Category Archives: Homeschool Resources

CTC Math Revisited (Crew Review)

CTC Math
We first tried out CTC Math during Ian’s Kindergarten year, using it to supplement the math program we were currently using.  However, I was eager for a chance to review their 12-month family plan again, because this time around I wanted to try using it as a stand alone curriculum as Ian heads into 2nd grade (as well as for Elijah and a buddy, who age-wise are just old enough to start Kindergarten but academically could handle some more advanced math).

About CTC Math

CTC Math is an online math tutor that provides a complete math curriculum for grades K-6, as well as solid teaching to help supplement students’ current curriculum in higher math (through trigonometry and calculus).  Each student has access to the complete program, so there’s no need for them to be limited to just one grade level.  Lessons can be completed on any computer or tablet connected to the Internet.

In Kindergarten through 6th grade, the lessons cover four main streams:

  1. Numbers, Patterns, and Algebra
  2. Measurement
  3. Space and Geometry
  4. Statistics and Probability

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Each of those streams contains multiple topics, which in turn contain multiple lessons.

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I’m not sure if every grade level is the same, but the 2nd grade program contains 95 lessons total.  The lessons don’t have to be completed in any particular order, so students can work their way through however they choose (or how you direct).

Though there’s no placement test to determine grade level, each topic does have two optional diagnostic tests that can be used as a pretest to help you see if your child needs to go through those particular lessons.  (They’re also helpful as a way of determining whether the child has mastered the topic after completing the lessons.)  If there are lessons they already know, you can just elect to have them move on.  They’re not required to complete every lesson before moving up to the next grade.

The lessons consist of two parts: a video tutorial and a series of questions.  The tutorials are very thorough and cover everything the student will need to know to complete the questions.  If they feel confident, they can skip right to the questions.  If they need to go back and watch the video again, that’s easy to do as well.  Consequently, the students are able to work through the program with very little assistance.

In addition to the lessons, students can practice their math facts by going through the “Speed Skills.”  My boys both worked hard to beat their records for how many facts they could answer before their 60 seconds were up, providing lots of facts practice.

Our Experience With CTC Math

There are many things I love about CTC Math, but the thing that stands out the most to me is its flexibility.  I was using it with three students, with a slightly different approach for each of them.

For Ian, I just wanted a comprehensive math program that covered everything he needed to know and allowed him to work independently (since we tend to get into math battles when I’m trying to teach him).  As long as he achieved a passing score on his lessons (it’s set at 90% but parents can change that if they so choose), I let him work through them on his own.  If he scored lower I did make him repeat the lesson, but other than that I let him be pretty much self-directed as far as choosing which lessons to work through or whether or not he wanted to repeat a lesson.

Elijah and his friend both of them have a natural affinity for mathematical concepts, so I was less concerned about covering everything and more focused on just providing some stimulation to encourage them to keep learning on their own.  Whereas Ian finds math a chore to be completed, for these two, math time is more like fun computer games.  They were both full of smiles, squeals, and giggles going through their lessons.

Elijah was already familiar with CTC Math, so I started him out in the 1st grade lessons, even though he was following along with Ian’s 2nd grade lessons really well.  He’s a perfectionist, so he insisted on working through each and every lesson, not content with anything other than the “Platinum” level, which means having 100% on every lesson.  When calculating the student’s level, CTC Math uses an average of the last three scores, so if Elijah missed even one question, he would go back and do that lesson over and over again until he had three 100% scores in a row to maintain his Platinum status.  (That could get a little frustrating when a wrong answer stemmed from typing mistakes!)

“Buddy” was new to CTC Math, so we started him out at the Kindergarten level, going through the diagnostic tests to see which lessons he would really benefit from doing.  Once he’d passed all the diagnostic tests and covered a few lessons to fill in some gaps, he was thrilled to be moving on to 1st grade as well.  I love that this program works so well with gifted kids who need to move at a quicker pace rather than being locked into a grade level just because of their age!

Strengths and Weaknesses

For the most part, CTC Math met my expectations as far as being a program the boys could do independently.  One problem we have encountered with online math programs is that they don’t always provide enough instruction.  That is definitely NOT the case with CTC Math.  Every lesson does an excellent job of teaching the concept, and if I ever saw the boys struggling with a question, it usually meant they hadn’t paid close enough attention to the video.  Once they went back and watched it again, they were able to get through the questions easily.

