Random Five on Friday ~ June 26 Edition

I’ve got some random thoughts from the past two weeks. I think I can keep it to five though!

1. My mom has lung disease and it has been getting progressively worse. She gave us quite a scare at the end of May. I was told to “use my best judgment” about coming to visit. Someone who knew all about the situation offered to buy a plane ticket for me to visit my mom. This incredibly generous person, who wishes to be anonymous, also purchased a ticket so I could bring one daughter with me. This was an incredible gift and I have no words adequate enough to say thank you but I have this blog so I thought I would share a few of the blessings from that short trip.

My mama!

2.  I got to see my mom.  Yes I know that was the primary purpose of my trip. We went every day to the care center and visited with mom and got to know a couple of the residents there. Mom has aged quite a bit since she has gotten sicker.  But she’s still my mama. I could see glimpses of both my grandmother and my mother in her face and her expressions. Her voice though was all hers.  I got to see Mom at “home” rather than in the hospital setting. She was well enough to be discharged before I came to visit.

3. While I was there I got to see my mom’s older brother. I forgot to snap pictures with my camera but my Aunt M had her camera ready as usual. She’s going to send me some pictures. I learned something about my uncle that I never before and I think it is really cool. Well two things actually.  One thing I learned is that he always calls mom “Little Sister.” I don’t know why I did not know that. The other thing that I learned that really touched my heart is that he always counts his twin brother and younger sister when he talks about his siblings. Both my uncle and my aunt died while they were children. When one of the volunteers asked my uncle about mom being the “Little Sister” he told her that he had five sisters. At first, I thought “wait a minute, uncle! You miscounted.  There are only 4 girls,” but then the volunteer said something about him being mom’s big brother and he said “one of them.”  And that’s when it clicked. Mom is the first born daughter, the second pregnancy, but she was the third baby. Somewhere I have this awesome picture of mom with her two older brothers. Twin boys with one little girl.

3. One of the horrible things about being so far away from family is that I don’t get to see nieces or nephews.  I have a six year old nephew who I had never even met!  On this trip I got to see my sister and my brother-in-law and I got to meet my nephew. He looks just like his older sister. In his baby pictures though he looks just like his mama.

Meeting her cousin!!

4.  We stayed with my sister-in-law which gave Tailorbear a chance to spend some time with her aunt and uncle from her daddy’s side. As a special treat she got to go on a motorcycle ride with her uncle!

Tailorbear and her Uncle go fo ar ride!

5. While we were gone, Boobear celebrated her birthday! I hated missing out on her birthday but I am so grateful to her godmother who threw a little party for her and helped her to celebrate when I couldn’t be there.

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Planning the High School Years

Some of my fellow Schoolhouse Review Crew friends are participating in a monthly blog hop blogging on topics related to home schooling high school.  This month we’ll be talking about planning.

The thought of home schooling through high school overwhelmed me. What should I teach? How was I going to teach courses for subjects like Biology and Chemistry? What about a diploma?  What about college?

Plannng the High School Years ~ Circling Through This Life #homeschool high school

There are even more resources and helps available today than there were seven years ago as I contemplated starting high school with Boo Bear. One resource that I did not have then that I have now is High School Prep Genius. This is a book that I recommend for both parents and students to read and discuss together.

So how exactly do I plan high school?  First I started by researching the requirements for high school graduation in my state. I needed answers to such questions as “am I required to follow the public school requirements for graduation?” “Can I issue a diploma?” I also needed to ask and answer for myself “What are my goals for my high school students?”  “What courses do I want to require them to take?” “What are her goals? Her likes? Her interests?”

In my research I discovered that home schools in my state do not have to follow the graduation requirements of the public school districts and that parents can issue a diploma. I set a standard of 20-24 credits required for graduation. This would be equal to five to six credits per year for four years.

When we started mapping out high school for BooBear we knew we wanted to include specific courses in music. She also wanted to study psychology. When I looked at college requirements and college tracks I was able to decide on minimums of 3 years of Math, 4 years of English, 2 years of science, and 3-4 years of Social Studies (history, cultures, geography etc.). As she progressed through high school, we started tailoring her transcript to the specific college she was most interested in and her senior year we included courses in computer science and health.

Turtlegirl’s high school plan looks very different. She’ll have her fine arts course but she’s more science oriented. She’ll have less social sciences and more foreign languages. She’ll have more computer programing and no sewing. She’s looking at 3 1/2 to four credits of Math, 1 1/2 to 2 credits of computer programming, 5 credits of English, and 3 to 4 credits of science.

So how do I determine credit? It depends. I like it when a course tells me how much credit to give the student. One rule of thumb is that if you finish the course or the text it is worth 1 credit. It is worth 1 credit whether they finish in 6 months or 18 months. Another way to determine credit is how much work and how much time is spent.

