Monday, August 19, 2019

We Found Our Math Resource for This Year! {A CTCMath Review}

I like to have multiple ways for my children to learn and practice math all year, so when an opportunity to review CTCMath’s 12-month family membership came up, I asked my children if they would be interested in trying it and all three said, "Yes." I as pleased with their response, since CTCMath has an excellent reputation and I was curious how it would work for my children.

In short order, I discovered, 
CTCMath works wonderfully for our family. All summer, it has proven itself to be an easy-to-use, helpful, and quick way for my children to progress with math studies.

What is CTCMath?

Maths Online

CTCMath is an online, subscription-based math program for grades K-12 that is used by over 200,000 students worldwide. Created by Pat Murray, a math teacher and homeschool Dad of 10, the program aims to help students progress easily through math with short, interactive lessons that speak to a variety of learning styles. 

Grade levels and courses within the program include:

  • Kindergarten
  • 1st grade
  • 2nd grade
  • 3rd grade
  • 4th grade
  • 5th grade
  • 6th grade
  • Basic Math and Pre-Algebra
  • Elementary Measurement
  • Elementary Geometry
  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Algebra II
  • Triginometry
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Calculus
The courses are delivered through video tutorials, interactive questions, worksheets and solutions, diagnostic tests, and reports of progress.

There are separate student and teacher pages, both easy to navigate.

The teacher pages gives access to tracking information, scores, tasks to be assigned, tools, and more.  It also allows you to easily switch to student view pages, which is quite handy

Student pages allow students to easily jump back and forth between grade levels and skills as they need to or to progress on a more linear track.

I appreciate how all this comes together so that students can work independently with some freedom as to what they wish to work on, but that parent teachers can also assign specific tasks.

You can learn more about the program by watching this video:

To use the program, all you need is an internet connection and a device with a web browser.  If you like printed material, a printer, ink, paper, and pencil are good, too, since there are optional printable portions to lessons.

What Do My Children Have to Say About CTCMath

More often than not, when my children sit down for their daily independent math time, my children choose CTCMath over other resources we have available, and each is progressing well with it.

My 13-year-old, who is intent on starting high school one year early, has decided CTCMath will be his main math program for the year.

He said:

CTCMath is an online math program that covers grades K-12. I decided to try this program, because I am entering high school and need a math program.
While not as engaging as some other math programs I have tried, CTCMath is extremely simple to use. You just log in, go to your grade level and whatever math subject you are working on and click on a lesson in the section you are working on.


Each lesson consists of a video and questions along with a printable worksheet if you are not one who likes computers.

One of the most annoying features is that it allows teachers or parents to set a passing grade, which is really aggravating when your Mom sets it to 85% or better and you only have 6-10 questions, meaning you cannot have any mistakes. But, when Mom lowers it, it becomes easier.

The videos are clear, but, for me, not necessary because the subject is pretty easy to learn so far.
I intend to use this for the rest of this year. I am doing well with it and it makes math quick and easy for me.

I hope my oldest son sticks with his plan to use CTCMath all year as it has been such a no-fuss way for him to progress with math skills since we started using it.

My 12-year-old, who does not always like online math programs and who has math skill gaps due to challenges with dyslexia and other things, also has found 
CTCMath helpful. 

She had this to say: 

When I first started CTCMath, I thought it was dumb. I didn't like it, because I did not know how to use it well. Once I clicked around more, failed a few things, asked my mom for some help, that kind of stuff... I found out that it's actually really easy to use, and it makes math simple! 
Once I figured CTCMath out, I got a little bit - just a teeny bit - addicted. I ended up doing over two hours of math in one day during my free choice time. I was determined to finish over half the tasks under one topic in a day, which I did. 

CTCMath is really simple to maneuver. All you have to do is sign in. Then, you see your profile with your average.

When you actually open as yourself, there is a lot of white space, which I really like and there are not a ton of tasks that they show at once. So, for me, there are only 12 tasks to do right now and I have passed five of them and started another five of them. This keeps me motivated and not overwhelmed. I am also interested to see what the next level will look like.