The only time we had some difficulties was when it came to money problems.  They use dollar and half-dollar coins much more than people encounter in real life, but that my boys found that fascinating since they rarely see those coins so I didn’t really mind.  The real issue I had was the availability (or lack thereof) of virtual coins to help work through the problems.

For example, at the first grade level in the lesson on “Getting Change,” Elijah was able to manipulate virtual coins to help him find the answers.

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This was really helpful because everything was visual and he didn’t have to keep track of anything in his head.  However, when Ian started working through the second grade “Getting Change” lesson, he was out of luck.  The lesson video showed coins, which helped teach the concept.

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Yet when it came time for Ian to answer questions on his own, there were no tools available to help him.

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After trying to talk him through it using mental math, I realized he just wasn’t going to be able to do these problems on his own at the computer.  We ended up breaking out some real money and he sat down at the table to figure out each problem.


It didn’t take him long to catch on, and it was great for him to have the hands-on experience, but I wish the virtual coins had been available to use in second grade just like they were in first.  Sometimes we do our lessons on the go (e.g. at the library or Grandma’s house), and this particular lesson wouldn’t have worked well for him away from home since he needed more than just the computer.

That was the only lesson we really had any trouble with.  As I said before, there is no suggested order to the lessons so I just let the boys pick which ones they wanted to do each day.  For the most part we’ve been fine with that, but occasionally I wonder a lesson would have been easier if they’d done a different one first.

My Overall Thoughts on CTC Math

If you’re looking for a complete online math curriculum that allows students to work independently, CTC Math is a great option.  We’ve used several online math programs, and this is by far the best when it comes to TEACHING, rather than just practicing.  The videos are clear and concise, laying out everything the student needs to know in order to complete the lesson.

I especially recommend it for families with multiple students, or students who might want to work through more than one grade level in a year.  The 12-month family plan provides full access to every grade level for up to 2 or more students for just $118.80 (this is the 60% homeschool discount), so CTC Math is much more affordable than purchasing multiple grade levels worth of curriculum.  They even offer a free trial, so if you’re still searching for the right math program for your family, be sure to check it out!

CTCmath Review
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History Cycle Year 1 Resources (1st Grade)

This year as Ian went through 1st grade we began our four year history cycle, covering the time from Creation through the Roman Empire.  At first I tried to settle on a “spine” to provide structure for our year, but eventually I decided that for this first time through it was more important to me to give Ian a general feel for each time period and people group we studied.  I ended up turning more to “living books” and videos that helped him get a sense of what was going on in each time and place. We also kept a notebook of the things we learned about (though I must admit we slacked on that as the months went by).

I’ve come across a lot of great resource lists for older students, but at times I found it challenging to find age-appropriate books and videos for a 1st grader, so I thought I’d look back over our year and put together a list of some of the things I discovered that work well for younger students.  (Includes affiliate links.)

History Cycle 1

Year-Long Resources We Drew From Selectively:

Primeval History (Including Creation, the Flood, Dinosaurs, and Early Civilizations)




Notebooking Resources

Ancient Egypt




God’s People/Ancient Israel



  • Joseph: King of Dreams
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat While the cover of the DVD touts it as the “classic family musical,” THIS IS ONE TO KEEP THE REMOTE HANDY ON!  We completely skipped the scene with Potiphar’s wife because the costumes were so inappropriate.  There were a few other scenes that had some questionable costuming as well but I let them pass because it wasn’t as obvious and Ian didn’t seem to notice.  It’s really too bad, because the music itself is very family friendly (with the exception of Potiphar’s wife saying, “Come and lie with me, love,” but since that’s pretty much what the Bible records, I’m not going to complain).
  • Wars of Humanity combo pack and Jericho: The Promise Fulfilled from Shatterpoint Entertainment

Ancient Greece



Notebooking Resources

Greece Lapbook 1

Roman Empire



  • Friends and Heroes (animated series; 3 seasons, covering early Christians in Alexandria, Jerusalem, and finally Rome, A.D. 69-71, including the siege and fall of Jerusalem;includes Bible stories in each episode)
  • The Perpetua Story (from the Torchlighters series, about an early Christian martyr)
  • Polycarp and Perpetua, (documentary about two early Christian martyrs, not necessarily written for children, but contained many dramatizations and kept Ian’s attention)

If I come across other resources that are good for this age, I’ll add them to the list.  If you have some favorites that eluded us, please tell us about them in the comments!

Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story (DVD Review for the Crew)

Looking for a place to find inspiring movies to entertain your family?  I recently learned about, a company dedicated to providing families with quality Christian entertainment, when they offered us a chance to review the DVD Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story, part of a series about famous Christians throughout history.


About was started by a Turkish Christian named Dr. Enis Sakirgil after he helped produce a film about the Apostle Paul as a way of letting western Christians know about the rich biblical history of his home country.  Turkey is one of the nations least reached with the gospel, so when Dr. Sakirgil and his family immigrated to the United States, he began selling the film (Apostle Paul and the Earliest Churches) online, as well as other Christian movies, as a way of helping a radio ministry back in Turkey. is currently based in Mora, Minnesota, and the company’s goal is to “glorify God though amazing customer service, quality Christian content, creating honorable jobs, and expanding the Kingdom of God in Turkey.” offers a wide selection of Christian and family-friendly movies of many different types, and all orders over $35 have free shipping.  By purchasing movies from, you can help support their vision of ministry while providing quality entertainment for your family.

About Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story

john wesley_zpsuzhewumnMembers of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were offered several different DVD selections from  Our family was excited to receive Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story, part of a series from the Christian History Institute designed for children ages 8-12 (though my 3, 5, and 7-year olds have enjoyed all the episodes we’ve seen).  We have already used several of the Torchlighters videos about heroes of the faith as part of our school experience, but this was the first time my children had ever heard about John Wesley.

The 30 minute video starts with a dramatic scene in which young John Wesley is saved from a fire in his family home.  As his parents praise God for sparing their son, they tell John that God must have a very special purpose for his life. John grows up doing his best to prove himself worthy of his rescue that memorable night.

At university, he and his friends form a “Holy Club,”  supporting and encouraging one another in practicing prayer, fasting, Bible study, and other habits of righteousness.  He and his brother Charles even travel from England to America to preach the gospel, but they are frustrated by the lack of fruit from their labors. Eventually they are both led to a fuller understanding of God’s grace, and it radically transforms their lives and ministries.  When he is rejected from many churches after telling people that they are all sinners in need of God’s grace, he begins preaching in the fields, readily accepted by people who have no doubt as to their own wretchedness.  He even preaches to a mob trying to kill him.  Many people receive his message of God’s love, and the rest of his life is spent serving the Lord by spreading the good news of His love for all people.

In addition to the main video, the DVD also includes several helpful bonus features.  There is a 51 minute documentary about the beginning of the Methodist movement that arose from John Wesley’s ministry.  There are also study guides that you can access by opening the DVD-ROM on your computer.  (They are also available to download from the Torchlighters website.)  While these resources are a little beyond my children right now, they are definitely something we will revisit as they get older and we study church history in more depth.

Our Thoughts

The dramatic beginning captured my children’s attention right away.  I imagine some sensitive children might be bothered by the scenes involving the fire and the shipwreck, but for us it just added to the excitement of the story.

I loved the beautiful message of salvation by grace.  After years of righteous living, trying to prove himself worthy of God’s salvation as a child, John learns that he cannot earn his way into heaven.  I think that is such an important lesson for all of us, but especially for children who grow up in Christian homes who may be tempted to trust in their good behavior and righteous choices as proof of their salvation.  This is definitely a message I will want to revisit many times as my children grow up, and I’m thankful for this DVD as a way to help instill in my children an understanding that they can never earn God’s salvation but only receive it as a gift given freely in love.

I’m so glad to know about, and we’ll certainly be looking to them in the future when seeking to purchase Christian DVDs.  I love that I can help support the spread of the kingdom of God in Turkey by purchasing through them, especially when it’s something our family would be buying anyway.  Be sure to click on the banner below to see what other Crew members thought of this DVD and many others available from! Review
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Knights and Nobles Unit Study (Crew Review)

Homeschool Legacy
If you follow my blog regularly, you’re probably already aware that we spent our last four weeks of school going through a Knights and Nobles unit study.  It’s one of the “Once-A-Week Unit Studies” from Homeschool Legacy, and we were blessed with the chance to review it as a fun way to finish up our school year learning more about one of Ian’s favorite subjects.



Ian pulled out lots of his favorite books to go along with our study.


