The NIrV Adventure Bible (review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew

Reading the Bible is an important part of the Christian faith, even for the youngest among us. Most versions of the Bible, though, are written for teens and adults, making it difficult for children to understand. You might see a lot of “picture Bibles” available, but those aren’t really Bibles; they’re more simplified Bible-inspired stories with large illustrations for babies and toddlers. Once kids are able to read at a basic level, they really should have a “real” Bible for their own studies, and that’s exactly what the NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers from Zondervan is.

We’ve had different NIrV Bibles in our home before. I first learned of this version about 10 years ago, when my teens were young. We had a copy of this version for them to read on their own back then, and they quite literally wore it out. Since they’ve grown up, they have “real” Bibles now, but the younger kids are now getting to where they can read. This new dynamic is what prompted me to ask to review the NIrV Adventure Bible.

NIrV stands for New International Reader’s Version, and like its name implies, it’s a paraphrase of the NIV (New International Version) of the Bible. In this “reader’s version,” the words and sentences have been simplified down to a third-grade reading level, making it super easy for kids to understand. I’ve been using this Bible to read aloud bits of the Old and New Testaments to Dragonfly (6 years old). He was super excited to get his own Bible, and has been asking nearly daily for some reading time.

I really like the NIrV for reading to younger kids. The shorter words and phrases really help it to make sense for young minds. All of the meaning is there, but by using periods instead of commas in places, it it easier for kids to wrap their minds around what is being said. For example, in the NIrV, John 3:16 says

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.

Compare this to the regular NIV:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

See how it’s almost the same, but just a little shorter? And the version for young kids has gotten rid of a couple of the words, and simplified “whoever” to just “who,” making it a lot easier for our littlest guys to get the gist of what’s being said without losing any of the important meaning.

I asked Dragonfly what his favorite part of the Adventure Bible was, and he told me that he really likes the pictures. There are lots of full-page illustrations as well as smaller ones sprinkled into the text showing a variety of different things (Life in Bible Times, Words to Treasure [memory verses], People in Bible Times, etc).

Overall, I’m really happy we were able to be on this review. My son is getting stronger at reading every day, and I’m glad he’ll have a Bible to read that he can easily understand moving forward.

Make sure to read more reviews from my colleagues on the Homeschool Review Crew as well.

Blessings,

Readying for Easter with Pure Flix

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through Momentum Influencers

Easter is coming, friends! As one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, it’s important to prepare our hearts and minds for this important day. If not for Jesus’s death and resurrection, we wouldn’t have any hope at all. This is easy with a subscription to Pure Flix, the primary home for faith-based, family-friendly streaming.

Pure Flix has a wide selection of Easter films and documentaries, and I’m excited to watch some of them with my family this year. We also celebrate Passover, so films like The Passion of the Christ are great because they cover both holidays. This one in particular is such a powerful film that really stands the test of time (watching it now is no different than seeing it in 2004 when it was new). From now until April 19th, you can stream The Passion of the Christ on Pure Flix and share with your children the gravity of the last 12 hours of Jesus’s life. (Keep in mind that Pure Flix has the same unedited version that aired in theaters, and it a strong R rating for violence.)

Want to get into the Easter mindset with younger kids? Pure Flix has you covered! On their Easter page, there’s an entire section of kids’ movies and shows, both live-action and animated. One that I know my kids are going to want to watch is The Passion, a retelling of Jesus’s final moments told in Lego-animation. My kids are obsessed with Lego Ninjago and The Lego Movie, so with The Passion, they’ll get a genre they like with a story they need.

If you’re more into documentaries, a Pure Flix subscription is still a great choice. They have loads of Easter-based documentaries (and some for other times of year, too!). These are the exact kinds of things my husband seeks out on YouTube (history of the Bible type films), so I know they’ll get a lot of play in our home as well. One of these looks especially interesting to me – Bible on Trial. I love a good courtroom drama, and this show examines different Biblical truths from a courtroom perspective, examining evidence and interviewing eyewitnesses. I can’t wait to watch some of those episodes!

