Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Snow Day!

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that when it snows, we can still get to school.

One of the downsides of homeschooling is that when it snows, we can still get to school.

Well, yesterday, we decided to take the day off just because we could.

We played games, we watched Star Wars, we baked brownies.

It was a very nice day.

We need more days like that.  But for today, we are probably getting back to school.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Plans I Have for You Devotional and Journal {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

My daughter, who is about to turn 10, has been wanting to do something for a devotional that is just hers, and she has suddenly decided she loves to journal.

The problem is that I don't have anything around that appeals to her, and she isn't very good at journaling unless someone gives her a starting point.

So when I was asked if I wanted to review The Plans I Have For You Devotional (meant for ages 8-12) and The Plans I Have For You Journal (meant for ages 11-14), you better believe I jumped at it.

About The Plans I Have For You Devotional
The devotional is an illustrated 90-day devotional written by bestselling children's book author Amy Parker and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, teaching and inspiring kids to dream about their future, to focus on faith, love, and joy, and recognize that God has a plan and purpose for each and every one of us.  

Hardcover; 160 pages
Age Range: 8-12 years
Trina is loving the devotional.  Each day's reading is quite short, as in 1-3 pages. There are six "sectors" which are broad topics, with 15 devotions per sector.  Those include:
  1. I've Got Big Plans for YOU
  2. I've Given YOU a Purpose
  3. I Don't Do Things Small
  4. There's Nothing YOU Can't Do!
  5. Find That ONE Thing
  6. What I Created YOU to Do
Aside from the first devotional in each sector, the devotionals include a Bible verse, which is included in the devotional book in the NIV translation.  I've encouraged Trina to look the verse up in her Bible too.  Some days, she is encouraged to memorize the verse, which I do appreciate.

About The Plans I Have For You Journal:
The journal prompts creative thinking and exploration of the talents and personalities that make us special, and then helps explore how God may use our unique traits to spread love and joy and make the world a better place. 

Stationery; 208 pages 
Age Range: 11-14 years 
The Journal is intended for someone a bit older than Trina, but she does like it.  When I asked her what she thought, she told me, "It isn't something I can look at and just write something.  Everything... well, everything so far... always is something I have to think about.  I guess that is good."
I think it is great.  

It isn't necessarily completely intuitive as to how the Journal goes along with the Devotional.  We decided it looks like a 2-page spread is intended to be done per day in the journal, to keep moving alongside the Devotional.  The Journal does include the same Sectors as the Devotional, and one thing I like since she actually started using this is that she gets to see the verses on different days.  For instance, John 3:16 is covered in Day 12 of the Devotional, and then you think about it on Day 15 in the Journal.

I think that the preview or review approach is really nice.

I have a copy to give away!  US and Canada only, please.

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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Principles of Mathematics, Book 1 {a Master Books review}

A Christian math program.

I'll confess, I was hugely skeptical. 


My experience with allegedly Christian math programs isn't good.  A couple word problems that deal with multiplying fish or dividing sheep from goats.  A couple of seemingly random Bible verses on the page.  How does that make it Christian?  I don't get it.

I didn't expect much more from Principles of Mathematics, Book 1, to be honest.  Because it is put out by MasterBooks, I was intrigued.  But not really hopeful.

I did something I never do.  I requested a product, expecting that I was going to be writing a not-that-positive review.

Katherine Loop surprised me. 

From the publisher:
Katherine Loop has done the remarkable! She has written a solid math course with a truly Biblical worldview. This course goes way beyond the same old Christian math course that teaches math with a few Scriptures sprinkled in and maybe some church-based word problems. This course truly transforms the way we see math.

Katherine makes the argument that math is not a neutral subject as most have come to believe. She carefully lays the foundation of how math points to our Creator, the God of the Bible. The nature of God, His Creation, and even the Gospel itself is seen through the study of math. Katherine does a marvelous job of revealing His Glory in this one-of-a-kind math course.

Katherine Loop's Principles of Mathematics Biblical Worldview Curriculum is a first of its kind. It takes math to a whole new level students and parents are going to love. It is a guaranteed faith grower!

Our thoughts:

I ended up making both my 9th and 10th grader do this course.  They are both beyond it, really, in some sense.  But they also both need a bit more of the foundational concepts of math.  They get the big picture pretty well, but they both struggle with details. 

What you get is an over 400-word textbook that contains the bulk of the course and can easily be used by multiple students.  In addition, there is the student workbook, which is consumable. 

