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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Christmas Love Letters from God (Review and Giveaway)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have a wonderful review and giveaway for you today, and I think the timing is quite fortuitous. Not only are Americans being especially conscientious about thankfulness today, but this book reminds of us of the absolute best gift ever – Jesus Christ.

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Christmas Love Letters from God is a beautifully illustrated hardcover book that combines prose and rhyme to tell a series of Bible stories, all related to Christmas. The stories are:

  • Isaiah’s Good News
  • Mary’s Song
  • Joseph’s Dream
  • Bethlehem’s Road
  • Jesus’s Joy
  • Shepherd’s Surprise
  • Wise Men’s Wonder

Each of the stories is short – just a couple of paragraphs plus a poem – so it’s easy for children as young as 3 or 4 to pay attention. My third son is 4 years old, and he had no problem listening to this book. Once you finish the story, there’s a lift-the-flap section that goes along with each one, and these were Small Fry’s absolute favorite. These are designed to look like envelopes, and when you open it, the text inside is a letter “from” God that relates to the story. There’s even a space on each one to fill in your child’s name.

Pictures in this review are from the Kindle edition of the book. In the hardcover, which I received and the winner of the giveaway will receive, the love letter from God is a lift the flap, not a separate image like it is in these pictures.

The words and illustrations in this book work really well together; each is a great complement to the other. The pictures reminded me of a quilt, and I thought that was pretty cozy. Overall, we really loved reading this book, and will continue to read the stories again and again as we near Christmas.

As usual with FlyBy reviews, I get to give a copy of this away to one of you! It’s a lovely book that anyone who has or knows a little kid (the book was written for ages 4-8) would be lucky to have. Just fill out the Giveaway Tools widget below to enter. One winner will be chosen randomly sometime during the day on December 1st, 2016. Giveaway is open to residents of the US only; sorry, internationals (I don’t make the rules, I just follow them),

I hope everyone (especially fellow Americans) have a wonderful Thanksgiving today.

Blessings,

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Kwik Stix ~ Review and Giveaway

I was privileged to get to review the “plain” set of Kwik Stix earlier this year as a part of the Homeschool Review Crew, and recently The Pencil Grip, Inc. contacted me to see if I’d be interested in doing a second review and giveaway, this time of the “Metalix” and “Neon” varieties. I asked my kids if they were interested, and I was met with a resounding, “Yes!” So here we are.

kwik-stix-neonsIn case you missed it last spring, Kwik Stix are solid tempera paints in a tube, not unlike a glue stick. The main difference is that instead of a solid glue, they’re filled with a solid paint. These are ideal for young kids for a few reasons. First, they’re solid. There’s approximately 0.5% chance of making a mess. (I can’t say that it’s an absolute zero because a: kids might paint where they’re not supposed to and b: if your kids are too impatient, there is the possibility of smudging paint from the paper to the table or other surface.) Second, they dry very quickly. Very quickly meaning, in about 90 seconds.

So, what can you use Kwik Stix to paint on? Anything! I’ve used them to paint primarily on paper and wood, and they work very well on both of those mediums. For this review, I want to focus primarily on our holiday decorating uses for them.

kwik-stix-metalixAs I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been busily knitting sweaters for our extended family members for Christmas gifts. Some of them will undoubtedly get wrapped in boxes and wrapping paper, but some will end up in gift bags. My local yarn store provides really nice paper bags instead of grocery-store-style plastic bags, and they look just like plain gift bags, so we’ve been saving those and keeping them nice each time I buy yarn or other knitting supplies. Then we used the Metalix Kwik Stix to paint holiday designs on them. I think they turned out just about perfectly.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos good enough to post here of the artwork we’ve made using Kwik Stix, but we have definitely been using them.

Because I know they work well on wood, these would also be a great way to create your own Christmas tree ornaments. The possibilities for Kwik Stix are borderline endless!

Kwik Stix are available on Amazon, Target.com, and in Target stores. If you’re not in a hurry to get your set, though, be sure to enter the giveaway below for your chance to win a set of either the Metalix or Neon Kwik Stix. Use the Giveaway Tools widget to enter.

