Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Teacher Turned Homeschooler

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

If you have been reading A Mom's Quest to Teach for any amount of time you will know that I am certificated secondary education social studies teacher. I taught in one public school as a history teacher for 9-12 grades for a little over five years before leaving my position. Prior to teaching in a high school, I taught for many years at a metropolitan zoo and volunteered for the National Park Service. I have been involved in the education field (formal education and informal education) since I was in my early teens – first as a camp counselor and then as a classroom educator. I have wanted to become a teacher since I was in the fourth grade thanks to my fourth grade teacher. This idea was cemented in high school when I had an excellent 10th and 11th grade English teacher. Why did I pick social studies as my field? My family, from a very early age, has instilled a love of history in me so it only seemed natural to major in history.

So how did this teacher turn into a homeschooler? 

Once I finally got a job teaching in a public school, I saw how much things had changed since not only I was in school but since I wanted to become a teacher. Things were not they way they were and I guess you could say my rose-tinted glasses were removed. After several years in which there was more pain and heartbreak than wonderful moments of teaching, I decided to resign my teaching position. Not too long after that decision I became pregnant with our youngest son and a while later I had our daughter. As I read more and more about homeschooling and public education, our family made the decision to homeschool our two younger children. We allowed our teen each year to make the decision as to whether or not he wanted to stay in public school or be homeschooled.

Homeschooling Three 

At the end of the summer of 2018, we asked our teen son again what his plans were for his education. He would be going into 10th grade. There was one minor scare involving a lockdown at his school which made us really encourage him to thoroughly pray about whether he wished to remain in public school or stay home with his younger siblings and be homeschooled.

My husband and I were quite happy he decided to be homeschooled. This has led to some very positive changes for our entire family but also a huge learning curve as we went from two small children (who did not really need a lot in the way of formal education) to a teen who is still planning his future. Luckily, we have a subscription to and I was able to plan most of his year through this wonderful online homeschooling curriculum. Over the course of the year I was able to supplement our teen's homeschooling with other items from being on the Homeschool Review Crew such as a Shakespeare resource from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources, science lessons from CrossWired Science, and more. I have also expanded our resources for his 11th grade year to include materials purchased from Timberdoodle (Exploring Government from Notgrass History).

Our younger two children are just starting official homeschooling journey. I hope that this sets them on the path of life-long learning. My husband and I love to read and learn new things and we hope that through homeschooling we are able to instill that in our three children.

Want to Learn More about Me? 

Do you and I like the same movies or books? Perhaps you love history as much as I do but would love to learn more about some famous leaders or places? Or do you have a passion for throwing kids birthday parties? On my blog, A Mom's Quest to Teach, I share a lot about myself and my family. Be sure to check out my welcome page for links and more information. Thank you for visiting!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Book Club: Book Review of Britfield & The Lost Crown

I love reading books! In fact, most of our family loves reading but we often have trouble finding books that our teen finds interesting and enjoys reading. When we were given the opportunity to review Britfield & The Lost Crown by C.R. Stewart, I was excited because I thought it sounded very interesting and was hopeful that our teenage son would enjoy it as well.

I read the softcover edition of Britfield & The Lost Crown (386 pages) over approximately a week (with a break in between to pass the book along to our teen). The story is fast paced and the end of each section or chapter entices the reader to continue reading so they can find out what happens next. I know I had trouble putting the book down.

After the table of contents, there are five maps of the key areas of England that Tom and Sarah (the main characters) visit followed by the story itself. These maps are detailed and would help a reader unfamiliar with England, Oxford, Windsor Castle, London, and Canterbury place the characters in the real world. The font is larger than most books – which is really nice for late night reading.

What is the Story?

The cover of the book invites one into a story fraught with danger and excitement. The focal point of Britfield & The Lost Crown is the journey of Tom and Sarah as they escape the orphanage of Weatherly and travel through various cities of Great Britain (including Oxford, London, and Canterbury).

