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.

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.

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!

History Activities that Make Learning Fun!

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

I have a love hate not-so-love relationship with our most recent review product,
Time Travelers American History: The American Revolution by Home School in the Woods. Please read this review through to the end as I hope to share as clearly as possible how incredibly valuable this product is, but it is only fair for me to be equally honest about the level of frustration I encountered when working with this product.

This is not our first time reviewing Home School in the Woods’ materials. We were privileged to review the History Through the Ages Hands-On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections last year. This ended up making it to our 2016 Top Reviews list (as I am confident The American Revolution will as well). Bottom line is that Home School in the Woods creates some dynamite products that are simply fantastic and provide a creative platform for learning. I was simply delighted to review Time Travelers American History Study: The American Revolution. My first thoughts were of fond memories of our completed lap-pak from last year’s study of U.S. Elections.

I received our links for our digital files and within minutes I had several files transferred over. I met them head on, assuming that I would be able to jump right in and get started. I looked at the more than 100 master files and thought that I must be going about this wrong. I had to close up the file and set it aside for when I had more time. This happened three times before I realized that I was not going about it wrong, there really were that many files. Imagine taking a curriculum guide book and converting it to a digital product page by page; with each page being it’s own file. I was overwhelmed.

Knowing that I needed to give this product a fair review, I started early one morning. I spent well over three hours sorting, opening and printing files. I spent so much time on that portion that I would have been happy to not have to look at the files again, however I knew that I needed to persevere and see this thing through. In hindsight, I was under-equipped to realize the effort necessary to face this feat. Truly. When we reviewed the U.S. Elections program, Handsome took care of printing the files for me. I was extremely frustrated trying to figure out which pages coincided with which and I unwittingly blamed my frustration on him, assuming that he somehow mixed up pages. I now fully recognize the error of my ways! The files come through in a way that appears organized but yet there are a multitude of files that each need to be opened and printed – One.At.A.Time (I had to stress that as clearly as possible). I tried to select several and print them at once, but it did not appear to be possible (I recognize that this could have been operator error, but try as I did, I could not find a solution). So, after hours of printing those files – one at a time – I would have been happy to use the full 1-inch thick stack of papers for fire starter. Unfortunately, it is the summertime and besides, those papers contained information that are valuable for our kids’education.

I always like it when I can say that we started at page one. We have been studying this time period for quite some time now, and even though the early lessons were completely review for us, we knew that we needed to start at the beginning to complete the projects. We made the decision to make a single lap-book as a family, instead of individual ones for each of the kids. Bookworm Beauty took the leadership role and managed the projects from each lesson, working with both Sweetness and The Boy to get those items completed and set aside for the assembly of the lap-book.

There are 25 lessons total, five or which are designated project days for completion of the daily projects that coincide with each lesson and one is a designated celebration day. Each of the 19 actual lessons include a 2-3 page written text lesson and a coinciding project. Projects vary, making the optional final resulting lap-book an enjoyable experience to both make and to review at a later time. I encourage people to not overlook the value of a good lap-book. Every time Bookworm Beauty shares her U.S. Elections lap-book with a guest or a friend (or reminiscing by herself) she gets an opportunity to share what she had learned. It serves as a visual outline to a well written speech for her as she recalls many facts and explains each project piece, lifting flaps and opening mini-books. We look forward to assembling The American Revolution lap-book as a family. I imagine that it will become a coffee table conversational centerpiece for quite a while.

In total, there are less than 60 pages of text to be read, covering the American Revolution events during the time period between 1600-1800, from the first colony through to the Constitutional Convention. We have learned about the Boston Tea Party, the early struggles of the nation, some of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions, many famous individuals that we did not previously know, and so much more! We did not sit down and complete this program one lesson at a time; reading the text and working on a project. We took the text with us on a road trip and read over half of it together, discussing things along the way. We recently read several of the Rush Revere books which covered some of the same material, so our discussions were lively as the kids recalled many details.

