Imagine…The Great Flood: A Book Review

Our home library is beginning to burst at the seams with fantastic books that we have enjoyed this last  year. I need to admit that I was not exactly excited at the prospect of reviewing yet another book this year, but in hindsight I am thankful that we took the time to read Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich from Barbour Publishing.

We began reading this book as another family read aloud just days after receiving it. However, we ended up having a string of house guests over a couple week period which interrupted our family time for finishing it. When things settled back into normalcy and we reached for the book, we found that it was no longer where we keep our current read alouds. It was then that Bookworm Beauty quietly retreated to her room to recover it from her bed. She sheepishly confessed that she simply could not wait any longer to find out what was going to happen to Corey. She planned to only read a chapter to find out, but ultimately found herself reading the rest of the book! After poking much fun at her inability to exercise self-control with a really good and suspenseful book, we finished reading it together.

Imagine… The Great Flood is a suspenseful and engaging novel. It tells a tale of a ten-year-old boy from Texas, Corey, that is frustrated and disappointed about his family’s decision to relocate to Florida. In the midst of his current day dilemma, he ends up somehow in the middle of Mesopotamia in 2400 BC. He quickly finds himself befriending Shem, one of Noah’s sons. His adventure is wild as he runs from the Nephilim, faces many wild yet oddly tame animals and sees first hand the steadfast faith Noah lived.

Although this biblically historical fiction novel is not a true to life story, the overall event most certainly is. There was an ark. Noah was a faithful man. Nephilim are real. What intrigued me the most about the story is the realization that Noah was a man, a regular man, just like any other man. Yes, he was different and he was credited with faithfulness, but he was still a man. I often forget that fact when I read through the amazing stories in the Old Testament. I never stop to really think about what things must have been like in the every day lives of these heroes. Reading this book opened my eyes to that reality in a different way than before.

Imagine… The Great Flood was written primarily for kids ages 8-12, yet we all enjoyed it and agreed that it was a fantastic book. Bookworm Beauty enjoyed the suspense more than anything else, thus the secret reading of it. Sweetness and The Boy both liked learning about the animals and the Nephilim. Handsome and I both appreciated the parallel within the book of how the events of young Corey’s adventure leads him to resolve his own conflict with the idea of moving across county. I also determined that it wasn’t just a good book, but also timely as the images of the hurricanes and flooding in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico were everywhere we looked. As we watched the video footage and images, we were reminded of how minuscule these floods were in comparison to what mankind faced during the time of Noah.

We are looking forward to the next book in this epic series, Imagine… The Ten Plagues, due to be released March 2018.

Purposing to Make Family Memories

Handsome’s family is close, very close. It is such a wonderful experience to be part of a family that truly loves and supports one another. When we first met, he and his three siblings lived within twenty miles of each other, making it easy to get together for the various birthday parties, holidays and just because. We were all a part of each others daily lives and the next generation quickly went from crawling together to playing ball in the yard, making memories.

Leave it to an uncle to give the bunny ears!

A few years after we married, six to be exact, the families began to spread their wings a bit, each wanting to get out of the Denver Metropolitan area. His parents and a brother stayed put in the heart of Denver, the rest scattered outward. One went North about forty miles. One went Southwest about a hundred miles and we headed Southeast a hundred twenty miles. No more play dates. No more hey, let’s meet at mom’s Thursday night, just because. We all loved our new areas that we were digging roots into, but missed our frequent family gatherings.

Family has always been important to each of us, it just proved a bit harder to do anything unplanned. So planned, we did. We decided to get together quarterly. There are four siblings, so each year we all take a season to plan a get together and do something purposeful, fun and memory making.

This year, we had summer. We tried to find a date that worked for everyone, but as the kids get older, obligations just get more difficult to work around. We were finally able to plan something for Labor Day weekend and decided to just host the event here out on the prairie.

It always takes a lot out of me to plan the get togethers. I want things to be fun, purposeful and memorable. Sometimes, I forget that just being together is all that really matters. This year, I decided to focus on just that, memories. We laughed. We played. We ate and ate again and again. We launched fireworks. We shot our guns (don’t judge). The kids swam, played games and slept on the trampoline. The biggest event, though, was the family photo session.

