Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wisdomantics {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

My family is starting to really enjoy time spent playing board games.  We don't have a whole lot of games that actually work for all of us, but we're starting to.  Especially as the little two get bigger.

We were blessed to be able to review a game here this past week.  Wisdomantics, which is a DVD/Board game.  Fun idea.

About the game:
For 2-4 players, ages 12+
Wisdomantics–New King James Version (NKJV) is an interactive DVD board game for players of various faiths who desire to gain the vast wisdom of King Solomon. Wisdomantics-NKJV utilizes the proverbs of Solomon and blends chance, knowledge and strategy to create a fun experience while you learn! The game’s intent is to bring individuals together to learn how to cope with numerous situations in a fun and relaxed environment. Inside the box you’ll find 2 interactive DVDs with 400 questions, score cards, blessing cards, and more!

I really had no idea what I was getting myself into here.  The basic idea is that the DVD shows you a verse from Proverbs (NKJV), with usually two words missing.  Sometimes it is an entire phrase.  There are four answer choices, and you have 30 seconds to pick the right one.  If you are correct, you get the chance to move around the board and collect materials for building the Temple.

If you get it wrong, the next player has 20 seconds to try to correctly fill in the proverb.  That player can collect building materials, but they don't get the chance to move.

There are other things that happen in the game (being sent to jail) and there is some strategy involved.

I have to confess that my kids initially found this game to be less-than-fun.  Once they figured out the DVD a bit better, and people started moving around the board and collecting special cards and such, their interest picked up.

It was interesting to see who knew more from Proverbs.

Would you like to win a game of your own?  I have one to give away.  Open to US and Canada only, must be 18 to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Checkmate {a Family Christian Blogger review and giveaway}

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this CD free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program, along with the certificate I am giving away. This post does contain affiliate links.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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.”

You know those days?  The ones that start with the phone ringing at 7:30 in the morning?  I was awake, but not out of bed yet.  I answered, to discover that my husband had a flat tire on his way to work, and it was a day he simply couldn't not be there. 

So I put on some clothes, made a cup of coffee, grabbed a book, and headed out.  He was about 40 minutes away, and I did beat the tow truck.  By about an hour.  <sigh>  I spent that time going over the books for church.

An uneventful tow truck ride into Pueblo followed, where I was regaled with tales about how much the driver's ex-wife hated his driving.  I seriously considered telling him that he probably should save those stories for his male customers.  But there were some seriously funny stories in there.

Then I had this view:

It was around 10:30 at that point.  After half an hour, I found out that they needed to order the tire, and it would be there between noon and 2:00.  I had nowhere to go, so I sat and waited.

And I spent the time reading Checkmate by Steven James.  It's the seventh book in a series.  I never pick up a series with anything past maybe the second book.  But for whatever reason, when I had the chance to review this for Family Christian, it intrigued me. 

Let me quote the publisher's blurb:
In Checkmate, critically acclaimed novelist Steven James offers a climactic chapter in his bestselling series, the Bowers Files. When a clandestine FBI facility is attacked, Special Agent Patrick Bowers is drawn into the vicious, ruthless story that a killer from his past is bent on telling the world. Clues lead to long-forgotten secrets buried deep beneath Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. Now Bowers is caught up in trying to stop one of the deadliest attacks ever planned on American soil. Smart, tense, and full of mind-bending twists and turns, Checkmate explodes onto the scene, bringing this cycle of the Bowers Files to an unforgettable conclusion.
I needed a good crime drama, so I went for it.  Then I stared at the book, wondering why I had requested it.

But look at that photo up above again.

I was very glad to have a seriously tense, twisty, who-in-the-world-did-it mystery on my hands.

You spend most of the book inside the mind of Agent Patrick Bowers, as he tries to figure out what is going on.  You also spend time in the mind of The Bard -- the bad guy in this case.  And occasionally, you get inside the heads of some other characters, like Patrick's step-daughter.  Some of the jumping around was a bit confusing at first, but I quickly learned who the characters were, and it became easier to shift from one point-of-view to another.

Knowing that I was reading Book #7 in a series, it was pretty easy to spot a number of places where there were references to previous stories in the series.  I am quite certain that I would have enjoyed this book more had I read #1-6, and I probably would have kept up with who was who a lot better.  However, it really didn't take long to have a good idea as to some of the history, and I didn't feel I was totally missing out by starting here.