With each section, you can take a diagnostic test - a 16 question, a 32 question, etc. There is also a search.

Also, at the top, there are tabs for lessons tasks, results, settings, and history.

When you hit on results, it shows you results on everything you have worked on - your first grade and your highest grade.

It also has places on the bottom to click for speed skills, times tables, and swapping pieces.  These are games to make things more fun in my perspective.

I actually enjoy CTCMath and want to keep using it. It's easy, I'm learning, and I like it.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to see my daughter's success and confidence grow with CTCMath! It has been such an unexpected blessing.

More than once during my daughter's free time, I have found her on my bed with our laptop reaching to meet a self-set 
CTCMath goal. I have also found her printing out worksheets to use for practice when she doesn't feel like being online.  Hoorah!

My 9-year-old also likes 
CTCMath, although not with the same enthusiasm as his siblings.  He had this to say:

CTCMath is good. I like the time tables and speeds skills games. They help me enjoy practicing, and I think I am getting faster.

The regular lessons are okay. I don't like how long some of the tests are, but it's easy to use. I'd like to keep using it as a supplement.

Indeed, he will do just that. 

Learn More

I have a child who "gets" math easily but lacks focus, one who does not "get" math as easily but seeks independent success, and one who is pretty typical for his age.  All three are doing well with 
CTCMath, so I would say CTCMath can help a variety of children succeed! 

I would recommend  CTCMath’s 12-month family membership to any family that seeks a straightforward, clear, easy-to-use independent math resource that can be used by all their children with Mom or Dad checking in on progress easily.

In the weeks we've been using the program, I have witnessed:

  • positive changes in one child's confidence and attitude when it comes to math.
  • one child appreciating the short, to-the-point lessons as a way to quickly progress with necessary math skills.
  • all three of my children learning at their own pace, some with the video tutorials and one without.
  • little to no frustrations or issues during math time.
  • stress-free math learning and easy check-ins on progress.

I so appreciate the ease and effectiveness of CTCMath and think you may like it, too.

The only thing I would like to see added to the program is a way for questions to be read to students so that children that have reading challenges can tackle text based questions with no troubles.

Find the reviews.

To see how all 60 families that reviewed CTCMath felt about the program, click through to the reviews.

You can also connect on social media: 

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Plan a Queenship of Mary Feast Day Party

If you enjoy living the liturgical year like we do, you might want to remember that August 22 is the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary - a wonderful day for celebrating faith through food, fellowship, and fun!

{Some links which follow may be affiliate links.}

Right now, I am putting together plans to do just that with our local Catholic homeschool network, so I thought I would share some of what we have planned in case you'd like to plan your own relatively last-minute Queenship of Mary feast day party.

No Fuss Food Ideas

Marian feast days are so easy to plan! 

Any blue, red, and white foods can be symbolic of Mary, since blue is a traditional color of royalty and also symbolic of heaven and the sky; red symbolizes Mary's love passion, devotion, and sacrifice; and white symbolizes Mama Mary's purity. So, since, it is summer time, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and/or raspberries with whipped cream, yogurt, nice cream, or ice cream, are a wonderful idea! Cherry tomatoes - also in season - can be an easy addition to your feast table, too.

(You can read more about Marian colors at the University of Dayton Mary Pages, Artsy, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.)

Then, you've got the queen theme - which opens up so many more easy eats ideas:

Just about any food can be made into a crown as was proven when our family had an impromptu Mary Queen of Heaven liturgical tea years ago.

Catholic Cuisine is filled with such ideas - from cheese and watermelon, cookie crowns, peach parfaits, sandwiches, crown jewel berries, and cakes.

They also share an idea for "little queen" pasta.

Golden juices and ice teas can also work well.

Since I like to encourage plant-based eating, I plan to bring watermelon crowns, blueberry and strawberry crown jewels, and ice cream to our gathering and to be happily surprised with what others bring to the liturgical table, which will, of course, be covered in a blue or white table cloth, with a Marian blue candle, a statue of Mary, and whatever else people choose to add.

