Digital Puzzle Fun (Planet 316 review)

Most of the products I have the privilege of reviewing from the Homeschool Review Crew are things for the boys and their schooling. But every now and then something just for me comes along. Today’s review is one of those.

Daily Bible Jigsaw review1For the past few weeks, I’ve been playing the Daily Bible Jigsaw game, offered for free on Android and iOS platforms by Planet 316. It also works as a Facebook game. As the name suggests, this app is at its core a digital jigsaw puzzle. Each day, a new one is available, absolutely free. The daily puzzles aren’t difficult; each one takes me between 3 and 8 minutes to complete, and I’m not that great at puzzles. If one comes along that I do find difficult for some reason (or I don’t have a lot of time to work on it), no matter. There are “cheats” you can use (separate the edge pieces out, rotate all the pieces to their correct orientation, connect two random pieces, see a picture of what the finished image should look like, and sweep all the pieces not currently attached correctly off of the playing board). Each of these cheats costs “puzzle coins,” which are the currency of the game. One way of acquiring puzzle coins is by purchasing them. There are a wide variety of options to fit almost any budget, and “the more you buy, the more you save.” For example, 20 coins is $1.99 but 780 coins is $59.99, which is a 30% bonus. For this review, I was given a pack of 500 coins to use as I see fit ($39.99 value).

Daily Bible Jigsaw beginningYou can also earn puzzle coins for free. How? You can watch ads (completely optional – the game, unlike a lot of other free apps, never requires you to watch ads) or you can correctly connect the “power piece.” About a minute into the puzzle, one piece starts emitting stars and a task bar appears at the top of the screen. This is the power piece. If you can attach it to any other piece correctly, you earn one free coin. Another way to earn coins is by completing puzzle goals. For example, when you complete 5 “Resurrection Sunday” puzzles, you earn 1 coin. Solve 25 of them, and you get 5 coins. Solve 100, and you earn 10 coins. The same goes for every day of the week. You earn 5 coins when you’ve solved your 100th total puzzle. There are also coin awards for solving a puzzle quickly (under 5, 3, 2, and 1 minute).

Daily Bible Jigsaw 1In addition to cheats, puzzle coins are able to be used for previous puzzles. Remember the name of the app? Daily Bible Jigsaw. This means that the creators issue a new puzzle each day. But the puzzles from previous days are still available right in the app. If you want to do a puzzle from a day besides the current one, it costs 3 puzzle coins.

What sets this puzzle app apart from others I’ve used in the past is the “Bible” part of Daily Bible Jigsaw. When you put the last piece in place, all the lines fade away leaving you with a “smooth” image, and then a Bible verse appears over the image. Oftentimes, it relates to the puzzle in some way. If you have a Facebook account, you’re given the opportunity to share the verse on your wall (is it still called that? I haven’t used Facebook in years…). There are other benefits to connecting with Facebook if you have an account, too. By doing so, you get 10 free coins. Also, you can compare your times to those of your friends who are also playing the game.

Daily Bible Jigsaw completedI’ve used this app on a variety of devices over the past several weeks, and it worked fine and looked great on all of them. When I first got it, I had an inexpensive Android phone, and it was fine. Partway through the review period, Will and I upgraded to iPhones, and the graphics are great on it. With the account creation for our new phones came iPads also, and the app is awesome on it. I love the bigger size, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing it on a phone. Connecting my account to a new device was no problem, either. I just had to download the app, open it, and sign in using the email address and password I’d chosen in the very beginning. All my progress shows up every device. Easy peasy.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed playing Daily Bible Jigsaw each day. I haven’t missed one yet, and I don’t plan to – at least not in the near future. I highly recommend this app!


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Daily Bible Jigsaw {Planet 316 Reviews}

When You’re Not the Right Person for the Job

What a week! Not only has the blog hop been going on, but it’s been a crazy busy one for our family. My husband had surgery on Wednesday, so I’ve had to take over nursing duties for him on top of the regular stuff with the kids. He frequently drives the boys to their activities, so that’s been on me this week. This isn’t me complaining; I’m more simply justifying the lateness of my final blog hop post. This introduction is actually rather fitting for my topic, though (the part about driving the kids around specifically). 