About Homeschool Legacy’s Once-A-Week Unit Studies

The Once-A-Week Unit Studies are designed to provide a break during your typical homeschool week with a day to focus on the topic being studied.  Aside from the reading suggestions, which are intended to be used each day, all the activities can be done in a single day, providing a break from your regular curriculum to have fun learning about a specific topic.  The studies are even designed to help Boy Scouts and American Heritage girls meet the requirements for specific merit badges. (Boy Scouts can earn their Art Merit Badge by completing the activities in Knights and Nobles).

There is no prep work required apart from gathering materials and library books (and even the library lists are designed to be as easy to use as possible, arranged numerically by Dewey decimal numbers.)  Simply add the family read-aloud and some free read choices to your school week during the four days you work on your regular curriculum, and then on your chosen day, pick up the unit study and work through the activities, which cover Bible, history, literature, science, art, and various other subjects.  The whole family can work together on unit study day, as they are designed for grades 2-12 (and younger learners can easily tag along).

About Knights and Nobles

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Knights and Nobles is available as a paperback book or as a “Grab-N-Go” download from the Homeschool Legacy website.  I received the downloadable 40-page ebook that contains everything needed for a 4-week unit study (with an optional 5th week).

Each week focuses on a different aspect of life in the middle ages and includes a passage of Scripture for family devotions, as well as a novel for the family read aloud (and numerous suggestions for free reading related to the week’s topic).

Week 1: Castles

Learn about how castles (and cathedrals) were designed and built and have a family night playing games popular back in the middle ages.


Week 2: Kings and Queens

This week covers topics like King Arthur, illuminated manuscripts, and the tradition behind “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.”

Week 3: Knights

Archery, catapults, coats of arms, and chivalry are all discussed in this week on knights.


Week 4: Life on a Manor

Learn about the different jobs people did to help keep a manor running and what life was like for those who lived there.

An optional fifth week involves preparing a traditional medieval feast.

Our Experience

Ian has always been fascinated by the subject of knights and castles, so we were really excited to get a chance to review this unit study, especially because we’ll be covering the middle ages next year in our history cycle.  Ian’s at the young end of the target age range, just finishing up first grade, so there were a few things we adapted to make it work for our family (like the design for the catapult), but for the most part we were able to follow the study as written.

My favorite part of Knights and Nobles was the use of classic literature for the family read-alouds.  We did well with the first two weeks (The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli and The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla), but the others (The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle and Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray Vining)  were much longer and seemed more appropriate for older students, so I didn’t even attempt them because I knew it would take us far more than a week to get through each of them.  Instead, we read other stories about King Arthur and used other free-read books throughout those weeks.

There were many helpful free-read suggestions given, and I just printed out the pages with the book lists to take with us to the library.  (I found some of the Dewey decimal numbers were slightly different at our library after looking for books I knew must be there but had to look up after not finding them under the given number.)  Even if we could find every specific book listed, just being in the right section led us to lots of books from which to choose.  I just made one trip to the library and got everything we needed right at the beginning.  Then I set out the books on each topic at the beginning of the week.

I really appreciated the suggestions for being intentional about including dad in what the family is learning.  It was hard not to draw him in, since so much of our family life revolved around the unit study during those four weeks.  We left our basket of related books out in the living room so he was asked to read from them almost every night. The unit study had great suggestions for family movie/game nights.  We even managed a family field trip to Medieval Times to watch knights competing in a tournament.  It got all of us excited about starting up our history lessons when we go back to school in a few months.

If you want to see more about what Knights and Nobles looked like for our family, check out the last four Weekly Wrap-Ups from our 2014-15 school year.  Also, be sure visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew site to see what my fellow Crew members thought of this unit study and many of the others available from Homeschool Legacy.

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Wordsbright Review
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S is for Smiling Sunrise (Crew Book Review)

Sunrise Review
With so many alphabet books out there, how do you begin to pick which one to read with your preschooler?  S is for Smiling Sunrise by Vick Wadhwa, the first publication from WordsBright, seeks to stand out from the crowd with a unique approach to the ABCs.

About the Book

Rather than using a typical simple phonetic “A is for apple” approach, S is for Smiling Sunrise focuses on positive concepts of goodness, beauty and wonder.  Each letter has its own page in the hardcover book, complete with colorful, eye-catching illustrations and a rhyme to elaborate on the focus word.

