The Brinkman Adventures (review)

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We’ve had the pleasure of joining the Brinkman family in their missionary stories twice before. We loved them both times, so when the opportunity to review them again, this time Brinkman Adventures Season 4, my kids (especially Seahawk) practically begged me to request it. 

Brinkman Adventures tells the story of a fictional missionary family who travel the world, meeting other missionaries and participating in heart-pounding thrills. These stories, while dramatized, are based on the lives of real missionaries. Season 4 finds the Brinkmans traveling all over Asia and Eastern Europe, witnessing and preaching to the lost. The boys have been listening to their new CDs at night as they relax into sleepiness. They’ve also listened during their playtime in the afternoons. Now I’ll have each of them tell you about their favorite episode from this season.

Munchkin

65ABBFBC-BA9D-40FA-80F5-57BAF3BDE49FMy favorite episode is Cambodian Quest. In this story, Mrs. Brinkman and one of her daughters (I forget which one) travel to Cambodia so that they can teach young girls there to sew and knit. These skills will give them a leg up in their country – a way to work and support themselves. Supporting themselves is the only way many of them can avoid slavery. The daughter becomes good friends with one of the Cambodian girls, and they go to the market together one day. While they’re there, they meet a man who fixes sewing machines. This is perfect because one of their machines needs repair. The Brinkman daughter gives the man their address so he can come fix the machine. 

The whole way home, the Cambodian girl is very quiet and reserved. The Brinkman girl doesn’t know why until the Cambodian girl finally confides that the sewing machine repairman is her former slave master. She’d escaped from him, and now is terrified because he has her current address. She is very afraid now, and understandably so. 

When they get home, the Cambodian girl runs away. The Brinkman daughter searches for her and finally finds her in her former home. Together, they have to escape the slave master. The picture on the cover is from this story.

I don’t want to say anymore and spoil it, but trust me that this was a great story!

Seahawk

My favorite episode this season is Paradise Lost. In this story, the Brinkman family is camping at Paradise Lake, where s missionary is expected to come give a presentation. His plane is delayed due to a hurricane, so he has to cancel. The family has to figure out how to occupy the whole week with these unexpected circumstances prevailing.

In the meantime, the dam that keeps the lake filled breaks due to flooding from the mountains nearby. In the process of the dam breaking, all the excess water also crushes the bridge, which is the only way in or out of Paradise Lake. To stay busy, the family puts together a series of games that teach the kids to prepare for the mission field. 

The first game is about Bible translating. Mrs. Brinkman wanders around the campground pretending to be Dutch. The children have to find her and communicate their memory verse to her using only gestures so she can write it down in “her” language.

The next game teaches them how to smuggle Bibles. This game is a lot like Capture the Flag, except the kids start with the flag (which is really a piece of paper with a Bible verse written on it).

The final game is a trusting game. All the kids but one are blindfolded and tied together with a rope. The seeing kid has to lead them around a series of obstacles. This teaches them to trust in God even when the way is unclear.

Opinion

Both boys told me that this is their favorite season of Brinkman Adventures so far. It has a good balance action and character development. There’s enough calmness to keep it from being overwhelming, but enough action to keep it from being boring.

As for me, I’m really glad these stories exist. My kids like to fall asleep to sounds, and I much prefer they listen to something with substance instead of rowdy music. Brinkman Adventures fits the bill beautifully.

Click the banner below for more Crew reviews on these fun audio dramas.

Blessings,

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Brinkman Adventures Season 4
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Traveling the World (Let’s Go Geography review)

Learning about the place we live can be exciting for a young child, and it’s fairly easy to teach them. But what about teaching about places that are far away? That’s a lot trickier. A good homeschool geography curriculum is vital in that, and I have one to tell you about today.