Then, as we usually do before eating, I will ask the children present if they can guess why we have any of the foods we do out on the table and add to any of the ideas and insights they come up with.

When doing so, I also plan to to place a bunch of red "crown jewel" grapes out and to show this short video clip reminding the children that as members of Christ's body we, along with Mary, share in Christ's dignity, before suggesting that the grapes - as a connected bunch - remind us how we are connected to Christ.

I also plan, of course, to pray grace with the children, and to encourage us to pray a The Coronation with the Complete Illustrated Rosary (previously reviewed here) and the Prayer in Honor of the Queenship of Mary.

Leave Fellowship to the Holy Spirit

If there is one thing I have come to realize when planning feast day meet ups for Catholic homeschool friends, it is to trust that the Holy Spirit will ensure that just the right group of people shows up.  So, I simply plan to facilitate the party and ask a friend to host (which ensures at least two families in attendance), and then, put up a Facebook invitation, leaving the rest to the Holy Spirit, who always seems to prompt just the right mix of people to show up at any given feast day.

Enjoy Some Themed Fun

For the little in our group I will print out a free coloring page of the Cornonation and lead them in a fun little Marian Queenship song and game to the tune of Ring Around the Rosary from a cute little book called Joyful Noises.

The older children will get to enjoy having a water balloon fight with the Marian color Bunch O Balloons I have been saving since the Queenship of Mary is also my daughter's baptism anniversary and since it is summer, so water balloon fights are fun.

We may also a version of Queenie, Queenie, Whose Got the Ball, but with an adapted rhyme:

Queenie, Queenie, who has the ball?
Someone big or someone small?
We know Jesus loves us all.

We will also probably play chain tag, remembering we all seek to a share in the glory of Heaven one day as Mary does.  (See how to play below.)

Additional Resources to Read Yourself or to Share

There are some wonderful resources online that dive into the reasoning and meaning of the Queenship of Meaning, including:

Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Make Blueberry Mint Nice Cream for the Assumption {Snacking with the Saints}

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated annually on August 15 and is a Holy Day of Obligation.

Typically, besides participating in Mass, our family enjoys Assumption waffles...

 3 Ways to Celebrate the Assumption of Mary
3 Ways to Celebrate the Assumption of Mary

... and faith through food, fun, and fellowship.

Our Annual Celebration

This year, however, some other commitments will keep us from gathering at our friend's house. So, I have been trying to think of another fun and meaningful way to celebrate the feast day.

Today,when I stepped inside after a hot afternoon in order to make a cooling snack, an idea hit me: Nice Cream could be a perfect, refreshing, healthy, and meaningful treat on the Solemnity of the Assumption!

Why Blueberry Mint Nice Cream?

Blessing Fruits and Herbs is traditional on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so why not bless our gardens (as we have sometimes done with our friends in the past) and, then, make nice cream with blue and white fruit and fresh mint from our garden?

Blessing the Fruits and Herbs in Years Past

The blue and white fruits will remind us of Mary since they are her traditional colors. The mint will reminds us of the traditional Blessing of the Fruits and Herbs. And, the healthy no-sugar, plant-based, whole-foods recipe supports an idea which was well put on Teaching Catholic Kids, "the Assumption ...affirms the dignity of our earthly bodies. ...meant to be used for good, not abused..."

Blueberry Mint Nice Cream in Simple to Make

As soon as the idea of making Blueberry Mint Nice Cream on the Assumption hit me, I whipped up a test batch and decided my simple recipe is a keeper.

Marian Blueberry Mint Nice Cream has plenty of symbolism and is sugar-free and made with whole foods, which is wonderful for our bodies and for our remembrance of Mama Mary.

If you'd like to 
enjoy the recipe on the Solemnity of the Assumption, all you need are three ingredients and a food processor.

Marian Blueberry Mint Nice Cream

1 cup of sliced, frozen bananas
1 cup of frozen blueberries
a few leaves of fresh mint, plus extra mint from garnish

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy, pausing to scrape down sides of food processor as needed.
2. Scoop into serving dishes or cones and garnish with fresh mint if you like a soft serve consistency. If you like your nice cream a bit firmer, pop into the freezer for a bit before serving.