Homeschooling when your kids have a large age gap

Oftentimes in homeschooling families, one parent is responsible for making sure the education happens. I personally think this is a good thing. Taking charge of our children’s educations is one of the most important things we do, whether you homeschool or not. But what about those subjects you don’t feel competent to teach? In those cases, it’s perfectly fine to use another teacher! This can be in the form of a co-op, a tutor, or even something like dance class or online lessons. Our family is pretty inward-focused, so we aren’t involved in a co-op, but my boys (the older 3) take dance classes. I am absolutely not a dancer, so we take them to a studio for dancing; this is the main way we utilize outside teachers. We do also use online teachers when the opportunity arises, too.

As for how this relates to kids with an age gap, I think it has two main benefits. First is the obvious one: getting help with the teaching allows you to spend time with your littles. But there’s one slightly less apparent reason that I can come up with, especially if you sit in the classes with your big kids at least some of the time. That is, you might just learn something with them! And that could help you to feel more confident teaching when the little kids are ready for the same classes years down the road.

Thank you so much for joining me during this blog hop, even if I was two full days late with my final post. 


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Can I Do It? Yes, You Can!

I know that the title of this post is a little confusing; it sounds like something that would be asked by someone who’s not sure they can do something really hard (like homeschooling their kids). While that’s part of what I meant by it, it’s actually more of a “conversation” between child and parent. When you ask your child to do something on their own, they might ask, “But can I do that?” Your response should be an emphatic, “Yes, you can!”

Homeschooling when your kids have a large age gap

Such is the case when our children get a bit older and they’re ready to begin tackling some of their school subjects on their own. This can be difficult for both parent and child. We’ve been guiding them thoroughly and intently for so many years that when they reach the middle school years and it’s time to teach them to be truly independent, it can be a bit scary for both of you. I know this was the case when we reached this point with Seahawk (13, 7th grade). It felt weird to suddenly just push him out of the nest, so to speak, but it turned out to be exactly what he needed.

What does this look like in our homeschool? Because we’ve been doing this for a couple of years already, it’s pretty basic. I give the older boys a subject and specific assignment (do this page of math), and then they do it. Sometimes a lesson needs to be taught first, especially if it’s new, but sometimes the textbook itself is a good enough teacher and they can just read the lesson and then do the exercises. When they’re done, I look over their work to make sure they understood the concepts and nothing needs to be clarified further or retaught.

Another thing we’ve recently added to our homeschool to further enhance the boys’ independent learning is weekly research papers. Every Tuesday, we go to the library. My mom takes the littles to story time (this falls into the category of allowing/asking for help when you need it that I talked about in the Day 3 post) while I help the bigs choose a topic and find books about said topic. They go over the books, take notes, and choose which ones to bring home. They have until Friday to turn in a paper on their topic. I don’t give them any firm guidelines except for the due date. This forces them to work on their own, but it also allows them to express themselves. See, some subjects (like math, science, or literature) are pretty dependent on their grade level and not so much based on their interests at all. But the research paper allows them to choose any topic they want – I give literally NO limits on this – and learn more about it. I was hoping that this weekly project would accomplish two things: a) help them expand their horizons and begin to research topics they didn’t necessarily think they’d have any interest in, and b) teach them to want to learn and how to learn. So far (we’ve been doing it about two months), I think we’re on track with both of those objectives.

How do you foster independent learning in your homeschool? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments!


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Help a Gal Out

This post should have published yesterday. I didn’t realize that it hadn’t. Due to that, I’ll post my day 4 musings later this afternoon.

Hello, and welcome to Day 3 of the Homeschool Review Crew annual 5-day blog hop. I hope you’ve been reading and being blessed by all the different blogs sharing about different aspects of homeschooling this week. I know I have.

Homeschooling when your kids have a large age gap

Today, I want to talk about how it’s okay to have your older kids help out with the younger kids. This is one of the main benefits in having a gap between the kids in my experience. We often ask Seahawk (and Munchkin, but to a lesser extent) to help out with the little brothers, and this is useful for a few reasons.

