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U is for Unending Church Services

This past week was Holy Week.  It is my favorite week of the year. We joke in my family that Holy Week is the week that we live at church.  It is during Holy Week and Pascha that we experience the longest services. It can feel like unending church services.

Palm Sunday begins the week long remembrance of Christ’s  last week or His Passion Week. Holy Week technically begins during the Vespers service on Palm Sunday.   Except that my parish doesn’t do that service. I  just happened to read in my Palm Sunday Service book that during Vespers the bright colored cloths are changed to black.  It reminds me of Forgiveness Vespers.  During that Sunday vesper service we enter into Great Lent.  The bright gold is exchanged for the purple of Lent.

Honeybear serves on Lazarus Saturday in 2012

Starting with Lazarus Saturday, which is a foreshadowing of the Lord’s resurrection and a foreshadowing of our own future resurrection, and ending with the Agape Vespers service one could spend up to 38 hours (give or take) in church! That does not count the potlucks or soup supper or church decorating or fellowship.  It does count being there for the reading of the book of Acts which starts at 9pm on Holy Saturday and usually finishes around 11:30 in time for Nocturnes. Most people are not there for the whole time for the reading of the Acts. And no, I have never been to every service.

Tailorbear and Turtlegirl in the Palm Sunday procession.

Palm Sunday Homily from 2012

Our first Holy Week the girls and I did make it to many (but certainly not all!) of the services even attending multiple services on a couple of days.  I think we made it to all the evening ones Sunday through Friday.

Though it is physically exhausting it is spiritually rewarding. Each service is so beautiful and so rich in meaning.  There is mourning over the death and burial of Christ but as we come closer and closer to Pascha there is an undercurrent of deep and abiding Joy.  We have Hope.  We have the knowledge that Christ did indeed rise from dead!  He has trampled down death by death and secured victory over death for all of us.

The Bridegroom Matins of Holy Week 2013

This week there are fewer services but it is known as Bright Week. The church is still decorated from Pascha, the priests wear white vestments and the church still has the white cloths and white candles.  Everything is bright!  And it’s beautiful. The services are also a little shorter.  Or least they feel that way after last week.  I hope to make it to the Bright Saturday liturgy. 


K-12 Online Math Program: CTC Math {Crew Review}

If you are a regular reader of my blog,then you may know that although I like math, I do not like teaching math.  Supergirl’s needs require that I present concepts over and over again in as many different ways possible so I am always looking for something new and different for her to try. Tailorbear and Turtlegirl both enjoy using the computer for as much school work as I will let them and Turtlegirl needs geometry. CTC Math is an online math program with lessons from Kindergarten through Calculus. We received the 12 Month Family Plan.

CTC Online Math Program review Circling Through This Life

What is CTC Math?

CTC Math is an online, interactive, video based math program. Each lesson begins with a video presentation by Australian math teacher Pat Murray. With CTC Math your student sets the pace. Your student will have access to all the levels and move backward and forward as needed. A little rusty with 4th grade skills? Complete those lessons and then move on to grade 5.  Grade 5 a little too easy in some areas? No problem, you can work through the six grade materials. Parents can have weekly reports sent via email or log in to the parent area to see summary reports and details including how often the student has logged into the program! 

List of Courses for CTC Math Online

Using CTC Math with Supergirl:

One of the great things about video presentations is the ability to watch it over and over.  If you didn’t quite catch what the teacher was saying you can rewind and watch again.  Sometimes watching it again will help solidify the concept in your mind.  Unfortunately for Supergirl, watching it again and again still only presents the material one way.

Because I know that Supergirl needs material to be presented in a variety of ways, I wanted to add CTC to my list of resources for her to practice math. I loved using the diagnostic tests with Supergirl to assess her strengths and weaknesses. We used CTC an average of three times per week. Some sessions we just did the comprehensive diagnostic tests. Some sessions we watched the video and she did the questions. She loved the program and would ask for it daily but I had to make modifications.  For example, because Supergirl requires more of a kinesthetic approach to learning, we used physical manipulatives when working through sections on addition.

opening screen for Supergirl

Using CTC Math with Turtlegirl:

Turtlegirl has been using CTC Math as her primary math program working through the Geometry lessons. She tends to do very well with video presentations and an online format. She worked on CTC Math for 45 minutes a day sometimes often completing two lessons though she would repeat lessons to make sure she truly knew the material. In addition to a computer with high speed internet, students working through geometry need to have a compass and a protractor to work through the problems.  Unlike her sister, Turtlegirl is someone that doesn’t require material to be presented in different ways. It was enough for her to be able to just rewatch the video presentation as needed. 