Or, if you have a child who dislikes bananas (like one of my children), you may prefer to try a second recipe I tested, which replaces the bananas with mango pieces (gold for Mary's crown in Heaven). The Crowned Mary Blueberry Mint Nice Cream was tasty and refreshing, too.

Crowned Mary Blueberry Mint Nice Cream

1 cup of sliced, frozen mango pieces
1 cup of frozen blueberries
a few leaves of fresh mint, plus extra mint from garnish

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy, pausing to scrape down sides of food processor as needed.
2. Scoop into serving dishes or cones and garnish with fresh mint if you like a soft serve consistency. If you like your nice cream a bit firmer, pop into the freezer for a bit before serving.
I look forward to this Snacking with the Saints treat on the Assumption and hope that however you celebrate the Solemnity, you have a beautiful and blessed feast day.

Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Get Homeschool Books at Wholesale Prices {A Library and Educational Services LLC REview}

Books and audiodramas.  If you love them like we love them, Library and Educational Services LLC is a service you need to know about! 

We recently has a chance to order Hiding in Plain Sight (a Lifehouse Theater On-the-Air audiodrama), Who Was Alexander the Great (from the Who Was series), and some beautiful Reinforced Hardcover Library Binding Nonfiction books from the History's Greatest Warriors series and the That's Me in History series, all of which came in speedily and have been being enjoyed by our family.

Oodles of Resources at Discount Prices!

Before I tell you more about the specific materials my family ordered from 
Library and Educational Services LLC, I want to explain a bit about the company.

Library and Educational Services LLC is a family-owned company based in Michigan that has been around for 40 years.  The company sells materials at 30%-70% off to libraries, schools, resellers, specialty stores, churches, missionaries, daycare centers, ministry leaders, and - how awesome is this - homeschoolers!  

They ship all over the world, including to military bases, have oodles and oodles of choices in their catalog, and are known for their knowledgeable, courteous, and outstanding service, with real, live people who answer questions and help you with your orders if you call.

Gotta love a wide selection of wonderful quality materials at low prices with real live people to help!

Something for Everyone

For our review, we were given a gift certificate of about $70 to spend on materials directly ordered from 
Library and Educational Services LLC.

After browsing the amazing amount of materials the company offers, I ended up picking the aud
odrama myself - a dramatization
based on truth called Hiding in Plain Sight - and, then, had each of my children pick one other book or series that they thought looked interesting.

This took some time since the company offers so many resources - paperbacks, CD's, DVD's, hardcovers, devotionals, Bibles... history, science, geography, nature, sports, fiction, children's books... and all vetted with the promise that:

"The CDs, DVDs, and books we choose to distribute are carefully selected to ensure they are not contradictory to Biblical standards and values.”

Finally, my youngest asked for
Who Was Alexander the Great, my middle child picked a 4-volume That's Me in History Series, and my oldest picking a 5-volume History's Greatest Warriors series.

Pleased with Our Selections and the Service

Once we ordered our materials, they came in super quickly, so we dove right into them.

My youngest immediately picked up one of his big brother's books and began reading it.

Then, since we had to head out that day, we popped Hiding in Plain Sight into our minivan CD-player and began listening to it.

My children had this to say about the audiodrama:

"I liked it. It was about a slave couple that escaped from Georgia in 1848." 
"I really like it! It was an audiodrama with many people doing voices and with sound effects. 
I also liked that they touched based on how slaves were punished, but had characters go away before it got too bad, so you heard about it, but not so graphically. It was realistic, but not overly gruesome. 
In the audiodrama, one slave had a white parent, so she looked white and, one day someone said, 'If I didn't know better, I would think she was white.' That sparked an idea. She and her husband decided that they would run away with her dressed up as a white man with a bad arm so she wouldn't have to write and a stinky poultice for at terrible toothache so people could not see she had no facial hair. Along the way, there were close calls, but they made it to freedom."
"It was about two slaves who escaped and pretended to be a white man and his slave. They went on trains and stuff and made it the north, but, then, had to go to England to escape slave catchers and laws. I liked it. It had action and character voices."

