Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reading Eggs


My two oldest kids used Reading Eggs years ago and loved it. Naturally, I was excited to review it again with my next two kiddos. We're a techie family, so anytime they get extra electronic time, they're happy. And when I tell them they get to play games on the computer for school? They're really excited.  

Reading Eggs is an online program that teaches kids to read. The engaging games and activities make learning fun while still teaching important skills. This program from Blake eLearning was created by an experienced team of teachers, educational writers, animators, and web developers. It focuses on a core reading skills and strategies that encourage reading success. They're so confident in their program, that they're offering a free 4-week trial.


When you sign into your Reading Eggs account, you'll be taken to your family dashboard. From there, you can choose which child (if more than one is signed up) is using the program. The dashboard also gives important stats, like the student's approximate reading level, how many phonics skills and sight words he knows, his progress, which stories he has read, and other recent events he's completed. Because the program is designed for ages 3-7 and reading skills can vary greatly during those years, there is a placement test for the student as soon as he starts.

The lessons are divided into maps. Each map shows a scene from an outdoor playground and includes 10 lessons. Level 1 Starting Out is for absolute beginning readers and covers lessons 1-40, level 2 Beginning to Read is for emerging readers and consists of lessons 41-80, and level 3 Building Confidence is for early readers and covers lessons 81-120. Zac (7) was placed at lesson 111, the first lesson of map 12 (the last map) and Tyler started at lesson 61, the first lesson of map 7.


The lessons are animated and incorporate a variety of options for teaching. There are songs, books, videos, and many games. The games can be so silly: adding hair to monsters, squirting sauce on eggs, catching frogs on lilypads, hopping penguins to ice chunks, adding stamps to letters, and so much more. Reading Eggs uses the synthetic phonic method to teach reading. The lessons teach the student to decode words by sounds and by showing them how to make connections between written text and spoken language. Students are taught graphemes (letters) and phonemes (smallest unit of sound) and then incorporate sight words.

As the students progress through the lessons, they earn golden eggs that can be used to purchase various items. They also unlock places such as My House, Puzzle Park, and Driving Tests. The places and items add a fun element to the program. For instance, the kids can use their eggs to buy furniture for their house, accessories for their avatar, or to play a game. 



There are also printable activity sheets that correspond to each lesson. The students practice tracing and writing the letters, matching the letter sounds to words, coloring pictures, reading sentences and matching them to the appropriate pictures, and much more. The tactile aspect is a good reinforcement which many kids greatly benefit from. My kids have really enjoyed this hands-on part as well.

Last week, Reading Eggs released a brand new set of program guides that specifically support homeschoolers. The guides are free and can be downloaded from the parent dashboard under Bonus Material.


My boys, just like their older siblings, love Reading Eggs! Because the teaching is disguised as fun, the kids don't even realize how much they're learning. They will sit and play for hours if I let them, so we have to set some boundaries so other school work will be accomplished. There are other branches of the program, too: Reading Eggs Junior (ages 2-4), Reading Eggspress (ages 7-13), and Mathseeds (ages 3-9).  There really is so much involved with this program that it would take forever for me to try to explain it all. If you'd like to see how it works in more specific detail, you can try a sample lesson for free.

Truly though, if you have a child who is learning to read or needs a little boost in language arts, set up a 4-week free trial and see what all Reading Eggs has to offer. 


You can connect with Reading Eggs on the following social media sites:
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
Pinterest
YouTube

You can read more reviews of Reading Eggs on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brinkman Adventures


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's not feasible to sit down and read a novel. It's times like these that we love to turn on an audio book.

The 
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 while listening to season 3 and were thrilled to receive Brinkman Adventures Season 4.


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. 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 confront a witch doctor, "smuggle translated Bibles past guards," ride a flying machine, eat caterpillars, get locked out of the house by a robot, witness to many, and experience heartache and joy. You'll find all this in Season 4:
  • Episode 37: A Paradise Lost
  • Episode 38: Remember Nhu
  • Episode 39: Aisha's Fear
  • Episode 40: Heart Song
  • Episode 41: The Crashed Kitchen
  • Episode 42: Crisis in the Congo
  • Episode 43: The Mysterious Palm Feller
  • Episode 44: War of the Raccoons
  • Episode 45: The Five Guys
  • Episode 46: Toughest Man
  • Episode 47: Cambodian Quest
  • Episode 48: What Brings Us Together
You can take the learning to a deeper level past 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 the tactics villagers used to kill animals (and the downfalls of them), the power of hippos, how many homes around the world for children who are at risk of being sold as slaves, how forgiveness can win over those who are trying to sabotage you, how one man was able to stay faithful in the midst of extreme persecution, and what really happened the day of the wedding. 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.  