On the WordsBright website there is a free downloadable mp3 with the words of the entire book set to music (using the tune of the “Alphabet Song”).  The website also has two free teacher’s guides available to download with tips for using the book with children in Pre-K and K to 3.  The guide for younger children is fairly short but has helpful suggestions for using the book in a way that grows with your child.  The guide for older children is much more involved, with further explanation, discussion questions, vocabulary, and activity ideas related to each letter and its concept.  (For example, on “J is for Jewelry,” there are suggestions for exploring the idea of inner beauty versus outer beauty, the difference between dreams and goals, an activity of making a necklace or bracelet, etc.)

Our Experience

We try to choose books for our family that glorify God and help our children get to know Him better, and while S is for Smiling Sunrise never mentions God or spiritual matters specifically, many of the concepts it touches on lend themselves to discussions about how God is the ultimate source of beauty and goodness.  Arianna (age 3) loved reading through the book with me and often went back to it to flip through the pages and look at the pictures on her own.  Her attention span isn’t always capable of going through each page in its entirety, but we followed the suggestion in the teacher’s guide to just read the headline words at first.  If she’s really in a cuddly mood I can usually get through the rhymes on about half the letters, but it’s helpful to have the shorter option available.

Though the book is intended to be sung to the tune of the alphabet song, rhythmic purists such as myself might find that difficult.  The rhythm of the words varies from letter to letter, so if you want to be able to sing as you read, it’s really helpful to listen to the song ahead of time so you know which words to draw out or hurry through.  (In other words, it’s not as precise as an old hymn where there’s one syllable per note and even unfamiliar verses are easy to sing because they stick with that structure.)  Of course, you can just improvise and it will work equally well.  The musical side of me found this slightly frustrating as I tried to sing through the book, but I know most people aren’t so particular, so the song could be a fun tool for them.  Since some of the rhymes were a bit of a stretch as well, I opted to just read the words as prose without attempting to fit them into any sort of rhythm and enjoyed the book much more that way.

All in all I’d say S is for Smiling Sunrise is a cute book with admirable intentions and fun, colorful pictures that capture my little ones’ attention.


Wordsbright Review
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Wrapping Up Week 36 (2014-15)

weekly wrap-up
Hallelujah, we crossed the finish line for our school year!  Granted, we sort of crawled across on our hands and knees, but we made it.  I’m not even going to let myself feel guilty about the fact that our last week consisted only of Ian’s online math work (, Mathletics, and La La Logic) and a few books to finish up our Knights and Nobles unit study from Homeschool Legacy, for two basic reasons.

  1. I’ve spent years in traditional elementary classrooms, both as a student and a teacher.  I guarantee that more learning happened this week in our home than gets accomplished in 99% of classrooms during the last week of school.
  2. Even when we’re officially on a break, plenty of learning happens simply because of the environment in our home.  For example, today (the first official day of summer break, and a Saturday to boot), Ian wanted to break out our Young Scientists Set and work on experiments from our final remaining kit.  I know there will be plenty of learning going on during our summer break, so who cares if we had a light last week of school, right?

I know most families still have a few (or several weeks) left, so take a deep breath and remember that the end is in sight!  (And when our family dives back into school in July, you can smile to yourself knowing that you’ve still got a few more weeks to relax.)

Here’s to the first day of our summer holiday!


Upcoming Reviews

We’ll still be reviewing several products through our summer “break.”  Watch for these reviews in the next few weeks!

La La Logic (Crew Review)

LaLaLogic Collage
As our third preschooler, Arianna usually ends up with her brothers’ educational hand-me-downs, so I was excited to get the chance to review a new product with her.  La La Logic‘s Preschool Curriculum focuses on developing critical thinking skills, and we had barely started using it before I was wishing I had had it for my older boys a few years ago!

What is it?

La La Logic’s curriculum is intended for children ages 3-6.  Rather than focusing on academic skills such as reading and arithmetic like many other preschool programs, La La Logic concentrates on developing cognitive skills such as problem solving and logic, seeing these as the building blocks needed for future learning.  By focusing on areas like visual-spatial recognition, working memory, attention, and fluid reasoning, children’s capacity for learning is increased and they will be more prepared for the academic tasks ahead of them, whether their future lies in homeschooling or a traditional classroom setting.

There are two main components to the La La Logic curriculum:

  • The online “Brain Challenges” are essentially computer activities modeled after questions found on children’s IQ tests.  Each week’s brain challenge contains several puzzles or games for the child to work through.

