Why We Chose Commonwealth Connections Academy

Disclosure:  Raising A Family On A Budget is in not a Connections Education, LLC operated, sponsored, or affiliated site.  All opinions are based on my family’s experiences.

Why We Chose Commonwealth Connections Academy

This year, we decided to take our children’s education into our own hands and our own home.  

We started the year with a different cyber school, and while I loved the program on paper, once we started with them it didn’t take long to realize that their program was not a good fit for our family.  I have friends that are using that cyber school for their families and for them its a great fit, but every family dynamic is different, and ever child learns differently so for us, around week 6, we decided to make a change.

I began looking into traditional homeschooling, and what my options would be and the expense involved.  I was completely looking to go that direction, but my husband was encouraging me to look at other cyber school options, and here in Pennsylvania we are lucky enough to have several options.  That’s when I met Nicole and we got chatting.  Nicole told me about the wonderful cyber school that her children were enrolled in, the amazing and supportive teachers, the field trips, the curriculum, and all that this school had to offer.  I scribbled a few notes on a piece of scrap paper, and decided to look into things more when we got home.  This chance meeting at the farmers’ market would change my family’s life.

That amazing school that had me reconsidering cyber education was Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA).

Within a week of meeting Nicole and her family at the farmers’ market, we had filed the paperwork to withdraw from the first cyber school, and had submitted all of our documents to enroll in CCA.  I took trainings on how to be an effective learning coach, as well as on how to use all of the technology that the school had to offer.  I felt confident that this time it was going to work.  That this time my children & I would thrive.

I was right.

So what does Commonwealth Connections Academy have to offer (adapted from their website):

    • K–12 curriculum and classes developed by leading education experts.
    • Instruction from PA-certified teachers experienced in online instruction.
    • Support from trained counselors, principals, and administrative staff.
    • Free textbooks, materials, and computer equipment (including a subsidy for Internet service), which are needed in order to participate in a dynamic online learning environment.  You return texts at the end of each school year, and tech at the end of your time with CCA.
    • After Hours program to provide support for students with questions about homework or in need of real-time help from experienced teachers.
    • Dozens of clubs that foster social development and academic growth.
    • Hundreds of field trips that bring classroom lessons to life.
    • An involved community of students and their families.
    • Tons of support from the teachers, staff, family mentors, and everyone at Commonwealth Connections Academy

We had a great year, and I can’t say enough wonderful things about Commonwealth Connections Academy.  If you would like more information, please check them out online.  

Connections Academy schools are tuition-free, fully accredited online public schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.  Connections Academy schools are available to students in more than 25 states.  For more information, or to see if there is a Connections Academy school in your area, please visit their website.

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Gardening: A Need For Bees

Photo Credit: Thomas J. Story

In order to have a productive garden, you need your plants to be pollinated.  While some plants are pollinated by birds, bats, and even the wind, the majority of pollination happens because of bees.

With bee populations declining because of shrinking habitats, it is important to encourage bees to your garden and give them a place to call their own.  While some people may elect to have a full hive on their property, many municipalities have rules and regulations governing those; while other people don’t want the additional responsibility & expense of maintaining a healthy hive.

For the rest of us, these nesting blocks (pictured) are the way to go.  You can purchase a nesting block ready to go for about $18 and mount it to a tree or a fence post.  But for those of us who are a bit more frugal, you can make one yourself.


To make a nesting block, you’ll need a piece of untreated wood at least 4 inches deep and 8 inches long. Avoid cedar, which is toxic to insects.

Drill a grid of holes varying from 3/32 to 3/8 inch in diameter, spacing them approximately ¾ inch from each other. Drill deep holes, even going all the way through the block, to maximize the nesting depth.  You will have a backing board so the bees will only be able to enter from one direction.

Attach the block to a backing board and install a sloping roof that extends in front of the block to shelter the holes from the elements. Mount the backing board on a sturdy fence post, tree, or building in a site where the holes will get only gentle morning sun.