I ended up quite absorbed in the story, I must say.  Sometimes I thought I knew what was going to happen next, but mostly I kept ending up surprised at how things were turning out.  It was a great read.

When I came up for air, I was still staring at the same empty chairs I posted above.  And it was 4:00.  I was thirsty, I was hungry, and I wasn't all that happy to have to return to my real life.  As it turns out, about a half hour later they finished with the car, I headed to a grocery store, and drove home.

A long day.

But it was a fantastic book.

I have the opportunity to give away a $10 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate.  You could use it to purchase the book, or to get something else completely.

Like the first book in the series.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 8, 2014

Susie's Hope {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

My family is almost always up for a DVD review.  Especially solid family-friendly movies with great messages.

Susie's Hope intrigued me, but my teen boys pretty much abandoned the living room in favor of a Sunday afternoon nap when I put it in.  So I watched it, along with the 8- and 10-year olds, and my husband.  The four of us enjoyed it (and I think the teens would have too, had they given it a bit of time).

The movie is described like this:
An extraordinary story based on true events, Susie’s Hope follows a family who triumphs over tragedy and changes lives in their community. A survivor of a horrific pit bull attack, Donna Lawrence, adopts a pit bull-mix puppy, Susie, that has been beaten, set on fire and left for dead. Together, they learn to heal, love and forgive as they lead a historic effort to seek justice and protection for all animals.
So -- a heads up.  If you have particularly sensitive kids, you might want to preview this.  It is based on a true story, and some of the events are really awful.  If you don't believe me, go back up and read the movie description above.)  My nearly 9-year-old was a bit upset, but she did tell me that it was worth watching in the end.  Just that, "next time, I don't want to watch the beginning."

Another warning and a bit of a spoiler -- Donna loses her baby in the "horrific pit bull attack."  If you've recently suffered a miscarriage or anything similar, you might want to pass on this film right now.

With that being said, check out the trailer:

Our thoughts?

This movie was well worth watching.  I don't know all the facts behind the real story, or how closely this movie follows that.  I particularly liked that the movie was showing Donna's vulnerability and her, "why me and not my baby?" questions.

And that it showed Roy (Donna's husband) dealing with loss realistically as well.  He makes assumptions that are wrong, but totally reasonable.  He is trying to protect his wife, while also dealing with the grief of losing what he has wanted: to be a daddy.  I particularly loved that best friend Ramona doesn't lash out when Roy is upset with her, nor does she start male-bashing.

The violence that occurred is pretty horrific, but most of that is only alluded to or hinted at.  And most of the movie is about healing, believing, caring... and taking an opportunity to make a difference.

Would you like to win a copy?  I have one to give away.  Open to US and Canada only, must be 18 to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Feed My Sheep: Just what should I give?

I've posted a bunch lately about donating to food pantries and food shelves, and the important role those places play in the lives of their clients.  I've also read countless articles and blog posts talking about "the ten things you should donate" or "three things to never give" or other such things.

I'm not going to go making too many blanket statements like that.  Because what is needed in my area is going to differ from what is needed elsewhere in the country, and to be honest, what is needed in my local food pantry this month differs dramatically from what was needed a year ago, much less what was needed in June.

My basic rule of thumb for "but what should I give?" is:

If you purchase it for your family, chances are good that your nearest food pantry would love it too.

Is that always going to be true?  Of course not.  But it is a pretty good basic rule of thumb.

Some exceptions, for my food pantry, would be:
  • Rice, dry beans, etc.  We tend to be able to get 50# bags of this kind of thing, and those get divvied up into individual-sized packages, or we can purchase (cheaply) cases of 1- or 2-pound bags of pinto and kidney beans.  Plus, we have a lot of clients who do things like stock up on a 50# bag of beans when they get some extra money.  We almost always have rice and beans available (and lots of people take them).  The exception would be "fancier" stuff -- dried black beans, dried chickpeas, or another more unusual bean. 
  • Bakery items.  Breads, desserts, etc.  We get lots and lots and lots and lots of these, donated by area supermarkets, once they hit the "too old to sell" stage.  At no cost.  A lot of times, we are telling folks to "take whatever you can use before it goes bad" so this isn't a high need at our pantry.
  • Staple veggies, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and onions.  Again, we'll end up with literally a ton of potatoes.  We let people take 50# bags (plural) of potatoes home with them.  At times, we don't have any carrots, for instance, but generally speaking, those four items are things we can obtain (usually) free.  
That is probably about it, really.  And we wouldn't turn away any of the above either, but if you are going to spend money to get something for the pantry, it would be better to purchase something that we don't already have in abundance.

