It’s the Last Friday in August ~ Random Five on Friday

Monday is August 31st which means that today, August 28th is the LAST Friday of the month. This is only the second Random Five post that I’ve done this month.  It’s been a busy summer.

1.  August is birthday month here.  When I did other Random Five post I mentioned that the twins turned 18.  I didn’t share pictures so here’s a pic!  Honeybear also celebrates his birthday in August. We joke that the twins were his birthday present. No pics of him or his celebration but we did indulge in a rich chocolate fudge cake to celebrate.

Supergirl celebrates 18!

Turtlegirl celebrates 18

2. Turtlegirl and Tailorbear had the opportunity to go camping with our parish. They had the opportunity to use a real, large, professional quality telescope set up by some astronomy students. They also got got to go hiking. Maybe next year the rest of the family will be able to join them! Turtlegirl took this photo to share with me while she was hiking up the mountain.

Way Up On The Mountain

3.  The garden really just didn’t go well this summer.  We’ve had drought conditions and unusually hot weather. We did get some lemon cucumbers and some peas and some green beans but the quantity and quality was just not there. Onions and carrots did not survive and the tomatoes are just weird.  We might get a spaghetti squash or two.  Though we haven’t enjoyed the fruits of Honeybear’s labor, he does enjoy gardening as a hobby so at least he got enjoyment from his labor if not vegetables.

4.  We “officially” started school this week but but but we didn’t quite do our first day traditions and sadly I did not get any photos.  I did pass out some new supplies.

5. And the most exciting thing that has happened this week?  Well it deserves its own blog post but I’ll give a hint.  It involves books and Supergirl.


Illuminating Literature: A High School Course {Crew Review}

One of my favorite passions is reading books. I also love exploring the depths of literature and finding little nuggets that reveal more about humanity or myself or society. Great literature is full of themes and statements. Sometimes the themes are more obvious and the author wants us to see the theme. Sometimes they are more ambiguous and we have to dig a little deeper. Sometimes a novel will stir things up inside and we don’t know why. A fabulous literature instructor will be able to guide you and show you how to identify the rich layers of a novel.  I am not a fabulous literature instructor but fortunately, I have been using Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide from Writing with Sharon Watson and Sharon Watson? Well, she has put together this amazing and easy to use program for a full year high school homeschool literature program which gives me the tools to become a fabulous literature instructor.
Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide Description

In this high school homeschool curriculum students will read and study eight novels that explore the theme of colliding worlds.  Ms. Watson states, in the Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide: Teacher's Guide, that each of the novels “was selected for its colliding worlds, its literary value, and for its potential to help students make moral, ethical, spiritual, and life choices from a godly perspective.” (pg. 1)
The curriculum is divided into nine sections or chapters with the first one serving as an introduction to the program and to literary analysis. The first chapter is numbered Zero and labeled Start Here.  This section has three lessons.
Each novel has is its own chapter.  Each chapter is divided lessons. There are lessons to be completed before reading the book and lessons to be completed after reading the book.
Each novel study includes these elements:
  • Before You Read ~ these lessons give the context for the book including background information on the author and time period
  • Suggested Reading and Homework Plan ~ Generally a 4 week plan that includes a week of before you read activities, two weeks of reading the book, and a week of after you read activities
  • Imitate! ~ These are paragraph writing assignments. Through these assignments, which imitate well written passages, the student learns to improve her own writing.
  • Writer’s Devices and/or Literary Terms ~ I love that each chapter focuses a few devices and terms and uses that chapter’s novel to teach those terms!
  • Novel Notebook suggestions ~ Things to look for while reading. One example: while reading War of the Worlds the student is asked to look for three things that show Mr. Well’s evolutionary thinking and write them in her Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide:Novel Notebook (Free PDF Download).
  • Stuff You Might Want to Know ~ This is a guide that may include vocabulary or dialect to help a student understand the novel as in Pudd’nhead Wilson or it may include a chapter by chapter list of things to notice while reading such as the shift to Wendy’s perspective in Chapter 8 of Peter Pan.
  • Choice of Activities ~ Most of the novels include a list of activities at the end of the chapter. These activities vary from research projects to art projects to watching a movie version and writing a review. There are no additional activities for Peter Pan.  I love Ms. Watson’s sense of humor.  In the student book on page 141 she says “Before you finish today’s work, look at Your Choice of Activities at the end of this [Peter Pan] chapter. No, wait! There are no activities this month! Rejoice!”  Students are only required to complete one activity per chapter. Except of course for Peter Pan.
  • Discussion Questions ~ Some of these questions get students talking about the novel. Some questions are related to the Novel Notebook. Each book or novel though as one controversial or thought provoking question inspired by the novel but provides the opportunity to explore those moral, ethical, and spiritual choices.
  • Quizzes ~ Each book has a “Yes, I read it!” and a “Literary Term” quiz. There is also an opinion survey for each book.
  • and more! Really there is more! You can download the first two chapters!

