Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Unauthorized {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Every so often, as part of the Homeschool Review Crew, we get the chance to review something that is such a huge hit in my house that we end up buying more.  Chara Games is one such vendor.  Last year, we reviewed Commissioned, and I had to go out and buy more copies for gifts.

This year, we've been playing Unauthorized, and you guessed it... I've already purchased another copy as a Christmas gift for my son.  I think that tells you what my bottom line is with this review.  The game is fabulous, and you should get a copy. The premise is that you are in an area with an underground church that the state is trying to stamp out.  Each game includes at least one pastor, at least one police officer, and at least four players who could be for the state or could be for the church... and their loyalties can change during the gameplay.

What a fantastic way to introduce the conflicts and tension of living out your faith in a place where Christianity can land you in jail, or lead to your execution.


UNAUTHORIZED

Unauthorized is a game for 6-12 players.  The age on the box is 12+, but my 11-year-old was easily able to play.  Patrick (the guy behind this company) assured me that they are hearing about it working well with kids as young as 8.  I think with a bit of adaptation, that could be true.  I wouldn't want to do it with a big group of 8-year-olds, but a couple younger people in a group of mostly 12 and up -- that could absolutely work.

We pulled this out to play while college boy was home for a whole week.  That meant we had seven players for the first couple of games.  We also played it without Dad, with a total of six players.  And played it again.  And again.  And again.  And then we realized it was 2:30 in the morning and maybe we should get some sleep.

The next day, we played it a few times more.  And we tried playing two characters each, to get an idea of how it worked with 12 players.  That was fun too, but sometimes a bit hard to switch from one person to another.

I think you could say it was a hit here.

The basic game play:

Unauthorized is a card-based game, where you are dealt a character to play, some experience cards that influence your choices, and then in 30 minutes, you play out the scenario and either try to grow the church, or try to stamp it out, depending on what your cards tell you to do.

To start the game, you need to pull out the character cards, and grab the appropriate number of pastors (one for 6-9 players, two for 10-12 players) and police officers (one for 6-7 players, two for 8-12 players), and then shuffle the neutral role cards and pull out the appropriate number so there is one role card for each player.  All the unused role cards are returned to the box.  You shuffle the role cards, and deal one to each player.  A cool factor is that there are different photos on the role cards, usually a female on one side and a male on the other.  Each player can choose which side to have represent them.  We opted to let the police and pastor choose from either card, actually.

Each role -- teacher, musician, clerk, etc. -- has different abilities.  So right off the bat, you have some big variations in the game when playing with fewer than 12 people.  The combination of skills available in a game can change pretty dramatically.

Once everyone has a role, you deal experience cards.  The police officer is dealt seven cards that favor the state, the pastor is dealt seven cards that favor the church, and then you shuffle all the cards together so that all of the neutral players get a combination of different experiences.  (You add more cards to the deck if playing with 8-9 players, and even more cards if playing with 10-12 players.)

Your experience cards determine your loyalty.  If you have more state cards than church cards, you must play in a way that is loyal to the state.  If you have more church-friendly experiences than state-friendly ones, you must play in a way that is loyal to the church.  A tie goes to the state.  If you start out pretty even (3 of one, 4 of the other) you might find your loyalties switching back and forth throughout the game.  That doesn't even count the fact that there are wild cards, and with those YOU get to decide whether they are pro-church or pro-state.  

Once everyone is set up with their role and their experiences, the game actually starts.  You play four rounds, and in each of your turns, you have the opportunity to try to influence another player, learn about a player, or get out of jail.  Every other player may try to influence you or learn more about you.

One tricky part is you are never quite sure where anyone else stands -- except the pastor and the police officer.  You have some hints.  Each player has at least some of their experience laid out for everyone to see.  But if they have two state cards in front of them, do they have five church cards in their hand?  You don't know. 

The kids -- ages 11-20 -- and I loved this game.  The hardest part for us was playing someone who was really neutral -- 3 state cards, 3 church cards, and a wild card to start with (like the photo above), and then a lot of other players influencing us so on one turn you'd be pro-church and the next you'd be pro-state.  It was hard to actually act against the church when you could clearly see that you were likely to change back to being pro-church in the next round.