  • It frees me up to do other things, such as help another brother with something or work on time sensitive things like meal preparation.
    • Sometimes I feel guilty relying on the big kids to help so much, but when I remind myself that they’re learning valuable life skills (taking care of young children is one of the most important jobs in the world), I ease up a bit.
  • It teaches the older child responsibility.
    • Learning to be responsible is vital for our children as they age. If we don’t teach them how to care for people and things, they’ll be disastrous adults, and as parents, our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. Allowing them little bits of responsibility that grow bigger as they do is not only good, but an obligation on our part.
  • It teaches the younger child to rely on someone besides Mom.
    • When our babies are new, they need Mom for everything. As they get older, it’s healthy for them to begin to understand that other family members are also capable of caring for their needs. This will ease them into becoming big kids – and later, adults – as they grow.

In addition to helping with the smaller kids, older children can also help with other chores around the house. The phrase “train yourself out of a job” comes to mind. The reasons and explanations are basically the same as what I talked about above in relation to caring for younger siblings, but in the case of helping with things other than childcare, they can be applicable to families with fewer children.

So the next time you feel bad about asking your older child to help out with a younger sibling again (or is that just me?), remember that it’s actually good for everyone involved when they lend a hand.


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Readers in Residence (Apologia Review)

Review of Apologia Readers in Residence

Literature is one of my favorite subjects to teach. There are just so many good books out there, and by using a wide variety of curricula, my boys are exposed to books that are American classics. Sometimes the books we read are new to me, too. But the best thing of all is when they learn to read beyond just the book – critical thinking along with reading comprehension. This last point is something I tend to struggle with (which is a big part of why I started my virtual book club). But Debra Bell from Apologia Educational Ministries is great with it, and she’s developed a literature curriculum called Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth). Munchkin and I have had the pleasure of working through this during the past few weeks (when we weren’t busy moving, that is).

What it is

Readers in Residence is a companion to Apologia’s Writers in Residence program, but you can use them independently of one another. Readers in Residence is designed to help kids problem solve their way through books, starting even before they open to the first chapter.

IMG_0106The student book is huge – 562 pages in an 8.5×11″ spiral bound, consumable book, and there are 6 units for students to work through. In the odd numbered units, students are given a book to read, and in the even numbered units, they choose a book of their own in the same genre as the book from the previous unit. For example, the first unit is Sarah, Plain and Tall, and the second unit is the studen’s choice do a historical fiction book. After reading Charlotte’s Web, they choose an animal fiction book. And upon finishing Because of Winn Dixie, the entire fiction section of the library (or book store) is free reign. Each unit has a different focus, and those with an assigned book have a big unit project as well.

The book includes a suggested daily schedule, covering 4 days a week. I found this really helpful in trying to wrap my mind around the gigantic volume. Knowing where to begin and how much to do in a a given day was super helpful. After I studied the schedule and felt like I had a handle on what to expect from this curriculum, I passed the student book on to Munchkin.

How we used it

IMG_0107Munchkin, who is nearing the end of 5th grade, was pretty much given free reign over this curriculum. I was around when he needed help, but he pretty much did it all on his own. I just went over his answers each day when he’d finished. He dove right into Unit 1: Sarah, Plain and Tall. He’d read this book before, bit it had been a few years, so he was happy to read it again. 

The subtitle of this curriculum is Sleuth, and that’s very fitting. The opening module of the unit teaches students about becoming an expert reader – both what that means and how to become one. They start by exploring the cover of the book and looking for clues as to what the book might be like based on the cover. There’s a diagram showing the different parts do the cover (title, author, illustrator, awards, etc). Then they’re taught the difference between fiction and nonfiction, and this section is where the first exercise is. Students are instructed to find books of both genres at home and write down their titles. The module  continues in this manner, until they’re given instruction to actually pick up the book to read. At that point, they use the information learned to analyze the book before they begin reading.

IMG_0108I had Munchkin follow the schedule laid out in the beginning of the workbook, just for the sake of ease. This fell apart a little bit when we were in the middle of the move, but he’s right back into this book now that we’re settled.

