Monday, February 29, 2016

REVIEW: Faith Builders Bible by Zonderkidz

Holden was super excited when he heard he was going to have the pleasure of reviewing the Faith Builders Bible by Zonderkidz!


The Faith Builders Bible is a basic hardcover bible written in the NIrV (New International Readers’ Version) translation with the added feature of a block-building theme in its full-color illustrations.  The NIrV translation is written to a third-grade reading level, making this an ideal bible for elementary-aged students.

It’s available for just $24.99.



I have to admit that the cover of this bible is pretty awesome to look at!  It definitely caught Holden’s attention the moment in came out of the shipping package.  He was really excited to get a bible of his very own, with his favorite brick-building theme to boot!

During our daily bible study, we usually listen to a dramatized reading of the bible passages for the day online.  However, once this bible came on scene, Holden repeatedly asked to do our bible reading straight from this bible.  This is because he loves looking at the full-color brick-building illustrations of the bible passages!  To be honest, though, there are only 24 such illustrations in the entire bible, which didn’t seem nearly enough for our family.  When he’d discover there weren’t any illustrations to go along with what we were reading for the day, he quickly lost interest and wanted to go back to listening to the dramatized reading we normally use.  When illustrations were included, though, this bible was definitely his first choice!  His older sister even got in on the action, helping him to build some of the pictures with his Lego DSCF4581Duplo blocks.

This bible features a small dictionary in the back, as well as a list of “great bible stories.”  There’s also a neat illustration in the front that shows all the books of the bible broken into groups by law, history, poetry, major and minor prophets, gospels, church history, letters, and prophecy.  Beyond that, there were no study notes, insights, or other resources to use other than the illustrated pages. 

Each illustrated page featured a super cool block-built image from that bible event in vibrant colors, a brief summary of the event, and a highlighted “building block verse” from the story.  Sometimes, it encouraged the reader to build their own version of the illustration.

The font size is typical for most bibles, though I personally wish it were a bit larger to make it easier for young readers to follow on their own.  I know my 2nd grader still has difficulty keeping his eyes on the correct line when he’s reading by himself, so a larger font and/or greater line spacing would help with that a great deal.DSCF4582

I often see specially themed bibles for little girls, but not so much for boys.  I was really happy to see this release that tailored more to the little boy in my life.  After all, he deserves a special bible, too!

If you have a building block fan in your house, you may want to give this bible a second look!

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about the Faith Builders Bible by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Thinking & Rethinking…a New Plan for School

I *thought* I had settled on using Visual Learning Systems (online) for the next few years for Haylee’s science.  That is, until I stumbled upon BookShark’s new 7th Grade Science program!  It is set up in the same format as earlier years of Sonlight Science with the same kinds of experiments and worksheets.  It has a nice assortment of books on a variety of science topics that include “build-it-yourself” types of hands-on labs once a week. 

Haylee was immediately interested, because she really likes the books we’ve had for Sonlight science up until now, even though we never do the experiments.  But these look fun!  It has weather, environmental topics like what happens to garbage, robotics, technology and engineering, etc.  I’m so excited for her!  I hate spending money that I don’t *need* to spend, but like my husband said, part of homeschooling is choosing curriculum that’s right for each kid and not necessarily making do with what you’ve already got.

I was also a bit unhappy with Core H for her once I started looking at the book selections.  I remember Hayden getting pretty bored with the books, too.  We are proudly a Christian family, but I feel like Sonlight puts too many religion books in 7th grade.  If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the fastest way to turn someone away from anything is to shove it down their throats.  There are SO many of these books in Core H, like How to Stay Christian in High School, BBC Manual, Live Like a Jesus Freak, etc., etc.  I just think it’s too much for her at this stage.  I really want her to enjoy her reading assignments, because she is nowhere as astute in general as Hayden was, and getting her to do her reading is like pulling teeth if she is not into the books she’s reading.  I’m not looking to set ourselves up for a year-long battle.  So I took a look at BookShark’s 7th Grade History program, and it looks wonderful!  I have most of the books already, it’s a 4-day schedule (which is what we like, and Sonlight has announced they are doing away with all 4-day schedules this year), and the reading list is lighter, which she will really appreciate.  I also love that they put their schedules online, too! 

I won’t get to take advantage of the online schedule for the 7th Grade History IG, though, because I went ahead and bought it used from someone, and the online access is tied to the original purchaser.  Too bad.  But I got a pretty good deal.  I got the IG with two of the books I needed for $52 shipped.  I figured I probably wouldn’t find a seller for the 7th Grade Science, just because it just came out in September, so I went ahead and ordered the IG and supply kit directly from BookShark.  I ordered all the books for less at Amazon, since BookShark charges a lot for shipping.