Blessings,

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How to Diagram a Sentence with The Critical Thinking Co. (Review)

When I was planning our school year back in August, I decided not to get the next level of our regular grammar program. Even though I love it, and I know the kids are learning a lot from it, they don’t particularly care for it, so I decided to give them a year off from using it. This left us without a grammar program, which I’d planned to fill with something along the lines of copywork. That’s only been happening sporadically, so when the opportunity arose for a review of Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co., I was very interested. You see, grammar is my strongest subject as a teacher, so I felt kind of lost without having it in our school day. Having something grammar related that was different from what we’ve used in the past was a definite win for everyone involved.

About The Critical Thinking Co.™

The Critical Thinking Co.™ was founded in 1958 by John Baker, and they offered only math back then. They included logic problems in their math curriculum in order to help students to learn not just the math being taught, but also to think more critically about what they were learning. They’ve gone through several name changes in the past 58 years, landing on The Critical Thinking Co.™ in 2003. Their mission statement is to “develop students’ critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life.” Things you won’t find in a product from The Critical Thinking Co.™ are math drills or requirements for rote memorization. When you use a book or software program from this company, you can rest assured that you won’t be teaching your students to pass a test – you’ll be teaching them to succeed.

About Sentence Diagramming: Beginning

This book was written by elementary and middle school teacher Angela Carter after she was unable to find a quality resource for teaching children to diagram sentences. She learned to diagram sentences herself in college, and really loved how seeing words broken down that way encouraged an understanding of how different types of words work together to create sentences.

There are twelve lessons in the book, and each one can easily be broken up into several days. They start with the simplest of sentences: simple subject and main verb (Babies eat.). There’s a gray box at the beginning of each lesson which is the teaching portion; this section takes between a third and half a page. Then there are four pages of activities for students to practice their new knowledge. Sometimes, there are additional boxes of teaching on subsequent pages in the middle of a lesson. Activities include:

  • The following sentences are diagrammed incorrectly. Diagram them properly.
  • Here are some sentences and empty diagrams. Place the words from the sentences where they go on the diagram.
  • Here are some empty diagrams. Write your own sentence to match the diagram.
  • Here are some sentences. Draw your own diagram and fill in the words properly.

The types of sentences get pretty complex quite quickly; by lesson 3, adjectives and coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor) have been added. By lesson 7, prepositional phrases are introduced. The last four lessons of the book each add a different compound component: subjects, predicates, direct objects, and predicate adjectives and nouns.

How We Used Sentence Diagramming: Beginning

As I mentioned previously, this has become our grammar curriculum for the time being. The boys have enjoyed doing something new and interesting; I like that they’re building on the grammar foundation they already had. Each morning, I would read the teaching section to them, simplifying the explanation as needed to make sure they understood. Then they would do the activities on a separate sheet of paper for inclusion in the grammar tab of their binders. The Critical Thinking Co.™ has a very generous copyright policy, allowing photocopies to be made for use within a single family for as many children as you have, but making those copies was never very convenient for me, so we just used the separate paper method.

When the sentences were easy (lessons 1 and 2), we did all four pages of activities in one sitting. As they continued to get more and more complicated, we broke it up over several days, eventually getting to where we just did one lesson over the course of a whole week.

Final Thoughts

Sentence Diagramming: Beginning has been a really good thing for our homeschool. It keeps the boys’ interest, and they don’t whine when I say, “Open up to your grammar section.” They’re learning new kinds of words, constantly being refreshed on the kinds of words they already knew, and with each diagram, they have a visual reminder of how the different words go together to make an interesting sentence. This book is a definite win!

This is the second time I’ve had the privilege of reviewing for The Critical Thinking Co.™. Last year, Seahawk and I worked through their Pattern Explorers math supplement book (we didn’t finish it at the time, and he still goes back sometimes to do activities from that book; he loves it).