What we think of it

We didn’t make it as far into the curriculum as I’d hoped and expected because our move was sudden and unexpected right in the middle of the review period. Despite that, I really like what I’ve seen so far. I like the 4-day week, I like the methodology behind the program, and I like that my son is learning to take an active role in the books he reads rather than staying a passive reader. I think it’s important to do things deliberately, and Readers in Residence helps students learn to read with a purpose. This is a definite win in my book (pardon the pun).


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Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) {Apologia Educational Ministries Review}

When Everyone Wants a Piece of You

Homeschooling when your kids have a large age gap

Welcome to Day 2 of the Homeschool Review Crew 2017 Blog Hop! As I mentioned yesterday, I’m talking about homeschooling kids with a large age gap, and today my topic is time management tips. I may not be the best person in the world for this, but I’m going to give it the “old college try.”

One of the main problems I run into as a homeschool mom with big kids and little kids is figuring out how to work with the big kids (mine are 7th and 5th grade) while the little kids (in my case, ages 4 and 1) are also vying for your attention. This is a daily struggle, because the older kids need help with some of their subjects, but the youngers aren’t mature enough to just go play on their own for a few hours during the schoolday. Here’s how I handle this.

  • First, get up before all the kids so you have a little bit of time for yourself.
    • This is important so that you don’t end up feeling like you never get any time to yourself (a common thing for me). Making sure you have even just half an hour in the mornings can make a world of difference.
  • Prepare the school things in advance.
    • If you know what you expect the big kids to do in a given time frame (day, week, month, however you choose to break it down), then it’s easier to pass that on to them. When everyone’s on the same page, things tend to go a lot smoother. My ideal method is a daily to-do list for each of the kids, and a monthly calendar for myself.
  • Don’t neglect the little kids, even during school hours.
    • This one isn’t so much a time management tip as a “keeping your sanity” tip, but it’s important nonetheless. It can be very frustrating having a preschooler yammering in your ear while the baby cries, all while you’re just trying to read a chapter aloud to the big kids. (Ask me how I know!) Sometimes the little kids are truly just being noisy for no reason, but sometimes they actually need something. Learn your own kids and how to discern which is which. When it’s the latter, pay the little guys the attention they need.
  • Take advantage of help whenever you can get it.
    • I know a lot of families are facing this homeschooling adventure solo, but if you do have family or friends nearby, utilize them if they’re willing. In our case, this is my mom taking the little kids to Story Time at the library while I help the big kids with a research project each week. Sometimes it’s my husband taking the littles for a walk in the morning. Whatever it looks like in your family, do it!

What’s your best time management tip? Even if you don’t have kids with an age gap, I’m interested in hearing from you in the comments! And make sure to check out other blogs participating in the Blog Hop through the linky below. They’re all writing about fascinating topics this week.


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Homeschooling Kids With a Large Age Gap, part 1

This week is an exciting one here on the blog. It’s the annual “5 Days of Homeschool” Blog Hop through the Homeschool Review Crew. Several of us will be sharing things about our homeschool, homeschooling tips, how to keep your homeschooling mojo going when you just can’t (or don’t want to), and more. Everyone who’s participating will have between 3 and 5 posts on their chosen topic. My topic, as you can tell based on the title of this post, is what it’s like to homeschool kids when you have a large age gap to contend with, and tips on making that task a bit easier.

Homeschooling when your kids have a large age gapTo tackle this topic, I’ve decided to explore some of the things that have worked for our family (keeping in mind that they won’t work for every family or in every situation), and turn them into tips. Here’s what I’ll be talking about:

Tuesday: When Everyone Wants a Piece of You (Time Management Tips)

Wednesday: Help a Gal Out (Letting the Big Kids Help the Little Kids)

Thursday: Can You Do It? Yes, You Can! (Trusting Your Big Kids to Work on Their Own)

Friday: When You’re Not the Right Person for the Job (Exporting Big Kids’ Subjects to Other Teachers)

Besides these posts, I’ll also have a literature product review up tomorrow, so make sure to come back tomorrow for double postings. This will be an exciting week; I can’t wait!