But that reflects reality, doesn't it?  When your experiences are pretty much all favoring one side or another, it is easier to act that way.  When you are waffling in the middle, neither hot nor cold, life isn't so easy to figure out and choices are harder.


Get the game.  It is inexpensive, pretty easy to learn, and every time you play is different.


Unauthorized {Chara Games Reviews}

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Random Stuff on a Friday




I have been severely neglecting my blog.  I know it.  I have all these ideas go through my head about things I could post about, but just don't find the time to put something together.

I remember I used to do a random stuff post.  And I know people who do some kind of random 5 weekly post.  I think I am going to try to do that whole random 5 thing every week, and we'll see if I can pull that off.

  1. Been busy trying to sort through a whole lot of stuff lately, and feeling a bit like Mrs. Incredible.  Why do we have so much junk?  Dale is taking some of the trashbags to work to put in the dumpster when they haven't filled it.  He left today with three bags and a box.  That feels good.
  2. Connor has been back to school for two weeks now.  I still need his schedule.  I'm not a helicopter mom / control freak, but I do like knowing what classes he is in.  I want to be able to look at the schedule and realize what class he is in, and pray for that teacher and pray for the kids, um, I mean adults, in class with him.  Maybe if I send him a link to this blog post, he'll get the hint and get me a copy of it.
  3. Watching the coverage of the hurricane has me thinking about how prepared I am -- or am not -- for the junk of life.  I definitely need to get some things together and organized again, so that I know if we get hit with blizzards this winter and can't get out, that we are good.  I also keep thinking I should blog about that.
  4. School with my at-home kids is interesting.  Two in high school, two in middle school.  It is weird thinking in terms of not having elementary kids anymore, though Trina (6th) can still be called an elementary student.  Being honest though, she really has turned into a middle schooler.
  5. A picture I found, while sorting junk (see #1) -- just because.


Now, let's see if I can do this again next week.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The 10 Minute Bible Journey {a New Leaf Press review}

For our brand-new school year, we have begun something new.  We are working through The 10 Minute Bible Journey from New Leaf Press.

Once upon a time, we were pretty consistent about reading the Bible as a group for school.  We would pick a plan and go through the Bible in a year.  We started with some pretty basic story Bibles, moved into some in fairly easy language, went through a chronological Bible, used a podcast version, and more.

But everyone started going off in different directions and it was hard to get everyone together for long.  Group Bible reading fell to the wayside.

When I had a chance to check out this book, I thought it looked interesting.  I had no idea that it could lead into rekindling that particular habit.

The book includes 52 fairly short readings that start "In the beginning..." and end in Revelation.  They aren't straight Bible stories, but they weave apologetics in alongside the words from the Bible.  And they really do take only about ten minutes. 

The back of the book has a Bible Reading Plan that we are now officially following.  They call it a "Summary First" method, where you start by reading through this book, to get a summary view of the entire Bible before you dive in to all of the details of the Bible itself.  Once you start working through the Bible, they have you going in a more-or-less chronological way.

I love that.

I also love that all of my kids are getting something out of this book.  They range from 11 to 18, and this bite-sized chunk thing is great for them all.  We are making a lot of use of the footnotes, which are extensive, and we find ourselves going and looking up the Hebrew with some electronic resources (we're still in the Old Testament).

The best thing for me is that we started this on some random date in August.  I can bookmark it, and on days we are home, we read the next one.  On days where everyone is off in different directions, we don't necessarily get to it.  Since there are no dates or week designations at all, we don't have to feel guilty that we aren't keeping up.

I certainly recommend this book, and highly recommend using it as a family. 




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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Patterns of Evidence: review and giveaway


I first saw Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus a couple of years ago, when I reviewed it.  I gave that copy away to a youth leader, and bought myself a new copy.  I proceeded to give that copy away, planning to purchase yet another copy.

