Thursday, February 25, 2021

Personal Finance Lab (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Disclosure: I received this product free through the Homeschool Review Crew 

When I was in school, we had to take an economics course.  The course was for 1 semester and my teacher was Mr. Brown.  For that semester, twice a week, we would head to Mr Brown's classroom and we would learn about things such as inflation, the federal reserve, economic surplus and shortages and other not so interesting terms. However, in that course, we were also taught some pretty useful things such as filing taxes, balancing a checkbook and using a credit cards responsibly, as well as how to play the stock market. Years later, when my oldest graduated high school, I was pretty disappointed to find that economics had become a thing of the past, leaving students essentially unprepared for these real world challenges that would have a huge impact on their soon to be adult lives.

When we were given the opportunity to review the PersonalFinanceLab Budgeting Game, Stock Market Game and integrated curriculum from, I saw an opportunity to introduce these very important skills to my own children as part of their own school curriculum. 

PersonalFinanceLab offers a large amount of lessons and curriculum designed to teach the ins and outs of both personal and business finances as well as how the stock market opporates using hands on instruction.  By doing so, students work in "real time" as they find themselves having to make financial decisions that have effects on future outcomes, Students manage their long-term budget and/or stock game portfolio over the entire duration of the program.  The games are enhanced with a 300+ lesson curriculum library. 

For this review period, I opted to use the program with Ashleigh, focusing on the budgeting aspect of the program. 


We found that working twice a week for about 20 minutes a day worked really well for us.  Each period, Ashleigh would complete one "month" of the budget game.   For the duration of the "month", she would receive weekly paychecks, have to pay monthly expenses such as rent, car insurance, car note, cable bill and credit card bills as well as how to navigate unexpected expenses that randomly pop up during the time period.  

The basic scenario is that the player is a full time college student, living on their own, who also works part time. At the start of the game, the student makes a decision as to how their living environment would be - would you live alone or with roommates, for example.  These initial decisions have an impact on the amount of monthly expenses the student would pay each month.  Ashleigh opted to have multiple roommates in a larger home which meant that the monthly expenses such as rent and utilities were split through the household, lowering her share of the expenses. This can be changed thru the game, if the student decides they wish to change the living situation, which changes the game dynamics.  

Monthly overlook - Green for Money In, Red for Money Out


At the beginning of each month, Ash would have to figure out what her projected income would be for that month,  how much she would try to put into her savings account, and also how much she expected she would pay out of pocket for any unexpected expenses that she might incur.  Then she would proceed thru the month, making sure bills are paid on time (they will incur a late fee if not paid on time), making decisions on whether to pay expenses with either her debit or credit card, and trying to make sure the amount of money going out doesn't surpass the amount of money coming in.  

Time to pay the car insurance

She would also have to make decisions as to what to do on the weekends. Each Saturday she would have to decide whether she would spend that day studying, doing household chores, socializing with friends, or working extra hours at her job. These decisions would have an impact over the game and had to remain balanced - neglecting her studies meant she would have to hire a tutor to get caught up for her class, while neglecting the household chores might result in a pest problem and the added expense of an exterminator. However, there might be hidden expenses (or bonuses) involved with each option - studying might have a slight cost because you provided snacks for the study group, while household chores might earn you a financial bonus because you spent time clipping coupons during that time. 

Thru the course of the game, students also have to read brief lessons and answer a question about the lesson in order to continue.  Usually there was one question per month (although I don't remember one in April, so it may be random). The question would pop up, asking the student to view the lesson and then answer the question.

When the student would view the lesson, the lesson would pop up in another screen, allowing the student to view the material without leaving the game.  Within the lesson material the student will find the correct answer for the question so they can continue.

Answering the question correctly gives the student a small financial bonus ( an additional $25 dollars) while answering the question incorrect resulted in a deduction of 10 dollars each time the question was answered wrong. 

