An Alphabetical Collection of Random Thoughts {April 25th Edition}

Last week I had some not so random thoughts about Holy Week.  This week I’ve organized my random thoughts to fit into the last 5 letters of the alphabet so that I can say I actually completed a full round of Alphabet Blogging.  Next week, I plan on starting another round of Alphabet Blogging and I really hope to keep up with the hostess this time!

Image courtesy of domdeen / FreeDigitalPhotos.netV is for Vegetable Garden ~ It’s spring.  Time to think about yard work, flower beds, and vegetable gardens. Last year we had our first garden. It was my husband’s baby and it was wonderful!  Well the stuff that grew did wonderful. It was a learning experience and I’m excited to try again. Last year we grew peas, green beans, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers of some kind, some kind of squash, and tomatoes. The plan this year is to expand the garden.

Image courtesy of satit_srihin / FreeDigitalPhotos.netW is for Wasting Time ~ I feel like I do a lot of time wasters and then I get all grumpy and then I look around at all that I need to do, get overwhelmed and then waste more time. I get so frustrated when I feel like I have accomplished nothing and wasted all that time.  Striving to do better with a new routine starting tomorrow.



Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.netX is for Excessive Candy ~ Pascha means candy.  Well ok technically it means Passover but around here we tend to have lots and lots of candy.  We have an excessive amount of candy after Pascha because nearly every member of the family participates in the All Ages Easter Treat Hunt at church *and* Honeybear and I tend to buy special Easter themed candy for our baskets.  We have more candy at this of year than we do for every other holiday combined.  Yes that’s right, Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s day all combined produce less candy around my house than Pascha and you know what?  I’m okay with that.  Pascha, the celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith.  Without the resurrection we would not have Christianity.  But maybe next year we can celebrate with a little less candy.

Image courtesy of Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.netY is for Yoda Quote ~ I’m more of a Star Trek fan than a Star Wars fan but this particular quote from Yoda has been a favorite of mine for nearly 30 years. “Do or do not. There is no try.”  When I was in high school I hated when my choir director would quote this. I would argue (in my head) that I there was too try.  I could try but still fail.  Now as an adult I find myself telling my children “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  They, like me at that age, do not appreciate the wisdom dished out by an ancient alien from a galaxy far far away.  What I haven’t told them is that I do understand.  I’ve learned though that Mr. B and Yoda are correct: there is no try.  What??!!!  Well, I can say “I’ll try.”  That usually means “do not.”  Think about it.  You’ll either commit to doing it and fail or you’ll commit to doing it and achieve success. You’ll either do or you’ll do not.  “I’ll try, mom.” is met with “No, you need to make a decision.  You’ll either get up and do it, or you won’t get up and it won’t get done.  Which choice are you willing to make?” What my babies do not realize is that I’m really lecturing myself.  I need to make a commitment; I need to make that choice.  I might still fail.  I might give it my best shot, work hard and still not accomplish cleaning off the table.  If that happens I can say, “I tried.  I failed but I tried.” 

Image courtesy of criminalatt / FreeDigitalPhotos.netZ is for Zero Sleep ~ That’s how it feels from Holy Friday to about Bright Tuesday. Zero sleep is fairly close to what I got from Holy Saturday Morning until Pascha night.  I tried to take a nap.  I tried to rest but essentially I was awake from 7am Saturday morning to around 5 am Sunday (Pascha) morning. Here we are a week later and I’m still not sure I have caught up on my sleep.


Linking up this post to Miranda’s Random 5 on Friday at The Pebble Pond.  Come read this week’s edition!

**Note Alphabet images are courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.  Each image is labeled with credit to the specific photographer.***


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 www.circlingthroughthislife.com

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.


My Favorite Week of the Year: Great and Holy Week

Today is Palm Sunday.  Tonight, we’ll move liturgically into Holy Week.  Lent technically ended on Friday.  Yesterday was Lazarus Saturday. Both Palm Sunday and Lazarus Saturday fall outside of Lent and Holy Week.  This is also reflected in the color you see in the church. The liturgical color for Lazarus Saturday is Gold and the color for Palm Sunday is Green.  After the Festal Divine Liturgy for Palm Sunday all the cloths will change to black.  Holy Week is somber.