La La Logic Review

  • Additional offline activities are provided in the weekly lesson plans.  These downloadable files typically include a worksheet of some sort (with practice in writing, drawing, cutting, classifying, etc.) and extension activities. 
    La La Logic Review
    In the lessons we went through, the offline portion usually consisted of a story with suggestions for related enrichment activities such as science experiments, poetry, copywork, or artist’s study. (“Use an internet search engine to find ‘Claude Monet water lilies images’. Ask your child to describe one of the paintings and how it makes him/her feel. Be sure to take time to observe the colors and the brush strokes. Invite your child to paint a scene inspired by Monet.” — from Week 5)

The two parts of the program function independently, so it’s possible to use either one without the other.  If you only want to use the online activities, you can just use the “Continuous Brain Challenge Mode,” which allows the child to work through all the online activities without interruption, rather than breaking them up by weeks.

There are 100 weeks of lessons (20 sets of 5 weeks each), increasing in difficulty as the child progresses.  For older children who could use more of a challenge, it is recommended to do 2 weeks at the same time, with activities from one week in the morning and those from the other in the afternoon.

Our Experience

Our desktop computer with a regular mouse is down, so I started out all the kids on my laptop, which proved challenging for Arianna.  I helped her with the mouse and she did okay on everything except activities that required her to drag.  Thankfully, the program also works great on tablets, so I switched her over to our Kindle Fire and she found it much easier.


At first, I tried using both parts of the curriculum as intended, week by week.  I printed the lesson plans and put them in a binder in page protectors.  The checklists and many of the worksheets can be filled out with a dry erase marker to be reused with the next child to save printing costs.  Arianna had trouble with some of the cutting worksheets, so I saved the pieces Elijah cut (or cut a new set for her myself) and tucked them in the page protectors so she could do the activities multiple times.

Eventually, however, we ended up just using the online portion of the program, which is fabulous on its own. I ended up using it with all three older kids, each in slightly different ways:

  • Arianna (age 3) was the main user of the program. She begged me every morning to let her get on the Kindle Fire to do it.  She definitely benefited from the way it is set up to use one week at a time, with repeated exposure to the same set of games.  I had her stick with the week’s activities, showing her how to do each one the first day, and then being there to assist if she needed help when she repeated those activities throughout the rest of the week.  She enjoyed the offline activities, though as I mentioned before, she had a little trouble with some of the ones that required cutting.
  • Elijah (age 5) wasn’t necessarily challenged by any of the activities the way Arianna was, but he definitely enjoyed them regardless.  Elijah is my “thinker,” and he loved the logic behind the online puzzles.  The offline activities we tried were all really easy for him, but he eagerly participated in them.  He didn’t need the repetition like Arianna, so after the second week I let him start checking off each week as being “completed” as soon as he had gone through it once.
  • Ian (age 7) is older than the target audience for La La Logic, but he saw what the younger kids were doing and wanted a turn.  I only had him do the online Brain Challenges, and he completed two weeks worth of activities each day as part of his regular math routine.  He found the program easy, but he looked forward to it each day.  (I could have just had him use the “Continuous Brain Challenge Mode,” but I liked having a defined set of activities for him to work through each day.)

My Thoughts on La La Logic

La La Logic was pure learning fun.  I loved that there were no penalties for wrong answers, no scores to distract my perfectionist (who will do a math lesson as many times as it takes to get 100%), and no competition between kids.  It was just a fun time for them to stretch their brains a little bit while solving puzzles.

As I’ve mentioned before, as the mother of many I am much more inclined to buy products I can use with multiple children over the years.  So one of my favorite things about La La Logic is that it has a lifetime membership which allows you to track the progress for up to five children.  There’s no rushing to try to get through all the lessons before a subscription expires so the program is very flexible.  At only a $29 one-time cost per family, La La Logic is a great investment for families with preschool aged students.  The online content alone is well worth the price, but with the offline enrichment activities included as well, this is a incredible value, especially since it can be used with multiple children as they become ready.

The only improvement I would suggest would be a way to print out the offline activities all at once (or at least in larger sections), rather than just week by week.  I would have been more inclined to continue using that part of the program if such an option had been available.

I was really impressed with the care that went into preparing each activity in La La Logic’s Preschool Curriculum (both online and offline) and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in helping their preschool aged child develop critical thinking skills.  This is one of my favorite preschool products out of everything we’ve used over the years!

