Random 5 on Friday ~ July 25th Edition

We can not be coming up to the last week in July.  No. No. No!  I’m not done with July. I want more July!  Random thoughts about my blog and social media!

flower blog button

1. I’m making a list of things to change or improve on my web design. I’ll be updating the About Tab and working on navigation. I did change the main background to be white and I made the outer background a darker shade of lavender purple. I want my blog look to be simple but pleasing and not overly cluttered.  Do you have any tips or suggestions?  Something you’d like to see me add or change?

2. I joined Pinterest!  Yes me!  The person who cringes at visual overload.  If you would like to follow me on Pinterest you’ll find me at Tess {Circling Through This Life}.

3. Speaking of Social Media have you liked Circling Through This Life on Facebook yet? I’m still building up the page and I’d love to have you come and interact.  Come on over and tell me what you’d like to see me write about. 

4.  I’m thinking I want to post more about my Orthodox Journey.  My faith is part of who I am.  It’s part of my life.  Yes, do post the occasional reference or post about church life but I think I want to go deeper. It’s hard for me because when I started this blog I was a protestant.  I’ve never really shared that journey here.

5.  Ok this is not blog related.  This is just me being whiney.  I really miss having two vehicles. Really miss it. I miss being able to go to Bible Study.  I miss being able to run errands during the week days.  I don’t like getting up early to drive Honeybear to work so that I can spend all day driving around and then have to go drive and pick him up.

The Pebble Pond

Come join us over at the Pebble Pond for this week’s Edition of Random 5 on Friday!


10 Suggestions for Making the Most of a Rainy Day

Here, west of the mountains, in the PNW it rains a lot from November to April and quite a bit in June.  Though we often lack motivation during those months we usually just stick to our school routine.  We had a rainy day this week and I needed an M post for ABC Blogging so M is for {10 Suggestions for} Making the Most of a Rainy Day!

Making The Most of a Rainy Day ~ 10 Suggestions


Summer rain is different.  After weeks of gorgeous sun and some really hot, for us anyway, days, this rain is draining.  None of us are motivated to do anything productive.  We still have school do but it just feels different in the summer.

Together the girls and I came up with a list of Ten Suggestions for Making the Most of a Rainy Day.  These would be things we could do during the summer when it rains and we just have no motivation or desire to be productive.

1. Play a board game~ We love games around here and we have plenty of them.  I included several of our favorites in my post about Games as Gifts.

2. Read a fun book aloud~ We love books. Because we used Sonlight we read many books aloud. I thought it would be fun to pick a non-school book to read aloud.  I was thinking of something along the lines of the Squire’s Tales series by Gerald Morris. Specifically, I want to read book 2, The Squire, His Knight and His LadyI think the whole series is just perfect for a family read aloud!

3. Every one choose their own book to read, a corner to curl up in, and get lost in the story~  This one is a bit anti-social but oh so perfect with a cup of tea and rain pouring down. But let’s face it, in this family, we’ll use any excuse to read a book.

4. Have a tea party~  Get out the pretty cups and make little sandwiches or have cookies. Play dress up if the mood strikes you.  This isn’t just for little girls.

5. Pop some popcorn and watch a movie~ Watching a movie during the day is something special around here, unless you are Supergirl.  This is what the girls actually did yesterday. Except it wasn’t a movie.  It was three episodes of Doctor Who; one episode per re-boot doctor.

6. Look over old photos and photo albums~ This is one of Supergirl’s favorite activities, rainy day or sunny day or any day that she can get away with it.  A trip down memory lane can be a wonderful way to make the most of a rainy day.

7. Story Sharing Time~ You could combine this one with number 6 and share stories or memories related to the photos.  Or you could just sit around on the floor (maybe with a pretend camp fire?) and take turns making up stories or take turns each person adding a bit to create one rambling story.

8. Write Something~ Write a letter to a friend or write a poem.  Perhaps you have some ideas for blog posts. Sometimes rainy days can be the most writing productive days.

9. Do a craft you’ve been wanting to do~  I do not consider myself a crafty person but I do have sewing projects that I never seem to have time for and I have other crafts I’d like to try.  My oldest likes to make home made cards and bookmarks.