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing a variety of things from The Critical Thinking Co.™ this week, including Language Smarts™ Level E, a 4th grade language arts curriculum and a variety of software downloads:

The Critical Thinking Co.™ is also really invested in helping young children from an early age develop their critical thinking skills. They have a great article on The Importance of Preschool Academics, which I would highly recommend reading it if you have young children. Once you’ve read the information on that page, you can then click over to the page that offers 5 preschool apps for under $40, which cover basic reading, writing, and arithmetic for young students.

Blessings,

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Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
 

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Arrgh! A Unit Study on Pirates (Homeschool Legacy Review)

Thanks to a great review product from Homeschool Legacy, we’ve had the privilege of spending the past few weeks learning all about pirates in history. The Once-a-Week Micro-Study we’ve been working through is called Pirates or Privateers: You Decide. It’s been really interesting learning all the different things offered in the unit study.

pirates

I’ve mentioned before that unit studies are my boys’ favorite way to learn, so this product was definitely a hit in our homeschool. The unit study is well written, including activities to cover a variety of subjects (like any good unit study should!). Included subjects are:

  • Literature: a family read-aloud of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson
  • History: creating a timeline, studying famous pirates and explorers, etc…
  • Geography: learning about the landscape of Earth and which areas were most prone to pirates
  • Critical Thinking: comparing the reality of pirates to the stereotype
  • Creative Writing: writing a story about pirates
  • Government: learning the hierarchy on a pirate ship
  • Current Events: understanding that piracy still exists, and watching the film Captain Phillips to reinforce that fact

There’s not much information in the unit study itself to explain how to actually “do” it, so I did the best I could based on what was there. This isn’t to say that the study is poorly written – it’s not – but more that I just wasn’t entirely sure what to do with all the information and how often to present it. In the end, I decided to take the name of the study at face value: Once a Week. Some of the activities took longer to complete, so in those instances, we’d stretch it out to two days a week, but for the most part, we stuck to the once a week schedule.

The study is 23 pages long, and I printed the whole thing out so I’d have a hard copy to refer to during school hours. For the student activities (timeline, writing short papers, drawing maps, etc), I had the boys work on regular paper and keep the sheets in the “history” tab of their binders. In fact, for the past several weeks, this has been our primary history curriculum.

We did pretty much all of the activities for each week; because it’s a “micro study,” it’s broken up into fairly small chunks, making this easy to do. My main problem with it was the read-aloud of Treasure Island. I’d never read it before, and I found it quite cumbersome to get through. After the first chapter, I decided to get a simpler version from the library.

There are several Once a Week Micro Studies to choose from, and each is designed to work for students in grades 1-8. Homeschool Review Crew members were able to choose from just a small sampling of what they have to offer:

In addition to the micro studies, Homeschool Legacy also offers longer unit studies, and some members of the Homeschool Review Crew got to work through Christmas Comes to America, which is appropriate for grades 1-12. Besides being a great homeschool curriculum, this unit study allows students to earn scouting badges (American Heritage Girls or Boy Scouts).

Because we’re running a Sabbath school schedule this year, our week off fell during the time we were using this study, so we haven’t finished it yet, but we’re definitely going to! We have really enjoyed working on this unit study together; I like the fact that it’s pretty much all inclusive (once you get the hang of it). There are a few things to prep – printing the pages and gathering the books – but for the most part, it’s an “open and go” product, which I love. I think what I’m most excited about (besides watching the boys learn and record their thoughts and discoveries) is finishing the study so we can watch Captain Phillips. I loved that movie when I saw it a couple of years ago; I’m looking forward to sharing it with the children.

Make sure to click the banner below to read about some of the other Homeschool Legacy micro studies, and then click on over to Homeschool Legacy’s website and explore some more. Pick up a unit study while you’re there – individual studies start at just $12, or you bundle several together and save money.

