Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Computer Science and Coding Big Fat Notebook

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

My husband is an extremely tech-savvy guy, so it's no surprise that an interest in technology and its workings has passed on to our kids. When we get a review that focuses on computer learning, I usually think of my oldest child as he has a growing interest in various outlets such as coding, graphics software, 3D design, and the like. The only problem for him is that many books are geared toward beginners, like this book from Workman Publishing.

Thankfully though, I have another son who is following in his steps toward being a tech guru. I knew that Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook would be a perfect option for him.

Workman Publishing was started in 1968 and has since grown to be the largest independently owned trade book publisher in the United States. They represent many well-known brands, including the best-selling Brain Quest line. The editors of those materials have created a new series called the Big Fat Notebooks. Each book acts an innovative study guide for a school subject: math, science, world history, American history, English language arts, and computer science and coding. They are designed to feel like the reader borrowed notes from the smartest student in class as there are highlighted portions, doodles, notes "taped" into the pages, and more all in a thick composition notebook format.   

Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook is the newest Big Fat Notebook and teaches key concepts while covering the basics of computer science and the fundamentals of multiple coding languages.

  • Computer Systems
  • Data and Analysis
  • Software Engineering
  • Algorithms and Programming
  • Universal Programming Principles
  • Programming with Scratch
  • Programming in Python
  • Web Development

The Big Fat Notebooks are geared toward helping middle schoolers ace their classes by making the information easy-to-understand and visually appealing. Even though my son is in only second grade, I felt confident that he could use the book since he has had a bit of experience using Scratch after watching his big brother. I knew he would be excited to have his own book and be able to create fun projects for school.

I had him read the first chapter, "What Is Computer Science?," which talks about what a computer is, what it does, how they are used in our lives, and what kind of jobs and tasks rely on them. It also touches on data, analysis, networks, the internet, and the impact of computing.

After that, I allowed him to jump straight to the Scratch unit.  The book immediately drew him in with its realistic notebooking style. The first chapter explains that Scratch is a simple programming language to use (that's why our kids learn it young) and how it uses blocks to create scripts. It explains different aspects of the program and what each component is.

The second chapter of the unit (chapter 20 of the whole book), is when he really started to learn more about using the language. He learned about parameters, the glide block, and the pen block which he used to recreate a turtle from the book. The chapter also covers some of his favorite features like the sound blocks and look blocks.

The remaining chapters cover storing information in variables, performing calculations on values with operator, evaluating information with boolean blocks, understanding the difference between control blocks and event blocks, repeating with loops, using conditional blocks, cloning, making your own block functions, and more.

Some of the information he was already familiar with using, but other features were new. It has been so fun watching him work through this unit. Many times I've heard, "Mom! Come see what I made!" For the most part, he has been able to work through the steps on his own, but when he has had difficulty understanding, his big brother has been right there to help him. That is one of my favorite things about my kids learning at home.

Since my little guy is still years away from middle school, he's been slowly working through the book. But he has been working through it! That shows me that the material is laid out in a way that's easy for kids to understand. Not only that, but he likes it. The book is colorful and eye-catching and doesn't feel at all like a textbook.

Other things he will learn from the book include collecting and using information, designing computer systems, computational thinking, understanding Python, creating a basic web page with HTML, styling elements with CSS, and much more. There are 39 chapters and over 560 pages packed with computer science learning. There is a brief Check Your Knowledge section at the end of each chapter to review key concepts with the answers on the following page that my boy and I always work through together. There are also color-coded tabs at the bottom of the pages that make each unit easy to access and an index at the back to find specific terms.

Our book came in pretty rough shape. It was mailed in a regular shipping envelope and sustained damage. The cover is creased in multiple places and the corners are torn. My daughter even asked, "We got this used, right?"

While I love that the inside looks like study notes, I don't want the outside to look like it's been tossed in a locker all school year and repeatedly abused. 

Here's what my guy thought of his Big Fat Notebook:

"I like it! All of it!"

He asks to do his coding work first thing every day. For a boy who conveniently "forgets" to do his schoolwork and gets distracted often, that's saying a lot.

Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook is a fantastic resource for kids who are interested in technology. It is engaging, written in simple terms, and entertaining. We like it so much that I can't wait to check out some of the other Big Fat Notebooks for the other subjects.

Using these study guides, you can be the smartest kid in class!

