Saturday, August 31, 2019

FREE Labor Day Homeschooling Printables & Video Lesson

Image result for labor dayMonday is Labor Day, so I thought I’d share some totally FREE printable activities with a Labor Day theme for your students.

And here is a FREE History Channel video lesson about the history of Labor Day.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

My Sister’s Visit

Last Sunday, I slipped out of church early to go to the airport to pick up my sister, Wendy.  I hadn’t seen her in 4 years…the last time was at my daughter’s 11th birthday party at a tea room in VA.  I love her SO much!  We grew up in a family fully of boys, and she is my only sister.  Now I live in TX, and she lives in FL, so the miles and our busy schedules have kept us apart.

I am SO thankful that the timing worked out that I could snatch her from the DFW airport for a few hours to visit on her way back home from her daughter’s house in San Angelo, TX.  I don’t imagine we’ll have that opportunity again, since her daughter’s husband is in the military and will be leaving TX next June.

We had such a lovely time, and I got to show her my house and catch up on her life.  She looks absolutely fabulous…so much healthier than when I last saw her!  Now that she’s had both knees and both hips replaced, she is able to get around freely and keep herself in good shape.  She has come a long way.  In fact, it was just exactly this time last year that she was in the hospital with a really serious and mysterious illness that could have taken her life!  I am so thankful that she is doing well and feeling good again.  It was like we’d always been together, and the years between visits just melted away.  But then it’s always like that with her.

My heart was so sad when she left, and yet so blessed to have stolen away a few hours of joy at being together again!

I will let these impromptu photos snapped by my husband tell the story of her visit and the gladness we felt at spending time together.

20190818_184025 20190818_18402720190818_184029 20190818_18403220190818_184033 20190818_18403520190818_184037 20190818_18404020190818_184045 20190818_18405020190818_184057 20190818_184603

Never take your family for granted!  Every precious moment you can steal to be together is worth whatever sacrifices you have to make in order to make it happen.  Time is short, and there is no promise of tomorrow!  God gave us each other for a reason.  I love you, dear sister! Red heart

Monday, August 19, 2019

REVIEW: Family Membership by CTCMath

I felt my 11-year old son, Holden, had some gaps in his basic math understanding, so I wanted to spend this school year filling in holes and ensuring mastery before moving on to Pre-Algebra.  That’s what made this review of the Family Membership by CTCMath a perfect choice for us!


CTCMath offers an online math program through a Family Membership for Product Imagechildren in grades K-12.  This 12-month membership includes up to 5 children

Right now, it’s half price for homeschoolers at $148.50 per year.  I’ve even seen some special promotions where you can get an extra 6 months free, making it an 18-month subscription for that price, so watch for that!  Once you’ve signed up, you get access to ALL GRADE LEVELS, so your children can work right where they need to be and can be moved around as needed. 

The program includes diagnostic tests that help with placement, and there is also a new Question Bank Wizard that allows you to customize worksheets for your student so they can work on specific topics and also get some pencil-and-paper practice in addition to the online problems.

There are some helpful how-to videos that explain how the program works, features for parents and students, and special features.  You can also sign up for a free trial and see if it’s right for you!


Holden has been working in another math curriculum for the last three years that is a computer-based software.  He has enjoyed it, but he sped ahead rather quickly, finding himself starting Pre-Algebra in 6th grade this year.  Shortly after we began, it dawned on me that there were some definite gaps in his foundational math understanding, and he wasn’t as strong in key topics as he should be before getting into the abstract thinking required for algebraic concepts.  My other two children hit a similar barrier when arriving at this point at an early age, and I want to avoid having him struggle when Algebra I comes along like they did.  We have plenty of time to cover that before he starts high school, so I decided to stop right there and spend a year or even two firming up those gaps and ensuring his mastery of foundational concepts.  This is where CTCMath comes in.