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5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Pictures of the Week: iPad Fun

The past few weeks have been crazy for us. About six weeks ago, our landlord told us he was selling our house, so we had to move. It’s been a frenzy of making plans and packing boxes since then, but we’ll finally settle into our new normal next week.

In the meantime, here’s a brief update on what’s been going on. 

The contractors that the landlord hired to replace the siding on the house cut our internet line, and the internet provider wasn’t terribly concerned with getting a tech to the house in a timely manner, so we canceled our service – hence the lack of activity here this week.

Will was tired of replacing our cheap Android phones every few months, so he upgraded us both to an iPhone 7. Our new service also came with an iPad apiece, so we’ve had fun learning the new system.

Here are a few funny pictures that we’ve taken using the new iPad.

Have a wonderful, Christ-centered Easter!


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Will on the Squeeze setting.

Will on the Squeeze setting.

Me on the Squeeze setting.

Me on the Squeeze setting.

Seahawk on the Twist setting.

Seahawk on the Twist setting.

Munchkin on the Squeeze setting.

Munchkin on the Squeeze setting.

Small Fry under the Thermal setting.

Small Fry under the Thermal setting.

Dragonfly on the Stretch setting.

Dragonfly on the Stretch setting.


Book Club: The Whistler

Book Club with Lori

I mentioned last month that this month’s Book Club would be on The Whistler by John Grisham, and that Mr. Grisham is my favorite author. This is definitely still the case after reading his newest novel; I think it’s even better than some of other recent works!


A high-stakes thrill ride through the darkest corners of the Sunshine State.
We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity is the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the flow of justice.

But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe?

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. It is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.

But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined.

And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout United States history. And now he wants to put a stop to it.

His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. When the case is assigned to Lacy, she immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else. (From the publisher.)

It took me a long time – in terms of days, not pages – to get going in this book (I even ran out of time on my library loan and had to return it, place a fresh hold, and check it out again several days later), but once I did, it was nonstop reading for me. There was one event a little less than halfway through that was enough to propel me through and make me want to just keep reading. I haven’t had that experience in a long time, so it was a welcome one with this book.

Discussion questions for this post are from Lit Lovers. Spoiler alert is in effect.

1. Talk about Lacy Stoltz. Grisham has been accused of ignoring strong females for his lead characters. Does Stoltz satisfy that lack? What do you think of her?

I’m unfamiliar with the accusation of Grisham not using strong female characters, but I suppose it makes sense; one of his other recent novels (Gray Mountain, published in October 2014) had a female lead. Perhaps if he was already “under fire” at that point, that might be the reason he chose a woman main character for that book.

Back to the question at hand, though. Lacy was okay. I neither loved her nor hated her; I was just ambivalent toward her. She wasn’t anything special. I think she reacted in reasonable ways based on the things that were happening to her and the people around her. I’m not sure that makes her “strong,” but it makes her a decent character.

2. Do you find anything enviable about Lacy’s life in the following passage? If so what? If you’re a woman, do you ever envision a life like Stoltz’s?

The truth was that, at the age of 36, Lacy was content to live alone, to sleep in the center of the bed, to clean up only after herself, to make and spend her own money, to come and go as she pleased, to pursue her career without worrying about his, to plan her evenings with input from no one else, to cook or not to cook, and to have sole possession of the remote control.

Generally speaking, I did not envy Lacy’s life in the least. She works too many hours for me, and it despite the relationship she has with her boss, colleagues, and colleagues’ families, it seems like it would be a lonely existence.

However… taking a look at the passage, I could see how it might be nice not to have other people to clean up after. That’s not enough to make me “want to be” her, though.

3. Had you figured out the whistle blower’s motive before the reveal?

No, but I didn’t really try to. That’s not my style of book reading. I tend to allow the author to take me on the ride they want rather than “spoiling” it, even just for myself. So I was perfectly fine to not try to guess who The Whistler was or why he/she was doing the whistleblowing.

4. How does Grisham ratchet up the suspense in The Whistler? What about that mysterious late night meeting near the Tappacola reservation? Realistically, why would Lacy and Hugo have gone?

