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!

Blessings,

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Daily Bible Jigsaw {Planet 316 Reviews}
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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.

Blessings,

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Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer {Peggy Consolver Reviews}
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Our Great Republic ~ American History Curriculum (Memoria Press Review)

In homeschool circles, there are a few curriculum companies that show up again and again as “the best.” Memoria Press is one of those. I’ve reviewed products from them a few times (I’ll link to my past reviews at the end of this one), and have always been very impressed with the items we’ve received/used. This time, the (older) boys and I have been working through The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic Set ($48). As you might be able to guess from the title (of both the curriculum and this post), this is an American history curriculum. Memoria Press also included the supplemental 200 Questions About American History Set ($27.90).

MP history review

Each of these sets is fairly involved, so I think it will make more sense (at least to me) to take a moment to discuss what is in each of them before I move on to how we used them in our homeschool.

The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic came with three books: a textbook, which feels more like a novel in its size and page count; a consumable student workbook; and a teacher version of the workbook, which looks just like the student book except the answers are filled in and there are reproducible tests in the back. The student workbook is much more than “just” a workbook, though. It includes a wide variety of appendices with such amazing resources as the complete text of the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, lots of maps, and tons of other great stuff that I (unfortunately) can’t remember offhand. (I can’t refer to our copy of the book, either, because it’s packed for moving.) I do remember pointing out a lot of this stuff to Seahawk, who was the main beneficiary of this book, though. It will make a fantastic resource for years to come.

The 200 Questions About American History Set includes two books: a student workbook and a teacher manual; and a set of flashcards. The flashcard set is like four sets in one, and I separated them into recloseable zipper baggies for ease of use. These four sets are: 150 Drill Questions (question on one side, answer on the other), 30 Dates and Events (date on one side, event on the other), 20 Notable Quotes (quote on one side, speaker on the other), and 44 U.S. Presidents (president number and years of presidency on one side, name on the other). The student workbook is rather thin, but it covers a lot of history in those few pages. It is basically a workbook version of the flashcards, which is nice if you want a consolidated place for your student to write down the answers to the questions as they learn them. It would also serve as a great tool for review as they get older. The teacher book is just like I described above, in the 13 Colonies set.

How We Used It

Normally in a curriculum like this, I would read everything aloud to the boys and they would answer the questions. The teacher’s guide suggested having students do at least of of the out-loud reading themselves, though. Because my kids don’t do enough of that (or any of that, really), I decided to go with the suggestion of the writers. Each chapter in the textbook, which is really a compilation of two books written by H.A. Guerber, is quite short (less than 2 pages) so this wasn’t a hardship for my boys.

We covered one lesson per week, working 3 days per week, and with as much great information as there is in each lesson, this was a good pace for us. We’d start on Monday by reading the chapters for the week’s lesson from the textbook. Most of the lessons covered 3 chapters, so that was perfect – we each read one aloud. After doing the reading, we went over the vocabulary and answered half of the comprehension questions from the workbook.

On Wednesday, we’d finish the comprehension questions. I liked taking a break between the reading and the questions because this helped to assure that the boys were retaining what we read. If we’d answered all of the questions within moments of doing the reading, it would be easy to forget what they’d read quickly.

On Fridays, we did the enrichment section of the workbook. This was sometimes short, sometimes a bit longer, and includes activities such as finding places on the map (related to the reading done), adding a date or dates to the timeline (I had each boy do their own using some of Will’s comic strip-sized art paper), and a writing assignment. The writing assignments were quite interesting, and I’m pretty sure the boys enjoyed them too. An example of one that they seemed to especially enjoy is (and this is not an exact quote): You were a founder of the colony of Roanoke. After some time away, you’ve come back and discovered the entire civilization missing. Write a journal entry describing what you see and how you feel upon your return. I didn’t give the boys a certain amount of time to write; I just let them write until they were done. Some of the assignments took longer than others, but all were quite interesting.

Seahawk did the workbook because he’s more firmly in the age range for this product, which Memoria Press pegs as “middle school years.” I didn’t want Munchkin to miss out on the information, though, so he sat with us (and read a chapter a week out loud) and chipped in with answers when he knew them. He also made his own timeline and did the writing assignments.

The 200 Questions About American History Set, being a supplement, was just that for us. I looked at the workbook each week, and we answered the questions that were relevant to the section we read. We haven’t done much with the flashcards yet, but we might use them more once we’re settled in our new house.

My Opinion

I really like teaching this product. The curriculum goes perfectly with the text, and there’s enough “extra” stuff (like the writing I mentioned above) to keep it from feeling dry and boring. There are also lots of pictures in the textbook to illustrate times and concepts. Having the teacher book and the student books match so closely is really helpful in guiding your children to getting the correct answer – or even expanding their already correct answer to make it more detailed and relevant. Overall, this product is a definite winner for teaching American history thoroughly!

