Sunday, August 25, 2019

Nature Abounds

I was so excited to see my dill doing so well and then all of a sudden it looked like it was dying off.  I couldn't understand what had happened.  After taking a closer look, I saw it was loaded with caterpillars.  You might think they were Monarch butterfly caterpillars, but remember, they only eat milkweed.  The caterpillars are Eastern Black Swallowtails!  My research showed some discrepancy on the proper name so please correct me if I am wrong.  I am saddened that I don't think there is enough dill left to sustain them and I don't have anything else in the garden they will eat.  I will be sure to plant a LOT of dill next year for them.  

There has been so much awesome wildlife around the garden this year.  Crawdads, toads, frogs, snakes, mice (not good!!), moles, spiders, and more. We recently enjoyed a visit from a yellow garden spider.  Sam freaked out when he said it crawled onto his hand when he went to open one of the chicken pens.  She has been happily camping out next to one of the coops.

Charlotte, our friendly yellow garden spider

Perhaps the most shocking was my recent run-in with our friendly garter snake in one of the chicken pens.  I noticed one day that one of my hens was VERY INTENTLY looking at something.  I walked over to see what was so interesting to find out that she had witnessed a garter snake STUCK in the 1/4" hardware cloth wire.  I have NO IDEA how it even got through that stuff but it was most definitely stuck.  Long story short, when I checked on it a few hours later it was gone so it must have made its way through somehow. I must say the poor chickens were a little shook up for a day or two after this event (notice the pile of feathers on the ground, someone got spooked!).

How in the world did this happen?!!

What critters have you found in your neck of the woods?  Do you have interesting visitors to your garden?  Share some of your most interesting finds!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


We are going into our 7th year using a wonderful math curriculum called CTCMath. I was so happy that they had the Family Membership option that came in handy when we added Little Bug to our homeschool math.  I have reviewed for CTCMath before HERE.  I don't want to be too redundant in this review so I will focus more on what is NEW.  I received a 12-month Family Membership, for up to 5 students, to this online math curriculum.  You will need internet access to use this program.

For details on the general content of this program please go to my previous REVIEW and/or be sure to follow the graphic link at the bottom of this post to see what my fellow Crew members have to say about CTCMath.  I will repeat a few great aspects of this program.  It is an interactive, online math curriculum that is multi-sensory.  The lessons are generally short 4-10 minute video lessons that cover topics one at a time and allow your student to gain mastery over a short period of time.  Students can rewatch the videos as many times as they need to get help.  Many lessons can be printed out on worksheets and then answers entered in online.

Easy to navigate menus

Progress and results at a glance

More details on progress and results

Ability to take diagnostic tests

As I have said many times, CTCMath has been such a lifesaver for us over the years.  This full math curriculum has changed so much over the years and it just keeps getting better and better!  They only had a full curriculum through the 8th grade when we first started.  Now it includes kindergarten through the 12th grade (including Calculus).  Some of the newer features they have added include:
  • Question Wizard Bank
  • Individual Results
  • Weekly Revision Tasks (1st-6th grade)
  • User Guides

I am so excited about the Question Wizard Bank and the User Guides.  Over the years I have had to poke around to learn most of the features, but now you can just go to the User Guides section and watch a video that explains in great detail many of the features of the program and how to use them!  Videos include:
  • Getting Started
  • Add Student
  • Adding Tasks
  • Question Types
  • Parent Reports
  • Weekly Revision Tasks
  • Question Bank Wizard
  • Question Bank Reports

The new Question Wizard Bank feature is wonderful.  I really like that you can customize worksheets for your student for extra practice.  You can also add these to their task list!  Watching the video on this one is a must.  You have the ability to print, email a PDF, or save a PDF of any worksheets you create.

Choose which lessons you want practice on

You can choose how many questions or how long you want the worksheet to be.
You can also adjust the level of difficulty of the questions.

Customizing or saving the worksheet

Creating your own worksheets for practice is wonderful!

The Individual Results addition is nice because now you can easily view each individual lesson your student has completed at a glance and what type of lesson it was (i.e. worksheet or interactive questions).  If the lesson was interactive questions you have the option to view/print out all the questions your child answered and if they were right or wrong.  You can see what they got wrong and why and use that information to work with your student or generate customized worksheets for more practice.

