Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Minstrel in the Tower

I know, I say it a lot, but our family loves reading. With the foundation of our schooling being literature, it's no surprise that our favorite reviews often deal with books and reading. Add in Progeny Press, a company that we love, and you know that the study is going to be very much enjoyed. This time, we were able to use the Minstrel in the Tower E-Guide

Progeny Press is a Christian company owned by Michael and Rebecca Gilleland. It is their mission to "teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!" They offer more than 100 study guides for classic, popular, and award-winning books. The guides are designed to help students better understand and enjoy literature by getting them to think through the themes and ideas written in the stories. The study guides are available in three formats: a physical book, a CD with a PDF ebook, and a downloadable PDF file. 

Since we like to incorporate as much as possible as family studies and my children are 10, 8, 6, and 4 years old, I knew I wanted to look at the lower elementary (K-3rd grade) list. Because the kiddos love anything pertaining to the Middle Ages, I was immediately drawn to The Minstrel in the Tower guide that accompanies the book with the same name. The Minstrel in the Tower is a short chapter book (60+ pages) written by Gloria Skurzynski. It tells the story of a young brother and sister that travel the countryside alone to find their estranged uncle because their mother is sick. The children are caught, held for ransom, and eventually escape from their tower prison. Set during the time of the Crusades, knights, minstrels, lutes, lords and ladies, the tale is one of magic and excitement.

The guide is broken down into sections:

  • Before-you-read Activities
  • Chapter 1
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3
  • Chapter 4
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapter 6
  • Chapter 7
  • Chapter 8
  • Word Search
  • After-you-read Activities
The 45-page guide also includes additional resources, answer key, and a brief bio of the author.

This study guide is filled with different types of activities. There are questions like Why do you think Roger wanted Alice to come along, At the Crossroads, why did Roger and Alice take the road to the left? and Why was it to important to Roger that he climb the oak tree to get the lute?; finding the definitions for vocabulary words like dismay and wimple by studying them in context, fill in the blanks, matching and more.

Within the section are also Bible verses that compliment the lessons in the story. The verses are written out in the guide itself, but because a different version from what we read is used, we opted to pull out a KJV and read directly from the Bible. There are also questions that accompany the Bible verses and reinforce the themes.

The kiddos usually play with Legos, color, do something else to keep their hands busy while I read chapter books. I've found that it helps them pay attention to the story better and keeps their interest. This read-aloud time helps all the children to hear different ideas and gives me the opportunity to ask more questions and to encourage deeper thought.

While the kids do enjoy answering the questions, they prefer the hands-on activities. This study doesn't have as many activities as some of the other studies we've used from Progeny Press, but it offers a few. There's a word search, field trip, clay sculpture, and writing projects, along with a few other ideas. There's the suggestion to draw your own banner or coat of arms. Instead, we found a site online that let us design one digitally by choosing color options, set-up, and whatnot. I appreciate the flexibility of using these types of guides.

The kids and I enjoyed the story, the question and discussion time, and the projects. I love how the guides incorporate the Bible and point the readers back to Christ. This study has taken a  cute story and has given it a deeper meaning. Whenever you can apply a lesson, rather than just hear about it, it's much more likely to make a lasting difference.

This study e-guide costs $11.99, and you can view a sample on their site. If your kids are older than the lower elementary age, don't worry, Progeny Press offers study guides through the high school level, as well. As always, we enjoyed this review and look forward to using another study guide from Progeny Press in the future.

You can connect with Progeny Press on Facebook and Twitter.  

If you'd like to read more reviews of this study or are interested in one of the other guides, please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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