Friday, July 22, 2022

My Child's Go-To for Math Learning {A Homeschool Review Crew / Math Essentials Review}

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew. 

Some folks need their math learning to be unfold with a straight-forward, simple approach. I've got a kid like that and that is why we chose to review and use
 Mastering Essential Math Skills, Pre-Algebra Concepts from Math Essentials - a 120 page, softcover worktext written by "America's Math Teacher" Richard W. Fisher.

Like other Mastering Math Essential books, 
Pre-Algebra Concepts offers a concise, self-contained, easy-to-follow math program which includes a system of Review Exercises, Helpful Hints, Practice Problems, and Problem Solving (word problems) which can help students master, maintain, and reinforce math skills through consistent. incremental practice and review.

Each lesson in the book is meant to be completed in about 20 minutes and can be accompanied by free online video tutorials.

Topics included in the book are:

  • Positive and Negative Fractions
  • Positive and Negative Decimals
  • Exponents
  • Square Roots
  • Order of Operations
  • Properties of Numbers
  • Scientific Notation
  • Ratios & Proportions
  • Percents
  • Number Theory
  • Number Lines
  • Coordinate Planes
  • Slope of a Line
  • Graphing Equations
  • Solving Algebraic Equations
  • Algebraic Word Problems
  • Probability
  • Statistics

Our Experience

One of my children is veering away from homeschooling in the fall to try out technical high school. There, my child will have to take a traditional Algebra course. In order to ensure readiness for this, we decided to move through Mastering Essential Math Skills, Pre-Algebra Concepts so that the child can solidify foundational Pre-Algebra skills and have them fresh in mind for the fall.
This is what my child has to say about the Pre-Algebra worktext so far:

The Pre-Algebra book is a very thin book which makes it less foreboding. It does not make you think, "Oh my goodness. This is going to take for-e-ver to do," which is good.

When you got to a lesson, the page is split into multiple sections. The first one is Review Exercises so that is several questions about skills you've already learned.

After that review section, there is a Helpful Hints section which basically quickly goes over what you need to know to complete the problems in the lesson. You could probably just use the Helpful Hints to teach yourself without the online lessons, however, I would recommend using the online lessons because they are fairly quick and easy to follow.

After the Helpful Hints, you get two sample questions which someone else can go through with you to help you understand things better, or you can go ahead to do them by yourself. Then, there are the rest of the exercises for the lesson of the day.

At the very bottom of the lesson page there is a Problem Solving question. I sometimes miss these word problems. I forget they exist even though they are clearly on the page.

After all of the lessons in the book, you can find practice problems for each topic.

After those, there is a final review test. Then, there are Solutions (a answer key), a glossary, a list of symbols and their meaning and charts for multiplication, commonly used prime numbers, squares and square roots, and fractions and decimals.


Overall, I think that this is a good and easy program to follow with, however trying to access the online lessons does take multiple steps, signing in with your account password and signing in for the videos. I would like to see an easier process if possible in the future.

I would definitely recommend this book to people who want a compact way of going through Pre-Algebra and for students or parents who don't have or want a ton of time working together. This resource can be mostly self-paced with the video lessons.

Math Essentials is my choice for Middle and High School learning because it reviews what you have already learned so you don't forget it, teaches you in non-overwhelming increments, and there is no fluff.

Would I Recommend It

Mastering Essential Math Skills, Pre-Algebra Concepts from Math Essentials is a resource I would recommend with the following notes:

  • The lessons are concise and broken into parts. Each lesson is self-contained and written to be completed - sans video - within 20 minutes and, with the video, in perhaps a bit more or less, depending on the child. The program can also be used with a 15 minute timer. Since each lesson page is divided into Review Exercises, Helpful Hints, Practice Problems, and Problem Solving, it is easy to take break when a 15 minute timer goes off no matter if you have finished a lesson or gone onto the next one. Then, you can set another timer if you wish. Doing so can help children with focus while avoiding overwhelm.
  • If you have someone with dyslexia or vision issues, please note that the like other Math Essentials books, this one has little text and plenty of white space around problems.
  • A notebook of whiteboard could be helpful. Despite white space on the clean, no-nonsense pages of the worktext, students like mine may find that there is not enough space for to work out problems. Copying problems onto scrap paper, into a notebooks, or onto a small whiteboard one by one or in groups of 2-4 at a time to figure them out is an easy solution for this.
  • The online videos are helpful, but not necessary, depending on your child's style and the time you have on hand. A parent with some math skills could easily "teach" the lesson at hand using the Helpful Hints and sample problems. A child with some understanding of prior math skills could self-teach doing the same. Or, the video lessons can take students step by step through the material.
  • If you have a child that likes to cut corners, you may wish to tear our the answer key. Having the key IN the book is a blessing for kids, like mine, who wish to self-pace and self-correct, yet will come to you when help is needed. For others, the included answer key may be too much temptation for cutting corners.
  • For those with children who have memory issues, the glossary, symbols list, and tables at the end of the book is helpful. My child appreciates these in the Math Essentials books and has, at times, used them to check that basic facts and figures are being remembered correctly.
  • It really does get the job done. The child I have been using this worktext with truly appreciates the Math Essentials way of making math no-nonsense in book form and learns from it.
  • It recognizes some children need a bit more practice. Starting on page 66, the worktext has additional practice problems organized into sets of 20 problems per type, which can be quite helpful for students who need extra practice or want to go back to revise skills after learning other ones.
  • It does not leave you hanging. Starting on page 89, there is a Final Review. This, of course, can be used as a final test to see if students have gained mastery of concepts. It could also be used as a pre-test to indicate which skills and topics a student might want to focus the most on.
There are no bells, whistles, nor gimmicks with Mastering Essential Math Skills, Pre-Algebra ConceptsRather, like other Math Essentials worktexts, this one provides clear, concise, and well-designed review, practice, and application of math skills which can lead learners to greater confidence and success.

