Nine Months to Christmas!

As I type this up my husband and three of my daughters are on their way to church. Today is a feast day.  It’s one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Liturgical Year.

Some might think that today is all about Mary because today we celebrate the Annunciation.  The Annunciation is when the Archangel Gabriel tells Mary that she will bear a son and that He will save His people from their sins.

Yes, Mary was honored.  Yes, she is blessed among women and she is a great example to all of us. She was humble and obedient.

But this day points to Someone greater.  This day points to the One.  This is the day that acknowledges that the second person of the Holy Trinity is God incarnate. 



Increasing Faith by Doing

Sometimes I am so slow. Sometimes I am so forgetful. Sometimes I need to get bonked on the head by God. Faith isn’t just something you believe. It’s something that you live. Faith isn’t just something that your head acquiesces to. Faith is something that abides in your heart and is reflected in your life.

Faith needs to be fed. Faith needs fuel to grow. How does one feed faith?  How do we get our faith to grow? Practice. By living and practicing our faith we receive the grace to grow.

To an outsider, the Orthodox faith may be full of routine rituals that seem dead and boring but they contain an important key to growing your faith. The key to a living  faith is to do. Do the prayers.  Do the almsgiving.  Do the fasting.  Do the living that brings faith from the head to the heart and causes it to shine forth in your life.

A Living Faith requires Doing ~ Circling Through This Life

I forget that. I get lazy. I make excuses about the Wednesday and Friday fasting. I shoot up short little “Lord Have Mercy” prayers because I just don’t want to take the time away from an already busy life to pray and connect to the Triune God.

Now here we are in Great Lent. This time of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving forces us to take a hard look at ourselves. We wrestle with the idea that we really are sinners. We really do fall short. The more time we give to prayer and the pursuit of more spiritual things the more we realize how much we have personally fallen from the ideal.

We are over half way through Lent and I have not really started the book I planned to read during Lent. I told myself I would spend less time on Facebook and use that time to read the New Testament. I’m hopelessly behind schedule with my NT reading.  I struggle with just giving up.  There’s always next year right?  But a tiny voice inside me whispers that reading even a few words from scripture daily is so much better than not reading at all. It will profit my soul to read the New Testament even if it takes me until next Pascha to finish. But my flesh twists and distorts the meaning of perfect and I think if I can’t read the 7 chapters a day and be “perfect” with finishing the entire New Testament on time, then I should just give up.

Doing hard things like reading the Bible, saying our prayers, fasting, and giving alms all work together to build our faith. It isn’t easy. It is often painful. If I give more money that means I have less to spend on myself. I am forced to face my selfishness and facing my faults and sins is painful.

There is more to doing than just fasting, praying and giving alms. Jesus gave us two commands:  Love God and Love Your Neighbor. When we actively love our “neighbor” by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, etc. we do these as if we are doing them *to/for* the Lord. I’ve focused on fasting, praying and almsgiving in this post because it is Great Lent and this can be a time of great spiritual growth.

I am reminded of the Epistle of James and the verse that says he will show us his faith by his works. Our faith should produce works but I think our works or our doing helps to increase our faith.

May my heart be truly prepared to celebrate Pascha.  I pray also that the lessons I learn this Lent carry forward for the rest of my life.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.


Math Analogies Beginnings ~ A Crew Review

The Critical Thinking Co. is one of my very favorite home school vendors. I first started using their Building Thinking Skills Primary program when BooBear was 5 years old and have loved every product we have used, so when the Schoolhouse Review Crew offered Math Analogies Beginning software for review, I knew I had to have it for Supergirl.

Critical Thinking IMage

About Math Analogies Beginnings:

This Windows only download, for students in the K-1st grade range, teaches critical thinking and reasoning using analogies. However, these analogies are mathematical, making this an excellent math supplement or math enhancement for any K-1st grade math student. Although, I think I would use this with advanced students who have already covered K math and some 1st grade math as the questions require the foundational math skills. 

Students who understand up/down, left/right, shapes, and number concepts will have the skills needed to discover and make connections that enable the student to successfully complete each analogy. Students who are younger or do not have these skills as established should still be able to use Math Analogies Beginnings but may not have the confidence or ability to work through it independently.

The software includes instructions on how to complete analogies with several samples. There is a link on the dashboard: How to Solve An Analogy.  If the teacher or parent is unfamiliar with how to read an analogy or needs help explaining the process to the student, I recommend working through the How to Solve An Analogy. I found it helpful to also have Supergirl sit through a few examples. This helped her to grasp that we were looking for a relationship between the first set of objects and that we wanted the second set of objects to have the same relationship. “What do we need to do the circle so that it will be like the triangle from this first group?”