The text is split into 21 chapters, and each chapter is dividing into a number of individual sections.  For a full one-year course, the idea is to usually be doing a section each day.  Each section is a few pages of reading, often with some problems and examples being worked out.

The workbook is 3-hole punched, which is handy.  It includes two schedules for the text, worksheets for each section, quizzes for each chapter, tests for each quarter, a final exam, and the answer key.

I love the schedules.  The first has the student completing the material over the course of a 36-week year, and would be great for a middle school student.  I plan to have my 6th grader start it that way in January.  This has the student usually working through a section a day, but sometimes they read a section one day and do the worksheet the following day.  Study days are also built into the schedule.

The second schedule is to complete the material in a semester, and that is the schedule my high schoolers are following.  Normally, they are working through a couple of sections in a day, and many of the study days are in addition to working in a section.  Tests still get their own day and are not combined with any other work.  This pace has been great for us.

What about the content though?

This does cover the general stuff you expect a pre-algebra course to cover.  A review of basic operations, mental math, multi-digit multiplication and division, fractions, factors, decimals, ratios, proportions, and percents.  At some point, depending on what you've used in elementary years, it starts introducing new concepts, such as negative numbers, sets, statistics, and graphing.  Geometry, including distance, perimeter and area is covered.  Then you get into things like exponents, square roots, scientific notation, before going back to more complex geometry like triangles, volume, angles, and a chapter called Congruent and Similar.  The final chapter is a review.

The material is covered in a conversational style that frequently addresses why in the world you would need to know this.  I think that could help ME when we get to the geometry portion.  I have a hard time grasping content unless I understand why I might care. 

That conversational style makes some complicated concepts a lot easier to understand too.  She refers to math concepts as tools in a toolbox.  Some tools like a basic screwdriver or addition are ones you will pull out all the time.  Some tools are more specialized, and wonderful when you need them, but you aren't going to need them every week.

Along those lines, I really loved that in the mental math section, she gives ideas, makes them use that particular technique... and then when reviewing mental math later, most of the time you are told to use whatever method you want to.

What about the "Christian Worldview" aspect?

I'm going to be blunt and say, "This course is not for everyone."

My oldest two sons and I have just finished taking a live class using the Thinking Like a Christian materials put out by Summit Ministries.  One huge point made in that class was that God created everything, and there is no such thing as a separation between secular and sacred.  God is part of it all, and that applied to theology, biology, ethics, history, politics, law, psychology... everything.

Our instructor never applied it to math, though.  But math is part of everything, so that idea does still hold true.  This book does that.  God created a consistent universe, and holds it all together.  That is why we are able to discover laws of nature and laws of math.  We attach labels to these concepts, but ultimately, the only reason we can do things like memorize the fact that 2+3=5 is that God created that consistency in the first place.  Two and three was five yesterday, it is five today, and tomorrow we aren't going to wake up and find that has changed either.

The first two chapters of the book have a lot of discussion about this kind of thing, but it comes up in later chapters too. 

With the accelerated schedule, sometimes it feels like we're being hit over the head with the same general thing, and sometimes there have been some Bible verses thrown in that seem to be a bit of a stretch.

Overall, though, we are loving it and absolutely planning to get Book 2 when we finish this one.

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

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Word of Promise New Testament {a BookLook Blogger review}

I am a bit of a print book snob.  Given a choice, I will almost always go for a physical book, one I can touch and dog-ear, and make notes in at times.  When it comes to my Bible, that is even more true.  I want to have something I can easily re-read, and write all over.

With the time spent in the car, and with a couple of dyslexic kids, I've learned to appreciate the value of good audio books.   Productions like The Word of Promise New Testament are helping me to appreciate the value of a good Audio Bible.

From the publisher:
Hear the Bible Come Alive in Dramatic Audio Theater™!

This multi-voiced, scripted dramatization of the New King James Version (NKJV) features a star-studded cast of actors, an original music score, and incredible feature film quality sound effects. This world-class production creates a dramatic audio theater experience that makes you feel like you’re really there with Jesus and His disciples. Listen in your car, on your MP3 player, or with your family or small group to gain a new perspective of the Bible.

The Word of Promise® New Testament Audio Bible is a 20-CD set and includes a bonus “Behind-the-Scenes” DVD.