It is difficult to get everyone together, and usually when we try, there is still someone missing. This family picture was becoming a necessity as kids are growing and moving on, and there have been three more children born since the last photo (and the youngest is six)!

We were still missing one child for the photo, and we will think of her every time we look at the photo but she started college that week and was settling in. For me, however the photo was special as it is rare that all six of my kids are together. Even more exciting is that this is the last of family photos before the next generation begins. I will treasure this for sure. It is the beginning of a new era in our lives as we become grandparents. I only wish that I was as fortunate as my mother in law and had all of my children within miles of each other to get together easily and watch the grandchildren make memories together.

It was a fun weekend. Just as fun has been viewing our photos and deciding on which ones to put onto the wall. The years keep passing us by and it is getting more and more important to sprinkle them with purposeful memories!

Unauthorized Family Game Night: A Review

With six kids, we have learned over the years just how important spending quality time together really is. Sometimes we just sit back and enjoy each others company. Other times, however, we opt for a more structured time together and spend days engrossed in a really good read-a-loud or an evening filled with fierce unbridled competition a.k.a. game night.

Unauthorized, by Chara Games is the newest addition to our family game night repertoire. This quick card game may be small and unassuming but is so much more than meets the eye!

Chara Games was established in 2014 by a husband and wife team that wanted to create quality games that have a purpose. Each game is designed to challenge the players to think about faith through play. Their mission says it all: Building games that create joy by developing relationships with God and people.

We look forward to reviewing many products, but games are met with an even greater excitement than normal. It is just plain fun to play games. It was a pleasure to receive a small box, which will fit nicely into our newly cleaned out, sorted and minimized game closet. It is also nice to be small enough to take with us camping or to a friend’s house.

Our first experience setting up the game was extremely slow going for us. I am not complaining by any means. I was aware that there was an instructional video available but I wanted to attempt the game with just the instructions given with the game itself. The instructions were confusing. As we sat around the table, anxious to get started with the game, much time was spent simply trying to make sense of the instructions themselves. Now that I have played the game, I can look at the instructions and they make complete sense, but I felt that initially, some of the instructions were not easily understood. Again, I could have watched the video.

The first time that we sat down to play, we played two games. The first game was slow, as is expected when learning a new game. The kids did not understand the reason for different steps or options, and I did not have the experience or understanding to enlighten them or provide any meaningful guidance. However, once we completed the game and had a better understanding of the process, we were able to make some assessments of the value of different options within the game. For example, a player may decide to “speak to a neighbor” a polite way of saying “look at a neighbor’s hand.” Initially, the value of seeing a neighbor’s hand was not fully understood and this option seemed a bit odd, but once you play the game a few times and begin to develop strategy, you quickly understand the value of knowing what cards a neighbor may be holding.

This quick card game is designed to be played with 6-12 players. Players are part of a conflict between the state and an underground church and the goal is to sway loyalty of others to either the state or the church. Although the intended age range is 12+, the game can be enjoyed with children around 8 years old. We have successfully played Unauthorized with our three youngest kids that are 7, 8 and 12. I will note, however, that although The Boy (7) and Sweetness (8) can engage in play just fine, they do not seem to have yet grasped how to develop a strategy with this game. I am sure that it will come with more experience and play, but in the meantime, when playing with them, the game is not as competitive as I believe it would be with a group of older kids or adults that understood the game. I am really looking forward to testing this theory out when we have our fellow homeschool blogging friends (also reviewing the game) over for dinner and games.