You can connect with Workman Publishing on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this book on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook {Workman Publishing Reviews}
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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Beyond the Stick Figure

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Most of my kids enjoy art to some degree, but my daughter is the true artist of our home. She is always looking to improve her skills and widen her abilities, so I'm excited when we get an art-related review for her. While she can knit and sew and embroider and cross stitch and create with clay and spark her creativity in a dozen other ways, she has been focusing specifically on her drawing  and painting skills.

She was eager to get pen to paper--or rather, brush to paper--with Beyond the Stick Figure Complete Drawing Course PLUS 3 Bonus Courses, a brand new set of classes from Beyond the Stick Figure Art School.

Beyond the Stick Figure is taught by Sally, a trained artist from England. After pursuing her dream of a career in art, she moved to the States, got married and had kids, and started homeschooling. It was while teaching her own children that she realized that the ability to create art wasn't given only to those with a gift, but could be taught to anyone. Just like learning to read or to play an instrument, art techniques should also be taught incrementally. Piece by piece, skill upon skill. Anyone can be an artist! 

She started these classes as a way to share her passion and help budding enthusiasts learn the skills they need to succeed.

There are 4 types of courses included:

  • Drawing
  • Pen & Ink and Watercolor
  • Acrylic
  • 3D Design

The drawing course is divided into 3 units with multiple steps broken into days. Remember, Sally's goal is to train artists by teaching them skills incrementally. She begins the course with encouraging the students to find shapes in the world around them: circles, dots, and various lines. Drawing takes place on day 6 when the students begin practicing the shapes they've found. On day 12, the shapes are combined to draw a flower. The remaining 3 days of the unit cover primary and secondary colors and learning to overlap shapes.

The second part eases the students into learning to draw things that look realistic. Each day, the student focuses on a small shape in a box. For instance, the first one looks something like a triangle coming out of the side of the square. The student practices that shape in each box on a 4x4 grid. The 33 lessons in part 2 are similar in style. 

The third and final part of the drawing course is 5 days and teaches how to combine those random shapes into a flower. It reminds me of those grid pictures that you find in activity books, where the child copies the picture by drawing each portion in the corresponding boxes. It is neat to see how all the pieces come together.

As I mentioned, my 12-year-old loves art and is already fairly skilled. I had a difficult time getting her to work through the drawing lessons. She was bored and could not be motivated. Because of Sally's philosophy of teaching step by step, you cannot move to further lessons or mediums without completing them in order. We ended up doing what many homeschoolers do and adapted the lessons to fit our needs. We sat down one day and clicked through all the lessons in all the courses. Once my girl saw the acrylic videos, her excitement rekindled. 

The acrylic course, like all the others, is divided into 3 parts and walks through 3 projects step-by-step over the course of many days. My daughter loved creating these artworks! She learned how to blend her colors to create an ombré sky, how to finger-dab realistic wispy clouds, how to use a toothpick to make a grassy meadow, how to use color to create perspective, and more useful skills. She even took a simple cloud painting and made it her own by adding a hot air balloon. I love watching her abilities blossom.

Sally's videos are calm, slow-paced, and filled with instruction. Each one is short (I don't think I've seen one that's longer than 10 minutes) so it's easy to find time to add art into your day. One complaint that my daughter has is that she can't make the videos full screen. Sometimes she would like to have a bigger visual instead of the small image on the computer. Also, Sally is soft spoken and has a bit of an English accent. Even with the volume all the way up, it can be difficult to hear and understand in a busy household. It can be tricky to keep 4 boys quiet while their sister is trying to create a masterpiece! Otherwise, the videos are easy to understand and it's fun to see how she pronounces some things differently than we do. 

There are downloadable pages of drawing guides included with a few lessons along with a checkup at the end of each unit to evaluate your students' work and help keep them accountable. 

A purchase of Beyond the Stick Figure Complete Drawing Course PLUS 3 Bonus Courses will give you lifetime access to all of the classes for everyone in your family. There are over 180 lessons that are good for anyone ages 5-95. If you can draw a stick figure, you can learn to draw your own realistic masterpieces.

Beyond the Stick Figure Art School can help you learn the skills needed to become a true artist.