I highly encourage you to check out Pure Flix to help prepare your heart for Easter. You won’t regret it!

If you’re interested in winning a 3-month subscription, leave a comment below telling me what you’d be most interested in seeing from the Pure Flix Easter page. I’ll select a winner using a random comment picker on or after April 5th. Good luck!

Blessings,

The Importance of Setting Goals (TRIVE review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Goal setting is an important part of growing up. It really helps you to succeed in life if you have specific things you’re working toward. TRIVE understands this, but they also know that goal-setting is not an easy (or intuitive) thing to do, so they’ve developed a game for teens and adults ages 15 and up to help them learn this vital skill.

TRIVE is a game to be played with a minimum of 4 people, and up to 6. Because of the nature of the game (it’s designed to help you with life, not just have an objective and when you accomplish it you win), players should be 15 and up. You can play with more than six people, but be aware that if you do, it will take longer due to the discussion aspect of the game.

There are three basic steps to TRIVE: Discovery, where everyone comes together to discuss their goals and choose leaders and private coaches from within the group. Achievement, where you split up for six months and work on accomplishing the goals you set for yourself with the help of your coach. And Review, where you come together after the six months is up and see how everyone did.

In order to start the Discovery process, you need to gather your game materials and group together. Choose one person to be the TRIVE leader. This person is responsible for writing down everyone’s goals in a shared notebook (provided with the game) and touching base with group members during the six-month Achievement time. He or she maintains contact with every member of the group to encourage them on their journey, and at the end of the six-month timeline establishes rewards. This person can be a member of the TRIVE or just an overseer of the members.

When everyone gathers together for the Discovery meeting, each person is given a minimum of 3 Goal Cards (there are 50 included in your game) and a pencil (game includes 6). Players need one card per goal, and at the beginning of the meeting they take some time to write down their goals. This can be done with words or pictures and is kept private. When everyone has finished with their goal cards, the game begins.

Everyone’s goal cards are put in a pile in the middle of the table and shuffled. One player then selects a Quotable card from the deck (100 included). Players go around the circle and take turns trying to correctly identify the speaker of the quote. When the quote’s speaker has been identified, one of the goal cards is revealed and players try to determine which person from their group made that goal. When the goal-maker is revealed, they tell why they made this goal and what it means to them. Discussion is highly encouraged during this phase of the game. This process is repeated until all of the goal cards have been revealed and discussed.

Each Quotable card has a point value. When the Discovery round is complete, the person with the most points gets first pick of the other members to be their coach. Selection continues until everyone has a coach. There are two rules regarding coaches: each player can only coach one other player, and no one can coach themselves. At the end of the session, all the goals are recorded in the leader’s notebook. The leader keeps track of this notebook until the review session, which should be scheduled before everyone leaves.

During the Achievement period, participants work toward all of their goals, working closely with their coach and the TRIVE leader. Goals may be modified or changed during this period with the consent of the player and their coach.

When the group reconvenes six months later, coaches take turns talking about their mentees’ achievements. Coaches give their “students” a score in two areas: goal difficulty and goal commitment. There are bonus points given if you complete your goal within the six month time frame. At the end of the Review session, an award is given for TRIVE champion (the player who received the most points for the achievements) and Best TRIVE coach (a vote from the group).

TRIVE is a great way to gather up a family or group of friends who all have the goal of making and achieving goals. It gives a sense of accountability that you don’t often get from just setting the goals. Anyone will tell you that you need someone to help keep you on track if you want to accomplish anything, and with TRIVE you get the benefit of having that someone be a person who’s intimately invested in your success. Their success is your success due to the game nature of this unique goal-accomplishing formula.

Make sure to hit the Homeschool Review Crew website to read more reviews and find out how members used this special game.

