Thursday, August 22, 2019

Book Club: Book Review of The Most Important Stories of the Bible

This post contains affiliate links. I received a copy of the book from the publishers in return for my honest opinion. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

I was very happy to see The Most Important Stories of the Bible as a review option from Bethany House Publishers. A few years ago I decided to read the Bible cover to cover for the first time. I found the reading of the entire Bible to be difficult. I had lots of questions and sought out guides and plans to help me better understand what I was reading. I really wish that I had The Most Important Stories of the Bible by Christopher D. Hudson and Stan Campbell that first year. Even though there is a limited selection of stories from the Bible (due to the nature of its being a thin book, only 185 pages), I found it extremely helpful. While most of the stories are well-known ones, there is still an inclusion of a selection of stories that may not be as familiar. For me, those stories are in the sections on the Kings and Prophets and the Stories of the Early Church.

The paperback book is split into 6 parts after a brief introduction:

  1. Beginnings
  2. Patriarchs
  3. Israel's Family Becomes a Nation
  4. Kings and Prophets
  5. Stories of Jesus
  6. Stories of the Early Church 

One thing I appreciated the most was that each section is set up in the same way:

  • Title with Biblical reference so you can read the story for yourself 
  • The Story Continues which provides a connection back to the past tales of the Bible 
  • The Essential Story which is a summary of the story being shared 
  • The Essential Truth which provides the 'so what' or the reason why this story is important or how one can relate to the story 
I found The Most Important Stories of the Bible very easy to read. The style of writing and the organization made it possible for me to pick it up and be able to read a few sections at a time. I did not have to devote long periods of time to reading the book (although I did find myself reading through it rather quickly because it was enjoyable and interesting to read). I think the only thing that might have made this book even more useful for me would have been the inclusion of lines or pages for me to take notes regarding what I have just read.

I would recommend The Most Important Stories of the Bible by Christopher D. Hudson and Stan Campbell to those looking to refresh their Bible history. It would also work well to accompany the reading of the Bible.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Book Club: The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh!

photo of book cover and cow clip art

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

If your children are learning about farm animals, The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! by Anne Vittur Kennedy is a perfect choice to add to your reading time. Our five-year-old son thoroughly enjoyed reading the book aloud. He examined each of the pictures and imagined what the animals were doing on each page of the book.

Fun book for your young readers! 

Our son's favorite part was where the dog warned the other animals – "Shh!" 

The farmer is returning! 

When the farmer goes away, the animals have a very exciting day. They ride down a lazy river, enjoy a picnic, go on a roller coaster ride, and more—all before the farmer returns. 


This book naturally lends itself to making animal noises and sounds with your children. I created a fun Animal Matching Sounds page for you to download free. Why not see if your child knows all the barnyard animals and their sounds?

If your child is a little older, research one or more of the animals from The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! with a free Research worksheet. If you live near a farm you can tour, you might even be able to meet the animal in person!

Create a Mouse



1. Gather all of your materials.

2. Either trace and cut out your shapes prior to getting started with your children or allow your children to trace and cut out their own shapes. You will need four circles of different sizes for the ears and eyes, four long rectangles for the whiskers, one triangle for the nose, and one mouth cut out.

4. Attach the ears.

5. Attach the eyes and then the nose.

6. Attach the mouth and then the whiskers. 

7. Display your child's completed mouse in your house!


Download Match Animal Sounds
Download Researching Farm Animals

Looking for other farm animal crafts? 

We have made cute lamb masks, paper plate pigs, and chicks from cardboard rolls.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Full Math Curriculum: A Review of CTCMath

We have three children in our household who have different feelings about mathematics. Our younger two (preschool and first grade) are still finding the joy and wonder of counting, adding, and fractions even but our teen has struggled with math for a number of years. It has never been one of his favorite subjects. We are still trying to find the path that works best for him. When we were offered the opportunity to review a 12-month Family Membership, for up to 5 students, from CTCMath we were eager to see how it would fit our family's needs.

Before we made the decision whether or not we would like to review CTCMath, I signed up for the trial so our teen could see what the Algebra II course entailed (this is what he will be taking this coming homeschool year). I shared with him our other options if we did not review CTCMath and he was very eager to give this review a go because he prefers the video-style learning. I think another part of the reason why our teen was so willing to use CTCMath is because he can learn at his own pace and the teacher will never get annoyed or frustrated with him.

How We Are Using CTCMath 

We plan on using CTCMath as our main math curriculum for the upcoming homeschool year. Our teen will be primarily doing the Algebra II lessons. And in order to get a better understanding of all CTCMath has to offer, I also signed up our two younger children to use the 12-month Family Membership. Both of them were eager to get started. Our preschooler has even completed multiple lessons on some days because she wants to do more.