You can connect with Beyond the Stick Figure on the following social media sites:

You can see more art projects by reading the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Beyond the Stick Figure Complete Drawing Course {Beyond the Stick Figure Art School}
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Friday, May 8, 2020


Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

My favorite place to be is in the kitchen--cooking, baking, working with dough, experimenting with flavors, creating meals and treats that my family enjoys, preserving a harvest. When I saw the opportunity to review something from Fermentools, I knew it would be perfect for me. This Starter Kit would get me well on my way to a new kitchen hobby by fermenting foods.

Fermentools was started in 2013 and is run by Alex and Cassie Deputie. Their journey toward health began many years ago when Cassie dealt with chronic health conditions and continued as their children faced serious health issues, as well. Through proper nutrition and fermented foods, they were able to find healing for their family. Along with working the company as a family endeavor, they also homeschool. In fact, Cassie is one of my Crew members as part of the Homeschool Review Crew.

I love canning. From jellies to salsas to sauces to diced veggies to chili and more, I preserve well over 100 jars of goodness every year. There is something very rewarding about grabbing a jar of something homemade whenever we need it. But while you can often find me surrounded by dozens of jars, lids, fruits or veggies, water bath or pressure canner, multiple little helpers, and one large mess, I do not have much experience with fermenting foods. Oh, we eat them as I understand the benefits of probiotics and their role in digestion, but I relied on purchased foods. I made my first batch of apple cider vinegar last fall using a drinking glass for a weight and cheesecloth to cover. I was so nervous about mold! But 6-7 weeks later, I had a half gallon of fresh, beneficial vinegar made from scraps from my recent canning adventure. I knew then that I needed to learn the art of fermentation.

This starter kit makes fermenting so simple--way easier than my haphazard method of using things already in my kitchen. It comes with everything you need (minus the jar and the food) to start creating good bacteria.

  • 1 Stainless Steel Lid -- 304 surgical stainless steel, corrosion-resistant
  • 1 Glass Fermentation Weight -- fits inside wide mouth jar, won't react with food
  • 1 Airlock -- keeps oxygen out and carbon dioxide in
  • 2 Rubber Stoppers -- 1 with hole for airlock, 1 solid
  • 1 Rubber Canning Gasket -- helps create a seal
  • Himalayan Powdered Salt -- 16 oz, over 80 trace minerals, dissolves in cold water

The kit also comes with a simple instruction guide that explains how to use the kit, about the fermentation process, and additional tips. It also includes a basic sauerkraut recipe with variation ideas.

The first ferment I tried was that sauerkraut recipe. We almost always have a head of cabbage sitting in our refrigerator, so it seemed like a great choice. I ran it through my food processor and then followed the suggested amount for salt. That's where things can get a little tricky for those who are follow-the-recipe people. I do not measure when I cook--add some of this, a sprinkle of that--seasoning to taste. The recipe instructs to use 1 1/2 to 3 tablespoons of the Himalayan salt, which is quite the range of amount. After weighing my cabbage and following the guide on the salt package, I added approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons. The next step was mashing and squeezing the cabbage to break it down and release the juices. After that, I put it in the jar, added a bit more salt water to cover it, and added the weight, lid, and airlock pieces. The weather was still a bit chilly, so I wrapped the jar in a towel and left it to sit in a corner of the kitchen.

Twelve days later, I removed the lid and enjoyed my first batch of delicious homemade sauerkraut. Better than store-bought in taste, price, and health benefits.

Next, my daughter and I made asparagus spears and played around with the flavors a bit adding minced garlic, dill, and a pinch of red pepper flakes and let it ferment for a week.

They are slightly tangy and different from the way I normally prepare asparagus, but tasty.

The Fermentools website is filled with additional information and recipes. I currently have garlic cloves fermenting (which your nose will remind you if you get near enough to the jar, ha) and is producing all sorts of good, bubbling foam. I'm already making plans for salted lemons and red horseradish sauce. I'm having so much fun that I'm sure I need another fermenting kit or two!

The Starter Kit makes the fermentation process simple for even a beginner. As long as you follow the steps laid out in the instruction guide, you won't have to worry about mold and losing your hard work. The components are high quality and well-made. Things really are much easier when you have the right tools.

If you're like me and can't wait to ferment all the food, you can purchase larger kits and individual pieces. You can also use code Crew2020 to receive a 15% discount through June 30 of this year.

Whether you're new to fermenting or are a seasoned enthusiast, Fermentools has the supplies to help on your food preservation journey.