The game elicited lively conversation between us all. In my opinion, this was probably the single most important element of the game (I can’t help but be a teach-the-kids-every-moment-possible-mom). The cards are unlike traditional playing cards with numbers, letters or shapes but rather meaningful cards that are used to influence play but could just as easily cause you to ponder how our life experiences influence our decisions about faith. For example, one of the State cards says, Meaningless Traditions: Why do Christians do these silly things? Another State card says, Clergy Abuse: A sacred trust once violated isn’t easy to restore. These are real issues in many people’s lives that are difficult to overcome and a serious hindrance to one’s faith. The Church cards are equally thought-provoking. Once says, Experience Forgiveness: Freedom unlike any other and another says Witness a Miracle: We are forever changed by what we have seen. There are also neutral cards. These cards can go either way because when an individual has one of these experiences it typically causes them to either seek faith or push faith away. These were things like, Serious Illness or Family Member Dies. All of these experience cards allowed us to talk, as a family about our faith and the things that challenge it as well as the things that build it up. Honestly, anything that helps a family or a group of people actually talk about these kinds of experiences is a beautiful thing. That makes this game far more valuable than most any game we own.

At the surface level, Unauthorized is a simplistic concept, but when played as intended, it is thought-provoking, conversation-initiating and could ultimately by life-changing.

Blast Off!

I never thought that science would become one of our favorite subjects in our homeschool. Honestly, I would not have thought that it would have been anything more than a subject to be checked off each year. I fully expected that we would cover math, language arts, history and science would be something added to our plate to ensure a well-rounded school experience.

Then it happened.

We moved to the prairie and suddenly it is as if we are living in on-going science experiments. We have witnessed weather unlike anything we have ever experienced before; all forms seem to be magnified out here in our own little expanse of wide-open land. We have encountered forms of wildlife (and dissected many of them): piglets, rattlesnakes, dragonflies, porcupines, skunks (no, we have not yet dissected a skunk or porcupine but we have collected some quills)! We have witnessed the cycles of life with rabbits, cats, dogs and goats. We have even enjoyed some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets and have learned what causes the incredible colors within them. I know that science is all around everyone, but we simply did not experience things the same way when we lived in our little box in the middle of a crammed neighborhood. There is just something about having space and visibility.

This year, our science focus is chemistry and physics. I was not sure who was more excited about it, the kids or me, until the boys made a request. The Boy had his best bud over for a night. They are always busy building things like ramps to launch themselves into the abyss of our acreage, or pulleys to try and transport an object from one place to another. I just love their scientific, inquisitive minds.

The Boy and Tobmeister ran into the kitchen, interrupting my in-depth chemistry experiment that would result in dinner, with the biggest cheesy grins you could imagine. I knew instantly that they were brewing up something of their own. Then their eyes took on the irresistible charm, that they seem to be famous for, as they ask if they could launch rockets. “It’s science, Mom!” he added, as if it would seal the deal.

I looked over at the boys and saw their rumpled heads that was sure to contain as much dirt as hair and I did what every good science-teaching-mom would do. I relented. I just could not resist the double cuteness that stood before me.

I set my kitchen experiment aside and headed to the great outdoors.

Within minutes, the two scientists had mouths full of Big League Chew, Handsome’s requirement for rocket launching, and were busy making the preparations. The Boy had his new rocket ready to experience it’s inaugural launch and began to stuff the chamber with the necessary wadding. Handsome made a few  modifications to properly secure the engine and we were set for take-off.

The countdown was heard through excited mouths filled beyond capacity with grape gum. When the resounding announcement of “BLAST OFF!” was made, the rocket was gone, leaving only it’s smoke trail behind.

As a proud mama bear, I watched the two careen their heads back to assess where the rocket would land. With excitement, they both ran to retrieve it and quickly returned asking if they could “do it again!”

Do it again, we did.

These are moments that I treasure. Moments spent witnessing what boyhood is all about: buddies, dirt and science (and bubble gum too, of course)!

Another Summer Coming to an End

It is official. Although we never really have a solid delineation between summer and school, because we continue to do at least some things throughout the summer, we still have a definite moment in which it is no longer summertime and school has official begun once again. For us, the moment is when the local public school is back in session and Bookworm Beauty is able to participate in sports with her friends once again. Yes, volleyball officially started today. Tomorrow is another line drawn in the sand as the kids return to their weekly homeschool enrichment program in town.

Our summer was filled with many wonderful adventures. I told myself that I was going to blog about each one throughout and then decided that I would rather keep some things a little less public.