A Few Cons: 

  • Although this is the US Version the program still uses Australian spelling for example: colour for color.
  • Again although this is the US Version, the terminology isn’t always American.
  • Only metric measurements (or non-standard such as “how many pencils wide is this desk.”
  • Money is not taught.  There are two lessons in the K level that have money but they are comparing value of coins/bills and do not actually teach value of coin/bills or recognizing coins or bills.
  • Tailorbear found it frustrating and complicated to input answers to worksheets. The worksheets open in a separate window that cannot be enlarged.  The student must work out the answer and then look for the answer in the printed box to find the right the letter to input for the answer.  One solution would be to print each and every worksheet.  A preferred solution would be to do away with the answer box and let students input the actual answer instead of a letter and/or to add the ability to enlarge that screen.  Although Turtlegirl also found it annoying she did not find it as frustrating. Hunting for the letter code for the answer was not as problematic for her.
  • There is only one diagnostic test in the upper level (Geometry Positions) levels. In the elementary levels there are diagnostic tests for nearly every section. More diagnostic tests for upper level math would help gauge how well the student is retaining the concepts.
  • Material is only presented in one format.

CTC Math has customizable backgrounds!

Some things I loved:

  • My two high school students could use this program independently
  • I get an email each week with PDF attachments of the summary report for each student.
  • Students are encouraged to excel.  CTC Math provides award certificates based on how well the student completes a unit over all.
  • I love how the students working in the elementary levels can just input the answers to questions.  No worksheets!
  • For upper level Math I love that the solutions are not unlocked until the student has tried at least 3 times.
  • The background color is customizable.
  • The program remembers where you last worked


Thoughts From Turtlegirl:

I liked it. I like how short and concise the video lessons are. I liked the variety in the ‘Questions’ section. And as silly as this may sound, I liked the instructor’s accent. It worked very well for me because I am a visual person, and the videos helped with that. I don’t know that I would recommend this for an auditory person, but I would recommend it for a visual person.

Thoughts from Tailorbear:

Overall, I think this is an excellent math program. The videos are easy to understand. The only thing I didn't really like was how the worksheets were done. I found it tedious and frustrating, especially for the problems that were easy. For me solving the problem and then having to find a letter for it, was just hard.

My Thoughts: 

I think this is a great program for younger students (8th grade and under) who do not struggle with math or do not have learning disabilities. I do not feel that there is enough teaching of all math concepts for me to be comfortable using this as my only source for math instruction at any level. I think the lower levels, though material is presented logically, I think assumptions are made that the student has grasped or knows some foundational steps.

I think this program is particularly well suited for students who are advanced in math or who grasp concepts easily, and who do not need more than a visual presentation of concepts.  For these students, in the younger grades, this could be a complete math program and the diagnostic tests would help mom/teacher gauge if the student is retaining and mastering the concepts. 

The Details:

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

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.


The Wise Woman Literary Analysis Journal {Crew Review}

Reading and analyzing literature is a required part of high school English here in my home school. I’m always looking for products that make it easy to develop those skills. Several months ago, I became aware of Home School Adventure Co. but did not know about The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Questions until it was offered as one of four choices for review through the Schoolhouse Review Crew. 

Wise Woman Review Collage

Description of The Wise Woman (from Turtlegirl):

For each chapter, there are approximately 20 questions. Some have less, such as 15-19, others have more like 23-27. The questions range from helping you relate the story to yourself, simple “what prevents Agnes from coveting?” type questions, and deep analysis questions like "What did MacDonald imply by the statement, ‘Prince did his best to let her know that until she could obey herself, she must obey him?'”