You can see which questions they got wrong

Finally, the Weekly Revision Tasks, available for 1st to 6th grade, is another wonderful addition.  I REALLY like that you can also print these out for your student to work on and then enter the answers online once completed.  They are a great way to review what your child has learned and identify any weaknesses they may have (in which case you can then go to the Question Wizard Bank and generate some worksheets!

Sample PDF printout of weekly revision task

Each time I have thought that we might try a new curriculum we keep coming back to CTCMath.  I highly recommend this program, especially if you have struggling learners that can use a muti-sensory approach with short, concise lessons.  Little Bug is not a struggling learner, but she sure does like the shortness of the lessons.  It keeps her fresh and interested and she doesn't have much time to get bored or frustrated with too much repetition.  The Family Membership option is great if you have more than one student.  Homeschool memberships are 50% off regular pricing!

You can connect with CTCMath on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, YOUTUBE, and INSTAGRAM.  Please also be sure to check out the other reviews on this great math curriculum by clicking on the graphic link below.

Math 12-month Family Membership {CTCMath Reviews 2019}

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Rosie's First Egg!

She did it! Rosie laid her first egg about a week ago.  We were so excited! She has laid an egg every day since.  I heard that ducks are much more reliable layers and I can say she is.  Especially in the hot, hot temperatures we have been experiencing this week.  Most of my hens are saying no way (egg production has been down) because it is just so hot (heat index of 105 today!). Since she is a Pekin duck, she may not lay a lot of eggs per year, but when she is laying she should be pretty consistent with daily eggs.

I can't believe how big both ducks have gotten.  Rowdy has matured really nicely and his colors are more and more gorgeous every day.  He is getting his green feathers in on his head and neck and he is absolutely stunning.  They aren't fully in yet, but the progress is fun to watch.  He is still so timid and such a scardy cat, but so enamored and protective over Rosie.  It is really quite cute.

I must say, that even though they are so messy with their water, I have enjoyed the ducks very much and can now understand why some prefer them to chickens.  They really are taking all the weather changes much better than most of the chickens and their eggs are super yummy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Canning Time Again!

This year has really flown by.  I can't believe it is August already and that here we are again into canning season.  We had a lot of failures in the garden this year again, but also some wonderful successes. Some of our best crops this year have been broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, okra, cantaloupe, and even a small amount of corn.  We had some absolutely delicious corn on the cob from the garden for dinner tonight!

I have yet to put up any of the cucumbers but got the okra pickled tonight.  I also put some in the freezer for future soups and plan to harvest the rest and either freeze more and/or make some yummy fried okra, YUM!

Hopefully, I can put up some bread and butter pickles and some sweet relish tomorrow.  I also hope to start the Christmas pickles!  I had never heard of these but a friend shared some with me and they are absolutely divine!!!  You must look the recipe up and try some.  The best part is that it is preferable to use those HUGE cucumbers you either missed or just failed to pick off the vine on time.

What have been some of your successes and/or failures this year in your garden?  I'd love to hear your updates on how your garden is doing.

Friday, August 9, 2019

StoryTime Treasures REVIEW

No matter how you slice it you just can't go wrong with Memoria Press.  I have so enjoyed doing reviews for them and using their awesome products.  Our newest review of StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key and More StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key is no different.  A wonderful, engaging curriculum that Little Bug has been enjoying.  She just LOVES to read!!  I received a full year curriculum that includes both sets listed.  I did NOT receive the reading books that you would normally get when you purchase this classical curriculum.  We just used the library to get our books.  Thank heavens for interlibrary loans!

We covered Little Bear first and I forgot to take a picture!

All manuals are softcover with a nice quality heavy duty glossy paper covers.  I really like that the student guide is spiral bound which makes it easier for Little Bug to write in and complete her assignments.  StoryTime Treasures consists of 14 weeks of lessons that cover 4 books.  Each lesson is geared to be done in a week and there is a guide that has assignments for 5 days.  You can, of course, adjust the schedule to fit your individual needs, but the 5-day schedule worked just fine for us.  As I stated before, when you purchase this curriculum set online, it includes the reading books you need.  In More StoryTime Treasures you read 7 books over a 15 week period (15 total lessons).  The books included and lessons to complete are listed below:

  • Little Bear - 4 lessons
  • Frog and Toad are Friends - 5 lessons
  • Caps for Sale - 2 lessons
  • Make Way for Ducklings - 3 lessons