During the last week we have taken the time to work on the projects that coincided with the pages that we already read. It has been fun to remember details as we sit around the table together, coloring lap-book pieces. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we have not gotten very far as the kids got sidetracked with the Tax Game! There are three board games that can be made: The Tax Game, Battle Blitz Game and Liberty at Last Game. We have had to refrain ourselves from assembling the other games and getting ahead of ourselves, but have really enjoyed understanding the frustration and dynamics that came along with the immense taxation.

Our favorite lesson, thus far, was lesson 12: Let Freedom Ring! It certainly helped that we celebrated our nations birthday during the review period. We reminisced about how we often read the story of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day and His death and resurrection on Easter, yet we have never read the Declaration of Independence as part of our 4th of July celebration, until this year! This will be a new annual tradition for us, thanks to Home School in the Woods!

Another aspect of Home School in the Woods worth mentioning is that they offer a plethora of hands-on-learning activity-based History resources. They also offer A La Carte items such as printable game boards, file folder studies, mini-studies, timelines, and more. One could find a great addition to almost any history study. At this time, anyone can use the code alacarte at checkout to get the Erie
Canal project on that page for free!

It has been an amazing journey walking through the events of our beloved country’s birth and early years. We just might move on to the Time Travelers: The Early 19th Century, if I can work myself up to acceptance of the amount of work spent in preparation alone.

Retaining Historical Facts Does Not Need to be Arduous

Adventures of Rush Revere book series was provided to us through our

participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Having three students between early elementary and middle school, I often find myself striving to ensure that all of them are retaining important facts and details when we study something together, which is often. We do not go lightly on the youngest and place a significantly heavier load upon the oldest, rather we look at our school like a one-roomed-all-ages school house of the pioneer days. This means that while we continue our Early American History studies, all three are working on the same time period and covering the same facts. This is where the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series by Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh comes in.

History is history. There are many facts and details, each important in their own way. Sometimes the focus is on a date, a time period, an individual or group of peoples. Other times the focus is on objects or industrial advancements. Lists of facts and figures end up as nothing but details when there is no framework, much like a uncolored coloring page. Historical fiction is a way to illuminate details, filling in the blanks, and breathing life into history by allowing you to witness events unfold. The Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series did exactly that for us, enabling us to witness many events as if we were present when they happened.

The book series consists of five books covering important details from the initial pilgrimage to the New World through to the birth of democracy and the first presidency. To start with, the presentation of the book series was absolutely stunning as they were tied together with Rush Revere ribbon and a perfect bow. These details were noteworthy. Opening a box to find a collection tied together so meticulously led us to feel as though we were receiving a gift of History, which we were. The presentation alone fueled our desire to jump right in, which the kids did as they confiscated the ribbon and began to peruse the hardback books ranging between 200 and 250 pages, each covered in it’s own vibrant full-colored book cover.

There was a bit of a struggle within myself to not hoard these books and read them by myself. As a family, we are always looking for good books to read aloud together. It had already been decided, prior to receiving the books, that the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series would become a family read aloud, pushing the other lineup of great books farther down the list.

We started at the beginning with Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims. As we stepped upon the Mayflower with Rush, suddenly the images in our mind of that event began to be colored in. We studied the pilgrimage this last year, setting the foundation of a wonderful historical fiction novel to bring it to life for us.

Rush Revere is a modern day substitute history teacher that has a unique pet, a special horse named Liberty. Liberty has special skills of being able to talk and also travel through time. History class comes to life when Rush and Liberty bring two students, Tommy and Freedom, back in time. Tommy accompanies Rush and Liberty aboard the Mayflower, experiencing the 65-day, 3,000 mile journey alongside the Puritans and the Strangers. Later, both Freedom and Tommy join Rush and Liberty on additional visits, experiencing part of the first winter alongside the young settlement; learning about the frustrations, and failures, of the Common House; meeting with Squanto and Somoset; celebrating the first Thanksgiving – a harvest festival – and much more.

We have not completed the second book in the series, Rush Revere and the First Patriots, as a family. However, we have met Benjamin Franklin, learned about his many inventions and have followed him to the Westminster Palace in England to address the Stamp Act. We are anxious to finish the second book which looks as though it will take us through the Boston Tea Party. I am looking forward to reading the the remaining three books and experiencing the Midnight Ride in Rush Revere and the American Revolution; witness top secret conventions and meet Francis Scott Key and Betsy Ross in Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner; and lastly, witness firsthand what made our first president, George Washington, a great leader  in Rush Revere and the Presidency.