The Novels

Sharon Watson generously included the first two books used in When Worlds Collide in her review package. (Thank you, Ms. Watson!) There are 8 books that are necessary to complete this program. Ms. Watson lists in both the Student and Teacher Guides the approved versions of the eight books. “It is highly recommended that your students use the suggested version of each book.” (Teacher Guide pg. 1) The page numbers and quotes are from the approved list and students using these versions will have an easier time keeping up with class discussions and following along in the program. On page two of the Teacher Guide she does also state that a student who is can use the search function can use an eBook version. Having the approved version for Pudd’nhead Wilson did make things easier for my daughter and I. We will be purchasing recommended versions of the other 6 books. These books can be purchased from amazon as a bundle through the Writing with Sharon Watson website.
Tailorbear read the book in half of the alloted time! She gave Pudd'nhead Wilson 4 out of 5 stars! Read Tess's Review of When Worlds Collide Literature Curriculum for High School.

Using the program:

The When Worlds Collide Set includes 4 separate components. The Novel Notebook is a FREE PDF download but it is not necessary to print it out. The questions and suggestions are included in the Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide (Student Book). If a student is not using the Novel Notebook pages, she’ll need a spiral notebook or three ring binder to create her own novel notebook. We opted to print out the Novel Notebook and store it in a three ring binder. Tailorbear said it made it easier to use if it was already printed out.
As the teacher I made use of both the Teacher Guide and the student book. The Student Book is written directly to the student and contains all the information the student needs. I found it helpful to read the student lessons. I have not read any of these novels and though I have read other Twain novels, I did not have any of the context that Ms. Watson provides. If I were leading this course in a classroom or co-op setting I would want a student book just for myself as a reference tool. Speaking of the Student Book, each student does need their own book as these are work texts and the student will be writing in them.
My Teacher Guide is getting quite the workout! In addition to detailing how I can use this program in a co-op and providing a suggested monthly schedule, the TG provides grading guidelines and a grading guide. Of course the TG is also an answer key but it is more than that. Ms. Watson provides questions that *you* as the teacher can use in a group setting such as a secret Facebook group set up just for your students and their parents.
What I have found most valuable with the TG are the discussion questions. Many of the discussion questions answers are “answers will vary” but Ms. Watson doesn’t always just leave it at that. She often includes some statement that the teacher can use to further the discussion or to guide a student or gives a bible verse to use as a reference.
I gave Tailorbear the option of completing the quizzes online or using the Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide: Quiz and Answer Manual. The Quiz and Answer Manual can be photocopied for use in your own family but if you are using When Worlds Collide in a Co-op students should use the online option. This manual includes all the “Yes, I read it” and “Literary Terms” quizzes as well as the Opinion Surveys. It isn’t necessary to purchase them if you want to just use the online option but I like being able to read the questions and having the option to administer a physical quiz.
One of my fellow crew members did set up a secret Facebook group for us based on the suggestions in the TG. Tailorbear and I are both part of that group so she has access to discussion threads. Tailorbear followed the the schedule of taking about 4 weeks to complete Pudd’nhead Wilson. When she finished reading the book the first thing she said was “Mom, did you finish it?”  She was as eager as I was to talk about the book. She took the online quizzes and then we did our discussion time.
Tailorbear works on her Novel Notebook, thinking about the book she is reading for When Worlds Collide literature program.

Tailorbear’s Reactions

Tailorbear said that she has always wanted to read H.G. Wells and Dickens but she said “I know that I would give up and not read them. I’m glad that we are doing a study because it is forcing me to read these books.”  I asked her if she liked Pudd’nhead Wilson and she said that it wasn’t a book that she just would have picked up any old day but that she did enjoy it and she was glad she read it.  She rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

My Thoughts:

Many many years ago when I was a just a 9th grade student, I had a fabulous literature teacher. Ms. Bradovitch continues to influence me even now as I strive to pass on to my daughters the love of exploring literature and reading powerful literary classics. I am looking forward to using Sharon Watson’s program to introduce A Tale of Two Cities to my daughters just as Ms. Bradovitch introduced Charles Dickens to me. If you are looking for a Christian perspective to tackling literature that is not necessarily written by a Christian or from a Christian point of view, then you’ll want to consider Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide for your homeschool curriculum.