La La Logic Review
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Wrapping Up Week 35 (2014-15)

weekly wrap-up
The end is so close we can taste it!  This week Ian finished up Level B of Spelling You See, so he gets to take a break until we start second grade in July.  Since he completed the first grade work in Mathletics already, I let him choose what he wanted to do for math each day, and he alternated between Mathletics and GPALOVEMATH.  He’ll work on 2nd grade lessons in both of those until I settle on what we’ll officially use next year.  The bulk of our week, however, was spent on the Knights and Nobles unit study from Homeschool Legacy.

“Knights and Nobles” Week 3: Knights

This week our focus was on knights, a subject that has long interested Ian.  He enjoyed everything we did this week as part of the unit study.



We already have so many books about knights, I didn’t bother trying to hunt down most of the free reads suggested in Knights and Nobles at the library.

The favorite book for both boys was Imagine You’re a Knight by Phillip Steele.  It has several projects included, such as constructing a knight’s helmet, and knight and horse paper dolls.  Ian had already completed the projects when Grandma first brought the book home from England last year, but there are little pockets to keep them in, so both he and Elijah enjoyed getting them out again and playing with them.  The book also is packed with information and fascinating illustrations.

Other picture books we read this week were Young Lancelot by Robert D. San Souci and The Making of a Knight by Patrick O’Brien.  Our chapter book was The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla.  Ian and I took two weeks to read through it together, and we both really enjoyed the story.  I was unfamiliar with Bulla until I saw his books suggested on the Ambleside Online site as beginning chapter books.  While this book was easy enough for Ian to read, it was so well written that it didn’t feel awkward for me to read aloud (as I’ve noticed with other easy chapter books).  It was such a good story, Ian wanted to read more after we finished, so I encouraged him to start another book on his own.  (I put several ofBulla’s books on his Kindle.)


For a fun taste of the medieval period we watched Disney’s The Prince and the Pauper, and then later in the week we watched the rest of the episodes that are listed with it on Netflix (Pied Piper, Old King Cole, A Knight for a Day, and Ye Olden Days).  We also watched The Sword in the Stone now that we’d finished reading some Arthur stories.


At some point in the past I had bought a Knights Sticker Pack, so we pulled those out and the boys had fun creating sticker scenes (there were two sets in the pack).  Arianna had already used up one set of the similar Princess Sticker Pack, but thankfully we still had one more so she had some sticker fun as well.  It was a fun way to include the younger ones in our study.


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Wrapping Up Week 34 (2014-15)

weekly wrap-up
You know those weeks where it feels impossible to get anything done?  Yeah, that was our week.   Between a funeral, a dentist appointment, a field trip, and rehearsal for the year-end performance in our homeschool music program (on top of our usual ballet and swimming lessons), we didn’t make it through nearly as much as I had planned.  We were supposed to finish up with Spelling You See, but we’ll have to stretch it out one more week. Ian did finish the first grade lessons in Mathletics and moved on to second grade, and we read several books for our Knights and Nobles unit study from Homeschool Legacy.

“Knights and Nobles” Week 2: Kings and Queens

We had actually done some of the Week 2 activities from Knights and Nobles last week, which helped us not be completely behind when the chaos of our week took over.  During the school hours we squeezed in at home this week we mostly focused on books and videos.

Books,204,203,200_.jpg?w=960I wasn’t sure we could make it through the suggested family read aloud for this week, but I did want to cover some of the stories about King Arthur, so I searched the library for some easier alternatives.  We read Young Arthur by Robert D. San Souci.  Through this beautifully illustrated picture book, Ian learned about Arthur’s childhood, Merlin, the sword in the stone, and Excalibur.  Some of the story was familiar from watching Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, but it helped reinforce that these stories exist outside of that context.  We talked about how stories about Arthur have been told for centuries.

We also started The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla.  This chapter book is easy enough for Ian to read on his own, though it’s more than he usually tackles.  I chose to trade off reading with him so he doesn’t develop a distaste for it.  (This is actually a read-aloud scheduled for next week, but I wanted to take a little more time with it so we could go through it together.)


Everyone enjoyed watching the Reading Rainbow episode “Rumpelstiltskin,” in which LeVar visits a Renaissance Faire and learns about medieval life.

We didn’t get to the suggested family movie (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court) during the week, but I’m hoping for a chance at some point this weekend (though we’ll be watching an animated version of the story instead just because we already have it).