As mentioned previously, I’ve reviewed for Memoria Press before. Check out what I thought of their 5th Grade Literature set and the history curriculum Famous Men of Rome.

Blessings,

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Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are writing about Memoria Press this week, too. Some are reviewing the same sets that I am, and others are talking about learning Greek or teaching The Iliad and The Odyssey with their older students. Click the banner below for more information.

First Form Greek, Iliad/Odyssey and American History {Memoria Press Reviews}
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Journeying with our Sons into Manhood (Manhood Journey review)

Today’s review is a guest post by my husband, Will. Enjoy reading his thoughts instead of mine for a day 🙂

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For a lot of parents, there’s a big challenge in knowing the right way to pass on your values and beliefs to your children. Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio hopes to help bridge that gap with the Manhood Journey Father’s Starter Kit. The concept is straight forward: they’ve built a weekly curriculum that takes the key concepts that are important in spiritual formation, and they focus them down into a form that’s easy to use as conversation-builders and study groups.

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I was immediately impressed with the packaging. The size of the books was great, and the package looked great and felt great. It made me want to open it immediately.

Inside were five items: A book by Manhood Journey Co-Founder, Kent Evans entitled Wise Guys. Along with this book were the Embarking Group Discussion Guide and The Embarking 1 on 1 Discussion Guide. There was also a DVD of introductory videos and a pack of ten “Maprochures,” which are helpful in recruiting dads to join your group and to help the groups select which modules they’d like to do.  

The Group Guide encourages the leader to use the material as a foundation and then adjust it to fit the specific tone of the group, so I spent quite a bit of time mulling over the content from the first session and working out how I would present it to our boys. The session was built around an analogy of Big Rocks and Small Rocks, paired with a few Bible verses to draw deeper meaning from the “word picture.” This was great. As I presented the concept, the boys’ eyes lit up with understanding. Then I presented the scriptures and challenged them to meditate on how they were all connected.

I let them perk on the ideas overnight and we arranged a time to continue our discussion. Then, I helped guide them through refining their insights.

If you can get a larger group together on a regular basis, this will be a good tool to use as the foundation for that group. I also find that it’s flexible enough that you can make it work on your own with your own children if that’s all you have.

My only critique of the program is that some of the references to pop culture feel dated. I’m sure that some of the parents would get the references, but I’m not sure many of the kids would. I think if you are using this with your own children, you may find that it’s useful to adjust things so that they relate to a younger audience. I’m not referring to the meat of the program (which is excellent) only the supporting examples. For instance, one of the goals of the discussion is to create a “porch moment” like on The Andy Griffith Show when Andy and Opie would talk about the day’s events. If you’re familiar with The Andy Griffith Show, you’ll get it. But you might find that a more modern example (or skipping the pop culture reference altogether) would be better in your specific group.

Based on the Starter Kit, it seems like a great tool for helping fathers open a spiritual dialogue with their sons.

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As always with Homeschool Review Crew reviews, there are several others talking about this product this week. Make sure to click the banner below for more information.

Blessings,

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Manhood Journey Father's Starter Kit {Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio Reviews}
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From Boy to Man (Celebrating Manhood review)

Celebrating Manhood Review at Ladybug Daydreams

In case you don’t know, I have sons. Four of them. And no daughters. I sometimes feel “incomplete” because of this. I often feel sad at not having a girl to raise (to be clear: I’m not sad about having sons. I’m sad about not having a daughter). I was going through an exceptionally difficult time with my emotions a few weeks ago, when I first learned of the book Celebrating Manhood: a rite of passage guide from Home School Adventure Co. There were several e-books being offered for review, and some of them looked really neat. But at that time, I knew that I was supposed to review Celebrating Manhood. I can’t tell you why, but there was something about this book that I felt would be a salve to my soul and help to heal the pain I felt at the time. I knew that I needed to embrace my boys and love my life for what it is (a boy mom) rather than what mourn what I wished I had (children of both genders).

So even though I was quite interested in Creative Freewriting Adventure (a book full of writing prompts), I’d Rather Be Your Mommy (a storybook for moms and young children), and Walking with the Waodani (a unit study on missions in Ecuador), I had to choose Celebrating Manhood instead. (In case you’re interested, all of these books are being reviewed by members of the Homeschool Review Crew. When you’re done reading here, head over to that blog for links to other reviews. I’ll provide a link at the end of this post.)