Blessings,

Pursuing Gold (book review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew

Sometimes, when a review opportunity comes up, the product looks too good not to request. Pursuing Gold by Cynthia L Simmons/Heart of the Matter is one of those. This historical fiction novel takes place during the Civil War, but what makes it special is not just the novel. It’s the economics curriculum that comes with it! Yes, that’s right… it’s an historical novel and the Pursuing Gold: History and Critical Thinking Curriculum. As I was reading about it on Amazon to decide whether it would be a good fit for us or not, I decided that I really wanted Scorpion to read this book and study along with it. It seemed way too cool to pass up. Not only would he get a new viewpoint on the Civil War (history), but he would also get a better understanding of currency and how it all began in America.

Before I get too much further, let me offer you Scorpion’s thoughts:

Synopsis:

When his father dies and his partner is injured, Peter Chandler suddenly finds himself in charge of the C&R Bank. Not only is he in charge, but it’s the middle of an economic crisis. What is he going to do? Peter has only a college degree – not a lick of experience – so he has to join forces with his injured partner’s daughter, Mary Beth. The Civil War rages around them. Political pressure to loan the government unsecured loans of gold pile up. Tempers and prices rise. When Mary Beth finds counterfeit money one day, things are suddenly much, much worse. When the signature on that counterfeit money is Peter’s, things are dire. Will Peter and Mary Beth be able to find the forger in order to save their bank? They must. In their desperation, they turn their focus on God to help them find hope and peace in this direst of circumstances.

Review:

I haven’t read a lot of historical fictions recently, but this one has one of the greatest and most interesting back stories of any. I really enjoy learning the story and with a good connection to the characters.

In this novel, it felt like even though we knew some of Peter and Mary’s history, you still get lost in the story. 

The story did start a little slow, but the first few chapters introduced the elements of the story and seemed to bring you as the reader up to speed in what was happening in the story. With each chapter, we’re carried along with Mary Beth and Peter as they hunt the mystery counterfeiters, and it’s a very good read. I would highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good historical fiction, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else this author can do. 

Scorpion seems to be eating this book up. I’ve discovered him sitting in his room and reading it on more than one occasion since it arrived. Five years ago, that wouldn’t have been such a surprise, but he’s less of a bookworm now than he was then, so it’s nice to see him reading – and enjoying – a book again. The curriculum that goes with the book has also captured his attention. I don’t have to remind him to keep up on it. He’s doing exactly what the author suggests and reading a chapter, then doing the corresponding workbook pages. Every few chapters, he brings it out to show me and I’m always impressed with his work ethic.

Even though he hasn’t finished this book quite yet, he will definitely be keeping up with it. We definitely recommend it as a fascinating, unique look at the Civil War. Whether you need a supplemental book for a high school Civil War unit, or something that explores the origin of currency in America, Pursuing Gold is a book you should check out.

Make sure to head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew website for more information and reviews as well.

Blessings,

SchoolhouseTeachers.com (review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew

One of the biggest benefits I get as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew is the Ultimate Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com a division of The Old Schoolhouse®. I have used resources from this site off and on for years, amongst many of my children, and they never disappoint.

Over the past year, we have focused on two main areas of the website. First, Ballet Boy entered the Virtual Art & Photography Fair last fall. He entered a couple of his photographs, as well as a painting that he made with his now-ex-girlfriend. Because he’s doing a lot of work with his dad, that includes learning how to use Photoshop. This means he’s being given ample opportunity to learn to “spice up” all the pictures he takes, which are mostly for his Instagram account where he does awesome things with his ukulele. He won first place for one of his photographs as well as honorable mention for the painting, and he was really proud of that.

The other thing we’ve spent a lot of time on is 4th grade science with Grasshopper. Together, he and I have been working through the Discovering Disgusting Creatures course. This topic utilizes the partnership with World Books and has reading comprehension question that go along with it. Grasshopper was quite unsure about this class when I told him the name of it, but he’s been loving it. Dragonfly (K/1) has even listened in on some of the books and learned a lot! Occasionally, he’s faster on the comprehension answers than his older brother.

