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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Essential Skills Advantage (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Online education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography


Our homeschool is not much into busy work.  The kids hate "pointless" writing and if they see a packet of papers  they instantly balk.  However, place them in front a computer and a mouse and they will happily work on anything that I throw at them.  However, I prefer for those types of programs to be supplemental to what we're currently studying to help reinforce what they are learning.  For the last few weeks, Ashleigh and Garrett have been working on various skills in geography, science and language arts using the Complete Home Learning Suite from Essential Skills Advantage (ESA).  ESA was generous and provided both kids a full one year subscription to their service.


The Complete Home Learning Suite is an online browser based supplemental curriculum that provides a yearly subscription.  Geared for grades Kindergarten through 6th Grade, the Learning Suite offers more than 14,000 online activities that help reinforce (as well as provide remedial lessons for) skills in Reading, Language and Grammar, Math, Science and Geography, depending on the grade level.


  • Reading activities for grades K-6
  • Language and Grammar Activities for grades K-6
  • Math activities for grades K-6
  • Science activities for grades K-3
  • Geography activities for grades 4-6
Parents do not need to select a grade at the time of purchase and can switch between all skill levels.



Simple to use, students log into their accounts and are brought to kid friendly main menu.  Color coded with bright colors as well as simple icons to indicate subjects, kids can easily maneuver through the menu and go to the subject they wish to work on.

Online education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography
Colorful Kid Friendly Menu is Easy to Understand and Navigate.

After making a selection, a second menu then offers the child a selection of grade level options available for that subject (for example, the Geography category only offers options for grades 4-6).. Once a grade selection is made, another menu of subcategories is supplied which narrows down the subject into programs or smaller subjects to be worked on.

Online education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography

From the Programs Menu, students are taken to a different menu type that shows the various activities for that Program.  From there they can quickly tell how many activities are available, which activities they have previously worked on as well as how many uncompleted activities are left in that section.   Once they click the activity section, the program automatically brings them to where they left off.

Online education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography

The actual activities are like mini quizzes or tests to show competency in the material. There is no lesson taught or videos to watch that explain the concepts shown - hence why this would be a supplement to be used in addition  with another curriculum.   However, if the student needs hint or a quick "refresher" on the material by clicking the purple gavel when provided.  This will bring up a short abbreviated lesson that provides just enough material to help them finish the activity.

Online education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography

Online education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography


Since the program is simple enough for both Ashleigh and Garrett to use unassisted, I really appreciate the reporting feature.   This allows me to see what both kids have worked on and how they have done with it and how they are progressing through the activities.  It also tells me how much time they have spent while doing each section.   It also allows me to see that Garrett REALLY likes working on the math (and hasn't done anything else) while Ashleigh tends to jump around.

Online education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography

I really like that this program is set up in such a way that Ash and Garrett can both click their name and quickly work with the program without much help from me.  However, that is not to say that there hasn't been a few hick-ups.   Ashleigh is a bit of a perfectionist and on occasion answers were marked wrong when they were correct.  On another question, the narrative instructions did not play and even clicking the repeat would not play it, resulting in Ashleigh having to just guess an answer t move on.  Another issue was that she was instructed to click on an arrow to switch between maps in one of the geography sections but the arrow was not visible which was very frustrating to her. We did think maybe it was a browser issue and so we tried to load the same activity with a different browser but experienced the same thing.  Luckily, there was a small amount of the arrow exposed and we were able to click on it and move on with the activity.

Online education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography

The Complete Learning Suite has been a wonderful addition to our curriculum and has been a great replacement for typical "busy work", while still accomplishing the same reinforcement.  Both kids have enjoyed working with this program and I love the fact they are able to work on it independently without me.  The minor glitches that we experienced are to be expected to some degree and considering as many activities they completed, being able to count on one hand the glitches we encountered was expected.

Online education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography


For more information about Essential Skills Advantage and their Complete Home Learning Suite be sure to visit them at their website/blog or on the following social media platforms.


Twitterhttps://twitter.com/SkillsAdvantage @SkillsAdvantage





Essential Skills Advantage Review


Friday, May 27, 2016

Night at the Museum


Last night was the annual "Night at the Museum" at my oldest daughter's high school and once again the kids and I headed over to the school to check out what the Junior and Sr High students had put together for their classes.

This was the fourth year that the high school has done the Night at the Museum and it's so cool.  Rather than have students take a paper and pencil final exam for their history class, each class is required to put together an informative reenactment of something they learned throughout the school year.   They then perform these reenactments for live audiences.