After all that blither-blather, let me move on to what Celebrating Manhood is all about. Author Stacy Farrell opens the book with this statement:

Extensive research asserts the importance of acknowledging a young man’s entry into adulthood. However, most of Western culture does not mark the transition from boyhood to manhood in any meaningful way. Consequently, an important opportunity is often lost.

celebrating manhood coverBecause Seahwak, my eldest (13 years old), is basically through puberty at this point, I thought this book would be a provide us a good opportunity to celebrate that with him. I want him to know that we (Will and I) understand that he’s getting older, he’s changing, and we want to bestow some additional responsibility on him. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, he’s not my little boy anymore. He’s rapidly becoming a man, and it’s time to acknowledge that. Celebrating Manhood is a book designed to help parents plan a “party” with just that goal in mind.

The book (I received a PDF version) is 37 pages, but really only about half of that is “usable content.” The first bit is the stuff found in most books: positive statements about the book, copyright, about the author, etc. Once you get to the meat of the book, half the pages are blank. I imagine this is because it was a print book first, and it’s designed to have the pages cut out and written on during your son’s rite of passage party. Even though you don’t need those blank pages with a PDF (your home printer will only print on one page at a time), they were left in for the e-book version anyway.

The first thing you’ll find (once you get to the main part of the book) is a timeline of events for your party. It’s designed to be planned by Mom but actually attended and implemented by Dad. The suggested timeline is four hours or so, but that’s easily adaptable depending on your situation. The first thing you have to do is work together with your husband (or son’s father or other father-figure) to decide who to invite to the party. The guests should be men who have a strong influence over your son – grandfathers, pastors, neighbors… Once you send out the invitations (which are included as a printable in the book), then Mom works on planning the main portion of the party, including preparing a meal for the men to share. The reason it’s suggested that Mom be the one to prepare this is to show your son and his guests an attitude of nurture and love by serving them.

All of my young men

All of my young men

Once the party starts, the suggested order of events is: sharing appetizers together, a physical activity lasting roughly an hour or less, having the men eat a meal together, allowing the men to share things they appreciate about your son (blessing him with their words), and ending the evening with dessert (not cake or whatever you normally serve at birthdays – it’s important that this party is nothing like a birthday party) and questions. There are question cards included in the book that you can print and pass out to the men during this portion for them to write on. These would then become keepsakes for your son.

The final thing you’ll find in the book is a printable poster stating “Welcome to the World of Men” with 1 Corinthians 13:11 on it.

Will and I talked, and we decided that before we have this party for him, we want to have something in mind that “being a man” means for after the party. We don’t want it to be a meaningless ceremony, and until we know what that will mean for our family, we’re putting off having a party for Seahawk. I fully intend for us to have one (and will write about it when it happens), but for now it hasn’t yet. But every time I reread this book, I’m reminded of just how important this ceremony will be for my boys – I’ll get to have the privilege of planning this at least four times! What a blessing! But I want to do it right, and for now, that means waiting. Despite not actually having been able to “use” this resource yet, I’m so glad to have been able to review it today.

As I mentioned earlier, the Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing lots of different products from Home School Adventure Co. today. Click the banner below to find out more!

Blessings,

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Resources with a Biblical Worldview{Home School Adventure Co. Reviews}ladybug-disclaimer-review-crew-copy

Learning Basic Language Arts with Eclectic Foundations (Review)

Eclectic Foundations Review

I’m at an interesting place in my homeschooling career. My two older boys are in 7th and 5th grades – one in middle school, and one nearly there. And then I have the two little boys. Small Fry is 4 years old (nearing readiness for Kindergarten), and Dragonfly is just 15 months old. Because of the age gap between Munchkin (5th grade, 10 years old) and Small Fry (age 4), it’s easy to automatically dismiss review opportunities that fall between them as “not a fit based on my kids’ ages.” I almost did just that with Eclectic Foundations. I saw the information provided by the leadership team at the Homeschool Review Crew and immediately thought that my boys were beyond needing something like this. And the older two are.

But then I looked at the website and got to thinking, “You know, Small Fry is wanting to learn to read. Maybe a lower level would work for him.” Once I allowed myself to think about him instead of just the older boys, I realized that Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level A would probably be a good fit for us. And I was absolutely right.

There are 4 components to this program, and you need them all to run it successfully: the Student Workbook ($24), the Teacher Manual ($12), the Appendix booklet and word cards ($20) and the McGuffey reader (public domain book that’s available in numerous places for cheap or free). You can also purchase a PDF download of the entire program for $30. The thing you can’t do is try to get away with skipping any of the components. Some programs allow you to suffice with just the student book or just the teacher book, but this is not one of those.

Filling in the letter M/m with Play-Doh.

Filling in the letter M/m with Play-Doh.