At any rate, we visited the Garden of the Gods and the Colorado Paint Mines, the kids attended a week of summer camp (giving Handsome and I our first week completely alone since we have been married), they also entered art at the County Fair and each won money. We spent many hours in our pool, added turkeys to our farm, enjoyed wonderful conversations with amazing friends and the girls learned to sew! We witnessed the birth of puppies, visited family, planted a garden, saw some great movies, went to a baseball game, saw an eclipse and will be finishing the summer with a Bronco game. It has been busy. It has been full and it has been fun.

I guess I am ready for a rest. There is something about the routine and structure that comes with the fall and back to school that is just so welcoming this year.

I know, I know, it will not be long before you will hear me speak of longing for summer once again. This year I plan to enjoy each season to it’s fullest, even winter. I didn’t even say that through clenched teeth!

No-Nonsense Algebra: A Review

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Bookworm Beauty has always been fairly strong in math. We have rejoiced about her strengths over the years. Unfortunately, as her math level has increased her learning style has really become more evident and it has led us on a hunt to find a program that she learns well from. I have always found that several people can teach the exact same concept and only one persons explanation may actually “click” for someone. We were hopeful that No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials would generate her “aha” moments for learning algebra.

We received a physical book and access to online video lessons to coincide with the book. It is a simple program, almost too simple to feel complete. The full size 275-page consumable book contains a full year of algebra lessons, glossary, resources such as important formulas, important symbols, common prime numbers, etc, and answer pages.

Access to the online video lessons was as simple as visiting the website and plugging in the access code. Bookworm Beauty was set up to begin algebra within minutes of receiving our materials.

The video tutorials are short and simple, typically under ten minutes. They are whiteboard animation type lessons. The writing appears as the teacher explains the lesson and takes the student through the process of solving the equations.

Math is a daily subject for the students in our home. We believe it is essential for mastering math concepts. Bookworm Beauty is crossing over into the independent study realm and is doing far more schoolwork on her own. Math Essentials makes this an easy accomplishment for her. She logs into the daily lesson, watches the tutorial and then completes the worksheet in the book itself. On average, math has taken her less than a half an hour to complete the lesson for the day.

Notice the “-0” on the previous lesson!

No-Nonsense Algebra can be used as a curriculum or as a reinforcement to help a student master various skills in areas that he or she has struggled in. We were unsure as to whether or not we would use this program to meet the algebra requirement as a full program or as a resource. Upon receiving the program, Bookworm Beauty started at the very beginning which was a lot of review for her. The lessons were short and simple. She decided to try and skip forward to attempt some more difficult lessons. Knowing that she struggles with word problems, she jumped to the last chapter, Algebra Word Problems, and watched a video lesson online. She felt confident that she fully understood the process as she watched the lesson but found that she had a hard time remembering the steps once she opened the book. Fortunately, the book offers an introduction (overview) for each lesson, which she referred to. In the end, she still struggled through the section and she decided to go back to the lesson she was on near the beginning.

By the end of the book, students will have covered all of the basic algebra concepts including quadratic equations, polynomials, rational expressions, radical expressions, and more.

We are still unsure as to whether or not we will use this program in its entirety to meet her algebra requirements. If we decide to use another program, we are sure that we will keep this for reinforcement. It’s a simple program and can be taken along with us on road trips or used to get a different explanation for a type of problem that she is struggling to understand. Either way, we appreciate No-Nonsense Algebra.

It’s All Greek to Me!

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Foreign languages bring a richness to any education. There is something magical and simply beautiful about learning a second, or even a third language. Our homeschool has spent a lot of energy over the years on soaking up Spanish, primarily because it is a language Bookworm Beauty has excelled in and it seems to have a more practical use in our immediate world around us. However, when we were informed of the opportunity to study Biblical Greek with Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! – Level 2 Set by Greek ‘n’ Stuff, we were beyond ecstatic.

To give a bit of history, Greek had never been one of my top choices for a second language. I am not sure if it would have even been on my list, and I do not really know why that is. As we work through this program, I am actually saddened and wonder why we did not make this a priority sooner!