When we  enter into Holy Week we do so through Matins. Usually served in the morning, this service will flip flop with Vespers which is usually served in the evenings. My parish will have Bridegroom Matins on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. I could write whole post about how Bridegroom Matins is my favorite Orthodox service.

Pre-Sanctified Liturgies will be served Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.  Wednesday will be the last time this liturgy is served until next year during Great Lent. Pre-Sanctified is a special Vespers service.  It always makes me giggle to hear “now that we have come to the setting of the sun” and the sun is bright and shining and it isn’t even noon yet Open-mouthed smile.

Our Parish serves a very special service on Holy Wednesday:  Holy Unction. My husband jokingly refers to this service as the Orthodox version of a Healing Revival. This is the same service offered when someone is sick. During Holy Week, this service offers all Orthodox Christians the opportunity to be anointed with the Holy Chrism.

On the evening of Holy Thursday, Matins of Great and Holy Friday is served. During this service we hear 12 gospel readings that take us through the Passion of Christ. The Cross is brought out and Christ is placed on the Cross.  This picture represents this service. It is from a few years ago.

Holy Matins, with the 12 Gospels is served Thursday night.


I love this service because we each hold a lighted candle during the gospel reading. My legs, back and feet do not like this service though because of all the standing for the readings.  It is a very emotional service.  I am not alone when I have tears streaming down my face at the point when the icon of Christ is put on the Cross.  He chose to die so that we may all have life. Though I still claim Bridegroom Matins as my favorite Holy Week service, this is a close second. I decided to write about the whole week a a favorite because I love all the services that I’ve attended.

There are multiple services each day and on Friday there are three.  I’ve only been to all three once. I like to go to at least 2 but last year and this year I will only make it to the evening one.  This service is very long. Jesus is placed in the tomb.  During the service we begin to build toward the hope we have because we know the reality of the Resurrection.

As I write this blog post, I can feel the excitement building. My joy for the Feast of the Resurrection comes from a deeper understanding of Christ’s death and burial. There is something mystical and beautiful and timeless. I am transported back 2000 years and yet I am here and now. Christ conquers death by death and next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Feasts and the Victory over Death but this week we remember why and how that death came about.

Favorties Graphic

Do you have a favorite time of year?  Have a blog post about your favorite book, actor, hymn, Bible verse or anything that is your  favorite? Then come link up. Be sure and visit the other blogs linked up to see what their favorite anything is this week.

Rules for linking up:

  1. Post must talk about something that is your favorite.  It doesn’t have to be the same topic as my favorite post this week but it must be about something that is your favorite.
  2. Please include a link back to my blog.  You are welcome to grab the button from the sidebar to include in your post.


Random 5 {April 11th Edition}

I’ve decided that I love these Random 5’s so much that I’m going to strive to post them every week but I make no promises as to whether they’ll be on Friday or Saturday!

1.  For Orthodox Christians Great Lent ends on Friday April 10th. It’s the last Friday Pre-Sanctified with Soup Supper and Talk at my parish.  It’s a bittersweet thing for me. It means that Pascha is right around the corner but it also means that no more evening Pre-Sanctified liturgies for me until next year.  Though Great Lent has ended, the fast continues.  Lazarus Saturday follows the last Friday of Lent and then Palm Sunday. After Palm Sunday we enter into Great and Holy Week. I’m getting excited. It’s my favorite week of the year!

2.  For many years Supergirl didn’t really “get” blocks. It was hard for her to balance them or build with them.  She’s had a developmental growth spurt and blocks are now one of her favorite things.  Here’s a picture of one of her favorite things to build.

Supergirl's wooden block creation

3.  When Turtlegirl was much younger she was most unhappy because her older sister and her younger sister were wearing glasses (that they only had to wear when reading or doing school work and then outgrew the need. Or least outgrew it for awhile.).  Now as a teenager, Turtlegirl has been prescribed glasses. The doctor said it was up to us if we wanted to try them but because they may or may not help.  Turtlegirl says they do actually help. Here is my grown up looking Turtlegirl showing off her new glasses.