Our Experience and Opinion

Ashleigh has really enjoyed playing the budget game and it's really been a great learning tool for her. It's also been something that she can relate to "real life" as she sees these same scenarios play out in our household.  For example, one of the things that happens in the Budget Game with PersonalFinanceLab is that every so often, a large unexpected expense pops up (one costing several hundred dollars) which doesn't really fit into the budget and with the hopes that the student has put enough away in her savings to cover such expenses.  Ashleigh saw this happen first hand when early this month we needed an unexpected car repair on our main vehicle, which also resulted in an unexpected expense to keep our second car reliable while our other was gone for repairs. She was able to see firsthand how the scenario on the game played out in her own household and how by having the money in our savings account for these types of unexpected happenings, we were able to take care of it without putting a financial strain on the household. 

Thru the course of the game, Ashleigh and I have had many discussions about things such as when to use a credit card to pay for things and when she should use a debit card, whether or not she would keep an outstanding balance on it, and what happens when she only pays the minimum amount due each month.  These are all things I think are very important to know and I found that PersonalFinanceLab does a great job explaining these points. 

The budget game takes 18 "months" to work thru.  For now, our focus has been strictly on the budget game, but eventually I would like to have her work thru the Stock Market Game.  Combined with the budget game, I think the two together would give Ashleigh a very well rounded understanding of finance and strategy, preparing her well ahead of time for the real world. 


 Add to that the extensive lesson library with articles about important things like student loans, mortgages, health and life insurance, unemployment and tax situations, I honestly feel that PersonalFinanceLab is a well rounded, well designed website that keeps students engaged and gives them powerful tools that they will use later in life. 

#hsreviews #budgeting #education #personalfinance #stockmarket #strategy #k12 #distancelearning #homeschool #teachingresource #payyourselffirst #qualityoflife

Social Media Links:

Instagram: @pfinlab /
YouTube: Stock-Trak -

Members of the Crew have been using PersonalFinanceLab with their families, including both the Budget game and the Stock Market game.  Be sure to click the banner below to read their reviews today.

PersonalFinanceLab Budgeting Game, Stock Market Game and integrated curriculum {  Reviews}

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Wordless Wednesday


We had a great Valentine's day this past Sunday, going out with friends for brunch and dancing. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

A NOT so Wordless Wednesday


 Sometimes, when it rains, it indeed pours, or so it seems.. 

Last week kicked off pretty badly.  My husband got about a mile down the road heading to work when the Durango started making noises, the check engine light came on, and smoke started pouring out the back.  Thankfully, he was able to turn around and make it home safely. After a quick look under the hood, we both figured the water pump must have gone out.  Not how you want to start a Monday.

Luckily, it's still under warranty so we called the dealership.  They said they were completely backed up til March and didn't have any appointments before then.."But" they said, "if you can get it here to the dealership, we will see if we can fit it in when we can". However, the dealership could not assist in getting the vehicle to them, so on that part, we were on our own. 

Getting a tow truck on base was going to be expensive. Around here, just the hook up is 300 bucks and then they charge by the mile.  The dealership was 40 miles away. We were looking at a good chunk of change.

I called our roadside assistance for our insurance, expecting to be told that no, because the car was at our house and we weren't stranded, that they would not cover the cost of a tow, but figuring it would be better to know for sure than not to call.  Imagine my surprise when they said "Yes, that's not a problem, the tow truck is on it's way". Awesome, we just have to sign the tow truck onto base and we will be good to go.

Yeah, it's never that easy, is it?

My husband goes out to start our second vehicle and the battery is D-E-A-D, dead!!!  To be honest, we knew the battery needed to be replaced and with the cold weather we've had lately, it was too much for it.. Tried to jump it, which it did eventually start, but even after running it for 20 minutes, it again wouldn't start.  Now I've got TWO dead vehicles, and no way to get to the gate to sign on the tow truck.


Being a military family, we are all a close knit community.  I messaged a few friends who immediately came to our rescue.  One of our neighbors even offered us the use of their car. One of the guys my husband serves with dropped everything and came over, brought my husband to meet the tow driver, then after the car was loaded, brought him to to the local tire store on base to get a new battery for the second car.

A little over a week later, I'm still without my car. However, the dealership got to it pretty quickly, figured out the problem and ordered the parts.. Sure enough, the water pump was the culprit, as well as a new thermostat and a lower radiator hose.  All covered under warranty, I just have to pay a $100 deductible.   With the battery in the other car, we at least have a working vehicle that gets us around in the meantime. 