If you need more than just “fill in the gaps” curriculum, SchoolhouseTeachers.com is the place for you! You can get a digital curriculum box for grades K-12 (and there are boxes for Pre-K and parents coming soon!). We haven’t actually used these boxes, but they include quite literally everything you need for homeschooling. If you’re worried about the high school years in particular, don’t be! These digital full-curriculum boxes will walk you through everything you need to do to successfully homeschool your child. All you need is paper, a printer, and basic school supplies. Everything else is planned out for you! If you’re concerned that it’s “not enough,” you can simply add an elective (or two) from the website also to flesh out your child’s school day. Every single subject you need to teach these upper grades is included and all laid out in one place. Math, Literature, Writing, Spelling, Science, History, Art… it’s all there. It really couldn’t be easier to homeschool your high schooler!

SchoolhouseTeachers.com has over 400 different resources for you to use, covering every single grade. You can get access for one family price – not a per child price – which makes it a great value. There’s even a digital storytime each month, which would provide a fantastic opportunity to keep your littlest children occupied and give you some time to get through a more difficult concept with an older child while the baby is busy.

Overall, I’m very glad to be a member of SchoolhouseTeachers.com. But don’t just take my word for it; 37 other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are talking about this website this week. Take a look at what they’re all saying!

Blessings,

 

The Wonder of Creation (review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Generally speaking, my husband prefers us to use the Bible (and only the Bible) for spiritual things. For that reason, I was a little unsure about reviewing The Wonder of Creation: 100 More Devotions About God and Science from Indescribable Kids and Tommy Nelson Books. The difference for me was the science aspect of this book; I was really interested to see how they combined science and faith. (For the record, I think it is absolutely possible to believe in both, so I wasn’t looking for a “gotcha” or the need to feel vindicated on anything. I just wanted to see how the author, Louie Giglio, went about it.)

This book is a lovely, hardcover edition with full-color illustrations (some drawings and some photographs) and covers a wide variety of topics. There are devotions on space, animals, weather, and the ocean (among many, many other topics). We started at the beginning and just read through the book, reading one devotion a couple of times a week. Grasshopper (age 9) did the reading mostly on his own.

Once you get into the actual devotions, you’ll find that they’re mostly science with a little bit of faith thrown in at the end. Each one takes up a two-page spread in the book. There’s approximately one half-page illustration per devotion, and some of them have photographic illustrations to help explain the point also. Additionally, the title of each devotion is nice and big to set it apart from the text. Below that is a Bible verse that the lesson is based on.

Then you get to the meat of the devotion, which is usually about a page, maybe a tiny bit more. It covers a lot of the science stuff, like I mentioned before, and then the last paragraph or so ties that science back into faith. For example, in the first devotion, titled “Get a Little Closer,” talks about how scientists say they know more about the surface of Mars than the bottom of Earth’s oceans. Mr. Giglio, the author, talks about how scientists are working to fix this by sending divers and machines down there to map the ocean floor. He then brings this to spirituality by reminding children that if the only time they meet with God is once a week at church, they might learn some things about him, but they won’t really know him. Just like the scientists need to actually get down into the bottom of the ocean in order to really understand it, people need to spend adequate time with God in order to really know him.

One other aspect in each devotion is the “explore the wonder” section, which is a graphical add-on that has even more science information for students to study. These bits would make great jumping off points for further study, if one was so inclined.

To wrap up, here are some of Grasshopper’s thoughts on his favorite devotion to date, called “The Twilight Zone.”

Did you know that it snows in the ocean? But this snow is made out of dead animals and their poop, so you wouldn’t want to go down and build a snowman. The “Twilight Zone” is between 650 and 3300 feet below the surface. Almost no light gets down here. Because the ocean is part of God’s creation, we should do our part to take care of it.

I think this book is super interesting and it can teach a lot of people a lot of things. The pictures are super cool too.

Overall, we feel comfortable recommending this book. It’s mostly science, so it won’t take the place of your Bible. But it is a nice way to show children that God and science are not mutually exclusive.

Make sure to head over to the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews too!