A student can work their way through the program doing every lesson at the desired grade level, work on targeted topics that you choose, or jump around as they choose.  The program keeps track of their grades and progress, and both you and they can log in at any time to see that information.  As the parent, I can also opt to have emails sent to me automatically that show me his grades in a task report after each lesson he completes.

Task Progress Report

I can also opt to receive a weekly report that summarizes what he’s completed that week and his average score on those tasks.   

Weekly Report

And at any time, either of us can log in and see exactly how he is progressing.  I really like that it color codes his scores to quickly alert me to how he’s doing:  blue tells me he has achieved the mastery standard I set for him (I chose 85% or greater), green tells me he mostly knows the topic, yellow tells me he knows some things but really needs more practice, and red tells me that he knows very little and needs to repeat the lesson.

Lesson Progress Results

By clicking on the report link after each assignment grade, I can see the graded lesson.  It shows me the actual problems that he had, how he answered them, and a correction if he got it wrong.  He can see this, too, so he can study what he did wrong and figure out how to do better next time.  I can choose to have him repeat the lesson, in which case it will generate new problems and then average his overall score on that lesson across as many times as he completes it.  I chose to have him keep repeating lessons until he had at least a green indicator.  Sometimes, he did them multiple times before he did well enough.  The report I would receive from that would tell me how many attempts he made to pass it, what his highest score was, and the average score over all of his attempts.  This is very helpful information!  And we can view his lesson scores, diagnostic test scores, and question bank scores separately.

Since Holden had completed through 7th grade math in the other curriculum last year but he has just started 6th grade, I decided to start by having him begin with the first diagnostic test for 6th grade as a starting point.  Then I took the results of that test and determined which topics in that section needed additional work.  Then I would log in to the program as the parent and assign just those tasks to him giving him one each day until those topics were exhausted, and then I’d schedule him to re-take the diagnostic test again to see if he’d made any progress in his understanding of those missed topics.  If he didn’t improve or showed a lack of mastery in any one topic, then I re-assigned those topics to him again and would have him to do diagnostic test an additional time until he got a satisfactory score in all topics.  If I felt he passed but could use more practice before moving on, then I would assign a Question Bank Wizard for him to complete to demonstrate to me that he really did understand it.  The Question Bank Wizard is a custom practice tool that allows me to choose the topics I want to generate on a printable worksheet for him to complete.  I could choose how many questions I wanted on the worksheet and what topics I wanted it to cover and to what extent.  I could also choose the difficulty level for those topics.  Once he completed the worksheet with pencil and paper, he could log in to the program and enter his answers.  Then it would grade it for him and record his score.  This is a new feature at CTCMath, so if you’ve used the program in the past, you’ll want to check out this great tool! 

Question Bank Wizard - Paper  Question Bank Wizard

So with our approach to the program of pre-testing, practicing targeted lessons only, and post-testing, we’ve been able to review materials he should already know and brush up on areas where he needed to solidify his skills.  We aren’t wasting time on covering material he already understands, as we would if we were simply repeating a whole grade level.  So while I thought at the beginning of the year that we might have to spend two years covering 6th and 7th grade math again, I feel like this targeted approach with CTCMath will allow us to speed through, just filling in gaps and not wasting time unnecessarily.  I have hope that we can complete our recovery of 6th and 7th grade topics this school year and perhaps be ready to tackle pre-algebra next year! 

Not only is the program easy to tailor and use the way you choose, but it has other benefits for the student, as well.  My son would sometimes get really frustrated and found himself dreading his math lesson.  The other program used video instruction, just as CTCMath does, but Holden told me that he has learned some new ways to do certain types of problems from this program, and he finds them easier to understand and truly comprehend.  He was really struggling with the rules for fractions before, but now he is doing much better, and I can see that his level of confidence has grown tremendously.  He no longer puts off doing his math assignment for the day and often tackles it early on instead.  I can see a real adjustment in his attitude.  And he loves that it gives him sufficient practice without being overkill of so many problems that he feels like math will never end!  Because he’s not so frustrated, he is finishing school for they day at a better time instead of having it drag out because he’s stuck on math.  That’s a bonus!

