Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Review of Apologia Astronomy, 2nd Edition

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review

Oh, Apologia Educational Ministries, will you ever stop knocking it out of the park? I'm going to guess no. The streak certainly doesn't end with Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition, that's for sure. I have and used the 1st Edition of this fabulous curriculum, and all I can say is, Apologia took something that was good, and they made it great!
Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review

There are four components available for this curriculum, and I was blessed enough to receive all of them:

 Here is a direct comparison between the two Lessons 6 - The Moon:

Here it's very easy to see the addition of new activities: they are now interspersed throughout each Lesson, rather than placed only at the end as before. This picture shows the same place in the Moon chapter in each edition (2nd Edition is on top):

  • Astronomy 2nd Edition Notebooking Journal - for grades 3/4-6. Beautifully updated with full-color (note that in the sample picture below, the Notebooking Journal on the right is the one for Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics. I don't have the 1st Edition Notebooking Journal for Astronomy, but I did want to show you a direct comparison between the two editions' Notebooking Journals. The new ones are just stunning!).

  • Astronomy 2nd Edition Junior Notebook Journal - K - 2nd/3rd. Compared to the standard Notebooking Journal, the activities are guided toward younger children, with more coloring pages, primary writing lines, and easier overall activities. The Journal still supports the textbook, though, with pages that correlate with each chapter/lesson. The Junior Notebook Journal is a wonderful way for younger children to participate in science with their older siblings without having the pressure of too much writing!
  • Astronomy 2nd Edition Audio CD - this MP3 CD is the audio book of the textbook read by Jeannie Fulbright herself! Now, in our family, I do the science as a read aloud, but that's not always possible or desirable in every family. If you have a child who prefers to be read to, who is a slow or reluctant reader, or who has a learning disability related to reading, this CD is a wonderful addition to the standard textbook!

How We Used Astronomy

Several years ago, we read Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 1st Edition. At that time, we did many of the activities in the book (my children were more in the target age for this series, which is K-6th grades). This time through, we are enjoying the book as a read aloud primarily, as Mary-Catherine (11, 6th grade) works through the newly updated Notebooking Journal. I won't prevaricate: we have used Apologia's Notebooking Journals before, and while my kids have liked them, they haven't loved them. The new editions are so much better! I am sure that color makes them more expensive to produce, but it doesn't seem to me like the price to the consumer has increased (don't quote me on that - it's just a mom's observation based on what I remember from buying them in the past!). The color makes them more appealing, though. Here is Mary-Catherine working on a Lesson Six (The Moon) crossword puzzle (tomorrow we start Lesson 8 - Space Rocks. I think we're all really looking forward to that one!):

The 2nd Edition text is just beautiful. The kids (13, 11, and 11) have noticed the difference. Right away they pulled the 1st Edition off the Apologia shelf (yep! A whole shelf!) to compare the two. There is less text on each page and more beautiful illustrations. Plus, because it's updated, you can now see relevant dates for upcoming things like solar eclipses! The previous edition still lists dates like 2007 and 2008!

If for any reason (and I personally can't think of one) you have shied away from Apologia's fabulous elementary Astronomy curriculum in the past, I strongly urge you to give this new 2nd Edition a look. It's just gorgeous, as are the supporting Notebooking Journals. By all means, click the banner below to see what other Crew members had to say, too!
Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review

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Review of

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
You might be thinking another worksheet site review (not if you're anything like me, though!), but I promise you that this one is unlike anything you've ever experienced before! is a different breed of worksheet site altogether. In fact, the CHSH Download Club might change the way you view download club memberships altogether. If you've dismissed every one you've come across, give this one a look. When you see everything you get for $25, I promise you won't believe it. When I tell you that the site is the work of one woman (Lynda Ackert, a Christian wife, mother, and lifetime educator), you will likely be more than slightly impressed. Personally, I'm blown away.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

Just looking at that graphic above makes me want to go right back on the site to find everything that I've been missing in the last six weeks! It also makes me wish that I still had young children, because the worksheets that I had access to when my kids were learning phonics were all exceptionally boring. Further, I had to compile "units" on my own. has done all of the work for you. If it says "Unit" in the description, it's a unit. The phonics units come complete with handwriting activities, games, and everything else you could want to reinforce the actual lesson. In fact, the "ch" unit is 48 pages long! Why am I telling you about phonics when my kids are all jr. high and high school aged? Probably because teaching my children to read was one of my least favorite activities and checking out phonics resources is one of the first things I do when I see a new website like this one!

So what exactly is, though? Well, this helpful graphic kind of says it all!

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

Through the Download Club, you have access to tens of thousands of downloads in virtually any subject you can think of, including Bible, languages (Spanish, French, Italian, and ASL), Language Arts, arts, music, and crafts, science, social studies, health, electives (architecture, character studies, and social issues and safety education). You can search for a resource by subject, by grade, or by month (so helpful when you have younger students and you like to tie your studies in to the month's "themes"). 