I found the story engaging and well told myself  - with enough realism not to gloss over true history, but enough sensitivity to keep it family friendly. I also liked the clear faith in Christ the main characters had!

(There is also a Ninja book, but, after it traveled through the hands of all three of my children, "wasn't me" misplaced it before I could get a picture of it. We think it is at a friend's house, since one of my children brought it to a friend's to show them some cool parts.) 

As for the other selections we picked, my oldest had this to say:

"I picked the History's Greatest Warriors Series because I liked the picture of the guy with the battle ax, and it looked like it might information for the fantasy novel I am in the midst of writing. 
When the books came in, I read every single one of them and found new facts in most of them. The Samurai and Ninja ones were the most informative for me, because I have not studied Asian warriors as much, but I liked the Gladiators one the best. It had the best images and was well written. 

Some interesting facts that were in the books were:

  • Ninjas could dislocate their jaws.
  • Gladiators were sometimes hired by emperors and politicians as bodyguards.
  • Samurai were mostly archers.
  • European doctors during the knights era knew little about medicine so many knights died from battle wounds.
  • The god Odin had nine daughters that flew over battle fields on winged horses and decided which vikings would live or die."

My youngest said:

"I picked Who Was Alexander the Great, because I like him. 
I learned that he killed his best friend in anger, because his best friend was saying that Alexander should not act like he was a god. Then, he lived in his tent with no food or drink for three days for penance. 

I also learned that there was a city on an island that no one could get to. Alexander wanted to conquer it, so he has his men dump rocks in the water and cover them with dirt and stuff to make a bridge to conquer it. 
I liked that there were larger font words and pictures. 

I also read my brother's books about Ninja, Samurai,Vikings, Gladiators, and Knights. I liked how they were written, and I liked the topics. I have already read them twice! 
I also read some of the Egypt and the Inquisition books my sister got. They are interesting."

My middle child has this to say:

"I picked the That's Me in History Series, because they looked easier to read than some books but did not look boring. 
I was right. I read parts of all of the books and they had stories and history. 
I liked the cover art and how they start out with a story, so it's like someone talking to you instead of just dry history. 

I also like that almost every page has some sort of illustration or picture to go with what they are saying.  
I also read my little brother's book Who Was Alexander the Great. I enjoyed it, because the Who Was series focuses on one person but includes little bits from the time period and how the person's life changed parts of the time period. 
When Alexander the Great's temper flared up, you did want to be the person he was angry at. He killed two people - once when he was drunk and once in a fit of rage. He did good stuff, too, but this is what stood out to me. 
I liked that the chapters were not that long and that there was a lot of white space on each page. The That's Me in History book had a smaller font and not as much white space. 
I also read parts of my older brother's Ninja book. It was neat the way they started off with the last ninja, but it was pretty disgusting that Ninja's dislocated their arms and jaws. 
The quality of all these books are good.  They are informative."

Without question, I am glad we did this review and am well-pleased with the quality of the materials we received and with the speedy service 
Library and Educational Services LLC offered. 

The fact that the company sells at wholesale prices to homeschoolers thrills me and I definitely recommend checking them out as you plan for your fall needs as well as for gift giving times.

Learn More

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Sunday, August 4, 2019

Saint Rocco with Kids {Snacking with the Saints}

{Disclosure: Some links which follow are affiliate ones.}

If you'd like a super simple snack to celebrate a saint day with, just
buy some spring water, a loaf of bread, and set these out on your table or picnic blanket on August 16 with an image or figurine of a dog and a picture of St. Rocco nearby.

That's what we'll be doing on St. Rocco's feast day.

We may enjoy some more fun and learning, too.


Recently, when I was paging through our copy of Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals, I noticed that one of the saints that the book it features - St. Rocco - has a feast day coming up. Then, not knowing much about the saint, I got curious and started researching...