You can connect with Fermentools on the following social media sites:

You can see more ferments by reading the reviews of this starter kit on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Fermentools Starter Kit {Fermentools Reviews}
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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Hidden Message

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I admit, this is not a review I would have been excited about when I was in high school or even college. Sadly, I was not interested in learning facts about people or events that did not currently affect me. As I've gotten older though, and especially once I started homeschooling my own children, historical learning has drawn me. I now appreciate the importance of our past and the connection it has with our future. 

I was intrigued as soon as I read about The Hidden Message of the Great Seal. This book from The Hidden Message, LLC and written by Michael Kanis is a wealth of information as it deciphers the symbols of our national seal. If you consider yourself a patriot or a history buff or if you've wondered why certain symbols were used throughout the course of history, you need to keep reading.

The Hidden Message of the Great Seal: How Foundational Truth from the Dawn of Liberty May Rescue a Republic in Peril takes the reader on a historical journey. It starts during a pivotal time when the desire for a seal was first declared; it pulls facts from all time periods prior starting with Genesis and "In the beginning;" and it gives a challenge for those in the present day as they prepare for a future worthy of our great nation's past. 

The founders of our country endowed the seal "with vital truth for the preservation of the Republic." Kanis made it his mission to learn those truths while on a trip with his son to Philadelphia. A visit to Valley Forge, a dollar bill, and an explanation from an educated friend sparked a longing for understanding.

The book works through the national seal piece by piece to gain a deep understanding of every aspect. It explains about the lives and characteristics of the people that influenced the components, both deliberately and unintentionally. Thomas Jefferson. Benjamin Franklin. John Adams. Charles Thomson. Francis Hopkinson. John Knox. William Barton. John Bradshaw.

The book explains so many interesting facts:

  • Why the seal represents the American people
  • About the slight difference between the original seal and the version on the one dollar bill
  • How the story travels around the world from America to England to Italy to Israel to the Netherlands and more
  • How God's covenant with Abraham is reflected in the design of the seal
  • Shows multiple designs options of the seal all with a consistent message and similar symbols
  • Teaches about the mottos, phrases, symbols, metaphors, colors chosen specifically for their meanings
  • Touches on biblical numerology and how it's reflected in the design
  • That the founding fathers built this nation on a belief and trust in God and His Word

Congress adopted our national seal on June 20, 1782. Though hundreds of years have passed, the author claims to have arrived at an understanding of the seal which has not been communicated or understood from that day until now. That is a bold statement, but since I have not spent countless hours in deep study of the topic, I cannot claim that I know enough to either refute or agree with him. I will say that the information presented is fascinating and well-researched.

Kanis sought to be conservative in his analysis, thoroughly testing and understanding the meanings of the allegories of each symbols without adding his own connotations to the seal.

The book is paperback and approximately 12" x 9" with more than 250 pages and endnotes. It is filled with pictures, images, charts, and quotes that beautifully bring the past to life. The topic is deep, and the writing is evidence of that. This is better suited for a high school course in American history or government or for adult reading. While I often read higher level books to my little ones, I chose to read this one alone, soaking up the information as I delved deeper into the allegorical meanings. 

The book itself is awkward to hold because of its size, so much so that I found myself not as willing to pick it up to read as I otherwise would. Also, the bottom corner arrived bent and creased throughout the entire book because it was shipped in only a packing envelope. A hardcover may help with both of those issues. 

I found the information fascinating and am looking forward to learning more about our National Seal and all that it represents.

If you are interested in understanding the symbols chosen by our forefathers, you can currently purchase The Hidden Message of the Great Seal for half price with coupon code HOMESCHOOL. May we continue to uphold the morals and freedoms paid for when our seal was created.

You can read more reviews of this book on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

The Hidden Message of the Great Seal {The Hidden Message, LLC Reviews}
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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Focus on Fives Kindergarten Curriculum

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I love when we get to review materials that are geared toward early education. Learning with little ones is always such an exciting experience! Everything is a new adventure that is filled with endless possibilities. 

I often have people ask me what curriculum I use for kindergarten. Honestly, I am a big believer in learning through play and taking a more relaxed approach to education in the younger years. Hands-on play and learning by doing are vital, but it is also important to teach written skills. I was intrigued by the BJU Press Focus on Fives kindergarten curriculum from BJU Press Homeschool and couldn't wait to get started with my little one.