What could have been a nearly 1500 dollar issue cost 100 bucks, not counting the price of the battery, as well as a free tow.  But most of all, we got to see how amazing our friends are.  Sometimes it takes a bad Monday to help you see exactly how blessed you truly are!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Wordless Wednesday (But on Thursday)


 Happy Birthday to Me.. I turned 45 this week.  I got a cake and free Chick-fil-a for dinner (courtesy of our wonderful chapel family).


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

School Mascot



Anyone else have a pet that somehow thinks that they are part of the lessons?   Newton has decided that he's a subject that should be studied during class time and proceeds to sit on our books and papers while demanding attention.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

New Beginnings

I've been a bit busy here on the homefront, between starting back up school following the holidays to my husband going TDY temporarily for his military.  But the biggest change is we are in moving mode.  After 11 years in the desert of California, we finally got orders for another base. But not only that, but it's short notice orders.. Typically the military gives you a good 9 months warning as to where you are going.  We have 4 and one of those months is halfway over.  

I wish I could say we were going somewhere exciting.  I would love to have heard we were going to Alaska or someplace overseas like England. Instead, we are leaving one desert to go to another desert in New Mexico. I guess God needs me in the desert, only he's changing the local. Not sure if that's because our growth has become stagnant here and he's changing things up to wake us up, or because he feels we are needed somewhere else.  However, it's closer to family and friends in both Texas and Colorado, so we'll actually be able to visit those we haven't seen in many years.

 It's somewhat bittersweet - for years I hated it here and prayed for orders to somewhere else.  Just in the last couple of years, I accepted this was home and came to terms with it. I started reaching out, making friends and coming out of my comfort zone.  I started going to the chapel on base and eventually I became the Women's Lay Leader and leading the Woman's Bible studies. We joined a small group study for married couples and made great friends there as well.  And then just like that, we find ourselves dreading saying goodbye and starting over somewhere new.  I find myself regretting now getting out and seeing more of this state - either because of time or money - and now with Covid restrictions, I won't have the opportunity to visit those things before we go.

The kids are excited, for the most part.  The idea of a new house, new rooms, and new friends are all enticing to them.  The homeschool laws in New Mexico are pretty similar to what we've already been doing here, so I'm grateful that their education will continue with little change.  We had a small hickup as Garrett was asking about thunderstorms in New Mexico and when we looked up the weather, he saw that they have on average 10 tornadoes a year (for the whole state, not limited to where we are going).  That created a bit of hesitation on his part, until we googled the amount of tornadoes here in California as well as other states.  That seemed to alleviate his fears as it hasn't been brought up again.  

So now, between homeschool, leading Bible study, our small group, my husband's work, writing curriculum reviews and any other normal activities that have to continue here, we have begun the processes of sorting through ten years of accumulated possessions and begin to downsize what we don't need to bring with us.  You don't realize how much you have til you have to move and discard things. It also allows you the opportunity to realize how absolutely blessed you are when you think that some people move everything they own in a trash bag.  I also have to figure out how to move 900 miles with a dog, a cat, two rabbits, two turtles and a frog. Sadly, we will probably have to rehome our two Oscar fish as I don't think they would make the trip safely. 

Needless to say, 2021 is definitely going to be a huge change for us all.  The kids have no memories outside of this house and my husband and I have spent most of our marriage together here. But God willing, we will move and begin to make many other wonderful memories.  Home is truly where the heart is

Wednesday, January 6, 2021 (A Homeschool Crew Review)

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

I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 

Over the years of being a reviewer, I have had the opportunity to test a wide variety of various curriculum choices.  Many of them I use for the review period but eventually, they call to the way side as I either get my hands on a different product that I works better for our family.  However, there's a few products I use regularly in my homeschool through the years.  One such program is  Members of the Review Crew were given the opportunity to review the Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership with their families over the holidays. is the curriculum/education aspect of The Old Schoolhouse family.  For a low yearly price, homeschool families have a wide range of curriculum options for grades K-12, with more than 400 self-paced online courses, and numerous teaching resources all included in the yearly membership.  Classes are all inclusive so you aren't going to have to buy textbooks to teach the courses, just download the lessons and you're all set.