Turtlegirl sports new glasses

4.  I am really looking forward to Spring Break.  I always time our spring break to go along with Holy Week and Bright Week.  Holy Week is very busy with church and Bright Week is recovery week.  We’ll do a bit of school, mostly review products, but otherwise I plan on doing some spring cleaning and school planning.

5.  I was looking for pictures and came across this one from 5 years ago.  It is stamped as May 2009.  George doesn’t usually climb up into Supergirl’s lap and this is just adorable.  We’ll call it my Random Photo for a Random 5 post!

Supergirl and George the Cat enjoy some time together

The Pebble Pond

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


Help! I’m Buried in an Avalanche of Laundry!

Once upon a long time ago I thought I tamed the laundry monster.  I had a laundry routine. I had a method.  I was Queen of the floor ~ not mountain ~ because there was no mountain of laundry.  I even gave laundry advice.  It was simple.

Then gradually life changed. The Laundry Routine couldn’t keep up. Now, I’m buried in an avalanche of laundry. I’m still Queen Tess, but I’ve lost my kingdom of the floor. Or my kingdom of the couch.

Heaps of Laundry needing to be folded www.circlingthroughthislife.com

Yes, it's all clean. At least 3 if not 4 loads worth!
I wish the only laundry piles were the clean clothes waiting to be folded but our lack of routine has caused a back up with bringing hanging clothes to closets and dirty laundry needs to be washed (and then dried and then more piles of folding which um is why I haven’t washed it yet because we need to fold the clean ones!)
A long time ago when when we lived in Germany and only had one child, I learned a secret about laundry. I didn’t necessarily heed that secret for a few more years but the beauty of the idea stuck with me:  instead of saving all the laundry to do for one day, try doing one or two loads every day.   That’s a beautiful idea when:
  • a) you don’t live in apartment and have to go down 3 flights of stairs with a newborn to wash laundry or take it to your mother-in-law’s house
  • b) have a washer and dryer in the basement of our military house and have toddlers that need to be supervised
  • c) have a complicated sorting system and a desire to only wash a full load of laundry to save on water and energy

So what’s the beautiful idea?  Do 1 or 2 loads of laundry everyday.  Complete loads as in wash, dry, fold, and put away.  I had to let go of the idea that laundry had to be sorted.  I still sort laundry; it’s just much more basic. Sheets, towels, lights/whites and darks.  I wash sheets and towels in warm/hot water and clothes in cold.  The KISS method right?

I stumbled upon my simplified sorting system and implemented the do 1 or 2 loads a day method which worked well for several years.  I had a routine for washing, drying, folding and putting away.  Then life happened.  The girls got bigger.  Their clothes got bigger.  More laundry had to be washed, dried, folded and put away.  I had to spend more time home schooling.  Laundry routine had to change.

We still kept the principle of daily laundry but now two days a week had to have 2-3 loads instead of 1-2.  That meant more laundry to fold.  But we came up with a new plan.  The girls folded laundry while I read aloud. Since we were using a literature based approach to learning I could multi-task! We could do school and chores at the same time!

Alas life’s seasons changed again and now I’m only reading aloud to the one child who really can’t fold all the laundry by herself while aloud to her. (and um I’m not as consistent reading aloud as I used to be).

We had  short season where one lovely daughter volunteered to fold ALL the laundry everyday. It gave her a chance to be alone to recharge her batteries and to listen to her MP3 player.  No one was allowed to disturb her and my laundry got folded.  Another multi-tasking win-win situation!

Life changed again. Now I have no routine and laundry gets washed when someone yells “I’m out of underwear.”  Or “I don’t have anything clean to wear.”  And folding? That happens when mom explodes like a volcano makes people fold clothes before they can watch Doctor Who. 

Life is complicated because we have a college commuter student. Yes, she’s my daughter but she’s almost like a stranger.  A stranger who wants to use the washing machine and eat my groceries. Open-mouthed smile  (Yes I am truly glad that she is able to live at home and attend classes, it just complicates life.)

