Friday, September 23, 2016

Random Five (or Six) on Friday September 23

1. Earlier this week, we toured the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Very impressive!

2. Nearly all of the Science Olympiad events have been assigned, and the kids are already busy studying. Brennan has one study event -- Rocks and Minerals, and two building events -- Hovercraft and Robot Arm. Lauren's studying Rocks and Minerals and Food Science. I think I'm going to be learning a lot about rocks this year.

3. I've been making steady progress on some of my knitting projects lately. I pulled out this part of a knit satchel/purse and blocked it to size. Now I just need to knit the handle and sew it together.

Meanwhile, my cardigan project is inching towards completion. I have about five or six more inches to go on the hood before I can start seaming it together. It shouldn't take too long to sew the seams because it'll just be a seam for each of the sleeves and another for the top of the hood.

4. Addison is performing in Freshman Fanfare this weekend. Although I'm sad we aren't there to see her, I was happy to stream tonight's show and catch a few glimpses of her. It definitely looked like she was having a great time!

5. We had company this week, and they came bearing home grown okra from a friend. Eight pounds of okra. After eating all we could for dinner one night, I made the rest into patties to put in the freezer. I'm not sure which was more strange -- me frying okra patties at 9:30 one night or Brennan walking through to grab a plateful for a late-night snack.

6. According to RunKeeper, I'm still making progress towards my yearly running goal. When I finished this morning, my total was 399 miles (out of 600). Knowing I'm close to reaching a big milestone means I'll lace up my shoes again tomorrow morning.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016 {Homeschool Review Crew} Annual Subscription

As a military family, we've rarely had the opportunity for my children to live near their grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins. Instead of catching up with each other at a restaurant after church on Sundays, we rely on phone calls. We spend many holidays carefully coordinating the timing for Skype sessions so that we can accommodate meal plans amongst several different time zones. It's no surprise that my kids have grown up emailing and texting extended family members, even at a young age.

I was excited to get an Annual Subscription to for Lauren to use. The subscription could have been used with up to six children, but Addison and Brennan already have their own email accounts and no longer need my supervision.

It was quite easy to set-up Lauren's new email account. I just had to submit a registration for myself so that I'd have a parent account and then I could add child accounts under mine.

From my parent account, I have all sorts of features available to control Lauren's email experience. I was particularly impressed with the safety features.

I was primarily interested in the ability to limit the emails Lauren received. Since she can only receive emails from people I've put on her contact list, she will not receive any spam emails. (Many years ago, we learned how difficult it was for a child to discriminate between real and spam emails. When Lauren was a baby, she took Sildenafil for pulmonary hypertension and we often joked about how Sildenafil is more commonly known as Viagra. Addison had a brand-new email account at that time and saved several emails that advertised Viagra because she thought they were actually important information about Lauren's medicine.)

Right now, I have Lauren's security settings set so that I receive copies of both incoming and outgoing mail. I don't necessarily read all of those emails, but I like being able to glance over them to see what she's doing online. For instance, I was able to spot an email from a company where Lauren had entered her full name and address in an attempt to order something (which failed due to lack of payment). I was then able to remind Lauren of our internet safety rules which don't allow her to share that information without talking to a parent first. offers other options to customize the program including different screen designs, a more grown-up interface (and a address) for teens, time restrictions, etc. It has all the must-have features I'd want for a supervised email account to use for a child and a lot of nice-to-have features as well.

Lauren enjoyed using, especially since it has an iPad app that made it easy for her to access her email while other people were working on the computers. Unfortunately, it's hard to get her to change her ways. She's been using a spare email account of mine to text relatives from our iPad for a few years, and she generally kept on texting instead of sending/receiving emails. If we had started using several years ago, I think she'd email more and text less.

A subscription to costs $4.95 per month or $38.95 per year ($2.99 per month). They offer free 30 day trial with no credit card required. Annual Subscription

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Five Random Things that Made Me Smile This Week

1. Organized photos: I finished sorting out all the boxes photos that I had dumped in my living room a few weeks ago. When you're a military family, you just sort by duty station and don't worry with pesky little details like dates.

2. Funny phrases:  Lauren came up with a true military kid saying the other day at the pediatricians office. The doctor was writing out a prescription, and Lauren asked me if I was going to take it to the Pharma-ssary (a combination of Pharmacy and Commissary).

3. Celebrating with friends: Earlier this week, I saw a picture of the cake that I made to celebrate a friend's family adopting their youngest son. A few nights later she texted me a picture of them enjoying the top layer of the cake on the second anniversary. There were so many leftovers that I wrapped it up and put it in the freezer similar to the tradition of saving the top layer from a wedding. They forgot all about it last year, and amazingly it was still good this year.

4. A successful repair: I started to go running one morning this week and realized that the ankle zipper on my tights was broken. It was one of my favorite pairs (and not the matching pair with a hole in the knee). I'm a bit determined, though, and today I managed to get the zipper back on its track. I then stitched over the broken teeth so that I can continue to wear them.