They recently came out with curriculum to inspire the next generation of missionaries. It includes a teacher's manual, a CD of season 1, a classroom version of the CD with highlights of the stories, and a resource CD with all the printables for the lessons. 

We've listened to this audio drama driving in the van and for downtime in the house. Immediately, everyone gets quiet so they don't miss anything. The kids were amazed when the Russian officer died after the elderly woman's prophecy and especially enjoyed the story about the king who lost his finger. 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 in the world, that God is still using regular people to change the hearts of a sinful world.



You can connect with Brinkman Adventures on their website and Facebook

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


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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

CTCMath Review



Every child needs to learn math in school--whether they want to or not, ha. I've talked about the math issue in our house before. When my kids understand the concepts they're working on, they like it; when they're confused and struggle, they claim that math is the worst thing ever. That may be an exaggeration, but only slightly. Math is used in our everyday lives though, whether its for your job, in your home, or at the store. That's why it's so important to have a good grasp of understanding. Since math builds on itself, I want to make sure that my kids have a solid foundation now, so that future learning of more difficult concepts is made easier. 

Currently, you can get 60% off + 6 bonus months to the program we've been using, CTCMath Family Membership.

CTCMath was founded by Pat Murray, homeschooling father of 10. Mr. Murray has been teaching math for over 30 years in Australia and used his love of the subject to create this comprehensive online math tutor for K5-12th grade. He believes that teaching should be concise to keep the students' attention, give him ample time for practice, and better help him recall the concepts later. His teachings have reached tens of thousands of people Australia, the United States, the UK, and other parts of the world.

As a member of CTCMath, you have the option to use all the grades and lessons at any time. There are also standard and comprehensive placement tests for each topic for the elementary grades, so you can determine where is the best place or topic to start your child and can change courses at any time. There are over 1,400 tutorials that teach the math concepts step-by-step. Each video is only 4-9 minutes long and incorporated both audio and animation. The tutorials are done in such a way that makes the concepts easy-to-understand. They are colorful, but not flashy or distracting.

After the video tutorial are the interactive questions for the student to complete. The answer format varies from multiple choice, dragging the correct answer to its place, fill in the blank, etc.. Each lesson has about 10 questions for the student to answer, and the stats of those questions are shown at the top. There is a progress bar, grade, and number correct of the total answered. After the questions are completed, a results page comes up so the student can see the results all together. Little green check marks are by the ones that are correct, and red Xs are next to the incorrect ones. From there, the student can complete more questions or head back to the lessons. 


As a parent, I get weekly email reports about my kids' activity log. I can quickly see what each child did each day: the times they logged in and out, which lesson(s) they did, the grade(s) they earned, and any certificates they received. I also get certificates sent to my email that I can print and award to the appropriate student. On the parent dashboard on the site, I can assign tasks to each student, view individual profiles and detailed reports, review diagnostic tests and awards, and preform other various functions.  

Both the student and the parent have access to the grades for each lesson, so it's easy to see at a glance where exactly each student needs practice and where he is excelling. 


I have my 4th grader and 2nd grader using this for their main math curriculum. The can easily complete their lessons on their own and can navigate the site as needed. They are grasping the concepts and retaining the information. My kindergartner is using the program as more of a supplement. He needs help starting each lesson and working through the questions. Since he cannot read well, he takes advantage of the sound icon. He clicks on it to hear the question read aloud. He has a harder time consistently controlling the mouse well, so I often help him click or drag the answers he chooses. After that, the student has to click to submit the answer and then click again to move to the next question.

CTCMath is a wonderful program for my older kids, but not the best option for my little one. The videos do a good job teaching the concepts, even to the younger ones, but the format isn't quite as user friendly to those who are still learning to read and develop fine motor skills.   


Not sure how CTCMath would work in your home? You can take advantage of their Free Trial and get started today.

You can connect with CTCMath on the following social media sites:
  
You can read more reviews of CTCMath on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.


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Friday, October 6, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 10/6/17


Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)


Happy Friday! This week Jake started an online engineering program for kids, Alyssa had a pretty big accomplishment (#8), and I've had some ups and downs with my ankle injury. Did you Smile this week? 


