase - Roadschooling with a Teenager
Yvonne @ The Life We Build - 5 Days of Relaxed Homeschooling
Destiny @ Some Call It Destiny - Encouragement for the Homeschooling Mom
Karen @ Tots and Me...Growing Up TogetherA Peek into Our Homeschool
Cassie D @ Deputie Tribe - Homeschooling 6 Taking Care of YOU
Kristen Heider @ A Mom's Quest to Teach -Theme: A Quest for a Great Homeschool Year
Patti Pierce - Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy - My Favorite Homeschooling Things
Wendy @ Life on Chickadee Lane - 5 Days of Nature Study
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning - Homeschooling my final 4 
Christine @ Life's Special Necessities - Yes! You Can Homeschool Your Special Needs Child
Sally M - Tell the Next Generation - Tips for Homeschooling Struggling Learners 

Monday, August 12, 2019

What Is Year-Round Schooling? A Not Back To School Series



Over the years, I've witnessed year round schooling models take a lot of different shapes.  The common thread is that they do not match the typical (American) schedule of a couple plus months off in the summer, a Christmas Break and a Spring Break.  In public education, a year-round schedule is often 3 weeks on, 1 week off or 4-5 weeks on and 2 weeks off.  Homeschooling kind of turns that on its head!  

1) School never really stops. Our homeschool version of year round schooling is school that never fully stops, but stops whenever we need it to. Oklahoma is a great state to homeschool, because we are allowed to determine much for ourselves, including our schedule as long as we get in 180 hours of school.  With a year round approach, you more than satisfy that requirement.

2) Schedules Honor Student Needs.  A typical 9 month school year requires students to honor the schedule in spite of their needs.  Any educator will tell you that is one of the hardest part of their jobs.  Human beings just don't develop at the exact same rate in development and understanding and when life circumstances come into play, there can be huge gaps that are hard to fill in before the school year ends.  Year round schooling means that we take time - slow down or speed up - when we need to.  Bored with their grade level work? Let's review and move ahead to something more challenging.  Struggling with new concepts?  We'll spend as much time as we need until a student is comfortable with it.  This also goes for non-academic elements.  A major change, a death, or a great accomplishment can appropriately slow school down for mental and emotional nourishment.  What's best for the student can reign supreme when necessary.

3. Highlights a Lifestyle of Learning.  When you learn at home anyway, it's easy for learning to happen any time to begin with.  When you don't take the summer off or break at typical times, students get used to learning for learning sake rather than only at certain times of day.  As homeschooling lends itself to this anyway, year round schooling turns every single thing you do, especially as a family, into an activity of discovery and wonder which automatically includes learning.  We are cultivating a lifestyle of learning.

It might seem that year-round schooling is way too much or over-kill, but for us we end up ahead of the curve while feeling like we're relaxing our way through the year.  Of course there are seasons (like soccer or holiday/birthday) that are hectic no matter what we do, but we are able to adapt school to our needs, not the other way around.  I love that!

This post is participating in the Homeschool Review Crew's Not Back To School Blog Hop this week so be on the look out for more Year-Round Schooling posts!  If you are interested in other homeschooling topics check out the links below!

2019 Annual Not Back to School Homeschool Blog Hop


CREW @ Homeschool Review Crew - 2019 Annual Not Back to School Homeschool Blog Hop 
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses - ABC of Homeschooling
Dawn @ Schoolin' Swag - Adding Fun to Your Homeschool Day
Erin @ For Him and My Family - Large Family Homeschooling
Lori @ At Home Where Life Happens - Learning Life Skills
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling - Homeschooling the High School Years
Monique D. @ Early Learning Mom - Homeschooling With Autism
Yvie @ Homeschool On the Range - 5 Days of Upper Grades Homeschooling
Abby @ Making Room 4 One More - Time Management for Homeschool Moms
Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool - 5 Days of Homeschool Questions
Amy @ the WRITE Balance - Year-Round Schooling
Annette @ A Net in Time - Homeschooling.
Betty @ Lets Get Real - Homeschooling High School
Cassandra @ My Blessed Mess - Eclectic Homeschooling

Friday, August 9, 2019

StoryTime Treasures and More: A Memoria Press Review

It's nothing new around here how important reading a great book is and our latest review is a wonderful tool to utilize great books to your students' learning even more!  Since both of my big kids have taken off in the reading department, it is so easy to just give them books to read and leave it at that.  While independent reading is very important, not following up with questions or activities can cut the learning a little short.  For today's review we are looking at one of our favorite vendors again, Memoria Press!   Miss Z and I explored some great books with the help of  StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key and More StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key


What We Received:

We received StoryTime Treasures Student Study Guide with its Teacher Guide and More StoryTime Student Study Guide with its Teacher Guide totaling 4 books in all.  The target grade level for these books is 1st grade.

A few years ago, we reviewed part of this product with my oldest son and this time we're getting a chance to use the entire set with my daughter! Since that time they have release a 2nd edition of the set which includes a few changes to the book selections, converted to spiral-bound student books and separated the Teacher's Guides into two separate books rather than one combined.

How It Works:

Both StoryTime and More StoryTime are layed out the same way with a series of lessons that correspond with the reading selections.  The teacher and child are to read through selections together, allowing for the student to have ample time reading aloud. Each lesson highlights different types of language elements like vocabulary, capitalization, parts of speech, comprehension and includes different activities such as word scrambles, drawing/coloring, fill in the blank, and even some math equations!  Both Teacher Guides provide answers to questions and activities, but also a layout of procedures or activities that go along with that day and/or section of the book. The Teacher Guides recommend a possible 5 day schedule, but ultimately recommends the teacher/parent to use their best judgement for each circumstance.




