Friday, April 28, 2017

Drive Thru History

My kids like when we get curriculum to review--new stuff is always exciting--but it's a real treat when the product isn't typical "school" type of work. They especially love whenever I tell them we're watching TV for school. This time, we were able to study the subjects of both Bible and history in a fun way with Drive Thru History®. I had never heard of this world-wide, award-winning television series that debuted in 2004, but a quick look at some of their video clips had me intrigued, and I knew I needed to see more.   
Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” is the latest title of the collection. The 18 episodes focus on the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus as accounted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The host, Dave Stotts, takes you on an an exciting journey to over 50 ancient sites as he drives all across Israel and "thru history." His energetic personality and conversational style along with bits of humor tossed in make this series a joy to watch. The amount of information and facts that he spouts off throughout each episode is astounding. The story of Jesus' life is woven as you learn about the people, places, and events showing evidence from history, archaeology, and geography. 

Here is what you can expect to learn from "The Gospels":
  • Episode 1: The Historical Landscape
  • Episode 2: The Announcements
  • Episode 3: Jesus is Born
  • Episode 4: Jesus Grows Up
  • Episode 5: Jesus Starts His Ministry
  • Episode 6: Jesus Returns to Galilee
  • Episode 7: Jesus Begins His Miracles
  • Episode 8: Jesus Teaches with Authority
  • Episode 9: The Sermon on the Mount
  • Episode 10: Jesus Travels the Sea of Galilee
  • Episode 11: Jesus Travels North
  • Episode 12: A Final Trip to Jerusalem
  • Episode 13: Jesus Arrives in Jerusalem
  • Episode 14: The Last Supper
  • Episode 15: The Trial of Jesus
  • Episode 16: The Crucifixion of Jesus
  • Episode 17: The Resurrection of Jesus
  • Episode 18: Who is Jesus?

Each episode showcases multiple ancient sites that are still preserved today. Synagogues, cities, the remains of a fish market, Herodium, and even possibly Peter's house. Dave travels all over Israel and visits cities including Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Capernaum, Chorazin, Magdala, Hippos, Cana, and Samaria and places such as the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of Beatitudes, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Dead Sea. He recites Scripture (though not the version we personally use) and references ancient quotes. He explains the culture during Jesus' life and shows how the rule of the Romans influenced the people. Dozens of paintings and illustrations that depict the stories are shown throughout each episode. Dave makes it easy to visualize the shepherds as the angel announced the birth of Christ or John as he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River or Jesus Himself as He healed blind Bartimaeus. The stories come alive.

Included with the 3-DVD set is an accompany study guide. It is broken down by disc and episode. The format is consistent for each episode: a famous quote, summary of the episode, a list of discussion questions, corresponding Bible passages, and an additional tidbit of information or "side road." The pages are covered with additional art and photographs. The guide contains no answer key as it is meant to spark discussion for families, small groups, or Sunday School classes and not designed for testing purposes. My kids are enjoying looking at the various pictures and reviewing the topics of discussion. The study guide itself is attached to the middle of the DVD case. While I appreciate the fact that my little ones cannot misplace the booklet, it does make it somewhat difficult to use. I would rather have the guide printed as a separate book that could be placed in a sleeve in the case.

Our entire family has loved watching "The Gospels." I like when the kids shout, "Hey! I know this story," or "I learned about this at church." It is always fascinating to me to see how the Bible and other historical events line up. Though I know that the Bible is fact and the events truly happened, it can be difficult at times to see how everything comes together. Drive Thru History® has done a phenomenal job of portraying the chronological telling of biblical stories mixed in with information from other resources. There is so much information that we could watch this multiple times and still not remember it all. While some documentaries can be dry and boring, Drive Thru History® is fun, exciting, and entertaining. It is appropriate for the whole family and is an excellent educational resource.

Take a peek at the trailer and experience a little of Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”.

You can connect with Drive Thru History® on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this resource, please read the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 4/7/17

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

Happy Weekend!  This week we bought a new van, finished a new book, and made many Lego creations. Did you have a good week, too?

1. Jake, after listening to the nursery rhyme: "Mom you just need to get old and live in a shoe. You already have so many children."

2. Zac: "Mom will you maaaaarry me? Haha, I'm just kidding. One, by the time I'm old enough, you'll be too old. Two, you already married dad. Three, there is no three."