The scene mentioned in this question is undoubtedly the point that made me want to keep turning pages. What happened “that night” when Lacy and Hugo went to the reservation was the moment I needed to keep reading. (I would have finished the book regardless, but this moment was the one that really was the turning point for me as a reader.) It was definitely the most suspenseful moment in the book (although there was another one involving the “whistler” and one of the antagonist’s hit men near the end was pretty good too). As for why Lacy and Hugo would go there that night, I think they honestly thought the man who called them would be a credible source in their investigation. I don’t think they suspected for even one second that it would be anything other than a reasonable “meeting of the minds” so to speak. Looking at it subjectively, after having finished the book now, I can see that it was probably a bad idea, though. I mean, who asks for a meeting at midnight? In an unfriendly “neighborhood”? No one. So Lacy and Hugo, being the intelligent people they were, should have known better. That said, without this meeting, and the unfortunate fallout that happened from it, the case never would have been solved. So despite the tragedy that occurred as a result of this meeting was absolutely essential to the story.

5. Read other Grisham novels? If so, how does this one compare?

I’ve read (almost) all of Grisham’s novels! (I think the only one I skipped was The Pelican Brief. That, and the smaller, non-law-related ones and the children’s novels.) I think this one is reminiscent of the Grisham I came to know and love many years ago. A lot of his current novels have been “preachy” or just generally not as good as his novels from the 90s. This one was absolutely fantastic. Definitely my favorite one in a long time.


Lori let me know just yesterday that she was unable to get this book from her library in time to read it (the hold list was too long), so unfortunately, she won’t be answering questions on it this month. I hope you’ll head over to her blog and read about some of the things she and her daughters have been doing lately anyway 🙂

We’re still deciding which book to read for next month’s installment of the Book Club, so I’ll make a new post when I know for sure.


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A Biblical History Novel (Peggy Consolver Review)

Over the past few weeks, Munchkin has been reading a new book from Peggy Consolver – Author. It’s called Shepherd, Potter, Spy–and the Star Namer, and it’s written in one of my personal favorite genres: biblical historical fiction. I’ve read quite a few books in this genre over the years, and when I saw this one come up for review, I immediately thought of my son. He and I looked at the website and book synopsis together, and he decided that he really wanted to read this book, so we requested it for review.

Shepherd, Potter, Spy, and the Star Namer review

The book tells the story of Keshub, a 13-year-old shepherd boy who wonders whether he’ll ever be good enough for his father. Set over the backdrop of the Old Testament battle of the Promised Land, this book provides a lot of action, intrigue, and adventure – perfect for a pre-teen or teen boy (or girl) to read about!

Shepherd Potter Spy reviewHere’s what Munchkin has to say about the book:

Shepherd, Potter, Spy–and the Star Namer is an interesting book. Chapter 6 was my favorite. It’s called “The Son of a King,” and it tells about how Keshub meets someone from the land of his enemies, who turns the prince of that area. The two become friends. I like this chapter because it was the most intriguing to me. I liked how Keshub turned a bad situation (the invading army and palace coming to town) into a new friendship by being kind and tricking the prince into being nice back which led to the friendship.

I also liked how the story of Keshub was laid over the top of the true biblical account of the battle of Jericho. It was interesting to compare the novel to the Bible.

Even though I liked most of this book, there were some things that I found difficult to understand. I think it would be better suited for someone a few years older than me.

In addition to the novel itself, Mrs. Consolver has created a study guide titled Digging Deeper into HIStory to go along with it. This would bring the novel reading to a whole new level, especially if you did it with a group of teens – it would make a great book club selection or youth group unit study. The study guide is available for $2.99 (Kindle) or $12.99 (paperback) and includes questions covering things like map work, reading comprehension, and historical compare/contrast.

Generally speaking, even though Munchkin found the book to be a bit advanced for him, I’m glad he had the opportunity to read it. It gave him a new perspective on the events in Joshua 9-10, and I think he’s a bit better for it. At his own request, we’re going to hang onto this book and he’ll read it again when he’s a couple of years older. We both hope it’s even better for him then than it was this time around.

Make sure to click the banner below for more reviews from Homeschool Review Crew members on this book.


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Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer {Peggy Consolver Reviews}