Blessings,

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Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
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Personalized Gifts with Meaning (CrossTimber review)

Names are serious business for some people. When you’re expecting a baby, you go to great pains to choose just the right name for your sweet bundle. Some people do this before the baby is born (I fall into this camp), and some choose a small list of names and decide only after they’ve seen their baby for the first time. Regardless of which way you choose the name, the name is of utmost importance. After all, it’s how your child will be identified for their entire life (unless the name is changed at some point, of course). It’s the very first gift you ever give your child, and it’s a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

A lot of people know that names have meanings, but not everyone knows what the meaning of their name is. The Dehnart family has made an entire business out of names and their meanings, and that business, CrossTimber, offers personalized gifts for any name. And I do mean any name. Have you (or your child) gone through life never being able to find anything personalized at places like Disneyland? Is your name an unusual spelling, even if it’s a common name? Have no fear! CrossTimber can, and will, create a name meaning gift just for you. They have everything from bookmarks and printed (or printable) pages to music boxes and mugs. You can even get a plaque with the names of God on it if you’d rather not have one of your own name. One of their best sellers is the Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse, which I received a version of for this review.

Because names are so personal, reviewers had the freedom to adjust the review item they requested. The base product is the Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse, but we were not limited to that. Because I have four children (all with fairly unusual names or non-mainstream spellings), it would have been impossible for me to choose just one of them to honor with this gift, so I went a different route altogether. I decided to honor my brother and sister-in-law with a beautiful name meaning gift for Christmas. I went with a Multi-Name Plaque so that both of their names could be represented on the page, and I opted not to have it framed for a couple of reasons. There was the cost involved, of course (frames are more expensive to ship than plain paper), but more so, I wanted to be sure the frame that the plaque goes into will fit their decor and personality. For this reason, we matted the plaque, but will give it to them sans frame so they can choose something that they will love.

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This screenshot shows the different categories of backgrounds offered. Each of those has several choices within it.

Once I’d decided who to honor with this gift (and that was a decision that literally kept me up at night for a few nights), the next step was to go to the website and choose a design on which to display the names. There are dozens to choose from, and I sifted through most of them before landing on the music one. I chose that because music is an important part of their lives; they met as young teens playing in a rock band together, and to this day my brother plays guitar regularly and his wife is on their church worship team. The generic music background just seemed right for them.

kimg0074When my envelope arrived, I was not disappointed. The printing job on the plaque is absolutely beautiful. The names are prominent, the meanings are clear, and there’s a Bible verse for each name. The paper that it’s printed on is something between regular printer paper and photo paper, and the quality is magnificent. Working with John at CrossTimber was a dream, too. He really does have a passion for names, and is more than happy to help you during the research phase of your gift-buying. Before I’d made a final decision on who to honor with this gift, I sent him an email asking the meanings of several names to aid me in deciding, and he was very quick in replying. I asked for the meanings of my mom and stepdad’s names in addition to my brother and SIL, without thinking about the fact that my mom has a unisex (though more used for females) name. Because I hadn’t considered that fact that her name is unisex, I didn’t specify in my email her gender. Well, John included both the male and female meanings of her name. That’s going above and beyond, I think.

Speaking of going “above and beyond,” when I opened my envelope I was pleased to find a name meaning bookmark of my own name. This was not something I’d ordered, so it was a nice surprise. (I’m not suggesting that every order will get a bonus like this, but it was in mine, and I was pleasantly surprised, so I’m mentioning it.)

I can’t recommend CrossTimber enough, especially (as I mentioned before) for people with, or parents of a child with, an unusual name. CrossTimber is really pleasant to work with, and if they don’t know the meaning of your name, they’ll work with you to figure out the origin and then research the meaning for you. Literally no name is off limits!

Want a chance to win a name meaning gift? CrossTimber is holding a giveaway from now until December 4th. One grand prize winner will win a personalized mug or name plaque. Nine second place winners will each win a $10 gift certificate, which covers about half the cost of a variety of choices from their website. Make sure to hit their giveaway page for your chance to win!

Blessings,

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Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews
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A Veggie Tales Devotional for Children (Review)

vt-devoThe past few weeks, Small Fry and I have had the privilege of reviewing a Veggie Tales Devotional for young children. The book, Every Day with God, comes in two editions: boy or girl. Obviously, we chose the boy version.