Inspiration for a Simple St. Rocco's Feast Day Snack

Source: Wikimedia

As I began my research, I recalled a simple snack for St. Benedict's day that I'd seen on Catholic Cuisine, and thought, "Switch the bird for a dog and that's an easy peasy snack idea for St. Rocco's day that my children will love." (We don't eat a lot of bread here anymore, so bread is actually a treat for my children.)

Then, even though water may not seem very celebratory, I decided spring water would go perfectly, since, it is said spring water kept thirst at bay when St. Rocco was convalescing in the woods after contracting sickness while healing others with the plague.

My "Snacking with the Saints" was set.

A Prayer Before Snacking


Then, as I began researching more about St. Rocco. I found myself on the 
St. Rocco Society of Potenza page, where I found A Prayer to Saint Rocco which will be perfect between grace and enjoying our bread:

O Great St. Rocco, deliver us, we beseech you, from contagious diseases, and the contagion of sin. Obtain, for us, a purity of heart which will assist us to make good use of health, and to bear sufferings with patience. Teach us to follow your example in the practice of penance and charity, so that we may, one day enjoy the happiness of being with Christ, Our Savior, in Heaven. Amen.

We will also read the biography and reflection at Franciscan Media:

It is obvious that being well known or even recognizable are not necessary for sainthood. But service to the community through care for those in need–through miracles at his intercession–seem to suffice.

Additional Ideas for Celebrating St. Rocco's Feast Day

File:Åšw. ROCH..jpg
Source: Wikimedia

Other ideas popped into my head as I researched the saint, too. Perhaps one will inspire a feast day celebration for you and your children.

  • Remember that St. Rocco went out to care for the sick and visit or send a note to a sick friend. Alternately, go to a nursing home or hospital and offer to pray or visit with people.
  • Focus on the Sign of the Cross - and how St. Rocco cured people using it - by doing some free copywork or coloring of the prayer as found on Crusaders for Christ.
  • It is said that St. Rocco fasted twice a week as a pious practice when he was a child. Discuss the virtue of temperance and how we might choose to practice it.
  • Some say St. Rocco was born to wealthy parents who died by the time he was 20 years old, at which time St. Rocco distributed the fortune he inherited to the poor and devoted his life to serving people in need. Following his example, offer some of your own"riches" to others in need.
  • It is said that St. Rocco was born with an unusual, deep red mark on his chest in the shape of a cross as a sign that the Blessed Virgin Mary had heard and answered his mother's prayers for her barrenness to be healed. It is also said that it was the unique mark that helped identify St. Rocco at his death. Remembering this, pray for Mama Mary's intercession with a difficult issue and chat about physical and spiritual "marks" in our own lives that identify us
  • Go on a virtual tour to Venice, looking at some pictures and reading about St. Rocco, festivities for his feast day on DreamDiscoverItalia
  • Make dog treats as found on Saints, Feast, Family (and look at the beautiful prayers and images in the related post.
  • Go to a natural spring to draw water, go on a tour of a spring water place, or simply enjoy some fresh spring water, remembering how, when St. Rocco"was expelled from the town; and withdrew into the forest, where he made himself a hut of boughs and leaves, which was miraculously supplied with water by a spring that arose in the place; he would have perished had not a dog belonging to a nobleman named Gothard Palastrelli supplied him with bread and licked his wounds, healing them. Count Gothard, following his hunting dog that carried the bread, discovered Saint Roch and became his acolyte."
  • Some say that St. Rocco took refuge in a cave when he was banished. Enjoy a hike somewhere where there are cave-like structures.
  • Some say he slept on leaves. Practice survival skills making leaf beds and other wilderness beds.
  • Some say he took refuge in a remote hut, while others say he built a hut out of sticks and leaves. Design and build your own forest hut.
  • Remembering the dog that cared for St. Rocco, donate something to a dog shelter or give your own dog a special treat.

May learning more about St. Rocco bless you and yours and encourage you to come closer to Christ.

I would love to hear about your favorite traditions, resources, and ideas related to St. Rocco as well as any other Snacking with the Saint inspirations you might offer.

Saint Rocco, pray for us.


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