Some things my pantry would love (most of the time), but might not work at other pantries:
  • Frozen meat.  We have been blessed with extra freezers, and meat is something we never have enough of.  Not all food pantries have enough freezer space though.
  • Dairy items.  We have also been blessed with additional refrigerator space.  We particular love being able to give out eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, sour cream and cottage cheese.    
Really, the best thing to do, if you are looking to donate regularly to a food pantry, is to actually visit it.  Talk to not only the person in charge, but some of the regular volunteers.  Get a tour of it.  Ask them to show you what YOUR family would be able to get from the pantry if you were a customer.  And then think about what that would mean to your family. 

If possible, talk to a pantry customer too.  That can be a bit touchier, obviously.  But it has the potential to give you quite the insight.

My list of what you shouldn't give to the pantry:
  • Food you know (or suspect) is bad.  
  • Food that the pantry cannot store.
  • Food the pantry cannot distribute (check with them if you want to donate game or home-processed items of any sort).
  • Food that has been opened.
That's it.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Gospel of John by Lumo Project #JohnOnNetflix

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And so begins a rather amazing book.

The Gospel of John.

The Lumo Project has an ambitious goal -- to present each of the Gospels as full-length films, beautifully filmed, and using only the biblical text.

I have had the opportunity to watch an online screening of The Gospel of John.  I chose to watch this in NIV, narrated by British actor David Harewood.  He did an excellent job.

This film is based on the latest theological, historical and archaeological research.

The scenery is magnificent:

The story is even more magnificent.

Seriously, how much better can it get than straight out of the Bible?

The Gospel of John is available now on Netflix.  Everyone should see this.  In addition to the NIV version, you can also see it in KJV (narrated by Brian Cox), or in Spanish in the Reina Valera 1960 version.

You can visit them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

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 preview in exchange for a review.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Using a Kindle Fire with my Struggling Readers

Today, there are going to be a number of bloggers writing up some stories about what they love about using tablets -- especially Kindle Fires -- in their homeschooling.  I'm sure those will be wonderful, showcasing some fantastic apps, or highlighting how you can use it for listening to audio (Bible Memory verse CDs come to mind), or about all the amazing ebooks out there.

I agree with those reasons.
Kindle ebook

But I want to tell you why my family owns multiple Kindle Fires (four of them) and how one changed the life of my 16-year-old.

Two years ago, we pooled together gift money in order to purchase a Kindle Fire for William for his 14th birthday.  It seemed a rather extravagant gift at the time.  What pushed me to make this purchase was the brand-new Immersion ability of the Kindle Fire.

You may have heard of the Whisper-Sync ability with the Kindle Fires.  Switch back and forth from ebook to audiobook.  Neat feature, but not something I need.  And my old Kindle Fire (that would be the #1 Fire) could do that.

The very, very cool aspect, though, is that that same technology lets you listen to the audiobook while reading the ebook.  And the words in the ebook are highlighted as the professional narrator reads the audiobook.

That's magic. Let me show you:


I have a couple of kids who really struggle with reading.  One was diagnosed as severely dyslexic.  He loves great literature -- especially when I read it aloud, or we get an audiobook.  But he struggles so much to read the material himself.  Two years ago, when we bought the new and improved Kindle Fire, he was turning 14, and reading fairly comfortably at about a 4th grade level.  He could struggle through material -- v-e-r-y---s-l-o-w-l-y -- for middle school.  And his comprehension was good, because he really is a smart kid.

We got the Kindle Fire (that would be #2), and I loaded it up with the cheap books.  Books where you could get the ebook free, and then get the Audible book for $1 or even free.  Tale of Two Cities was the first one he chose to read/listen.

He. Loved. It.

He read through that book three or four times in four months, plus read some other materials too.  We had tried this on our own, with an audiobook and a physical book.  Good, but not great.  With Immersion, he can daydream for a couple of minutes, or be distracted, or whatever... and glance back down, and the words are highlighted so he knows where he is.  He doesn't have to scan pages of text to figure out where he is.