10. Take a Nap? That’s what I want to do. –Turtlegirl being silly…  Turtlegirl made this suggestion but I took it.  While the girls watched Nine, Ten, and Eleven save Earth in the Rainy Day Doctor Who mini-marathon, I took a nap. It was lovely and refreshing.

What do you do to make the most of a rainy day?

Blogging Through the Alphabet

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Learn Piano at Home with HomeSchoolPiano {Crew Review}

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that BooBear, my oldest, is a piano performance major in college.  Piano Lessons have been an important part of our life for many years.  The cost of private lessons can be prohibitive. With HomeSchoolPiano it’s like having a private tutor come into your home. As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew we received a Lifetime Subscription for up to five students to the HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books.

Learn piano at home with HomeSchoolPiano!

What does that mean?  Lifetime Subscription to Complete Set of Books?

Well, if you’re a reader like me it doesn’t mean a book club. Instead, in context it means “level.”   Each “book” contains six units and each unit contains six lessons.  Some units have a bonus level.  There are videos for each and every lesson.  Each “book” also has a pdf file with pages that correspond to the different lessons.

The Anatomy of Unit:

As stated above each unit has six lessons with some units containing a bonus lesson.  These lessons follow a carefully crafted 6 step cycle.  Each lesson corresponds to one of the six steps.  They all follow the same order. This method lays a foundation so that all students can master the piano and achieve success faster.

These steps are:

  • Technique ~ helps build dexterity
  • Rhythm ~ uses a unique vocalization approach.  There is a sheet included in the PDF for each Rhythm lesson

HomeSchoolPiano teaches Rhythm using a vocalization technique.

  • Ear Training ~ I never realized how critical ear training is until my music performance major struggled with ear training in her college classes. It’s important to be able to hear the harmony as well as the melody.  According to Willie this will also help with a student’s ability to improvise
  • Reading Music ~ This is an essential skill for musicians and is foundational to being able to learn songs and compose music. Some people can play by ear but that has its limits. HomeSchoolPiano lays a great foundation for sight reading.
  • Song ~ These are not just exercises but are songs that apply what you are learning. There is one per unit.
  • Improvisation ~ This is my weak area and this is what drew me to the program and is the reason I expressed high interest in reviewing this product.  The ability to improvise allows you to explore your own creativity and create your own music.

Using HomeSchoolPiano ~

Tailorbear, Turtlegirl, and Boobear have all had years of piano instruction. BooBear is a piano performance major at a local university. Even though they have all had lessons, they did not all progress at the same rate. BooBear played around with the program and watched a few ear training lessons but, understandably so, is beyond what Willie offers with HomeSchoolPiano.

Tailorbear loves to just sit and and “make up” music.  We both thought it would be best if she worked her way through the ear training and improvisation sections of each unit in book one and then work through more of the program at book two.  Book two is below her level but is providing a great review and getting her back into the piano after not having private lessons for two years.

Learning Piano at Home is easy with HomeSchoolPiano

Turtlegirl really struggled with piano lessons. She loves music but not the piano so much. She did not make as much progress as her sisters and wanted to give up on lessons. HomeSchoolPiano has changed all that.  She is excited about learning how to improvise and compose her own music.  She started by reviewing material in the CorePiano section and then moved into book 1.  Some of it is easy and some of it is not.  She says she did not encounter too many difficulties in unit one but as she progresses through unit two she is expecting things to get harder.

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (nearly 17):

I like his style of teaching. He really encourages you not to give up and says 'You CAN do this! You've made a lot of progress just getting this far!'. He is always upbeat and confident. And he places confidence in the skills of the student, which I think is really important. It is important to build up the student's confidence, and he does just that with his style of teaching. I am looking forward to continuing with this program. I highly recommend this program for anyone, child or adult.