The book is set up to be a 365-day devotional for young children (target age is 4-7). Each entry includes a scripture, a short message using the scripture reference to back up the point, a “thought of the day,” and a short prayer. Small Fry, who is 4, and I were able to read a devotion in about 5 minutes. We often did this while he was in the bath at the end of the day.

In addition to the words on each page, each devotion is decorated with favorite Veggie Tales characters, which makes it extra fun for little kids. The devotions cover such topics as

  • Each child is special to God and created uniquely (Isaiah 33:17)
  • The necessity of obeying God (Deuteronomy 4:1)
  • God is always with us (Matthew 28:20)
  • Being thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • God’s love is perfect (1 John 4:12)

and many more.

My son enjoyed listening to these short pieces. He loves having people read to him anyway, so I knew this book would be right up his alley. I like that he’s getting a little dose of Bible.

I highly recommend this devotional for parents (or grandparents, or aunts and uncles…) of young children. It’s a great way to instill wonderful truths in them using little bites of information that aren’t too much for them to handle.

You can buy the boy version or the girl version on Amazon for $9.99 each. The publisher has also graciously allowed me to offer a giveaway to one lucky winner in the US or Canada. To enter, just fill in the Giveaway Tools widget below. Entries will be accepted through next Friday, October 14, 2016.

Blessings,

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Living in Historical Times (Carole P. Roman review)

This review is brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com.

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I remember reading reviews of Carole P. Roman’s “If You Were Me and Lived in… {country name here}” series a few years ago; I’d never seen them, though. So when I heard about her new history series with the same basic title, I was intrigued. I talked to the boys about the books, and they were super interested, so we requested to be on this review. There are eight books in the historical series; we received four of them to review:

Each reviewer was given the choice of two they really wanted (I let each of the school-age boys pick one; Seahawk chose Ancient Greece and Munchkin chose American West), and then Ms. Roman sent along two “surprise” books as well. These books were a nice, easy history lesson for our first couple of weeks back to school. Each day, we read a book (or part of a book, in the case of the longer ones) and then did a related activity. For some of the related activities, we used the comprehension questions from the author’s website; for others, I came up with alternate options. But mostly, we just read them. Reading these books was how we opened our school day for about two weeks.

As the titles suggest, the books put your child right into the thick of the action of whatever era the chosen book is written about. The point of view is second person (you would do this, you would do that), which is unusual for books –  normally you see first person (I did this) or third person (Sally did that). The second person narrative made it interesting for the kids, especially since we read them aloud. Even Small Fry (4 years old) and Dragonfly (10 months old) were interested. As much as children that small can be interested, anyway.

The books give really good information about the time period about which they are about. We enjoyed reading about Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages especially. It was fun to learn about the types of names people had, what kinds of clothes they likely wore (each of the “you” characters in the books is from a well-to-do family, not a peasant family), and daily activities for children and adults. Even though the “you” character was from a higher class, there was also information about how the peasants lived, particularly in the Middle Ages book.

Of the four books we received, three (Ancient Greece, Middle Ages, and Viking Europe) shared an illustrator. These books were lovely, and the illustrations really added a lot. The layout on them was very simple, with the text in a single column on the left and the picture up the entire right side page and half of the left side page. On the pages where there was more text to fit, the picture was shortened to take up only about a third of the left page.

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An example of the odd illustration style from American West

The other book we received, The American West, had good information but we didn’t care for the pictures at all. They looked like a weird conglomeration between photographs and clip art, and unfortunately I don’t think the style worked at all. In fact, it was with this book that I gave the boys a different type of “how well did you remember” activity: choose any page from the book and draw your own illustration for it, then summarize the text from that page.

Overall, we enjoyed reading these books. They were easy to read aloud (for me) and to understand (for the children). They learned a lot from them, and I think the kids are likely to read them again – at least periodically.