Each of the books is a softcover, 8.5×11, spiral bound book. The Student Workbook is consumable, so you’d need one for each student, but all the other components are reusable in the event you have multiple students (whether at the same time or one a few years after the other). The Appendix workbook was something unique to this program – I’d never seen anything quite like it with any other language arts curriculum. It is a workbook very similar to the others (8.5×11, softcover, spiral bound), but every single page in it is laminated. These pages are used for some of the games in the program, and are designed to be written on in dry erase or Vis a Vis markers (when playing Tic Tac Toe or filling in letters around vowels, which happens in later lessons), or in some cases, just to have your child point to the correct image (during the “Starts with” and “Beginning, Middle, End” games – details on all of this later). We’re not at a point yet where we’ve needed the word cards (they start at about lesson 65, and we’re only at 21), so I can’t really tell how they work yet.

Because Small Fry is just starting to show interest in learning letters and reading, we started at the very beginning – Level A (there are A, B, and C), lesson 1. So far, each week follows the same routine, which is nice. It allows him to anticipate what’s coming next.

Thanks to its "open and go" style, even older siblings are able to help teach this curriculum.

Thanks to its “open and go” style, even older siblings are able to help teach this curriculum.

This is an open-and-go curriculum, which is very nice. There’s virtually no preparation required. It’s based on a 4-day school week, and each lesson takes under 20 minutes – perfect for new learners. Each day starts with a recitation of the alphabet, and then moves on to the student workbook pages. The workbook has a wide variety of activities to keep young minds interested. On the first day, they get to fill in the “letter of the week” with Play-Doh (or pipe cleaners for a mess-free experience). This day we also play the “Starts With” game. For this, there’s a list of words that you read to your child (in the teacher’s manual), and the child determines whether or not the word starts with the letter/sound of the week. The appendix book is used for this – there’s a page with smiley faces on it, and a happy face means the word does start with the sound, and sad face means it does not. The student points to the correct image.

Eclectic Foundations review | Ladybug Daydreams

A portion of one of the letter mazes. Click to enlarge.

Other days have other activities, including but not limited to determining whether the sound of the week is found at the beginning, middle, or end of a list of words, finding all occurrences of the letter in a faith-based poem, writing the letter and simple words that include it, and reading simple words using sounds that have already been introduced (so far, we’re up to “man,” “Nan,” “fan,” “ran,” and “Sam”). And then there’s Small Fry’s absolute favorite activity: the maze. This happens on the third lesson of the week (depending on our week, usually Wednesday or Thursday). The maze looks a lot like a word search, but instead of finding words, students are instructed to follow the path of whatever the letter of the week is, from a smiley face at the top to a smiley face at the bottom.

Using this curriculum was a breeze. The teacher manual spells everything out for you, and the student book is full of fun activities. We’ve been using it for just over a month now, and Small Fry (who’s not even 5 years old yet) is already able to read simple words. And he’s gone from being able to copy his name down to writing it all by himself. On top of being effective, it’s really fun. It’s not at all stressful, and my son absolutely adores having his own school to do. Every morning when he wakes up, he asks if he can “do school today.” And the days that have the maze are even better!

Needless to say, we absolutely love this curriculum. I’m so glad I looked closely at the website before just assuming it wouldn’t be a good fit for us, because it absolutely is the perfect fit for my precocious 4-year-old!

Blessings,

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Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing all three levels of Eclectic Foundations this week. Click the banner below for more information!

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}
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Math Mammoth Review

We’ve tried a lot of different math products over the years. A lot. And there are very few that my kids don’t complain about – usually the ones that are “fun,” meaning game-like. When a review opportunity for Math Mammoth came up earlier this year, I had the older two (7th and 5th graders) take the placement test to figure out whether this would be a good fit for us. Color me surprised when Seahawk (7th grade) barely understood anything in a test below his official grade level. (I don’t remember offhand whether I had him take the 5th or 6th grade placement test.) I decided at that point that perhaps it would be a good idea for us to request this review in order to fill some learning gaps that apparently exist in our homeschool.

Math Mammoth review from Ladybug Daydreams

In order to work with both of the kids, I requested the Blue Series, which is a set of books (available as PDF downloads or physical print books) that focus on specific topics. We received

Seahawk has been working through the “Percent” worktext, and Munchkin has been doing “Multiplication Division 3.” I’m saving “The Four Operations” for later, and they will both do it when they’ve completed the book they’re currently working through.

Math mammoth explanation sample

A sample of an explanation section. This is the very first lesson in the Percent worktext. Click to enlarge.

Each day, I would take turns sitting with the boys in turn, working through the problems. The explanations were clear, and there was very little I needed to explain beyond what was actually in the textbook itself. The boys didn’t have any difficulty understanding what they needed to do, and they required minimal guidance from me. I was mostly there to keep them on task and see how the program worked for the purposes of being able to write the review later.