We’ve tried, to assign laundry days to bedrooms and make each bedroom responsible for their own laundry but for a variety of reasons that just didn’t work.

I’m on a quest to find a new routine.  A new laundry habit.  One that keeps the mountains of dirty and clean clothes to just a little mole hill. Washing laundry isn’t a problem. It’s finding the time to fold it all and put it all away.

Do you have any suggestions? How do you do laundry at your house?  Do you have big people? Little people? College people? Please share with me your tips and suggestions! 


Fabulous Online Science: Supercharged Science {Crew Review}

Science has always been a favorite subject of mine. My children are crazy about science. The best part of science is the activities: those moments when you see science in action. As a homeschooling parent I am not always up for the work of doing those activities. Through the Schoolhouse Review crew I stumbled on a such a gem of an online homeschool science curriculum that I am writing another review! Grab a cup of your favorite hot beverage or tall glass of your favorite iced beverage and let’s chat!

 e-Science Program homeschool science review at Circling Through This Life

I received 6 months of access to the K-12 Level e-Science Program from Aurora Lipper at Supercharged Science. This online homeschool science curriculum covers everything from learning about the scientific method to physics, chemistry, biology, and even geology! In addition to the 20 science units there are units for some Math lessons and Science Fair projects.  There is even a section to help you get started with the program, an overview of the e-science program, and teaching resources section with tips.

Aurora is a rocket scientist (for real!) with a passion for science and a desire to pass that passion on to students.  She has taught science at every grade level from K through college! Her experience as a teacher taught her how to get kids excited about science.

What’s Included?

When you first enroll in the e-Science program you have access to the first couple of units. Each month you’ll get access to an additional 1-2 units.  You’ll be able to see all of the Units and the topics covered so if you see a unit that interests you but you don’t have access to yet, you can just contact Supercharged Science and they will arrange access for you.  Access is limited to prevent parents and students from being overwhelmed.  There is a Getting Started page that is very helpful and even a page to help to students set up and keep a science journal.

But How Does it Work?

Let me walk you through a Unit. Let’s use Unit 9 as our sample. A picture is a worth a thousand words right?  Take a look at this screen shot.  Pay close attention to the list of links on the right hand side. The page shown is the Unit 9 Light (Getting Started) page. Read about light and watch the video. (That pretty picture at the bottom is a video.)Unit 9 List of Links

I like to download the PDF’s because they contain an overview of the lesson, shopping list divided by lesson, key vocabulary, text readings, exercises and answers. They even include abbreviated content from the videos.  All of this information and material is available through those links on the sidebar but I like how it nicely laid out it is in the PDF.  I also find it an easier format to use especially when trying to figure out what materials we need to complete the activities and experiments.

After watching the video on the main topic page, my girls then go to the Lesson Material and watch the video and read through the objectives. At this point both girls tend to do the textbook reading. Then they read through the list of activities and experiments to decide which ones interest them the most.

One daughter likes to watch the experiment videos to decide which ones to actually do. She ends up watching all of the activity and experiment videos, “even the ones [she] doesn’t do.”  Then she picks the ones that she wants and watches the video a second time while doing the activity or completing the experiment.

The girls make a spectrometer.

The other daughter reads through the list and makes her choice. She watches the videos while doing the activity.  She does usually go back and watch many of the videos of the experiments and activities that she doesn’t do.

Both girls tend to do the exercises after watching all the videos and completing activities and experiments.  The written exercises become part of their science notebooks.

Sometimes the girls work independently. This allows them to pursue the topics that most interest them and gives them flexibility to go at their own pace. Sometimes they do choose the same topic so that they can do the activities together.

Turtlegirl watches a video presentation e-Science Review

Tailorbear watches e-Science in full screen mode


Do I need to purchase additional items to complete the activities?

One of the things we love about the e-Science program is how Aurora uses so many things you can find around the house. Yes some specialty things are necessary but she provides links to where you can purchase those items. When Turtlegirl was working through units 10 (Electricity) and 14 (Electronics) we became very familiar with our local Radio Shack store.