Go here for more information about bee nesting blocks.

Last Week’s Frugal Accomplishments: 6/22-6/28

I traded a rhubarb plan for a 2 gallon pickle crock.

During our biweekly CSA pick up, we got lettuce, spinach, collard greens, shell peas, dill, and a ton of cucumbers. 

lacto-fermented pickles

Made lacto-fermented pickles using the new crock, and a combination of ingredients from the CSA and our garden.

We harvested yellow cherry tomatoes, summer squash, string beans, snow peas, celery, red & golden beats, green onions, and a few carrots from our garden.

The strawberries are almost at the end, but with having a few everbearing varieties, we may get some more berries as the weather cools a bit into September.


Continued to take advantage of the fish sale at PetSmart and bought 5 more fish for our tank using money the children have earned for doing chores around the house.

Used our FSA account to pay for emergency dental work for me.  Its so nice having that account there when we need it so we don’t have to use a credit card for a medical emergency.  Also, since I went to the dentist at the first sign of a problem, I only needed a filling.  The dentist said if I had waited much longer, the tooth would have needed a root canal, which is a lot more expensive.

Used two 50% off item coupons at Joann Fabrics to buy some craft supplies for our Girl Scout troop.

I sent the window AC units in the children’s bedrooms to “energy save” mode so it uses less electricity.  

What did you do to save money last week?

Last Week’s Frugal Accomplishments: 6/15-6/21

cakeWe hosted my son’s 2nd birthday party at home.  I made the food instead of ordering in, and baked & decorated his cake myself.  I did some comparison shopping on the toy I wanted to get him and saved $10 on it.  I used a Kohl’s $10 off $10 purchase coupon to get him 2 more gifts for free.

My in laws gifted me more gardening supplies that they will no longer be using – fertilizers and fungicides.  These will come in handy as those items can get very expensive.

My mother gave me my father’s gardening cart, and gave Steve his upright tool chest.

canoe trip

We went on a canoe trip to a Girl Scout camp which worked out much cheaper than doing one of the tours on the river, and gave us an instructor.  Even my youngest was able to go in a canoe because he was wearing a life vest.  We had a great time and can’t wait to go back.

We continued to eat from our pantry and freezer.  Instead of buying fresh fruit, we ate home canned peaches, clementines, and applesauce.

We bought new fish for our fresh water tank for $1 each at PetSmart.  They are having a huge sale, and some of these fish are usually close to $6 a piece.

What did you do to save money last week?

Menu Plan Monday: 6/15-6/21

menu plan monday

My mantra for this week – Keep it Simple

Breakfast & Lunch will be the usual standards, and dinners will use up what we have on hand in the freezer, which is mainly chicken.

Monday – Spaghetti & Meatballs, garlic bread
Tuesday – Kielbasa & Potatoes
Wednesday – Leftovers
Thursday – Snipe’s Food Truck Feastiville
Friday – Take Out
Saturday – Pancakes & Bacon
Sunday – Burgers & Hot Dogs on the grill

Need a little more meal time inspiration, check out Menu Plan Monday.

Last Week’s Frugal Accomplishments: 6/8-6/14


I picked more strawberries from our garden.  We also harvested beets, lettuce, green onions, and carrots.  They were delicious.

We picked up kale, collard greens, turnips, and strawberries from our CSA share.

I splurged on pre-made hamburger patties and frozen french fries.  This saved us money by being able to avoid take out several nights last week.

I swapped home pressure canned green beans for fresh snow peas and a loaf of banana walnut bread at the Lower Bucks County Food Swap.

We made a batch of homemade granola with items we had in the pantry instead of buying a prepared granola at the market.

I used a $20 off purchase promo code for ShopRite from Home.  That promo code saved me more than the cost of delivery, so I was able to justify grocery shopping online and having the items delivered rather than dragging all 3 kids to the grocery store!