One of my favorite parts about this book series is that there are many knowledge nuggets littered throughout the whole book. Common language of the time period is taught. We have been introduced to muskets; learned about parchments sealed with beeswax or resin and have been taught to use herring as garden fertilizer. Most importantly though, we are enjoying the experience of our Early American History through stories that bring the experiences to life.

We were outside working in the garden a few days ago when Sweetness asked me if we had a way to get some herring for fertilizer. At first I chuckled, but then I smiled as I realized that she learned this through our reading of the Adventures of Rush Revere. I was delighted to pull out a bottle of organic fish emulsion for us to use in the garden. It may be small, or even considered unimportant in the study of American History, but she learned it which is not unimportant.

We will continue reading the rest of this series, and then we will be looking for someone to share these with. Some books are simply too good to keep tucked away on a bookshelf and are better shared!

 

 

Curing the Summer Lulls: A Review

As our school year was winding down and the sunshine was beckoning us to come outdoors to play, the kids were beginning to show severe signs of cabin school fever; that point where it seems as though suddenly everything they have learned, like basic math principles, are missing. As Sweetness was in a constant state of squirming in her chair, K5 Learning‘s online program showed up to her rescue.

Okay, things may not have been quite this drastic this year, but truly, K5 Learning has brought us an easy solution to our summer woes. As homeschoolers, we are not tied to the typical school calendar but the world around us seems to still have that influence on us. We lessen our schedule, tremendously, but education is a way of life for us year round. This allows much more freedom for us, as the kids’ learning continues instead of spending the first month back to school reviewing what was learned the previous year that was also forgotten over the summer.

K5 Learning is an online subscription-based supplemental program providing materials for K5 Reading, K5 Math, and K5 Spelling. Although this is our summer hero, it would be a great reinforcement for students needing a supplement anytime of the year. Subscriptions can be purchased either monthly ($14.95 first child/$9.95 additional children) or annually ($119 first child/$79 additional children.) They also offer a FREE 14-day trial, so there is no risk in finding out if it is right for you. Although K5 Learning is primarily an interactive online program, they also offer FREE worksheets  for anyone, anytime. Worksheets are available on subjects such as Math, Grammar, Comprehension, Cursive Writing and even flash cards.

After we received access to K5 Learning, we proceeded to set up our account, which was a simple process. I had to set up the parent account and then create the student accounts. Sweetness was able to choose her own login name so she became a superhero; Sweetness is now Airtrin when she is doing K5 Learning. I think they empowered her super powers too, because she seems to be laser focused when doing this program!

Our next stop was to take the assessments. I liked that although you select a grade level for your student, the system still has them take an assessment to determine where exactly in that grade level he or she needs to be. This allows for a student to get reinforcement where needed and not having to complete the level from step one,which could be unnecessary review for some kids. Your kids are likely to start right where they need to, once they complete their assessments.

Although I am singing the praises of K5 Learning, and the assessments, I have to admit that we experienced great frustration with the assessment process. I set Airtrin up to take the Math assessment and proceeded to work on other things. When I came back into the room, she was in tears. She is a sensitive, yet diligent child. Since she knew this was something she was supposed to do, she will do it to completion even if she is struggling along the way. She does not stop and get help or tell us that she can not do it, she continues to work through tears. After noticing her frustration I found that the assessment was asking questions that she had no idea of the concept, yet alone the answer. They may not have even been grade level questions. The questions presented were multiple choice, however and she was frustrated that she could not determine which answer to select. I was surprised to find that there was not a way to skip the problem or identify that she does not know the answer and move on. For some kids, this would be fine and they would pick any random answer and keep moving. For her, it was a roadblock. We stopped the assessment and emailed support at K5 Learning.