Is Record Keeping Important? In a word? YES! For BooBear I used Homeschool Tracker Plus. HST + is no longer offered for sale as Tracker has released an Online version. I love HST + and I loved using the transcript part of the program. With Turtlegirl I discovered My Student Logbook which is more for accountability. Turtlegirl records what she completes in the log book. We’ll need to get another one in the fall.

For planning, though, I have started using Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyers Co-Op. I’ll be writing a thorough review of the program in mid-July but I have to say this is the first computer based planning program that has worked for me since Homeschool Tracker. I love HS Planet. For now I am planning to use Homeschool Planet for planning and grading and then input those grades into Tracker to create a transcript. I am not sure I like the look of the transcript report yet.

Home schooling High School isn’t easy but you don’t have to go it alone! Read these other blog posts from my fellow High School home schooling mamas.

Meg from Adventures with Jude on Planning Your Homeschool High School
Chareen at Every Bed of Roses with thoughts on Planning to Homeschool through the High School Years
April from ElCloud Homeschool shares Homeschooling High School: Planning For High School
Debra over at Footprints in the Butter asks:
You mean I have to PLAN our Homeschool High School?!?
Michele at Family, Faith and Fridays shares Here's the Plan
Lisa at Golden Grasses says Don't Panic! Homeshcooling High School Blog Hop
Debbie at Debbie's Homeschool Corner Planning Out a High School Program
Gena over at I Choose Joy! shares her Top Tip for Planning Homeschool High School
Kym at Homeschool Coffee Break shares on Planning and Preparing for Success
Erica over at Be The One shares Planning and Record Keeping for High School
Jennifer from A Glimpse of Our Life on Planning For Homeschooling Highschool
Carol over at Home Sweet Life on Making A Plan
Wendy at Life at Rossmont shares thoughts on
Planning for High School
Cristi from Through the Calm and Through the Storm shares on Making High School Plans
Dawn Oaks at Double O Farms shares Planning for the High School Years
Leah from As We Walk Along the Road shares her thoughts on Making Plans for Homeschooling Through High School
Are you homeschooling high school? Have you home schooled high school? Maybe you are just beginning the high school years? It sounds more complicated and difficult than it is.  I am enjoying the high school years. How do you calculate grades? Do you have a favorite planning tool?

Homeschooling High School at Circling Through This Life


SmartKidz Media~ A Multi-Media Library for Homeschoolers {A Review}

If Supergirl could spend her whole day just watching videos she would. I try to incorporate educational videos into her school plan because they work well for her. Our family also enjoys fun but educational documentaries. We try to watch more of those during Orthodox Fasting seasons and less regular streaming.  Finding something that will entertain, while educating, is not always an easy task, so when the crew had the opportunity to review SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers I expressed high interest.

SmartKidz Media a Digital Media Resource for Homeschoolers ~ Read Tess's Review at Circling Through This Life

More than Just Videos

SmartKidz Media offers more than just videos. It is a media resource library filled with videos, eBooks, music, and even study guides. The website has two sections: Family Media, and the Reading and Learning Center.

The Family Media section is divided into two categories: World of Discovery, and Music and Fine Arts.  The World of Discovery includes topics from Animals and Wildlife, Science, History, Health and Fitness, Lifestyles and Cuisine, Travel and Adventure and Documentaries and Cultures. The length of the videos varies.  Some are as short as 8-10 minutes and others are as long as 25-30 minutes. All of the videos that I watched could be played “Full Screen” but none that I saw had closed caption included. We noticed several of them were produced by the BBC and Turtlegirl and I especially liked hearing the accents! A few of the titles include:

  • Bizarre Science ~ There are three volumes of this BBC collection. We watched volume 1 together for fun and plan on watching the other two as well. These are educational but fun to watch.
  • Ancient Cultures ~ This one also has three volumes. I thought it would be about ancient cultures from the *past* but it really explored ancient cultures that still exist.
  • Bravo Chef series with cuisine from all over the world. Supergirl loved these. She loved these even more than the animals ones and would ask for these videos. Turtlegirl is including them as part of her “Advanced Cooking course” and she is planning to actually prepare some of the dishes.
  • Worldwide Discovery: Scotland ~ There are 11 different Worldwide Discovery titles. Supergirl watched Scotland. I plan on adding a few of these titles to our geography studies as we study countries around the world.

Bravo Chef French recipe leTian from SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers

Animals dominate the videos in the World of Discovery section with several different series. Recently SmartKidz updated the content to include history videos from World War II and the Cold War. It looks like U.S. History will be coming soon. Speaking of coming soon, there will be some sports videos added as well.