I would have liked to review Level 3 but having no real understanding of Greek, we determined that Level 2 would be a better option for us to review. We received a consumable workbook, an answer key and a pronunciation CD. My initial thoughts were that my package might have been missing pieces; as the foreign language products we have used in the past have consisted of multiple pieces or elements. After reviewing the items and verifying that everything was there, I was realizing that Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! could not be any simpler.

After spending less than a half an hour familiarizing myself with the workbook and reading the welcome letter, I felt fully prepared and was ready to get started. Simple.

We jumped right in and began our journey working through the Greek alphabet review, which was four lessons. This took several weeks for us, working approximately thirty minutes a day, a few days a week. Each of these four lessons were six pages in length and introduced, or reviewed, six alphabet letters. This would move faster for anyone that already knew the Greek alphabet and was simply reviewing it. I took the author to heart when she mentioned the importance of monitoring your child’s individual progress and mastery, as this is not a program to just work through and check it off of your list. It is critical that each area is mastered before moving on.

It was typical for us to spend around twenty minutes introducing two of the letters, their correct pronunciation (thanks to the CD), it’s proper writing formation and then spend a few minutes completing the practice worksheet. The second part of the lesson involved reviewing flashcards (provided in the back of the workbook). Our time varied with this portion as the kids began to get creative, making up games to go along with their study.

Racing to write the Greek alphabet… it was almost a tie… but Sweetness won this time!

Looking forward, after learning the alphabet, students are introduced to vocabulary words such as I know, a son, and an apostle. There are a total of eleven vocabulary words. Again, simple. I know that eleven words are certainly not enough to be considered fluent, but if after thirty lessons my children can recognize, recall and recite the entire Greek alphabet and eleven words through a simple and fun program, then I consider the program a huge success!

Greek lays the foundation for much of our English language, as well Biblical text. Because of this, I see this program as an introduction to a better understanding of the written Word. As a matter of fact, after walking with the Lord for over 25 years, I did not even know what an interlinear bible was (English, Greek and Hebrew parallel Bible for more in-depth study.) I can accredit Hey Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! For that knowledge nugget. I am really looking forward to developing my own understanding of Greek, as well, so that I can be less intimidated about studying the Word in it’s original written language. It is my understanding that the overall long term goal of the program is to lead to this specific point, making the intimidating simple.

Bookworm Beauty and Sweetness, playing one of their many games

In level 3, students begin to read an interlinear New Testament. I literally get goosebumps thinking about the kids being able to actually study the Word at this level, at their ages, not in their 40s! If a student continues even beyond that, she would be able to start reading a regular Greek New Testament, which would be really great, but honestly just being comfortable with an interlinear Bible is fabulous in itself.

In the end, I had plans initially to use the program with Bookworm Beauty only, but now I am finding the importance of learning Greek as a family and how that will impact our family Bible study time, in such a simple way too! I also realize that since both Sweetness (8) and The Boy (7) have been following along, I will need to hurry up and order them their own workbooks before we get too far!

I Didn’t Think Our Family Time Could Get Any Better

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Oh, the adventures we have been on, and it has been worth the wait! When I first started with the Review Crew, I quickly learned about the opportunities to review Heirloom Audio products. I also learned, just as quickly, how coveted those review spots were. Twice in the last two years, I was not given the privilege, but the third time was a charm! I literally squealed when I heard that I was selected to review In the Reign of Terror by Heirloom Audio Productions.

I could go on and on about many things pertaining to this audio drama. I could share about the historical story line and how the main character, a young man named Harry, visits France as the French Revolution broke out. I could also share about the caliber of actors and actresses that recorded the program. I could even share details of the sound effects that made this audio drama so captivating.

Instead I want to share about the things that I noticed in my home with this program. We really enjoy family read-alouds for our family time and are often in the middle of more than one great book. We also enjoy quality, family appropriate movies. It is only natural to assume that we would enjoy an audio drama as well, which we had not tried previously. Wow, were we missing out!