Then I was offered the chance to do a review and giveaway of the Director's Choice Edition.  I thought it would be really interesting to review it again from a different point in life, so I quickly said yes.


This time through, I was watching with two adult children, one of whom is in school training to be a pastor.  I hoped that his perspective now would be valuable.  It was really fascinating to watch this with him, but I'm not sure that it really did end up giving me more insights that help to write the review.

What this movie does is to take a look at the basic pattern in the Bible story of the Exodus -- beginning at the end of Genesis with Joseph's rise to power in Egypt, and ending in Canaan with the Israelites conquering those first cities -- and try to match that up with the archaeological evidence.

The whole thing is fascinating.

What I most appreciate about this long film (two hours) is that Tim Mahoney is allowing all kinds of opinions to be put forth.  You feel confident that you know what he believes, but he has all kinds of experts who certainly disagree, but who truly get a chance to make their points and present their case.

I find that refreshing.  You are invited to hear all sorts of evidence for and against the Bible as myth... and you are invited to evaluate that evidence and decide for yourself.

There is so much information packed into this DVD that I am certain I could watch this every day for a month and still pick up new insights.

I know I just said this about a book I reviewed yesterday, but I really do think everyone should see this, and every Christian parent should watch this with their teens and young adults.  My teens were glued to the screen, and this resulted in fairly extensive conversations in our household.

Check the trailer:



Now that I've written all of that, I went back to find my previous review and hoped that I was saying something a bit different.  My bottom line then was:

If you trust me at all, you just need to go out and GET this DVD. We loved it. The end.

I can't argue with me.

If you go purchase this at their store, use the code MK1 to get $3 off the price of the DVD.

There are some amazing resources to go along with this.  I'm really interested in the Young Explorers set.  Maybe that is something I need for Christmas.  Hmmm.


To win a copy, you must be in the continental US.  Thanks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway





Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

God's Crime Scene for Kids {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

Earlier this summer, I finished God's Crime Scene, by J. Warner Wallace.  It was a simply fabulous book, and my first thought was, "I wonder how long until the 'for Kids' version is available."

A couple of days later, I got an email about a blog tour for God's Crime Scene for Kids.  Obviously, I signed up for that quickly.

The tough part of writing this review is that most of what I want to say, I already said in my review of Cold-Case Christianity for Kids.  This book follows the same format, is just as well-written, and is also a book that I think every parent ought to work through with their kids in the age range of 8-14 or so. 

The subject matter is different though.

God's Crime Scene is focused on whether or not there is enough evidence to "convict" God of the crime of creating the universe.

But let's read what the publisher said about it:
Hone your reasoning skills as you investigate evidence in the universe to determine the most reasonable cause for everything we see in creation.

In this companion to Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, Jason uncovers a mystery in his grandmother’s attic. He and his friends, Hannah, Daniel and Jasmine, enlist the help of Detective Jeffries at the Jr. Detective’s Academy. Along the way, they develop the skills needed to investigate the mystery and the evidence of God’s existence. The cadets learn logical-thinking skills as they examine the contents of a mysterious box and the vast universe.

In God’s Crime Scene for Kids, real-life detective J. Warner Wallace shows kids ages 8 to 12 what skills are needed to solve Jason’s mystery, and at the same time looks at evidence in the universe that demonstrates God is the creator. Ultimately, kids will learn how to make their own case for God’s existence.
What I love about working through this with my 11- and 13-year-olds is that even though my kids have been through a lot of materials about "In the beginning..." and they end up getting a bit of the eye roll going when we come across the topic, this book presents the information in a way that is fun and engaging.

We've been reading a chapter, while they fill in the answers on the pdf notes page.  Then we watch the video on their website.  The kids follow up by looking into some of the extra sidebar things in the book, and doing the game-type of pdf file as well. 

I'd love to be working with my older teens on God's Crime Scene, as it is incredibly easy to coordinate the two books.  But it's been an insanely crazy month, and that just was not going to happen.