There is no need to purchase a separate copy of the book The Wise Woman by George Macdonald.  Mrs. Farrell has included the book in this literary analysis journal.  There are 14 chapters.  Each chapter begins with reading the The Wise Woman and is followed by the literary analysis questions.  There are no answers, however.  I would have loved an answer key for the questions that are strictly reading comprehension questions and as a guide for discussing the other analytical type questions.  In the back you will find a section for vocabulary.  I do wish the vocabulary would have been distributed through out the chapters and with the questions but I am glad that vocabulary is included. 

wise woman cover image literary analysis review

Our Experience With The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Questions:

Turtlegirl had read the book The Wise Woman by George MacDonald and she was thrilled with the idea of reading it again while doing an an analysis of the story. We received the eBook (PDF) version.  It is also available in a spiral bound print version.

I chose to have Turtlegirl use this independently rather than as a read aloud/discussion because she is in high school and I wanted her to think through her answers and formulate a written response. She used a spiral notebook to record her responses.  Sometimes she would simply write “discuss with mom.” 

We set aside her other English work and this became her English class assignment.  She worked 4-5 days a week completing about 2 chapters a week, sometimes 2 1/2 to 3.  She is nearly finished with the study.

Though she was working independently, I liked discussing a couple of chapters or so at time.  Usually this would be our tea time and we’d sit together at the table with the PDF open on the computer and her notebook open.  I would quickly read through the questions and answers and a pick a few to discuss.  Sometimes  I would just read the question and she would read back her answer. 

This worked well for us but if I had more than one high school student using the program at the same time I would have them work independently but have all of us discuss it together. I do think that this would make an excellent family read aloud.

Turtlegirl Shares Her Thoughts:

I am really enjoying this. I love this story, and I also love analyzing my favorite stories. All of the questions have been relevant and thought provoking, such as 'Why do you think the princess responded better to terror than kindness?" and "Is there a difference between being kind and being nice?" I love how the questions are phrased. I also enjoy that the questions don't have a right or wrong answer. They're designed to make you think about the story and how it relates to real life.

Wise Woman Literary Analysis from Home School Adventure


The Details:

  • The Vender:  Home School Adventure Co.
  • The Product: The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions
  • The Author: Stacy Farrell wrote the Literary Analysis Journal Questions for The Wise Woman written by George MacDonald.
  • Format: We reviewed the digital download version.  A printed version is also available.
  • Age Range:  For Ages 12 and up however this can be used as a family read-aloud and discussion with children ages 9 and up.  High School students can complete this on their own.
  • Price:  EBOOK download: $14.95
  • NOTE: Home School Adventure Co. is offering a promotion code for $10 off any download purchase.  Use code CREW-10  Offer expires May 15, 2014.

Promo Code Banner for Sale HS Adventure

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog  to read what others have to say about The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis JournalPhilosophy Adventures, Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal, or Philippians in 28 Weeks from Home School Adventure Co.

  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.


Christ Is Risen!

Today on this Great Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may you be blessed!

This is the day of resurrection. Let us be illumined by the  feast. Let us embrace each other. Let us call “Brothers” even those that hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection and so let us cry:

Christ is Risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.

Happy Pascha!  or for my Western friends Happy Easter!

Christ is risen from the dead!


Not So Random 5 on this Holy Friday {April 18th Edition}

Today is Holy Friday.  The Western World knows it as Good Friday, but my children like to say “but what is good about it?  Jesus died and was buried!”  It is good because it fulfills scripture and by His death, burial and eventual resurrection, Death is destroyed.  I do prefer the Eastern term of Holy.  So this week,  I’m not going to be random.  In honor of Holy Week, I’m going to make a list of 5 things from Holy Week.


1.  This Troparion comes from the beginning of the Bridegroom Matins service:

Behold, the Bridegroom coves at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom. But rouse yourself crying: Holy holy, holy art Thou, O our God. Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us.

2.  This is also from the Bridegroom Service.  It’s the Exaposteilarion which means it comes near the end of the service.  It makes me cry every.single.time!

I behold Thy bridal chamber, richly adorned, O my Savior, but I have no wedding garments to worthily enter in. Make radiant the garments of my soul. O Giver of Light and save me.

3.  Last night at the Holy Friday Matins (yes it is served on Thursday evening) this stood out to me:

All creation was changed by fear when it saw Thee hanging upon the cross, O Christ. The sun was darkened and the foundations of the earth were shaken. All things suffered with the creator of all. O Lord, who didst willingly endure this for us, glory to Thee.