1. Jake, because I knew what he was getting ready to do: "What! I think she just knows how to read minds."
Tyler: "I think it's because she's a mom."

2. Zac: "Lions are called the king of the jungle, but how come every picture I see of them they're not in the jungle?"

3. Tyler picked a bouquet of flowers for me.


4. Zac: "I itched it."
Jake: "You scratched it."
A minute later . . .
Zac: ". . . when I itched it."
Jake: "Scratched!"
Me: "You know, there are even adults who say that."
Jake, making a funny face and twitching his eye: "I'd better not marry someone who says that. I mean, if she says it, it's going to bother me; but if I tell her, it's going to bother her! Let's just hope for the best."

5. This scene.

6. Zac, excited: "Mom! Can we go to Australia and get a blue-tongued lizard? They say they're easy to handle."

7. Tyler: "Mama, I love you infinity . . . even when you're mad at me."

8. Alyssa read The Fellowship of the Ring.


9. Jake: "Nicky, do you want to go take a nap?"
Nicholas: "Noooooo!"
Jake: "Wow, it's not like I asked if you want to drink poison or something . . . but do you want to drink poison?"
Me: "Jacob!"
Jake, laughing: "Ok, how about sleeping powder?"

10. The handle of a laundry basket cracked, so Nicholas put a piece of tape on it to "make it feel better."

11. Tyler: "Daddy, I have a joke for you."
Leighton: "Ok."
Tyler: "Knock, knock."
Leighton: "Who's there?"
Tyler: "Who?"
Leighton: "Who who?"
Tyler: "Who let an owl in this house?"

12. Jake: "I don't have any hair on my chest. Can I get a chest toupee?"

13. Nicholas had a few small marshmallows for a snack. Leighton put the bag away in the pantry, but a few minutes later, Nicholas was walking through the kitchen trying to open the bag.
Me: "No, you already had enough."
Nicholas, innocently: "I just lookin' at 'em."


What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Channie's Workbooks Review



Math seems to be a subject that you either love or hate. I have kids in both categories (and sometimes a child who is in both categories in any given day, ha). But no matter your feelings on the subject, it's important to have a good understanding of mathematics and its concepts. We use it all the time, whether we're doubling a recipe, building a piece of furniture, seeing if we have enough money to buy our favorite Lego set, or determining how many days until our birthday. That's why it's important to have a curriculum that works for your family. Sometimes though, a child needs extra help in a certain area. Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks can help with that. And if your child struggles with double digit problems, One Page a Day: Double Digit Math Problem Workbook - 1st to 3rd is what you need.

Chan Bohacheff was at a loss when her son struggled with his handwriting for years. When she couldn't find anything to help him , she decided to create her own visual guide. Not only did his handwriting improve quickly, but so did his attitude. Now, 2 years later, Channie's is a thriving educational brand that can be found in many retail stores across the country. Quality, detail, and innovation have made these American-made products award-winning.


My 2nd grader is my math whiz. He doesn't do it often anymore, but he used to ask us to give him difficult problems to solve in his head, just for fun. I figured these pages might be a good refresher for him.

The worksheets are a simple format. Boxes keep the numbers separate and lined up. So many times--whether it's been my own kids or the 1st graders I taught years ago--I've seen kids get answers wrong because they were confused by misaligned numbers. This design keeps everything neat easy to understand. The booklet starts with simple double digit addition and then adds in simple double digit subtraction. The problems increase in difficulty as carrying and borrowing are included.

Since these pages are mostly remedial work, there are no teaching concepts involved, unless a student needs additional help understanding the process. My son can complete a page a day without any direction from me.  The pages easily tear out of the book, making this an easy option for kids. My boy is skilled in math, so I've encouraged him to use this book as motivation to speed up his solving time. He races to complete each page faster than the day before.


In just 25 problems a day, the One Page a Day: Double Digit Math Problem Workbook - 1st to 3rd helps students achieve accuracy through an organized format and repetition.  

Channie's offers more than just math workbook. Some of the other resources include workbooks for printing (like Quick & Neat Alphabet Pad and My First Letters) and workbooks for cursive (Easy Peasy Cursive).


You can connect with Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks on Facebook.