Let’s Go Geography is a downloadable curriculum that offers a lot of hands-on activities, which is perfect for its target age demographic of grades K-4. Because my two older boys are outside the age range, Small Fry (K) and I have been learning about the world around us for the past few weeks. He’s barely at the point where he can differentiate the city from the state where we live, and definitely doesn’t understand about the countries yet, so his little mind is perfect for starting fresh with something like this.

lets go geographyAfter you purchase the curriculum, you are given access to the site, where you can download the lessons. If you’re like me, you may not want to print the entire year’s worth at a time though. Let’s Go Geography sends you an automated email each week (at roughly the same day and time as when you first signed up – for me, this is on Sunday evenings), reminding you to get the new lesson ready, including direct links to the lesson (just log in to the site to access). I think that’s pretty neat! There’s no excuse for forgetting that way.

The Specifics of Let’s Go Geography

Each lesson covers a specific geographic area, and the first several lessons are all based on North America (Northeastern United States, Hawaii, Canada, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Belize are the first six, which is all I’ve gone through yet.) Each lesson is broken down into “chapters,” making it easy to divide the work up over a single school week. In order to get an idea of how the curriculum works, I’m going to go over the “chapters” in lesson 1 in a bit of detail.

Map It!

This chapter shows children what the country they’re studying looks like. Depending on the map you choose to download and print (there is one suggested and linked in the curriculum download, but it’s just a suggestion; ultimately, you’re responsible for finding your own map), it could also show them where the country is located in relation to the rest of the world also. Children are instructed to color the map. For older children, you could also have them label important parts (individual states, large cities, rivers, etc).

The Flag

flag mapIn this chapter, children learn to identify the flag of the country they’re studying that week. Included in the curriculum is a map of the overarching section of the study (in this case, North America and some of the nearby islands) with places to glue the flags. Students are also asked to draw a line connecting a flag to its country. Another option is to download the “passport” that goes along with the curriculum (an extra fee of $2.99, or go to the website and share about the curriculum on your favorite social media outlet to get it for free). Once you print out the passport and put it together, your child can glue the flags onto the correct pages of that.

The Music

An example of the page for the chapter on music. You can see that includes lyrics for the song as well as a link to hear the song. This is an example of a page that is better on the computer than in print.

The music page in the Hawaii lesson. You can see that includes lyrics for the song as well as a link to hear the song. This is an example of a page that is better on the computer than in print.

This section provides links to listen to musical selections from the country. There are also lyrics for the national anthem.

Let’s Explore

In this chapter, there’s lots of information specific to the area you’re studying. In the Northeast U.S. lesson, students are taught about the geographical features specific to the region. This includes photographs of the region and short descriptions of what you might find there or things the area is famous for.

Create

This is a fun chapter – it provides a craft for the children that relates to the region. For the first lesson, children use a red Solo cup and printable flames (included in the curriculum) to make a lighthouse.

The final pages include a coloring page of the region and a notebooking page for older students to make a written record of what they learned during the week. (Due to the age of my student, we didn’t use the notebooking page, but he loves to color, so we did use the coloring pages.)

How We Used It

As I mentioned before, I used this curriculum with my Kindergartner. It was a bit intense for him to go at the rate of even one chapter per day, so we took it nice and slow, getting through one region approximately every two weeks. At this rate, it will take us 2 years (kindergarten and 1st grade) to get all the way through this curriculum, but that’s okay – I was blessed with lifetime access to the product (I’m not sure if this is the way it works for everyone, or if your purchase of the full year is good only for one year). I had him glue his flags onto the map I described earlier rather than into the passport, simply because the passport gave me a lot of grief in the printing process (which is not a problem with the file itself, just in that reloading paper into my printer and getting it to print correctly was a bit of a hassle). Also, I didn’t have any cardstock to make a good passport cover.

Right now, all of his papers are just kind of loose all around the school shelf, which isn’t ideal. I think I’m going to help my 5 year old to turn all of this great info into a lapbook pretty soon. This will keep it all very organized, but also make it much more interesting to look at, and will give him a keepsake to look back on when he’s older. The curriculum download includes several notebook cover options, one of which we will put on the cover of the lapbook. If you have an older student who would do better to keep his papers in a binder, you can use the cover printout in that way instead.