It seemed a bit difficult, at first, to get everyone together at the same time, but once we did it was amazing. I felt like we may have been experiencing entertainment similar to what my mother experienced as a child sitting in front of the radio, hanging on every word in the program. She would chuckle when she told us about how they would watch the radio the way we watched the television. I had a sense of nostalgic pride thinking of my mom that passed last year and what she would think of her grandchildren staring at the radio.

Even Jasper enjoys watching the radio during In the Reign of Terror.

I have to admit, I had a difficult time following the story and I really had to focus on paying attention. I know that I am not an audio learner and I even prefer subtitles on movies so that I can read through the movie. I was better prepared the second time we gathered together to listen to more of In the Reign of Terror. I had taken the time to visit Live the Adventure Club, Heirloom Audio’s fabulous family friendly educational entertainment website, that is simply above and beyond what I could have hoped for. As a side note*** anyone can enjoy a FREE 3-month trial of the Live the Adventure Club and also receive their newest release, Captain Bayley’s Heir, for $1!*** I logged into our Live the Adventure Club site and was able to open up the actual script for In the Reign of Terror. This was an amazing help for me to follow along. There is even the ability to have each individual word highlighted as the story is being told when you listen to the audio drama online. What an amazing feature for new or struggling readers! There is so much thought that went into the Live the Adventure Club website by Heirloom Audio Productions. I highly recommend that you visit the site and take advantage of the FREE 3-month trial. Members receive discounts on Heirloom Audio products, children can even earn additional discounts or credits for products by completing various kids activities.

Bookworm Beauty taking the Chapter 15 – Robespierre Quiz

In the Reign of Terror summary by Bookworm Beauty (12): a young British man named Harry went to France to teach a noble family (The Marquis) English while they would teach him French and their customs. While he was there, the Reign of Terror (the French Revolution happened.) The kids managed to escape the angry mob. While they were living in hiding the father and grandmother were caught and killed just for being a noble family and followers of the King and Queen.

While in hiding, Harry and his friend Victor went to see the sentencing of noble families. During that, Victor’s father was sentenced to death. His grief caused him to become ill. Harry went to get Victor’s fiance Marie Marquis. Harry tried to ensure that the coast was clear, but Marie couldn’t wait for him to get back and went on alone. A member of the Public Safety Committee took Marie to be held in jail until her sentencing…. To find out what happens next, you’ll just have to listen!

We also received and downloaded the 43-page Study Guide for In the Reign of Terror. The first time we sat to listen to the program, we had not yet taken advantage of the Study Guide. However, the second time, we were well armed to take advantage of all that we could learn from this program with this guide. Like most study guides, there are comprehension or discussion questions. First, there are Listening Well questions which are easy enough for even the younger kids. “What’s the name of the family dog?” is a great example of these questions. Then there are the Thinking Further, more difficult and thought-provoking questions such as, “In traditional etiquette, it’s improper for a man to shake a woman’s hand unless she offers it. Why do the rules of etiquette and courtesy make this difference between the way a man greets a man and the way he greets a woman?” The first question draws out a simple answer where the second question elicits discussion and enables us to further the kids’ understanding of times past as well as how it relates (or compares) to our culture today.

Coloring pages are available for download. This is a picture of Harry saving the girls from the mad dog.

To take things even further, there are Expand Your Learning sections that provide background, history, examples and more. We really enjoyed the section on 18th Century Fashion and getting a glimpse of what high fashion was like more than two hundred years ago.

There is even more. At the end of the study is a book list to further one’s study on the French Revolution as well as bible studies and historical background for In the Reign of Terror. We found that In the Reign of Terror is a fabulous audio drama that could be nothing more than great entertainment, or through the use of the additional tools available through Heirloom Audio, it could be a solid History supplement for any homeschool classroom.

I am thrilled to have finally been invited into the world of Heirloom Audio and I foresee our History studies becoming more alive and exciting than I could have imagined.


Educational Activity Notebooks

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Bookworm Beauty has always loved activity books, of any kind. When she was still in the public school system, Grandma would take her to the store at the beginning of summer to buy her a BrainQuest book for a summer bridge activity book and she would lug that one-plus-inch book around everywhere we went. All of this to say that I was not in any way surprised by her reaction when we received the ability to review the USA Activity Bundle by The Crafty Classroom.