This is where K5 Learning really shines. I immediately received a response back from support informing me that the assessment is created this way because many students will pick the path of least resistance instead of pushing themselves to try. If there is a skip button or a way to indicate that he or she does not know the answer, students will likely select that when they are unsure of themselves. They gave us two options. We could persevere and select any random answer on those questions and finish the assessment or we could avoid the assessment altogether and move on into the program for the overall grade level.

Airtrin and I talked it over and we decided to persevere. I stayed with her this time and when she came upon an problem that she had absolutely no clue of what was even being presented, I encouraged her to just pick an answer and move on. This was still a struggle for her, picking any answer is just not her style but we persevered anyway. I did notice that there were a few times that she randomly chose the right answer and I worried that it would throw off the assessment so I contacted support again to ask about that possibility and I again received an almost immediate response from them with assurance that the system has built in features to allow for false positives.

Upon completion of her assessments, I received an email (again immediately) with the assessment results. This provided us with valuable feedback as to her overall progress in these subject areas, which I appreciated. It also helped us to identify which worksheets would be good for her if we chose to print some. She logged back into her account and started with the lessons that were provided for her and has been off and running since.

Although we have spent a majority of time on the Math section of K5 Learning, because that is where our greatest needs are, they also have a Reading section. Airtrin completed that assessment too.

For me, the FREE worksheets and the ease of use for my child are a great plus but the greatest feature is being able to have an accessible customer support team that is quick to respond to inquiries and eager to provide solutions. I believe that this is the most important aspect of any online program and K5 Learning has raised the bar!

We have enjoyed using K5 Learning as a supplement to our homeschool. Airtrin has been eager to get online and work through her lessons now that the sun is shining and she wants to get outside to play, as if pencil and paper in her math workbook is that much more difficult. Nonetheless, it is a great change of pace and she is getting to work on getting reinforcement on the targeted areas. We both appreciate that she can login, spend 30 minutes on K5 Learning and get the reinforcement that she needs before heading outdoors for her summer adventures!

 

 

Excellent Family Read Aloud: America’s 16th President

One of our favorite family pastimes is finding a good book for a family read-aloud. We have read many fabulous books over this last year and were searching for another good book when we were given the opportunity to review a book from YWAM Publishing  Heroes of History collection, Heroes of History- Abraham Lincoln: A New Birth of Freedom written by Janet and Geoff Benge.

This is our second Heroes of History book that we have had the pleasure of reading. The collection includes 26 titles of various historical figures, providing a narrative of the hero’s life and coloring in the details of American History, bringing it to life for both young and old alike.

The 5×8 inch paperback book is a 218-page engaging historical story documenting the life of Abraham Lincoln. The first half is dedicated to his early life, before politics, allowing the reader to realize that he was a person just like you and I. He was a fairly average child for his time and faced many of life’s unexpected ups and downs. Although this is an easy read that could be read over a few sittings, our family took our time reading a chapter a night over the course of a few weeks.

Along with the book, we were provided a downloadable study guide ($5.49 value) that has helped us take our reading to an even deeper level. Included in the pdf files are three overviews providing an outline for using the book in a classroom, a group or in a homeschool setting. We, of course, used the 24-page Homeschool Overview which outlined ways for using the Heroes of History Program as a U.S. History curriculum, a supplement to other subject areas, or for family read-alouds. Also included is a 64-page Unit Study guide that includes chapter questions, project ideas, field-trip ideas, additional resources and more.

Most nights, Handsome would read Abraham Lincoln to our kids (7, 8, and 11), and me. We would pause periodically to talk about things as we went along. For example, one night we were reading about Abe’s $50 annual salary as a postmaster, at a time when mailing a sheet of paper thirty miles cost six cents! Although six cents does not seem like much, even the kids recognized the expense when it is compared to such a small salary of less than a single dollar per week. We also found it interesting to learn that unlike today, it was the letter recipients that paid for postage, not the sender. We appreciated this details which gave us a greater understanding of the overall time period.

After reading, we would look over the chapter questions from the study guide to facilitate further discussion. Although every question was relevant, our favorites were defining words and challenging each other to use them throughout the day: words like spittoon, droll, and erroneous.