Final Thoughts

We’ve enjoyed working with Let’s Go Geography. I didn’t realize when I blindly printed out the first lesson that a lot of it is better used on the computer because it includes live links to things (the printable map, a YouTube video of the national anthem, etc). But some of it works just fine printed – in fact, some of the pieces have to be printed. So my advice is to spend the time on your computer going through each lesson in advance and printing just the pages that actually need to be printed.

You can get a full year of Let’s Go Geography for $21.99. If that’s a bit difficult for you to swing all at once, they also have a payment plan, wherein you agree to the whole year but make two equal payments of $12.99, one for the first semester and one for the second. If you’d prefer to buy just one semester at a time, the first semester is available for $14.99 (I didn’t see anything on the site about the second semester individually). There are also coupon codes available from time to time – currently there is a 25% off special going, but I don’t know how long that will last.

Blessings,

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Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}
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Visiting Noah’s Flood (Barbour Publishing review)

As you know if read very many posts here at all, my 11 year old son likes to read. A lot. So whenever we have the opportunity to review a book comes up, I give him the option of requesting it or not, and he almost always says, “Yes, please.” Such was the case with a new Bible adventure novel from Barbour Publishing called Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich. Biblical fiction has been a genre I’ve enjoyed in the past in “grown up books,” and I’m really excited to see more and more Biblical fiction for kids books being written these days. This one takes a modern kid named Corey and plops him smack dab in the middle of Noah’s Ark.

The softcover book (cover price $5.99, currently on sale for $4.49 through the publisher’s website) is 110 pages, although the story doesn’t actually start until page 7. It’s the first book in what will become the Imagine series. Mr. Koceich’s goal in writing the books is to offer kids ages 8-12 a place to think and ponder what living through biblical events might be like.

imagine review

Since Munchkin is the one who read this book, I’m going to do a little interview with him on his thoughts of the book.

~*~*~

imagine coverGive me a short synopsis of the plot.

Corey is chasing his dog and he hits his head and gets injured. Next thing he knows, he is flashing back in time to ancient Mesopotamia and living in Noah’s flood.

You read this book alone. How long did it take you from start to finish?

Two days. I read for about one hour per day.

Was it too easy for you? Too hard? Just right? Do you think it would be a good fit for other kids your age?

I think it would pretty good for kids my age (11). It was a little easier than things I’m used to reading, but I wouldn’t say it was “too easy.”

When you first learned what this book was about, what did you think it would be like? Was it as good as you thought it would be?

I expected he would be on the Ark, but he got taken back to modern day before the Ark set sail. That was surprising to me. Yes, it was as good as I expected.

Tell me about your favorite scene from the book.

I like the part where Corey was fighting the Nephilim (giants). He fought them a few times, but I liked the first one the best because he had never seen them before. It was really terrifying because the people were so big. Corey didn’t win; in fact, he barely escaped. In most books the good guy always wins, so this was very refreshing in that he almost lost.

Who was your favorite character? Why?

Shem. He fights the most, and I liked those exciting scenes.

In the book, Corey learns a lesson in forgiveness. Did you feel like you learned any lessons reading this book?

Yeah. I was reminded that God always has a plan for what happens, even if it’s unclear to us.

Would you recommend this book? Why or why not?

Yes, I would recommend it. It was good because it’s time travel with biblical history. I like that a lot. It combines two very interesting types of books into one.

Any final thoughts?

I read in the back of this book that there’s a sequel coming out in March 2018. (Mom note: It’s about a girl transported to the Exodus and Ten Plagues of Egypt.) I would really like to read that one.

~*~*~

As you can tell by Munchkin’s answers, Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich was a hit in our house. As a mom, I like that there are good, Christian books for kids coming out that I can feel good about offering to my sons to read.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich {Barbour Publishing}
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Reading a Favorite Book with Fresh Eyes (Progeny Press review)

progeny press review

One thing that the Homeschool Review Crew is amazing at is introducing me to products and companies I’d never heard of. Such was the case four years ago with Progeny Press. Every year that I’ve been on the Crew (this is my 4th), Progeny Press has offered literature study guides to members of the Crew. And every year, I’ve been blessed to review one. This year, Munchkin has the Charlotte’s Web E-Guide to work through.

