Monday, August 8, 2016

Living a Mighty Faith {a BookLook Blogger review}

My husband decided a while back that we needed to all start getting up with him in the morning (at WAY too early-thirty) and go for a walk, eat breakfast together, and do some Bible reading. 

At that early hour, though, we felt like we were floundering a bit on the Bible portion of that routine.  And then then I had the opportunity to review Living a Mighty Faith by Angus Buchan.

This has been a great answer for us. 

Angus Buchan is the man behind Faith Like Potatoes.  If you haven't seen the movie version, you need to do so.  Fantastic story.  He's a very real, farmer/evangelist, and reading his devotionals has been a wonderful experience.  He isn't out there spouting lofty, complicated words. 

Practical.  Real. 

The entries in this devotional are dated, and each starts with a Bible verse.  For today, August 8, the verse is Philippians 4:9.  The devotional is titled "Looking for a Hero" and begins like this:
WHAT ARE the characteristics of a hero? Young people especially look for a hero who is a winner, someone who is successful in his or her field. But a true hero should be humble and meek, since meekness is controlled strength. He must know where he's going and be prepared to get there whatever the cost. He must also be holy -- honest and reliable; sincere and dependable. He is an overcomer; one who rises to the challenge; and one who is fearless, irrespective of the mountain before him.
The book itself just feels hefty, with quality pages.  Love it. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Restore my Soul {a Tyndale House Blog Network review}

Adult coloring books are certainly all the rage lately, and with some of the amazing patterns and designs I've seen, I certainly can understand why.  Many of the books I've seen have a bit of a new age-y feel to them.  I was pretty excited to pair up devotional readings with coloring pages, with Ann-Margret Hovsepian's Restore my Soul.

Each of the 2-page spreads starts with a Bible verse.  There are a few paragraphs of devotional text, ending with something to think about as you color the facing page, or instructions of something to do on the page.

The coloring pages vary a bit in detail, and definitely in topic.  Some are flowery, some are more technical.

Using pencils works very well on these thick pages, but the card-making pens I tried definitely bled through.  I'd rather color with good colored pencils anyway.

I'm loving this devotional coloring book.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Star Toaster {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review

Last year, the Crew had the chance to review a really neat online program from Star Toaster.  A couple of my boys worked on that, and one of the things I really liked about it was that it encouraged them to read the story carefully in order to complete various tasks in a game-like environment.  One of the things I didn't like so much was that the readings were quite lengthy for my struggling readers.

In the past couple of months, we've had the chance to work with a new interactive book, Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree, as an iPad App, and that has been phenomenal.  This is essentially a prequel to the story that takes place in the online program.

As a Crew Leader, I really needed to know how this program worked, so I sat down and worked through the entire story over a couple of days.  My 10-year-old daughter saw me doing it, and she begged to have a chance as well.  I also set up my 12-year-old son.

This is at a slightly easier reading level than the online subscription, and the big key for us is that the individual chapters are significantly shorter. 

The basic idea of this program is that you are reading a story that incorporates all kinds of knowledge.  After most of the chapters, you can go and get a "job" that uses some of that knowledge and other skills, in order to earn the currency you need to purchase supplies for the orphaned creatures you are reading about in the story.

For instance, in chapter 2, you read about the homonyms foul and fowl, and you also read about thunder.  If you click on the highlighted words, you can see a text lesson on homonyms, and you can watch a presentation on thunder and lightning.  Once you "go" to town, you have the opportunity to do some jobs that relate to what you've been learning.

One thing I really love is that you do have to be paying some attention to what you are reading in order to correctly answer the questions.  One job involves watching some paintings float down the river, and then being able to recall which ones you saw.

There are lots of great little phrases and tips as you go along that relate to basic study skills.  "Picture something in your mind if you want to remember it." Or “Learn to listen and listen to learn.”

The jobs cover all sorts of areas.  You get the chance to work for the newspaper, which could involve choosing the correct word, or identifying nouns.  At the Critter Cafe, you learn nutrition and recipes.  Some activities involve science, some involve math.

