Thursday, October 11, 2018

Underground Rising

We review all sorts of resources and manipulatives for school. I believe in having many options to keep my little ones learning. But our foundation, the basis of our education is literature. Whether it's fun picture books or engaging fiction or historical biographies, you can be sure there is a fair amount being read in our home every day. While I do believe in the importance of the written word, there are times when it is not feasible to sit down and read a novel. It's times like these that we love to turn on an audio book.

Brinkman Adventures has combined two of our favorite things--audio books and missionary stories--to make a truly entertaining and educational production. My kids fell in love with these stories a few years ago and have listened to dozens of the episodes. They were thrilled to receive the  digital version of Season 6: Underground Rising to add to our collection.

The Brinkman Adventures is an audio drama series and radio show. It's not like a typical audio book that we utilize often as it is not converted from a book, but the episodes weave true missionary stories into the family's adventures to make it a hybrid of sorts. The series was born from a vision to "inspire future missionaries." By combining realistic sound effects, original music, and exciting dialogue, the stories are "movies for the ears." Though the Brinkmans are a fictional family, they are based on and voiced by Ian and Amy Bultman and their 10 children. The drama follows the family across the globe as they hear stories of hiding from the Gestapo in the hole in the floor, eating paper with secret messages, escaping from jail, meeting a prince, experiencing a near-death situation, witnessing a divine healing,  being attacked by a tiger, and the retreating of hundreds of soldiers. They witness to many, see hearts changed, experience heartache, and experience joy.  

You'll find these episodes in season 6:
  • Episode 55: Dutch Underground Part 1
  • Episode 56: Dutch Underground Part 2
  • Episode 57: Twice Born Fly
  • Episode 58: I Wonder Why?
  • Episode 59: Free Burma Rangers Part 1
  • Episode 60: Free Burma Rangers Part 2

You can take the learning to a deeper level passed simply listening to the series. There is an entire section on their site that is filled with the stories behind the stories. You can learn more about metamorphosis, how rove beetles cause rashes, what happens during an allergic reaction, ranger training, and even learn much family history and translate foreign words. There is also a ton more information about the real events and how the writers used things in their own lives for inspiration. There are many pictures and videos that enhance the learning, as well. I, personally, have spent much time soaking up these missionary stories.  

We've listened to this audio while doing chores and for downtime in the house. Each episode is 25 minutes, so they're perfect for squeezing in some audio time. My kids laughed at the silly antics of a monkey and when Charlie swallowed the fly. These amazing accounts are entertaining, for sure, but what makes them even more inspiring is that they are based on modern-day missionary heroes.

The Brinkman Adventures has been a big hit with the whole family. I appreciate that the kids are entertained with wholesome stories, but even more than that, I love that they're learning that there are still true heroes around the globe and that God is still using regular people to change the hearts of a sinful world.

You can connect with the Brinkman Adventures on Facebook and listen to samples of each episode on their website. 

You can read more reviews of these adventures on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 6/29/18

Jake (12 1/2), Alyssa (10), Zac (8 1/2), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3 1/2)

Happy Monday! I'm still working on catching up on Smile lists, so it's been fun remembering the laughs we had a few month ago. But what about you? Did you have a funny situation or quote recently? We'd love to laugh with you!

1. Nicholas was eating slices of pepperoni and then found salami in the refrigerator. "Is this the daddy one?"

2. Zac, to me: "Good night, my Beautiful."

3. The kids love playing with the animals on my brother's farm.

4. The kids were all having a sleep over in the same room. They were supposed to be sleeping because it was late, but there was a lot of giggling and talking still going on. As I walked closer to the room, I could hear them all singing:
"I'm all wrapped up. I'm all tied up. I'm all tangled up in Jesus. I'm all wrapped up. I'm all tied up. I'm all tangled up in God."

5. Nicholas was telling me the best friends of each family member.
Me: "Who is your friend?"
Nicholas: "I don't have a fwiend."
Me: "Can Mama be your friend?"
Nicholas: "No! You are not a kid!"

6. Nicholas, hugging my neck and kissing my cheek: "I love you. You a sweet boy."

7. Picnic dinner and geocaching fun at the park.

8. Nicholas: "One, two, free, five, six, seben, eight, nine, ten!"
Me: "Good job! But what happened to four?"
Nicholas: "We don't need four."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Case Makers Academy

Have you ever wanted to be a detective? If so, this review is for you! My kids love mystery books. They enjoy gathering clues and trying to solve the case before the end of the story. It always makes me proud when they come running up to me shouting that they figured it out. They're paying attention to details and strengthening their critical thinking skills. But what if they could be learning so much more? 