Charlotte’s Web has a special place in our hearts because it was the first novel Munchkin ever read when he was just 6 years old. I thought it would be a fun one for him to study deeper even though he’s read it before and is very familiar with the story. It’s neat to take books you know and love and look at them through a more critical lens, and that’s just what I’d hoped Munchkin would accomplish through his review of this study guide.

IMG_0666[1]Progeny Press offers study guides for literature of all genres and age ranges from lower elementary (roughly grades K-3, including novels such as Frog and Toad Together) clear up to high school with selections like The Hunger Games. The study guides are available as instant downloads or you can purchase a physical CD-ROM. The guides are interactive PDFs, meaning that you don’t even have to print it out if you don’t want to – the student can type their answers right into the PDF reader. That doesn’t mean that you have to do it that way, though. Printing is allowed by the copyright, so long as it’s all for students in the same family. For our use, I received a downloadable study guide, which I’ve saved to my computer (and backup drive) for use with future kids, and I printed one copy for Munchkin. To save on paper – and make it feel more “legit” – I printed front and back, then punched holes in the pages and added them to his school binder.

Once we had the study guide all situated, I bought the Kindle version of Charlotte’s Web for him to read. We already have two copies of the paper novel, but they’re packed up in storage (read: difficult to access and/or find) and I didn’t want to deal with possible late fines through the library. At just $4.99, buying the e-book was the right answer for us.

progeny press worksheet

One of the pages of questions (click to enlarge). The red spot is just because he wrote his brother’s name, and we don’t use the kids’ real names here on the blog.

I love Progeny Press Study guides for a lot of reasons. I love how they start with prereading activities to do before you even crack open the book. In the case of Charlotte’s Web, they suggest studying spiders and having the child(ren) do a short report on them; taking children to a working farm to learn about the animals; and starting a vocabulary journal so that they can learn and start using all the “fancy” and “complicated” words that Charlotte uses. In addition to the prereading activities, the study guides always include a synopsis of the book and short biographies of the author and illustrator (when applicable).

Then you dive into the actual studying. Each chapter chunk has comprehension questions, which are superb. They help your child make sure he read the book and understood what he was reading. Comprehension is where a lot of literature guides end, but not Progeny Press. In addition to the comprehension questions are a variety of different activities for making sure students understand the vocabulary of the selection. These activities include multiple choice for figuring out the definition of potentially problematic words, having students come up with their own definition of the words based on context, thinking of synonyms for vocabulary words, and more.

Once your student has finished the vocabulary and comprehension sections for the selected chapters, Progeny Press really shines and stands out from other literature programs. There are “thinking about the story” questions, which go beyond comprehension and push students to think about the way things are in the book rather than just about what happened. For example, one of the questions in the Charlotte’s Web guide is “Why do farmers raise pigs?” This is the kind of question that relates to the story indirectly, forcing students to really think for themselves rather than just flip through the book to fill in a blank. (In case you’re wondering, my almost-11-year-old responded to this question with “To make bacon.”)

And then there my very favorite part of Progeny Press guides: the biblical “digging deeper” section. In these questions, the author of the study guide gives scripture references that relate to a part of the story and asks questions to draw the two together. For example, “Do you believe that human lives and animal lives are equal in value? Read Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:3, 8-11, and Psalm 8. What do these passages say about the place of humans and animals in God’s creation?” This is the type of question you don’t get with most other literature guides, and it’s what makes Progeny Press one of my absolute favorite curricula for studying literature.

Munchkin, an avid reader anyway, has absolutely loved having the opportunity to reread something “easy” that happens to be one of his favorite books anyway. I love that he’s getting some new perspective on this favorite classic. He’s not too far into it yet (he worked lightly over the past several weeks, and has picked up a lot more steam now that we’re doing school each day in earnest), but he will absolutely be finishing this one. It’s a keeper!

Blessings,

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In case you’re interested, we’ve reviewed for Progeny Press in the past. Click the following links for my past reviews: Little House in the Big Woods, Tuck Everlasting, and Give Me Liberty. For more of this year’s Homeschool Review Crew reviews of Progeny Press, click the banner below. Selected titles include The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, Charlotte’s Web, The Silver Chair, and MacBeth.