4.  My Parish offers about 15 services during Holy Week.  No these are not repeat services giving people more flexibility.  They are separate services to prepare us for the Resurrection.  Sunday Evening through Saturday afternoon, each day has between 1 and 3 services.  This is my fifth holy week and no I have never been to all of them. Each service has something special and beautiful to offer.  I am particular fond of the Bridegroom Matins.

5.  In addition to the services for Holy Week, we have 4 services for Pascha!  Again separate services not “pick one to go to as they are all the same.”  I know many churches offer multiple Resurrection Sunday services but they are all basically the same and are just trying to accommodate large crowds.  These are distinct services with particular purposes.  I’ve been to 3 of them regularly.  And service isn’t exactly the right word but these four are:  The Reading of Acts.  The entire book of Acts is read.   This is followed by Nocturnes which is done in the dark! Followed by the midnight Paschal Service which includes the Festal Matins and Divine Liturgy.  After that we’ll break the fast, go home and get a bit of sleep.  We’ll come back on Sunday afternoon for Agape Vespers and huge feast including a treat hunt!

In whatever way you celebrate this weekend, may it be a time of joy and love and laughter! 

The Pebble Pond

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


T is for Tips: Four Terrific Organizing Tips from Tess!

I cannot claim to be the most organized person in the universe.  I cannot claim that being organized means you live in a clean and tidy house without clutter and chaos. Well, ok, I could claim those things but they wouldn’t be true.  It would be false advertising.  I can however give you Four Organizing Tips I am using to help keep my sanity as I work towards developing better routines and habits and tame that clutter monster.

Tip 1  Pin Your Socks

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is “ew I don’t want to share socks”, we don’t do the “buy all the same girl socks and don’t worry about matching” thing.  Each of us has our own style and for at least one of my daughters, socks is just one way she expresses herself.  I refuse to fold socks.  I hate mating socks.  I hate having to dig through a drawer or a basket to find two socks that match.  I also hate “old maid socks.”  You know those lonely socks without mate that sit in a basket or box waiting forever for its mate to never show up.  The solution:  Pin Your Socks!

Organizing Tips from Tess Pin Socks

Whenever we get new socks, we pin each pair together before washing.  Pin, wash, dry, throw in drawer, unpin, wear, repin and start the cycle again. I’ve been doing this for years.  When the girls were little I pinned their socks for them.  Now only Supergirl needs help with pinning socks. No unpinned socks are allowed in the laundry.  You can get magnetic pin holders from the sewing section of your local store. I bought one for each bedroom. 

Tip 2  Use sheet protectors for chore routines

I’m still working on creating each of our different chore routines such as “After School” and “Before Bed” but I created specific check off sheets for Kitchen Cleaning.  I have one for “Dishwasher Person” and “Dishwasher Unloader Person”.  Instead of printing these chores out daily with their school assignments or printing a bunch of these out separately like a planner, I printed out one and slid it into a sheet protector.  They can check off each chore item using a vis-à-vis pen.  It wipes clean with a damp cloth and can be used over and over again.  The sheet protectors I use are three hole punched so when not in use they hang on a hook on the fridge. The check off sheets have had a positive impact on my daughters’ ability to keep up with kitchen chores.

Tip 3  Re-use containers without lids for storing and organizing

If you are like me, you have some of those Glad or Ziploc reusable but disposable containers that are great for left overs but some of those plastic containers have lost their lids. I haven’t found a use (yet!) for lids without containers but I have found ways to repurpose those containers.  I use a flat one for storing our USB storage drives.  I have one filled with the different decks of various card games.  I have one that holds game pieces and parts. If you need to contain or corral small items like USB Storage Drives, game pieces, hair accessories or even office supplies, try repurposing kitchen containers that have lost their lids.

Tips for Organizing Use Storage Containers

Tip 4:  For Girls!  Storing bobby pins and metal barrettes:

In Tip 1 I shared about these magnetic metal pin holders.  Not only do they work great when sewing, and when storing safety pins for socks, but they also work great for holding bobby pins and small hair clips! 

Terrific Tips from Tess at Circling Through This Life

Do you have a terrific tip to share?  I’d love to hear it!