Forensic Faith for Kids builds on those skills in popular mystery novels, but adds an even more important aspect. This book from David C Cook  and Case Makers Academy not only teaches investigative skills, but encourages kids--and adults alike--to apply them to Christianity.

J. Warner Wallace, the author of the book, is a real-life detective. He has been featured on multiple news networks and other crime-related television shows for his cold-case-solving abilities. He hasn't always been an advocate for Christianity though. In fact, he was once an atheist. He applied what he had learned as a detective to his investigation of the Bible. After finding overwhelming evidence, he was convinced that Jesus is the Son of God and started using his knowledge to persuade others.

J. Warner, along with his wife, Susie, have written a series of books that teaches kids investigation skills and how to use them to become better Christians. After proving that Jesus is God and that He created the universe, this third book teaches kids how to share the Truth of God with others and to be strong witnesses for Him.

Forensic Faith for Kids tells the story of a group of friends that are learning investigation skills as part of the Junior Detective Academy at the police department. In the beginning of the book, a few of the boys found a puppy with no owner in sight. During that time, some of the girls were surprised when a boy denied that Jesus is God and wondered how they could help him. The two mysteries weave together throughout the book as the group of friends gather clues and learn important details. The detective in charge of the Academy guides the kids, mentors them, and encourages them when the task feels daunting. Though he is there for direction, he never takes control of the cases. In the end, the kids solve both mysteries on their own using the skills that they had learned.

Because the authors want kids to become immersed in the story and put the various methods into practice, they wrote the book in present tense and second person format and made the reader a character. You are there to solve the mysteries. You are there to pick up clues. You are there to be an active participant in the story. It's not my favorite writing style, but it makes complete sense with the purpose of this book.

Each page of the book includes one or more visual extras.

  • Pictures -- line art drawings that portray something from the story, can be a tiny square on the page, a large rectangle, or even fill the entire page.
  • CSI Assignment -- a quick drill that reinforces a theme from the book, lists Bible verses with blanks to be filled in.
  • Detective Definitions -- an explanation of words that are used and how they apply to Christians and in the story 
  • A "Tool" for Your Detective Bag -- a tip and challenge to become better detectives 
  • Dig Deep -- a gentle reminder to visit the website to enhance the training with the additional resources  

Your detective training continues with the Case Makers Academy. First, there is a collection of videos (the Wallaces are incredibly charming together in the intro clip and there's even a brief cameo of the dog from the story). There is a video to complement each chapter of the story in which the author explains what to expect and details to pay attention to.

There are additional resources for the chapters under each video. The training activity sheets are fun pages. They reinforce skills taught throughout the academy through activities such as word search, dot-to-dot, crossword puzzle, and more. The academy notebook sheets are a way to organize the main pieces of evidence from the story. Fill-in-the-blanks keep the reader engaged without feeling overwhelmed. The adult leader guide is a way to use the book with a small group. It references the full curriculum, includes the important concepts from each chapter, and lists good questions to ask the students.

It was no surprise to me that our family loved this book! We're partial to family read-alouds as it is, but the mystery aspect was a fun addition. My 10-year-old daughter guessed the ending during chapter 3. I wasn't quite convinced myself, but as we continued to read, we could see how her theory was falling into place. Each of us pointed out various details, and before the end, we knew she was right.

My plan was to work through one chapter a day by reading it, watching the video, and completing the pages. However, my kids begged me to continue, and since I'm a sucker for reading, I gave in multiple days. The book itself is 134 pages, so it can easily be read in a day or two on its own. To incorporate the additional training materials though, it's best to take your time.

This is one of my favorite parts of the book:

Once you know what you don't know, you're motivated to learn. Between the test 
and the task is a great opportunity to train.

Here's what my kids said about participating in the Case Makers Academy.

I like the puppy. 

My favorite part was solving the mystery.

It was really cool. The end when they solved it was my favorite part!

I like how the two mysteries were solved.

Critical thinking skills are important for everyone to have. I love that this book teaches kids how to think, rather than what to think. The book doesn't give all the answers, but instead teaches the process for the reader to research it for himself. The investigation skills that are taught are beneficial throughout life and especially important when questioning spiritual matters. One of my kids enjoyed Forensic Faith for Kids so much that he's asked multiple times to get the other books in the series. I think we'll be joining the Case Makers Academy again!  

You can connect with Case Makers Academy on Facebook.  