BJU press first started writing curriculum that is both biblically and academically sound in the early 1970s. Over the next few years, textbooks for all elementary grades and various secondary courses were completed. They became the first publisher to respond to the needs of home education in 1982 and have been "giving Christian educators the tools they need to teach from a biblical worldview and help young people be prepared to live a godly life" ever since.  

I personally used some BJU Press curriculum materials during my junior high and high school years. I was eager to see what they offered for the opposite end of the spectrum as I worked with my 5-year-old.   

The Focus on Fives curriculum set is designed to help kids develop the skills they need through age-appropriate introductions of science, social studies, handwriting, phonics, and reading. The program instills a multi-sensory approach as it incorporates visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic learning activities. Kids need to see, hear, touch, and move!

The full curriculum includes the following materials:

  • Worktext
  • Phonic Practice
  • Phonics and Review Cards
  • Phonics Flip Chart
  • Reading Books
  • Write Now! Handwriting
  • Teaching Visuals Flip Chart
  • Teacher's Edition

The Worktext contains over 400 pages of learning worksheets. The first two-third of the book has a page to accompany each lesson. There are exercises that involve writing letters of the alphabet, circling correct answers, drawing lines to matches, coloring, cutting and pasting, dot-to-dot, and more. Each unit begins with a letter to the parent explaining the scope, tips, and optional books and is separated by color-coded tabs at the bottom of the pages.

The end of the worktext contains supplemental materials including a kindergarten diploma, cutouts that are needed for specific lessons, and checkup pages (similar in format to a quiz) that correspond to the units and have the same color-coding at the bottom.

The Phonics Practice workbook is filled with pages that provide practice of phonic skills and word families. This book, like the Worktext, has an open spine to make it easier to remove the pages for the student and color-coded tabs to match each unit. This one follows similar fine-motor skills for the exercises, but varies in content. The phonics book focuses solely on words--reading, recognizing, writing--the worktext also relies on pictures and relationships such as differentiating between seasons, practicing size comparison, noting animal qualities, and more.

The Phonics and Review Cards are approximately 2.5" x 5.5" on glossy cardstock. These flashcards include the letters of the alphabet with multiple examples and high-frequency words. There is also a card for each of the mascot characters that are used throughout the lessons that can be cut out and glued to a craft stick.

The Phonics Flip Charts has nearly 125 pages of visuals used for teaching. Though the website lists a spiral-bound collection, my version consists of loose, glossy cardstock pages. Included are alphabet charts, high-frequency word cards, phonics characters, mascot characters, word family cards, phonics songs charts, handwriting wall charts, spelling cards, and phonics charts. The majority of the pages are double-sided with additional teaching information on the back. The pages are numbered in the bottom right side corner for easy organization. 

Teaching Visuals Flip Chart is a spiral-bound collection of visuals that are used in the lessons. The covers are sturdy cardboard while the pages are very thin. There are 46 pages that show students healthy habits, insect life cycles, nursery rhymes, musical instruments, landscapes, seasons, history, and more. The back of each page lists the lesson it's from along with teaching helps and information.

While I appreciate the notes on the back, it would be more beneficial to have them on the back of the previous page, so I can have access to that while my child can still see the picture.

There are 34 Reading Books included with the curriculum. Each book is a 9" x 6" paperback with full-color pictures that fill the pages. The books are numbered on the fronts and follow the same color-coded unit tabs of the other materials. The back of the books are colored to match the unit, as well.

The first two books have no words but rely on picture reading with discussion starter questions found in the teacher's book. The third book, which is read in lesson 15, introduces rebus reading where a picture represents a more complicated word. Starting with book 4, the students will be reading full sentences, beginning with one 2- or 3-word sentence on a page and progressing through full paragraphs on each page. The last page in each book lists trickier words to note along with a quick phonics review from the story.

The Write Now! Handwriting book is the only black and white in the set. Almost every lesson is a half sheet and generally has places to write letters, then words, and eventually sentences and includes a small picture to color. There are also a handful of dot-to-dot pages that feature either lowercase or capital letters.

There are 6 parts to the Teacher's Edition. There is a spiral-bound book for each unit with a paperback cover on the front and a hard cover on the back. As expected, the book matches the unit color, keeping everything consistent and easy to use. The introduction of each teacher's book contains the same information: goals, learning center ideas, routines, assessments, tips, instructional materials, and more. There is also a lesson plan overview for the unit that lists the pages needed for each resource along with the objectives of each lessons.