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

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Super Teacher Worksheets



We were given an Individual Membership to review Super Teacher Worksheets. Even though our schooling is focused around reading and hands-on activities, but do we incorporate worksheets for extra learning and fun practice. My oldest would gladly finish his school career without ever completing a worksheet again, but I have 3 kiddos who love getting their own pages to fill out and color. 

Super Teacher Worksheets is a website devoted to providing teachers with printable worksheets. Not just a few worksheets, mind you, but thousands. Pretty much, if you need a worksheet for a certain topic, they have it. Determining area? Yes. Cause and effect? Yes. Finding letter R words? Yes. Reading thermometers? Yes. Calculating weight on other planets? Yes. Identifying verbs? Yes. Counting by 7s? Yes. The list of topics is impressive. Of course, each topic is filled with many subtopics, as well.  


  • Math
  • Reading & Writing
  • Phonics & Early Literacy
  • Handwriting
  • Grammar
  • Spelling Lists
  • Chapter Books (Literacy Units)
  • Science 
  • Social Studies
  • Holidays
  • Puzzles & Brain Teasers
  • Pre-K & Kindergarten

There is also a Teacher Helpers section that is full of resources to help keep you organized and provide some fun extras. There are dozens of awards and certificates (from reading 25 books to zipping a zipper), crafts (like building a Thanksgiving diorama and creating a cute scarecrow with movable arms and legs), electives (such as learning the parts of a computer or labeling musical notes), and even reminder wristbands (for things like lunch money and field trips).

Along with those aids, there is an entire section dedicated to worksheet generators. You have the option to easily create a worksheet using your own information. You can make bingo, flashcards, crossword puzzles, word searches, multiple choice, matching, short answer, and more. If you can't find what you're looking for already on the site, you can make it yourself quickly and easily with these resources.     

My kids love Star Wars, so I decided to make them a crossword puzzle just for fun. The generator is super simple to use. I filled in the appropriate information (level, title, ect.) and then listed the words I wanted in the puzzle. The crossword was created and printed in just a couple minutes. The hardest part was choosing which words I wanted, ha.      


Another great aspect of this site is the My File CabinetYou can save your favorite worksheets with a click of a button in a digital file cabinet. You can access the file cabinet at the top of the screen. Once inside, you can see all information that pertains to the worksheets: the date it was added to the file cabinet, subject, topic, title, and choose which action you want to take. 

The action symbols match the symbols that appear under each worksheet in the lists: aligns with common core, English and Spanish versions, preview file, and add to file cabinet. 


My little ones have been having so much fun completing the pages I've printed from this site. One of my sons soaks up anything about animals, so I've been giving him all sorts of pages from the animal section, like mazes, scavenger hunts, and short articles with comprehension questions. My daughter is my crafty one, so she's made a scarecrow and turkey and used some of the writing prompts. I have a kindergartner who is enjoying the mini books, dot-to-dots, and letter pages. My oldest, who has never liked worksheets, has found a new favorite: hink pinks. It's actually turned into a good family activity that we've play quite often now, all because of a page I printed from Super Teacher Worksheets. 

We have used so many sections of this site already, and I have plans for even more.There is so much more here than typical worksheets. They do offer a ton of FREE printables that can be found in each category, but a membership provides any worksheet or the ability to make your own that you might possible need. They also add new content every week and update the What's New tab, so you'll always be able to quickly and easily find the additions. These printable online PDFs are a great resource for any teacher to have. 




You can connect with Super Teacher Worksheets on the following social media sites:


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




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Friday, September 29, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 9/29/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)


Happy Friday! This week, Alyssa turned 9 1/2, Tyler turned 5 1/2, and I gave very personal details about my injury and what I'm learning during this process. What did you Smile about this week?


1. Me: "Did you know that I love you?"
Nicholas: "Oh! Daddy loves me!"


2. Nicholas giving "foot fives" (high fives with his feet).

3. Riddle: How can a man go 8 days without sleep?
Jake: "Coffee!"
(Do you know? The correct answer is at the bottom of this post.)

4. Zac: "I think I'm going to read extra, because I love that new book you got me."
Me: "Oh, I'm so glad!"
Zac: "Wait, is there a limit that I read?"
Me: "You have to read your required time each day, but after that you can read as much as you want."
Zac: "Really? There's no limit at all? I can just keep reading as long as I want?!"

5. Jake: "No matter what, you'll always be my favorite mother."

6.