In addition to the four books we received to review, members of the Homeschool Review Crew also reviewing the other four books in the series as well. Click the banner below to be taken to the Crew blog post with links to those reviews. If you’re interested in more books from Carole P. Roman, you can head over to her Amazon author page, where you can easily find links to all of them. Her books are available in paperback and for Kindle.

Blessings,

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If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
 

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Discovering God in Ancient Egypt (Heirloom Audio Review)

Heirloom Audio Productions has long been a favorite of the Homeschool Review Crew, and we only recently had the privilege of listening to one of their audio dramas (Beric the Briton, earlier this year). Seahawk liked it so much that he really wanted me to request that we be chosen to review Heirloom’s newest offering, The Cat of Bubastes (boo-bass-tees). Luckily for him, we were.

The Cat of Bubastes is another of G.A. Henty’s novels; according to what I heard from other members of the Homeschool Review Crew, it’s a popular one to start with if you’re new to Henty (I’ve personally never read any of his novels – in fact, prior to the Review Crew, I’d never even heard of Henty). This one takes us back to ancient Egypt – Moses-ancient, not Cleopatra-ancient. The drama opens with the capture of Prince Amuba and his advisor, Jethro, by the Egyptians. The pair is bought by a very nice man, and each of the men is given to one of their master’s children as their personal servant. Before long, they find themselves caught up in a murderous plot that will test their loyalties. All the while, their newfound faith is being tested at every turn, pushing them to discover God’s love and providence for themselves.

I’m not going to really beat around the bush here… I find audio dramas difficult to follow. I’m very much a visual person. Seahawk, however, is an audio learner. He does really well with things like this – even in other school subjects. (I never truly processed this until right this second as I’m writing this. Thinking back to the things that have worked with him vs. not, I can really focus with him on things that will help him learn better from now on.) Because of this, he really enjoyed this drama. We would put it on for about half an hour each morning as our history lesson, and at the end of our listening time, we would do some of the questions from the study guide (more on that in a second). I really liked having the study guide; it took something that was interesting to listen to and made it more “school-like.”

In addition to a physical copy of the 2-CD set, we received several digital resources to go along with it:

  • an mp3 version of the drama, which is how we listened to it since we don’t have a CD player
  • an e-book version of Henty’s original novel (which I put on Munchkin’s Kindle for him to read later)
  • an mp3 soundtrack of the audio adventure
  • a printable poster featuring the cast
  • a PDF study & discussion guide
  • a printable inspirational verse poster featuring the cover art from the CD and 1 Chronicles 17:20
  • a behind the scenes video documentary featuring the cast and crew
  • access to the Live the Adventure letter

kimg0011As I mentioned previously, we used the study guide to help enhance our enjoyment of the audio drama. In order to do this, I printed off some Ancient Egypt pages from my NotebookingPages.com membership and then read the study guide questions aloud to the boys. They then wrote the answers down on the notebooking page. I liked doing it this way rather than printing off the actual study guide because there was actually a place for them to record the answers. In the study guide itself, the questions are pretty stacked so there’s not much space for the answers if you want to keep a record of the learning from the drama. The study guide for The Cat of Bubastes is mostly questions (basic “how well were you listening?” type questions as well as “digging deeper” ones), but there are some other goodies in there as well, including vocabulary, bonus information about the time period, instructions for an ancient Egyptian game (which funny enough, my boys actually have, thanks to a Joseph-themed VBS this past summer), and even a recipe for bean cakes.

So what did we think of The Cat of Bubastes? Though I’m not really an audio person, I found Cat to be much more engaging than Beric. I found myself imaging what I was hearing much more easily than I have with other audio dramas in the past. Seahawk, of course, loved it. And Munchkin, well… he’s happy to have a new book on his Kindle to read later. 😉 Generally speaking, though, The Cat of Bubastes is another win for Heirloom Audio Productions.

Blessings,

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Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
 

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Parent-Controlled Email for Kids (KidsEmail.org review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

seahawk-email

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

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

munchkin-email

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

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

Blessings,

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KidsEmail.org Annual Subscription
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