The only change I’d like to see with the program is the way you view detailed results from your student’s work.  As it stands, I have to log in as my student in order to see all the detailed scoring information that I want to see.  I don’t get that kind of information from the parent dashboard, and I find that odd.  In all my years of homeschooling, parents access scoring summaries using the parent’s login, so it seems backwards to me.  But that has no affect on the use of the program whatsoever, so it’s definitely not a deal breaker for me.  I just have to save his login info along with my own on my computer so I can switch views between the two as needed…as him to see results and as myself to assign tasks and due dates.

There are three additional activities on the bottom of the home page that provide some learning games the students can play at any time. 

The Speed Skills game allows the student to pick a level of difficulty and a function (such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and try to answer as many questions correctly in the given time frame as possible in order to beat their own high score.

Speed TestSpeed Test Results

The Times Table – Shoot ‘em Up game allows the student to select a times table they’d like to practice, and then it opens up a space-themed game where they are given times table questions and have to shoot the falling obstacles that contain the correct answers before they reach the bottom of the screen and crush their ship.  As spaces open up, an alien craft flies across the top, and if they successfully shoot it, they get bonus points.  With each new screen, the falling obstacles speed up, and they can move up to harder and harder levels of play.  This one is fun!  Holden was laughing at me because he would catch me playing it early in the morning before school, just to see how far I could get.  I have to admit that it’s kind of addicting.

Times Tables Game

The Swap the Pieces puzzle game presents a very difficult challenge.  Personally, I honestly never did figure this one out!  You have to move the arrows around, following the rules provided to get the pieces to the opposite side, and you only get so many moves.  It was hard!  I don’t know if I was missing something obvious or if it really was just so challenging that I gave up before figuring it out.  Something tells me I was just having a momentary lapse of brain function!

Swap the Pieces Puzzle

In any case, the games offer a nice option for kids who want a break from the regular lessons, or you can use it as a reward for completing a task successfully…however you choose.

I noticed on the parent dashboard that the program also gives children awards and certificates.  They are earned for completing all of the lessons within a section, but Holden didn’t earn any since we aren’t using an every-lesson approach.  It’s probably great motivation for kids who are, though.

Overall, we BOTH love the program.  The bottom line is that it’s working well for us, and it suits our needs perfectly.  Who knows…maybe we’ll never go back to our old program when we move on!  After all, why change something that’s working? 

I would encourage you to give this program a try.  Its flexible options and ease of use make it a smart choice for parents who like to customize their curriculum and not take a one-size-fits-all approach.  As homeschool parents, we know each child learns differently and proceeds at a different pace, and this program allows you to make the math program fit the child instead of forcing the child to fit the math program.  After 17 years of homeschool, we all know that doesn’t work and only results in tears and frustration.  So sign up for the free trial, and I feel confident you’ll put an end to the math blues in your home.

As a side note, I should mention that the instructor’s accent is Australian.  However, it’s not so strong that there’s any difficulty with understanding whatsoever, and although my son has ADHD and can be distracted by such things, it did not bother him at all.  In fact, we found it rather soothing!

Check out what other Crew members have to say about CTCMath by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Surprise Visitor–My Niece!

I had a surprise visit from my nice, Katie, yesterday afternoon!  She lives 4 hours away from me until next summer when her husband gets anKatie and Iother military transfer, but we haven’t seen each other since she arrived in TX last summer.  She was on her way to DFW airport to pick up my sister when she got word that my sister’s flight had been unexpectedly canceled!  She happened to be passing through north Fort Worth at the time, and that was actually the closest spot on her route to me, so she was only 20 minutes away.  She wasn’t sure when my sister would end up arriving on a different flight, so I invited her to come and kill time at my house.  We have such a lovely, impromptu visit!  I hadn’t seen her since just before I left VA…my son was graduating and then we were moving the same week, and she was getting married at about the same time, so we both had a lot going on.  We had come to hang out together a lot up until then, as our kids had gotten to an age where they really enjoyed spending time together.  I hadn’t seen any of them since goodbyes in VA over 2 years ago.  It was just her on this trip, but it gave us some time to catch up.  We had a lovely time exchanging updates on the last 2 years, and it will all lead to tomorrow afternoon when my sister, Wendy, is supposed to return to FL. 

