Saturday, April 10, 2021

Homeschool Plan for 2021-2022 School Year–8th Grade

Every year, I share what my homeschool curriculum plans are for the upcoming school year.  This is the last time I’ll ever do this, because this new school year will be our LAST year of homeschooling, and then I officially retire after 19 years!

I’m still considering what to do for math.  I switched programs when my older kids got to Algebra.  They both did No-Nonsense Algebra, and it really helped them cope with the abstract thinking required for algebra, while presenting the material in concise, interesting videos and 1-page practice pages.  But Holden has really enjoyed CTC Math over the last couple of years, so I’m undecided yet as to whether or not we should just stick with what works for him or if we should switch like the older kids did to No-Nonsense Algebra.  I still have a few weeks to decide!

Another complication in my plan this year is that mid-year, Spelling City Premium sold out to Vocabulary A-Z.  My paid subscription transferred over automatically, and all of my word lists and student info were imported.  However, that site is terribly cumbersome, not easy to use, not organized very well, and not flexible in the way that Spelling City was.  I found out we can go back to using the free version of Spelling City for spelling words only, but the vocabulary portion was a premium feature, and that’s no longer available at Spelling City. So now I’m at odds about what to do for vocabulary this year.  I think I may need to seek out something entirely new.  UPDATE:  I found a site called that I plan to use for both spelling and vocabulary.  It’s $50/yr for one student, and I can add my customized lists.  Kids play spelling and vocabulary games, take quizzes and tests, it records their activities and scores, and they also earn reward “coins” they can spend to play real video games.  There are lots of parental controls, and we tried it out with a 2-week free trial.  Holden loved the games and activities, and setting up my word lists was easy.  This one is a winner!






CTC Math Algebra
No-Nonsense Algebra


Bookshark Level I (previously called Level 100)

Language Arts

Write Shop Junior Level F


Apologia Exploring Creation Chemistry & Physics

(using the Bookshark Level I alternative spelling list)

(using Wordly Wise 3000 level 8 word lists)


Rosetta Stone Spanish Online
(unless I find my Tell Me More Homeschool Spanish software…haven’t seen it since we moved!)


*Not sure yet*…
maybe Bible Study Guide for All Ages

I’m really glad I sat down to put this table together, because I realized I still have some iffy decisions to make.  I do have my Homeschool Planet lesson plans already saved for Bookshark history, readers, and spelling.  I just need to make the other lesson plans and order the supply kit for science.  I did already set up my school year schedule in Homeschool Planet, also.  I guess I’d better hurry up with these final decisions, though…we only have 5 weeks of school left, and I’ve just until the 3rd week of June to be ready to start our new school year!

If you have a child who will be starting 8th grade in your homeschool, feel free to share what you’ll be using.  It’s hard to believe that this is the last school year I will *EVER* have to plan!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Food Deals

Here are a couple of food deals you can count on right now.  There haven’t been a whole lot of freebies during the pandemic, so take advantage of these special offers while you can!


Get free delivery through Uber Eats on minimum $10 orders, now through April 6th.


Get free delivery until 9 PM when you order on the Dickey’s website or in the app when you select the “Doorstep Drop-Off” option, now through September.

Also, kids eat free every Sunday for carryout, delivery, or curbside when you use code “KEFOLO” at checkout.

Have a Happy Easter, and enjoy!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

IHOP Free Pancake Day Replacement Offer

Screenshot 2021-03-28 121405

If you usually enjoy the annual Free Pancake Day at IHOP and have missed participating during the pandemic, never fear…IHOP has a handy replacement offer for you.  Instead of celebrating in a crowd on a particular day, they will be offering a voucher coupon for all MyHOP rewards members. 

If you’re not already a member, sign up now, and you will receive a link to a printable voucher coupon on April 1st this week that will give you so many days to go and enjoy a short stack of FREE buttermilk pancakes on your own.  Brilliant! 

I really missed all the annual free food offers in 2020, particularly all the summer goodies, so this is a great way to get the goodies but still manage to avoid the crowds.  Hooray for IHOP!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Pool Recovery Continues

Chemically, we’re doing pretty well on balancing the pool after the big freeze, power outage, and subsequent storm that overflowed the pool when the pipes were cracked and we couldn’t pump out the extra water.  Aye, aye, aye.  It’s been a process.  Last week when I took in my water sample and was told it was 90% balanced (before I added shock for the week), everybody shopping in Leslie’s Pool & Spa Supply clapped and cheered for me as I took a bow!  LOL

Steve has been busy skimming leaves and vacuuming out the pool each week while I have been handling the water testing and treatment.  But we noticed the pump pressure shot up over the last week and got all the way up to 30!  So that meant it was time to disassemble the pool filter and give it a good cleaning.  When he took the cover off, here’s what we found. 

No photo description available.

Disgusting!!!  So gross inside.  Needless to say, the pump pressure was a cool 14 after cleaning the grids. 