Learn piano at home with HomeSchoolPiano

Key Features I Love:

  • LIFEtime subscription~  Just a few months ago they offered subscription based services but I think the longest was for one year.  I love that we have access forever.
  • Access to the complete program ~ I signed up for the free “starter” lesson and with the Lifetime Subscription to HomeSchoolPiano – Complete Set of Books,  I also get access to CorePiano in addition to access to all the videos and PDF files for Books 1, 2 and 3.  Learn Piano Online for Beginners has even more details.
  • Each student has their own username and password ~ This means that each student can log in and have the program track their progress and record their quiz grades.  You can have 5 students plus the parent account and the parent? Yup the parent can use the program as well and have it track her progress or um lack thereof.
  • Record Keeping ~  I have a hard enough time tracking what the girls need to do and when to do it and where they left off, and with HomeSchoolPiano, they track progress including recording quiz scores.

HomeSchoolPiano will track your progess!

  • Videos can be streamed or downloaded ~
  • We can use the computer or the Kindle for watching lessons ~ I love that the girls can use the Kindle or a laptop for watching the lessons. With the download feature, we can download a lesson and then upload it to the Kindle to watch on the go without needing a wi-fi connection!

The Details:

  • The Vender:  HomeSchoolPiano
  • The Product: HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books
  • Format: Digital ~ Video Lessons can be viewed through streaming or can be downloaded.  Also includes downloadable PDFs for each unit which include sheet music for reading instruction and sheet music for each unit’s song.
  • Age Range: All Ages ~ from the very young to the very old
  • Price:  HomeSchoolPiano has two payment packages.  The Success Package for one time payment of $299 and the Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months)
  • What’s Included: Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students
  • NOTE:  Articles to check out:  What Kind of Equipment Do I Need? and Already Taken Piano Lessons?

Learn piano at home!

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about HomeSchoolPiano.  

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.


3 Ways to Love Your Spouse {L is for Love}

I have frequently said that Honeybear loves me far more than I love him. I am not a great wife. I am not the woman I want to be.  He’s not perfect.  Far from it actually.  Sometimes I get dragged down into that selfish place of if-he-really-loved-me-he’d-do whatever it is he’s not doing that I want him to do.

3 Ways to Love Your Spouse from Circling Through This Life

True love doesn’t look like the fairy tales (well setting aside Once Upon A Time which is a fabulous show but very twisted with the fairy tales).  Love is an action.  It’s a choice.  It’s often sacrificial and always concerned with others not self.  When I look at love from that perspective,  I can see the different ways my husband does love me.

So here are 3 Ways to Love Your Spouse

1.  Listen to Music You Barely Tolerate.  For 21 1/2 years I have thought my husband shared my interest in the music of U2.  He’d even turn up the radio for me. I just found out this past weekend that he really doesn’t like them. He tolerates them for my sake because he loves me and he knows I really like U2 music.

2.  Eat Your Partner’s Favorite Food Even Though You’d Rather Eat Something Else  My Daddy made the bestest spaghetti sauce in the whole world.  He called it “stuffed peppers” but really it isn’t anything like those stuffed pepper recipes I’ve read.  He would stuff several green peppers with uncooked hamburger and then make more meatballs with more hamburger.  He browned Italian sausage and included that too.  He put the peppers, sausage and meatballs in a giant roasting pan on the stove and added lots of tomato sauce, and then he’d let it cook all day long.  We’d serve the sauce over spaghetti noodles and mostaccioli noodles. (Don’t know what those are?  They look like Penne Pasta to me.)

So I call the sauce GrandpaLarry sauce.  I serve this sauce to my family for years and then one night my husband finally confessed to me that he’d really rather eat his spaghetti noodles with a meat sauce rather than with meatballs. He knows how much I love that sauce and how I make it ‘cuz of my daddy.  So now sometimes I make a variation of GrandpaLarry Sauce that is more of meat sauce.

3.  Make Late Night Drive for French Fries (or other special food).  When I was pregnant with my oldest I craved French fries.  Not just any fries though.  They had to be McDonald’s French Fries. I didn’t have morning sickness. I had nine months of all day long sickness and sometimes the only food I could keep down was the food I was craving when I was craving it.  Honeybear made quite a few McDonald runs at 9:30 at night.