As a parent, I can check to see how many chapters my students have read.  I can see some details about the jobs they have accomplished and how they did.  I can add more students, so everyone can work on their own account.

The biggest complaint here is how quickly we got to the end.  The good news there is that the next part, Thornwood, says it is coming soon.  The adventure will continue.

See what other Crew members have to say!  And go check them out in social media.



Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, July 14, 2016

ABeCeDarian Company {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews

Years ago, I was struggling to figure out just how to get my severely dyslexic son to get beyond the CVC words like cat and sun.  He had done really well to that point, then stalled out and we made little progress over the next few years.

I eventually found a few things that seemed to click for him.  The materials from ABeCeDarian Company were a part of that.  I was fascinated to learn that they had come out with an online version of their materials.  The Crew has had the opportunity to review their  ABeCeDarian Interactive A Workbook along with the digital version of the Teacher Manual - A.

What I loved the most about ABeCeDarian was that it was fully scripted, which frees me up from thinking too much about how to say something.  That may not be a big deal when you are teaching a child who has an easy time of learning to read, but it definitely is a huge help when working with a child who finds learning to read especially challenging.

Especially when you haven't ever really taught someone to read, so you aren't entirely sure what you are doing.

I know some people feel really constrained by scripts, so if you hate scripts and your child is one of those who finds reading relatively easy, just skip this program.  If you hate scripts, but your child struggles, well... I'd suggest taking a closer look.

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews
And this is where I confess that a decade ago, I was in the "I hate scripts" category.  What changed?  A couple of things.  First, with my older three, I discovered that using a script for the teaching really freed my brain up to be watching my child for understanding, or for signs that we had done enough for the day.  I didn't have to think so much about how to teach.

With my younger two, teaching from a script was a really nice thing because it kept me on track in my crazy-busy household.  I could use the script verbatim on days where I needed it, or I could say it my own way at other times.  It was a nice fall-back.

I did see some great results with ABeCeDarian, so even though I no longer have kids in the age range for Level A, I was really interested in seeing the interactive workbook.

First thing to note:  you still absolutely need to sit with your child and to have the Teacher Manual available.  This interactive workbook is exactly that.  A workbook.  The teaching is in the Manual, and you need to do it.

I love that.

For instance, on this workbook page, the letters t, m and a are at the top of the page initially, and the student is to drag them down to form a word.  At this point, you have been doing similar word puzzles for a dozen lessons already.  The TM tells you to inform the student that this puzzle has us making the word mat.  They give you a sentence ("You can do gymnastics on a mat.") and instruct you to have the child say the word.  You then ask the child to tell you "the first sound you hear in mmmmmaaat."  Once they tell you that /m/ is the first sound, you have them drag the m tile down to the line on the workbook page.  That would be where I am in this page when I took the screenshot.  You continue through the next two sounds as well, do some other things with the word mat, and then you move on to the next workbook page.

If you set your child in front of the computer and tell them to work on their ABeCeDarian, they are not going to know what to do.  You do need to be there with them.

Now, some pages are pretty easy to figure out, especially once you have used similar pages before.  Like this one. 

The red is where I used my touchpad to write the correct word into the blank.  And this brings up one of the things I really like about this interactive workbook.  You could have the student write the correct word into a notebook while sitting at the computer, or you could have them "write" the word with their finger on the computer screen.  Since you are right there, you know if they did it correctly.  The computer does not grade or score anything that is done, so you just click through to the next worksheet once the child has done the work to YOUR satisfaction.

I do like the interactive workbook, but you definitely need to know what you are getting into here.  This isn't something you can have your kindergartner do on his own while you are teaching chemistry to your high schooler.  If you have a student who will learn to read with only a little guidance, this may not be the program for them.  This is a great way to do guided one-on-one instruction though, and I know it is effective.

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ArtAchieve {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

I am thrilled to tell you about ArtAchieve today.  We've been using these art lessons for kids for a few weeks, and I truly love this program.  As a Crew Leader, I received three bundles of art lessons.  I received the Entire Level I, Entire Level II, and Entire Level III.  So far, we have completed five of the Level I lessons, and two Level II lessons.