We’ve been using the texts nearly every school day for several weeks, but they still have plenty of work to do before they finish these. Seahawk is about 1/4 of the way through Percent, and Munchkin is about 1/5 of the way through Multiplication Division 3. Their slow progress isn’t because the concepts are difficult or the program bad, though. Rather, it’s because the concepts are taught and practiced so thoroughly that there are loads of problems in each section so that children can have ample opportunities to practice what they’ve learned.

A sample of problems from one lesson. This is from Multiplication Division 3. Notice that each problem has several problems within it. That's part of why it's taken us a while to work through this program.

A sample of problems from one lesson. This is from Multiplication Division 3. Notice that each problem has several problems within it. That’s part of why it’s taking us a while to work through this program. Click to enlarge.

Whenever I opened the PDF, it would remind me that “This PDF can be completed using the Add Comment tool.” I took that to mean that it was an interactive PDF, meaning that the child using the product would be able to fill in his answers right on the computer. I didn’t find this to be the case at all, and a Google search led me to looking at the settings on the PDF, which told me that it wasn’t an interactive PDF after all. I’m not savvy enough to know about the Add Comment tool or how that’s different from an interactive PDF, so we treated the PDFs like a textbook: the kids would read the information and problems on the screen and write their answers down on notebook paper kept in their binders. I could have printed the pages out for them (and I did one day when I wasn’t available to sit with them individually), but for the big picture, that would have been cost prohibitive to do all the time. In the end, the notebook-paper-approach was the right one for us.

I mentioned earlier that we’ve done a lot of different math curricula over the years. What I didn’t mention was that Math Mammoth is one of the best. Not only is it very thorough with clear explanations, but my kids don’t complain about doing it. In fact, quite the opposite has proven true: every time we finish a lesson, they tell me that they really like this curriculum. With the prices being so reasonable ($2.20 to $7.40, depending on what the book is), I can see us buying more of these. When used together, they make up a full curriculum for grades 1-7. Math Mammoth also offers an “official” full math curriculum for these grades called the Light Blue Series. I haven’t seen this, so I’m not entirely sure how it differs from the Blue Series. The Light Blue curricula costs $37.50 per year, and the final year (grade 7) is a full-fledged Pre-Algebra curriculum. Upon completion of that year, your student is ready to tackle high school level math.

Our official opinion: Math Mammoth is amazing. It teaches the concepts well, is very affordable even for families with multiple children, and is better than a regular textbook (in my kids’ opinion; I’m not sure how it differs other than that they don’t whine and moan when I announce that it’s math time). I definitely foresee us continuing to use this product in the near future.

For more information on different levels, from the Blue Series and the Light Blue series, click the banner below. That will take you to the Homeschool Review Crew blog where you can find 49 other reviews of Math Mammoth from homeschooling families who have actually used it over the past few weeks.

Blessings,

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Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth Reviews}
 

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Review and Giveaway: The Garden by Kari Jobe

I’m not a huge music person, but I knew that when this opportunity came up, my husband would be very interested – he’s a huge fan of Kari Jobe. I was right, and since this is more his forte than mine, I’m going to let him take over the official review portion of this post. First, though, allow me to give a bit of background.

The Garden by Kari Jobe CD Review and Giveaway #flyby #thegarden

(From the vendor)
Grammy nominated Kari Jobe is the premiere female worship leader in Christian music. Coming off her last live album, Majestic, which featured the worship anthem Forever and radio hit I Am Not Alone, Kari Jobe has returned to the studio to record her new album, The Garden, full of brand new worship anthems for the church and for personal reflection. Finding inspiration from life’s joys and hardships, Kari leans into the firm foundation of Christ through it all.

And now, here is Will’s review.

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As Wendy mentioned, I was excited for the chance to get an early copy of the new Kari Jobe record. I’d first come across Kari Job after watching a Michael W. Smith video, and I liked a duet they did so much, I purchased his Sovereign album on vinyl, gave it to my dad, and purchased myself a second copy. While I work, I often run YouTube playlists of her Majestic live shows in the background and I purchased the Majestic Revisited album, which also gets steady play. It’s a tragedy that she hasn’t had a vinyl release yet. I’d be first in line.

This record is very different from Majestic Revisited in tone. I put this one in my player the moment it arrived, and listened straight through, then went back and listened again while reading the liner notes. This album is a lot more lush than the last album, but also a lot more subdued feeling. When I read the liner notes, I understood why:

The Garden is written from a place of lament. Kari Jobe writes that the album was crafted during a season of heartache and that the purpose of the new material is to shine a light on God’s goodness in our moments of despair.

This is unusual in modern Christian pop music, which tends to shy away from lament and focus on more radio friendly themes. Michael Card has commented on this as he notes that much of the scriptures are laments, and he wonders why Christian music neglects this. He’s not the only one to point this out. Fivethirtyeight.com did a complete breakdown on the blissful tenor of most Christian music which was eye-opening for me. Sometimes you don’t notice things until someone points them out for you.