One thing you'll notice right away that differentiates from other download sites is that far from offering only worksheets (although the worksheets are awesome - I love them!), this site offers entire courses and books for download! For example, my children are studying Astronomy right now. Because it is a subject we have studied before, and because they are now older than the first time we went through the course, they can handle more upper-level material on it. It was very easy to search the site for Astronomy materials and to come up with these reference materials!

I was able to download each of them to my computer and then use OneNote to further organize our Astronomy lessons! It took all of about two minutes - it was wonderful not to have to hunt down supplementary resources myself!

How about spelling? Spelling is one of those things that frustrates me about homeschooling because no one book is just right. The list may be right, but the activities don't work for that particular child. Books that are *only* lists are way too much work for me, because my 6th grade son still really likes activities. Well, only yesterday (August 30, 2016 as of this writing), uploaded the first 6th grade spelling unit for me (okay, it wasn't for me, but it felt very personal!) -- all 121 pages of it! Here is just one of the exercises that jumped out at me. Begin a lover of word puzzle books, I really appreciated seeing something fun and different for my son to do!

One of the most delightful aspects of the site has to be the "Curriculum Treasures from the Past." Here you will find vintage textbooks and readers. Can you find them elsewhere? Sure, but why bother looking when they are all gathered here for you. First Lessons in Geography has to be my favorite! "How many continents are there?" "Two." "What are they?" "The Eastern and the Western." And I thought it was going far back when my parents learned that there were five continents ("Eurasia")! So delightfully vintage!

If you like to supplement your existing curriculum, or if you get bored with your existing curriculum (I'm so guilty on both counts), you will definitely want to check out this Download Club. If you're one of those social types (not guilty here, I'm afraid), the site even boasts forums, groups, and a community blog. It really is far more than just another worksheet warehouse (far, far more). 

Don't take my word for it, though. Visit the site and check out all of the free resources and then click the banner below to read all of the other Crew reviews. I'm willing to bet you won't be able to resist!

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review of Spiritual Circle Journal

Spiritual Circle Journal
I have four kids who love to journal and keep diaries, so when I saw Spiritual Circle Journal come up for review, I knew that it would be a blessing to one of my children. The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens is recommended for ages 8+, but can be used by younger kids. It is wire bound and contains 66 journal pages and 66 white pages. This journal facilitates what I think of as directed journaling, as the pages have graphics designed to elicit specific entries. Having said that, you can, of course, make of this journal anything you wish. For my 11 year-old daughter, though, the pages were just perfect!
Spiritual Circle Journal
Each of the outlined shapes in the journal symbolizes something the journaler is supposed to write in the space:

Moving from left to right, the shapes signify the following: a journal entry, a lyric or verse, a message, a confession, an example of God moving in your life, a lesson learned, a prayer, a thank you or adoration, and actions (something God wants you to do). For kids who want to journal but may not know how to start, or for kids who especially want to keep a spiritual or Bible-based journal, this is an *ideal* option. Even for kids who may have been wanting to learn how to art-journal but are unsure how to begin, this journal is a great beginning step. 

The number of ways you can customize the journal is endless. For girls, it is a chance to use their undoubtedly large collection of colored pens. Adding stickers is a great touch. For kids who don't necessarily want to journal these prompts, you can work with them to substitute different prompts for the shapes, while keeping the essential spirit of the journal intact (i.e., for Catholics, journaling about a saint studied during the week and/or a virtue exemplified by that saint would be one excellent option). For kids who really resist journaling, only asking them to fill in half of the shapes one day and half of the shapes the next day (in the course of the once-a-week journaling) is a way to show them the joy of journaling. Really, it becomes addictive quickly!

Mary-Catherine and Spiritual Circle Journal

I had originally thought of Therese when I saw this product online, but when it came to the house, it was Mary-Catherine with whom it resonated the most. She loved the design of the journal and wanted to start using it right away.

She had no trouble remembering what was supposed to go in each shape, nor did she have trouble deciding what to write. She did decide fairly early on that it made sense for her to make a couple of entries a week, rather than the once a week suggested by the author (but that will vary by child).

If you're unsure of exactly how to use the journal once you receive it, fear not! There is a three page parent/teacher/leader guide to explain the journal more fully. In the guide, the author explains her purpose in creating the journal, gives ideas for how to begin your child on the journaling process, and explains the importance of writing vs. typing in developing memory retention skills. Even if you get the journal and want to dive right in, I would strongly encourage reading this valuable introduction.

39 other Crew members have been using the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens, so be sure to click here to see what they had to say!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - My Lunch of Choice of Late

Multigrain Flaxseed Wrap with garlic hummus, red onion, avocado, red pepper, tomato, spring mix, and red chili paste. I find myself *craving* this sandwich all the time lately! It is so good, so easy, and so incredibly guilt-free.