  • Billy and Blaze- 2 lessons
  • Blaze and the Forest Fire - 2 lessons
  • Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie - 2 lessons
  • Stone Soup - 2 lessons
  • The Little House - 3 lessons
  • Miss Rumphius - 2 lessons
  • The Story About Ping - 2 lessons

She is really enjoying reading Little Bear

I really like the classical education approach to this reading curriculum. It incorporates many aspects of language arts including vocabulary, phonics, spelling, composition, capitalization, punctuation, handwriting, sentence structure, comprehension, and probably a few more!  Their idea of actual books "as opposed to controlled vocabulary readers" lends to the Charlotte Mason style teaching I like so much.  Little Bug is being exposed to much more complicated words and sentencing that is stretching her reading ability and I can see her growing in leaps and bounds.  I am continually fascinated by her current reading ability.

Our daily lessons consist of the suggested course per the teacher guide. There are pre-reading assignments to complete that include phonics.  I still have not purchased the phonic card set (must do that as soon as funds are available!) so I just review the sounds listed without them for now. The general structure of the lesson plan is as follows:
  • Pre-reading Activities
    • Preparing to Read
      • Syllabication
      • Reading
  • Post-reading Activities
    • Comprehension Questions
    • Other Activities (new and old phonograms)
  • Word Study/Say Each Word
  • Read each sentence and define the bold word
  • Comprehension Questions/Fill-in-the-blank
  • Language Lesson (Let's Talk, Let's Learn, Something to Do)
  • Just for Fun
Weekly Model Lesson Plan

Sample Daily Lesson with Answer Key from Teacher's Guide

The Model Lesson Plan is what we are following.  It works for us.  You can modify it as necessary to fit your needs.  We generally complete a lesson in 20 minutes or less. I have also been doing more oral work when the assignment calls for complete sentence answers because she is just not ready for this yet.  She will be soon and I look forward to her continued growth in this area.  Samples of some of our daily lessons follow.

"How to Use" from the Student Guide

Part of Day 1 Lesson from Little Bear

Fill-In-The-Blanks assignment

Let's Talk/Let's Learn (Day 4 lesson)

Just for Fun (Day 5)

There are sections from the Teacher Guide that ask you to write on the board (classroom or coop situation) and we just use a write-on/wipe-off board for those sections.  Little Bug is like her older brother and really doesn't like the writing parts so much, but she is generally enjoying this program.  She really likes the diversity (things change up from day to day and keeps her engaged) and especially the art/coloring parts!  The one thing I really didn't like was the choice of font for the copy words.  I really don't like the style of "a" and that she won't listen to me a write a traditional "a" despite my constant corrections.

I do NOT like the font for the letter "a"

I can't end this without sharing one of the assignments that tickled me to no end.  If you know my daughter, you know she LOVES Chinese food.  One of the assignments asked about where she wanted to go.  She said, "China" which I found interesting considering my heritage is part Chinese (my grandmother is full-blooded Chinese).  When I asked her why she started to talk about the food and I realized after she drew her picture that she was talking about a Chinese buffet restaurant we go to every so often (not the actual country!  LOL).  I couldn't stop chuckling about it.

China, LOL!!!

While we, of course, have not used More StoryTime Treasures (we are still on Frog and Toad are Friends) it has much the same structure with more advanced books and a little more complex assignments.  While it is helpful if you completed their First Start series prior to this curriculum (you can check out my review on that here), it is not necessary.  I do suggest you get the phonics cards which I plan to get as soon as I can. You can connect with Memoria Press on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, YOUTUBE, and INSTAGRAM.

I think StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key and More StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key are wonderful classical education language arts resources and I highly recommend them.  Visit Memoria  Press on their website to view and download sample pages.  Please also check out the reviews from my fellow Crew members by clicking on the graphic link below.  We reviewed several of their products so there may be some others you may want to check out. Happy reading!

First to Tenth Grade Literature Guides {Memoria Press Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Library and Educational Services REVIEW

I have used Library and Educational Services LLC for many years now.  I was so happy to have the opportunity to write a review for them. I have shared my knowledge of them for many years and hopefully, more will know about them now.  They are a wholesale distributor of books, CDs, and DVDs serving schools, churches, libraries, and wholesalers.  All prices are 30-70% (or more) off publisher's list prices.  They are not open to the public so you must register as a wholesale buyer (being a homeschooler qualifies you for this).  Registration is completely free and there are no membership fees.  For purposes of this review, I received a gift certificate to purchase merchandise with some guidelines on what items to purchase.  Shipping was free and I was able to also purchase additional items to add to this order for the free shipping.  I received everything in the above picture for less than $10 (the $73.88 gift certificate reduced my total cost).