We have enjoyed getting a chance to see Abraham Lincoln as more than just America’s sixteenth president. He was an average boy that suffered many losses in his life. He was also entrepreneurial, always thinking outside of the box and longing to do more with his life. He was known for his honesty and he was a remarkable leader.

At a mere $7.50 (YWAM pricing), these Heroes of History books are worth adding to your home library. The next one on our list to read is Orville Wright.

Captain Absolutely: A Superhero Worthy of Being Looked Up To

 

The Boy (6) eagerly checked the mailbox for several days as he anxiously anticipated the arrival of our recent review product, Captain Absolutely by Focus On The Family. You would have thought it was Christmas the day that the book finally arrived!

Although a first grader and a decent reader, immediately The Boy let Bookworm Beauty (11) read it aloud to him. I am pretty sure that she forcibly suggested doing so, but regardless when I turned around I found two kiddos snuggled up on the couch reading together. Before long, Sweetness had found her way into the readers circle and together they took it all in. I am not certain how much they read that afternoon, but they remained in their positions on the couch for quite some time.

The following day, we had a houseful of kids and the sun was shining radiantly as most everyone enjoyed the fantastic spring day. I then noticed that Bookworm Beauty and her friend (13) were sitting on the couch reading it aloud with each other! I had to chuckle. It was one of those fun sights to see but I had to force them to stop and get outside to enjoy the beautiful day.

The Boy spots Captain Absolutely on the New Releases shelf at the Focus On The Family Bookstore

Bookworm Beauty took it upon herself to read the entire book within the first few days of us having it. She admitted to me that she had been just as anxious for it’s arrival as The Boy was. Over the last several months she had been reading snippets of the comic in the Focus On The Family Clubhouse Magazine that we receive whenever we visit the Focus On The Family center in Colorado Springs.

Most of the book has been read to The Boy by Bookworm Beauty. I finally got a chance to sit down with The Boy and do some reading and found the story a bit choppy. I can not help it, I have never been one to enjoy comics. I have been told that it is not choppy it is simply a comic book. Ok, I stand corrected! The story itself seemed well written and is about a superhero named Captain Absolutely who fights against relativism with God’s Word (truth). The book retails at $9.99 and the suggested age range is 8-12 years old, which is a perfect fit for my family. The Boy is almost seven and although he had a difficult time reading the book alone, he had no difficulty following along and enjoying it being read to him.

As a Christian parent, I really appreciate God’s Word woven throughout the entire story. There are several bible verses laced throughout the entire book and the gospel message of salvation is shared.

Captain Absolutely has found it’s permanent home on the The Boy’s beside bookshelf alongside his bible. I imagine this is a book that he will read and reread and continue to enjoy.

Move over Wheaties!

We have been starting the day the best way possible, nourishing our body and our minds by breaking the fast the right way with healthy proteins, minimal carbohydrates and Algebra for Breakfast. My children have truly enjoyed our review of Algebra For Breakfast Grades 3/4 and Grades 5/6 math enrichment programs.

Bob Hazen has a wonderful and simple way of teaching various math concepts that help us to fully understand math. All three of my kids are fairly confident in math and rarely are they struggling to grasp mathematical concepts. However, his methods of teaching concepts, even some that they already knew, deepened their understanding and moved them from grasping to mastering. A good example of this is his lesson titled First Name, Last Name. He explains that virtually everything in the world around us has both a first name and a last name. The wooden table: first name wooden, last name table; the red blocks: first name red, last name blocks; Sally Smith: first name Sally and last name Smith. Math is no exception. The first name of anything mathematical is the number itself or how many; while the last name is what it is. This is a foundational concept that helped my children understand the importance of grouping like things while working through math problems.

Algebra for Breakfast provides lessons for 3/4 grades or 5/6 grades and teaches the use of hands-on manipulatives  to further understanding and enable mastery. The 164-piece set of math manipulatives by Mortenson Math, math dice and their skip counting CD is necessary for completing the program and is available for $122 (includes shipping and the first month of access to Algebra for Breakfast lessons). A reduced package is available for individuals that already own the Mortenson Math manipulatives and includes the dice, the CD and the first month of access to lessons for $42. The last option available is for those that already own all of the manipulatives; for $22 per month.