Blessings,

Math Mammoth (review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Math Mammoth is a staple for many in the homeschooling community. I know we’ve used their products in the past, and I’ve been on Maria Miller’s mailing list for a long time. Their workbooks for elementary and middle school students are excellent. Because my fourth son, Dragonfly (6 years old), has been working through only some very basic math in other programs, I decided to request the Math Mammoth Grade 1 curriculum for him. We also received the Math Mammoth Skills Reviews workbook (same grade level), which I’ll talk about later in the review.

Math Mammoth was designed and written by Maria Miller, a homeschool mom who saw some serious learning gaps when she was teaching math at a co-op one day. She decided to use her math knowledge to create a series of books to help parents teach their children in an easy-to-follow and easy-to-understand way. Her Math Mammoth Light Blue Series is a complete homeschool math curriculum available for grades 1-7. You can purchase the curriculum as a digital download, a CD-ROM, or a printed workbook (we received a digital download). Everything you need to teach and have your child practice the concepts is included, and each year is separated into two books (one for each semester). The coursework is designed as a “worktext,” which means it’s a combination textbook and workbook. Everything you need to teach the math is all in the same file as the practice problems. This makes a truly open-and-go product, which is perfect for many homeschooling families.

Because we received a digital download, I was able to easily print out the pages we needed each week. I then hole punched them and placed them into a folder (one of those that you can get for a quarter at Walmart). This kept everything tidy, while also not being overwhelming for my 6-year-old, which very easily could have happened with a giant printed book. Because we worked just a week at a time, he never had to worry about feeling like he wasn’t doing enough each day. (Knowing Dragonfly, he would have easily had that feeling. He is very much an overachiever who hates when he gets a wrong answer or leaves work undone.) I was able to go over the concepts with him and then he could easily work on his own for a few minutes to get the worksheet portion of the day done.

In addition to the Light Blue Series, we also received a copy of the complimentary Skills Review Workbook. This is a product (available in the same formats as the Light Blue series) that offers additional worksheets that you can print when your child needs extra help with a specific concept. Because it’s designed as a supplement, it doesn’t have quite the same level of explanation as the Light Blue series books; it really is just extra practice worksheets. This was also particularly helpful for Dragonfly because he is a memorizer. He is very good at memorization, and simply printing extras of the regular worksheets wouldn’t have worked for him because he would just remember the answers. (This trait of his has made it tricky to teach him to read because he easily memorizes his books after just one read through.) He really needs different problems for additional practice, not just more problems.

If you’re in the market for a new math curriculum, I highly recommend Math Mammoth. The books are reasonably priced considering how much you get in it. There is literally nothing else you need thanks to the instruction and practice being an all-in-one.

What’s your favorite math curriculum for the younger grades?

Blessings,

 

 

Remember to check out additional reviews from other members of the Homeschool Review Crew!

Tiger Rising (film review)

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through Momentum Influences Network.

When my teens were little kids, they loved Kate DiCamillo’s books, especially Scorpion. He was a total bookworm from the time he was 6 until about 12 or 13. He joined book club at the library, and his favorite book he ever read as part of that group was The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. He liked it so much that we got him his own copy of the book for his birthday that year. That is one of Ms. DiCamillo’s least famous books, though. You might know her better for Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux.

It was because of our family’s past experience with her stories that I signed up for this review. I wanted to share her work with my younger kids, and we were unfamiliar with The Tiger Rising, so it seemed like a pretty good opportunity. For this review, we received a special code to watch the movie (temporary – like a rental). I wasn’t able to figure out how to send it from my phone to the TV so we ended up watching it on the smaller screen, just me and the little kids (ages 9, 6, and 3).

About the film:

Queen Latifah and Dennis Quaid star in this beloved tale based on the New York Times best-selling book by Kate DiCamillo. When 12-year-old Rob Horton (Christian Convery) discovers a caged tiger in the woods near his home, his imagination runs wild and life begins to change in the most unexpected ways. With the help of a wise and mysterious maid, Willie May (Queen Latifah) and the stubborn new girl in school (Madalen Mills), he navigates through childhood memories, heartache, and wondrous adventures in this heartwarming adaptation.
You can watch the trailer on YouTube.
 