3. Alyssa: "Boys are so disgusting!"
Jake: "Thank you!"
Alyssa: "You took that as a compliment?"


5. Zac, to Alyssa: "Whenever I think of Mom, I think of a picture of her with a sweet smiling face. That's always the first thing I think."

6. Alyssa: "My foot fell asleep. It feels like there are bouncy balls bouncing inside it."

7. Tyler sneezed in the living room.
Nicholas, who was already in bed for the night, shouted back, "Bess you, Ty-Ty! Bess you Ty-Ty!"

8. I received this note under the bathroom door.

9. Jake, incredulous: "How could anyone not like vegetables? I mean, how could you not like broccoli?"

10. Jake: "I don't remember it at all. How old was I? One?"
Me: "Yes, one. I could show you pictures."
Jake: "They had cameras then?!"
Alyssa: "TVs were even around then."

What made you Smile this week?

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 3/31/17

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

Happy Easter! We had a crazy busy weekend, so I'm just getting to my Smiles. I am so close to getting caught up on my lists. I think. Ha. This particular week, Alyssa and I spent a day alone to celebrate her birthday, the kiddos started swimming lessons, we made blanket forts, and laughed a lot.  Did you Smile a lot, too?

1. Me, while Alyssa was trying to decide on a book at the bookstore: "This is going to take a while, isn't it?"
Alyssa: "You bet it will."

2. Tyler: "Zachy, did you know I love you?"

3. Jake: "In all those princess movies, the princess always sings at the top of her lungs. I mean, she's like screaming. And there's no one even listening! Who does that?"

4. Zac: "Mom, Alyssa hit me for no reason!"
Me, sternly: "Alyssa."
Alyssa: For no good reason."

5. Tyler: "Hey, Mom! The squirrels are playing tag!" 


7. Tyler, about homemade apple butter: "I love it 100 percent!"

8. Jake, while sitting under a new, fuzzy blanket: "It feels like I'm sitting in a cloud!"

9. Me: "Jake, it's rude to chew with food in your mouth."
Jake: "Yes, ma'am."
I realized what I said and started laughing.
Jake: "What?"
Me: "I said it's rude to chew with food in your mouth."
Jake: "Oh, hahaha!"
Zac, confused: "It's not?"

10. Tyler: "Mama, are you older than all the 100s?"
Me: "No."
Tyler shocked: "Reeeaally? You're less?"

11. Jake: "I'd hate to be a spider. I mean, you could just be sitting there then, squish, die. And your life is over."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Digital Savvy Review

My husband is a very tech-savvy guy. Even back in our college days, he kept up with the latest and greatest gadgets. Me? Oh, I was perfectly content with a simple flip phone with no bells and whistles (until a year ago when he went out and bought me a fancy new one, ha). Though I do know my way around a computer, he is the one who knows all the nitty gritty details, from how they're built to how they run to understanding various programs and applications. And while I may not be interested in becoming a computer guru like my husband, my oldest son is following in his father's footsteps. He has a scientific mind and has been drawn to computers since he was little. He loved to play various games, but wasn't allowed to do much else on his own. Now that he's 11 years old, we permit him to use the computer for much more than recreational games. Tinkering around on his own is not ideal yet as we'd like to both guide and guard him. A course from CompuScholar, Inc. fit our need.

CompuScholar, Inc. (formerly known as Homeschool Programming) was founded by Chris and Andrea Yust as a means to provide proper teaching materials to help young students gain a love of computers and programming. Together, they have written more than 8 textbooks for kids and teens and strive to make computer science "approachable and available to all." The majority of the courses they offer are based around programming and development, but their new one, Digital Savvy,  teaches general computer skills.

Digital Savvy is geared toward grades 6-12 and is good for the those just beginning to delve deeper in computers and their applications. The course is designed for students to be able to complete it on their own (with available free technical support, if needed) even if they don't have parents who are technically savvy. They themselves, however,  should have minimal computer usage skills, like keyboarding, mouse, and operating system navigation prior to starting this course.

