Monday, March 28, 2022

My Favorite Homeschool Materials for High School

High School Must-Haves: Cat & Computer (Source)
It's a well known fact that I'm frugal. I've long been a huge proponent of cheap and free homeschool materials. You really DON'T need to have your family's homeschool spending compete with the budget of the federal government in order to provide your kids with a great home education.

But, there are some materials that are well worth the money. There IS  a place for purchased homeschool materials. As the Bible says, "a laborer is worthy of his hire." When someone creates great teaching materials, it is good to reward them for that.

These are some of our favorites that have been tested and proven. I highly recommend them, and have been thrilled with purchasing them.

These materials are still at the more frugal end of the spectrum, as materials go - mostly in the $10 - $20 per month range (or less!), per subject at the time of this writing.

Although I'm calling this "High School" I don't really use materials that are grade specific, nor do I wait for a certain age to learn certain subjects. I also don't hesitate to use materials that are "too young"if they are beneficial. When your kids are ready to learn these things, it's the "right" time to sign up. 



One Year Adventure Novel 


The One Year Adventure Novel  is a phenomenal package. As the title suggests, it teaches students to write a BOOK in one year - and enjoy doing it. I just can't say enough good things about it. It comes with a textbook, workbook, reading book and parent guide, access to 78 online video lessons that are EXCEPTIONALLY well done and easy to watch. The one BIG thing that persuaded me to get the package was the very active, supervised Forum (ages 13 and up only), on which all of the participants can "hang out" and talk writing. The kids are so nice to each other, and provide amazingly positive peer examples - in contrast to some social media platforms. In these pandemic times, that wholesome social interaction has been priceless. And, they also have an annual workshop each year. Since we started using OYAN, my daughter has begun telling people that writing is one of her favorite subjects (the other being art). Which, as one TV commercial used to say, is "Priceless!"



Olsen's 101 Series includes Chemistry 101, Physics 101, and Biology 101


Wes Olsen's 101 Series includes Chemistry 101, Physics 101, and Biology 101.  These DVD sets are a brilliant, non-intimidating introduction into the Hard Sciences, without the math. They're fun to watch, entertaining, and well-made. My daughter and I looked forward to watching these videos each day, and I have really appreciated how they took these tough subjects and made them approachable and likeable. They give an outstanding foundational understanding of the concepts, allowing the student to later put the mathematics of the sciences into a proper mental context. I especially appreciated the Christian worldview woven throughout, with biographical sketches of many of history's great scientists, including their religious motivation for their work. The videos come with PDF manuals, tests, etc - but we only used the videos (Not because I disliked the PDFs - I never looked at them. I just loved the DVDs!) I learned so much more from the Chemistry videos than I ever did in high school (and I was a good chemistry student). Just a note, the Biology course is much shorter and less comprehensive than the Chemistry and Physics courses by this company.





IXL I started using IXL to provide practice questions for math in early grade school - or maybe even kindergarten. They offered free questions every day, and I would hop to their site, use the free questions, and leave. This year, I finally signed up for IXL's very reasonably priced monthly math plan. And I really regret not doing it earlier! They offer a curated learning path for each child, and the computer checks answers and offer feedback and explanations for every question missed. As my daughter does diagnostic questions, the program offers her work that is EXACTLY at her level - not too easy, or too hard. And it moves her gently through the various levels and types of math. I love not having to grade math, and not having to teach it if I don't want to! Although this is perhaps embarrassing to admit, the fact is that my daughter is now better at math than I am! In the unusual situation in which she does not understand their explanations, she can simply copy and paste the name of the section she's working on into the YouTube search bar, and find a teacher there who explains it brilliantly. But that is seldom necessary. My husband sometimes teaches her math if a lesson is particularly challenging, but most days she is able to proceed alone using these materials. All I do is provide encouragement.




CodeCombat teaches coding by teaching kids to code games. There is a reasonable monthly or annual fee. It's an enjoyable way to learn, and very well presented. I've been very pleased with their tech support, too. This is a secular program, and sometimes has "magical" concepts or terms I'd prefer to be without, but all-in-all it's an excellent platform.

Educational Christian Entertainment


Jonathan Park


Jonathan Park is a SPECTACULAR dramatized audio adventure series. We used the monthly "Unlimited" subscription. It teaches Creation Science and the very good reasons behind it, as well as teaching Christian Worldview, and how to deal with challenges to one's Faith and moral issues.  We've loved this series for years now, and my daughter just finished listening to all 150 episodes. It's made more attractive by the fact that she can listen and do her art at the same time. Occasionally, there's a very minor discrepancy with our Orthodox Christian Faith - but that's almost never a concern. I love this series, and I love the values and life choices it teaches. 

Personal Finance



This was the hands down winner for "I wish I had been taught that in school!" comments. I was really surprised when I taught my daughter this content, and mentioned it to friends, how many well-educated adults I encountered said that to me. It's an oft-overlooked subject, but a very important one. The way I see it - there are two distinct categories of information a person should learn when studying Personal Finance. The first is the practical side - What is compound interest? How do I handle my checking account? How do I look for a job? That sort of question. For a practical introduction to Personal Finance, we really liked Moneytime . It is designed to take up to a year for kids ages 10-14, but we did it much more quickly on an intensive schedule. 