7. Jake: "Can I play the Kindle now?"
Me: "Yes, 15 minutes."
Jake: "25."
Me: "14."
Jake: "20."
Me: "12."
Jake: "I'm trying to negotiate. 17?"
Me: "You don't negotiate with your parents. 10."
Jake: "I'm not a very good negotiator. 15?"
Me: "15."

8. Alyssa: "Knots are magical."

9. Jake: "Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. And boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails . . . But what are grandparents made of? . . . Ooh, I know! Presents and candy and everything dandy." 

10. Jake: "Algebra would be so much easier if you didn't always have to figure out what X is."

11. Jake, writing a story: "How do you spell colonel."
Me: "C-O-L-O-N-E-L"
Jake: "C-O-L--wait. Colonel. How do you spell colonel?"
Me: "C-O-L-O-N-E-L"
Jake: "What! That doesn't even make sense! . . . I'm just going to change it to general."


What made you Smile this week?


Riddle: How can a man go 8 days without sleep?
Answer: He sleeps at night!

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls




We go through a lot of books around here, so we're always pleased to review new titles. This time, WorthyKids/Ideals was kind enough to send us the first 2 books in a brand new series called The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls

WorthyKids/Ideals is a Christian publishing company in Tennessee. Their mission is "helping people experience the heart of God," and they do that by partnering with authors whose content are characterized by talent, creativity, and compelling ideas. They create colorful, interactive books for children, but their other lines include products for adult too, like journals, devotionals, inspirational books, and much more.


The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls was written by Mike (M. J.) Thomas. When he couldn't find any books to teach his son about the Bible in a fun and imaginative way, he decided to create his own series. The books combine biblical accuracy with adventure and imagination. The main characters are named after his son, his niece, and his dog.

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Beginning (Book #1)
Peter and Mary's parents left for a month-long trip to Africa, so the children and their dog are staying with their Great Uncle Solomon in his huge house. The kids were apprehensive, because they barely knew their elderly uncle whose house was filled with old, dusty things. Their interest was piqued when they learned that he was an archaeologist who had a secret--he had found several ancient Hidden Scrolls. It wasn't long before a lion roared, they found a hidden room in the library, and the seal on a scroll was broken. Immediately, Peter and Mary were transported back in time to Creation.

The siblings were floating in total darkness. As time passed, they witnessed each day of Creation. They're there when light was made, when trees and fruits were created, when the stars were formed. In order to get back to their Uncle in the present day, they had to solve the secret in the scroll in 7 days. They experienced much as they worked to figured it out. They were rescued by the angel Michael, swam with dolphins, rode a rhino, lost the scroll to a monkey, were almost killed by the Snake, witnessed a big fight, and watched as the first man and woman were created. Peter and Mary solved the secret just in time and returned to the library. There, their uncle read the Creation story from his big, red Bible. They finished the story and learned it wasn't really the end, but just the beginning. They would have to wait to learn the next part of the story.


The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: Race to the Ark (Book #2)
Peter, Mary, and Hank go on another exciting adventure in Race to the Ark. As soon as they heard the lion roar, Great-Uncle Solomon tossed a few supplies in a bag and watched them run off to solve another secret of the scroll. The trio is teleported to an ancient city.

When they discover that there was no food in their bag, they went in search of provisions. They quickly learned that the people there "lie, cheat, and steal" to live. Sin filled their hearts. The kids were attacked by a couple of bullies and their wolf. They were able to escape with the help of the angel Michael once again. After spending the night in the woods, they followed thousands of animals prints, leading them to a giant ark. There, they met and befriended Noah and his family. The kids helped with the work of getting the animals in cages, cleaning, gathering, and preparing for the Flood. The kids were kidnapped by the Dark Ruler, trapped in a dungeon, and watched a battle between good and evil. Just when all hope was lost, they figured out the sixth word and solved the secret of the scroll. They learned that "even when you think you're alone, God is with you."


My daughter (9 yr) grabbed book #1 as soon as it arrived in the mail. She devoured it and book #2 that same day. She liked them so much that she enjoyed hearing them again as we used them as family read-alouds. Leighton read the kiddos the first book, and I read the second. They're cute little stories, just over 100 pages, perfect for ages 6-9, and a quick read. They are fiction books, for sure, but filled with much biblical truth. The characters are likable and funny. We liked these so much that the kids want to know when more books will be added to the series.

Here's what the kids had to say:

I like how they traveled back through time and learned about the Bible.

I like how they had to figure out the secret scrolls.