Entertaining and Educational: Curiosity Quest {Crew Review}

We enjoy educational, documentary type of shows here so I was excited to have the opportunity to review Curiosity Quest.  We received two DVD Combo Packs: Produce (Mushrooms, Cranberries, and Orange Packing) and Swimmers of the Sea (Sea Turtle Rescue, Penguins, and Salmon).

Curiosity Quest Review by Tess

About Curiosity Quest:

Curiosity Quest is a fun, educational, family program that uses an un-scripted, on-location approach to answer viewer questions.  Producer/Host Joel Greene goes on a quest to satisfy viewer’s curiosity.  Yes, viewer questions that stem from the curiosity of those same viewers.  Every episode begins with a specific question and ends with Joel giving the audience information about asking their own questions. 

About The DVD’s:

Each DVD has 3 episodes and each episode is about 30 minutes long. All the episodes follow the same pattern.  The episodes start with our host Joel, telling us about a question from a reader and Joel will introduce viewers to the person who will answer Joel’s questions. Throughout the episode are little q & a’s: a question is asked such as “why can’t penguins fly?” or “what do turtles eat?” and children and teens, with a few adults sprinkled in, answer the question. Each episode also has someone who presents “fun facts” related to the topic of the episode.  These fun facts are very educational.

Produce Collage for Curiosity Quest Review Circling Through This Life

Produce ~ The three episodes in this DVD Pack are # 607 Mushrooms, #507 Orange Packing and #420 Cranberries. 

Swimmers of the Sea ~ On this DVD you’ll find the episodes: #408 Turtle Rescue (This is actually a Curiosity Quest Goes Green episode), #708 Penguins, #512 Salmon Hatchery.

Things we loved:

  • The theme music. It’s bouncy and catchy.  It works.  (In other words, we don’t race to start the program to get rid of theme music playing while the DVD sits on the menu.
  • Fun Facts! ~ Though out each episode there are Fun Fact sections that give you a fact about topic.  Usually they start out with “Did you know . . . “  The one that stands out for me is the fact about how sea turtles separate the salt from the water and excrete it so that it looks like they are crying!
  • Joel! ~ OK, he’s a who not a what. He’s funny and full of energy and he’s real. He tells you that the compost stinks and that it isn’t pleasant to smell the fish. He’s not just telling the camera, he’s trying things.  He’s exploring.

Swimmers Collage for Curiosity Quest Review at Circling Through This Life

What did my family think?

Supergirl:Penguins eat fish. They put vitamins in it so that the penguins be healthy. I learned about sea turtles. [The hospital] rescued “Bubblebutt” because part of his shell was missing and he is growing but his shell is not. Joel fed “Bubblebutt” squid. They pick oranges and they have to get them to the stores so that people can buy them like us. They grow mushrooms from hay. Farmers grow cranberries and they have to harvest them. They use water to help harvest cranberries. Joel ate one. I learned this from Joel on Curiosity Quest. My favorite episode from the produce dvd is mushrooms but my most favorite episode is penguins.”

Supergirl shows off the Curiosity Quest covers for review

Turtlegirl: "This was not what I thought it would be, and I am so glad. Typically, the hosts of educational documentaries are flat and unenthusiastic. Joel Greene is nothing like that. His excitement and enthusiasm are contagious. You can tell he's having fun picking mushrooms or feeding penguins. He really enjoys what he's doing, and I think that is what makes Curiosity Quest such an enjoyable thing to watch."

Tailorbear: “He was really into it. He was excited. He was asking all these questions like “do you know how long they live?” in the way that you would if you were there and able to ask the question yourself. He didn’t dumb things down or water them down or present stuff in a baby way. It is a really good series. I would like to see more. I liked it.”

Honeybear (Dad): “It’s something that everyone can watch without feeling like it’s too simple for adults or too difficult for children. Information and questions are presented in a way that’s informational without being boring.

BooBear (the College Student): “He was enthusiastic. He asked lots of questions and he could be humorous as well. Some of the quests they went on were interesting for a wide audience because they were good questions.”

My family found these 6 episodes fascinating and entertaining as well as educational.  Though we just enjoyed them as family “movie night”, these would be great to use with unit studies or as jumping off points to do more more studying.

Curiosity Quest LOGO image of Map

The Details:

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

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.