Instructions and Sample Analogy

This is similar to the physical book also offered by The Critical Thinking Co. but all of the questions are multiple choice with four answer choices. Once I registered the license, I clicked start. It asked for a name. There are 152 questions. We choose to answer 10-15 questions 3 to 4 times a week. The program will save the data for one student. When we finished for the day I would click on the home icon to take us back to the dashboard. The dashboard displays which attempt, how many questions have been answered, and the percent answered correctly.

This downloadable software comes with a license registration that will permit installation on two computers. The program will only track data for one student at a time. It will track up to four attempts.  With attempts 2-4 the student is only asked questions that were answered incorrectly in the previous attempts so each attempt becomes fewer and fewer questions. Once an attempt is completed the student can review the correctly completed problems.

Dashboard view with attempts

Using the Software:

Supergirl and I used this 3 to 4 times a week. She enjoyed it so much that she would ask for it. It would be the first thing we did.  We finished all four attempts and have started the program over again. For the first 1/2 to 3/4 of the 1st attempt, I really had to help talk her through most of the questions. I would read the problem translating the : and : :  symbols.  So I might say “Circle with a Winky Face is to Circle with no face as Square with Winky Face is to what? What do we need to do to the square to make it match the circle.”  As we progressed through the questions she began more and more to verbalize her reasoning and talk herself through the problem. I loved that!

Math Analogies 75: Winky Face is to No Face

She was challenged and yet it was not too hard that she was discouraged. She enjoys it so much that she asked if we could start over. So we have. We’re now going much more slowly and I am letting her talk through each problem so we’re only doing about 5 at a time. I’ve also started asking her “why is it this one?” or “Why is it not that one?”   I can tell that she is gaining reasoning skills and making connections. I highly recommend Math Analogies Beginning as a wonderful resource for introducing children to mathematical reasoning.

Butternut this time!

The Details:

Critical Thinking Company Review   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.


Random 5 on Friday ~ March 13th Edition

It's March! OK, so it's been March for nearly two weeks but still, the weather has been beautiful here!

Random Five March 13th Edition from Circling Through This Life

1.   Supergirl loves Digital Science Online.  It's from Visual Learning Systems.  We just finished reviewing it but this is science right now. It’s a good fit for her right now with a combination of videos to watch and visual aids as well as hands on activities and worksheets.

2.  Today Tailorbear is having fun with a microscope!  She's looking at cells.  She's using BooBear's lab coat from J-Term.  I guess that investment in a good microscope and supplies was not a waste after all with daughter number 3 using it.

3.  Supergirl has a new nickname.  Butternut Squash or just Butternut for short. I made butternut squash soup earlier this week and she did not like it. We were chatting while doing school and I just started tweaking her nose every time I said butternut. She has decided she likes being called Butternut and insisted that her log in name for her math program be changed from Supergirl to Butternut. 

4.  I still have a zillion, or so it seems, blog posts in draft form as I try to sort through and figure out this diabetes stuff. I’ve been spending time reading Diabetes 101.  I’m really frustrated with the American Diabetes Association. The information is outdated and contradicts other groups. The numbers are also too high and set people up for failure. I really should set aside time to finish up all those drafts. I just spend so much time planning and cooking meals. Remember when I posted about my obsession? It’s food related but more of the “OK what can we eat that will not spike the sugars so that I can stay off meds.  What can we eat that will not spike his sugars and help lower his sugars so we can reduce his meds.”

5. I finished two books this week.  Well, this week including TODAY, Sunday March 15.  I know this is the March 13th edition but um I didn’t get it finished.  So last Monday I finished Patricia Rushford’s As Good as Dead. This is the third book in her Angel Delaney series. I think it is also the last book in that series which is kind of a bummer as I like Angel. The book doesn’t leave you hanging and does wrap up nicely enough that it doesn’t need another book but another book would be nice.  The other book I finished, the one I finished today really surprised me and deserves a blog post all on its own. It’s Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God by Frank Schaffer.  I could say more. I do have more to say but I’ll just start another blog post draft for it.  At least that draft won’t be about food, health, or diabetes.

So there you have it.  The Friday the 13th Edition completed on Sunday the 15th.  Have a great week!


The Pebble Pond

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


Digital Science Online~ A Crew Review

The longer I home school the more I appreciate being able to utilize different approaches to learning. Supergirl doesn’t learn in the same way her sisters did. Being able to watch a video clip, interact with that video clip and complete activities related to the content of the video works much better than the the methods I used with her sisters.  This is why I wanted to try Digital Online Science from Visual Learning Systems. We received both the Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5)and Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12).

Digital Online Science a review by Tess ~ A an engaing fun, visual way to inspire, instruct and challenge students with hundreds of age appropriate topics.