Discovering God's Way of Handling Money: A Financial Study for Teens by Howard and Bev Dayton


The other side of personal finance is values and decision making. In this area, worldview makes a LOT of difference! Discovering God's Way of Handling Money: A Financial Study for Teens by Howard and Bev Dayton was an EXCELLENT resource - I highly recommend it. Since many of the practical activities in the workbook duplicated those activities in the game, we mainly used this book for reading rather than for exercises. It provided wonderful guidance & wisdom for future money decisions.

Hope you enjoy exploring some of these great resources for your family!

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Monday, March 21, 2022

Thinking About Repeating a Year of Math?

Thinking of Repeating a Year in Math? (Source)
When I talk with other Homeschooling Moms about math, I hear one thing over and over again. It goes
something like this: "We're finishing grade x in math, but my kid isn't getting it. She's gotten okay grades all year, but she works super slow, and doesn't remember what we learned two months ago. I don't think we should go to the next grade. I think we're going to have to repeat this one before we can proceed!"

Sound familiar? 

A while back, my daughter was in a similar situation. She COULD do certain math questions, but slowly and painfully. Math was becoming unpleasant. 

There had been a time when she had enjoyed practicing math by playing Prodigy, but now she had tested into a level that was discouraging - so she had quit the playing the game.

Then, a fellow Mom (who is REALLY good at math! Thanks Alli Pait! : ) gave me a great tip that turned things around. 

She told me, "You know - you can override the grade levels in Prodigy, right?"

I did NOT know!

Well, I went home and did it. I went ahead and paid for the premium membership that rewarded her a little extra for her work, and set my daughter back not just one year, but several years in Prodigy.

Every day, I assigned her to play  "easy" math games on Prodigy, doing 30 to 45 questions a day - but at the same time, we kept working at her regular level with regular lessons. She enjoyed it! The game was fun when it was so quick and easy to get lots of right answers. It made brushing up on the few tricky spots easy.

Next thing I knew, she was enjoying speeding through the levels in Prodigy, getting a great review, and gaining the much touted automaticity - and confidence - that is needed to go on to more difficult math skills. She was getting the running start she needed to fly!

But, at the same time, we didn't have to "fail" any books or grades - we could go right ahead with on-level concepts. 

If you have a kid who is getting bogged down in math, give it a try. 

(And, no - this is not a paid endorsement. Just a product I really like!) 

You can sign up for Prodigy here.

Here's how to override grade levels.


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Tuesday, March 8, 2022

18 Almost No Time, No work Orthodox Lenten meals (Kid Friendly)

Creating a menu for EVERY DAY of a Lenten Season can be quite a challenge - even for one meal a day. But, there are some days when families like more than one meal a day (Imagine!).

Every family needs a list of meals that are quick and easy to serve with little notice - even families that faithfully menu plan. For omnivores, this list often includes things like burgers, eggs, hot dogs,  chicken nuggets, or boxed mac n cheese. 

This is the vegan version!

I'm putting in links to specific brands that I find tasty, and I believe are vegan. No affiliate links, just stuff I like using.

Here are those easy menus that I like to prepare when time and energy for cooking are limited. They're easy meals that can be prepared with very little time or effort, and the family likes them!


Also - scroll to the bottom of the page for more Lenten Menus!


Pasta with sauce (use homemade or jarred sauce, as you prefer)


White Beans


 Black-Eyed Peas

 Boca burgers with microwaved baked potatoes



 Meatless Crispy Tenders (or other Vegan Chicken Nuggets) with Baked Fries (from the freezer section of the grocery)



 Confetti Spaghetti


Mexican layer Dip with Tortillas & Chips



 Claire’s Delight over Rice



Hummus with Veggies, Chips or Bagels and Grapes (storebought or homemade hummus)

Lightlife Smart Dogs with Baked Chips & Vegetarian Baked Beans


Ramen Noodles (Soy Sauce Flavor by Maruchan) with Veggies added (we like Broccoli in ours)


BLT made with Lightlife Smart Bacon



Vacation Soup


Lazy Day LoMein


Black-Eyed Pea Salad


White Bean Salad


Black Bean & Corn Salad with Tortilla Chips

Club Sandwich made with Tofurky Deli Slices, Daiya American Cheese, Lightlife Smart Bacon, Lettuce (or cucumber slices), Tomato, and Vegan Mayo on Toast. (to me the trick of enjoying these "fake" foods on a sandwich is to use a small quantity of each - one slice Tofurkey, one slice "cheese" etc - and let the flavors blend)

For more Lenten Menus, check these posts:

Lenten Potluck Ideas

Menu for the First Week of Orthodox Christian Lent

Lenten Menu -A Meal for Every Day of Great Lent 

A Month of Gluten Free Vegan Meals with Recipe Links

9 Dump Dinners (Vegan & Gluten Free)  

40 Day Lenten Menu for People Who Hate to Cook

Lenten & Omnivore's Week's Menu

Lenten & Vegan Church Coffee Hour Plan

Orthodox Lenten Menu 2021, with Less Time in the Kitchen


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