I like how they were kinda like spies and couldn't tell anyone they were from the future.


If you're looking for adventured-filled stories that teach your little ones about the Bible, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls is a great series to have.


You can connect with Worthy Kids/Ideals on the following social media sites:
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If you'd like to read more reviews of these books, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Captain Bayley's Heir




We've been blessed with the opportunity to review the newest audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions. They have produced some of the best audio dramas we have ever heard and always make our family happy to learn history. Our schooling is literature-based, so we're often reading quality writings together that teach life lessons and new vocabulary. For those times though when I can't sit and read to the kiddos, we like to utilize audio books and incorporate them into our schooling and daily life.

We couldn't wait to listen to Captain Bayley's Heir.  


Heirloom Audio Productions has converted multiple historical adventure novels by G.A. Henty into theater-quality audio dramas. Our main curriculum lists many Henty books in the reading list, because they are known for their deep history, rich literature, and exciting plots. So far, my kiddos aren't drawn to the novels themselves, but they are truly captivated by these adaptations. If you close your eyes, you feel as if you're there in the story. The music, the actors, the sound effects--they all make the story come to life. You hear the sound of horses' hooves pounding on the ground, guns shooting, fire crackling, bird chirping, glass breaking, and you feel as if you are there as one of the characters of the story. It is that realistic. The narrator, Brian Blessed, has a rich, powerful voice that makes the drama exciting to listen to. We were immediately pulled into the plot.

The story begins in England in the 1800s. There's a whole cast of characters, but mostly follows the life of 18-year-old Frank. He is noble and generous and well-liked by everyone. After a series of poor choices and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he was falsely accused of a crime. Before his punishment were to take place, he escaped to America. He experienced much adventure in three years' time. He nearly died in a terrible storm, happened upon a caravan of murdered pioneers, was attacked by 200 Indians, killed a man in self-defense, saved a man's life, found gold, fought to protect strangers, and experienced a miracle. He worked hard and overcame many obstacles. Despite being doubted by many and betrayed by one closest to him, he chose forgiveness. It's a story of grace, forgiveness, and love. Along with the non-stop action and exciting adventures, there are plenty of morals and Biblical truths taught along the way.         


There is a downloadable Study Guide & Discussion Starter that accompanies the story. This complete guide is used to enhance your learning and complement your study. Each section, which correlates to the tracks on the CDs, is  filled with review questions (Listening Well), ideas to get you thinking deeper (Thinking Further), and vocabulary words (Defining Words). There is more information about G.A. Henty, multiple Bible studies that coordinate with the story (God's Grace, Becoming a Christian, Honoring Your Parents), many pictures from the times, and much more historical information. There are Expand Your Learning boxes throughout the study that are filled with snippets of information that relate to the period.

There are many more extras that are included as part of the Live the Adventure Club, too. There is the original Captain Bayley's Heir ebook, the official soundtrack composed by John Campbell, a printable cast poster, an inspirational verse poster, and a downloadable desktop wallpaper. Also as part of the Live the Adventure Club, you gain access to many more features, such as the community forum, daily motivational quotes and stories, hundred of articles about parenting, collection of rare textbooks from the 1700-1800s, and hundreds of fun activities.


The whole family loved this story! Some of the other dramas have been a bit complicated between the story line and accents, but this one was easy to follow. It has a couple surprising plot twists that add to the excitement, too. And that soundtrack? I think it's my favorite from all of the Heirloom Audio dramas! It's so peaceful and calming. John Campbell really did a great job with this one. I've enjoyed playing the music over and over. 

We used the study guide questions to review the story and tackle difficult topics. The kids and I especially enjoyed the sections teaching about Victorian money, the water routes to California, the dangers of the mining camps, and living in the gold fields. Of course, the little ones didn't quite understand everything, but it's never too early to introduce quality literature.

Captain Bayley's Heir is another fantastic resource from Heirloom Audio Productions. We'll enjoy this for years to come. 

  


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You can read more reviews of Captains Bayley's Heir on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lessons in the Valley: Part 2


A couple days ago I posted about my valley. No one likes to experience hard times, but sometimes it's those difficult situations that can teach you the most. As parents, we can give advice to our kids, but that doesn't always mean that they truly understand. Sometimes they have to experience something for the lesson to solidify in their mind.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
II Corinthians 12:9

Sometimes, God has to allow us, as His children, to learn lessons in the same way, but He's always faithful to help us through. There are many lessons that He is teaching me through this experience. These are some of the big ones.