I am taking a hands-off approach for the summer for our teen's use of CTCMath. Once we officially start our homeschooling year again in September, we will go over his work on a regular basis. I like that we will be able to go over the lesson using the lesson summary (which is located below the video) by either having the summary open on the computer or printing out the PDF of the summary. I did print out the Algebra II checklist so I could keep track of what assignments were completed and when (along with the grades as calculated by CTCMath).

There are checklists for each level.

Setting Up Tasks 

As it is summer break for us, our teen was not as eager every day to complete his assignments but I wanted him to work on CTCMath at least three days a week. Because I wanted to schedule the lessons for certain days, I set up tasks for him. There were some days where he would skip and then complete multiple assignments on other days. I assigned him tasks so he would know what I wanted him to complete and I would get a daily email letting me know whether or not he completed the task. I really appreciate the emails to help me get track of my teen's schedule.

The tasks were set up from my parent login. I did find setting up the tasks to be rather tedious but necessary for our teen. I set up a few for our first grader but as I sit next to him when he is working on CTCMath, I stopped doing this after a few. Our teen completes the tasks on his computer while our two younger children sit with me using my laptop so I know exactly what they are working on each minute.

The lesson summary is a nice bonus to help parents figure out what the child is learning.

Algebra II Lessons 

Algebra II is split into three parts. Part One contains five parts with a total of 47 lessons. The topics covered in Part One include:

  • Linear sentences with one variable 
  • Segments, lines, and regions
  • Linear sentences with two variables 
  • Polynomials 
  • Factoring Polynomials 

The short videos take the problems step by step to teach the skill.

Part Two contains three parts with 29 lessons. The topics covered in Part Two include:

  • Rational expressions
  • Relations and functions 
  • Polynomial functions 

Part Three contains seven parts with 57 lessons. The topics covered in Part Three include:

  • Radicals
  • Quadratic equations and systems 
  • Conic sections 
  • Exponential and logarithmic functions 
  • Sequences and series 
  • Matrices
  • Extension 

The lessons have a short video which explains the concepts, online questions, and a worksheet to complete. We can either print out the worksheet or our son can complete the work in a notebook and then type in his answers into the area provided on CTCMath. The worksheet and the solutions can both be downloaded as PDFs to print out.

Elementary Lessons

Our younger children are working through the kindergarten and first grade curriculum. We usually complete about one lesson a day with them in the evenings. They watch their video and complete the questions. In most cases, our son will watch our daughter's kindergarten videos with her and she will watch the first grade videos with him.

Kindergarten is divided into four parts: numbers, patterns, and algebra; measurement; space and geometry; and statistics and probability. Our daughter has completed the first three sections in Part One: numbers, patterns, and algebra. She practiced her numbers up to 30, reviewed colors and sizes, worked on ordinal numbers, and learned about counting by 2s. All of the lessons were easy for her to follow, even at only four-years-old, except for the one about counting by 2s.

Our six-year-old is using the first grade level. He has worked through the entire Whole Numbers videos and questions of Part One: numbers, patterns, and algebra and has started the second section of addition. I really liked the first lesson on looking for tens. I think teaching children to look for tens within addition problems is a great way for them to be able to add three numbers.

I also had him complete four of the diagnostic tests from kindergarten to make sure he could work at the first grade level. I will probably have him go back and work on some more of the diagnostic tests when we complete this second section of Part One.

The lessons in the kindergarten and first grade levels are the perfect length for our two younger children. The videos are short and hold their attention while the questions are the perfect amount.

Question Bank Wizard 

To review concepts from previous years, I can create custom question banks for our teen using the Question Bank Wizard. Since he is taking Algebra II this year, I can set up tasks using the Algebra I questions to review material. It is very easy to manipulate and change the questions selected based upon easy, medium, difficult, or challenging difficulty levels.

Our Thoughts 

I am really enjoying using CTCMath for our homeschooling math curriculum this year. I watched the videos provided on the Parent User Guide which were extremely helpful to get started. They helped me figure out how to add students, set up tasks, and use the question bank wizard. And I also like the fact that I can switch to the student view from the parent portal so I can see it exactly as they do.

I can view all the tasks assigned to our children in one spot so I can see how far in advance I have prepared our homeschool schedule. The parent portal also provides me with the opportunity to see all of our children's profiles, awards they have received, tasks (active, recently expired, and upcoming), and weekly reports.

These are our children's three student profiles. I can see the lesson completed
and the overall grade at a glance on the parent portal. 

After I look at the student profiles, I can also view the weekly reports (which are stored on the server for three months but emailed to parents each week). These reports are great for looking at the status of tasks, lessons, and and log-ins. It is also perfect because unlike some other online homeschool resources, it tells you of the activity that occurs each day. So I can print it out and share with my husband if we need to discuss our teen's activity on CTCMath.