For days, Bookworm Beauty asked me if we had received the download links for the product. She was eager to have something fun to lug around and work on through the summer time. Her good morning hugs quickly turned to a happy squeeze when I was able to hand her the awaited binder.

To start, The Crafty Classroom is a fantastic online resource shop. One visit to their website is all you need to turn a gray sky into rainbows. Ok, so that will not literally happen, but I do find myself in a better mood when I visit. It is welcoming and everything is bright and cheery. If it were a physical store, it would be somewhere that my kids would want to visit again and again. They offer fun and fabulous resources for a wide array of homeschool subjects as well as art tutorials, free printables and more. The bottom line is that anyone that homeschools, or just has young children around, should have this site bookmarked.

We received three links as part of the USA Activity Bundle, a $15 value. The bundle includes three activity books:U.S.A. State by State Activity Notebook,U.S.A. State Bird Art Cards, and U.S.A. 50 State Mazes. I took one look at them and decided that I did not want three books for Bookworm Beauty, but rather a single and organized book. I started by printing the State-By-State pages single-sided and put them back into the printer to print the corresponding state mazes on the back side. I then printed the state birds out separately. I did not realize, before printing these out that there are many states that have a common state bird with other states. I guess I got to learn something new with this product as well! Once everything was printed, it was only a matter of minutes for me to divide the proper state – now double sided worksheets – into groups corresponding with each bird. I had to battle with my own OCD traits to do this as there was no longer an alphabetical order to the mazes and state info but rather a seemingly random grouping. It does make it difficult to flip through and find a particular state, but I got over it quickly. All of the pages received a three-hole-punch and was placed into a binder. The only hiccup I had was when I was printing out the mazes and noticed that there was not a maze for Wyoming. I quickly emailed Valerie McClintick at the Crafty Classroom and shortly thereafter I noticed that the link had been updated and included Wyoming.

Bookworm Beauty has had fun looking up various state facts for each state in our union. She, of course, thinks that the state-shaped mazes are simple and fun and the birds are fascinating. For me, I like that she has do a little bit of research to look up the various facts for each state when completing the State-By-State pages, such as the state flower, which number it is in the union, their nickname and state abbreviation. She also gets to color their state flag, locate the state in a US map and then locate it’s Capital, Rivers, Lakes and Mountains. Lastly, there is a section on each page that allows the child to write out some facts & notes on the state. I had to chuckle when writing this review and seeing that although she has worked on a lot of the states, Colorado is the only one that appears to be completed and the facts & notes lists nothing more than “I live here!” Well, I guess that is a fact.

This has been a fun product and one that I believe every family should pick up at some point. It would be a fantastic addition to a road trip. A few years ago, we took a trip to Hawaii. We rode the Amtrak train from Colorado to Oakland, California and I knew that we had over 30 hours of train time to fill with the kids. We found similar worksheets to these and printed out one for each state that we would pass through: Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and of course, Hawaii. It was fun to cover facts for each state and introduce the kids to their current surroundings as we passed through or visited. I can see this particular Activity Bundle serving us for years to come as we prepare for various trips.

If you have not checked them out, go over and visit The Crafty Classroom. We are studying Chemistry this year and they have a fantastic corresponding resource, Periodic Table of the Elements Activity Pack for a mere $5. The purchase was easy and I received an immediate email response verifying the purchase with the link. I had the product printed out within minutes of my finding it on their website and completing the transaction. That was simple.

The Crafty Classroom is bookmarked on my computer and I have a feeling I am going to have to start explaining to Handsome why we have so many transactions with them!



Oh So Fascinating Chemistry: A Review

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

We have become quite a sciency (yes that’s a homeschool term for us) family over the last few years, and last year in my eagerness, I had ordered a full chemistry program for all three of the kids which included early elementary workbooks The Boy and Sweetness and an upper elementary one for Bookworm Beauty. Unfortunately, we were covering Anatomy and Astronomy last year, leaving little time for Chemistry. As I began planning next year’s studies, I began to be concerned about the program being just a little too elementary for Bookworm Beauty as she enters 7th grade. It was another answer to my prayers to receive an excellent and timely review opportunity; this time it was Fascinating Chemistry by Fascinating Education that came through at the right time.