Get Three Months Free and Learn More

Math Essentials

Math Essentials has been generous enough to offer a coupon code for our readers to try free three-month trial for their video lessons!

Simply go to, then use the coupon code:


Thank you, Math Essentials!  Enjoy your free 3-month trial!

Master Math

Other Homeschool Review Crew families reviewed one of two Math Essentials titles. Click through to find links to all of each blog and social media review.

You may also wish to see our prior reviews of other Math Essentials products.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Each Book of the Bible in a Page {A Teach Sunday School / Homeschool Review Crew Review}

   Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew. 

In 2018, I reviewed Bible summary sheets by 
Teach Sunday School and thought they were well done, so when I was recently offered an opportunity to review their Bible Blueprints, of course, I said yes.

What Are Bible Blueprints?

Bible Blueprints are an easy-to-use, helpful resource that can be used onscreen, printed and bound, or printed off a page at a time to be used as a bookmark in your Bible or history studies.

Ideal for individual, family, or group studyBible Blueprints include a well-formatted, colorful, single page overview for every book in the New and Old Testaments (except for the Apocrypha of Dueterocanon that Catholics like me have in our Bibles).

Each sum
mary contains at-a-glance:

  • if the Bible book is in the Old or New Testament
  • the order of the book in the Old or New Testament
  • the number of chapters in the book
  • the Bible book genre or type, such as History, Pentateuch, Epistle, Prophecy, etc.
  • an overview of the book
  • when the book was written
  • the time period that the book covers
  • the author of the book
  • a brief overview of the book that includes essential content, background, and perspective

The resource also contains permissions "to print as many times as you would like for personal, family, or single church/school use," which is awesome for homeschoolers with large families and those that teach at co-ops and churches.

How Are We Using Them?

When I received a link to download my PDF copies of the Old Testament and New Testament Bible Blueprints, I knew that my children would not be able to use the resource during our review period because they were at an overwhelm point with existing lessons, work, and other commitments. I also knew that I could use it myself and save it for my children's later use. Perfect!

Since I have been wanting to read both Psalms and Proverbs all the way through lately, I turned to the blueprints for those first.

At first, I was surprised that the Psalms blueprint did not have many actual sentences on it, but, quickly, I understood how the overview of the book was made.

Then, I saw the Proverbs one and appreciated the blueprints more.

As life would have it, though, I ended up pausing my rereads of these two books, so did not end up turning to the two first blueprint pages I looked at first as often as I thought I would.

Instead, I began using the blueprints to give myself context for Sunday Mass readings, looking up what books each reading for Mass would be taken from and then quickly reading the blueprint of these books.

As someone who knows some Bible verses, can retell various Bible stories, has read parts of the Bible, has no problem sharing Biblical truths, yet who also is not good at instantly putting together the big picture of who said what when in the Bible and in history, the Bible Blueprints became a handy tool for putting things all together and in context.

I can see myself continuing to refer to it. I can also see my daughter printing out a page of it to use as a bookmark to reference as she reads and studies her Bible in the fall.

Would I Recommend Them?

As long as you don't mind that the Bible Blueprints are short the seven additional books that we Catholics include in the Bible, I would recommend this resource as a well-laid out, easy-to-use tool that can help you, your children, or your students quickly gain a clearer understanding of the sequence and flow of the Bible.

The Blueprints could be used to help you get context and an overview for readings before Mass or can be used for similar purposes before you dig into studying a particular book of the Bible.

The Blueprints would also be handy for using in conjunction with history studies.

Or, if you want to add a bit of fun to your home or classroom, they could act as a resource for Bible trivia or Jeopardy-style games. With the type of book, author of Bible books, time Bible books were written, and overview, it would quick and easy for an MC to make up on the spot questions and prompts.

Bible Blueprints certainly provide well-organized, easy-to-digest, visually-appealing, one-page snapshots of Old and New Testament books in the Bible. 

Learn More

Bible Overview 

Over 30 Homeschool Review Crew families have been using Bible Blueprints in various ways.  Check out the other reviews for more ideas on how to use this wonderfully handy product.

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Sunday, July 10, 2022

3 Things that Can Change a Family's Day


You must open your eyes wide so that you can see the opportunities to give free service, wholehearted, right where you are, in your family.