I really do mean it when I say that I think every Christian parent of a 8-14ish year old should work through both of these books.  And if you have teens, you should be getting a set of all three of the adult books for them (Forensic Faith for Kids is coming soon!).

And you should have a set of your own too.



Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Doctor Aviation {a Homeschool Review Crew review}



Doctor Aviation
I had no idea how much we needed this course.  It never occurred to me to go searching for an aviation homeschool program at all.  Now that we've been using it, though, it has been fantastic for everyone.

Doctor Aviation to the rescue, when I didn't even know I needed rescuing.  We've been using our subscription with the entire family, and it has been great on multiple levels.
  • William (senior) and Thomas (sophomore) both need more science on their transcript. 
  • Richard (8th grade) loves all things aviation.
  • Trina is using this course in earning her Aviation Badge from American Heritage Girls.
I'll talk about all three a bit more below.  But first, what is Doctor Aviation?

A clip from Lesson 5
When you subscribe to Doctor Aviation, the meat of the program is fifteen video lessons.  Each lesson also includes guided notes, and a pdf of suggestions to learn more.  You can get tests as well, which are great if you are using this for high school.  I chose to do my own testing.

Each lesson consists of three sections.  The first is the most science-y portion, as you learn about the physics behind flight and other technical aspects.  The second section is a biography of someone important in the aviation world.  The third section is either about an aviation event or it is about a specific aircraft.

The videos are roughly an hour in total, with clear breaks between the three sections.  That brings me to my one and only complaint about this program -- I wish the weekly sessions were actually split into three separate chapters (with chapter markers) or even separate videos, so that you could easily watch one part at a time.  We lived with it, but that would make a big difference in ease of use.

High School

For high school, a 1/2 credit course is often defined as requiring 60+ hours of work.  To get there, we needed to do around four hours of work per lesson.  The video was one of those hours, and discussion usually added at least another half hour.  Each of the pdf files easily provides multiple ways to get another couple of hours of work in.

We found the audiobook through the library
Depending on which options you choose, you could easily use this course in multiple subjects.  We chose science, so we tended to do things like read the scientist biographies, watch the science of flight youtube videos, and do some of the hands-on science activities.  We have been doing each lesson over two weeks, but to get through in six months, we'll have to do a few over one week.

You could very easily make this aviation history, by focusing more on all of the biographies and doing more with the events.  William would have preferred that, but he has plenty of history credits. 

You could make this a general elective too, of course.

American Heritage Girls

Trina is working on her Aviation Badge at the Explorer Level (4th-6th grade), and this course is fantastic for really doing that.  This course directly covers a lot of the badge requirements, and most of the remaining ones are easy to add in.

Assuming she hadn't earned this badge before, she would have to (these requirements are simplified for this blog post, there is more detail in the actual badge book):
  • Learn about the four forces of flight (directly covered).
  • Learn about different uses of airplanes (covered) and Mission Aviation Fellowship (the course covers Nate Saint directly, and it would be very easy to add a bit on MAF at this point)
  • Identify parts of an aircraft, control surfaces, etc.  (covered)
  • Identify flight instruments in a cockpit (covered)
  • Make and fly some paper airplanes (easy to add)
She also has to do two additional things, among the choices are:
  • Read about the Wright brothers and their experiments (a couple biographies are recommended).
  • List some things a helicopter can do which a conventional aircraft cannot (covered).
  • Demonstrate the Bernoulli principle (the principle is covered).
  • Explain what an airplane does in yawl and pitch (covered).
  • and a few other options that could be added in like a visit to an airport or aviation museum. Or the Air Force Academy.


Basically, in order for her to earn this badge, we need to be intentional about doing things as we hit them in the course, and we need to spend some time making paper airplanes.

My Aviation Nut

I saved the best for last.

Richard has always been fascinated by helicopters.  A couple years ago, when he had to do an assignment for AWANA about why he would be a good missionary, he chose to write about why he would be great as a missionary pilot.  He wasn't really all that serious about it, but I think it did get some wheels turning.