One of the fabulous things about this program though is that you do not have to complete every activity of every unit so if an activity has something that is difficult or expensive to obtain, the student will still benefit by just watching the video for that activity.

Another great thing about the activities is that many of the lessons re-use items so even though you might invest in things like alligator clips and transistors, these items are re-used in several activities and often in more than one unit.

Collage of circuit board from e-Science review

Why I love Supercharged Science!

  • Aurora is knowledgeable, fun, engaging, and enthusiastic.  She gets my daughters excited about science.
  • I don’t have to teach.  I do not have a science background. I don’t have to try to present these concepts.
  • A shopping list of materials needed is available to members for every unit. The list has items denoted when the supply is only needed for 9-12.
  • e-Science covers topics that I know I would not otherwise cover in my homeschool such as electricity, circuits, and robotics.
  • Aurora encourages the students to keep a journal/portfolio and to document the experiments and activities that they complete.
  • The science is real.  It’s up to date.  Complicated terms and concepts are presented in a way that students can grasp and understand.
  • My children have never complained or balked when I told them to go do their science.

Tailorbear explores circuits with online science

You’ve told me all these great things, are there any weaknesses?

I do think this is a fabulous online homeschool science curriculum and I do recommend it even with these weaknesses:

  • Although there are 4 units covering life science and biology, the material is only for grades K-8.  There is no high school level biology presented.
  • There is no high school level Geology presented.
  • Navigating the website can be difficult.  Once you’ve entered a specific lesson in a unit you can not easily get back to the unit.
  • Turtlegirl notes that the answers for the exercises are on the same page as the questions which “makes things a bit tempting.”  ~ [Mom Notes] When I am on top of my organizing game, I download the exercises and print them and I am able to separate the questions and the answers but it is more convenient to let her work from the website. 

What did we think?

Turtlegirl: "This is an excellent program. I like how you can do the reading and experiments in any order you like. One of the things I especially like is Aurora's enthusiasm. She really loves science and it shows! I like that she shows you how to do the experiment, and then tells you why it works. I also enjoyed the 'electronics' unit. I loved breadboarding circuits and I even built a Jigglebot! (Poor Jigglebot... He broke. :( ) Did you know that red light has the longest wavelength and the shortest frequency? I really liked how there was a unit entirely devoted to light. Light is really complex, but Supercharged Science helped me understand it better."

Tailorbear: "I love how this program uses simple things that are fairly easy to find for experiments. (There are a few exceptions) I don't feel like putting together an experiment is too much work. Aurora is wonderful. She's enthusiastic and she loves getting her hands dirty just as much as I do, or at least it feels like it!  The lessons are fairly easy to understand. Even if more complex topics are the subject."

Mom: (That’s Me!): This science program has sparked a love of science in both of my daughters. They have been able to explore science concepts that I am not sure I would have been able to expose them to in any other way. Robotics? Astrophysics? Light? I would not have been able to teach those topics and I would have shied away from trying to tackle them with a more traditional textbook. Right now Supercharged Science is offering one month of either level for just $1. I highly recommend checking out this program.

Supercharged Science LOGO

The Details:

  • The Vendor:  Supercharged Science
  • The Product: e-Science Program (We reviewed the K-12 option)
  • The Author:  Aurora Lipper
  • Format: Enrollment in online membership.  Content is all online. Some content such as text reading, exercises and shopping lists are available to download as PDFs
  • Age Range: K-12
  • Price:  K-8 ~ $37  K-12 $57
  • NOTE: The website shows the levels as K-8 and 9-12.  The 9-12 also includes all the materials available in the K-8 Level.
  • User Guide:  In the upper right hand corner of the e-Science page is a link to a PDF User Guide. It gives a beautiful overview of how to use the program!
  • Free Access to Samples:  You can check out some sample experiments.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Aurora’s e-Science Program.

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.


Victus Study Skills System {Crew Review}

The key to successful learning directly correlates to the effectiveness of the study skills used. I want my students to be able to retain and recall the information they study. Recently, Turtlegirl and I have been using the Student Workbook and Teacher Edition of Victus Study Skills System.