That means he is truly reading for at least a pretty big chunk of the book.

The moment I knew that this Kindle Fire was worth every. single. penny?  We were driving down the road about five months after his 14th birthday.  One thing that used to worry me, when I'd get to thinking about it, was how in the world he was ever going to drive.  Not the driving part... the reading signs as they fly by on the road.  I really did not think I could possibly get him to a point where he could do that.

On that early spring day, he started reading signs to me as we passed them.

I had to struggle to not break down sobbing.  I did, later, when he wasn't around (and when I wasn't driving!)  The only thing we had done differently during those few months was using the Immersion feature on the Kindle Fire.

It's been two years, almost to the day, since he got that Kindle.  He's in high school, and he's reading things like Aeschylus' Oresteia and Sophocles' Oedipus.  Last quarter, he went through all of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey using immersion.  But this quarter, I couldn't find audio versions.  So he is reading them himself.

To recap:  two years ago, he couldn't read road signs while we were driving, and he was reading around a 4th grade level.  Now, he's reading Sophocles independently.  Sophocles, by the way, pops up as "college level" for reading levels, when I went searching.  

Needless to say, last November, another struggling reader son received a Kindle Fire (#3) for his 13th birthday, primarily so he could do the "Immersion thing" too.  His reading has improved dramatically over the last year as well.

And to round it out with #4, since my Fire couldn't do the immersion thing, at one point last spring, they had a deal of the day going on refurbished Fires.  So I bought myself a new one, which is what is in the video above.

Kindle Fires are far less expensive now than they used to be.  But they can still be out of reach.  Do you want a chance to win one?

Christmas Fire Giveaway

The Crew is on hiatus from writing reviews until January. So while we have a little time on our hands, we thought we'd bless our awesome readers with a super cool Christmas Fire Giveaway! Twenty of our team members and The Old Schoolhouse have joined together to sponsor this incredible giveaway with 3 winners!

We are excited to be giving away not one, not two, but THREE Fire HD Tablets!

One person will win a Fire HD 7 Tablet, and TWO people will win a Fire HD 6 Kid's Edition (in your choice of lime green, blue or pink).

Fire HD 7 Tablet ($139 value, one winner)

Powerful, full-featured Fire HD tablet—with beautiful 7" HD display, 2x faster quad-core processer, dual speakers with Dolby Audio, and unsurpassed reliability in its class.

Fire HD 6 Kid's Edition ($149 value, two winners)

All-new Fire HD 6 tablet—with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee—up to $95 in savings


To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. The winner will be announced at our It's a Crew Christmas Facebook Party on Tuesday, December 16, 9PM ET.

RSVP for the Christmas Party.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions:

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Amazon. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn. Entry into this giveaway will subscribe you to the Schoolhouse Review Crew email list.

Sponsoring Crew Bloggers

Only Passionate Curiosity
I Choose Joy!
Homeschool Encouragement
Ben and Me
The Potter's Hand Academy
As We Walk Along the Road
Adventures with Jude
A Mama's Story
Kathys Cluttered Mind
Footprints in the Butter
Crystal Starr
Lextin Academy
Living Life and Learning
My Harbor Lights
Our Homeschool Studio
Pea of Sweetness
Embracing Destiny
Be The One
Simple Living Mama

Our team of bloggers will be sharing about how tablets can be used in homeschooling, and linking up their posts here for you to learn more.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Word Up! The Vocab Show {a review}

Word Up! The Vocab Show from Compass ClassroomI have a new favorite vocabulary program.  So do my kids.  All of them, ages 8 to 17.

Word Up! The Vocab Show is simply fantastic.

But anything by Compass Classroom is likely to be.  Especially anything that features Dwane Thomas.

Right now, Compass Classroom is having a huge Black Friday sale, with everything on sale for 30 to 50% off.  So it is the perfect time to purchase Word Up! as it is only $10.50 right now.  That's about $1 per lesson, and totally affordable.

Each $1 (and five cents) lesson covers a single English word -- like "write" in the second lesson.  You learn the Latin root (scribo/scriptum) and the Greek root (grapho).  For each root, you learn TEN English words (proscribe, cacography).  So that is about a nickel per vocabulary word right now.  Even when not on sale, we talking $15 for the whole thing.  A bargain, I tell you.