Fascinating Education was born out of Dr. Sheldon Margulies’ love of science and making science applicable, fun, teachable and real to the average student. I do not normally mention the maker of a program in a review, but I feel that I must this time around. Early on in our review I had a reason to contact the vendor and I received an immediate response by someone from his team that provided some information about Dr. Margulies’ passion for teaching science. It is absolutely worth mentioning because when someone is passionate about what they teach and they keep themselves within an arm’s reach of their customers, you end up with a friend that is sharing educational information with your students, not a vendor marketing their products.

I was initially worried about the age range of Fascinating Chemistry, as it appears as though it is intended for high school. Although Bookworm Beauty is pretty advanced in her abilities, she is still a  12 year old 7th grader. She and I sat through the initial lessons together and discovered that while they are a little advanced, they are not beyond her ability to grasp. She had been overly patient about our lack of fitting Chemistry in to our schedule over the last year, which I finally came to learn was not patience but rather a lack of interest in Chemistry overall.The discussions that we had around Chemistry were really important because part of our reasoning for homeschooling is the ability to allow our kids to have a part in the decisions we make about what to study. I know that she will need to complete a Chemistry course during high school so the biggest question was whether or not she takes a class during 7th grade as well. In the end, we decided that we would work through Fascinating Chemistry for the review period and let her make some decisions about completing the program after. Her reluctance to study Chemistry seems to have waned quite a bit after the pressure was gone.

I felt that it was important that I sit with her and watch the online video tutorials together. I do not usually have to do this with Bookworm Beauty but I did so because I needed to get a feel for the age level of the instruction. Once we logged into the system we were granted access to the course. There is not a student dashboard or a parent dashboard to get familiarized with. It is a simple and straightforward system (how refreshing). We were taken to a landing page where all courses are listed: Fascinating Chemistry, Fascinating Physics, Fascinating Biology, Fascinating Logic of Medicine and Fascinating Chemistry (a pre-course for Biology). After selecting the Fascinating Chemistry course we are taken to a course outline page showing all 19 lessons. For each lesson we have the option of listening to a video tutorial, consisting of slides with a narration by the Dr. himself or reading the text ourselves. Tests are also available for each lesson and can be completed and scored online or printed and administered separately.

I would imagine that most middle school children could handle this program overall, especially since the student has the ability to work entirely at their own pace. The only limitation may be some math  required that might be beyond a middle school level. After tweaking our schedules a bit, we seem to have found an advantageous way to make this product work well for us at this time, which is to use it in conjunction with the elementary science program. For example, Bookworm Beauty is present when the younger kids work on their lesson which is nothing short of reinforcement and we then stream Fascinating Education on our television through our computer, allowing all of them to hear the more advanced lesson instruction. We then take the test together. All in all, they are each receiving reinforcement through each other’s programs. It is going to be a real treat when we begin the labs that are available with Fascinating Chemistry.

To make chemistry even more fun and the learning attainable for my kids, I downloaded a resource from a recent vendor we reviewed, called The Periodic Table of the Elements Activity Pack by The Crafty Classroom. This provided us with flashcards, BINGO board games and other activities to reinforce the learning of the periodic table. The more we can do together as a family, the greater we all learn.

In the end, I have concluded that Fascinating Chemistry is fascinating for us. Although it is intended as a high school course, we will not receive that level of benefit from it at this time, not because of the program but because of Bookworm Beauty’s minimal interest in the subject. I would rather expect her to complete this course in high school when she either has an increased interest or simply needs to complete the course. In the meantime, we will still use it lightheartedly and as a solid instructional supplement to our really basic Chemistry studies. I have to admit though that I am really looking forward to seeing her work through Chemistry in high school and I fully anticipate looking to Fascinating Chemistry to meet that need.