~ St. Teresa of Calcutta 

I read these words the other day and thought, "Yes, indeed, we must, and my daughter is such a model of this for me."

Whether she is making a cake for her father, but leaving the strawberries off a portion of it because she knows her brother does not like them...

... or going out to care for our gardens before I get to it...

...or offering to do someone's else's chores..

...or declaring, "I can help with that," while she jumps in to action before even being asked, my daughter makes efforts every single day to bless each person in our home with a kindness.

Sometimes, her efforts go unnoticed or get taken for granted, but she does not let that stop her. Recognition and thanks are not her goal. Simply noticing the needs and wants of others in our family and making concerted efforts to offer little acts of service with a smile or a word of encouragement or gratitude is. 

Her efforts are truly beautiful and the timing of them is often uncanny. So often, just when I get stuck in the mire of day-to-day life, her direct acts of service for me or the witness of her acts for others move me back to where I am meant to be.

As my daughter's Confirmation St. Therese said:

A word or a smile if often enough to put fresh life in a despondent soul.

Oh how very true that is. 

Open eyes, service within family, and a smile bring such fresh life. These three things can make such an impact on a family.

I encourage you - and me! - to open your eyes today to whatever service you can freely offer to others in your family and, while acting on what comes to mind, to smile.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Top 10 Tips for a Boy Going Away to Summer Camp for the First Time

Today, we dropped our youngest son off at a wonderful Catholic boy camp that he is participating in for the second year in a row.

I wish I could be there when he opens his bags tonight and starts finding the many paper hearts his sister and I cut out, wrote simple and silly messages on, and tucked into his clothes, his sleeping bag, his Bible... I am sure his expression will be priceless.

I am also sure he won't be expecting to have been "hearted", since last year I wrote him a full page letter for each day.

I do hope, though, that he will remember the Top Ten Tips for Camp that I included in his first day letter. 

I will share them here, followed by my closing words to him, in case you'd like to use them as a model for your own child as he goes off to camp.

Ten Tips for Camp

  • 10. Use your Repel! Seriously. You don’t want bug bites ballooning up and you also want to try to keep ticks away.

  • 9. Speaking of tick, tick check often and well, please. Seriously, buddy. Those things can be so tiny and hard to miss and they also can be damaging. So, do use your eyes and hands to do thorough tick checks, and, if you find one on yourself that you cannot get off, go see an adult for help.

  • 8. Initiate new friendships while enjoying your current ones. Have so much fun with A and whichever other friends might surprise you by being there. Also, make new friends. Learn about where other people are from, what they are like, what they do. It can be such fun to build relationships with people from different places.

  • 7. Have fun! And, if you find that you’re not having fun, go find some. So many opportunities await you…

  • 6. Be courageous and take chances - but be careful, too.  With unwavering courage, try new things and enjoy learning more about other things - archery, shooting, sailing, crazy camp foods...Whatever opportunities arise, as long as you can tackle them with virtue and safety, go for it! This is your time for adventure and growth. Embrace it, even if it means being the first one to step forward…

  • 5. Yet, don’t be afraid to step back or away when you need to. Sometimes we all need a bit of space, a time to pause, some sleep or just time to be. So, if you feel like you need to recharge, rest, think, pray, pause, rest, sleep, as long as it’s an appropriate time to do so, just do it. It’s totally okay, too. It’s even wise.

  • 4. Don’t forget to shower, brush your teeth, and change your underwear. Momma didn’t buy you all those new undies so you could wear one pair all week and, trust me, your bunkmates and new friends will appreciate it if your breath is not terrible and you don’t smell. God gave you one body only - take care of it!

  • 3. Did I mention have fun? Yes, I know I did, but I cannot help but to mention it again. I am just so excited for you that you get to have this opportunity. I never had an opportunity like this as a child and your brother and sister have yet to have one either. This week is a special thing. Enjoy it fully!

  • 2. Know that we love you! Whole big, great big bunches. Dad, Mom, Luke, and Nina all love you, and Mommy will be praying your Guardian Angel watches over you well and that you grow in stature, wisdom, and joy while you are there - but not too much. You’re already growing too fast for me. Yes, Son, you may be becoming quite a young man - venturing away to camp for a week and all - but you’ll always be my little boy, I love and treasure you!

  • 1. Unwrap the gift of the precious present you are living and, even if only for a few minutes each day, jot down some of your memories - things you are loving about camp, challenges you’ve faced, funny things, thoughts, emotions, beautiful and cool things you notice… whatever stands out strongly in your mind each day. I cannot wait to hear about it all. 

I have no doubt you will experience great blessings and adventure this week! You’ve always loved being outside, noticing nature, laughing, playing, and adventuring with friends… You’ve got a great heart and are affable. You’ll be being led by some fantastic men of faith. 

Oh, Son, I am just so excited for you and for the way this week may help you grow in relationship with Christ, others, yourself, and nature. Part of me, of course, wants to slow down time and keep you young forever. Another part cannot wait to see what comes next for you.

Enjoy this week without parental rules, siblings, chores… Praise God for the blessings of it.

I love you whole big, great big bunches!


P.S. Are you having fun yet???  Go have fun!


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