5. Customized alarms: A friend showed me how to customize the labels on my iPhone alarms. Even when Lauren's medicine schedule is crazy, I feel like I'm on top of it.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016 for an elementary student {Homeschool Review Crew}

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}

Last Winter, I reviewed the Help Teaching Pro Subscription with my two high school students in mind. Lately I've been using the resources on with Lauren's elementary level schoolwork.

I've been searching for printable worksheets that would allow me to have a stash of schoolwork that's easy to grab-and-go when we're heading out the door for an appointment. (Many of her appointments are at the Children's hospital over an hour away. That's too much time to let pass by without at least some of it counting towards a day of school.)

It was difficult at first to find what I was looking for on I found some pages that taught individual reading strategies, including making inferences, finding the main idea, and determining the author's purpose. Unfortunately, within each skill, there was frequently just a single worksheet appropriate for her reading level.

I then found some literature and reading worksheets that offered questions about popular children's books, but I wasn't sure that I wanted to carry both a book and a worksheet with us. (Especially since I would need to check some of the books out of the library in order for her to do the work.)

Finally, I stumbled across exactly what I was looking for and did a little happy dance. has worksheets for more than 175 passages (tucked away under the heading "Informational Stories and Passages").

Not only were there a lot of choices for me to choose from, they were all nicely labeled with an approximate grade level and the Lexile measure (an indicator of readability). I was able to print out a variety of passages for Lauren to work with on our days spent in the car. The majority of the passages at the third or fourth grade level were roughly half a page long and had five multiple-choice questions to answer. The easier passages had primarily fact-based questions, but I noticed several questions requiring higher level thinking skills as the passages progressed in difficulty.

When I reviewed with Brennan last spring, I found that one of my favorite features is the ability to create my own worksheets and tests. Lauren's regular math curriculum follows a non-standard sequence and therefore I didn't find the premade worksheets for her grade to be particularly helpful. The math worksheet generator looked promising, though, because it would allow me to print worksheets for extra practice with a specific set of problems. For instance, for division problems, I could set a specific range for divisors, a specific range for quotients, whether or not the answer included a remainder, and how many problems were on each page. Unfortunately, the generator did not space out the problems enough so that Lauren could work the problems directly on the worksheet. (It's a little thing, but one that might make a difference when I'm trying to get her to finish a practice page while we're traveling.)

The test generator on is a lot more versatile. Right now, Lauren isn't studying a lot of material that I need to supplement with extra fact based practice. Before very long, however, it'll be time for me to start helping her study for her Science Olympiad events. Depending on which event she is assigned, she may have a lot of fact-based material to memorize and practice this year. One of the events she's most interested in is Microbe Mission. If she ends up doing that one, she'll need to memorize facts about nearly 50 diseases. I can easily create questions (multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank) about those diseases and then combine them to make practice tests for her to use prior to our competition in the spring.

A Help Teaching Pro Subscription costs $24.95 per year. It has materials appropriate for students of all ages, and even more importantly, it allows teachers to easily create study materials and tests that are customized to the subject and the student.

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016 {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

I have a love/hate relationship with the internet when it comes to homeschool resources. I love that there is a wealth of information, ideas, and printable pages available. I hate that I will often spend hours and hours hunting for the exact thing I had in mind. (Not to mention the time I spend online chasing down thoughts that have nothing at all to do with the subject I'm supposed to be researching.)

Recently I've been finding great homeschool resources through (The full name is Christian HomeSchool Hub which is generally easier for me to remember without mixing up the letters in the shortened version.) I received an Annual Subscription to CHSH Download Club for this review and had access to over 50,000 pages of educational materials. I had high hopes that I would find everything I needed in one place and wouldn't spend hours hopping all over the internet in search of good materials.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

Lynda Ackert creates and sells materials on several popular resource sites, including Teachers Pay Teachers and CurrClick. As a Download Club member, I had free access to all of her materials as well as to a variety of other resource materials that CHSH has received permission to share. There was a lengthy list of options available, and I just jumped in to see what I could find.

My first task was to find some elementary materials to print for Lauren. I wanted to put together a packets so that I could grab-and-go on appointment days. Instead of gathering our regular school books, I'd just grab a folder of supplemental materials that would either correspond with what we've been studying or provide a bit of review.

Lauren spent most of last year working on division in her regular math curriculum, so I wanted to find some printables that would give her more practice now that we've switched gears to another math topic. I was excited when I found a 76-page book covering "Division with Three-Digit Dividends (with and without remainders). Unfortunately, Lauren is accustomed to having fewer problems per page and having a generous amount of room on the page to work the problem right there. The pages in this book would require her to either write very small or to work the problems on a separate sheet of paper. Both of those could be reasonable options for some students, but would likely lead to more complaining than learning if I gave them to Lauren on a day that I was already messing up her routine by squeezing in work among doctor's appointments.