This was off of my invoice! (NOTE: the extra savings in the end was
due to the gift certificate I received as a result of this review.

I was asked to purchase 1 item from the "Who Was . . ." series (for ages 8-12) and I chose Who Was Alexander Graham Bell?  I thought Little Bug would enjoy this since we are in the age of cell phones and we actually don't even have a landline anymore.  It is a softcover chapter book that is probably perfect for 2nd to 5th grade.  She is a very good reader at 6 years of age but I chose to read this aloud to her.  I learned some things through this book I never knew.  I didn't realize the connections with Thomas Edison, Elisha Gray, Thomas Watson, William Forbes, and several others.  How fascinating! I especially never knew of his connection with Helen Keller!  There are even timelines at the back of the book that I also found to be very helpful with history.  I would highly recommend you check this series out.

I was also asked to purchase one of the Lifehouse Theater CD series (ages 6 and up) and I chose Trapped in Aesop's Fables!  I am so glad I chose this one.  It was perfect for Little Bug, though I might caution that there were some instances of peril (wolf eating lamb and a goose being killed) so maybe not so good for the younger crowd.  The stories are dramatized and really pull you into the stories.  Young Henry finds himself in trouble at home and so during his grounding, he finds a chest with books.  He is magically transported into the stories of Aesop's Fables and must figure out what the life lesson is in order to come back to reality.  It is a cute twist to the stories and had Little Bug very engaged into the stories. The fables included were:
  • The Ant and the Grasshopper
  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf
  • The Goose and the Golden Eggs
  • The Milkmaid and Her Pail

You can also go to their website and download a free curriculum guide which we did.  It was just 6 pages and included a brief history of the fable, review questions and answers from the stories, a theme verse, fun facts, and further discussion questions.

Finally, I was asked to purchase a selection from the reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction books section.  I chose several different series that included Animals on the Family Farm (ages 5-8), Famous Lives (ages 6-10), All About American Symbols (ages 3-6), and Let's Find Out! Government (ages 6-10).  Please keep in mind that these are not your run of the mill hardcover books.  These are the much higher quality library binding (Library Bound Books) like many of the higher quality hardcover books you borrow from your local library.

The Animals on the Family Farm series included:
  • SHEEP on the Family Farm
  • GOATS on the Family Farm
  • COWS on the Family Farm
  • CHICKENS on the Family Farm

She absolutely LOVES to read!

The Famous Lives series (these were listed as $159.30 and I got them for $17.76!!) included:
  • Sacagawea (Little Bug remembered her from the Night at the Museum movie, LOL!!)
  • Abigail Adams
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Ben Franklin
  • Clara Barton
  • Florence Nightingale
  • George Washington
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Harriet Tubman

The All About American Symbols (for the much younger crowd) series included:

  • The Bald Eagle
  • Mount Rushmore
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • The Liberty Bell

All about American Symbols series

The last series I purchased was Let's Find Out! Government and it included:
  • What is the Constitution?
  • What are Taxes?
  • What is the Legislative Branch?
  • What is the Judicial Branch?
  • What is the Executive Branch?
  • What is Citizenship?

If you are a homeschooler and you like to have a dynamic library available for your kids I highly recommend you check out Library and Educational Services LLC!  It is also important to note the following comment that means a lot to me, "We carefully review all items we carry so that they are not contrary to Biblical standards and values."  I have also found many good curriculum deals.   They are constantly getting new stock in, you just have to check back periodically.  They also carry CDs and DVDs and have special sales going on all the time.  Be sure to check their selections under Closeouts and Stock Reductions for even deeper discounts.  I have been a customer for many years and love when they have their special sales.  I think it is about twice a year when they have special sales where you can get double for your money on specific books. You can connect with them on FACEBOOK, PINTEREST, YOUTUBE, and INSTAGRAM.

Please also be sure to check out the reviews from my fellow Crew members to see what fun books they chose to review by clicking on the graphic link below.  Happy reading!!

Wholesale Books for Your Homeschool {Library and Educational Services LLC Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer
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