I am convinced that Honeybear loves me more than I love him.  He reassures me though that he feels loved. He understands that love is a choice and an action.  I choose to love him when I do his laundry even though I want to strangle him and I know he chooses to love me when he does those three things above even though I am not always so lovable and he’d rather strangle me.

Do you do certain things for your spouse because you love him?  Do you recognize when your spouse is loving you?

Blogging Through the Alphabet

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Moving Beyond the Page: LA and Science Packages (Crew Review)

I love literature based home schooling! In 2013 we had the opportunity to review two packages from Moving Beyond the Page so when they came up again this crew, Tailorbear expressed super high interest. I mean she was super excited and did the research to give me her first and second and even a third choice!

She chose her language arts package based on the book that interested her most and she chose the science package that coordinates with it as her first choice.  I wish I had a picture of her reaction when I told her that we would be reviewing Language Arts Package - The House of Scorpion /Online and Science Package – Genetics and DNA.

Moving Beyond the Page Review by Tess at Circing Through This Life

Program Overview

Moving Beyond the Page is a research based, comprehensive, integrated curriculum with activities designed so that students not only understand the materials but learn how to apply them. It can be used alone as a complete homeschool curriculum for Language Arts, Social Studies and Science, or it can be used as a supplement.

Individual units can be used alone, however, the Language Arts Units are designed to complement the Science and Social Studies Units. MBtP also integrates art, music and drama creating an integrated full year program. The integrated approach helps students apply knowledge from one field to another.  This helps students see how the fields are related. This is especially noticeable when using a Science (or Social Studies) Unit with the complementary LA Unit.

The units we received are both from the Age 12-14 section. The product page for The House of Scorpion LA Unit states that you must be able to read chapter books on an 8th-9th grade level and that this is usually used by students in 7th or 8th grade.  Tailorbear is 15 and finishing up 9th grade. This was not below her at all. There is so much depth to this unit that I can’t imagine using it with a child only in 7th grade! At this level “students are responsible for working through the units independently.” (Science Unit page 4 but is speaking about the program in general at the 12-14 year old level.)

Although the program states that you should be able to complete each unit in approximately three weeks, I found that pace to be overload for both Tailorbear and I.  In the how to use this program section it states that a typical day would include a minimum of 4 hours a day on the Moving Beyond the Page Subjects of Science, Social Studies and Literature. This would not include math. They also recommend another 20-30 minutes a day for vocabulary review and another 30 minutes a day in physical activity. That makes for a very full day!

We only received LA and Science and found that taking two to three days to complete a day’s worth of assignments and activities fit our home school. If I were using this with a student in 7th grade, I would consider dropping some of the activities in addition to slowing them down or just slowing the pace down even more. For a hands on learner like Tailorbear the activities are important so we completed most of them.

The Language Arts Package

Cover Image The House of Scorpion MBtP review at Circling Through This Life

We received the Online Package which included a physical copy of the literature book, online access for three months to the Language Arts Unit and a clear plastic ornament to be used in one of the lesson activities. The three months of access does not begin until you activate the unit. If three months is not enough time, you only need to email them and they will extend your access. 

The Language Arts Package – The House of Scorpion/Online has 14 Lessons. Each lesson is well laid out and divided into: Intro, Activities, and Conclusion.  Lesson 1 is a multiple day lesson and is clearly divided into what the student should complete each day.

Each lesson intro includes:

  • An overview telling the student what will be done such as reading chapters 34-36, preparing for the unit test and responding to a holiday in the book.
  • Stuff You Need; a list of materials needed to complete the activities
  • Ideas to Think About
  • Things to Know ~ Cultural things such as the Mexican holiday referred to in the book or vocabulary
  • Reading and Questions ~  This is not in the intro section of Lesson 1 because Lesson 1 covers 4 days.  Lesson 1 does have a Reading and Questions section but it is on day 3.  I really love how this section is laid out!  The student clicks on the keyboard icon in the upper right corner and a window pops up with the questions and a space for typing in the answers. The student can then click print and it will download a PDF of the answers! I had Tailorbear email that pdf to me. It worked great for us and saved paper! 

