Another Exciting Adventure!

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

I have always been a positive person and naturally look for the best in everything. As such, there are times when I have an opportunity to review a product that I find myself delicately focused on the positives and carefully wording the things that I feel are weaknesses. However, when it comes to
Heirloom Audio Productions, the reverse would be true! I have to search to find something that I feel could be improved upon. With Captain Bayley’s Heir, the only negative was that there was an ending to the story. Like a long awaited for vacation, the audio adventure was fun and lively and just ended too soon, we simply wanted to hear more!

Captain Bailey’s Heir is a fabulous tale that begins in London, works it’s way across the Atlantic to the United States, then westward to California during the gold rush and comes full circle to end back in London. Frank, a young lad is set up and then falsely accused of a crime when with a little persuasion, he runs to America with plans to earn his own fortune and ultimately clear his name. Through a series of events, Frank makes it to California and finds gold. Although achieving his own wealth, the real wealth he receives is learning of God’s grace, being reunited with his loved ones and clearing his name.

While the story itself was a joy to listen to, I really appreciated the underlying story in this adventure. We learned about character, the power of our word, kindness, grace and forgiveness. We also see how God literally provided for every need that Frank had, always at the exact time that he needed it. God interwove people into Frank’s life from the beginning to the end, each a blessing to encourage, teach and guide him along his journey.

We recently brought the full audio production along with us on a long car ride. The production is approximately two hours, on two separate discs. When I take schoolwork on car rides, I am mindful of the kids’ inattentiveness and I make sure that we have plenty of breaks along the way. I did exactly that after the first disc. I checked in with the kids to make sure that they were listening and offered to listen to the second disc at a later time. Each of them expressed their disdain at the thought of stopping midway!

The audio production is nonstop adventure, filled with tales of affection, gunshots, wagon caravans, death, sorrow and grace. However, the adventure does not have to end there. An accompanying study guide is available, which enabled our family to review parts of the story and go even further through our discussion. To me, this is where the real meat of a good program is. In our culture, we have many opportunities to be entertained and often, that is as far as it goes. Heirloom Audio provides productions that truly are rich in entertainment but they provide the study guide to encourage us to capitalize on the underlying message and teaching points. There are two sets of questions pertaining to each audio track, Listening Well and Thinking Further. The Listening Well section includes general comprehension questions, such as What does Frank ask Mr. Hall? and What happens next? The Thinking Further questions require much greater thought and provide meaningful discussion such as This whole section reveals again a real flaw in Frank’s character and thinking, what was it? This question allowed us to talk about how easy it is for us to believe something incorrectly and ultimately make decisions based on the untruth. Many people spend a majority of their lives making decisions based on a lie and miss out on many blessings.

Heirloom Audio has also created an amazing online club Live the Adventure Club. This club is filled with history resources. I recently became a member of the club when we reviewed In The Reign of Terror and have literally spent hours perusing historical content. There are several history books in digital form that were written in the 1800’s. Also available is The Crash Course on the Constitution. 

There are several public domain old time radio programs to stream as well. Although this site has hours of history resources, it doesn’t end there. There is also kid activities, a community forum, articles and an inspiration section.

We are pleased to have been introduced to Heirloom Audio Productions and look forward to many new adventures!

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)!