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}
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Bringing Children to Jesus (review)

Halloween can be a truly divisive “holiday” among people of faith. Some think it’s no big deal and that it’s just about the candy and having fun in costumes. Some think it’s a satanic day to be avoided at all costs. We tend to fall into the former category, but I am definitely sensitive to people in the latter one. And just because we aren’t averse to participating in Halloween doesn’t mean that we want our children to focus on the pagan aspects of the holiday. Nor do we wish to imply that something like a holiday is more important than our Lord. This is where the Is There Anything Better Than Candy? Box-Tract from Let the Little Children Come can be a great tool.

Let the Little Children Come box tract

What is it?

better than candyThese little boxes come packaged flat, and all you have to do is punch them out and lift the flaps up and over the “stem” to create the pumpkin-shaped box. When in its flat state, the box looks a lot like a flower, and on each petal is a step toward explaining the Gospel to children. Each one is clearly numbered so you can go over the concepts in the “correct” order (although when talking about the Gospel, I think getting the information out is more important than doing it in a specific order). Step one answers the question, “Is there anything better than candy?” The answer, of course, is Yes! A relationship with our creator and savior is much better than treats. Petal two explains in a very simple way that God loves us and wants us to join him in Heaven. Number three tells why that’s just not possible through a very basic explanation of sin. The fourth bit of information covers the official Gospel – how Jesus came to Earth, lived a perfect life, died, and was resurrected so that we could be forgiven. The fifth petal tells of the ABCs of salvation (Accept, Believe, Commit). The sixth and final petal gives a short “sinner’s prayer” to help guide the grownup as they lead the child to Christ.

better than candy product imageWhen the box is all folded up, it’s quite small. (In the image above, my 5-year-old son is holding it, just to give you an idea of the actual size of the box.) You could fit only very tiny items in there, but there is room for small things. I think a Halloween sized piece of candy would be about the perfect fit, although based on the name and content of the tract, that’s probably not the best idea for filling it. Flexible things would also be really good. I’m thinking specifically a small beaded bracelet – the kind that children often make at church events in which they’re instructed to put colored beads onto a bracelet base in a specific order to help them remember the Gospel (gold for God’s perfect creation, black for our sin, red for blood and death, white for Jesus’s ability to wash away our sin, blue for baptism, and green for growth). Another thing along the same lines that might fit in there is one of those tiny “Wordless books,” which cover the same colors and concepts as the bracelet I just mentioned.

How We Used It

Small Fry is just the right age for something like this. We go to church, but because we’re the only native English speakers with children in our church, his Sunday School and Children’s Church classes are taught primarily in Spanish, so he doesn’t always get much out of them. So he and I built the box together and I went over the information on the petals with him. It was really rewarding to watch him move from “No, there’s nothing better than candy!” to understanding that “Oh, yeah, God is definitely much better than candy.” What a blessing to see your own child make that connection.

These Gospel Tract boxes come in a package of 20 for $15.95. There are bulk discounts if  you buy 11 or more sets. Because I received a whole set for review, but only used one of them in my family, I gave the rest to my mother-in-law, who runs the children’s department in our church. She is really excited about handing these out to children during the annual fall festival this year.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

Is There Anything Better Than Candy? {Let The Little Children Come Reviews}
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Everyday Cooking (review)


everyday cooking review

I’m always looking for new recipes, especially given our current living situation where there are tons of restrictions. So when the Homeschool Review Crew was given the opportunity to request Everyday Cooking from Everyday Homemaking, I said, “Yes, please!” I received a digital copy of the cookbook, which I printed out, hole punched, and placed in a binder for easy use.

Before I dive too much into the recipes, I want to talk about the introductory portion of the book. The author, Vicki Bentley, goes into a lot of effort to explain how to make everyday cooking as easy and time-budget-friendly as possible. For example, when coming back from the grocery store, make up a huge batch of meatloaf. Turn one portion of it into dinner that night by popping it into a loaf pan in the oven. Turn part of it into “Salisbury steaks” by making patties and placing them between pieces of wax paper in the freezer for another busy night. And use the last portion for a “ready to go” meatloaf, where all you have to do is put it in the oven and make your side dish(es).