Reading  Pop Up MBtP

Activities range from learning how to create source cards and write 5 paragraph persuasive essay to creating an advertisement. Tailorbear also learned more about logical fallacies and one activity included playing a game: create logical fallacies to support an argument. She loved the book. She did not follow the reading pace but rather finished the book in couple of days and then referred back to the book when completing the questions. I think her favorite activity though was the completing the comparison with a Venn diagram. I appreciated the grammar review activity pages and I liked that there were two options so I could pick the one best suited for her needs. After completing the exercises for passive versus active voice she said to me “ok, now I am really understanding passive voice.”  Yay for Moving Beyond the Page!!

Playing the Fallacy Game from MBtP review at Circling Through This Life

The final tab of the lesson is Conclusion and restates or summarizes the main points of the lesson content. 

The last lesson, number 13, includes a 4 part Unit Test and an Essay Reflection as the only activities. 

MBtP LA Unit Tab Lay out


The Science Package

First I’m just going to state up front the topic of Genetics and DNA intrigues me and I was thrilled that it was Tailorbear’s first choice. I know I learned from this unit and I had fun playing with the chromosome models!

Genetics and DNA MBtP Cover Image

This package included the physical Genetics and DNA Unit along with the two books required.  Page 7 of the Unit includes a Material List of items you will need.  Most of them are easily found around the house such as salt, rubbing alcohol, coins, timer, tape, glue, scissors etc.  Other items are easily obtainable for me such as pipe cleaners, strawberries, or cheesecloth. I had plastic forks, spoons, and colored beads on hand.  The material list also notes whether or not these items are optional or if they are included as part of the Kit that you can receive if you purchase the full year package.

Like the ONLINE LA package, the lessons are well laid out and follow the same framework.  Each lesson has a Getting Started (called Intro in the LA ONLINE package) which includes the same categories as the LA:

  • Stuff you Need ~ This includes the specific materials you will need for the lesson such as small funnel and does indicate if it is from the kit.
  • Ideas to Think About
  • Things to Know ~ This is primarily vocabulary
  • Reading and Questions

The Getting Started Section is followed by the Activities. The Lesson ends with a Wrapping Up Section (called Conclusion in the LA Online). Any work pages, charts etc. for the lesson follow the Wrapping Up section. Sometimes this confused Tailorbear because even though it is marked in the upper right corner with the activity number she would not realize which sheet went with which option. I tended to look ahead and put the specific page number next to the activity in the lesson.

One thing I really like about the physical version is the the check box to indicate that the activity is complete.  I do wish there was same way to mark each component of the online lesson as finished instead of just the whole lesson.

Genetics and DNA has 8 Lessons plus the Final Project. 3 of the Lessons are divided into 2 Days (and are clearly marked in the table of contents and is clearly labeled as Day 2 in the lesson itself).  The Final Project is divided into 4 Days. Like the LA unit, we often divided a days worth of work into 2 days.

I loved that with this unit we got to extract DNA from from a strawberry, build model chromosomes out of of pipe cleaners and then use those to explore recombinant chromosomes. In the LA unit we explored cloning from social and moral perspectives and in in the Science unit we explored the science of genetics and DNA. Lesson 8 focuses on cloning and what makes cloning a possibility. 

Chromosome Models Science from Moving Beyond the Page review at Circling Through This Life

Recombinant crossing over gametes model

The Final Project which involves designing your own creature, and also includes a Unit Test.

Our Thoughts

When I reviewed this last year I was leaning towards preferring the Online Version but my ideal would be a combo. I included a list of advantages and disadvantages of both formats. Tailorbear has a clear and and strong preference for the Online Format and I have to say that though I generally prefer physical over online, I am now fully in the Online Format preferred camp.

These two Units as well as the two units we reviewed last year, are challenging and engaging. I don’t think it fits my home school to use the full year packages but as break or supplement?  Yes. Especially the Language Arts. I know there is at least one other (Watership Down) Language Arts package that Tailorbear wants to do. I think I’ll be adding that to my wish list.

Moving Beyond the Page Review at Circling Through This Life

The Details:

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about the different units from Moving Beyond the Page.  

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.