All in all, the pool is getting back in order, for sure.  It’s been a couple of years since we did all the pool maintenance ourselves, but we’re saving the $189/mo. for pool servicing, less the cost of chemicals.  We still need to replace the pool heater after the manifold cracked from the big freeze/power outage, but we just got our stimulus money this week, so we should be able to do that next.  First, I had to pay off my CareCredit from my shoulder surgery…so glad to have that paid off!  There’s still more billing to come…I’ve only been billed for the facility fee so far.  I still have the surgeon’s fees, surgical assistant, and anesthesiologist’s bills to come.

Anyway, we’ll be glad when the pool heater is replaced.  We miss using the hot tub on the weekends!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Texans Age 50+–Get Your COVID Vaccines This Week!!!

This week, TX announced that starting Monday, March 15th, it would be moving into Phase 1C of the COVID vaccine rollout, which means that all adults age 50-64 are now eligible to receive the vaccine, in addition to those in Phase 1A and 1B.  Hooray!

Vaccine timeline. We are currently in Limited Supply, with Phase 1A, Phase 1B, and school and child care personnel eligible to get vaccine.

Photo from

I am 49, and I’m already fully vaccinated (Moderna), because I fell under Phase 1B for underlying health conditions due to the immuno-suppressant medication I’m on for my shoulder.  But my husband actually just turned 50 in January, so he now qualifies under 1C.  He actually registered in December like I did, just to make sure he’d already be on the list whenever he qualified to receive the vaccine, and he was notified on Friday that he is scheduled for the first day of this phase on Monday.  Yippee!  I’m so glad.  So by the end of April, his vaccinations should reach peak efficacy 2 weeks after receiving his second dose.  Then maybe we can start to get out a little more together!

Irving, TX - Official Website

Photo from

We still have not returned to in-person church for the last year.  We’ve only attended via Zoom.  I was most at risk until I was fully vaccinated, and we still need my husband to stay healthy, as he is the sole family provider.  Now, we also know that our 16-year old daughter has some form of asthma.  She is using an inhaler in the interim while she awaits pulmonary function testing at the end of the week. Her doctor says it’s likely either intermittent mild asthma or exercise-induced asthma.  This puts her at greater risk, as well, and she has a history of not doing well with viruses, spiking extremely high fevers that land her in emergency care.  So after we receive a definitive diagnosis, she should also qualify to receive the COVID vaccine.  Pediatric COVID vaccines are hard to come by, though.  Our pediatrician’s office says those age 16+ with an underlying health condition qualify for the Moderna vaccine only, but they only have a limited number of doses available, so you have to get on a waiting list.  Sigh.  I can’t sign her up until we have a diagnosis.  This pulmonary function test may only be the beginning of testing, as her problem is intermittent and usually spurred by participation in sports.  I was told the stress test pulmonary function test can only be ordered after a regular PFT has been done and a visit with a pediatric pulmonologist has been completed.  So this could take a while.  Between school and her job, it’s hard to fit in appointments.  We’re doing her appointments this next week during her spring break.  The children’s hospital requires her to go for a drive-thru COVID test on Tuesday and then her pulmonology test on Friday.

So we are still playing it safe.  Even though the governor lifted the mask mandate last week for TX, we still continue to wear ours, to socially distance, and to avoid crowded events.  I long to return to some sort of normalcy.  June will be 4 years since we moved here, and I still have no local friends.  I have no opportunity to get out any more.  I miss the symphony.  I skipped the whole last season because of COVID.  I have no outings or events to look forward to.  At least the weather is beginning to warm up, so I can at least enjoy being outside again.  I really hope conditions continue to improve this year, but they say a 4th wave is on the horizon from the new variants that are more contagious with a public that is relaxing its mitigation practices and is still largely unvaccinated.  Ugh.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Great Recipe to Try!

This week, I had a pound of ground beef I had thawed for lasagna, but then we ended up going out for lasagna, so then I needed to use it for something else. 

I went to the Taste of Home website to search for something new to try and found this wonderful and simple recipe that we absolutely loved!  It was a unique way to enjoy a burger, and it used only a few ingredients that I always have on hand anyway.  It’s a Fajita Burger Wrap!

(Photo credit: Taste of Home website)

The burgers were so thick and moist, and the peppers, onions, and cheese gave it enough extra flavor that it didn’t need any type of condiment at all.  I loved the crispy texture of the wrap after it was browned in the skillet, too.  Perfect!  I always use up extra peppers harvested from the garden by slicing them into strips with strips of white onion and freezing them in vacuum-sealed 1-lb. packages, so I just used those for this recipe instead of buying fresh, and that saved another step and made this a super quick meal.

Give these a try and see for yourself.

Monday, March 1, 2021

REVIEW: Failure Free Reading Home Edition

Disclosure: I received this product free through the Homeschool Review Crew.

I didn’t have a student in need of reading help, but I was interested in taking a look at this unique program called Failure Free Reading Home Edition.