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

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 6/22/18

Jake (12 1/2), Alyssa (10), Zac (8 1/2), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3 1/2)

Happy Monday! Well, it wasn't a happy Monday here, per se, but Smiling at the funny things my kids say makes any day better. This week back in June, we celebrated Father's Day, took the kids strawberry picking with my mom, and celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. What a great, love-filled week!  

1. Zac, because the rain was coming down hard: "It's really raining hardly."

2. Nicholas, trying to bribe me to rub his back longer: "I'll color you a picture in my class!"

3. Me: "Who do I love?"
Nicholas: "Daddy!"


5. Me: "You need to make sure all this is cleaned up by the time Dad gets home. We're going to Red Robin for dinner tonight."
Nicholas: "Oh, yes! I love red robins! Are there tigers and lions? And monkeys and bears? And--"
Me: "We're not going to the zoo."
Alyssa: "Buddy, it's a restaurant."
Nicholas: "Oh, a restaurant! . . . I see lions?"

6. Zac, with his chest dripping: "Mom, I watered my chest so I can grow chest hair!"

7. Jake, because his baby teeth were gone: "Losing teeth was a big part of my income."


9. This year's Father's Day questionnaires filled out by the kiddos.

10. "Love Is An Open Door" started playing.
Me, singing along: "I love crazy."
Nicholas: "No, you don't."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

I Know It

My kids get excited every time I tell them we have an online program to review. Whenever they find out it's math-related though, they change to mixed reactions. A couple of my kids love math and a couple, well . . . don't.

We use math skills in every day life, so it's important to have a strong foundation in mathematics, whether or not you enjoy fractions, coordinates, exponents, angles, and conversions. Sometimes a student will need a little extra practice to fully grasp the concepts. That's where I Know It comes in. We received a family membership to help us hone our math skills and gain confidence.  

I Know It is a remedial math site created by the people of (which is filled with so many amazing worksheets for every topic). This online resource is both interactive and comprehension for grades kindergarten through 5th. Though there isn't teaching instruction for the lessons, there is the option to allow a quick hint, if the student needs a little help. The program is designed for practice and to complement any full math curriculum.

Setting up our account was super easy. I created profiles for three of my kids by simply adding their names and grades. Each child was able to choose an icon for the profile, as well. And that's it! Now, when a child logs in to his profile, all of the available lessons in his chosen grade is visible.

There are multiple lessons under each topic with more are being added all the time. A student can choose which lesson to practice or the parent/teacher can assign lessons. One feature that I like is that I can assign any lesson from any grade for any child. So while the child himself has access to only his grade, I can assign more difficult lessons (without changing his grade level) or give him additional practice from younger grades.

Since this is designed to be a practice site, I mostly allow my kids choose which lessons they want to work on each day. However, I wanted to test out the process of assigning individual lessons. The process, again, is really easy. My third grader is a math whiz. I wanted to test his skills, just for fun, so I assigned him the order of operations lesson from the Basic Algebra section in fifth grade. I also changed the default amount of 15 problems to 10 since it was so much more advanced than his normal grade level. Once I finalized the process, the assignment showed at the top of his page when he signed in. And that was that. (As for his score? He aced it! I walked him through the steps for the first couple and then he completed the rest with no problems.)   

The questions can be read aloud to struggling readers by clicking on the speaker icon next to the words (it is not shown in my pictures because they were taken in my account and not the kids'). You can choose either a male or female voice or you can choose to disable the feature altogether. In fact, the entire program is very customizable with all of its elements.

Animated characters encourage and reward students along the way. After each correct answer, a character preforms a silly action. A dinosaur might use his tail as a trumpet, an astronaut might run from an alien, or a robot might water a bouquet of flowers in his head. My kids' favorite by far is the robot. They can't wait to see what silly thing he's going to do and often laugh at his actions.

It's all extra practice, so I require my kids to do only one lesson a few times a week. It's not unusual for them to work through multiple lessons a day though. Here's what they had to say about I Know It:

I like the guys. They're funny! And it's fun.

I like the robot. I like all the character actually, but the robot is my favorite.

I like the robot! He's funny.

I Know It is an extremely user-friendly program. Even my first grader can log in and practice his math without assistance. The remedial lessons are short enough to keep interest, long enough to reinforce the concepts, and fun enough to keep the students entertained. I have not heard a single complaint about using the program--and that's a big deal!

If you think this online site would be a help to your child, you can sign up for a free 60-day trial and get started today.

You can connect with I Know It on the following social media sites:

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

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 6/15/18

Jake (12 1/2), Alyssa (10), Zac (8 1/2), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3 1/2)

I've been trying to get this list posted for weeks. Have I mentioned life is busy?