Monday, August 22, 2016


I have been having serious motivation issues lately. I can't figure out what my problem is! Well, part of my problem is that I really, really enjoyed having some time off during the summer! We have not taken a summer off since we started homeschooling in 2007, but since Therese had debate nationals at the end of June this year (just a few weeks after having her dance recital for four straight four-hour nights), I needed the break. I haven't knitted so much in years! And I might have been binge watching The Shield. The problem is that getting back to work is so hard. Part of it is that I have an extreme lack of focus, and I'm honestly not sure where that is coming from. I feel so scattered. I also find that things that usually seem very important to me (like extemp and debate) just...don't. I know that part of that has to do with personnel-related things (Andrew graduating and leadership issues among them), but part of it is just this malaise in which I find myself. With the wisdom of my many, many years, though, I know that the solution to this kind of malaise is to just work through it. Put my nose to the grindstone and keep on keeping on. So that's what I'm doing. I have been blessed with so many tremendous review products lately that I have a ton of reviews to do (most of them are directly through TOS and not through the Crew), plus I have my edHelper work and stuff to do for debate. And, hey. Christmas break will be here before I know it, right?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Makeup Closet Post 1

Henry designed a beautiful closet for me. This is the top of my tall Alex drawers. These are three of my lipstick holders (I think I have nine total). The lipsticks in these are 85% MAC with some Bobbi Brown, Urban Decay, and Nars. The mini lipsticks in front are Marc Jacobs and Bare Minerals. The shotgun shell lipsticks in the far back are the new Urban Decay Vice lipsticks (LOVE). The card is from Henry. I found it in the closet one day with a Pandora charm. I left the card and the bag right where he left them. Girls (Ladies), don't marry a man who doesn't spoil you rotten. It doesn't have to be with material goods. Compliments and letters are free.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Happy Birthday, Therese!

Today is Therese's 15th birthday, so I picked a few of my favorite pictures of her. I'm sure they are probably not her favorites, but it's my blog ;-) I love her faces! She still makes the face she is making in the picture of us at the beach (she's almost making it at Andrew!). She is my heart.

Review of CTCMath

CTCMath Review

The Homeschool Membership from CTCMath is one of my all-time favorite review products (actually, it's one of my all-time favorite homeschool products - I just happened to be introduced to it through the Crew), which is probably why I reviewed it here and here. Because both of those posts are very screenshot-heavy, I am going to focus this review more on talking about why CTCMath is different from all of the other math programs out there. 

What is CTCMath?

CTCMath is one of Cathy Duffy's 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. It is an Australian program, the brainchild of a homeschool father (which probably explains the fact that one yearly fee covers up to *10* children!). It is comprised of K-Calculus, and for K-8 it can work as a standalone curriculum. It is recommended that it be used as a supplement at the secondary level. It is not aligned to the common core, meaning that if you want your kids to learn math more like you learned math, this is likely a great choice for you. 

Each grade is broken down into subject areas, and each subject area is further broken down into topics (my verbiage may be way off, but you can see what I mean in this 6th grade illustration).

That makes it unbelievably easy to target a specific area where your child may be having trouble if you don't plan on using it as a full curriculum. 

The lessons are taught as 4-7 minute video tutorials with very simple animations (not cartoon-y animations, but power point type animations) and explanations. No frills. No distractions. Here is a lesson from Geometry captured in action:

Each lesson also has a one page summary of its content, exactly what you would probably end up with if you had taken notes. Here is the summary page from this lesson on triangles:

In terms of parent options, CTCMath is second to none, which is one of the main reasons it is such a superior program (the fact that my kids love it so much is the number one reason I love it so much, though!).

Parents can make assignments on their own dashboards:

Kids then see these tasks on their own dashboards.

A feature that I don't think I have ever noticed/used before is located under the Tools tab of the parent dashboard. It allows you a direct link/sneak peak at any lesson in CTCMath.

Once you highlight a lesson, you can see the lesson summary (the notes page) or you can go directly to that lesson's animation. That helps you quickly and easily see if it is something you want your child to do. It's a huge time saver to have it all right there on your dashboard!

My Kids and CTCMath

This year, I have two 6th graders and an 8th grader using CTCMath. Right now, my twins are using 6th grade math as their sole math program, and Nicky is using Geometry to supplement his current Geometry program. You can see their next week's assignments in one of the screenshots above (we are not doing school this week because of camps). 

CTC makes it so easy for both parents and kids. Because the lessons are so short, math is not painful. You can do several lessons without it dragging on, and you can build a reference binder with pre-done notes (great for the non-writing types). Parents can send assignments directly to their kids' dashboards and get updates sent directly to their own emails. It's a wonderful way to do math!

I'm pretty sure my CTCMath subscription runs through at least 2019 (I bought my own 18 month subscription after our first review. I never want to be without this program!). That's actually my only quibble with this program - I can't see my end date anywhere. That's a little frustrating. It's minor, though.

To see how other Crew members used this program, especially if you want to see how it works with youngers, be sure to click the banner below!

CTCMath Review
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