Christian music used to have more laments. Rich Mullins would sing of the bittersweet nature of life and heartbreak. Keith Green would often sing of trials and sadness, especially of those he loved who shied away from God. Twila Paris’ Warrior is a Child comes to mind as another example.

These days it’s not as common.

So, from that side of things, I think the album serves an important purpose in the current music scene. But, with that in mind, it’s not a happy sounding album. If you’re looking for a pop album full of catchy songs, this is not going to do it for you. It’s not that kind of album. It has a lot of beautiful instrumentation, and Kari does a great job with the vocals. From what I’ve seen of her live shows, I can imagine that the road show will be amazing. She knows just how to stage things to really connect with certain emotions. But, these songs are not your traditional pop fare. It’s epic feeling, but there’s not a lot of hooks going on. These songs won’t get stuck in your head.

Some art (books, movies, music) catches your attention immediately. Others take a bit to get into and fully appreciate. But, sometimes, the investment pays off and you find that they become your favorites and become part of you in a way that most things never can.

This album has that potential.

If you’re looking for something a little more mature, and different than your typical Top 40 fare, put this one on. Give it more than a surface listen. Keep it in your player for awhile. The album is about The Garden. Give it time to grow.

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If you’re interested in having your very own copy of this CD, enter the giveaway below. The only requirement is to enter your email address (for contact purposes; I’ll never add you to any lists). The other options are for bonus entries only.

Blessings,

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Legal stuff:

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Specific Links for this album:

Another Year with the Homeschool Review Crew! (SchoolhouseTeachers.com review)

One of the blessings of being a part of the Homeschool Review Crew (and there are many blessings!) is an ongoing Yearly Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I don’t use this subscription often, but when I’m stuck and feeling like our schooling needs a kick in the pants, it’s definitely my go-to site. Coming out of Christmas break this year, I had just this feeling, so I spent one late night browsing the site looking for fresh ideas for our homeschool. What I found was great: not only were there some great new history classes (more on those in a minute), but the whole site has been given a makeover since my review last year.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that a purchase using any of my links will result in a payment to me, but no extra cost for you. Thank you for support.

What is SchoolhouseTeachers.com?

Simply put, it’s the homeschool curriculum website run by The Old Schoolhouse (which is the parent company for the Homeschool Review Crew). There are dozens of classes available on the site, and they’re written in such a way as to allow the homeschooling parent a lot of flexibility. If you’re looking for a “do this on Monday and this on Tuesday,” then a lot of the courses on SchoolhouseTeachers.com might not appeal to you. (Some of them are laid out that way, though.) If you want something that allows you to decide when to do what and how much to add or supplement to a specific subject, though, then SchoolhouseTeachers.com just might be what you’re looking for.

It’s not just homeschool curriculum, however. SchoolhouseTeachers.com has printable planners for all ages, a transcript writing guide for those homeschooling high school students, videos, a monthly meal plan, and much more. And with the newly revamped site map, it’s easier than ever to find what you’re looking for.

How did we use SchoolhouseTeachers.com in our homeschool?

air-travelAs I mentioned before, I was looking for something fun and interesting to help ease the boys back into school after having taken a couple of weeks off for Christmas. It’s easy to find subjects by either subject or grade; I decided to try to find something that would be challenging enough for both of the older boys (7th and 5th grade), but also interesting enough that Small Fry (age 4) might enjoy listening in. Because we hadn’t done much in the history department yet this school year, I started there. I was pleasantly surprised to find several courses that fit the bill. I narrowed it down to two that I wanted us to try first – History of Air Travel and Bold Explorers – and let the boys decide which they wanted to do first. They chose Air Travel (which surprised me not at all).

To run this course, I had to log in to World Books (using the Schoolhouse Teachers member login, included with membership). I was able to read the required texts for the course (there are 5, but each one is pretty short) aloud to the boys, and then they answered questions provided by the course instructor on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. These questions came in the form of a series of printable worksheets. There are 5 books to read for this course (At Home in the Sky, Beyond the Sky, The Early Days of Flight, The First True Fliers, and War in the Air), and the questions provided cover a bit from each chapter of each book. At the end of each unit (e-book read), I printed off some relevant pages from my NotebookingPages.com membership and had them write a report based on that particular book. The books are short enough that we did 3-4 chapters per day and finished one book per week.

aardvarkIn addition to the Air Travel history class, Small Fry and I watched several episodes of From Aardvark to Zucchini. I’d never heard of this show before, but I knew upon reading the synopsis that it would be great for my 4-year-old. It’s a series of 22-minute episodes, each of which focuses on a single letter of the alphabet. What makes this show different from others like it, though, is that it focuses heavily on prayer. So not only are children learning about the alphabet, but they’re also learning that it’s okay – nay, good – to talk to God anywhere and everywhere! I loved this concept.