Another idea she offers is to run a large pot of water full of vegetables and chicken pieces. Cook it all up, and when the chicken is done, debone and shred it, then package it up into meal-size portions (how much this is will vary from family to family). The cooking water goes in the fridge to let the fat harden, and then you can scrape that off and you’re left with homemade chicken broth. There are also loads of tips for making your meat (and therefore you grocery budget) stretch further.

After this section, there are a few pages of breakfast ideas. These are things that are easy to pull together without being full-blown recipes, including some that can be made the night before or put in the crockpot before bed so you have a delicious, healthy breakfast waiting when you wake up.

Then she dives into the “official” recipes. They are split up into several categories (you could call them chapters):

  • Appetizers, Dressings, and Drinks
  • Breads and Grains
  • Main Dishes, Soups, and Sides
  • Desserts and Snacks
  • Low Carb/Gluten Free Pantry Helpers

Then at the end, she wraps the cookbook up with several sections of general kitchen guidelines:

  • Basic measurements and helps
  • Meal planning and shopping hints
  • Basic cooking skills
  • For Students: food and nutrition mini unit
  • Basic kitchen accessories
  • Kitchen equipment
  • Slow cookers vs. Pressure cookers
  • Pressure cooker tips and favorites (including recipes)
  • Index
Porcupine Meatballs recipes from Everyday Cooking

Porcupine Meatballs recipes from Everyday Cooking

Once I got my cookbook printed and bound, I started going through it to get ideas for dinners for the next few weeks. The first one I made was Porcupine Meatballs. This is a recipe that my husband grew up with, so I thought it would be interesting to try out a new version of it. Even though Vicki’s recipe was less sweet (it’s made with tomato sauce instead of tomato soup), it was a huge hit with my family – including my very picky step-mother-in-law and my father-in-law who has severe dietary restrictions (he’s recovering from cancer and chemo). We liked these meatballs so much that I’ve already made them twice. The second time, I was working on the fly and didn’t have the exact right ingredients (I had to puree up some canned tomatoes because I was out of sauce, for example), but it didn’t matter. They were still delicious.

Beef Pot Pie using the leftover "Mom's Roast."

Beef Pot Pie using the leftover “Mom’s Roast.”

A day or two after the success of the meatballs, I pulled out the two roasts I’d bought from the freezer (yes, two – I’m feeding eight people!). I popped them into the slow cooker with the ingredients for the Mom’s Roast recipe, and later that evening, I just had to heat up some frozen vegetables and we had a delicious, nutritious dinner ready to go. There was even enough leftovers from the meat (another reason I’d bought two roasts – I wanted leftovers) to make a beef pot pie for dinner later in the week.

Chicken Broccoli Braid

Chicken Broccoli Braid

The last recipe we’ve tried (so far) was the Chicken Broccoli Braid. Following the recipe, I made what turned out to be a chicken salad type stuff, then placed it inside a crescent roll crust and baked it all up together. This was definitely the most beautiful of all the recipes I tried. Beauty aside, though, we didn’t like it as well as the others. I’d tasted the filling before cooking it in the crust, and it was delicious. But once it was cooked in the shell and heated through, it was less impressive tasting. That said, I would definitely make the filling again and use it as a sandwich filler. That would be amazing!

Most of the recipes in this book don’t work for our current situation, unfortunately. My father-in-law can’t eat poultry; that eliminates all of the chicken recipes for dinners. (We had the Chicken Broccoli Braid one of the days when my in-laws were on vacation and it was just my nucleus family.) Beef is crazy expensive, so we don’t use it too often. And Everyday Cooking only has 3 pork recipes (our meat of choice for feeding 8 people on a budget). But… the recipes that I have tried have been slam dunks. I’m sure the rest of them (at least a large majority of them) will be, too. I can’t wait to find out!