Visual Learning Systems

Visual Learning Systems is an educational science publisher. Their mission is to provide high quality content that instructs, challenges and inspires students.  Their videos, interactive graphics, animations, and images provide a visual based way to learn which is very appealing in this age of technology. VLS offers content in both DVD, and Digital formats or you choose a digital subscription.

Digital Science Online

Digital Science Online is an annual subscription that includes streaming videos, teacher guides and student work pages. The subscription also includes animations and images. Not all of the topics have animations. These animations include graphics and can be watched before the streaming video as an introduction or after the video for reinforcement. The student account has a tab that says Teacher Guides. This is where the student can download and print student activity sheets.

The Teacher Account has access to all of the materials in the student account but also has links for downloading the teacher guides. When you click on the Teacher’s Guide from the Teacher Account, you will see four parts:  Introducing the Video, Student Activities (which can be downloaded and printed), Learning Objectives, and Video Script. There is a link to download the full Teacher’s Guide which also includes answers to the activity sheets.

Digital Science Online ~ Review by Tess at Circlng Through This Life

The Elementary Edition has two sections: Primary for grades K-2 and Elementary for grades 3-5. Each level is divided into broad science categories that they label subjects: Physical, Earth, Life, and Health at both the primary and elementary level.  For the Middle School/High School level there is also Integrated and Biology. Subjects are further broken down into topics. In the catalog you can find how these topics are grouped by series but this organization is not readily apparent on the subscription/account page.  I focused on using the primary section of the Elementary Edition with Supergirl.

Using Digital Science Online with Supergirl:

I decided that we would cover a unit of study every one to two weeks working 3 to 4 days per week. I broke things down into 4-6 days depending on how many activity sheets were available and if there were animations. This really helped her to learn the material and more importantly to retain the material.  The videos at the primary level are about 10 minutes each.  At the elementary level they average 15 minutes.  The average video length at the Secondary Edition is 20 minutes.

Here’s an example of how I broke down the unit on the Sun and Stars:

Day 1: Do the worksheet: “What Do You Know Now.”  We would talk about the questions. I used this as an introduction to the topic and to the video. Then we would watch the video.

Day 2: Watch the video again but pause/stop to answer the questions on the Video Review/Quiz page. I love that the videos included Closed Captioning and so I would pause the video (or back up and then pause) when we found an answer and Supergirl would copy the words from the screen on to her worksheet.  This was especially fun for her when we studied Exploring Landforms and Soil and Rocks.

Day 3: We spent some time looking at the animations and images for Sun and Stars. Some topics do not have animations. This was a short day for us with Sun and Stars.

Day 4 (and Day 5): For the Sun and Stars topic this was the day that we watched the video again and then took the assessment: What Have I Learned.  Other topics have more pages such as the Word Find for Mammals.  I chose not to do either of the activities for this topic but Day 4 and Day 5 are great for doing the worksheets and/or activities like collecting soil samples in the Soil and Rocks topic.

Day 6: We completed the Sun and Stars topic in just 4 sessions but other topics took us 5 or 6.  For a topic like What Are Mammals, Day 6 is the day that we would watch the video for a final time and complete the What Have I Learned assessment.

Digital Science Online ~ A Review by Tess from Circling Through This Life

My Thoughts:

I would love to see the access page organized the way the catalog lists the topics so that I could more easily see which topics go together to form a series. This would be so helpful as a homeschool mom when planning out science units or using Digital Science Online as a supplement. I am very happy with this resource. I feel confident that Supergirl is learning and retaining the information. She does prefer a visual approach so she has enjoyed watching the videos. I like that the student activities are not just worksheets but sometimes include hands on activities for the primary level with more actual experiments for grades 3-5.

The Details:

  • The Vender:  Visual Learning Systems
  • The Product: Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5)and Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12)
  • Format: Streaming Videos, Animations, and Images plus downloadable Teacher Guides and Student Activity Pages
  • Age Range: The Elementary Edition has a Primary section for grades K-2 and an Elementary section for grades 3-5.  The Secondary Edition has one section labeled Middle School
  • Price:  Please see the Homeschool page for information specific for homeschoolers. Visual Learning Systems offers special pricing of just $99 for one level (Either Elementary or Secondary) for one year. The homeschool pricing does not include public performance rights. This price is solely for at home private viewing for one family.
  • Also Available: They also offer Science DVDs!
  • NOTE: The Videos have closed-captions!  Also when we first started using Digital Science Online the videos would start to play automatically. This was so frustrating!  I am happy to note that VLS has resolved this and videos do not auto-play any more! 


Visual Learning Systems Review

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.