Saturday, April 28, 2018


It's been a sad week in our household this week, as last Sunday we lost our sweet lil buddy, Nicodemus. 

A little over 2 years, Ashleigh started asking for a pet of her own.  Dad had a cat, Mom had a cat, Alyssa had a cat.  She wanted her own cat.  Well, unfortunately, we were at our pet limit so another cat was out of the question, but I talked her dad into getting her a pet rat.  Charles wasn't too thrilled at the idea - he had in the past owned a hampster who gave him plenty of bites, so he wasn't too keen on the idea of a rodent.  I assured him rats were different.  So on January 1st, 2016, we headed to a pet store in a not so nice part of town and Ashleigh was given the opportunity to pick out rat.  She decided that she wanted a boy rat so when they brought out the tank of male rats, she picked out this small ball of black and white fur. 

Ash and Garrett had been watching The Secret of NIMH almost constantly at that time, so it only seemed fitting he would be given the name Nicodemus.  But we all called him Nicky for short.  Everyone fell in love with this lil guy, even Charles, while it did take a couple of weeks til he trusted that Nicky wasn't going to bite him.

And that trust was well placed.  Nicky never bit anyone.  If anything, he was a licker.  Nicky loved to give kisses to everyone.  A week after we got Nicky, we got him a buddy - another rat which was named Yuki.  We had read that rats did better if they had a buddy to bond with.  Although, honestly, it would have probably been okay if we hadn't gotten him a buddy, as it was very rare that someone wasn't giving him attention or a treat.

I had a very special bond with Nicky.  I could call his name and he would run out of his hammock waiting for me to open the cage and he would crawl into my hand. He enjoyed hiding under my keyboard of my laptop and playing "Peek a boo" or crawling up on my chest to give me kisses.  He was an absolute sweetheart.

Ashleigh loved her rat.  I will be honest, I thought that her interaction with the rats would be temporary, that once the newness of a new pet wore off, that she would move on to other things (which is why I got him a buddy). That wasn't the case.  Every day, she fed them (Garrett gave them water) and she gave them constant attention (to the point I got somewhat annoyed because she took Nicky away from me ever time I was holding him)..  There's no doubt in my mind she loves her rats.

But, time has a way of creeping up on you, rats included.  As New Years 2018 drew closer, we knew that our time with our beloved Nicky was limited.  When New Years came and Nicky celebrated his 2nd "gotcha day" with us, it was bittersweet as we knew 2 years was a good life for a pet rat.   So we appreciate each day we had with him. 

I began noticing her was starting to slow down significantly a few weeks ago.  He slept alot!!  I would get him out to hold him and he would just curl up on my arm and fall asleep.  

We also noticed he was getting thinner.  While he ate everything offered, he just couldn't hold on to his weight.   We knew the inevitable was right around the corner. 

This meant we spent even more time allowing him to cuddle up with us and sleep.  And we also worked to prepare Ashleigh for what we knew we couldn't avoid. 

Nicky cuddling up with mom two days before he left us. 
 Nicky passed away during the early morning hours of Sunday, April 23rd. Unfortunately, Ashleigh was the one who found him.  We buried him in our flower garden and planted some wildflower seeds on his grave, along with a Marker.   And today, wouldn't you know it, Ashleigh and I went out and found that the seeds sprouted. 

Nicky will forever be missed, but we have some wonderful memories of our little guy.  Unfortunately, Yuki isn't much younger than Nicky and we know that we're on borrowed time with him as well so we will enjoy what time we have left with him while we can. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Planet 316 Story Bible (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Planet 316 is a company that I was already familiar with.  You might remember last year that members of the crew reviewed the Daily Bible Jigsaw app from Planet 316 and to this day, I still work the daily jigsaw puzzle every night.  Planet 316 is a team of very talented artists and writers who love to share the Bible with children in ways that make it engaging.  Made up of pastors, children's ministers and church leaders, Planet 316's teamwork to create fun and interactive experiences that also include family values and the Christian faith.  So when we were given the opportunity to review the Planet 316 Story Bible and the companion Planet 316 Story Bible App from Planet 316 and WorthyKids/Ideals, I knew it was a review I wanted to be on. 

About the Planet 316 Story Bible with Augmented Reality

From the story of Creation to the book of Revelations, the Bible Story Bible is a 304-page hardbacked children's book containing over 100 stories from both the Old and the New Testament. I really liked that there was a division between to two sections - many children's books of Bible stories tend to run the Old and New Testament together.  However, Planet 316 does include pages to mark stories from the Old Testament and stories from the New Testament.  Each story is illustrated with bright and somewhat humorous artwork accompanied by easy to read text that is kid friendly yet still Biblically accurate.