Homeschooling has many benefits. I already have a list of reasons why homeschooling is perfect for our family, but I found another reason to be thankful. If I had to drive the kids to school and pick them up every day, it would have been very difficult. For one thing, the older kids have helped so much. Those first couple weeks when I couldn't do anything, they did it all. If they had been away at school, I would have been alone with an active toddler. Also, we would have to had made other driving arrangements during this time, which would make things complicated. 

Instead, we were able to continue school from the couch. No, it's not ideal and it's certainly not without it's complications, especially because we've transitioned from a summer schedule to full-day schooling. On top of that, we have a toddler--who is already acting out because he knows something is wrong when Mommy is sitting all day--and who does not understand why his playmates aren't giving him their full attention--and who is in the still-needs-nap-but-refuses-to-take-napes stage. It's not been the easiest few of weeks of schooling. Not at all. But as I sit here, I can't help but be thankful for this opportunity and the blessings of it, especially during a hard time.


It's ok to ask for help. I bet this is a hard one for a lot of people. We think we can handle everything on our own. And it hurts our pride when we can't. I've said many times that I could never have a maid, because I'd clean the house myself before she even got here, ha. I've also said many times that clutter is stressful to me. Oh, I am all for making big messes for learning and fun (for instance, like here and here); it's just that they need to be cleaned up afterward. Aside from the playing though are the typical chores that arise daily--laundry, dishes, vacuuming, sweeping, sanitizing, decluttering. A lot of mess can happen in household of 7, especially when 6 of those people are here all day every day. Even if the kids always picked up everything after themselves all the time (riiight), there would still be chores that needed to be done, meals that needed to be cooked, bathrooms that needed to be cleaned, and dishes that needed to be washed. While I am training my kiddos to learn these life skills, I am the one who does the majority of the daily tasks. Now I cannot do these things and it all falls to others.

I've tried a couple different approaches to getting the work done. The best that I've found is when I specifically ask for certain chores to get done. Leighton works a grueling 50 hours a week. His workload is already too full, and now he picks up the slack at home, runs all the errands, and cares for the kids and me. Let's be honest, clutter does not bother him like it does me. On top of that, he really doesn't even realize all the needs to be done because he's never had to do it. Rather than ignoring it, waiting to see if he'll notice that {insert any chore} needs to be done, and getting frustrated when he doesn't . . . I just ask him to do it. And you know what? He does! As far as the kids, they've been helping a lot more, too. I may not be able to do much from the couch, but I can delegate really well, haha. I give each child a specific task. When they finish it, they get another. "Tyler, put away the shoes by the door. Alyssa empty the dishwasher. Nicky put away those books." Giving them each a specific job works so much better than "clean the kitchen." I've used this approach with them for years, but we're on a much bigger level now. I'm also blessed to have my mom so willing to help out. She came over many days in the beginning when I could not get up at all and even took Nick to spend the night at her house a couple nights. There are still a few times when the kids can't really do something and Leighton truthfully has not had the time, and all I have to do is ask and she comes. We also had other family and friends offer to do things. I'm learning that even though it's hard, it's ok to ask for help.


I am not in control. Oh, in theory I knew this, but in reality, I like to be in control--or at least as much as you can control things when you have a house full of little ones, ha. I am a doer. I like to plan and work. I don't sit down to relax until the kids are in bed and Leighton and I spend our alone time together. In the last month, I've done little else beside sitting. With that potential 6-month healing time looming over my head, I knew I couldn't push myself and chance injuring the ligaments more. At 2 weeks, the pain subsided a little and I was able to begin physical therapy exercises. Within a couple days the mobility of the ankle was greatly increased. By 3 weeks, I was able to put slight pressure on the foot as I used the crutches. I even could shuffle a few steps from the counter to the fridge if I absolutely needed to. The progress was exciting!

Then I made a huge mistake. I got fed up with sitting all day except for a few 15-minute periods where I was able to get up before being totally wiped out. There were things around the house that needed to be done. I realized that if I walked on just my toes and stayed off the rest of the foot, I was ok. I washed dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. I put away laundry and even changed the sheets on my bed. I went down the stairs one at a time sitting and scooching, washed a load of clothes, and went back up using my knee instead of my foot. It felt so good to do something profitable! Until I realized that the pain had returned full force. Worse than that, because of the way I was walking, I overexerted other ligaments, causing my ankle and leg to swell and ache in places it hadn't before. I was back to constant pain that woke me in the night. Again. I lost the mobility of the ankle. Again. I had shooting pains, again, but this time in previously uninjured locations along with everything that had been aching for weeks. It didn't take long to realize that those few things I was able to accomplish were not worth it. That was nearly 2 weeks ago, and I still am not where I was before that day.    