Membership price allows access to all available courses and offers a core subject for every subject for every grade, making it a full curriculum website that allows families to teach all students in their home, regardless of age and grade.   Membership also allows unlimited access to recipes, household planning resources, RightNow Media, a Silver plan level account with Applecore for homeschool record keeping and much much more, all at one low yearly price.

With more than 400 classes to choose from, your first experience with the website can be much like being a kid in the candy store, with so much curriculum options, it can be a bit overwheming.  To help eliminate this problem and to make things much easier in selecting courses and piece together a full curriculum for your student, offers a downloadable Scope and Sequence for each grade level.  These Scope and Sequence files are a great place to start with and can be found under the planning tab on the website.

By selecting either the grade level or the subject you wish to teach, the Scope and Sequence feature will suggest courses that are found on the website that will fulfill the academic goals for that level.  It also makes suggestions for class future planning.

Please note: does not align with any particular set of regulations or guidelines. Each family must research their state's guideline and requirements to ensure they meet those guidelines.

Another section that I personally enjoy using is the quick links section.  This shows all the classes available on, listed by subject.  This portion will also note new classes that have been added to the website recently to make it easy to find those and read more about the class.  From the quick links, you can go directly to the class information.  

After finding a course that looks interesting, simply click the link and you will be brought to the course information page.  This page will tell you the length of the course, if it's text based or video based, and what grade the course is suitable for.  From here you can also learn who wrote the course and what expertise they have in teaching that course.

Banners for Getting started, Course Outline, Course Sample and More about the Course provide a quick popup the provide more information about the course.  This information is available without having a membership to help you learn more about what is included in the course module.

Members have access to the actual class materials.  All classes include the text material needed for the course as well as a printable lesson plan.

The lesson plans are extremely helpful.  These PDF files can easily be printed out and kept in a planning notebook, making planning for and teaching each day's coursework as simple as following the list.  The first page of the Lesson Plan gives a quick summary of the course and what material is needed while the rest of the planner breaks the course down day by day. A section is also provided for jotting down notes as needed.

Also included with your membership, also offers their members access to hundreds of streaming videos from providers including, Drive Thru History, Vision Video, Discovery House, Boat Angel, City on a Hill, RightNow Media, and more.  Some of these videos are included with their coursework however, some videos that are included are not necessarily educational based. For example, through their partnership with RightNow Media, members have access to a vast library of Bible based marriage studies, parenting studies and more.

A very few of the video selections available on

However, maybe you want everything already laid out for you for the year and really don't feel like browsing thru multiple math and science class descriptions to find out what's appropriate for your 6th grade student. created the School Boxes (Curriculum Boxes) with you in mind.  Each Curriculum Box is complete with all the curriculum guides and resources you need to successfully teach a full year of the selected grade skills and is automatically available as part of membership in  These curriculum boxes are sets of grade specific online materials, including downloadable PDF files, streaming videos and other resources used for a full year of study, specific to grade level.

 Included in each box is a curriculum guide for each subject that correlates objectives found in the corresponding scope and sequence for the grade, weekly and daily checklists to stay on track, direct links to each of the courses and resources you need for each week, all the additional suggested materials for the year (such as art supplies) for planning ahead,  and links to additional resources from for those who would like to spend a bit more time on a particular topic studied.  These box curriculum are available for all grades, Kindergarten through Twelfth.

 So, now that you have at least an idea for what is, let me tell you how my family has been using it. 

How We Used It During the Review Period

This review period began during our three week winter break, when we were not doing actual school courses.  However, that didn't mean that there wasn't plenty of things we could use during our off time. has several collections of holiday themed activities and work for a large list of holidays, especially Christmas, so we pulled a number of activities from there to work with. 

 One of these lessons came from the Introduction to Architecture course offered on the sight and went into the history and design of gingerbread houses.  In our years of celebrating the holidays, we had never made gingerbread houses together, so I thought this would be a really fun way to both educate and have family time together.   After completing the quick lesson from the website, we then designed our own houses.

 Ours might not have been quite as pretty as the professional houses from our lessons, but it was a great activity to spend time together and have a bit of fun. 