I had better luck when I browsed through the materials trying to find something interesting instead of hunting with a specific goal in mind. For instance, I found an awesome daily geography workbook from Evan Moor. I think I've looked at purchasing a physical copy of it in the past and was excited when I saw that the company had granted permission for it to be on the CHSH-Teach website where I could download it.

I also found several impressive looking books of high school materials on the website. Brennan is currently doing Spanish (with lots of help from me), and I was able to download a 583 pages textbook for Spanish I. Unfortunately, when I read through the corresponding Teacher's Guide, I realized that these materials had originally been written as PASS materials (Parallel Alternative Strategies for Students) distributed by the Florida Department of Education. They are appropriate for "students who have disabilities and other students with diverse learning needs." I am therefore not confident that these materials are the best choice for creating a college-preparatory curriculum for my homeschooled high schooler. Sadly, I later noticed that several of the other appealing high school options (American History, World History, Marine Science, etc) were also PASS materials.

My general impression of is mixed. Although I wasn't able to find resources that my specific needs (and perhaps picky criteria) when I went searching for them, I was able to find a few valuable materials to add to our homeschool days.

An Annual Subscription to the CHSH Download Club costs $25 and a Lifetime Subscription costs $99.99. I found materials suitable for all ages of homeschooled students -- from preschool to high school.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Apologia Astronomy {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review

For the past few years, Lauren and I haven't consistently done much science. It's not that I don't value science; it's just that science usually needed my help and my time was often limited after I finished working with her on math, reading, spelling, and so on.

I have used science materials from Apologia Educational Ministries before, and I was excited to use Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition with Lauren. Our package of science goodies included the hardcover textbook (216 pages), two softcover notebooking journals (each 336 pages), and a CD containing an audio version of the text. The regular notebooking journal is intended for upper elementary grades (3rd-6th) and the junior notebooking journal is for beginning writers.

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review

The first thing I noticed was the daily assignments in the Notebooking Journal. The Exploring Creation with Astronomy textbook is organized into fourteen separate lessons, but each lesson is intended to be studied over the course of several days. The daily assignments helped me figure out logical stopping points in the materials and helped me divide the activities into reasonable sized chunks.

The textbook is written to the student, but it helped Lauren if I read it to her, slowing down to further explain concepts as needed. Some of the astronomy concepts were a little abstract, but I found that Apologia does a good job of explaining them. For instance, when talking about the enormous size of the sun, Lauren and I did a short activity showing that large objects far away (in our case, Pike's  Peak) can appear as small as a nearby object (her thumb).  When talking about the size of the sun in relation to the earth, we looked at a basketball and a peppercorn. On another day, we borrowed Tim when he was home for a lunch break and acted out the way that earth revolves on its axis while at the same time it rotates around the sun.

Our daily assignments usually include some reading from the textbook and some activities to complete in the notebook. Instead of just listening to the materials, Lauren records the information in ways that she can remember. I've noticed a crossword puzzle at the end of each lesson to review the new vocabulary, scripture pages for copywork, and coloring pages (in the junior notebooking journal). The new information in the lessons is reviewed in various ways with activities that Lauren cuts out and pastes into her notebooking journal (similar activities to those found in various lapbooks we've done in the past).

Lauren and I spend roughly thirty minutes each day working through the materials, and according to the daily assignments, these materials will take approximately 70 days to complete. This course could be used over the course of a semester by working four times per week. It looks like it'll work better for our family to do our science study roughly every third school day, spreading it out over the whole year. (It will rotate with two other mom-intensive subjects).

The Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition textbook costs $39, the Notebooking Journal (either level) $27, and the audio CD version of the textbook $29. Apologia also offers an Astronomy Science kit with materials to complete 63 hands-on activities.

If you'd like to read more reviews of Apologia Astronomy, simply click on the button below. If you are interested in other elementary science materials, I've previously reviewed Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology and Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Random/Quirky Facts about Me {52 Lists}

1. I used to have a single white eyelash on my left eye.

2. I can drive a stick shift.

3. I once ate at McDonald's every morning for more than seven months straight. I had the same thing every day -- a Sausage McMuffin with Egg, no cheese and a diet Coke.

4. I don't like to wear shoes inside, but I also don't like going barefoot in the kitchen.

5. I usually have a squeeze pouch of applesauce clutched in one hand when I'm out running.

6. I'm horrible when it comes to procrastinating. I'm also bad about wasting time online and staying up way too late.

7. I love coffee and tea. I drink my coffee black and my tea unsweet. Years ago I realized it was easier to adjust to unsweetened drinks than to figure out how to dose insulin for a drink that I might forget to finish.

8. I can knit or crochet while I'm reading, either while reading aloud to Lauren or just reading for myself.

9. I'm a type 1 diabetic, and right now I've chosen to give myself multiple insulin injections per day instead of using a pump. I won't give up my continuous glucose monitor, though.

10. I have a math-oriented brain and I'm a bit obsessive about numbers. I always end a run on a quarter-mile increment, and there was no way I could stop this list after only listing nine quirky things.

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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