This week, Nicholas turned 3 1/2, we made cinnamon and sugar doughnuts, the kids went to science classes taught by a friend of ours with our Parks & Recs program, and we spent a lot of time reading together. 

1. Tyler, coming in the kitchen while I was making dinner: "Mmm, it smells so good! If I don't like this, I'm going to be surprised."

2. Nicholas, while completing our lesson from Bible Study Guide For All Ages: "Mommy, do Jesus have a pirate hat?"


4. Me, leaving church: "I feel like we're forgetting someone. {looks around and counts kids} Oh, I told your dad that I had a dream last night that I had another baby. Maybe that's who I think we're forgetting."
Alyssa: "It was a vision!"
Me: "It was a girl, too."
Alyssa: "Yes! It definitely was a vision! Another baby!"

5. Jake, making up a joke: "One bird asked another bird if he wanted to go to lunch. The other bird said,  'No.' The first bird said, 'Ok, suet yourself.'"

6. Zac, wrestling with Nicholas, after he was kicked "Never bring a foot to a hand fight."

7. Tyler: "Mom, did you know my first initial looks like the cross?"

8. Half Birthday pancakes

9. Jake was making a cake.
Nicholas: "I help!"
Jake: "Ok, you read the recipe. What does it say?"
Nicholas: "Uhh . . . put lava on it."

10. Nicholas: "You my best fwiend! Because you my mommy!"

11. Nicholas, wearing just a shirt and undies: "I am cold! I need a piece of pants."

12. Tyler, about a coloring book: "This looks like the 1960s! It's all black and white."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Captain Sun Adventures

I've explained many times that we focus on reading for the foundation of our education. Much to my kids' dismay though, I do not allow certain types of books for "school," so you can imagine how surprised they were when I handed them a comic book for approved school reading to review. This isn't just a typical comic book though.

The Captain Sun Adventures, by pastor Bryce Morgan, is a collection of  comic books that combine the excitement and adventure of superheroes with the truths of the Bible. Part comic book, part devotional, these books help kids "think of superheroes, not just in terms of fun, but also in terms of faith." Rescue Me! What Superheroes Can Teach Us About the Power of Faith is the first book in the series and is filled with many lessons from the Bible.

The story is like most comic books. It is fast-paced and filled with both narration and dialogue. Pages are filled with frame after frame of bold artwork and visual cues. Not only does this book introduce the main hero (and his secret identity), it also gives a little backstory, addresses a villain, and involves a team of addition superheroes.   

The evil villain Black-Out came to "snuff out the light" in Capital City with his choking darkness. Captain Sun appeared and saved a bus full of children from plummeting into a raging river, fixed a hole in a plane's wing and prevented it from falling to the ground, saved an enemy from sudden death, all while trying to defeat the villain and trying to break free of his overwhelming darkness. He used his incredible strength and speed along with his super nova power and solar fire. Then, he employed the help of the Hero Defense League. Along with the help of Fogbank, Missile Man, Electro Lad, and Landslide, he was able to distract Black-Out long enough to get the help of the city. He convinced the people to join together become a light so bright that they chased away the darkness together.

After each chapter of the story is a newspaper page that acts as the devotional part of the book. These sections take a theme from the story and relate it to a lesson from the Bible. Some examples are as follows:
  • Our "origin story" and how God transforms us to our new identity in Christ
  • Bad guys, sin, and God's grace
  • Superpowers and the power we receive through faith in Christ
  • Secret identity and living for God
  • Heroes and working together for the cause of Christ

The devotionals also include a fun question like If you could have just one super power, what would it be?What is something heroic that you could do today?, and How many super villains can you name?. These questions encourage thinking and add a fun aspect to the lesson. There is also Bible verse to compliment the theme.

The end of the book contains a list of questions to think about. The questions are broken into chapters and either relate to the story itself or address themes from the book that can be applied to our Christian lives. There are also fun printable coloring pages on the website that accompany the story.

Here is what my kiddos thought of the book:

I really liked it! The team up was really cool.

I think this is one of my favorite books. I really like it!

I like how it has the newspapers and the Bible verses in them.

Rescue Me! What Superheroes Can Teach Us About the Power of Faith is a cute little book with big lessons. I have 4 boys and 1 girl, and let me tell you, superheroes are a big thing around here. The kids are always pretending that they possess amazing powers. I like how this book merges that excitement with the power of Christ and teach kids to be superheroes for Him. The newspaper devotionals are perfect for little heroes. Kids are drawn to the comic book style and superhero theme, but they'll learn a lot about Christ and our responsibility to live for Him.

You can connect with The Captain Sun Adventures on the following social media sites:

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

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