The next activity we decided to work on was one of the Art Achieve holiday themed lessons.  These lessons offer step by step instruction to complete your own version of the focused artwork.  We decided to do the nutcracker lesson. The lesson offered both a video instruction as well as a slideshow version of the instruction that walks through the project.   Again, this turned out to be a really great family project that we did together (although sadly I neglected to take photographs) but even Garrett enjoyed completing this with us (he normally hates art) and it had an impact on him. I guess the process of breaking each step down worked well for him because he asked me yesterday during our school time if we could do more art work like that.  So that's a win.

Something that has become a yearly tradition for us since we first discovered it on is watching The Christmas Experience, which is a 6 part series offered thru the website.  We include this as part of our Advent time together during the 6 days leading up to Christmas day.  These videos follow the story of Mary and Joseph both leading up to as well as during the birth of Christ and the events following his birth with the Shepherds and Wise Men.

 Each night, we watched one video before lighting our candles and doing our Bible reading for the day.  This was a great way for us to really focus on the meaning of the holiday season and put the focus on Christ rather than on the secular.   In addition to The Christmas Experience, we also accessed the RightNow Media material for a 4 part Advent study that we did each Sunday that helped explain the meaning behind each candle and what it represented to us as a Christian family. also offers a large collection of publications from The Old Schoolhouse that are available for download. Two of the available publications focus on the holidays and offer a wide variety of interesting stories, poetry, craft ideas, and recipes and more.  We utilized these publications and had a blast making a few new deserts (Peppermint Cocoa was an absolute hit in this house) and reading about the holiday experiences of other members of The Old Schoolhouse family.


Over the course of the years I've been a member of, I've used a large variety of course work from the site.  From math remediation, music lessons, the video library and more, has really become my Go-to for looking for curriculum before I actually purchase anything.  We've found many wonderful courses and resources on the website and each year that I have had access to the site has been a true blessing for my family. Because gives you full access to everything they offer, you can mix and match stuff together to create a curriculum that works well for your family. There are daily activities such as writing prompts, 5 and 10 day unit studies based on famous works of art, short read aloud plays for students to read and act out together, and so much more that we have used. It really is a full curriculum option that you can easily customize your own education for grades K-12th.

But the website offers so much more than just curriculum and education. I mentioned that I tend to use SchoolhouseTeachers for my everyday household management.  One of the most useful things I have discovered is using a second copy of the planners offered on the website (another perk to membership) and use it for menu planning.  I save it to a different area under a different name (I simply save the file as MealPlanner so as to not overwrite my lesson planning file) and it makes it super easy for me to sit down, plan out my meals and be able to actually see them over the course of the 2 weeks I plan for.

I have been doing this for a good three years now and can easily go back and remind myself of recipes that the family really enjoyed that I might otherwise forget.  And if you're in need of recipe ideas for the week, offers a monthly list of suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and deserts for each day of the month.  These recipes are submitted by other members of The Old Schoolhouse family and are an easy way to try new things and maybe find a new favorite for your own family. There's also a gluten free and vegan section for those families who have dietary restrictions.

And it would be a disservice if I failed to mention the various other resources for parents. From ideas for family nights spent together, organizing your home, or even providing daily encouragement for the homeschool mom, there is an entire section dedicated to courses and resources just for you.  The Parent EBook Library offers a large collection of Ebooks published by The Old Schoolhouse, many of which are typically sold on their website but is free for your reading with your membership to These publications range from homeschooling, daily devotionals, gardening, cleaning tips, budgeting, and more.  They are all included with your membership and are easy to download to your computer or even a tablet or e-reader, making great reading material for when you're sitting in a doctors office or waiting in your car to pick up a family member. has been a blessing to our family and I know you'll find it to be a blessing to your family as well.

#hsreviews #schoolhouseteachers #homechool #onlineclasses #allinonecurriculum #homeschoolonline #homeschoolcurriculum #onlineteaching #digitallearning

For more information about, please visit their website. You can also find them on them on the following social media sites:

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Members of the Crew were each given the opportunity to review with their families.  Be sure to click the banner below to read more reviews and see what classes and resources they used with their families. - Every Subject - Every Grade - Every Student { Reviews 2021}


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