Wendy will be flying into DFW again before heading to Gainesville, and she will have a long afternoon layover between flights.  I am going to pick her up and bring her to my house for the day and take her back to the airport in the evening for her return home.  I can’t wait!  I haven’t seen my sister in 4 years…the last time I saw her was when my daughter was celebrating her 11th birthday at a tea room, and my sister happened to be in town and was able to join us.  So this is shaping up to be quite the weekend for family visits!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

August Freebies for the XBox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch

Here is the August freebie lineup for popular game platforms.

XBox Games with Gold for August 2019
  • Gears of War 4 -- August 1-31 (Xbox One, PC)
  • Torchlight -- August 1-15 (Xbox 360)*
  • Forza Motorsport 6 -- August 16-September 15 (Xbox One)
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow --August 16-31 (Xbox 360)*

*Also available to play on Xbox One due to backward-compatibility

PS Plus August 2019: Free PS4 games

Available 8/6 - 9/2

August's free NES titles:

Get them while they are still available!

Monday, August 5, 2019

REVIEW: Job - A Modern Man - Lighthouse Theater CD, Who Was King Tut, and Assorted Reinforced Hardcover Library Binding Nonfiction Books from Library and Educational Services LLC

This review gave us a unique opportunity to try out a variety of titles from Library and Educational Services LLC.  We selected Job – A Modern Man – Lighthouse Theater CD, a book titled Who Was King Tut, and three other complete book series from their vast selection of Hardcover Library Binding Nonfiction Books.


Library and Educational Services LLC is a service that offers an immense library of titles from which to choose.  There are so many series and individual titles to explore that you could spend a whole day just browsing all that is available on their website!  And what’s more, their prices will save you a lot of money off publisher’s prices, making it a wonderful way to build up your home library or to supplement and enhance your homeschool program.Job - A Modern Man - Lighthouse Theater CD

I selected one of the Lighthouse Theater CD’s titled Job – A Modern Man.  These CD’s are audio productions with theater-style performances.  There are currently seven titles in this series available from the website, ranging in price from $6.99 to $9.99 each.

Who Was King TutI also selected a book titled “Who Was King Tut” from the “Who Was…” series. There are currently over 100 titles to choose from in this series, and they are all normally priced at $3.89 on this website, but I did note that they are currently on sale for $2.89, so it’s a good time to stock up!

In addition, I selected three different book bundles from the Hardcover Library Binding Nonfiction Books category.  These included the Amazing Animal Skills set of 4 books ($21.65), the World’s Scariest Predators set of 4 books ($19.95), and the Ye Yucky Middle Ages set of 4 books ($19.70).

Amazing Animal Skills   World's Scariest Animals   Ye Yucky Middle Ages

In addition to everyday books, there are also curriculum materials available specifically for homeschooling, and it’s easy to search browse within the categories that are most relevant to you.  You can also sign up for their newsletter and select the categories that you’re most interested in hearing about when there are special sales, new arrivals, or closeouts!


We were so excited to receive our shipment of books and selections!  It was much like a curriculum “box day” when all the wonderful new school books arrive and everyone is anxious to check them out. 