The highlight of our week was definitely the field trip to Medieval Times with our homeschool group.  We left the two younger children at a friend’s house and took the older boys for a fun lunchtime performance, complete with a tournament between competing knights.  We don’t join a lot of field trips these days, but since this one happened to fall in the middle of our unit study, we couldn’t pass it up!


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Wrapping Up Week 33 (2014-15)

weekly wrap-up
 What better way to spend the last four weeks of Ian’s first grade year than doing a unit study about the Middle Ages?  This week the only “regular” school work I required of him was Spelling You See (we took a few months off from this in the fall, but now he’s almost to the end of Level B), and his daily math work on the computer.  Ian went a little crazy in Mathletics this week, earning a whopping 3500 points as he pushed himself to finish up the four main categories in the 1st grade program (usually I require 1000 points each week).  He’ll easily finish in the first few days of next week and then we’ll move on to the second grade program since I like to have him do math year-round.

Aside from spelling and math, however, everything we did revolved around the suggestions from Knights and Nobles from Homeschool Legacy.  While I followed the main theme of the week, we found plenty of rabbit trails to follow as things captured Ian’s interest or as I wanted to expand a bit on things we read.

“Knights and Nobles” Week 1: Castles

Although this week was mostly about castles, there were also suggestions for learning about the cathedrals built in medieval times, which I expanded into a mini-study on aspects of religious life at the time.


Our main literature focus this week was the Newbery Medal winning book The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli.  It’s the story of Robin, a 14th century boy who over comes his personal fears and weakness, showing great courage and becomes a hero.  The first part of the book takes place at a monastery, and there were references to things like the scriptorium, chanting, and the various offices the monks observed throughout the day and night, which lead to several discussions.  Spinning off from these topics, we read Illuminations by Jonathan Hunt and Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson as well as leading into our study of cathedrals toward the end of the week.

“Knights and Nobles” has a great list of reading suggestions, so I set out a basket with all the options I found for free reading (both from our family collection and the local library), and let Ian go through them mostly on his own.  He’s already looked through Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Medieval Castle many times before, so I made sure I read it with him this time so he wouldn’t miss any of the detailed information. He enjoyed reading Castles by Stephanie Turnbull on his own as well as looking at some the pictures in some of the more advanced books.



After reading Castle by David Macaulay, we watched the video based on the book, which I found at our library.  I thought they were going to cover mostly the same material, but they were actually more complementary than similar. I wouldn’t have wanted to choose one over the other.

After unsuccessfully searching for the DVD of Cathedral at several of our local libraries, it finally occurred to me to check YouTube, and sure enough, there it was, along with several other PBS specials based on David Macaulay’s books.  (I wish I’d known about Pyramid and Roman City earlier this year!)

Actually, turned out well that the library didn’t have Cathedral, because it prompted me to check out another option, Building the Great Cathedrals, which turned out to be fascinating and informative.  Elijah is especially interested in building design, and he gladly joined Ian and I for this part of our schoolwork.  We enjoyed this DVD so much I considered purchasing it for our family library, but then I realized it’s available for free streaming through Amazon Prime.

Watching the movies about cathedrals (and reading David Macaulay’s book Cathedral) led to many discussions about different aspects about the buildings: flying buttresses, different kinds of arches, gargoyles, stained glass, and church bells, so we ended the week with a family movie night watching Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which gave Ian a fun opportunity to point out to Daddy all the things he’d learned.


Several times throughout the week I put on various CD’s with music from the medieval time period.  I wish I’d thought to get some some instrumental CDs from the library, but I have few recordings of Gregorian chant and medieval motets and carols that gave us a sense of the time period as well.

Ian really wanted to build a catapult after all our reading.  There are instructions included for later in this unit, but they required several things we don’t have around the house and I really didn’t want to have to buy anything, so I found a simple alternative using popsicle sticks and rubber bands at Little Bins for Little Hands.  At first he wanted to attempt the more complex version on that page, but it started turning into Mom’s catapult, so I told him he needed to go back to the simple one.  Even then, we had to make some adjustments because we only had notched craft sticks, which kept breaking.  Eventually we tried Tegu planks, which worked well.  All Ian’s hard work was rewarded with some marshmallow boulders to launch.

Ian spent most of his free inside hours this week playing with the Playmobil castle he got for his birthday three years ago.  While he’s always enjoyed it, he seemed to take his play to a new level this week after everything we learned about.  I’m glad he still has so much fun with it, and I was thankful for the many quiet hours of play it provided this week!


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