However, the real magic begins when paired with the downloadable Story Bible App.  Available as a free download in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, the app literally brings the stories to life using the illustrations in the book.

Simply install the app to your mobile device or tablet and then load up the app. Using the rear-facing camera on your device, the Application will then begin to scan for the illustrations in the storybook, creating an augmented reality experience.  These images create an almost 3D effect, making the illustrations appear to pop up from the pages of the book and move.  Readers can then touch the images on their tablet to play audio clips to create a more interactive experience beyond reading text from a page.

Here's a quick video that shows how the Bible and the App work together, using both a Kindle Tablet (note: app is not available in the Kindle Store) and a super cheap Blu R1 HD phone.

How We Used It

First, I should mention, EVERYONE in this house loves this storybook and the augmented reality app that goes with it.  Even my husband and I enjoyed playing around with the app just.  It's super fun to play around with.

However, Garrett was the one who really took to this storybook, which in itself is a HUGE endorsement.  Garrett doesn't read books.  Garrett does not pick up a book to read just to read.  I've taken this kid to the library and he has checked out so many books that have just came home to sit on the couch, never to be touched until it was time to return it.

So the first time I walked into the living room to find Garrett actually reading the storybook, I almost needed an ambulance.  He was actually reading the text and then using the tablet to look at the pictures and interact with them.

The illustrations in the book are really cute, but when they pop up on the screen of the tablet, it's even better.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Lot leaves Sodom during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
Jesus and the Disciples at the Last Supper
We really liked how touching the characters in each image produces sound bites and other effects.  This included short clips from Bible verses or sound effects like burning buildings or crickets chirping.  It really adds another dimension to the story.

Even in a dark room, we noticed that so long as there was enough light for the camera to scan the page, the app would still work. This was great for Garrett during the evening hours, as Dad tends to like the lights off at night.  Garrett was still able to enjoy his Bible, even if there wasn't enough light to read by.

The images were still nice and vibrant, even more so against the dark background from the camera.  I think Garrett liked using the app more at night then in the day because of this reason.

#hsreviews  #planet316 #planet316storybible #childsbible #bible

For more information about the Planet 316 Story Bible, please visit their website. You can also find them on the following social media platforms:

Also, be sure to click the banner below to read reviews from the other crew members.

Planet 316 Story Bible and Bible App {Planet 316 Reviews}

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Adaptive Math Curriculum Online (A Homeschool Crew Review)

I'm not a math person.  Throw science or literature at me and I'm happy but math was always the bane of my existence in school.  Unfortunately, things haven't changed much for me and unfortunately, this means that I might not be the best at teaching math to my kids.  Sure, I teach the curriculum but I'm not the best to judge whether or not I'm teaching them in such a way that they understand or if we've missed something that maybe should have been covered but wasn't.

For the past few weeks, I've had the opportunity to review the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online from A+ Interactive Math (by A+ TutorSoft Inc.).  By quickly identifying and then eliminating the gaps that students may have with their math knowledge, this program seems to have been designed for math haters like myself who need that extra piece of mind to know that our kids are getting the best math foundation possible.

What Is it?

Adaptive Math Curriculum Online is a one-year subscription that is designed to identify gaps in your student's math knowledge and then automatically creates an individual lesson plan with videos and online worksheets to help fill those gaps.  This is accomplished by first selecting the students targeted grade level.  The program then gives the student an assessment quiz based on that targeted grade level, with questions progressively getting harder as they answer each question correctly.  The results of this assessment quiz then allows for the program to create a lesson plan based on what material proved difficult for the student to answer.  This program is geared for students Grades 1st through 6th, as well as for Pre-Algebra and can be purchased as either a single student subscription or a family subscription for up to 10 students.

How We Used It

Both Garrett and Ashleigh are considered 4th Grade and that was the targeted grade that I placed them both in.  For the 4th Grade level, there are 17 different math concepts that were available.  For each of these concepts, the student starts by taking the assessment test for that skill.  The 17 categories for 4th Grade are:

Number Sense
Rounding and Estimating
Decimal Numbers
The Number Line & Number Comparison
Elementary Algebra
Probability and Statistics
Word Problems

Out of the gate, we realized that Ashleigh and Garrett had some gaps in their learning.  While they are doing great with mathematical functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, there were some things that I honestly thought they knew.  When they both took the assessment test, I realized that neither of them knew simple things such as ordinal vs cardinal numbers.  Both kids ended up using the program as a refresher course to relearn and get a true understanding of these forgotten concepts.

When students take these assessment tests, they are given a time limit for the test (if I remember correctly, it was 30 minutes).  However, tests may or may not last that long.  The first time the kids took the assessment for number sense, they were finished within about 3 minutes, long enough for the program to recognize where they needed to start reviewing.