The lessons themselves are online video clips of Bob Hazen teaching a concept to a class of kids. It is nice for viewers to be able to hear the answers to other kids’ questions when watching an authentic teaching. You also have the ability to watch and go back and review anything presented along the way. Each lesson also provides a downloadable worksheet to coincide with the concept taught.

My only frustration with this program is of the website itself. I found myself lost on this site, more than once. I quickly learned to not click on my name when I got lost. I had assumed that it would lead me to a customer portal; it did not. It took me to my dashboard where I could enter profile information and it seems to be a WordPress dashboard for the website itself. It was confusing. Oftentimes I would need to go from a grades 3/4 lesson to a grades 5/6 lesson and inevitably I would get lost somewhere. Fortunately, I would just go to the history on my address bar and find what I was looking for. For me, this was just a frustrating inconvenience that I was able to see beyond. I am not looking into this program to have a fanciful online experience but rather to have rich math lessons!

We used this program many times throughout our review period. Our kids are in grades 1, 2 and 6. We reviewed several of the grades 3/4 lessons but spent far more time viewing grades 5/6 lessons together. I found that with his instruction and our working on the worksheets together, the younger kids were able to follow along quite well. However, I would not have done this if I only had younger kids that did not already have a solid mastery of quick mental addition and a decent understanding of multiplication. For us, this worked well.

The use of the math manipulatives made this program not just easier to follow but also easier for the kids to see the mathematical concepts. These really are essential to this program and I could argue they are simply essential to math period. The more that the kids can actually experience math, the greater their mastery will be and the greater their mastery of the basic concepts the less they will struggle in all levels of math.

We enjoyed this program and will continue to work through the lessons. Move over Kix, Algebra for Breakfast is kids tested and mother approved!

The Secret Bridge: A Review

It has been a pleasure to watch our Lamplighter Publishing library grow over these last several months. I have just completed my fifth novel this year from their collection, The Secret Bridge, written by Amy Le Feuvre 1899.

The Secret Bridge is a new release from Lamplighter Publishing who is on a mission to build Christlike character one story at a time by editing and republishing quality works from years past. Each Lamplighter Publishing book I have had the privilege to read has drawn me in from the first moment I laid my eyes upon them. If it were appropriate for me to judge a book by it’s cover alone, each of their books would rank high. The Secret Bridge would certainly be no exception to that, as it is a beautiful turquoise 272-page hard back book that takes center stage as it snuggles alongside the other Lamplighter Publishing books on our shelf. The front cover displays a delicately carved inlaid scene while the bold title near the bottom  is engraved into an gold embossed banner. The hard back cover itself is of a leathery silky texture that begs you to touch and makes it very difficult to set down.

The story, The Secret Bridge, is a tale that promotes many Christlike character qualities such as diligence, perseverance and faithfulness. Bridget, a young lady left penniless and without family when she arrives in London upon her father’s death, is befriended by Godfrey Bullingham, a gentleman that takes it upon himself to see her through and makes her his wife. He leaves her comfortable and well cared for among his friends and family while he departs on sea, but begs of her to keep one small secret until his return. Being a lady of character, Bridget struggles with keeping the secret as it requires a bit of deception on her part, but she remains faithful to her husband. Throughout the course of this tale of love, Bridget finds herself learning to draw near unto God and to acquaint thyself unto Him. Her diligence and perseverance in seeking God and remaining faithful to her husband uncovers more secrets and sets her up to become a desperately needed bridge between others.

This story was a little slow-starting for me and took me longer than normal to get through the first two chapters. However, after the story moved along, I could not put it down and ended up reading the second half of the book in one afternoon!

Having been a homeschooling mother for four years after completing seven years of college myself, I have not had much time to read for pleasure. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking time out for myself to enjoy tales such as The Secret Bridge. As with all other Lamplighter Publishing books, I met knew friends in this one and was ambivalent about reading the last page and saying farewell. I long for more of the story and have to settle instead for meeting new friends once again through another Lamplighter Publishing book!