All have been wonderful.

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

I don't even know where to begin in telling you what I like about these courses, so let me give you a short list, and then I can expand on some of them.
  • Video lessons (or PowerPoint), so I don't have to do the teaching.
  • Most of the supplies are inexpensive.  Copy paper, sharpies, and colored markers are enough to do a big percentage of the projects, especially for Levels I and II.
  • John (the instructor) is wonderful at encouraging the students to make decisions, to work with their mistakes, and to not be comparing their work to others.
  • The folk art aspect brings in some fabulous opportunities for learning about other countries, cultures, and many other cross-curricular activities.
These three cats?  This was the very first project, and I ended up with my 10, 15 and 17 year olds doing it.  The only supplies needed were paper (we did use glossy paper), a black sharpie, and colored markers.  You can see that they each did their own thing with it, and all of them are interesting to view.

One child wanted to really go for a background, another liked it without any background at all.

The toes on the cat are interesting.  There was a sample given, but in the video, John makes his toes go a different way.  It's one of many places where you get the subtle message that "messing up" is okay.

This lesson is available for free if you register for an account.

Our most recent lesson was inspired by this little nightlight.  Made from recycled glass, this is something I'd love to have in my home.  This was found in Ecuador, and the cross-curricular activities are really interesting.  One is to read a book about Jim Elliot and other missionaries, when they tried to contact the Auca tribe.  We were already listening to a biography of Elizabeth Elliot, so we chose this particular project because of how it tied into our studies.

There are also activities including a link to a video about Ecuador, music from Ecuador, a lesson on geographical aspect, and a page showing dragonflies and damselflies that are native to Ecuador.

In the art lesson, you start off with some rules, such as the idea that you cannot judge whether you like your piece or not until you are finished, and that professional artists don't like everything they do either.  There is also a warmup for each lesson, such as the completed one pictured here -- the first and third columns were printed, the students were to copy the basic lines into the empty boxes below next to them.

Each warmup is unique to the piece being worked on, so the students get some practice with the basic shapes and lines of this specific work.

Then you work through drawing the dragonfly onto watercolor paper (this is the first project that called for something other than copy or glossy paper).

Thomas came up me and told me that if I was using this photo, I needed to include this:

"In this program, they highly encourage you to not just redo your work, but to use what marks you made and do something with it.  Instead of it being a mistake and me throwing away the art piece, he encourages me to work with the lines I have and still end up with a completed piece of art."

Thomas messed up one of his body circles, so it was too skinny, and he really hated it.  Eventually, he realized that he could make that circle more circular, and then put a stripe down the other body segments.

Once the sharpie drawing is done, this project involved using oil pastels to color in the dragonfly, and some background, if they wished to do that.

We watched the rest of the video at this point, through the watercolor painting, so that we all knew where we were going with the entire project.

I didn't get a photo of him with the oil pastels, but I was able to snap this, right as he was about to start on the next step, which is the watercolors.

The video explained that if he wanted things to be white, he would need to do a white oil pastel in that space, as the oil will resist the watercolor.

This was his final result.  There was an optional step to add glitter glaze, and Thomas hasn't yet decided if he wants to do that or not.

I think it looks really great, and he ended up liking the end result.

Then we were able to dig into some of the other suggested activities, like learning more about dragonflies and listening to a poem about dragonflies. 

We've done a whole lot of different projects, including working on some with a group of friends.  Yes, that is a total of ten kids, ages 3 to 15, all drawing fish.

We plan to continue through all of the lessons for Levels I-III, and then we are planning to purchase Level IV (and Level V eventually as well).

When you purchase either an individual lesson, or a bundle of lessons, you have access to that lesson for a year. 

Go check out what other Crew Members thought!  As for my household, we love this program and are so grateful we had the chance to use it!

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Veritas Press Bible {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

My two elementary-aged children absolutely fell in love with the Veritas Press Self-Paced History program a couple of years ago.  We had the chance to review the first year (Old Testament and Ancient Egypt), and have since gone on to complete New Testament, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.  We are now working through Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation.  They love the program.