At the beginning of the book, we read how difficult the 56 children at Weatherly had it. They were used by the Grievouses to do manual labor and treated to poor living conditions. There were a few individuals who attempted to help them, like the cook who provided extra food when he could, but overall the lives of the children were only enriched by several books they shared and read.

After discovering that there is something special about Tom – in his file at the orphanage is the word, "Britfield," the children prepare for a daring escape. Tom wants to get out of Weatherly and wants to take his friend Sarah with him. All the children band together to help them and there are some great scenes described as they get out of the orphanage.

During the escape and journey to London, Tom and Sarah quickly learn that 10 pounds is not enough to get them very far. In several occurrences throughout the book, they rely upon the generosity of others, including an Oxford student, a train ticket taker, a taxi cab driver, and an Oxford professor who joins them on their journey. All these take place while Detective Gowerstone is hunting them down and using all the resources available to him (and more) of the New Scotland Yard.

How Did We Include the Book in Our Homeschool?

I set out knowing that I would read Britfield & The Lost Crown in its entirety. As I have stated before, I like to read. I like to read stories (both fiction and nonfiction) set in the United Kingdom. After reading through the first two chapters that were provided as a sample, I was pretty sure I would enjoy the rest of the book.

As it is summer time, we are on a relaxed homeschooling schedule. I asked our teen to read the first couple of chapters and complete the study guide materials for the first two chapters. If he liked the book, I would have him continue reading it when we our regular schedule in September along with using the rest of the study guide.

The Study Guide

We also had the chance to review the 8-week study guide. I only asked our teen to do a few pages of the 83-page long study guide this month but we will be revisiting it in September. The study guide provides a synopsis of the story, a brief biography of the author, student work for all 17 chapters, additional resources, and an answer key. The additional resources are concluding questions regarding plot, theme, characters, and a complete vocabulary list.

The first three sets of questions deal with two chapters apiece while the rest of the units each deal with only one chapter. Each section contains vocabulary questions (these vary from crossword, multiple choice, fill-ins, and more), comprehension questions, going deeper questions, and learn more with technology (which requires the student to do some additional research on different topics).

The comprehension questions are general questions checking on whether or not your child read and understand the material. For example, one of the early questions is: "What is Tom most afraid of? How does it make the escape harder?"

The "Going Deeper" questions ask the student questions to get them to think beyond the story and involve other activities like having them draw a picture of the orphans at Weatherly or of Detective Gowerstone. Another question asks students to think about what makes Oxford University an "aura of privilege and tradition." I can see this question leading to discussions with our teen about local colleges and universities that may or may not be similar in feeling to Oxford.

I like that the "Learn More with Technology" section allows for digging deeper into British history like learning about Winston Churchill, Windsor Castle, Canterbury, and even the significance of tea in British culture. I can easily see some of these questions turning into longer research projects for students who are interested in learning more and more.

My only complaint about the study guide is that there is a watermark feature to the pages which requires the use of more ink in the printing of it.

One of the many vocabulary activities in the study guide.

Our Thoughts

I am very pleased to share that our picky teen—who does not enjoy reading like his father and I do—said he enjoyed it and really liked the characters. He liked reading about the experiences of Tom and Sarah in the orphanage and wanted to read more. This is pretty high honors from our kid who can put down a story or even stop a movie in the middle of a cliffhanger. He isn't like me in that he won't stay up late to finish a book (I did stay up later a few evenings to keep reading Britfield & The Lost Crown).

I found Britfield & The Lost Crown to be an excellent tale woven through the landscape of England. I enjoyed seeing England through the eyes of Tom who was experiencing many things for the first time. Tom had spent most of his life in orphanages. He had never been on the Underground and this was one of his many new adventures as they traveled on the Tube to Waterloo Station. I also liked the creativity of Tom and Sarah. This is an excellent skill to foster in our own children.

My only reservation was that it seemed to wrap up a little too quickly but then again I realize that the book cannot go on forever and that there will be more in the series. In fact, I can't wait until the next one – Britfield & The Rise of the Lion – is released in the fall of 2020.