The Music and Fine Arts section includes Classical Music, Cultural Music, Jazz and Blues Classics, and Relaxation Music. There is a Fine Arts section with five selections. Four of those are classical composers paired with an artist. As you listen to the music of Dvorak you see images of the art of Remington or listen to the music of Grieg while viewing the art of Renoir. I liked being able to click on a composer like Handel and let it play in one window while I work on lesson plans in another window or write blog posts.

Handel's Playlist from SmartKidz Media

The Reading and Learning Center has eight sections:

  • The Mighty EBook Collection ~ I like to let Supergirl use this section on the Kindle because she can follow along while the book is read to her. I love the collection of Aesop Fables and Beatrix Potter stories
  • Baby Signs Program ~ includes a signing dictionary and videos for potty training
  • My Animal Family ~ yes, more animals!
  • Quick Find Study Guides ~ These are like reference tools. I used the spelling one to look up when to write our numbers. There are references for Language Arts, Math, Science and more. French and Spanish grammar are listed as coming soon!
  • Easy Learning for Special Needs ~ This category includes “Hear the Book” and Interactive sections for nearly all of the items listed. The Interactive options include PDF downloads.  I think this section would work well for younger children in the toddler/preschool years whether they are typical learners or special learners.
  • The Living Skills Program is listed as coming soon!
  • Ready Set Sing ~ this has sections for ages 2-4 and for ages 6-8
  • The Fun Zone ~ In this area children can find games, and jokes and riddle books. There are puzzles as well.  Supergirl had a bit of trouble with the puzzles because she wasn’t quite coordinated enough with the mouse. These do not work on the Kindle Fire. 

Accessing the Media Library

Because this is a subscription to online streaming content, it can be accessed from a variety of devices including smart phones, ipads, and Kindles! We have an old Wii and a TV so old it cannot even support an adapter to use with the laptop.  We did try it on the Wii with the Wii browser but our internet service is no longer playing nice with the Wii as the browser is so outdated. We opted for using SmartKidz on the laptop and the Kindle Fire.  We are hoping to purchase a new “smart TV” in the fall and I am sure Supergirl will appreciate being able to watch her favorite SmartKidz videos on the TV. In the meantime, she enjoys her special Kindle Fire time!

Supergirl enjoys SmartKidz on the Kindle! Read Tess's Reviwe at Circling Through This Life

The Details:

  • The Vender:  SmartKidz Media
  • The Product: SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers
  • Format: Online Subscription
  • Age Range:  There are materials for every age group!
  • Price:  $10 a month or $99 a year.  There is also a 14 Day Free Trial
  • More Information: View the FAQ page for more information
  • NOTE:  I have not personally viewed all of the content.  All families are different so be sure to read the other crew reviews to get more information and more opinions! Sign up for the 14 Day Free Trail to see for yourself!
SmartKidz Media Review

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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.


Supergirl Answers a Survey about Her Mom

I have been seeing this interview on Facebook.  Ask your child these questions and record exactly what they say.  I decided I’d rather do as a blog post so I asked Supergirl the questions.  Questions are in bold. My commentary is in purple.

Supergirl answers questions about her mom, Tess at Circling Through This Life
1. What is something mom always says to you?

Take your thyroid. [yup, every morning I tell her to take her thyroid medication which gets shortened to “take your thyroid.”]

2. What makes mom happy?

When I drink all the water. [She must drink a full glass of water with her thyroid medication. I’ve been a stickler about making her do it.]

3. What makes mom sad?

When she calls her mom and she can’t talk and she misses her dad.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?

She tickles me.

5. What was your mom like as a child?

Um, when she was a girl she went to school. When she grew up she went to college and got a college degree.

6. How old is your mom?

Three? No. Wait. I don’t know. [I think 3 is her current favorite number.]

7. How tall is your mom?

Bigger than me.

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

Work.  Clean the house.  No.  Wait.  Maybe playing games on her computer.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?

Fun stuff.  Watching TV with my dad.

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?


11. What is your mom really good at?

Cooking.  Making dinner.  Making lunch.  Making breakfast.

12. What is your mom not very good at?

She’s not very good at sleeping. She has problems sleeping.

13. What does your mom do for a job?

Working on her computer.  She has Crew stuff.

14.What is your mom's favorite food?

Eggs.  Or McDonald’s Sausage and Egg Biscuit

15.What makes you proud of your mom?

I’m very proud of my mom working.

16. If your mom were a character, who would she be?

The Evil Queen [See the notes about the thyroid.  I am pretty sure I am the Evil Queen because I make her drink the water and wait the 30 minutes before allowing her to eat breakfast.  The “Thyroid” must be taken on an empty stomach with a full glass of water.]