Each lesson includes a video that is around 15 minutes in length, and it features a few characters, all played by Dwane.  After the video, you also have access to Quizlet for more workbook-ish work with the ten words for the Latin root, and another Quizlet area for the ten words for the Greek root.

Before I go further, here is the very first lesson:

How it works:

So, the "characters" in the video include:

The guy who introduces each word.  In this case, he's introducing the word "time."  This guy is definitely goofy.  In this video, he's taking his kids (off-screen) to explore London.  This segment is only around 45 seconds, before the opening credits.

The announcer.  Suit and tie, in studio, he's the guy who transitions between the various segments and provides commentary on the strange antics of the first guy.  We see him in between pretty much everything.  In this particular video, he's complaining about how much we must be spending to send that first guy to London.  He also wants to know why he doesn't have a clock anywhere in the studio.  Then we get to the meat of the lesson.

Here we have the Latin Expert.  He gives us the Latin root, always in front of cool Roman backgrounds.  He then goes through ten vocabulary words, with sometimes offbeat comments about the words, and always there is something in the background to help you to figure out the words too.  Some of the words are fairly common, some are more obscure or specialized.  Words for Tempus include temporary, contemporary, extemporaneous, temporal, atemporal, tempo, tense, temporize, contretemps, tempest.

In this lesson, he talks about how a word like tense (present tense, past tense, future tense) did come from tempus through French, and that is why it doesn't LOOK like it comes from tempus.  He tells a joke, and comments on how that joke works because tense has another meaning too (tension), and that tense also comes from Latin, but not through French this time.

After a trip back to the announcer, who now has a pink clock, we head on.

The final character is the Greek Expert.  As you can see above, you get to see the Greek root in both Greek and English letters.  That is something we really appreciate.  Again, we get great Greek backgrounds for the first part of his segment.  Again, the words range from fairly common (though not really common in this particular lesson) to more obscure.  The words included in this lesson are Chronos, crony, chronic, chronicle, chronology, chronograph, chronometer, anachronism, synchronize, and diachronic.

In talking about the various words, The Greek Expert covers all kinds of material, not just short little definitions. What shows up in the background varies a lot -- a statue of Father Time (Chronos), a photo of the White House (crony), an x-ray of a knee (chronic), a map of Narnia (chronicle), a gorgeous historical timeline (chronology), a timepiece (chronograph), another timepiece (chronometer), a Pilgrim with modern glasses and a camera (anachronism), video of swimmers and divers (synchronize), and various pages written in English from long ago (diachronic).

For many of those, there were other images too.  And The Greek Expert's explanations make the background pictures make sense.

And the end of the episode, we go back to the Announcer, who can't get his pink alarm clock to stop.

The videos are a little silly, but very memorable.  Everyone here, from the 8-year-old to Mom and Dad, love them.  Dumb jokes, fun little comments, interesting trivia related to the words, all combine to make the words stick.

Of course, then you go to Quizlet to cement that knowledge.  I do not have the 8- and 10-year-olds doing Quizlet independently.  The teens all certainly can though.

In Quizlet, you can look at a nice, dictionary-style list of the words.  You can do flashcards.  You can do various exercises that have you typing the word from the written definition, or from listening to it.

There is a test, which I really love.  You can choose what types of questions it will ask, so if I do have the younger two use this, I just make sure they don't have to do the "written questions" format, and instead they get multiple choice, matching, and/or true false.  The student can do the work on the computer, or you can print the tests.  I love that, except that then I have to grade it.

There are also a couple of games, but we don't tend to use those.

My bottom line:

I LOVE THIS PRODUCT.  Everyone needs this.  Seriously.

My kids' bottom line:

"Mom, promise you'll buy any more of these that come out."  Need I say more?  My kids have really learned the words in the lessons.  The elementary kiddos don't necessarily "own" the obscure words, but they really know the more common ones, and most of the sort of obscure ones.  The teens (who are actually more of the target audience) truly learned the words.

This is available as a download -- which I love, as I can easily put the video onto the iPad or computer -- or as a DVD.  Same $15 regular price, though you need to add shipping for a DVD. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the download of this course from Compass Classroom. This post does contain affiliate links.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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.”