The teacher's edition books are packed full of teaching information. When I taught first grade many years ago, I had a teacher's manual for each subject. With the Focus on Fives curriculum, all of the information for the day's lessons is kept in one place.  There are sections for each topic that list the needed materials along with bulleted notes of what to teach. The last page of each lesson gives suggestions for extended activities: story and rhyme time, arts and crafts, learning center, motor skills, science, heritage studies, show and tell, songs, Bible connection, language arts, and more. The back of each book contains additional teacher resources including instructional aids and reproducibles, creative writing prompts, songs, and more.

My little guy and I have been working through the curriculum 3 days a week. He's not officially in kindergarten until the fall, so we're taking a slower approach to formal education right now. The curriculum is written for a classroom setting with enough activities and learning to fill a kindergartner's school day. I love that there are so many options that make it easy to find what works for us.

He enjoys completing the Worktext and Phonics Practice pages, hearing the listening stories, in the teacher's book, and the hands-on and motor activities. His favorite part is the snack of the week which coordinates with the lessons, such as a graham cracker firetruck while learning about firemen, apple and marshmallow mouths to enhance the dentist lessons, chocolate turtles while learning about the pond, "dirt" cupcakes for learning about the garden, tropical fruit cups for Hawaii, and other yummy treats.

One thing that I'm excited about is starting the post office section next week. With all that is going on (or not going on, ha) with our stay-at-home order, we've been trying to reach out to people in other ways. Since we can't physically be with our friends, I've been having the kids send mail. These lessons are perfect as they teach about zip codes, how mail is sorted, how to write letters and thank you notes, the history of mail delivery, using stamps, how to send packages and letters, and more. There is even a suggestion to send a missionary a care package. Other activities include sorting letters of the alphabet written on envelopes into capital and lowercase mailboxes, making stamps out of carrots and marking mail, pretending to be mail carriers, explaining how many of the books of the New Testament are letters, and crafting a mail carrier hat.

Focus on Fives is a full curriculum that teaches much more than reading and writing. The 6 units for the year cover a vast amount of topics through supporting activities: All Around the Town (community helpers), Bookshelf Friends (books, hymns, nursery rhymes), Ants to Elephants (animals, insects, pond, farm), Mountains High to Oceans Deep (landscapes, sharing the Gospel, America), Blue Skies and Gray (seasons, weather), Garden Paths and Wandering Trails (places).

The curriculum begins with identifying letters and recognizing their sounds and teaches students the skills necessary to read full sentences such as "He sent His Son to die for men." It works on rhyming words, compound words, short and long vowel words, and consonant blends. It teaches writing skill such as forming letters and proper pencil hold, but also tracing, punctuation, and copywork. It also teaches valuable motor and life skills, too--all while making learning an enjoyable experience.

If teaching all the components seems overwhelming, BJU Pres Homeschool will be offering online learning course videos beginning this summer. The videos are an hour long and incorporate a variety of learning activities for your little one. You can preview sample videos to determine if they're right for your family.

The BJU Press Focus on Fives curriculum is packed full of resources, activities, and ideas that are sure to help your child be prepared for first grade. There are many options for each lesson to ensure that you find the perfect balance for your growing learner.

You can connect with BJU Press Homeschool on the following social media sites:

You can see how other homeschool families used this curriculum by reading the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

BJU Press Focus on Fives {BJU Press Homeschool Reviews}
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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Provoking Others

Leighton and I minister in the teen department at our church. It's such a fun group filled with energy and excitement. And, oh, the potential! On Sundays, he works with the high school guys, while I'm with the junior high girls. Every now and then though, our youth pastor keeps everyone together for the Sunday School lesson instead of splitting into groups after announcements and a game like normal.  

It was one of those days when the Scripture jumped out at me.

In the class, our youth pastor encouraged the teenagers to live godly lives. Totally what you would expect in a church atmosphere, right? Unfortunately, teens (adults, children, anyone) can get caught up in the things of the world. I think teenagers, especially, struggle with this. They are going through changes, dealing with peer pressure, worrying about the future. It can be difficult to take a stand, even in a church or Christian school. Talking about the Bible and spiritual things should be commonplace, while crude jokes and inappropriate language should be admonished--not only by adults, but their peers as well. 

As he was reading in Hebrews 10, verse 24 jumped out at me, "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."