The Details:

  • The Vender:  Writing with Sharon Watson
  • The Product: Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide
  • The Author: Sharon Watson
  • Format: Physical Student Book, Physical Teacher Guide, Physical Quiz and Answer Manual, Online Quizzes, PDF Download Novel Notebook.
  • Age Range: High School  
  • Also Available: Sharon Watson also overs high school level writing programs. I recommend Writing Fiction for High School for your high school students interested in writing a novel. 
Writing with Sharon Watson: Illuminating Literature  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.


Teaching High School Math and Science: Resources

Each month I’ve been writing a blog post about Homeschooling High School and participating the Blog Hop.  This month I want to share about the Math and Science resources that we have used. It is overwhelming to think about teaching subjects like Math and Science. Thankfully there are many resources and curriculum choices for parents to consider. Some require more prep work and knowledge of the parent and others essentially teach the material, leaving mom to just facilitate learning and record grades.


My absolute favorite program for teaching Algebra from Pre-Algebra concepts all the way through Algebra II is VideoText Algebra.  We were blessed to review this through the Schoolhouse Review Crew and we are still using it. Yes, sometimes I have to watch a lesson a time or two and check the solution guide in order to help Tailorbear but essentially it is a program that teaches her and I am only there to administer quizzes and tests, encourage her to complete her work daily, and help her when she doesn’t understand something.

Turtlegirl did really well with ALEKs, an online subscription program. It suited her personality and adjusted the pace to match her needs. She used it for Algebra I.  It didn’t work as well for Tailorbear but it is still worth checking out.  This is another program that essentially teaches the student.

BooBear used Math U See for her high school math.  She used it for Algebra I and II as well as Geometry.  This program is set up to teach the teacher how to teach but can be used to directly teach the student.  MUS was practically a perfect fit for Boobear and had been since we switched to it when she was in 4th grade.  MUS did not work as well for Turtlegirl.

Turtlegirl is currently using CTCMath for Precalculus.  She used it for Geometry and she will use it to for Trigonometry as well.  This is yet another online subscription program. It doesn’t suit Tailorbear as well as it does Turtlegirl so Tailorbear will be trying MUS Geometry when she finishes VideoText Algebra.

Homeschooling High School Blog Hop Math and Science Resources


Science has been a more difficult subject to find a program that I am as happy with as I have been with the math programs I listed above. 

If you have a self motivated student who loves to research and works very well independently you may want to consider High School Chemistry In Your Home by Bridget Ardoin.  I really liked the program but it doesn’t work well with Tailorbear’s personality and Turtlegirl and I ended up setting it aside as she was too easily distracted.

Supercharged Science is a wonderful program that provides the opportunity for lots of hands on learning. We had the opportunity to review it twice. It is weak for high school biology, or rather at least it was when we had access, but it is wonderful for chemistry and physics. Towards the end of our subscription, Aurora was adding more to the high school physics level. Turtlegirl completed all that was available and we are now filling in with a bit from Fascinating Physics to make sure she has covered enough for a full high school credit of physics. Turtlegirl also did several units that we’re calling Advanced Science Credits. This is very fun and Aurora teaches the students through videos. It is a bit on the pricey side but do check out Fabulous Online Science Review and my first Supercharged Science review.

BooBear used D.I.V.E Chemistry with the Exploring Creation through Chemistry from Apologia as the text. Turtlegirl will use that to finish Chemistry, she did use D.I.V.E Biology and now Tailorbear is using it. It has a bit too much emphasis on religion for our family but the program is AP Level and includes labs. It’s rigorous and definitely college prep. I like that it does the teaching. The student watches lectures, reads the textbook, and completes the labs and this is all done independently. I only have to grade the work and administer the tests. The files even included grading information for weighted grading and a spread sheet to do the computations for me!

A Blog Hop isn’t a Blog Hop if you don’t hop on over and visit the other blogs, right?  So here’s a list of my crew friends participating this month. Check out what they have for you this month!

Home School High School Hosts Share this Month:

Some of us included History this month.  Some of us (me! me! me!) did not.  I’ll be talking about history resources next month when I also share some of my favorite resources for English.

Oh and a bit about credits for Math and Science. Generally, I use the guidelines provided by the curriculum for credit. Completion of a course is equal to one credit.  VT Algebra would give a student 2 to 3 credits of Math:  Pre-Algebra (which I do not put on a high school transcript), Algebra I, and Algebra II.

