Bringing the Bible to Life with Augmented Reality (Planet 316 review)

Bible storybooks are a great way to introduce the scriptures to young children. As our society becomes more and more technologically inclined, apps and programs come out that can be a distraction, though. Planet 316 and WorthyKids/Ideals have combined to create the Planet 316 Story Bible and the companion Planet 316 Story Bible App, a physical Bible storybook that works simultaneously with an app to create a super fun, “augmented reality” experience.

story bible

The way it works is this: purchase your book (the cover price is $18.99, but when you click the “buy” link, it takes you to Amazon where you can get it for $14.96 as of the date of this post) and download the free app, which is available for both Android and Apple products. I downloaded it to both my iPhone and iPad, just so we’d have options in case one or the other wasn’t available (dead battery, for example). The first time you use the app, you’ll need to grant it access to your camera, otherwise it can’t “read” the images on the book’s pages. Once you have both, open the book and aim your device’s camera shutter at the picture. On the screen, you’ll see the Bible come to life! Parts of the pictures appear to literally jump off the page, music plays, and most of the time the characters even talk. It’s really neat.

E with bible storybookI used this with both Small Fry (5) and Dragonfly (2). It was our go-to bedtime story for a while. I would read the pages to them, then we’d do the augmented reality portion for that page. The kids would take turns tapping the characters (which is how you make them say their lines). Several of the stories run just one spread, but many of them take more than one also. In a single night, it was easy to read 4 or 5 stories without it seeming like too much for a bedtime story (not that there’s ever such a thing as too much scripture, but you know what I mean).

My kids have really loved this product. It combines two of their very favorite things: being read to and getting to use the iPad. I really enjoyed it too. The augmented reality technology is really fascinating, and it really helps to bring the stories to life for young children. Sometimes the characters’ words are quite comedic (for example, on the day he was created, Adam says, “It’s my birthday!”), but sometimes they’re somber enough for the mood of the story they’re in. Adding that little bit of life to the Bible really helps kids to be able to understand that those things actually happened, too. Even though they only speak a sentence or two at a time, something about having a voice besides Mom saying the words gives kids a sense of reality. One of the best features is that once you have the app downloaded, you don’t need internet in order to run it. All the stories are contained in the app itself, so if you find yourself unable to connect to internet for one reason or another, your Planet 316 Story Bible App will still work.

bible storybook coverAs much as we loved it, there are two things I would change. First of all, it was a bit difficult to get the iPad far enough away to be able to see the entire image (on the screen) and not be standing over the book. This is very likely a camera issue, not an app issue though. I just would love to have the option to zoom out. The second thing is that it can be quite difficult to run both the book and the app-running-device with just one person. It was okay for me (just okay, not great) because I was reading to Small Fry, who is old enough to help. But the book, being a brand-new hardcover book, didn’t like to stay open unless you (someone) were holding it. Having to do that while also aiming the camera at the book proved to be difficult most of the time. The Bible being available in a spiral-bound edition would eliminate this problem completely, and that would be a very good thing, I think.

Despite those two issues, they’re not enough to keep us from using this product. The kids love it, I think it’s really cool, and they’re getting a reasonable Biblical foundation from the stories. That’s what matters most of all.

Blessings,

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Planet 316 Story Bible and Bible App {Planet 316 Reviews}
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Parenting Made Practical (review)

Being a parent is hard work. Anyone with kids – especially teenagers – can attest to that. It can be a very frustrating process to teach your kids to really listen to you and not just tune out as soon as you open your mouth to chastise/discipline them. Taming the Lecture Bug . . . and Getting Your Kids to Think by Joey and Carla Link is a book for parents of kids ages 8 and up to help teach you how to get your kids to actually start taking responsibility for their actions instead of constantly giving them the same lecture over and over again. 

PMP review

This book, offered by Parenting Made Practical, has 12 chapters for parents to work through. The opening chapter, Blah, Blah, Blah, takes the authors’ real life experiences with their children and showcases how they used to just lecture their children whenever they (the kids) didn’t do something. Sound familiar? It does to me. I’m sure there are a lot of parents out there who utilize this technique as a form of teaching discipline. But think back to your own teenage years; did you listen – really listen – when you were getting one of these lectures from your parents? Yeah, me neither. Teens and pre-teens think they’re so smart. Much smarter than their parents. This is why lecturing them doesn’t work. 

The psychology of the child goes much deeper than that, though. Taming the Lecture Bug also has chapters on that, explaining not only why kids don’t think, but why to a certain extent it’s the parents’ fault they don’t. They break it down into six main reasons: reminders, lectures, anger, busyness, expectations, and being well-trained (the parents by the kids, not the other way round). By not teaching our children to manage their time well (and suffering the consequences when they don’t), we’re actually doing more harm than good for our kids. This was a bit of a hard pill for me to swallow, because I always want to help my kids and keep them out of trouble. But in the long run, I’m not helping by doing that. Reminding them of their chores and schoolwork is actually doing them harm (according to the authors of this book).

In order to “tame the lecture bug” in yourself, you have to open up a dialogue with your children. The key word there is dialogue – not monologue. Start retraining your children’s stubborn heart by teaching (or reminding) them about sin. We all need to be in a good place with God, and that means confessing our sins. As long as our children are being defiant to us, they’re also being defiant to God. Instead of lecturing (the monologue), ask them open-ended questions (Why did/didn’t you do that? What were you thinking when you did that? How do you think I felt when in,earned of your behavior? Did you think you’d get away with it?) to start a dialogue. Use their answers as a springboard to the sin conversation. 

It’s not an easy path, but we all knew that when we decided to have kids. With the help of resources like this one, it can be a little easier though.

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are discussing a variety of Parenting Made Practical resources this week. Click the banner below to learn more about

Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave?

Navigating the Rapids of Parenting

Dating, Courting, and Choosing a Mate… What Works?

What Every Child Should Know Along the Way

as well as a video version of Taming the Lecture Bug.

Blessings,

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Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}
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Parent-Controlled Email for Kids (KidsEmail.org review)

The world we live in today is much different from the one I grew up in. When I was the age that my kids are now, email was something very few people had. Today, even children want their own email address. But the traditional internet-based email providers are riddled with ads (among other non-kid-safe things), and we don’t want to expose our children to that. What’s a modern parent to do (besides ignore societal norms and not let your kids have all the technological things they want)? Get them an Annual Subscription from KidsEmail.org!

I’d heard of this product before, but never really felt the need to explore it very much, because as a rule, we fall into the “ignore societal norms” camp with our children. (They don’t have cell phones, computers, or tablets of their own. Munchkin only just got a Kindle for his birthday last week, and it’s strictly an e-reader with heavy parental controls. It’s literally only for books that we approve.) But when we were chosen to review KidsEmail.org for the Homeschool Review Crew, we happily started using the service in our home.

KidsEmail.org is a company that provides email addresses very similar to Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail, but for kids. There are a few things that “for kids” covers. First, it’s completely ad-free, which is important because not all of the advertisements on traditional email servers is kid-friendly. Second, parents can control everything done on the child’s account, without even having to log in to the child’s account. There’s a parent account that’s attached to the children’s accounts and you can control things from there such as

  • receiving a copy of all incoming and outgoing mail in your child’s account
  • setting specific times and/or days your child is allowed (or not allowed) to check their email – you can even “ground” your child for a set period of time if they’re in trouble
  • receiving a copy of incoming mail based on safety issues you set and approving or denying any messages before they get into your child’s inbox
  • blocking senders
  • setting a contact list for your child and allowing only messages (incoming or outgoing) only to that list
  • using the GPS tracker to know where your child is (if your child uses the mobile app)

In addition to these features from the parental controls, the child can choose certain aspects of their own to control, such as the background image and organizing their emails using folders.

Setting up the accounts was really easy. I just had to register for a parent account using my own name, email, and password. From there, I could add children’s accounts. There was a choice between a “normal” account (username@kidsemail.org) or a more grown-up “teen” account (username@kmail.org). Other than the ending of the email address, the accounts are the same (as near as I can tell). At ages 10 and 12, I gave the boys each a “kmail” address, and let them choose their own username. They chose based on their interests – Seahawk is {name)likeslegos and Munchkin is {name}likesreading. Neither of those are things I would have chosen for them, so I’m glad I talked to them before setting up their accounts. Having them choose their own username and password makes this much more their “own” thing.

seahawk-email

You can see across the top that there are a lot of the normal email settings. The center section shows the sender’s name (which I blacked out for privacy reasons), subject, and when the message arrived.

Once they had their accounts, it was time to get some emailing done. I don’t know if you remember when your email account was new, but messages don’t automatically roll in. There’s the whole “getting the word out” thing you have to do. In order to aid in this, a few of us Homeschool Review Crew members set all of our kids up as E-Pals. I added all of those kids to my kids’ contacts list as well as myself and Will, their grandparents, and a couple of friends who had email accounts already. Since then, they’ve had lots of email each day, and they’ve really enjoyed making new friends and writing short messages back and forth. This has been a good tool in helping them with their writing skills (even though the messages are short, it helps them to remember to use complete sentences), typing (I only did their typing in the very beginning; now they do it themselves), and spelling (the spell checker has been great for Seahawk – he’s learned to spell some more complicated words just by seeing them corrected in his email).

munchkin-email

In the “compose” window, you can see the options for sending an email. Children can import the “to” from their contacts list. The subject is non-optional (unlike some other email providers). In the message itself, there are options for changing the font, color, and size. Kids can also send attachments just like a regular email provider.

Overall, this has been a very positive experience for us. The kids enjoy their new correspondence, and I like giving them a bit more responsibility. We’ll likely continue this subscription even after it expires next summer. If you’re not sure you want to take the plunge, KidsEmail.org offers a 30 day free trial – no credit card required. If you want to continue after the trial, you can choose a monthly plan ($4.95 a month for up to 4 accounts) or the Annual Subscription ($38.95 per year for up to 6 accounts).

Blessings,

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KidsEmail.org Annual Subscription
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Speech Therapy

small fry

I don’t have a picture specific to speech therapy, so forgive me for recycling this picture of Small Fry from our Wildlife Safari trip 🙂

 

I’ve mentioned a few times about how Small Fry is a late talker. Most kids, by their 2-year well child checkup, are speaking fairly clearly in 2-3 word sentences. When Small Fry had his appointment back in July, he was barely saying “yes,” “no,” “mama,” and “dada.” He’s a bright kid – it’s clear in the way he does communicate (he picked up the signs I taught him lightning fast – as in, less than a day) and how he obeys and reacts to us. He’s not a dummy. He’s just not all that interested in talking. (With two older brothers who were always ready to jump at his every whim, there was no motivation to learn to talk.) So our doctor suggested we start him on speech therapy. [Read more…]

C is for Costumes

c is for costumes sbh

You know that Halloween was last week, so I want to talk today about how we do costumes in our family. First, though, let me go over Halloween. We don’t give the “holiday” much emphasis in our family, but we also don’t avoid it altogether. The downtown association in our town sponsors a trick or treating event every year where the local businesses along the main drag offer candy (and other goodies – coupons from the dance studio, toothbrushes from the dentist, etc) for the children. It’s a completely safe way to do trick or treating, and it’s always really fun to see all the children’s costumes. [Read more…]