The first selection we tried out was the Lighthouse Theater CD called Job – A Modern Man.  This audio production gives a thoroughly modern twist on the basic story of Job, told in theater-style as if he were a man living in today’s busy and industrious world.  The story was approximately 50 minutes long.  I should start by saying that my 11-year old son, Holden, has pretty extreme ADHD.  I’ve never actually tried any audio theater productions with him before.  My older kids never could sit still for them and lost interest pretty quickly, so I never expected it to be any different with Holden, the most distracted of my three children.  But heJob - A Modern Man - Lighthouse Theater CD does love bedtime stories, even at his age, so I decided to wait and try playing this late at night when he was getting tired and starting to settle down more.  We snuggled up together and listened to it in my bedroom.  Low and behold, he was captivated right from the start!  He was paying close attention throughout the story, and we talked about it afterwards.  He was so animated and excited, and he immediately asked me if we could get any more of them to listen to going forward!  He loved the lively voices and the sound effects, and he reminded me that he puts himself to sleep at night by listening to stories and things with headphones using an electronic device in his room at night.  For him, it was a perfect bedtime story and a great way to transition himself to calm and stillness before bed!  I realized this is actually perfect for him, and of course I said yes to listening to more of them in the future!  This was actually a great discovery for us.  The story was well done, and it was captivating enough that neither of us fell asleep until it ended because we were too busy being engrossed in the story.

Our next selection was the “Who Was King Tut?” book.  The timing on this was perfect for us, as we are currently studying ancient history, and we actually read about the popularity of King Tut in one of our history books the very day we read this book!  The momeWho Was King Tutnt lent itself right into learning more about him with this selection.  And wow…we learned a lot!  We read all about the culture of ancient Egypt, their religious beliefs, why the kings had themselves buried in tombs, How the mummies were preserved, how most of the tombs were raided by looters, what kinds of things were buried with the mummies and why, the life and death of King Tutankhamen, and the discovery of his untouched tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.  Holden loved hearing about the legend of the “Curse of King Tut” as well.  The book included lots of helpful black and white illustrations, as well, which helped us understand about hieroglyphs, Egyptian gods and goddesses, how the Valley of the Kings was laid out, etc.  This was an intriguing, fact-filled book that really augmented our ancient history study very well!

Next, we dove into the Ye Yucky Middle Ages series, beginning with “There’s a Ye Yucky Middle AgesRat in My Soup,” which taught us about medieval foods and customs.  This one was really gross, at least to us!  We both shrieked lots of “eewww’s” and “yuck’s” during this book, and it had plenty of colorful illustrations to make it even more interesting.  We could hardly believe some of the disgusting things that people ate in this time period.  It turns out that they ate whatever they could get their hands on, and no part of an animal went to waste, which was maybe the worst part!  And without proper ways to store food, they often ate spoiled foods and beverages.  Yuck!  Holden loved this book with all of its gross descriptions.  It even included a recipe or two, but I don’t think we’ll be trying them out any time soon! 

Then we took a look at the World’s Scariest Predators series, beginning with “Predators of Asia and Australia.”  Although we are somewhat familiar with Siberian tigers, Tasmanian devils, the duck-billed platypus, bats, crocodiles, and vipers already, the particular species unique to this region have some unique characteristics that were unknowWorld's Scariest Animalsn to us.  For instance, we did not know that a Tasmanian devil will eat any meat it can find, even dead humans, and its bite is 4 times stronger than that of a dog of the same size!  We did not know that the platypus is actually a venomous mammal with a stinger located on its ankle.  We did not know that ghost bats wraps its prey in its wings and kills it by biting the neck.  That had us so nervous that we decided to research online whether or not they bite humans. Thankfully, they do not!  And we did not know that the Russell’s Viper has a venom that will coagulate human blood in mere seconds…so well that a diluted version of it is used to stop uncontrolled bleeding in people with hemophilia!  This was all so fascinating.  This book was not only full of facts and interesting information worth knowing, but the illustrations take center stage, making it an eye-popping adventure for children.  I was so interested that I would be likely to pick up one of these books to read just for myself!

Amazing Animal SkillsLast, we started on the Amazing Animal Series, beginning with “Movers and Makers:  How Animals Build and Use Tools to Survive.”  Wow! This book was one of the most fascinating books we’ve read in a long time!  We learned so many interesting facts we didn’t know about the ways that animals manufacture their own shelters, use items in nature as tools to catch food, and create traps and lures for getting food.  All we could think to ourselves after reading this was what an awesome creation God has made!  I can’t think of any other way that so many insects and animals would be so perfectly designed to provide food, shelter, and protection for themselves.  Simply amazing!  These books are a great read, even for me as an adult.