What did we think of SchoolhouseTeachers.com?

I’ve been a member of this site for over 3 years now, and I can honestly say that I’m more impressed with it now than ever before. With the recent redesign, it’s easier to find classes and videos, it’s easier to understand how to use and adapt the classes, and the selection of licensed videos to stream is excellent. I barely scratched the surface of the site in my review today, so make sure you head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to find out how other families used the site. I bet they’ll come up with things I didn’t! I can’t wait to utilize this resource more in our homeschool.

How can you sign up for a membership?

That’s easy! Go to the Yearly Membership page, and it’s very self-explanatory. You can pay monthly ($12.95) or annually ($139). (Please note: These prices will increase sometime in the middle of the month this month.) If you’re not sure whether SchoolhouseTeachers.com is for you, use the code TRIAL to get your first month for just $1. That’s pretty low risk! And even better, if you purchase by January 15th, you can get a discount on the regular monthly or yearly prices. Use the code CHRISTMAS to get the monthly plan for just $9.95 a month or CHRISTMASYEAR to get the annual plan for $90. If you lock in at these new lower rates, you will be immune from price increases for as long as you keep an active subscription.

Oh, and one more thing: The price you pay is for your entire family. There are no per child fees; whatever plan you choose is good for every child in your home.

I highly encourage you to check out SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Blessings,

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High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {SchoolhouseTeachers.com}
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Blue Ribbon Awards 2016

As members of the Homeschool Review Crew, the boys and I recently had the privilege of voting in their annual Blue Ribbon Awards. Now that the winners have been announced, I thought it would be fun to compare our choices with the actual winners. Enjoy!

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Favorite Reading Curriculum

I chose Logic of English for this category because it’s such a comprehensive program that covers not only reading, but every aspect of the English language. We’re still using it in our homeschool, after having taken a bit of a break after the review period.
Our choice: Logic of English
     Winner: Logic of English

Favorite Writing Curriculum

Here to Help Learning was such a fun program to work through! My kids absolutely adored the “writing warmups,” and still ask to do them sometimes.
Our choice: Here to Help Learning
     Winner: Here to Help Learning

Favorite Spelling Curriculum

I chose Logic of English for this category as well because it just makes so much sense. I like how they explain the rules to students in ways that make sense and are easy to remember.
Our choice: Logic of English
     Winner: Talking Fingers: Read, Write, and Type

Favorite Literature Program

Literature is my biggest weakness in our homeschool; we read a lot of books! I love a good book, and I want to pass that love on to my boys. I really like the Memoria Press workbooks. They include a wide variety of questions, and the teacher books are the perfect companion.
Our choice: Memoria Press
     Winner: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Poetry

Favorite Vocabulary Program
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: The Critical Thinking Co.

Favorite Grammar Program

Grammar is right up with Literature as far as “things I like to teach my kids,” so this was a great category for me. I picked Sentence Digramming: Beginning by The Critical Thinking Co. because not only is a good way to visualize how sentences go together, but my kids liked it too. We’re still working our way through this book (somewhat slowly because although the kids like it, it’s a bit intense for them sometimes).
Our choice: The Critical Thinking Co.
     Winner: The Critical Thinking Co.

Favorite Literature Resource

I deferred to the kids on this choice, and they had a hard time deciding amongst themselves. In the end, Seahawk’s choice of Heirloom Audio won over Munchkin’s choice of The Glass Castle because he was more passionate about it.
Our choice: Heirloom Audio: Beric the Briton
     Winner: Heirloom Audio: Beric the Briton

Favorite History Curriculum
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: Home School in the Woods

Favorite History Supplement

Heirloom Audio was a new review product for us this year, and one that we enjoyed. Seahawk, being an auditory learner, liked it the best of any of us, and he was so enthralled with it that this one earned our enthusiastic vote.
Our choice: Heirloom Audio: Beric the Briton
     Winner: Carole P. Roman

Favorite Science Curriculum

Munchkin was the lucky recipient of two science curricula this year. He’s working through one of them now, and the other will be his curriculum next school year. Because he was the main one using these products, I let him choose, and Science Shepherd got his vote.
Our choice: Science Shepherd
     Winner: Apologia Astronomy

Favorite Science Supplement

NotebookingPages.com is such an amazing resource for so many things! We’ve used it time and again, and I’m so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to review for them. I look forward to continuing to use my Lifetime Membership again and again.
Our choice: NotebookingPages.com
     Winner: NotebookingPages.com

Favorite Math Curriculum
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: CTC Math

Favorite Math Supplement

The multiplication tables were something my kids struggled with for years. We tried several things over the years, and this one, Times Tales, finally stuck. I’m extremely grateful for this product, and will definitely use it again when the little boys are the proper age for learning multiplication.
Our choice: The Trigger Memory Co. (Times Tales)
     Winner: The Trigger Memory Co.

Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: Middlebury Interactive Languages

Favorite Fine Arts Product

2016 was the first time we’d reviewed an art program, and Seahawk got to be the primary user. He really liked ARTistic Pursuits (and is still using it), so it gets his vote.
Our choice: ARTistic Pursuits
     Winner: Art Achieve

Favorite Elective
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: Stop Motion Explosion

Favorite Christian Education Curriculum

Science Shepherd is such a wonderful creation-based science program for elementary students. Munchkin just loves doing it each day (it doesn’t hurt that the lessons are super short!). I like that I don’t have to worry about the worldview it’s presenting; I can comfortably set him up with the video and workbook and leave him to it on his own.
Our choice: Science Shepherd
     Winner: Veritas Press

Favorite Christian Education Product

The Zonderkidz Faith Builders Bible is one of Munchkin’s all-time favorite review products. He takes it to church every Sunday and reads it during the week.
Our choice: Zonderkidz
     Winner: Chara Games

Favorite Preschool Product

It’s no secret to anyone who’s read my blog very much at all that we adore Kwik Stix, made by The Pencil Grip, Inc.. I’ve reviewed for them twice. My kids love to paint, and I love that there’s no mess.
Our choice: The Pencil Grip, Inc.
     Winner: The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Favorite Elementary Product

The Faith Builder’s Bible wins this category for us, too. I’m thrilled that Munchkin has finally found a bible that he enjoys reading.
Our choice: Zonderkidz
     Winner: Veritas Press

Favorite Middle School Product

Some days, I still can’t believe that I have a middle school student. He’s growing up so much, and while I like that he can do a lot of his studies independently (it frees me up immensely), it still feels weird to begin stepping back from his schooling a smidge to let him take the reins. ARTistic Pursuits was the first product he really got to do “all by himself,” so it wins our vote in the “favorite middle school product” category.
Our choice: ARTistic Pursuits
     Winner: Apologia: Writers in Residence

Favorite High School Product
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: The 101 series (science)

Favorite College or College Prep Product
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: Everyday Education

Favorite Parent Product

This was a tricky category for me. In the end, I chose the GREEMU oil because it helped ease baby Dragonfly’s diaper rash (although temporarily) when he was extremely red and hurting.
Our choice: Devonian (GREEMU oil)
     Winner: MyFreezEasy

Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed

My vote in this category probably isn’t completely representative of the title of the category. I knew we needed a way of teaching the kids their times tables, but I wasn’t sure just how much Times Tales would help, so it gets my enthusiastic vote.
Our choice: Trigger Memory (Times Tales)
     Winner: ForBrain

Best Online Resource

I cannot say enough good things about NotebookingPages.com. This website provides a huge variety of notebooking pages in a plethora of subjects. What a fabulous resource!
Our choice: NotebookingPages.com
     Winner: Veritas Press

Best E-Product

We’ve reviewed Progeny Press every year since 2014, and it is easily my favorite e-product. Their literature study guides are bar none, and I wish they were a bit more affordable.
Our choice: Progeny Press
     Winner: Grapevine Studies

Favorite Novel, Book, Audio Book, or Audio Drama

This was another category that the boys disagreed. Munchkin wanted to vote for a book (The Glass Castle that he read earlier this year) and Seahawk wanted to vote for Heirloom again. Because I let Seahawk win the Literature Resource category, I gave this one to Munchkin.
Our choice: The Glass Castle
     Winner: Heirloom Audio

Just for Fun

Paint sticks for the win again!
  Our choice: The Pencil Grip Inc.
     Winner: FlipStir puzzles

Kids Choice (ages 0-12)

These choices were easy for my kids. Small Fry loves to paint, and Munchkin loves to read.
Small Fry’s choice: The Pencil Grip Inc.
     Munchkin’s choice: The Glass Castle

Teen Choice

I was a little surprised by Seahawk’s choice here, but he enjoyed using Kwik Stix just as much as his younger brother did.
Seahawk’s choice: The Pencil Grip Inc.
     Winner: 101 Series

All Around Crew Favorite

I mentioned before that Grammar is one of my favorite subjects, and that rings true in just about every aspect of my life: teaching, reading, writing, etc. I’m really passionate about good grammar, so it’s something I’m very diligent about teaching my kids. For this reason, The Critical Thinking Co. (Sentence Diagramming: Beginners) won my vote.
Our choice: The Critical Thinking Co.
     Winner: CrossTimber

Make sure to click over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to find out more about the Blue Ribbon winners!

Blessings,

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