A family and faith discussion guide has also been put together for the film.
 
Our Thoughts:
 
My kids and I really liked this movie. It was exciting when the tiger showed up for the first time; I’d told Grasshopper (9) about the film, but not the other two, so they were really surprised to see a tiger n a cage. All through the movie, we kept pausing a bit to discuss, and it was a very valuable learning experience. I wish I’d had access through some sort of Roku channel so we could have watched on the TV instead of the phone, but it was good anyway. We loved watching Rob’s experiences as he moved through all the things he was going through and came out the other end of it all better than he started – a good lesson for people of all ages.
 
Make sure to watch the trailer, and see if The Tiger Rising is playing in a theater near you! And if it’s not (it was released in late January, so it might be out of many theaters by now), find it on your favorite streaming service. I know it’s one that we will likely rent and/or buy again in the future so we can show it to the rest of our family for movie night!
 
Blessings,

2021 Blue Ribbon Awards

Each year, the Homeschool Review Crew members vote on their favorite products of the year. Here are my choices, and the list of winners. Links take you to my reviews of the product.

Image by Peter Lomas from Pixabay

Favorite Literature Reading Resource: The Reading Game
Winner: The Reading Game

Favorite Literature Resource: Progeny Press
Winner: Progeny Press

Favorite Vocabulary Resource: (no vote)
Winner: The Critical Thinking Co. Vocabulary Virtuoso

Favorite Language Arts Resource: Words Rock!
Winner: Words Rock!

Favorite History/Social Studies Resource: Figures in Motion
Winner: Home School in the Woods

Favorite Science Resource: The Critical Thinking Co Science Mind Benders
Winner: Greg Landry’s Homeschool Science

Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
Winner: CTC Math

Favorite Math Supplement: Triad Math
Winner: MathRider

Favorite Bible Resource: Bible Breakdowns
Winner: Teach Sunday School Easter Escape Room

Favorite Children’s Bible Resource: Tommy Nelson Roar Like a Lion
Winner: Roar Like a Lion

Favorite Fine Arts Resource: (no vote)
Winner: ARTistic Pursuits

Favorite Martial Arts Resource: Practice Monkeys
Winner: Practice Monkeys

Favorite Elective Resource: The Fallacy Detective
Winner: The Fallacy Detective

Favorite Book/Book series: Buck Academy
Winner: YWAM Publishing

Favorite College Prep Resource: ACT Mom
Winner: ACT Mom

Favorite Helpful Tool or Resource: Fermentools
Winner: Fermentools

Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed: ACT Mom
Winner: WORLD Watch

Favorite Preschool Product: Reading Eggs
Winner: Buck Academy Baby Buck

Favorite Elementary Resource: Words Rock!
Winner: YWAM Publishing

Favorite Middle School Product: (no vote)
Winner: Teaching Textbooks

Favorite High School Product: Triad Math
Winner: CTC Math

Favorite Mom/Teacher Product: Fermentools
Winner: The HomeScholar

Kids Choice, Grasshopper: Words Rock!
Kids Choice, Dragonfly: Reading Eggs
Kids Choice, Bumblebee: Reading Eggs
Winner: Reading Eggs

Teen Choice, Scorpion: Practice Monkeys
Teen Choice, Ballet Boy: Triad Math
Winner: LightSail Education

All Around Favorite: Practice Monkeys
Winner: Creating a Masterpiece

What has been your favorite homeschool product you used this year?

Blessings,

Practice Monkeys for Self-Defense

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Several months ago, my husband took a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class. Without telling anyone. Then when he came home, he challenged Ballet Boy to a roughhousing match (they horse around all the time – have since Ballet Boy was small), and took him out. This was quite a surprise for Ballet Boy because as he’s grown, he’s gotten closer and closer to being able to win in these matches against his dad, but after the secret self-defense class, Dad gained the upper hand once and for all.

Then we found out the Practice Monkeys review. Ballet Boy was quite interested in taking their self-defense class. That incident with Dad was a motivator, but he likes being physical in general, so he would have been interested in the class even if it hadn’t happened.