All of the items we received were really captivating and of interest to us both.  The illustrations in the books were wonderful and really added to our enjoyment of the books.  They were all so informative, and they were definitely age-appropriate.  The audio production far exceeded our expectations, and we really had a “eureka” moment at how good of a fit it was for my wiggly son who often has trouble transitioning to bed at night.  The Library and Educational Services website is easy to search.  I found that browsing by my son’s age category was really helpful in ensuring I was choosing books that would be of interest to him.  With so many great choices, it’s hard to choose just a few!  This would be a great place to buy book gifts, too!  I even browsed through the homeschool section and discovered an interesting and unique math curriculum I’d never heard of before, and I ended up spending some time researching it and considering it for our own homeschool!

This website is a great resource, and with so much to choose from, you are sure to find something for everyone in the family, because they also offer teen, adult, and Christian books, as well!  And the hardcover library binding makes them a durable, long-lasting choice that will stand up to lots of use. 

Check out what other Crew members have to say about a variety of products from Library and Educational Services by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Grand Opening in Benbrook, TX!

Ollie's Bargain Outlet Good Stuff Cheap

Having moved to DFW from Virginia, which was my home for 39 years, I’m all too familiar with Ollie’s Bargain Outlet.  I had three locations to choose from within 35 minutes of my home when I lived in Virginia Beach.  This is a store I visited regularly, particularly at holidays and birthdays and before our annual vacation.  It’s a great place to get unique gifts for people, pick up a new bible or bible cover, get historical books and videos, get party, art, or office supplies, tons of food items, housewares and small appliances, pet supplies, and even sporting goods!  They had so much to offer.

When I moved to DFW two years ago, I had to accept that my Ollie’s shopping days were over.  I kept getting my beloved Ollie’s coupons in my forwarded mail.  I finally had to unsubscribe, because it was just too depressing to get great discounts for my favorite store when I had no way to shop there.  Sadly, there were none in the deep south.  I held out hope, though, that maybe one day, they would expand into TX.  Then right after Christmas, I received a coupon out of the blue!  It dawned on me that maybe one had opened in the area, and that’s why they sent me a coupon after a year and a half of nothing.  I went online to see andStore Locator Header Image found an article stating that Ollie’s had bought out hundreds of the former Toys R Us buildings across the deep south, shopping carts and all, as a way to do a mass expansion into new states, and this included numerous locations in TX!  I also discovered that the first TX store had opened just before the holidays in McKinney, TX, about an hour and a half away.  My daughter and I loaded up the very next weekend and took a trip out there.  I stocked up on all kinds of things I used to get there regularly…Keurig tea and coffee pods in bulk boxes at amazing prices, Amish novels (my favorite), spices, jigsaw puzzles (I was going through them like water through the winter months, and they were much cheaper at Ollie’s!), and much more.  I was so happy to shop there again!  Since January, Ollie’s opened another store a bit closer, but still almost an hour away.  And then I caught wind of an “coming soon” announcement in the Ollie’s app, letting me know that a store would eventually be coming to Benbrook.  So I wrote to customer service and found out it would be opening late this summer.

Now the big day is right around the corner!  Wednesday, August 7th is Grand Opening Day!  So if you live in the Fort Worth area, stop by and indulge in a little shopping spree of your own!  I’m so excited to have my very own Ollie’s just 20 minutes from my house once again.  Woo-hoo!  Sign up for an Ollie’s Army Card now so you can be prepared to earn special discounts.  The more you shop, the more and bigger value coupons they send you in the mail!  You just never know what you will find there.  And get the app, too!  It will store you membership card, and it even stores your coupons so you don’t have to remember to stick them in your purse.

See you there!

7909 Camp Bowie West Boulevard
Suite 130
Benbrook , TX 76116
(817) 244-4772