Our six-year-old son likes doing the Times Table Shoot 'Em Up which is similar to an arcade game. The player completes multiplication questions and shoots the correct answer with their rocket.

I am very happy that we will be using CTCMath this homeschool year. There are so many great features I am discovering each day – like the ability for our kids to choose a theme and change the colors (our younger son and daughter had so much fun picking out their themes this week).

Do You Want to Learn More About CTCMath? 

There are plenty of other reviews to check out to see what other families think of CTCMath. Check out the rest of the reviews to see if they are using one of the levels that your family might use. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Z is for Zhou Rule Changes (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

In the last Blogging Through the Alphabet series, I shared an introduction to the Zhou Dynasty of China. Today, I would like to delve a little deeper into how their ruling system changed that led to their having less power.

Even though the Zhou people overthrew the Shang people, they did not completely do away with them or their ways immediately. The ways of the Shang were actually incorporated into the Zhou Rule.


One of the changes instituted by the Zhou was moving away to a new area and a new capital. They moved the center of the state to their own homeland and built the capital Xian Yang. This city and its design would become the standard for city design for future dynasties.

Governmental Changes 

Over three hundred years, the Zhou expanded their territory and their population grew. With the growth, the Zhou kings found new ways to govern their territory. Local rulers were appointed and over time these local rulers moved power away from the Zhou kings—leading to fragmentation and more changes in China.

Local  administrators were of different types: members of the royal family, military leaders, and (over time) these local rulers were the descendants of original appointees. As time progressed, local rulers wondered why they were sending money and their allegiance to the Zhou royal court. Eventually, these local rulers even called themselves king. It was also during this time the Qin people began causing problems for the Zhou.

Little by little, the Zhou kings lost control of territory—local rulers ruled independently and set up their own rituals and customs. The Zhou kings had no real power and things changed again in China.

Looking for more history-themed posts? 

In past series I wrote about Confucius, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Qin Dynasty.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

A Quest for a Great Homeschool Year: Electives in our 2019-2020 Homeschool Year

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

What is an elective? In high school, electives are often those considered outside of the main course of study (English, math, history, science, and foreign language). Electives can be those chosen by the high school student that relate to their interest like choir or playing an instrument for fun, improving a skill, related to a future career, or even something along the lines of economics or study of laws and government.

Examples of electives include:

  • Study of World Culture 
  • Church History 
  • Marketing
  • Accounting 
  • Creative Writing 
  • Public Speaking 
  • Graphic Design 
  • Drawing 
  • Home Economics
  • Debate 
  • And more
In one's homeschool, there are so many options and ideas that it might even seem overwhelming. After all, if our children are involved in the day-to-day tasks of helping to keep, manage, and run the home, they will be learning about cooking, budgeting, and more just through daily interactions. As the very classes that students need to become successful homeowners are often those that school districts cut first (home economics courses like sewing and cooking or woodworking), that makes homeschooling and incorporating electives all the more important. 

Electives are where we get to have a lot of fun in picking courses, resources, and materials. With our oldest son's goal to become a photographer, we are able to select from a variety of courses through that allows him to build the skill set he needs to accomplish this goal.

High School


Our teen has shown a keen interest in starting his own photography business so why not take the time to learn the basics of photography during his homeschool year? The online Photography class at covers the functions of a camera, composition, and elements of design. It also provides the opportunity to take photographs that fit the week's themes over 30 weeks.

There is also a Photography Challenge course that our son can take if he so chooses that has the child take one or more photographs based upon the weekly challenge topic. Some of these topics include:

  • School
  • Winter
  • Hobby
  • Textures
  • Landscapes
  • And more


At the elementary level, electives are not necessarily seen as something separate. In a public school setting, children are still introduced to art and music on a somewhat regular basis. While homeschooling, younger children have a lot of time to explore topics that interest them. Perhaps they wish to learn how to play the piano or they are involved in Sunday School that puts on plays at church.

Both our younger children enjoy arts and crafts and we have studied several artists in the past when learning about different art styles. We used Learning About Art from which introduced our children to different artists like John James Audubon, Albert Bierstadt, and Grant Wood and different techniques for drawing simple pictures. They also studied more techniques and learned how to use different mediums like water color crayons, pastels, and clay with ARTistic Pursuits' Art for Children: Building a Visual Vocabulary and Art of the Ancients.

How do you incorporate electives into your homeschool? 

Not Back to School Logo 2019

Not Back to School Blog Hop 

This week I am joining up with the Homeschool Review Crew for the Annual "Not Back to School" Blog Hop...5 Days of Homeschool.... Please visit the other members to see what they are sharing this week.