So when Veritas Press decided to have the Schoolhouse Review Crew take a look at their  Self-Paced Bible and their one-year family subscription to, you have to believe that my children were excited. 
We chose to work with the family subscription, and this is something I can absolutely recommend to others.  Currently, you have access to the following Homeschool Bible Curriculum choices:
  • Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua
  • Old Testament 2: Judges to Kings
  • New Testament 1: The Gospels
There are plans to add a third Old Testament level, plus a second New Testament level, but you can see the current choices at right.

What is really wonderful about this is that you can have children working in different courses, all for one subscription price.

Each child gets to create an avatar, and that is how they get into their section of the program.

This is set up in a rather game-like environment.  You progress across a map, and you get the little blue flags as you complete a "stop" or lesson.  The plain blue flag signifies a completed lesson.

Each lesson ends with either a worksheet or a game to review or test how the student is doing.  The flags with stars on them are from lessons where there was some sort of a test, and the stars indicate how well the student did.  This is the only "score" that is kept.

That is one difference between the subscription and the self-paced program.  The self-paced gives you as the teacher the opportunity to go back to see how the student has done.  I don't keep grades in elementary school, and I don't keep grades for bible courses at all, so the subscription is a better option for me.

Each section (like the "Call of Abraham" above) consists of four lessons.  The first lesson gives the big picture of that particular event, with the brother and sister team pictured at middle left being the ones who move the story along.

Lessons two and three go more in-depth with additional details.  The final lesson is a quiz.  The student is expected to learn dates, scripture references, and details from the story.  I love that the dates given are all similar in this case, anyway.  2019, 2091, 2190, and 2910 all use the same numbers.  I'm not necessarily a huge fan of memorizing dates in history, but this program does make that fairly easy to do.

The top photo in this image is from the memory song that plays in most lessons.  The bottom two are from a review game.

Of course, this is the screen my children love to see:

Go check out other reviews from members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, June 27, 2016

Secrets of Ancient Man {a Master Books review}

If you've read my blog over the last couple of years, it is no secret that we really, truly love the gorgeous books put out by Master Books.

Some we love far more than others.  Secrets of Ancient Man definitely falls into that 'more' category.  Even though I no longer have children who tell me that they want to be archaeologists when they grow up, this is an area that fascinates us all.

This book is a stunning hardcover with lots of great information, much like The Genius of Ancient Man, which we also loved.

From the publisher:
  • More details about the most advanced ancient technology we've ever seen, including Roman nanotechnology
  • Identify the counterfeit religion of Babel mirrored in every pagan religion through time
  • Why the Tower of Babel incident was about a rebellion that has continued throughout history into the present day!
Knowledge. Wisdom. Understanding. Mankind yearns for these. We find ourselves enthralled with secrets, mysteries, and riddles. Man is seduced by the unknown and enticed by the offer of revelation. Perhaps this is why we pursue science so passionately and we seek desperately to unearth the remnants of our ancestors. We have this innate impression that there is something we don’t know, something important that we must discover.
The Ancient Man research team of Jackson Hole Bible College has been hard at work over the past two years since publishing their first book, The Genius of Ancient Man. Dedicated to bringing you more of the fascinating details, commentary, and the Bible affirming truths you loved about ancient man, the team now invites you to think critically about both history and the forces at work in our world today.
I cannot say enough great things about this book.  We've been sitting down -- and by "we" I am referring to my non-adult children, who are 10, 12, 15 and 17 -- and reading a chapter most weeks.  We pass the book around to get a good look at the photos (which are beautiful, or have I mentioned that?) and then we discuss the concepts being presented. 

This trailer video of The Genius of Ancient Man does a great job of hinting at some of what to expect in this book:

I'm not sure my 10-year-old would enjoy this book on her own, but doing it alongside her big brothers most certainly works well.  She is easily able to be an active participant in our conversations.

Personally, I really loved the section on the Tower of Babel.  I've read a lot of material on this time, and wasn't really looking forward to covering it again, but Landis and his team do a great job of putting this in terms I really hadn't heard.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Master Books.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.