17. What do you and your mom do together?

Math, play wii bowling, IEW

18. How are you and your mom the same?

Sometimes we wear the colors and we have the same last name

19. How are you and your mom different?

We have different hair. I am blonde and mom has brown.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?

Because she gave birth to me and that’s how she loves me. [I am not sure my giving birth shows her how I love her but I got lots of hugs for this question.]

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?

His beard. [his beard???!!!!! Really?? Well, I like it when it is nice and trim.  I don’t know if it’s really what I like most but I chuckled at her answer.]

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?

To the restaurant to get food

23. How old was your Mom when you were born?

Let’s say 16 [um no, not quite twice that!]


CTC Math ~ Online Math from K through High School {Review}

I first heard about CTC Math when it came up for review in the last crew run. We used it.  We liked it.  It was fabulous for Turtlegirl. Turtlegirl continued to use it for Geometry but I set it aside for Supergirl until a couple of months ago. Our subscription was nearing its end. I wanted to continue to use it with Turtlegirl so I pulled it out again for Supergirl.I hadn’t liked it as much for her as I did for Turtlegirl and I realized it was because Supergirl needed a bit more maturing. I decided I liked it now enough for Supergirl to justify purchasing a month to month family plan so that Turtlegirl could finish Geometry. So having purchased a month to month subscription, I was thrilled when I saw the 12 Month Family Plan come up for review.

CTC Math Online Math for Grades K through High School ~ Read Tess's Review at Circling Through This Life

CTC Math

CTC Math is an online video based subscription program with courses from Kindergarten through Trigonometry. For K through 6th grade this program can be used as a complete program. For the high school level courses you may wish to use them as supplements though I have noticed that they have added more material since last year.

With a CTC Math subscription, each student has access to every level of the program. This gives the student great flexibility to go at her own pace or to review a weak area for one topic and forge ahead in a strong one. 

List of Courses for CTC Math Online

Some key features that I really like include:

  • Customizable backgrounds ~ in the settings section at the bottom of the screen, you can add an email address for the student to receive reports but even more fun is that you can choose what background color you prefer.
  • the video lessons can be viewed in full screen mode ~ this can help reduce distraction for the student who wants to look at everything except the instruction video
  • a separate parent log-in so that I can see overall results or view summary and detailed reports
  • with the parent log-in, I can set the minimum percentage for a passing score ~ for the high school levels, this means the student cannot view the solution set until she has reached the minimum passing percentage. It does not, however, prevent a student from moving on to another topic.
  • Weekly reports emailed to me!

Differences between Elementary Courses and High School Courses

All of the courses include video instruction. These videos can be played “Full Screen” which, for some students, is helpful. All the courses are divided into sections which are divided into topics.

The primary difference between grades K-6 and the Middle and High School levels is the assignment format. For grades K-6 plus Elementary Geometry and Elementary Measurement, the questions are done online.  They are interactive and graded immediately. If the student needs more practice, there is the option for “more questions.”

If you need more practice, you can click on More Questions

For the upper level courses students have worksheets. These worksheets can be printed out or the student can work through the problems on scratch paper.  For many of the Geometry topics, I recommend printing the worksheet so that the student can mark the figures.

The worksheet has a key or code for answers so that when the student is finished, she can input her answers and submit for a grade. In the FAQ section, CTC Math explains that it can be difficult to type some of the answers because of the symbols. Note that some topics need to be graded by the student and the student inputs the grade into the program.

Using CTC Math with Turtlegirl

Last year, Turtlegirl worked through the Geometry section of the program. She’s taken a few breaks here and there and has just a couple of lessons left to complete. When we were assigned to review CTC Math this time, she decided to work on Pre-Calculus while finishing up Geometry.

Turtlegirl says she appreciates that Mr. Murray, the video instructor, works through several problems of different types. He does this step by step so the student can apply the concept in different ways.

Turtlegirl is hoping to finish both Pre-Calculus and Trigonometry before graduation.

CTC Math remembers where you are! Read Tess's Review at Circling Through This Life

Using CTC Math with Supergirl

Although CTC Math can be used as a complete math program for younger students, I found that I like using CTC Math best as a supplement for Supergirl. She requires concepts to be presented in a variety of ways and CTC Math is perfect to use 3 days a week for concepts such as time, geometry, and measurement. She needs lots practice with her math facts so we work on those with a different program.

I especially love that we have access to all the levels. This allows me lots of flexibility or customizing for Supergirl. She is doing some work at 2nd grade level while some concepts are still at a first grade level.  We can try a concept at 2nd grade and if it is too difficult we can cover it at the 1st grade level first. I think she may even be ready for 3rd grade with some concepts. The ability to move between grade levels is perfect for my asynchronous special needs daughter.

The Details:

CTCmath Review from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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.