I cannot control how quickly I heal. It doesn't matter how much I'd like to be able to do certain things, I can't just ignore that my body is not ready for that activity yet. This is probably the hardest lesson I'm learning.  


Now is the perfect time to train young hearts. Training and teaching my little ones is always a priority for me (in fact, it is my focus this year), but habits can sneak up and, before you know it, you have a problem. It's like the backwards version of the idiom. In this case, it's you can't see the trees for the forest. Instead of being focused on details, you focus on the whole.

Being incapacitated for many weeks gives you a lot of time to step back and really see things. This time of stillness is helping me to be more in tune to my family, to recognize those "trees" that have grown in our forest and need to be removed or pruned. Attitudes that need tweaking, habits that need correcting, character traits that need improving. Because I don't have anything else vying for my attention, it's easier to identify the areas that need work and focus on correcting them. So many of these things are heart issues. The kids and I have had a lot of heart-to-heart talks in the last few weeks, helping them to recognize where they need change and helping them follow through. They have been some very special times. The problem though is that it's not just the kids who need work. God has shown me things in my own heart that need to change. Create in me a clean heart, O God has been my prayer (Psalm 51:10). Not having my typical responsibilities to distract me has given us the perfect opportunity to work on our hearts.


It's been a painful 5 weeks, and the end is nowhere in sight.  But I am thankful for the lessons that I'm learning. I won't claim that everything is perfect now and my fears gone. There are good days and bad days.

But I've decided that I will choose my response to the situation. I will look for the good, focus on the blessings.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God 
in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thessalonians 5:18 

I will be thankful.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 9/22/17


Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5), Nicholas (2 1/2)



Happy Friday! This week we celebrated Talk Like A Pirate Day, Leighton took the older 2 boys hunting, and Alyssa turned 9 1/2. Did you make sure to Smile this week? 


1. Me, about Nicholas, teasing: "What are we going to do with that baby. I'm pretty sure he's trouble."
Jake: "Really? You're only pretty sure?"

2, Zac, about sea snakes: "God made these creatures really special."

3. Nicholas: "God go to fweep!"
Me: "God goes to sleep?"
Alyssa: "Well, the Bible does say that God rested on the 7th day of creation."

4. Nicholas, holding a play phone: "Beep boop beep boop beep. Hello? Gramma? Papa? Why you at your house? Hello, mateys!"


5. Nicholas, noticing that the TV remote was missing a battery: "Hey, what happened? Eberyone stole it!"
Me: "Everyone stole it?"
Nicholas: "Tink about it. Jakey stole it."

6. Tyler: "Nicky's fun to play with."

7. Zac explained a whole narrative of how Alyssa was mistreating him.
Me: "Alyssa."
Alyssa, sweetly: "Yes?"
Me: "Oh, don't pretend to be innocent. What's going on?"
Alyssa: "Well, Zac's not playing nicely!"
Zac: "She's being mean to me!"
Alyssa: "He's being like Nebuchadnezzar."
Me, trying not to laugh: "How is he like Nebuchadnezzar?"
Alyssa: "He gave himself gold and gave Tyler bronze. He thinks he's the best and better than everyone else, just like Nebuchadnezzar."

8. Jake got his second deer.


9. Tyler came inside with a scraped and bloody elbow.
Tyler, proud: "Mom, look!"
Me: "Oh, no. What happened?"
Tyler: "My body got ahead of the swing and I backwards flipped off. I liked the backwards flipped off part!"
Me: "Do you want me to clean it up?"
Tyler: "No, I just want to see it!"
{10 seconds later}
Tyler, whining: "Ow, ow, owie . . . It hurts. Ooow . . . Can you do it now?"
It didn't hurt until he saw it. A complete 180 with his reaction.

10.  Alyssa: "I have a feeling I'm going to be cold or hot. I'm just not sure which one."

11. Me: "Were you a good boy tonight at church?"
Tyler: "Uh . . . hmm . . . well . . . No. Yes . . . Kinda."

What made you Smile this week?

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