Product ImageFailure Free Reading Home Edition is an online program that offers children and adults the chance to improve their vocabulary and reading comprehension skills, beginning right where they are. This is achieved through a simple online diagnosis/placement test and a series of interactive activities that enrich your student’s skills beyond their current level.

This program is available for just $39.95/month per student, and you can cancel at any time.  This gives you the flexibility to use the product for as short or long a period of time as is necessary to reach your reading goals.


When you first log in to the website, you are shown a home screen that gives you the option to Enroll, Diagnose, or Instruct a student, or to view Reports.

Opening Screen

First, you want to enroll your student(s).  Since I wasn’t having a student use the program, I enrolled myself as the student.  Once you’ve done this, you can go ahead and find the correct placement for your student by clicking on Diagnose.  In this section, you are asked to read a series of sentences and rate how easy or difficult the wording was for you to read and understand.  You are also asked a series of questions that have you place the correct vocabulary words in the context of the given sentences.

Assessment Questions

At the end of the assessment, you will be given a diagnosis that reveals a placement level.  It will look something like this.

Assessment Results

The next time your student logs in, they will be taken to the home screen to launch their next lesson.  Here you can download some written materials to go along with the online lesson.

New Lesson - Home Page

In the downloadable materials, you can get an illustrated reader.

Illustrated Reader

You can download the teacher’s manual.

Teacher's Manual

You can also download workbook pages that include written activities like Reading Application, Silent Reading, and Reinforcement Activities.

Workbook - Reading Application

Workbook - Silent Reading

Student Workbook

When the student launches their lesson, it will begin with a short video highlighting the new vocabulary words that will be introduced in that lesson. 

New Lesson - Video showing new vocabulary words

After viewing the video, they can launch the lesson and begin their assignments based on the level where they were placed in the diagnosis assessment.

The first activity involves the program reading aloud a new vocabulary word to the student, followed by its synonyms and definition. Then it uses the word in the context of a sentence.  Then it asks the student to determine if the word is being used in the correct context of a yes or no question.  The student is given immediate feedback as to whether they answered correctly.  Then it repeats the word one more time and spells it out on the screen one letter at a time before proceeding to an empty box where the student is asked to type out the word with the correct spelling.  Again, immediate feedback is given.  The activity repeats with each word in the new word list until completed, saving the student’s work after each word.  When the student completes all of the words, then lesson ends, and a message pops up indicating the student is finished with the lesson and should talk to their teacher before continuing.

End of Lesson

The next activity is a unit review.  Here, the student begins by dragging the word to the side to reveal its synonym.  This continues with each word in the word list.


Next, the student is asked to drag the vocabulary word onto its matching synonym from a list of possible synonyms.  This repeats until the word list is completed.

Match the Synonym

Then the student is asked to drag the word aside to reveal its synonym as well as its definition.  This is repeated until the word list is completed.

Synonym and Definition

Then just like in the previous activity, the student is asked to drag the vocabulary word over to match its synonym and definition, one at a time, until the word list is completed.

Match the Synonym and Definition

The next screen shows all of the vocabulary words being used in correct sentence context as part of a cohesive paragraph.  The student has the option to click on any of the highlighted vocabulary words to be reminded of their synonyms and definitions.  They can also click at the top to have the paragraph read aloud to them.

Unit Review - Words in Context of Paragraph

Next, the student must choose the correct vocabulary word to go into each sentence of the paragraph until the paragraph is complete.

Unit Review - Sentence Context

Once the paragraph has been completed, the student is asked a series of comprehension questions about the paragraph to ensure they truly understood the meaning of what was stated.  Immediate feedback is provided.

Unit Review - Questions

Once the student has completed this review, they again receive a message that the activity is complete, and they should speak to their teacher before continuing.  Then the student is taken to a Short Answer Q&A.  These questions are answered independently in complete sentences.

Short Answer Q&A

After completing this activity, the student again receives the message that the lesson has ended, and they must talk to their teacher before continuing.  This completes the entire lesson, and the student will next move on to a new lesson that begins with the video introducing new vocabulary words.

At any time, the teacher can log in and review a student’s progress, showing how they scored in each lesson.

Progress Report

I actually liked this program a lot.  Personally, I thought it was rather fun to use, and it didn’t take up too much time.  It put the same material in front of the student in various ways for adequate reinforcement of the word list, and it had enough interactivity to keep the student engaged in the material rather than simply having them watch boring instructional videos. 

I have a 13-year old child with ADHD, and he tends to get bored and distracted easily, making it difficult to find an appropriate match to meet his instructional needs.  However, I think a program like this would work well for him.  The lessons aren’t too long, and you could easily separate a lesson from a unit review to split up the work across the course of a couple of school days.  We would probably do the initial lesson one day and the review on a second day, either working on it twice a week to give us a pace of one lesson per week, or on each of our four school days to give us a pace of two lessons per week.  I would feel very comfortable using this program to build and reinforce my son’s vocabulary and improve his reading comprehension.

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about Failure Free Reading Home Edition by clicking the banner below.