Cast Includes:
  • Jim Caviezel (The Passion of The Christ, Déjà vu) - Jesus
  • Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus, The Goodbye Girl) - Quotes from Moses
  • Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, What Women Want) - Mary Magdalene
  • Golden Globe winner Stacy Keach (Prison Break, Hemingway) - Paul
  • Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman, Roots) - John
  • Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim, Father of the Bride) - Mary, Mother of Jesus
  • And many others


Our thoughts:

Given the cast list above, I knew this was going to be pretty incredible.  I was right.  And I was told in the description to expect 20 CDs, but that still didn't quite prepare me for just how long that truly is.  It comes very nicely packaged, and each CD is labeled so you know just what is on it.  CD 7 for instance, is labeled as covering Luke 14-21.

The "And many others" from the above list impressed me too, because honestly, I only recognize half of the folks named as having parts.  Other people listed on the case include:
  • Michael York - Narrator
  • Terrence Stamp - Voice of God
  • Lou Diamond Phillips - Mark
  • John Heard - Matthew
  • Ernie Hudson - Peter
  • Luke Perry - Judas and Stephen
  • John Schneider - James
  • Chris McDonald - Luke
  • Michael W Smith - Cleopas
I recognize almost all of them.

The production quality is fantastic.  Music and sound effects enhance the production without overwhelming it, and that is a big deal for me.  It is easy to pay attention, as it isn't a monotonous reading of the passages, but the drama comes through.  I have listened to (or tried to) audio Bibles in the past, read by some fantastic people, but struggled to listen for more than a few minutes.  This keeps me engaged.

This is in the NKJV, and appears to follow the text, minus some "he said" types of things.  For instance, John 7:6 reads: "Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready." On the CD, it skips the "Then Jesus said to them," part and starts with Caviezel (Jesus) saying "My time has not yet come..."

It doesn't remove all of the attributions.  It seems that it mostly the "Jesus said" ones, where you most certainly recognize the voice and clearly know who is speaking.  The bit parts are usually prefaced with the words like, "his brothers said" so you don't have to guess at context.

Excellent job, and at $25, this isn't expensive.

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ishtar's Odyssey {a Kregel Book Tour review}

I don't recall at all when we first read through Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide as an Advent devotional, but it seems it was at least a decade ago.  According to everything I see, it was published in 2008, though.  So a decade isn't possible.

Like so many other really great friendships, it just seems that these books have been part of our Advent lives forever.

Ishtar's Odyssey by Arnold Ytreeide is the fourth title in this Advent series. 

From the publisher:
A new Advent family devotional from the author of Jotham's Journey! Fourth in a set of Advent adventure books for families, Ishtar's Odyssey follows the ten-year-old son of a Persian wise man as their caravan follows a star across the desert. Ishtar would just as soon stay in the comfort of the palace, but slowly he learns that there's much to see, do, and learn in this world that can't be experienced in school. He eventually meets Jotham, Bartholomew, and Tabitha as he follows his father and uncles in their search for a newborn king.

Arnold Ytreeide's family advent devotionals have become a much-loved Christmas tradition, enjoyed by multiple generations. With over 100,000 in print they include Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage, and Tabitha's Travels.

Our thoughts:

If you've read Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage or Tabitha's Travels, you already have a pretty good idea as to what to expect.  Fairly short daily readings for the entirety of Advent, with lots of cliff-hanger endings from day to day.  The main narrative follows a child who is caught up in some aspect of the Christmas story, and that kid learns a thing or two over the course of the story in a bit of a coming-of-age series of events.  Mostly, though, it is encountering Christ, the son of God, that transforms their lives.  If you've read any of the sequels, you also know that the main character is going to encounter the kids (and other characters) from the past books as well.

A bit of a formulaic approach, sure.  But it still works.

This story focuses on the magi, the wise men from the East.  Ishtar is the rather pampered, self-important son of one of the wise men, and he isn't really a likable character at the start.  It took a bit longer than I expected for my kids to care at all for him, but eventually you can't help but get caught up in the story.

I think it is probably best to read these stories in order, but you do not have to have read the other three to enjoy this newest one.

This is a wonderful Advent tradition.  With Advent starting in just over a week, you still have time to obtain this and start in with this for your family.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another Way Home {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I started reading Deborah Raney's Chicory Inn series with the very first title, and the character I was immediately drawn to was Danae.  When I realized that each of siblings was going to have a book focused on them, I was immediately hoping the next one would be Danae's tale.

Finally, it is her turn.

Another Way Home by Deborah Raney was worth the wait.

From the publisher:
Sometimes God's ways are not at all what we expect . . . and exactly what we need.

Grant and Audrey are adding grandchildren to their family left and right, but middle daughter, Danae, and her husband, Dallas Brooks, have been trying for years with no baby in sight.