How We Used It:

While it makes sense to work through the pieces of literature in the order they appear in the workbook, the Teacher's Guide never explicitly says that you must and little, if any, of the information taught really builds on the previous stories' activities.  Since we didn't have access to all of the books in order right away, we decided to skip around with what we had.  Miss Z is quite the reader and loves all things school so she had no problem jumping from Little Bear to Caps For Sale and then to Billy and Blaze. In all cases she had already read the book before we sat down to work through the Student Guide so our initial reading was always her secondary at least.  Caps for Sale is a book we have owned since she was a baby so in some of it she could even quote it.  Still, breaking down vocabulary words and testing for comprehension was useful and important in sharpening her skills. Not to mention it highlighted how much we need to work on her handwriting! ;)




What We Thought:

As to be expected, miss Z and I enjoyed our enhanced Story Time and it was perfectly suited for her grade level.  She didn't need a ton of help, but when she did we had really good conversations about aspects of the story or definitions of words. While a teacher could get by without the Teacher Guide because the Student Guide's directions are self-explanatory, the Teacher Guide really allows you to get the most out of the activities and maximize your student's learning. That is especially true if you are working with a struggling or new reader.  The focus on their phonics skills is extremely beneficial in the reading process.  If you have an early reader that you are wanting to begin literature activities with, I would even recommend getting this and stretching out stories and activities further to slowly but surely build momentum in the area.

Follow Memoria Press on Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/memoriapress/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MemoriaPress
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/memoriapress/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/memoriapress
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/memoriapress/

Memoria offers so much and the Review Crew got to review a variety of their Literature  Guides.  If you have different grade level needs, click the link below to read other product reviews from Memoria!


Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Library and Educational Services LLC Review

Today's review is of company I had never heard of, but in my opinion should be in every Christian educator's back pocket!  When you are always trying to stay within a budget and find materials that are consistent with your worldview, getting a discount on clean, educational books is a win, win for sure.  Library and Educational Services LLC is a wholesale distributor from Southwest Michigan that sells CD's, DVD's and books that align with Biblical standards and values.  The Review Crew was given a chance to try out their service and generously allowed us to order over $70 worth of materials!   We ordered Who Was Louis Braille from the Who Was...? series, The Princess and the Pigs from the Lifehouse Theater CDs series and several choices from the Reinforced Hardcover Library Binding Nonfiction books.  It was a great mail day!

How It Works

To be able to order from Library and Educational Services, we first set up a free account.  They ask you to specify what kind of account suits you best, as shown below.  I chose Homeschool of course, but the varying options gives you an idea of how versatile and useful this company can be to many different settings.

Once the account is setup - which was very simple - then you start shopping!  The sidebar provides a lot of categories and there is a search feature at the top of every page.  Each item reveals a list price and their price with a percentage of savings underneath.  After placing our order, we received it within 3-4 business days. For a package coming from Michigan to Oklahoma, I felt that was reasonable.


What We Received
Everything we received was brand new and all books (except for Who Was..?) are good quality hard backed. Altogether, we received 16 books and one CD:
Who Was Louis Braille? by Margaret Frith
The Princess and the Pigs CD from Lifehouse Theater
All About American Symbols - Set of 4 by Alison and Stephen Eldridge:
The Liberty Bell, The Bald Eagle, Mount Rushmore, The Statue of Liberty
Values - Set of 6 -  all by Kimberley Jane Pryor:
Cooperation, Respect, Courage, Tolerance, Kindness, Honesty 
My World of Science - Set of 3 by Joanne Randolph:
Light in My World, Pulleys in My World, & Wedges in My World
Real Life Science Projects - Set of 2 by Ann Benbow and Colin Mably:
Master the Scientific Method with Fun Life Science Projects, Lively Plant Science Projects





How We Used It

With such a wide variety of materials, there was certainly something for everyone!  I think the biggest crowd pleaser was The Princess and the Pigs audio CD.  We listened to it in the car over a day of errands and all three kids (8, 6 and 2) begged to turn it back on every time we got back in the car.  The moral of the story - treating others with kindness, being thankful for what we have, etc - is exactly what squabbling siblings need from time to time.  The value books were interesting to read because they expressly defined the topic in ways I honestly hadn't thought of before.  For example, courage was defined as participating or trying something new.  Accurate, but not a way I had thought about before. Who Was Louis Braille? was more for me than anyone because I had never read about the history of Braille.  The American Symbol series came at a good time where we are just finishing up our survey of United States history. The science books are my attempt to make up for all the interest and follow through I DON'T seem to have when it comes to the mechanics of things. 





What We Thought

No complaints anywhere!  We had no trouble with any part of the process and received high quality books/CDs for a great price.  As an educator, this is a fantastic resource for books and educational materials.



Keep up with them on Social Media:



Facebook: facebook.com/libraryanded
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/libraryanded/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf-f2T2eIghJkxinFu4xVgQ
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/libraryanded/

Every Crew member was able to choose their own books so check out some of the other reviews to see the variety of materials available at Library and Educational Services LLC.
Wholesale Books for Your Homeschool {Library and Educational Services LLC Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer