Learning Greek with “Andrew” (Greek ‘n’ Stuff Review)

Greek n Stuff review

A couple of months ago, my two oldest kids created their own secret code using the “Ancient Greek” alphabet as their guide. They practiced and practiced their handwriting, assigned each Greek letter an English equivalent, and then started writing messages to each other. I thought this was both interesting and clever of them. Not long after that, we were given the opportunity to review “real” Greek from Greek ‘n’ Stuff, so I asked them if they’d be interested, and (not surprisingly) they said yes.

Teach me some GreekFor this review, we were sent the Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! – Level 3 Set student worktext and full answer key, as well as the pronunciation CD. Once we got started with it, it became very clear that Munchkin was much more interested than Seahawk, so after the first few lessons, he continued alone.

Even though this was our very first exposure to Greek (not counting the boys’ Google searches to find out what the letters looked like), after looking at the website, I learned that it was best to start at Level 3. This is where it’s suggested kids in upper-elementary and older begin, even with no previous experience. The first several lessons are all about the alphabet, which technically should be review for this level (and in fact, that’s how it’s treated). But it was easy enough to slow it down and make 6 lessons (plus tons of flashcard practice) instead of just two. Because we got Level 3, the flashcards that are included start with vocabulary, so I had to find some alphabet ones online. This wasn’t a big deal, though.

Greek Alphabet reviewOnce he’d mastered the alphabet, Munchkin moved on to the vocabulary lessons, which start out slow and steady. Greek ‘n’ Stuff uses a translation method, so at the beginning of each lesson, the Greek word is written big at the top of the page, along with a phonetic transcription and the meaning of the word in English. Then there are a few activities using the word (write the word in Greek, draw a picture of the word, match all the words you’ve learned so far with their English translations, and more). There are definitely enough different types of activities to keep the learning from getting dry or boring. Each day is a little different.

Greek worksheet 2We had another advantage while working through this, too – the kids’ grandfather (Will’s dad) is fluent in Greek due to all his time going through pastoral training, so he was able to help out with the extra tricky pronunciations, and he offered up random pop quizzes occasionally. These usually looked like a Greek word written down, and Munchkin had to give the correct pronunciation and translation.

So far, Munchkin has really enjoyed his Greek lessons. They’re a nice change from our regular foreign language study (Rosetta Stone French), and because it was his idea to learn it, he does it mostly on his own without ever having to be asked. He has learned about a dozen words so far, and his Greek handwriting is quite good. I’m glad he’s taken the initiative to learn Greek; it will definitely come in handy as he gets older and becomes a man of God to be able to (eventually) read the Bible in its original language.

Greek worksheet 1Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing several different products from Greek ‘n’ Stuff this week:

Make sure to click the banner below for more information on all of these products.

Blessings,

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Teach Me Some Greek {Greek 'n' Stuff Reviews}
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A New Audio Drama from Heirloom Audio Productions (review)

“This one was really good!” ~ Seahawk

Review of In the Reign of Terror

We were blessed once again to get to review an audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions. This time it was In the Reign of Terror, a story that takes place during the French Revolution. Because I didn’t actually listen to the CD (I’m more of a visual person), I’m going to turn the review of the actual audio production over to Seahawk…

From Seahawk:

When the story starts, the main character (Harry) is a young kid. He is headed to France to live with noble family so that he can learn more about French culture. As he’s living with them, the heat starts building in Paris over the French Revolution. Chaos breaks loose. Harry and the family he’s staying with find themselves victims of the revolution. Their family is split up, and many of them end up imprisoned or worse. Harry is trying to get the family reunited and safe from all over France.

I think that this gives a very accurate depiction of what the French Revolution was like if you were a nobleman. I enjoyed this one very much, and I think they just keep getting better and better.

Back to Mom:

in the reign of terror coverIn addition to the physical CDs, we also received a membership to the Live the Adventure Club website, a new thing from Heirloom Audio. The site has so much to offer! There is a forum where you can connect with other members over all sorts of things (homeschool, the audio dramas, family life, and more). Live the Adventure Club is also where you’ll find the study guides for all of Heirloom’s productions. In the past, they’ve been available as a download with purchase of the CD, but now they live on the new website. (You can still download them from there.) Also under the “Education” tab is a whole series of lectures giving a biblical perspective on the U.S. Constitution. I haven’t had a chance to go over that yet, but I can imagine it would make a great government/civics course for a middle or high schooler. Also on the Adventure site, you can stream mp3s of any of the audio dramas you’ve purchased. This would be good if you’re somewhere with internet access but no CD player (it’s not available to download).

study guide snippetBefore I wrap up, I want to talk about the study guide itself for a few minutes. It starts as any study guide should – with biographies of the important players (in this case, G.A. Henty, the author of the story, as well as important French Revolution figures Robespierre and Marie Antoinette). From there, it moves on to specific things from each track of the CD: comprehension questions, critical thinking questions, and vocabulary. Sprinkled throughout are some paintings from the time period and “Expand Your Learning” boxes, which include extra information that’s more about the time period than the audio drama itself. For example, one of these is all about French fashion at the time. As you near the end of the study guide, there are several pages that are meant to be done after listening to the whole production. These are the spiritual learning pages, and they’re mostly a guide for a parent (or pastor) to work through with the student(s). They offer specific points that can be learned from the audio drama and have an outline with Scripture references to back them all up. The study guide closes with a brief timeline (all written out with tons of information) about the French Revolution.

I’m very glad I was able to request this for Seahawk to review. He’s listened to several Heirloom productions in the past (see our reviews for Beric the Briton and The Cat of Bubastes; he also has In Freedom’s Cause), and he always loves them. I’m glad to have something that keeps him busy and engaged that I don’t have to worry about. I know that there will be nothing questionable in an Heirloom Audio Productions drama. (Some of the content can be a bit intense, especially for the under-6 crowd, but intense is not the same as questionable.) I love that he’s learning bits of history through these dramas, as well as developing a taste for older literature. Maybe someday he’ll feel inclined to read a Henty novel. Probably not, but a mom can dream!

Blessings,

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In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
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The Crafty Classroom (Preschool curriculum review)

Preschool and Kindergarten is a magical time for children. They’re excited to learn, and there’s so much to teach them. The main things they need at this age are letters and letter sounds (to prepare for reading) and basic counting and patterns, shapes and colors (math). Small Fry and I have been working on all of these things together over the past couple of months, and today I want to focus on a product that helps make letter learning fun – the Bible ABC Curriculum Notebook from The Crafty Classroom.

The Crafty Classroom Review

As an early 5 (his birthday was about two weeks ago), Small Fry is just beginning to learn to read. We’ve been working on things for a few months now, and he’s getting a bit more maturity each day. To this end, I’m working with him frequently (not every day, but often), and having lots of options keeps things interesting for both of us.

Rough weekly outline

Rough weekly outline

The Bible ABC Curriculum Notebook is a PDF that contains over 650 pages (!) of printable activities for your preschooler. It’s designed to be kind of a combination letters and Bible curriculum; the way it’s set up, you introduce one letter per week (in alphabetical order), and each letter corresponds with lots of Biblical vocabulary (C is for Commandments) as well as teaching young children the attributes of God. The first 8 pages offers a general overview of what’s included and a sample schedule for the different activities. The following 649 pages are all the different printable pages (and a specific guide for the week), and the final page gives options for further study with your preschooler when you’ve finished this pack.

IMG_0415While this would be really good to use as an introduction to the different letters for your child, we already had a reading/phonics program that Small Fry is doing really well with, so I opted instead to use these printouts as a supplement to that. Instead of printing out the entire 658 page PDF and putting it in a binder (even though we have an “INKvestment” high yield printer, that would be pretty extreme in terms of paper and ink), I looked at the PDF at the beginning of each week (roughly – I’m not pushing him too hard yet since he’s not quite Kindergarten age until this fall) and printed out just the pages that I thought Small Fry would enjoy that also went with the letter of the week from his other reading program. This allowed us to have some fun with the worksheets without getting overwhelmed.

Using just the pages we wanted made this a really great thing for us. We didn’t feel a lot of pressure by the program, and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by all the printouts. We used just a few of them here and there, and it was a really nice way to reinforce what he was already learning. For a kid who really likes worksheets, this was great! Some of his favorite pages were:

crafty classroom 5

Chart the different items that start with the letter of the week.

Basic Math

Basic Math

Find the letter within the letter and then count how many there were.

Find the letter within the letter and then count how many there were.

Race to the Top game

Race to the Top game

Overall, we’ve really enjoyed having this to work with his other letter program. I like that he’s enjoying the learning process (and that I can give him a couple of pages to work on while I need to do something else for a few minutes and he works his brain during those times), and he likes having fun “coloring pages.” Overall, this is a definite win, and something we’ll keep using for the next few months as he pushes on in his journey to learn to read.

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing lots of different things from The Crafty Classroom this week, including a non-Bible version of the ABC pack, the Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook, and for the older crowd, the USA Activity Bundle and How to Write a Paragraph curriculum. Click the banner below for more information on all of those.

Blessings,

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Crafty Classroom {Reviews}
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Trust Fund (movie review)

I recently had the opportunity to watch a new movie from an independent film company, Mapelle Films. It’s called Trust Fund, and it offers a new perspective to the biblical story of the prodigal son.

The Synopsis

Reese is a free spirit. She grew up rich, and never had to worry about anything financial. Even as a young adult, her father deposited a hefty sum of money into her bank account each month – which she readily spent every single month.

Audrey is the responsible sister. She works for her father’s publication company, is engaged to a man who also works there, and focuses hard on being “good.”

One day, while snooping through her father’s desk, Reese comes across a copy of her late mother’s will. She learns that her mother, wealthy in her own right, had left 10 million dollars for her and Audrey to divide equally. Her father had never told her about this money, and Reese feels cheated. She tries to convince Audrey to help her confront their father about it, but Audrey refuses. Reese tries to confront him on her own, but chickens out. What she does instead is really horrendous – she hacks into the company’s accounting software by guessing Audrey’s password and transfers $5 million to her own account. She then leaves for Italy, where she meets up with a man she’d met while visiting the country just before the opening scene of the movie.

Trust Fund Movie Review

She spends a lot of energy – and money – in Italy, shopping and generally living the high life with Milo (the Italian boyfriend). When he has difficulty making the money to “invest” as he wants, Reese offers him her money. He tries to decline – in the kind of way that someone declines when they really want to say yes. She insists, and he eventually takes the money. All of it. He buys stolen diamonds, and as soon as Reese finds out that this is what he’s done, she leaves. Fortunately, she runs into a private investigator (hired by Audrey, close friend of her father) who was tracking her. He helps her get home from Italy.

Just like in the biblical parable, her father is thrilled to have her home. He throws a party celebrating her return. And just like the parable, the older sibling (brother in the Bible, sister in this movie) wants none of it. Audrey is furious with Reese – and for good reason. She didn’t just take her inheritance (although that would be pretty bad, considering she didn’t have permission to access that money), she actually stole from the company.

This all happens in the first half of the film. The second half expands on what could reasonably happen from there: Does Audrey ever forgive Reese? Does Reese ever face any legal ramifications for what she’d done? Does she ever get her money back from Milo? Does Milo ever get caught for being part of a diamond smuggling ring? How does Reese’s life change once she gets back from Italy? All these questions are answered in the second half, but to avoid spoilers, I’m going to leave them as questions.

My Thoughts

I watched this movie with Will, just the two of us. Despite it being a “biblical story,” I wanted to see it before committing to showing it to anyone else, including my kids. Now that I’ve seen it, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. The cinematography is stunning; it doesn’t feel like an independent movie at all. A lot of the actors are people I’d never heard of or seen in anything else, but a few of them I had seen in other things (Ana Ortiz, who I recognized from Boston Legal, and Rose Abdoo, who was a regular guest on Gilmore Girls). The only thing that I can even remotely “complain” about is that some of the scenes felt really short. Also, I had trouble working out what exactly Milo was doing. I knew it was something bad, but it didn’t really seem to ever fully explain it. Overall, this is a fabulous movie though.

Finally…

Trust Fund was written in 2013, shot in the fall of 2014, and had a small release in the Kansas City market in 2016. It did very well there, but Mapelle Films didn’t have the funding to offer a wider theatrical release. But they’re releasing it to the home entertainment market today! That means you don’t have to wait any longer if you’re interested in purchasing the movie. It’s available as a digital download or on DVD.

To supplement the movie, there’s a book called Love Was Near. This book is designed to be read by girls ages 12 and up after they’ve seen the movie. It delves into some of the deeper issues behind the Reese character, exploring what she may have been thinking as she made certain decisions. I don’t know much about the book (as a mom of boys, we didn’t have the opportunity to review the book, just the movie), so make sure to click the banner below to find reviews that did include the book, if that’s something you’re interested in.

Blessings,

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Trust Fund Movie {Mapelle Films Reviews}
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Fascinating Chemistry (Review)

Not unlike a lot of parents (homeschooling and otherwise), science is not a subject I love. I never have. Despite the fact that I took several advanced level science classes in high school (forever ago!), I never felt like I really got it. My grades would suggest otherwise, but that’s beside the point. When it comes time to teach your kids, your own confidence matters much more than the grades you earned years and years ago. For this reason, I wanted to give Fascinating Education a try with Seahawk.

When I was in school, biology came before chemistry, but with Fascinating Education, it’s the opposite. Besides that, Seahawk has already had loads of earth and life science classes (I like those better than physical sciences, so I tend to gravitate toward them when I feel like we’ve been avoiding science for too long). For these two reasons, I asked for us to review Fascinating Chemistry.

About Fascinating Education

The firs three lessons. You can see the lesson name as well as the sections for each lesson - video, script, and test.

The firs three lessons. You can see the lesson name as well as the sections for each lesson – video, script, and test.

Fascinating Education was developed by Dr. Sheldon Margulies, a retired neurologist. His background in neurology means he really understands how the brain works, and using this knowledge he developed a system of teaching science that really works. The system consists of video lessons, which are narrated with lots of images including charts and graphs, as well as a downloadable version of the narration for students who are more visual. Accompanying each video lesson is a test to make sure students grasped the information from the lesson. Fascinating Chemistry also has some labs available (though we haven’t gotten to those yet in our time with the program).

Our Experience with Fascinating Education

A sample from the script. The script is broken down into the different slides from the video.

A sample from the script. The script is broken down into the different slides from the video.

Seahawk used this curriculum pretty much all on his own. Outside of logging him in and telling him what to expect, it was completely hands-off on my end. I got the video set up for him on the iPad and left him to it.

Because this was Seahawk’s very first exposure to chemistry, he didn’t do so hot the first time through the test. This wasn’t surprising or upsetting to me at all, although I did have to ask others who had used the program before what to do from there. Obviously I couldn’t have him move on, but it seemed counter intuitive to just have him watch the video again and again and again, expecting him to eventually to pass the test. This is where the downloadable narration comes in. Even though Seahawk is an audio learner, I printed out the narration packet for the first lesson so that he could study it before watching the video again and attempting the test. Thus far, he’s still working on the first lesson – despite regular work over the past few weeks. It’s a lot of information there, and this is just the first lesson! I can totally see how (regardless of our limited exposure) this is a high school level chemistry course.

What we think of Fascinating Education

A sample from the Lesson 1 test. The blue button at the top, "Need help?" takes you to a page that offers a clue to help you figure out the answer in case you're unsure.

A sample from the Lesson 1 test. The blue button at the top, “Need help?” takes you to a page that offers a clue to help you figure out the answer in case you’re unsure.

Our (Seahawk’s and mine) opinions on this curriculum differ a bit.

He doesn’t love it – which makes sense, considering he’s been working on the same lesson for a very long time. He doesn’t hate it either, though. He does well with the video lesson; he just needs to learn to focus himself in order to absorb the information better. This would be a great curriculum to learn note-taking with. If he could figure out how to watch the videos and write down pertinent information rather than just watch and listen, I think he’d do a lot better at it.

My opinion is that this is a really good, solid product for older kids. They need to learn to work independently – this teaches them that. They need to learn science (beyond the “fun” stuff of space and life) – this takes care of that, too. With this review posting, we’re not required to keep using the program, but I’m going to have Seahawk continue doing so anyway, even if that makes me a bit unpopular with him. He needs this program, and for more than just the science aspect. He needs to practice being an independent learner who can figure things out on his own, and Fascinating Education is a good tool for that. (I’m always there to help him through things, of course, but like it or not he’s getting older. The most important thing I can teach him at this point is to take charge of his own life, which right now means his education. I set the expectations, and it’s his job to follow through with them.)

Final Musings

Fascinating Education offers Biology and Physics courses as well as the Chemistry one. Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are writing about various levels this week. Make sure to click the banner below for more information on all three levels.

Blessings,

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Biology, Chemistry & Physics {Fascinating Education Reviews}
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Unlocking the Secrets to Upper Level Math (UnLock Math review)

For the past few weeks, Seahawk (13 years old) has been working on his first real foray into upper-level math: Pre-Algebra. To do this, we asked to review UnLock Pre-Algebra from UnLock Math. This program has been an absolute blessing to us! Let me tell you more about it.

UnLock Math was created by Alesia and Matthew Blackwood. Both were homeschooled as children, and Alesia went on to become a school teacher, holding certification from Georgia Professional Standards Commission to teach upper level mathematics (grades 7-12). She and Matthew met in 2001 and married in 2002, and as they started having children they decided they wanted to work together, doing their own business. They recognized a need for quality math curriculum in the homeschool community, so they worked to develop a revolutionary complete, online math curriculum that does everything for you (the teacher/parent): it teaches using entertaining videos; it offers quizzes and tests; and it self-grades. The only thing you as the parent need to do is make sure your child logs on (the site is 100% free from ads and other distractions) regularly, and check in on their progress periodically. The program does absolutely everything else.

Unlock Math homeschool curiculum review

As I said, we’ve been using this with Seahawk. As he’s finishing up 7th grade, looking forward to 8th grade this fall, he’s the same age that I was when I did these maths, so I decided it was time to have him step up and start working on more advanced concepts. I know he’s bright enough to manage, so I eagerly requested this review. For us, it’s become his core math curriculum. Each school day (4-5 days per week), he’s working on one lesson, using my iPad. The program would also work on a computer, of course, but we only have one computer available for school stuff, and since math doesn’t require a real keyboard like, say, typing does, math happens on the iPad. I love that it works there! It’s great to have the computer free for my other son to do different lessons while his older brother is working on math.

This screen shot shows the video lesson and the path to follow afterwards. The warm up is up above (you can see the path leading away on the right side of the video); I just couldn't fit it all on my screen to get a full screen shot.

This screen shot shows the video lesson and the path to follow afterwards. The warm up is up above (you can see the path leading away on the right side of the video); I just couldn’t fit it all on my screen to get a full screen shot.

The lessons each have five parts. First is the “Math Warm Up,” which is a short online worksheet designed to get the student in math mode. Next is the teaching video, which is Alesia explaining a bite-sized math nugget. So far, the videos have been about 7-10 minutes long. I’m not sure if they’ll stay that short throughout the entire program, but I can imagine that they’ll get longer as new and more advanced topics are introduced (so far, the program has been mostly review but with new vocabulary for the concepts for Seahawk). After the video is a worksheet to practice the concepts taught in the video. Then comes the “Challenge,” which is a single difficult problem based on things the student should already know. The final element is Reference Notes, which is a downloadable PDF that shows what a student might have taken notes on during the lesson, if he’s a note-taking type. We haven’t used this section very much because Seahawk is very much an auditory learner; seeing the information written out wouldn’t help him much. The lesson page has all of these elements on it, and there’s a path showing students which order they need to work in. This makes it really easy for kids to do the program completely independently, especially since it’s older kids that the curriculum is geared toward.

unlock math 1

This screen shot shows the progress report. This allows the student to see at a glance how he’s doing at moving through the program.

The icon for each lesson is a padlock, and when the lesson has been completed, it opens up – it UnLocks. This gives the student a clear visual representation of how much they’ve completed and how much they still have to go. It also serves as an easy reminder of where they need to pick up at the beginning of the new day. In addition to the lock icons, there’s a large chart on the same page as the lesson list, and this tells the student how far into the program they are and what their average grade is. At the time of this posting, Seahawk has completed 9% of the class with an average score of 89%.

The lessons with the open lock are those that he's finished; a closed lock indicates that he still needs to do the lesson.

The lessons with the open lock are those that he’s finished; a closed lock indicates that he still needs to do the lesson.

I’ve talked to my son at a few different points during this review period to ask him what he thinks of UnLock Math, and he’s told me that it’s his absolute favorite math program by far. He’s even gone so far as to say that he “really likes it.” He never balks when I tell him it’s time to do his math lesson, and he never asks to be done early. He (usually) does all four parts of the lesson without a fight – and for a strong-minded 13-year-old, that’s really saying something.

UnLock Math is adding more upper-level math, too. They currently have Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and their newest offering is Geometry. Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing all of those levels. They’re also in the process of developing Pre-Calculus (coming in 2018) and Calculus (coming in 2019). This is exciting news for parents of high schoolers who want to homeschool those upper grades but are afraid of what that means in terms of getting a good enough math education.

unlock pre algebraBased on the hands-off nature of the program (from me), and the fact that my student loves it, I can definitely recommend this program, especially if you have multiple children who need your attention. This gives you a few minutes each day where you can focus on another kid while not wasting the time of your older child. Win-win!

Blessings,

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Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry {UnLock Math Reviews}
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Learning to Forgive (YWAM review)

A little over a year ago, we had the opportunity to read and review our first YWAM Publishing biography (we chose C.S. Lewis to go along with our study of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). It was okay, but we didn’t love it. Because of that experience, I was unsure about whether to request another book from them or not. Before I totally wrote it off, though, I went through a couple of the options being offered. For reasons I couldn’t place my finger on at the time, the story of Jacob DeShazer really spoke to me. I wanted to read his story, and I wanted my kids to hear it, so I requested the book, which is part of the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series. In addition to the biography, Christian Heroes – Jacob DeShazer, we also received a digital copy of the corresponding study guide (you can’t access this page without a YWAM account, but there is a generic page with the list of all the different study guides.).

Jacob de Shazer biography review

About the Book

Based on the brief summary on the website, I knew that Jacob DeShazer was a soldier in WWII who was a POW in a Japanese prison for over three years. I learned that after the war ended, he was released and later became a missionary to Japan – ministering to the very culture that had imprisoned him. What I didn’t know was that when he wasn’t in Japan, he called the Willamette Valley in Oregon home – the very place where we live! I even learned that there were some people in our church who knew Mr. DeShazer personally. (He died at age 95 in 2008, so the people we know who knew him are very old and don’t always come to church so we weren’t able to talk to them, unfortunately.)

Jacob deShazer coverThe biography opens during Jacob’s (Jake, in the book) childhood. He grew up with a mother, stepfather, and 8 siblings in rural central Oregon, on a farm. He abandoned the family’s Christian faith as a young adult, and in an attempt to get away from his parents, he took several odd jobs during his early 20s. By his mid- to late-twenties, WWII started, America entered the battle, and he decided to enlist in the Air Force to fight for the cause. Before very long, we’re following Jake through boot camp and his early assignments in California. While there, a group of men were brought in to talk to the boss and invited to join a top secret mission. Even the boss didn’t know enough to tell them what to expect outside of “it will be very dangerous.” The men were given the opportunity to accept or reject the invitation, no questions asked and no penalty for rejecting, and every single one of them accepted it. Clear up until they were on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the mission was kept secret. They eventually learned that they would be bombing Japan in retaliation of the Pearl Harbor attack in what later became known as the Doolittle Raid. When his plane crashed in Japanese-controlled China (instead of free China, where they were supposed to land) after the bombing, Jake and his crewmates were captured, imprisoned, and held for 40 months. During those 40 months (near the end), the men were given three books to share (even though they had separate cells – most of the time they were kept in solitary confinement). One of these was a Bible. Reading the Bible, Jake realized the truth behind his parents’ religion and became a Christian. His faith kept him going as his life continued to get worse.

When the war ended and Jake was released, he knew that God was telling him that he was to be a missionary – to Japan. I don’t know about you, but I know that I’d have a very hard time with this. It would be incredibly easy to be vindictive and have a “they don’t deserve salvation” attitude after going through the hardships of a prison camp (which are reasonably detailed in the book; I didn’t really mention them here). But Jake didn’t have this attitude. He knew that everyone – even the prison guards and others in Japan – deserved salvation just as much as he did. So upon returning to America, he got his discharge from the military and went to Seattle Pacific College to train for missions work in the Free Methodist Church. College is where he met Florence, who would become his wife. Florence knew that God was calling her to be a missionary, too, but she didn’t know to where. Meeting and marrying Jake made that decision for her. Upon graduation, the two of them started their family (they ended up with 5 children, 4 of whom were born in Japan – the oldest was a year and a half old when the went) and missionary work in Japan.

Our Experience

Because I was the one who chose this book (I didn’t confer with the boys at all on our choice), I decided I wanted to read it aloud to them. Munchkin likes to read, but mostly just the stuff he chooses to read. Seahawk is a fine reader, but he doesn’t like to read. He’d never pick up a book out of his own free will. And I didn’t want to miss this book. So reading it aloud was the best option for us.

watching the doolittle raid

Watching the Doolittle Raid newsreel.

While I would have loved to have made this book a full-blown unit study, it arrived during the time we were dealing with some personal stuff surrounding our old house and moving, so it just wasn’t going to work out this time around. We did, however, use the Bible verse memorization and reading comprehension pages in the study guide. In addition to reading the book and using the questions in the study guide, we supplemented our reading by learning more about the type of plane that Jake flew (a B25 Mitchell bomber) and about the Doolittle Raid itself. We found a newsreel on YouTube about the Raid and watched that. We talked extensively about what it would be like to have been in Jake’s shoes and how we would have reacted the the situations in which he found himself. Despite not using the study guide extensively, I still feel that we had a very rich experience reading this book.

Parts of the study guide that we didn’t utilize include essay/research prompts (compare Jacob before and after his conversion, learn about the GI Bill, talk about the history of Christianity in Japan, etc); creative writing (write a haiku, write journal entries from Jake’s point of view, etc); hands on activities (make an illustrated timeline, build a model B25 bomber, learn Morse code, etc); audio visual (make a website about Jacob De Shazer, etc); arts and crafts (illustrate Jake’s life using Manga techniques, create origami, etc); language (learn a few phrases in Japanese); and much, much more. With the proper preparation and materials, it would be really easy to use the study guide and biography together to make an amazing unit study.

Our first time reading a YWAM Publishing book, as I mentioned before, was “just okay.” Our second one could not have been better. I literally had a difficult time reading the last few pages to the boys because I felt like I knew Jake by the end, and reading about his dementia and death were devastating. I cried. I cannot recommend this book enough, and I truly hope more people will read it and learn the story of how one man – Jacob De Shazer – was able to forgive his enemies.

Blessings,

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Christian & History Heroes {YWAM Publishing Reviews}
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Learning to Type Methodically (The Typing Coach review)

For the past few weeks, my boys (the older two) have been learning to type using The Typing Coach Online Typing Course. This program works in a very methodical way, teaching students to type just a few letters at a time. The Typing Coach teaches the home row first, then the top row, and finally the bottom row and numbers. Each row is taught independently before being combined, and the course emphasizes absolute mastery before moving on.

The Typing Coach Review

The Typing Coach is very easily adaptable to individual students because it’s “work at your own pace.” The goal is one lesson per week, but it’s definitely not set in stone; we had to move slower in order for the boys to get the mastery that the course requires in order to move on.

There are a few things you need to do the course. One is a reliable internet connection to listen to the audio portions and download the typing practice sheets. The other is a computer with a word processor (I hope that’s obvious, but just in case…). The goal is that by the end of the course, students will be able to type a minimum of 10 words per minute with no more than one mistake per minute.

How It Works

 Once you’ve downloaded the practice sheets, you need to either print it out or have it available some other way for students to look at while they’re typing. (Having it in a different portion on the same screen isn’t ideal.) Our printer is currently out of ink, so I put the document on my iPad and the boys used iBooks to read it and type. Then, log in to your account and find the lesson you need. The very first one is all about posture; then you move on to actually typing. For each lesson, there’s an audio to listen to. The audio works in tandem (and sometimes separately) with the downloaded document. There are a lot of different components to the audio lessons:

  • Making sure you’re sitting properly and the keyboard is positioned correctly to your body.
  • Beginning to type what you see on the document.
  • Typing letters from dictation.
  • Turning off (or hiding) the monitor and typing from the document again.

(There might be other parts that I’ve missed, but this is what I remember based on when the boys did these lessons.)

The student can practice, using the downloaded practice sheet, as many days as is needed to master the assigned keys. When they feel confident, there’s a slightly different website to go to to take a test. On the testing website, students enter their name and a parent’s email address (or your own, if you’re taking the course as an adult). They enter the amount of time allowed for the test and choose the test they’re taking from a drop down menu. After you click “start,” a new screen opens up with a box in it. The time starts when the first key is typed in the box. At the end of the time, a report is automatically sent to the email address specified before the test began. If the student passed (no more than one mistake per minute), then they can move on to the next lesson. If they don’t, they should practice for another day or two and then try again.

How We Used It

The two older boys used the program pretty much as I described in the previous section. The boys would use my laptop (with the “print outs” on the iPad next to them) and follow the audio for the lesson they were on. After a few days of working on the lesson, they attempted the test. If they passed, they could move on. If not, they went back to the practice sheets for a few days before trying again. To date, they’re both still working on the home row, but we went through a bit of time right after we moved where we didn’t have reliable internet access, so we were unable to start the program as soon as I wanted. Additionally, the emphasis on mastery is such that just one week on a lesson hasn’t been enough for them. Now that things are settled down (mostly), they’re doing a lesson or having a 20-minute practice each school day. After two or three days of doing the lesson with the audio, they decided that they prefer to do the audio in the beginning, but just type when they’re gearing up for the test. Just yesterday, they both attempted a test and got 2 mistakes over 1 minute. While not terrible, this is too many for The Typing Coach, so they’ll spend today and tomorrow practicing before attempting the test again to (hopefully) be able to move on to the top row.

Our Thoughts on the Program

My boys love this! Even though they’re not making progress very fast, they are by no means getting discouraged. Every time he finishes a lesson or practice session, Munchkin tells me, “I love typing!” Seahawk hasn’t said anything quite so exuberant, but I can tell that he’s enjoying it as well. Just in a 13-year-old, too cool for school kind of way.

Finally

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course retails for $17 per year per student. If this fits into your homeschool budget, I highly recommend giving it a try. If your student is really motivated, they should be touch-typing by the end of the first quarter.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}
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Kwik Stix are Back and Now They’re Thin! (review)

We’ve been lucky enough to review Kwik Stix a couple of times in the past, and today I feel lucky to share with you their newest product: Thin Stix. From The Pencil Grip, Inc., Kwik Stix are a revolutionary product that allows children to paint with absolutely no mess. The solid tempera paint come in tubes not unlike glue sticks, and once applied to paper, they dry in just 90 seconds. For this review, I received one set of Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors.

Kwik Stix review May 2017

So how do Thin Stix differ from traditional Kwik Stix? Well, as the name implies, they’re much thinner. This allows artists young and old to get more detailed with their coloring. The regular sized Kwik Stix are about the size of glue sticks. Thin stix are somewhere between a pen and a glue stick. They’re not as small and detailed as a pen, but they’re considerably smaller than the original Kwik Stix. They also have a clip on the caps (like a pen). Other than that, they work very much the same.

In our family, Small Fry was the main beneficiary of the “paint sticks,” as he calls them. They arrived the day Will was in the hospital having surgery, and we were out until very late that night because of that. For this reason, he didn’t actually get to paint anything until the next day, but he was very excited about that the morning after surgery. While we waited for the phone call saying that Will was ready to be picked up and brought home, I let Small Fry paint. He chose to make a get well card for his dad.

Thin Stix artworkHe’s at a stage in his artistic life where he draws the same thing over and over again, and this project was no exception. He used the Thin Stix to draw a Mr. Potato Head and his name. (He’s so cute about writing his name, too. He always writes his first name and last initial in capital and lowercase – he thinks the one letter twice is how to write our surname. He’s not totally wrong, either – we have that letter in two of the three syllables of our last name. But still . . . cute.)

The other thing that these got used for (and unfortunately, I don’t have a picture) was to make tiger stripes on the cardboard “armor” that Munchkin has been making for himself lately. He really likes to create things out of paperboard, and for the past several months he’s been working on a whole suit of armor. To date, he has a helmet, one shoulder guard, a breastplate, and wrist guards. During the review period for Thin Stix, he created the wrist guards. After getting them the right size, he covered the paperboard with regular white paper and used the black paint stick to draw the tiger stripes.

So, what do we think of Thin Stix? Just like their “fat” counterparts, we adore them! I can’t recommend Thin Stix enough. If your kids like doing art projects, you definitely need Kwik Stix in your life. You can purchase them from Amazon or the Toys R Us website. Even better is winning a set, though! The Pencil Grip, Inc. has graciously offered to provide a set of Thin Stix to one lucky reader of this post. Enter using the Giveaway Tools widget below. The giveaway runs from now through Sunday, May 28, 2017 at 11:59 pm PST. Good luck!

Blessings,

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No Mess Art with Thin Stix Classic Colors {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
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A Christian Superhero? {Captain} Absolutely! (book review)

Comic books and graphic novels are all the rage for kids these days, and for good reason. They help take reluctant readers and turn them into voracious readers (often). They give already voracious readers something “easy” to read. If the comic includes a superhero and a lot of action, then it’s even better, especially for the 8-13 year old boys (of which I have two). But what do you do if you (the parent) aren’t really “into” mainstream superheroes? Is there an option for you and your kids? Yes!

Book Review Captain Absolutely #hsreviews #faith #captainabsolutely #comicbook #character

Captain Absolutely originally appeared in the Focus on the Family magazine, Clubhouse. It was published there, two pages at a time, over the course of five years. Now it’s available on its own as a paperback book. The comics were written by Stephen O’Rear and Christopher P.N. Maselli, and based on the character created by Paul McCusker. There’s an introduction before the story starts by “Wooten Z. Bassett, Mailman, Licorice Enthusiast, and Creator of Captain Absolutely.” It doesn’t give any specifics about Wooten, but because his name isn’t in the copyright page, I assume he’s made up. That doesn’t make what he has to say any less deep, though. He summarizes Hebrews 12:2 for us, reminding us to keep our eyes and minds on Jesus. Doing this allows us to be shaped by the absolute truth, hence the name of the book’s main character. The villains in the story were designed to teach children how to combat the lies that may come up as we “defend” our Christian faith and evangelize to others.

captain absolutely interiorKnowing this is the goal of the book, I was really pleased that my 10-year-old son, Munchkin, got the chance to read it. Because of the format (lots of pictures, few words), it took him only one afternoon to read the whole thing. My 13-year-old isn’t as into books as his younger brother, but he typically enjoys graphic novels, so I’ll probably have him read it soon too.

From Munchkin:

The story is about a guy, Josiah King, who works at the library. His friend accidentally blows up the computer, and Josiah is trapped in a room full of Bibles. He starts reading God’s word and becomes a superhero called Captain Absolutely. He fights a bunch of bad guys and puts them in a bunch of prisons, which they escape from a lot. He fights them again, they escape again. It’s a vicious cycle.

captain absolutely cover 2He eventually gets the main bad guy, Dr. Relative, to believe in the Bible and join his team.

I thought this book was interesting. Usually I like “regular” books better, but Captain Absolutely was really fun to read. This was only the third graphic novel I’ve ever read, and I liked it.

Overall, I’m glad we had a chance to review this book. It was a fun read for Munchkin, and anything with a good message is a win as far as I’m concerned.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are talking about Captain Absolutely this week, too. Be sure to head over to the Crew blog to find out more.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

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