This year, we weren't able to attend many of the Jr High Exhibits as we got to the event later than we had hoped, but we did get to attend a number of the high school shows and they were all really well done.  I wish we could have seen more of them, as there were so many that seemed interesting to me but we had less than an hour as the high school exhibits did not start on time.  Like last year, the Trebuchet demonstration closed the event. However, we did get to see the Jr High display on the Samuri and then we took a look at some of the dioramas that they had made.





For the high schoolers, we first checked out the HUAC (House on Un-American Activities Committee) presentation.  This was a reenactment of the "McCarthy Trials"..  That's my daughter Alyssa in the black dress playing Mrs Jenkings (representing William Arthur Jenkings).


During the trials, you can hear the changing and chaos outside.. That would be the "protesters" holding signs that said things like  "Better Dead than Red" and "Down with the Scumunist".




After the HUAC trials, we were brought into another room that was a presentation of a typical 1950's classroom.  For this presentation, we were asked to participate. We watched an argument between 1950 students as they discussed communism while constantly being bombarded by bomb drills.  Poor Ashleigh had NO clue what was going on each time the warning would sound and everyone had to duck under the desks.   I found it funny as I remember doing "Duck and Cover" drills back in 2nd grade during the Reagan years.





After the 1950's classroom, we headed across pathway to the most popular demonstration at "Night of the Museum".. A staple to the event, the "1920's Speakeasy" is the hopping place to get your drink on during Prohibition.  When you first enter, it looks like a simple Seamstress shop with dresses on display, but your quickly invited into the Seedy Secret nightclub who's entrance is hidden in the back of the shop.. There the kids got to meet all sorts of important people such as Einstein, Harry Houdini (I'm assuming that's who it was?), Sammy Davis Jr and even President Woodrow Wilson. Upon entry, everyone is able to partake in Shirley Temples and enjoy the music.  Unfortunately, our fun club experience got interrupted by some zealot protester (AKA Lizzy Bordon style as she was swinging an ax *note* I was reminded of Carrie Nation by someone here on Base and of course that would make sense) who I guess called the cops after she got kicked out as we got raided and had to take to the streets to avoid getting arrested.

In the Seamstress Shop

Fully Stocked Bar


Harry Houdini (maybe?)

Ashleigh meets President Woodrow Wilson
Albert Einstein 

Sammy Davis Jr


After narrowly escaping arrest in the raid, we headed over to watch the Tahitian drummers and dancer in the courtyard.  These kids were AMAZING and this was probably our favorite presentation of the night.. The drums echoed throughout the school campus all evening and their costumes and "tattoos" looks really great.  The young lady is performing the Tehitian dance called 'ote'a and we really enjoyed watching the young men playing the drums.




Another popular display was the Food From Around the World, which offered small samples of various authentic foods from different countries.   Some of the countries represented were South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Greece, and China.  The kids happily scarfed down an egg roll from China (who also offered sushi and beef and broccoli),  Gyeran Mari  (Korean omelet with seaweed), and bean dip with chips from Mexico.


We tried to visit the Japanese Internment camp display but unfortunately, because they could only take so many people at a time, the wait was pretty long.  It looked like a neat display though.



One of the novelties of homeschool kids visiting a public school ???  Discovering lockers.. LOL


After waiting about 20 minutes for the Japanese Camp and realizing the wait was going to be much longer and time was running short, we decided instead to go check out the World War 1 display instead.  There we saw the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria as well as his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, we learned about how the woman, in an attempt to support their husbands fighting in the war, worked in the airplane factories, about woman fighting for the right to vote and about the Treaty of Versailles.




Hanging Barbed Wire (at "night")



War is a bloody business

Troops moments before being sent......

To Their Death...


A Sufferagette protesting for the right to vote


Treaty of Versailles

Treaty of Versailles

Treaty of Versailles
Unfortunately, after this display, we were out of time. They were announcing that the Trebuchet display would be starting in less than 10 minutes, so the kids and I headed over to the field to get a good seat to check it out.  Last year, the team was WAY off from hiting the target. This year, while they did not hit the target dead on, they hit the back of it a couple of times.

The Trebuchet

The Target

Loading it up 



Another successful Night At The Museum.  The kids all did a wonderful job and worked so hard to put together another great night..  I am just sad to have had to miss out on some of the displays such as the Presidential Debate, Natzi Education, and the Japanese Internment Camp. 
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