Through September 5, use coupon code TOS10books to get 10% off Everyday Cooking or The Everyday Family Chore System. There are no limits with the code, so it’s a great time to stock up for holiday gifts.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing two books from Everyday Homemaking this week: Everyday Cooking and The Everyday Family Chore System. Click the banner below for links to reviews of both books.

Everyday Cooking and Chores Systems for your Family {Everyday Homemaking Reviews}
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Visiting the Phonics Museum (Veritas Press review)

When my oldest son was small, I made a mistake in teaching him to read. I used a book which said to tell the child that “reading is hard, but it’s very important.” As soon as he heard that it was going to be difficult to learn to read, he essentially gave up in that moment. (Now, at age 13, he’s a competent reader, but he doesn’t enjoy it and definitely doesn’t do it unless he has to.) Seeing that happen made me vow to never use those words with another child again. And I haven’t. My second child (now almost 11) practically taught himself to read and was reading novels by age 6. My third child, Small Fry (5 years old), is at that magical age now where he’s excited to learn to read. We’ve been working on it here and there for several months now, and with the help of a new iPad app from Veritas Press, he’s having fun in the process.

Phonics Museum review

The Phonics Museum App is a fun, homeschool phonics app for kids in preschool or kindergarten. It teaches letter names and sounds, how to write them, listening for the sounds, and more… all in the super fun setting of an art museum. The teacher in the Phonics Museum is Miss Biddle, and she’s a delight. The actress playing her is full of energy, and you can’t help but enjoy watching her.

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phonics museumEach letter is represented by a famous work of art (the “museum” part of the Phonics Museum), and children move through the museum just like they would a real museum: on the elevator and through hallways. The elevator takes children to different “floors,” and each floor focuses on a single set of letters. Floor 1 teaches the letters A, M, and B. When your character gets off the elevator, you find yourself in a hallway with paintings of apples on the wall. By tapping on the first painting (they’re all the same for a particular letter, but the lessons that you don’t qualify for are grayed out until you complete all the previous ones). Tapping on the painting pulls your character into the painting where a set of easels sit. Each easel represents a short piece of the lesson. There are between 9 and 13 easels per lesson (that I’ve noticed – those numbers might be a little off). The easels alternate between videos of Miss Biddle and activities for the child to do, making this a multi-sensory learning experience.

phonics museum collageIn the early lessons, there are three types of easels in the Phonics Museum: videos, songs, and games. Later on, a fourth is added: books. (Small Fry is on the fourth floor of the museum so far, and just added his first book. I’m not sure if more types of easels are added past this point or not). The videos are Miss Biddle explaining about the letter, interacting with other characters, etc. The songs are variations of the alphabet song (so far, we’ve come across three different versions). The games are the most fun. They include drawing the letter, listening for the sound at the beginning of words and tapping the painting if you hear it, locating the letter in a group of other letters, matching up a picture with the correct word, and more.

After we got through the initial “how does this work?” period, Small Fry was able to do a lot of these lessons on his own. I would sit with him here and there to make sure he wasn’t skipping over stuff that was “hard.” Imagine my surprise when I worked with him during one of these times and he was able to quickly and easily match up the picture of a father and child with the word “dad,” a flying mammal with the word “bat,” and a diagram of roads with the word “map.” I was so excited for and proud of him!

veritas pressWhen the opportunity to review this app first came up, I had a hope for it: that it would become something he requested more than his other favorite iPad activities of nonsense games and movies. This was borne out beyond my expectations. He absolutely loves it, and asks to “play Phonics Museum” several times a day. He will happily do several lessons at once – I have to make sure he doesn’t move too fast and miss out on full comprehension. But so far, that’s not been an issue. I’m so glad we got the opportunity to review this app, and highly recommend it for students who are ready and excited to learn to read.

Just for fun, here’s a video of Small Fry singing along with the ABC song on Phonics Museum.

 

The Phonics Museum is available in the iTunes store for $9.99 per month or $99 annually.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing Phonics Museum this week too; click the banner below for more information.

Blessings,

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Phonics Museum App {Veritas Press Reviews}
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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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