Thanks for stopping by this month’s Homeschooling High School Blog Hop!

Homeschooling High School at Circling Through This Life


Homeschooling: Teaching at the High School Level

The other day I had a comment on a blog post about “what about those subjects you are not qualified to teach like biology or chemistry?”   The whole comment was rather rude and it was made on a post that talked about *planning* high school courses, not about teaching.  But I’ve been thinking about that comment. I’ve been pondering what it means to teach and what it means to be “qualified” to teach.

Teaching High School in the Home School by Tess at Circling Through This Life ~ Teaching is really more facilitating and resource hunting!

I think the statement “not qualified to teach” stems from a lack of understanding of how homeschooling works. I think it also presumes that the person standing in front of a classroom is a subject matter expert. I do not have to be a subject matter expert to read a text or require my student to read a text and to facilitate discussions, or administer tests. According the laws of my state, I am qualified to teach my children at home. I am also by law qualified to teach in a private school. Yes, that’s right.  I do not have a teaching certificate but that is not required by law to teach at home or in a private school. My state also offers a “parent qualifying course” for those who do not have minimum required hours of college. I did not have to take the qualifying course. Education is very important to me and I take the education of my children very seriously.

But what exactly does teaching look like in the home school?  What does it look like at the high school level? As parents we teach our children.  We start teaching them from birth and we teach them all kinds of things, like how to talk, how to respond to people, how to get dressed, etc.  We teach them to love and we teach them to hate. But for some reason we get this hang up that if it is something academic we can’t teach them. No. We can. It just doesn’t look the same.

I admit it.  I was afraid of teaching my children how to read.  I was afraid I would mess it up. How could I teach something so complicated as reading??!!!  How did I do it? By researching programs, learning my child’s learning style and finding a program that worked for both of us.  Yes my oldest was a guinea pig and we struggled but she is an awesome lover of books and reads authors like Dickens and Austen for pleasure. Success!

But here’s the secret to teaching any subject at any grade level: if you are not the subject matter expert, find a curriculum, program, or resource that provides the information the student needs to learn and be willing, if necessary, to learn right alongside her.

My oldest has taken courses such as Geometry, Biology, and Chemistry in high school.  She did very well with those courses. I did not teach them. Yes, it was home school.  Yes, she took those courses at home.  I taught other subjects like cooking, and I facilitated other courses such as writing, literature study, and logic.

In a future blog post (Homeschooling High School Blog Hop for August!) I’ll address some of the specific programs I have used for high school for subjects like biology and chemistry.


Let’s Talk about Search Reward Programs!

A few days ago in my Random Five on Friday I mentioned two reward programs that I use. Today I wanted to talk a little bit more about Swagbucks because it has a referral program with a nice incentive going on RIGHT NOW.  Ok reading the link from Swagbucks the incentive is more for me but you’ll benefit, too!  If you sign up and earn 300 Swagbucks before the end of August we’ll both get 300 Swagbucks.  I don’t know if that is an additional 300 or just the 300 you earned but it is worth it!

You can earn free gift cards from Swagbucks ~ Tess tells you some of her favorite ways to earn!


Let’s start with Swagbucks. What is Swagbucks? Good question!  It’s a website and a program that provides points or swagbucks for “doing the things you are already doing online.”  These Swagbucks can be redeemed for gift cards or other rewards in the Rewards Store.  Generally 100 SB = $1 and you can get a $3 gift card for 300 Swagbucks. I’ve been saving up my SB though, for the $25 gift cards!  The first one is only 2200 SB making it a slightly better deal than the $3 or $5 denominations.

So how do you earn these Swagbucks?  Well you can earn Swagbucks in a number of different ways. I’m just going to tell you about the ways I have been earning this past week.