Checked out a book I’ve wanted from the library instead of purchasing it.

Shopped the Scholastic Warehouse Sale and saved more than 50% off of the cover price of my books.  These books will be used for read alouds, as well as for our summer reading, then they will become part of our homeschool library.

We were gifted two blueberry bushes, and they are already baring fruit this year!

Got a great deal on cypress mulch (6 – 2 cu ft bags for $10), and by making 2 trips I was able to bring all 12 bags home, instead of renting a truck.  Mulching our gardens will add nutrients to the soil, and will cut down on evaporation after watering.

I bought myself a new shirt at Kohl’s for only $6 after using the $10 off $10 purchase postcard that was mailed out.

I used the Cartwheel App when I shopped at Target, and stuck to only the items on my list.  I saved an additional 5% by using my RedCard.  I didn’t know it was possible to spend only $16 at Target!  

What did you do to save money last week?


Summer Reading – A Little Something for Everyone

summer readingWhen you think about summer reading and your child, the goal should be to read for enjoyment more than anything else.  Books can be at grade level, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with reading an “easy” book if your child enjoys it.  Encourage your children to read anything they can get their hands on, regardless of genre – comic books, folk tales, poetry, plays, fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, fairy tales, picture books, biographies, magazines, mystery, horror, nonfiction – there is no wrong choice when it comes to summer reading, except not reading!

When you are looking for books to read, explore your local libraries.  You have a lot more choices, and they are all FREE, so if a book isn’t a good fit your not stuck with it.  Just return the book to the library and make a new choice.  

When selecting a book, encourage your child to take a book tour: [Read more…]

Getting Ready for the Lower Bucks County Food Swap


Tomorrow is the first Lower Bucks County Food Swap of the season.  I am looking forward to meeting some new people, and trying out some homemade & homegrown food from others in our area.  The food swap will be taking place at my Morrisville, PA home starting at 1:30p.  I’d love for you to be able to join us!

What to bring:

  • 3-4 items to swap.  All items must be homemade/handmade or raised by you.  For each item you bring with you, that is 1 potential item for you to take home.
  •  If your items need to be chilled, please keep them on ice in a cooler during the swap.
  • Samples!  Everyone loves to taste before they bid!
  • Items should be packaged as a single item, ready to go home with someone.  For example, if you make a batch of cookies, don’t put all of the cookies on 1 plate unless they count as 1 item; rather bag them up by the dozen and you’ll be good to go.
  • Bring a small cooler bag with you.  You never know if you will get something that needs to be kept cold for the ride home.

If you’ve never been to a food swap before, check out this video from Cooking Up A Story to see what it is all about; and if you’d like to join us for the Lower Bucks County Food Swap tomorrow 6/13, please email me for directions & details at email hidden; JavaScript is required.  I look forward to meeting you!



Menu Plan Monday: Week of 6/8-6/14

Menu Plan MondayWe are eating from the freezer and pantry this week since I don’t feel like grocery shopping.  I need to do a deep cleaning on the fridge and freezer at some point this week, so eating what we have on hand instead of filling it up more is the way to go.  

This week’s menu plan:

Breakfasts:  Homemade Banana Bread, Oatmeal, Scrambled Eggs, Yogurt Sundaes (yogurt, fruit & granola)

Lunches: PB&J, Homemade Hummus & Pita, Grilled Cheese

Monday – Rustic Herb Chicken & Potatoes
Tuesday – Spaghetti & Meatballs
Wednesday – leftovers
Thursday – Breakfast
Friday – Kielbasa & Pierogis
Saturday – Burgers & Hot Dogs on the grill
Sunday – Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Veggies

Meals will be rounded out with salads from the garden, fresh strawberries, home canned applesauce, pears, and peaches; as well as with our weekly CSA pick up.  

Need a little more meal time inspiration, check out Menu Plan Monday.