Though Danae is ready to consider adoption, Dallas will not even discuss it. Despairing of ever having a family of her own, Danae decides to pour her passion and energies into volunteer work with a newly opened women's shelter in town. Looking for a good cause to fill her lonely days, she never expects to give her heart to the hurting women she meets there. She's finally learning to live her life with gratitude, but then heart-wrenching events on Thanksgiving weekend threaten to pull the entire Whitman clan into turmoil-and leave them all forever changed.
Two Roads Home involved Danae swapping homes with her older sister, and now at the start of Another Way Home she is in this big, beautiful dream home, decorating a nursery, with no real hope of ever being able to fill it.  Danae is in full-blown feeling sorry for myself mode, and isn't a very pleasant person to be around.  Like her sisters' stories, this one has a rather unlikeable person go through some transformations during the events of the book, and end up a much more mature and all-around better person by the end.

This book touched me also because of the subject of adoption.  I have a passel of adopted cousins.  The eldest one has adopted a baby herself, from the same orphanage she had been at.  Another cousin, I just found out, is in the process of adopting an older child.  I love reading about adoption.

Unlike the other two books though, I actually liked Danae, even when she was wallowing in self-pity.

Maybe it is because I hung out in that same pity party locale years ago, where I didn't relate to the issues facing Danae's sisters.

Maybe it is that all of the characters are more fleshed out and real now in this third book.

I'm not entirely sure, but I do look forward to the next installment with the Whitman family soon. 

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

2015 Blue Ribbon Awards

Another Crew year is closing out this week, which I find really hard to believe.  Especially because effective this month, I'm leading this group.  I don't believe I've actually announced that on my blog before now.

This year has been crazy for me.  I usually end up using -- and reviewing -- quite a few products over the course of the year.  Mom died right as the reviews were truly kicking off, and it seems like I've spent all year long trying to get back on track and up to speed.  And suddenly, the year is ending.

So, while I reviewed pretty much nothing this year for the Crew, we have used a bunch of these.  So I'll be commenting on things here.

At the end of each Crew year, we get a chance to vote for our favorite products in a whole lot of categories.  Here are the results:

2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards

Favorite Reading Curriculum: Reading Kingdom
Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite Vocabulary Program: Dynamic Literacy
Favorite Spelling Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Phonetic Zoo
Favorite Grammar Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Fix-It! Grammar
Favorite Penmanship Program: CursiveLogic
Favorite Literature Curriculum: Progeny Press

Among the language arts related products, we used all of the winners, and we really did love them.

Favorite History Curriculum: Home School in the Woods
Favorite History Supplement: Heirloom Audio Productions: In Freedom's Cause
Favorite Science Curriculum: Visual Learning Systems
Favorite Science Supplement: Ann McCallum Books: Eat Your Science Homework
Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement: SimplyFun

Other core curricula are all fantastic too -- everyone was using CTC Math, Heirloom makes so many great audio dramas, Home School in the Woods is a bit overwhelming for me, but oh so worthwhile!

Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Grapevine Studies
Favorite Christian Education Supplement: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Language
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Maestro Classics
Favorite Elective Curriculum: Apologia Educational Ministries: Field Trip Journal
Favorite Audio Drama: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Video:

My one and only review is above -- Maestro Classics was simply wonderful.  The Nutcracker.  Loved that.  But we are making use of most of the other products too.

Favorite Preschool Product: La La Logic
Favorite Elementary Product: Star Toaster
Favorite Middle School Product: The Critical Thinking Co
Favorite High School Product: Writing with Sharon Watson
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Freedom Project Education
Favorite Parent Product: Koru Naturals
Favorite Planning Product: Apologia Educational Ministries: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Three of my absolute favorite products this year are in the above section.  The Critical Thinking Co. has a critical thinking title for middle school that we are absolutely loving.  Writing with Sharon Watson's Illuminating Literature is a wonderful (and boy-friendly) high school literature course.  And Koru Naturals introduced me to emu oil, something I'm not sure I could live without anymore.

Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: Homeschool Planet
Best Online Resource: Super Teacher Worksheets
Best e-Product: Home School in the Woods
Just for Fun: USAopoly
Kids' Choice: La La Logic
Teens' Choice: YWAM Publishing
All Around Crew Favorite: Institute for Excellence in Writing

I was not surprised that IEW is on the list for All Around Crew Favorite!

Members of the 2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew are sharing their thoughts about the Blue Ribbon Award winners and the companies they voted for who may not have won.  Go check that out.