Ways to Earn

  • Searches ~  I have Swagbucks set to be the default search engine for all my browsers on my laptop.  I use it when I am actually searching for something like “nearest place to recycle glass” as well as using the search to grab the link for my Gmail or Facebook instead of clicking on the bookmark. I’ve been getting rewarded at least once a day and getting 12-15 SB for one search.
  • Swagcodes ~ These are usually for 2-4 SB and happen anywhere from once a day to several times a day.  I have the mobile app on my phone, I have liked the FB page, and I have the Swagbutton.  If there is a code available, I will get a notification.  The notification doesn’t tell me the code but it will tell me where to find it and then I grab the code and paste it in. This is, for me, an unreliable way to earn SB as these are time sensitive and I often miss them.
  • InBox Offers ~ 99% of these I just delete but you may find some that you are like.  I do try to look for the ones that will earn 2sb for something easy like letting a video play or viewing a slideshow for at least 5 slides. I get one or two of those a day. I haven’t tracked it though.  Those are also time sensitive.
  • nGage ~  This is Watch and Earn but it is also “Discovering New Content”  You watch a series of video usually in 10 Steps and earn 2sb.  Each clip is between 15 and 35 seconds.  Most of the ones I have seen are 20 seconds. This is how I have been earning the majority of my SB during this past week. There are two other activities that are earn 2SB and work in a similar way.  One is a picture of a guy with a laptop (Laptop Guy) and one is a group of people and the center person is a female wearing a black tank top (TankTopGirl).  This morning I earned 40 SB “discovering new content” with LaptopGuy.  I haven’t seen TankTopGirl for several days but DesktopGal (nGage) is a regular feature.

Other Ways to Earn

  • Bonus Swagbucks ~ meet your daily goal and at the end of the month, get a bonus of 3-5 Swagbucks for each day that you met your goal.  There are bonuses for streaks: 7, 14, 21 or 31 days!  You can earn over 600SB each month just by meeting a daily goal.  Meet your daily goal and you’ll be offered a total goal.  If you meet that goal you’ll earn more bonus points. These goals vary from person to person and from day to day. I have found that the daily bonus depends on the daily goal.
  • Watch and Earn ~ SB has an app you can download, SBTV, to earn Swagbucks for watching videos.  I’ve only just started exploring this option. 
  • Daily To Do List ~ including answering a daily poll and viewing special offers
  • And more! 

Interested in checking it out?  This Swagbucks link will take you to the website where you can sign up using my referral code.  Right now through the month of August if you sign up and earn 300 Swagbucks before the end of August we both get 300 Swagbucks. 


Random Five on Friday ~ August 7th Edition

The summer is two thirds over.  We’ve had a busy summer.  I’m glad that there are still a few more weeks of summer.

1.  We tend to school year round taking breaks when we need them and taking extra time at Christmas and Pascha so it is not unusual for us to continue doing some school during the summer. This summer is no exception though we have had more breaks and time off than I originally planned.  This is not a bad thing though.  I do usually pick an “official” first day of school that kicks off the new year. That’s the day we add in anything new and make the day special.  It’s a tradition to have a “First Day”.

2. I’ve rediscovered Swagbucks. They have redesigned the website and my friend Deb from Footprints in the Butter has been giving me mini-tutorials on how to up my daily SB so that I get bonus Swagbucks.  What is swagbucks?  Well basically it is a website that rewards you points, called swagbucks, and you can redeem those points for gift cards.  About 100 SB = $1.  They do offer $3 gift cards for just 300 swagbucks.  You earn SB by using their search engine or finding a code or doing activities.  I had been half-heartedly doing Swagbucks until this past week.  I’ve earned close to 500 in just this first week of August.  If you are interested in Swagbucks shoot me an email and I’ll send you an invite.

3.  Speaking of reward programs, a friend of mine introduced me to the Bing Rewards program. Like Swagbucks you earn credits by searching. Also like Swagbucks you can redeem those credits for gift cards.  The programs are completely different though. I only do the searches and I will click on the daily offers (that usually give 1 credit and often count towards the daily searches) but I don’t do anything else. When I am diligent about completing my daily searches on my laptop and phone, I can earn a $5 gift card in about 3 weeks.  At the Gold Level a $5 Amazon Gift Card is 475 credits.

4.  Our peas and green beans are not doing as well this year as they did in 2013.  (We had no garden in 2014.) They are still producing and we’ve had some peas to snack on and enough green beans for a couple of meals but not the amount we had before. I think it is because it’s been a dry and hot summer. 

5.  My twins are 18!!  We had some special friends over to help us celebrate. Their birthday is always bittersweet for me. Of course there is joy and happiness because we added two precious daughters to our family but there is pain woven into the fabric of our memories of that time.  The shock of finding out that our daughter has a life threatening heart defect and having to leave everything behind in Germany often taints the days before or after the birthday.  I am grateful that I am able to set that aside and just enjoy the beauty and love of celebrating their birthday.  Today though I realized it was 18 years ago that I woke up, left my house, and never returned.  Today though there isn’t quite the level of pain as I remember that morning. Mostly I think I am flooded with gratitude that we have made it to adulthood. On that horrible day 18 years ago no one really expected that Supergirl would see her 1st birthday let alone make to age 18. 

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