Review of Victus Study Skills System from Circling Throug This Life

This short course, just ten lessons, can be taught in just one week.  The recommended pace for high school level students is 1/2 hour per lesson or 5 hours for the whole course. The Victus Study Skills System Teacher Edition includes a Sample Course Plan which covers all 10 lessons in 5 days.

The Teacher Edition is divided into three sections plus an introduction: Introduction-Philosophy, Section One – Teacher Instructions,  Section Two – Lessons,  Section –Three Appendix.  The Teacher Edition also includes, within the Lessons, the views of the Student pages and has the answers for those pages.

The Course Aim states that the purpose or aim is to equip the student for success in both academics and life. This aim considers four concepts which are explained in both the Teacher Edition and the Student Workbook.

The Student Workbook is arranged into sections based on the three foundational cornerstones of the program: Where am I Now?, Where Do I Want to Be? How Do I Get There?  This is a consumable product and each student taking the course will need their own copy.

Using Victus Study Skills: 

I found it difficult to wrap my mind around how to teach the material. Section One is labeled Teacher Instructions, however, it wasn’t what I expected. In this section Victus Study Skills System gives techniques for effective teaching, most of which are general enough to be applied to teaching any course. Some techniques include State Aloud which is asking students to state what they have learned, Affirmation, Life Examples, Listen Carefully and more. These are wonderful effective techniques that I have used when teaching but were not necessarily helpful to my understanding exactly what I was supposed to teach.

I struggled in the beginning with the material in Lessons 1-3. I found it difficult to make the connection between why it was necessary to have a life mission in order to learn effective study habits. The material is worth working through. I found that I had to read it.  Set it aside.  Ponder the material.  Come back and read it again. Though I don’t disagree with the premise, I found myself not fully comfortable with focusing so much on “life vision.” It took us much longer to work through these first three lessons. Perhaps it was my own failings and personality which prevented me from fully realizing the value of a life mission statement. Turtlegirl did come up one as did I and we both agree that having a life mission can be helpful in guiding your decisions, choices and behavior.

I found myself enjoying lessons 4-10. These were the lessons that truly teach the skills for effective learning, studying, and test taking. Lesson 6 is my favorite, it’s the lesson that teaches the PQRST method.

The Teacher Edition is geared more for classroom teaching and I think it would work well for a home school co-op situation or for a family with 2 or more children working through the Student Workbook at the same time.  Only one Teacher Edition is necessary but each student needs her own workbook.  I think Turtlegirl would have done much better with the Student DIY Workbook.

Turtlegirl completes page in Victus Study Skills System Student Workbook.

Thoughts From Turtlegirl:

I liked it. I like how they teach you HOW to take notes. They don’t just say ‘Be sure to take lots of notes!’ and then assume you already know how. They give you tips and tricks for taking notes. Most of them I had already been doing, but it was still nice to know that I was, in fact, taking notes properly. I also liked how they defined ‘Goals’ and ‘Objectives’. So, ‘better grades’ is an objective, but ‘raise Math grade to a B minus in 2 months’ is a goal. I also really liked their PQRST method of studying. It makes sense to read the questions before reading the material. That means when you see an answer to a question, you can answer it immediately. Before, I read the material and then looked at the questions, which meant I usually had to go back over the material to find the answers. I do recommend this, but for younger students: most of the things taught, I had already learned.”


The Details:

  • The Vender:  Victus Study Skills System
  • The Product: Student Workbook and Teacher Edition 
  • Format: Both Student Workbook and Teacher Edition are Spiral Bound
  • Age Range: Can be used with all ages but is most appropriate for students in grades 5-12.
  • Price:  Student Workbook ~ $20.00  Teacher Edition ~ $40
  • Also Available: Student DIY Workbook ($25),  Classroom Video, and Power Point.
  • NOTE: The samples on the website are copyright 2013 and are in color. The books we received are copyright 2014 and are black and white.  I think the color pages are more visually appealing.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Victus Study Skills System.

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.