I generally think of provoking in a negative sense.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, 
but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. ~ Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. ~ Colossians 3:21

The Bible is filled with verses of provoked to anger, provoked to wrath, provoked to jealousy. In fact, 76 times the word provoked is used. All of them use it toward a negative reaction. All, but one.

provoke, verb
  1. to call forth (a feeling, an action, etc.)
  2. to stir up purposely
  3. to provide the needed stimulus for
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.

We should be striving to live godly lives ourselves, of course, but more than that, we should be purposely stirring up others to live right, too. Encouraging. Persuading. Prodding. 


I think of provoking as a sibling who loves to poke at another, whether with words or actions--constantly being an annoyance until the innocent brother or sister gets frustrated. That child is not deterred by anything, but stays persistent until he achieves his goal of making the other person shout in response. And then he laughs. 

I have two kids who think this kind of provoking is an enjoyable game (as long as they are the ones harassing, ha). And while it is not a fun experience for most, it is profitable for the zealous provoker who is rewarded for his efforts with a change in attitude from the one he is irritating.

That's how we should be as Christians. 

Oh, I'm not saying we need to be annoying and overbearing and rude, but we need that same tenacity toward other Christians. Just like a provoker keeps prodding until he gets the response he's looking for, we should have that same commitment to encouraging Christians to live right 

The verses that sandwich number 24 build on that truth:

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hold fast the profession . . . provoke unto love and good works . . . not forsaking . . exhorting one another.
Let's stir each other up for Christ! If you see someone struggling, help them. If you find one going down a dangerous path, give advice. Encourage. Guide. Pray. Love.

Point others to Christ.

You can still influence people during this time of social distancing, maybe even more so now. Check in with your friends. Remind them that you love them. Ask what they've been reading in their Bible. Encourage them to use this time to draw closer to God.

We may not be able to meet in the church building right now, but we can still be a blessing, we can still do right, we can still minister, we can still love.

Let's provoke--call forth, stir up--unto love and to good works.
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Friday, March 27, 2020

Things That Make Me Smile 3/20/20

Jake (14), Alyssa (11 1/2), Zac (10), Tyler (7 1/2), Nicholas (5)

Happy Friday! This week we made triple berry muffins, assembled a couple puzzles, did some deep cleaning around the house, and enjoyed being together as a family.

1. We spent the day building a giant Rube Goldberg machine throughout the living room.

2. Nicholas: "A long time ago, when I was 4 . . . "

3. Alyssa: "I find it funny that Mom and Dad are putting together the puzzle that they got us for Christmas."
Me: "Why do you think we bought it?"

4. Tyler playing with our Brain Blox.

5. Jake: "If I had billions of dollars, I'd buy you a new house. Actually, if I had billions of dollars, I know what I'd do first. You know how the church wants to build that like $9 billion building? I'd just give them the whole amount. And then because $9 billion looks messy, I'd just give an even 10. Then I'd buy you a new house."

6. Zac, assembling a puzzle about the US presidents: "What's a Whig?"
Nicholas: "I know what a wig is. You wear it on your head."

7. Since everyone is supposed to stay at home right now, our church building has been empty, but our pastor is streaming the services live.
Pastor: "The greatest thing you can do for your family right now is not to stock up on staples, but . . ."
Kids, looking around confused: "Staples? Why would you need staples?"

8. Nicholas, singing the Alphabet song: "A-B-C-B-L-E Yes, that's the book for me. Wait-- {laughs} I was singing the Bible." 

9. Tyler, playing Continent Race and reading the Kyrgyzstan card: "I found Crazy-stan!"

10. Nicholas was watching Alyssa complete her drawing lesson for the day and asked, "Why are you doing dot-to-dot?"

11. Jake: "Mickey, Donald, and Goofy get thrown into the fiery furnace, and the guy getting ready to throw them in says, "Mmm, roast duck."

12. Alyssa, watching a hockey game: "What happens if they tie? Do they cast lots?"

13. Tyler, sitting on his bed because he had gotten in trouble: "Dad, can I get up?"
Leighton: "Yes, but stop bickering."
Tyler, from the other room: "What did you say?"
Leighton: "Stop bickering."
Tyler: "I can't hear you."
Nicholas: "He said stop pickling!"

14. Nicholas, pointing to the presidents: "That's George Washington. That's George W. Bush. And that's Donald Trumpet."

What made you Smile today?

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