The self defense class (for ages 5 and up) through Practice Monkeys teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and when you sign up the first thing you have to do is schedule an initial assessment. This, and all the classes, are live sessions taught via Zoom. The assessment is a private meeting with the teacher of the class, Dr. Peter van Kleeck. Once you’ve had the initial assessment to determine which level your child needs to start with, he will add the proper lesson to your dashboard. Classes are taught live with Dr. van Kleeck and his son, Titus, four days a week. Each class lasts 15 minutes and students are encouraged to practice an additional 15 minutes each day on their own. Each student needs a partner for this class (unlike the music classes that Practice Monkeys offers), so Scorpion took the class with Ballet Boy. Our initial plan had been to have Grasshopper and Dragonfly also take the class, but after just a lesson or two they decided they weren’t interested. It is helpful to have the students be of similar size for the class.

After our initial assessment, the kids were put into Level I. This wasn’t a surprise as they hadn’t had any sort of training in this art before. The classes were at the same time every day (Monday through Thursday), so I set an alarm on my phone to help us remember to sign in for the live classes. To access the Zoom call, you have to first sign into the Practice Monkeys website. From there, you can find the Zoom link on your dashboard. Because of the nature of Zoom, the daily classes aren’t private. All of the students at your level in your course are there together, but you don’t see them; on your end, you only see Dr. van Kleeck and Titus. They teach the material and then have your students practice while they watch. It was pretty rewarding on my end to hear him praise my kids during the lessons (“Yes! Good job, Robertsons!”), and I also appreciated hearing him talk to the other families taking the course. It really showed that he was watching all the kids and making sure they got the material.

What if you miss a live class? While the live classes are better because of the feedback you get from Dr. van Kleeck, you don’t miss out if you can’t make it. All of the Zoom calls are recorded and at the end of the week added to your “treehouse.” This is where you go to watch past lessons, either for extra review or because you’ve missed one (or more) live class. I do wish that these classes were uploaded later on the same day they were recorded, but I understand why that might not be feasible for the van Kleecks.

After you’ve been in the class for a while, you’ll be invited to take an assessment in order to move up a level. In the self-defense class, this was an individual Zoom call with Dr. van Kleeck. You have to schedule them through your account in the Practice Monkeys website, and then you access the Zoom call the same way you do a live class at the right time. The assessments take 25 minutes. To determine whether my sons were ready to move from level 1 to level 2, they were given a spoken instruction and Dr. van Kleeck watched to see if they succeeded based solely on the name of the move. They did, and by the time of their next class, our account had been updated to allow them into the level 2 class instead of the level 1 class (same thing, just 15 minutes later).

Ballet Boy and Scorpion have been having a blast learning self-defense with Practice Monkeys! We haven’t made it to every live class, but they do their best to make up the classes on their own when we miss one. The classes take place in the middle of the afternoon in our time zone, so it’s not always feasible to make it live (sometimes Ballet Boy is working, for instance). There have also been times when Zoom was acting up and the kids could see the class but couldn’t hear the instructions, so to avoid the inevitable frustration that would cause they opted to do those classes later as well.

Practice Monkeys’ main emphasis is instrument instruction, so if you or your child have ever wanted to learn violin, cello, piano, or guitar, then you should absolutely give them a chance. Practice Monkeys is priced per instrument (or BJJ) for the entire family. So if you have two guitar students, they can take the class together (at the same time). If you have a piano student and a cello student, though, you would need to purchase 2 subscriptions for those lessons.

I can’t recommend Practice Monkeys enough; Ballet Boy is even interested in continuing his BJJ lessons beyond our review subscription (that’s something he’ll be talking to Dad about!). Make sure to head over to the Homeschool Review Crew site and learn more about all the different types of lessons, though.

Before I finish up, the biggest question still remains: Can either of the kids “take out” Dad now?

Not quite. But with the skills they’ve learned, they don’t go down quite so easily.

Blessings,