The two-semester class is broken into 25 chapters:

  1. Fundamentals of Computer Hardware
  2. Fundamentals of Computer Software
  3. Operating Systems
  4. Computer Files
  5. Computer Maintenance and Troubleshooting
  6. Computer Networks
  7. Search Engines 
  8. Computer Security
  9. Word Processing
  10. Spreadsheet Programs
  11. Presentation Programs
  12. Database Technology
  13. Project Management and Teamwork
  14. Mid-Term Project
  15. Digital Images
  16. Internet Communications
  17. Social Media
  18. More Social Media
  19. Creating Web Pages
  20. Web Page Design
  21. Web Links, Images, and Animation
  22. Programming Concepts
  23. Digital Logic
  24. Careers and Professional Skills
  25. Team Project

Each lesson includes a video, text, and quiz. Each chapter contains at least one hands-on project and an exam at the end. The user interface is easy to use. The home screen displays all of the chapters and a short description of each. It also lists the number of files, quizzes, and assignments are included in each chapter. Once the student chooses which chapter he wants to study, he is taken to a different page that breaks it down by lesson. From there, he can decide to watch the video or read the text. Then, he's given 3 opportunities to pass the quiz.

My son was ecstatic when I set up his account and handed the computer to him. He couldn't wait to learn so he'd be able to take advantage of the benefits of using a computer. That first day, he sat and watched the first 2 videos and completed the quizzes, even redoing the first quiz because he had gotten an answer wrong and wanted 100%. I soon noticed that he lost interest though. When I asked why, he responded with, "Why do I need to know this? It's boring." I urged him to work through it until the material got to a more interesting subject. When he continued to be uninterested, I encouraged him to skip ahead to a chapter he found more appealing. Unfortunately, that didn't help either. The monotone videos just could not keep his attention. Of course, there is the option of reading the text, and while he is an avid reader, that is not the optimal learning style for him in this instance.

Digital Savvy contains much information about early computer skills that might be more appealing to other students. My son is at the very low end of the intended age range. As he gets older, he may find more interest in this course. Just because it was not a good fit for us, doesn't mean you should let that stop you from checking it out for your family though. What's best for one isn't always what's best for another. Or maybe you'd be interested in another of their courses like Web Design or Java Programming.

You can connect with the company on social media with both their new rebranded name, CompuScholar, Inc., or their previous name, Homeschool Programming.   


Homeschool Programming:

You can read more reviews of this program or of some of their other courses on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 3/24/17

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

This week was filled with much celebrations as both Alyssa and Tyler had birthdays. Cake, presents, fun, and Smiles were aplenty. How about you?

1. Zac, after Alyssa made dinner: "I could feast on this all day."
2. Alyssa, because Leighton came home from work with flowers for her birthday: "I think Dad loves me."
3. Tyler: "I love basketti!"
Jake: "What about spaghetti?"
Tyler: "Haha, yeah, basketti. Remember when I called it pasketti on accident?"
4. Nicholas, for 2 solid minutes after we left my parents house: "Bye, Papa! Bye, Papa! Bye, Papa! Bye, 'Ramma! Bye, Papa! Bye, 'Ramma!"
Then . . . Silence. 
Nicholas: "LOVE YOU, PAPA!!! Love you, Papa!!!Love you, 'Ramma!!! Love you, Papa . . ."

5. Alyssa made brownies with Nicholas' "help."
6. Jake: "Can a squad be only 4 people?"
Me: "No."
Jake: "Really? I thought it it could because it has quad in it."
7. Jake, about Math Mammoth: "I used to hate math and now I only dislike it!"
8. Jake: "What always tells the painful truth? . . . A scale."
9. Tyler: "Mom, do bad and sad whyme?"
Me: "Yes."
Tyler: "Wow. I'm so easy at whyming."
What made you Smile this week?
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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer

Have you noticed how many book reviews we've been getting recently? The kiddos and I have been thrilled to be able to receive so many wonderful books to enjoy. Our favorite part of the day is when we cuddle up together on the couch (well, some of us cuddle--it's always a race to see who calls a seat by Mom first--and the others typically build with Lego) and read aloud. It's not only a special time of bonding, but also an effective way of learning. Without realizing, the kids are learning sentence structure, pronunciations, and vocabulary, along with whatever topics are covered in the chosen book. In this particular book written by Peggy Consolver - Author, they learned about geography, history, culture, and the Bible. 

Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer is a fictional story based on true events. It was the result of several years of Peggy Consolver reading through a chronological reading plan of the Bible. She began to focus on the Gibeonites and question their response to the Hebrews, when everyone else in the land chose a different plan of action. Starting with the facts, she took the story recorded in Joshua chapters 9-10 and embellished it. By filling in details of historical culture, weaving in other biblical references, and adding her own imaginative plot, she made the story of the Gibeonites come alive.

The story follows Keshub, a young shepherd boy born in a potter's family. He's a typical boy that dreams of adventure and experiences plenty as his tale unfolds. Defending his flock of sheep from a bear and a lion, befriending an evil king's son and helping him escape, being tormented daily by the village bully, traveling to large neighboring cities, becoming a spy to keep watch on the feared Hebrews, coming face-to-face with enemy soldiers, and living the life of a slave are some of the excitement that's mixed into his mundane tasks of caring for sheep, stopping clay, carrying water, and living a simple life.

The God of the Hebrews--the Star Namer--commanded them to utterly destroy their enemies. As the Hebrews defeat the cities in their path, the Gibeonites must decide what to do.  Do they stay and fight? Do they run and hide? Their decision will decide the fate of their people, and Keshub and his family play a main role. 

I hadn't originally intended to use this book as a family read-aloud. I gave it to my oldest two kids (ages 11 and 9) to read independently. They were intrigued by the story line as they enjoy learning both Bible and historical stories. However, they lost interest very early on and I realized neither of them was reading the book after a couple days. Once I determined to read it to them, I understood why. Not only is the book filled with uncommon names (after all, it does take place in the Middle East thousands of years ago), the beginning of it is very detail-oriented and adjective-heavy. I finished the first couple chapters and wondered how we'd make it through the nearly-400-page book. Then something changed. The writing style shifted slightly, we became familiar with the names, and we found ourselves immersed in the story.

"I love this book!"

"Can you read another chapter? Please?"

"This is so exciting!"

Because Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer is based on true events, my kids loved catching all the biblical story references throughout book.
  • Manna
  • Serpents in the wilderness
  • Moses on the mount
  • Rahab protecting the spies
  • destruction of Jericho
  • Crossing the Jordan river
  • Pillar of fire and cloud 
  • Sun standing still for a day
  • And more.
The author has also written Digging Deeper into HIStory, an accompany study guide to the book. It is filled with links, maps, pictures, videos, how-tos, and other information to help you learn more. There is a free sample on the site, as well.

Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer allowed us to see the story of the Gibeonites from a different point of view and  helped us to remember that these events were historical fact and not simply stories. My kids range in age from 5-11, and while they greatly enjoyed listening to this as a read-aloud, I believe the reading level is intended for an older crowd. The author has done her homework and it shows in the product of her book. We won't know what thoughts went through the minds of those Gibeonites until Heaven, possibly, but Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer gives a description that is believable and a good example of what may have been.

You can connect with Peggy Consolver - Author on her website and Facebook

If you'd like to read more reviews of this book, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 3/17/17

Jake (11), Alyssa (8½), Zac (7), Tyler (4½), Nicholas (2)

Happy Weekend! This week, Jake made giant soft pretzels, we read lots of books, and shared many Smiles.

1. Jake, making up a joke: "Which book of the Bible is named after a fruit? . . . Lemontations. 

2. Tyler, to Alyssa: "Sissa, I love you."

3. Nicholas helping my mom wash dishes after dinner.

4. There was a bad storm and we lost power shortly after church began, but continued as normal. When we picked up the kids from their classes after the service was over, they said, "This was the best Wednesday night ever!"

5. Jake, about my aunt in Texas: "We see her only once a year. That's not enough."

6. Jake, making up a joke: "What animal always have a bad attitude? . . . A crab."

7. Alyssa: "Why does my arm look like colby jack cheese?"

8. Zac, making up a joke: "What type of food do fishermen hate the most? . . . Leeks!"

9.I was making chocolate chip cookies. When I turned around, I saw that Nicholas has stolen the dough-covered beater off the counter and was innocently sitting and eating it.

10. Jake wanted me to take a silly picture of him. After he saw it, he told me I could delete it.
Me: "No way! I'm going to show it at your wedding."
Jake: "Well, whoever I marry is going to love me for who I am, not what I've done." 

11. I climbed on the counter to reach the top of the mirror to wash it.
Nicholas: "No fall, Mama.Careful. No fall. {holds his arms out so I'll jump into them} Catch you."

What made you Smile this week?
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