Lessons are selected from the expandable menu on the left-hand side of the screen.  This will bring the student to video/audio lesson that teaches the selected concept.  After viewing the lesson, students can either test themselves on the concept with the Interactive Q&A section which gives the student on average 10 questions about the concept or if they are still unsure of the concept, they can choose to rewatch the video.

Also available for additional practice are Interactive Worksheets for each lesson.  These are multiple choice questions that focus on the material taught in the lesson.  These make for great practice to help students get prepared for retaking the assessment after they complete the lessons. 

Following completion of all the lessons in the section, the student can then take the assessment test.  The goal is for the student to be able to take the assessment on the concept and reach the "Goal" line.

Ashleigh's Original Assessment
The assessment placement test can be taken as many times as necessary for the students to pass and move on to the next concept.   The program will tell the student when they have completed enough to complete the goal and that concept will be removed from the expandable menu on the student's dashboard, allowing them to focus on the next concept.  

Much Better Performance

As a homeschool parent, this program can be somewhat discouraging, especially when you realize that it's simple concepts that either weren't learned or just weren't taught.  On the other side of that coin, it's reassuring that this program can find those weaknesses and help the student learn those concepts where I have failed.   It's a great program and works well to accomplish what it's designed to do - find those gaps and fill them in. 

#hsreviews  #onlinemath #homeschoolmath #familymath

For more information about the Adaptive Math Curriculum Online as well as the Family Math Package offered by A+ Interactive Math, be sure to click the banner below to read other Crew member's reviews.  You can also find more information by visiting their website or their social media sites.


Family & Adaptive Math Online {A+ Interactive Math Reviews}

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

HelpTeaching.Com (A Homeschool Crew Review)

For the last few weeks, members of the Crew have been reviewing the Help Teaching Pro subscription from, an online-based platform for teachers that supplies printable tests, activities, lessons, and games for students of all academic levels Grades K-12.

What Is and The HelpTeaching Pro Subscription? is an online based library offering access to thousands of pre-made worksheets, activities, and tests for K-12.  The website offers a free standard membership that allows users limited access to their TestMaker application.  The Test Maker allows users to create printable tests with up to 10 questions for their students.  However, the Help Teaching Pro Subscription ($39/yr) not only gives members the ability to make much longer tests (up to 100 questions in length), it allows those tests to be administered online and can include images and diagrams, which the free membership does not.  It also allows members to search a database of pre-made questions and answers to include in their tests.

The Test Maker offers the options of multiple choice, fill in the blank, true/false style questions, and open-ended questions as well as advanced math and science equations that can be used for testing material.   This variety of question styles allows for the user to create custom tests on any variety of subjects.  If questions on a particular subject does not exist in the question library, users can create and save their own questions to be used. 

In addition, Pro membership also gives members access to a library of premade premium content covering Engish Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. More than 3000 various worksheets are available for members to use for grades K-12.  Also available is a variety of self-paced video lessons for Middle School and High School Students. 

How Did We Use It:

More than anything else, I found that the Test Maker to be a valuable tool for my family.  The curriculum that we are currently using doesn't offer weekly tests, so I liked being able to log in and create a test with questions based on the materials that we had been working on.  I was able to sit down on Thursday night, look over the materials we learned that week, and pull questions and answers based on the materials we covered.

One of our Columbus Tests
Sometimes, I was able to pull questions from the library of questions that Help Teaching Pro offered. For example, in question 6 above, I was able to easily add a question regarding the compass rose into our weekly test.

However, I found their library of questions to be fairly limited.  For example, the keywords Christopher Columbus and New World when searched for grades K-5th grades only generated 4 questions total.

Many subjects that I looked up generated little to no results and so I found it much easier to just create my own questions instead of using the library.

I didn't have much more luck with the worksheet library. I will say, they do offer a large amount of worksheets for ELA and Math, however, their other subjects lack.  For example,  the Science worksheets is very bare bones.  Earth Science is limited to 5 worksheets total.

However, we did find a pretty decent worksheet that we used for the Phases of the Moon which I was able to use to check to see if the kids understood the lesson we had done.

Overall, I think the TestMaker is a great tool and holds value, but I personally didn't get much from the worksheets or the video lessons (which are for older students).

#hsreviews  #elearning  #onlinelearning  #teaching

For more information about and the Help Teaching Pro Subscription, be sure to visit their website or click the banner below to read the Crew's reviews.  Also, can be found on the following social media sites:

Help Teaching Pro. { Reviews}

The California Science Center (Wordless Wednesday)

A while back we headed to the California Science Center to check out the King Tut exhibit.  I shared those photos but dropped the ball on sharing the photos from the actual science exhibits :)  


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