Starting this course, though, has really made him think.  He is recognizing that he could actually fly.  And that he could start doing that soon.  We are only 1/3 of the way through the course, and he has started investigating Civil Air Patrol.  He checked out every single book the library had on making paper airplanes (so I put him in charge of Trina's paper airplane badge requirement above!)

This course is making him think about what he can do with the rest of his life.

Will he be a pilot?  I have no idea.  He's still only 13, so he has lots of time to change his mind.  But right now, it is giving him a direction, and it is spurring him on to understand why he might actually need to learn science and math.

I call that a win.

Go and see what other members of the Crew had to say about this fantastic program.  I think it is wonderful, and am grateful for the opportunity to use it.


Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}


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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Secrets {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

Last month, I attended the homeschool conference in Denver, Colorado.  It was a fantastic experience and I had the chance to interact with a lot of really great people.  One of those amazing people was Melanie Young, of Raising Real Men.

We had a number of really fascinating conversations, but one of them really stands out.

Melanie and I were talking about porn.  In the middle of the vendor hall at the convention.  For a half hour or more.  We're part of a group of homeschool moms, busily planning the best math program, or the right history sequence.  Meanwhile, there is an epidemic out there impacting men, and we are fooling ourselves if we think that Christians are exempt.  We are fooling ourselves if we think homeschoolers are exempt.  We are fooling ourselves if we think that it couldn't happen to our boys.

I was left with the conviction that as part of the "older women" in homeschooling circles, I can't stay silent about the issue, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

So, when Litfuse was looking for folks to review Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity, and Second Chances by Jonathan Daugherty, I knew I needed to go for it.

I'm glad I did.

Secrets starts off a lot of years ago, when Daugherty first encountered porn in a magazine as a 12-year-old.

Let me tell you what the publisher had to say:
Everyone has a secret or two, a part of their life they would rather not share with the rest of the world.

But for Jonathan Daugherty, his secret was so life-altering and relationship-ending that he fought to keep it hidden at all costs. And it did cost him. His secret kept him from contentment, peace, and the possibility of being known and loved for who he truly is. That's what any secret addiction can do-but in particular a sex addiction.

After his wife finally discovered his secret, their marriage appeared to be over. In Secrets, Jonathan honestly and courageously shares his story of addiction to pornography and how he lost everything to it.

But that's not how the story ends. While Jonathan struggled, someone else was at work-his heavenly Father. At the lowest possible moment of his life, God stepped in and brought him hope and healing. This is a story of both loss and redemption that gives hope to anyone who has ever experienced the power and struggle of addiction and its life-destroying effects.

Addiction doesn't have the final say over Jonathan's life or in his marriage. The God who finds the lost, heals the sick, and brings life from death has the last, victorious word.
  • A courageous, honest and open account of life as a sex addict and how sex addiction destroys marriages.
  • A life-affirming and personal story of recovery and redemption that will inspire readers.
  • Offers hope to all who struggle with pornography and sex addiction.
  • Each chapter includes a "Living in the Light" section designed to equip and help readers find freedom from addiction.
  • Suitable as a study for support groups of addicts and those who care about them.
I expected to struggle through this book.  Instead I was surprised to find this a relatively easy book to read, and I was pulling for Jonathan.  And for his wife.  There is no doubt that he has an addiction and that he makes a lot of mistakes, but the descriptions are not graphic.  Of course, it helped a lot that the description of the book told me this was a story of recovery and redemption.  I'm not sure I would have been able to get through it if I didn't know this book offers hope -- and not just to those who struggle, but to those who know people who struggle.

Daugherty pin3
There are lots of people out there struggling.  And porn addiction does ruin lives.  It breaks up marriages, ruins relationships with friends and family, and absolutely kills trust.  But God.

God is bigger than all of that, and God uses broken people all the time.

All the time.

This book reminded me of that, and Jonathan Daugherty is doing fantastic things by putting this book out there.

This is a book I'd love to get into the hands of lots of people.  Because porn is easier than ever to find, and the statistics show that kids -- male and female -- are finding it at younger and younger ages.

We need to not bury our heads in the sand.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.