I would recommend Britfield & The Lost Crown for middle school students through to adults. Even though the main characters of Tom and Sarah, and later Professor Hainsworth, suffer challenges and difficulties, we see them excited and happy to be trying new things and living a great adventure. I think everyone could do with a little adventure in their life.

Want to Learn More about Britfield & The Lost Crown?

Many other families had the chance to read or listen to the audio version of Britfield & The Lost Crown – be sure to check out their reviews!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Back to School for the Homeschool Year: 2019-2020

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

Our family is very excited about the upcoming homeschool year of 2019-2020! There are so many excellent resources available for families of all sizes and I am very excited to share this overview of what we will be using with our own family. And we are so thankful that we have the opportunity to homeschool our children.

What are the Main Subjects We Will Be Studying? 

We will be focusing upon mathematics, language arts, the sciences, and social studies as our four main core subjects in our homeschool. Each of our three children in our household will focus upon the age-appropriate level of materials and skills focus. Our teen will also focus on photography as an elective as he hopes to make that his future career.

What are Some of the Courses We Were Thinking About? 

With so many different resources available for homeschooling families, what were some of the courses and topics we were interested in studying?

When using, I use their bookmark feature to save courses that our teen and younger children might be interested in studying. I can also save courses that I might like to take a look at for myself!

In other cases, I highlight, use post-its, and fold pages in the catalogs of companies like Memoria Press and Timberdoodle when I see something exciting that I might like to incorporate into our homeschool.  And of course, I also use online wishlists and bookmark websites when I can.

Sample of Course Topics and Titles

  • Botany
  • A Study of Extraordinary Women in the Bible 
  • World History
  • Digital Art and Product Design for Small Businesses 
  • Christian Values in J.R.R. Tolkien 
  • Chemistry 
  • Algebra II 
  • Writing: Advertising Copy 
  • Appreciating the Gift of Music 
  • American History: First Grade 
  • Manners and Health Habits for Preschoolers 

Take a Closer Look at the Courses and Materials We Will Be Using 

You can click on the images to visit my individual blog posts about each subject area. 

From books about events and biographies to using materials I prepared when I was teaching high school history, we have so many great materials at our fingertips for history!

From our daughter who is learning to read using Learning Dynamics and the Fluency Builder of Dyslexia Gold to our middle child who loves to read and is learning about grammar using Simply Classical Writing from Memoria Press, we have so many great resources for language arts. And we are incorporating the genre of books that our teen enjoys reading to work on essay writing and research paper skills.

Science is a subject that can be studied together with a few simple changes depending on the age of the homeschooled child. While our younger son may actually be completing all the required work associated with the Astronomy course we are using, our daughter is joining in for the read-alouds and experiments. And as our teen studied botany this year, our younger children will also learn about flowers, plants, and trees. 

All three of our children will be using CTCMath for their mathematics course this year. I love that everything is together. It makes it so much easier to keep track of for this homeschooling mom.

We will be able to focus upon photography this homeschool year with our teen who wishes to pursue that as his career. And we can also incorporate courses that will help all three of our children become members of our family that can help with cooking and cleaning. These are valuable skills they will need when they eventually move into their own home.

Ready to Start 

We follow a modified year-round homeschooling schedule with our teen getting more free time during the summer. Our younger children continue to complete assignments during the summer but with a lot more freedom to learn through exploration.

Personally, I can't wait to pick out their first day of school outfit and line them up for those cute photographs! Last year we made signs for them to hold and then these were used as their portfolio covers for the year. 

What are Our Favorite Essential Items? 

There are so many resources and materials for schooling and homeschooling that it can be overwhelming. I think the most important items are those that work best for your family. Some enjoy using online learning while others prefer pencil and paper. I find the basics in our home include the same times used for any student: pencil, paper, notebooks, paper, and binders along with subscriptions to important programs to accompany the books, textbooks, and workbooks we are using.

How do you get ready to go back to school? 

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.