Anyway, I’m very excited for our changes for next year!  This morning, I also decided to switch Holden over to BookShark, as well, just because he’s not as good of a reader as the other kids were, and his attention span is very short, so I think he’ll benefit from a lighter reading schedule, as well.  He’ll use something like 14 fewer books with BookShark’s 3rd Grade History with regular readers than with Sonlight’s Core D, and I only needed a couple of new books.  I worked out a deal with someone for a used 2014 version of the BookShark 3rd Grade History IG and one of the history spines for $65 shipped.  I got the other books either from Amazon or Sonlight.  Otherwise, I’d have ended up having to split his reading with him like I did for much of this year.

So if you’ve used Sonlight and BookShark, what are your thoughts on how they compare?  If you haven’t taken a look at BookShark, you might want to see what’s going on there.  They said they’ll begin adding high school cores this year, one each year, until 4 are offered.  I like the look of their 8th Grade History, too, which is like Sonlight’s Core 100.  But I understand they will be changing that to 9th Grade History this year and replacing it with a new 8th Grade History of Science program. 

I think I’m *almost* settled for 2016-2017 school year now.  I just have a gap for Holden for Spanish that I’m still trying to figure out.  But I’ll save that for another post…probably next week!  I’m still weighing my options.  If you have suggestions for 3rd Grade Spanish, though, please leave them in the comments. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Weight Loss Update

So it’s been about a month since I decided I was going to lose weight and get fit again.  I’m happy to report that I’ve made a lot of progress!

This week I hit a total weight loss of 11 lbs. so far!  I feel really good about that.  I gave my daughter an 2016-02-188 lb. and a 3 lb. hand weight to hold and told her to get a feel for the total weight of that and then realize that this is how much weight I’ve lost in the past month.  She was pretty impressed!

I feel better, I have more energy, and I’m getting fit.  I only had soreness for the first couple of days of the workouts.  I’m finishing up Phase 1 this weekend, and then I get a Recovery & Remodel period this next week to allow my muscles to heal and rebuild new tissue, during which time I’ll be eating the Reset menus (no carbs) again since I won’t be working out for a few days.  Then on Friday, I’ll begin Phase 2 of the workouts.  Phase 2 is much more challenging and burns way more calories than phase 1, so I would expect to see even more weight loss at that time.  I have just about 5 more pounds to go!

I’m up for the challenge!  I’m thinking PINK all the way!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

REVIEW: HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections by Home School in the Woods

We were very pleased to have the opportunity to review the HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections by Home School in the Woods!


Home School in the Woods is already known for offering the most amazing lapbook products for engaging your children in their history studies.  Now they’ve come out with the brand new U.S. Elections lap-pak.  Through a series of 21 lessons, your children can learn about the organization of American government and how it came to where it is today, the evolution of the political parties in this country, requirements for various government offices, and the complete election process.  This downloadable kit is available for just $19.95 and includes complete audio recordings of the information booklet so it can be read, listened to, or both as the projects are completed.


With this being a presidential election year, the timing for the release of this product couldn’t have been any better!

I worked DSCF4569on this lap-pak with my 11-year old daughter, Haylee.  We’ve previously worked on other lap-paks from this vendor, and they never disappoint us!  We were really looking forward to learning more about the election process in preparation for the upcoming presidential election.  We thought we’d spread it out throughout the spring and summer as we get closer to the election itself, but during the review we did 2 projects per week for 4 weeks.  Following the review period, we plan to slow it down to only one project per week.

I’ve always found that organizing the materials is the best way to get these started, so I began DSCF4568by selecting a 3-ring binder and printing the text assignments and project directions to put inside.  Those clearly lay out the printing instructions for each project and step-by-step directions for decorating each piece and assembling it as you go.  Then I printed out and assembled the informational booklet.  That way, we’d have the option of either reading the booklet or using the audio text that was included.  I also printed the cover of the lapbook, and Haylee colored both the booklet and the lapbook cover.DSCF4556

Once I had that all set up, we were ready to begin.  The first project was on the definition of “election.”  We chose to listen to the audio introduction and definition as Haylee copied the Latin root and meaning from the project directions.DSCF4559

The next project was about the different forms of government.  Haylee listened to the audio track and then used the booklet to isolate the details of four forms of government: The Rule of 1, The Rule of a Few, The Rule of Many, and Anarchy.  That was it for our first week working on U.S. Elections.

The following week, we started off with the project called The American Experiment.  DSCF4563Here, we learned about English, ancient Greek, ancient Roman, and U.S. government and the characteristics of each, showing how our new form of government borrowed the best of what each of the others had to offer and made something better.  This lapbook element was particularly fun to make with movable test tubes, and Haylee had fun decorating it in rainbow colors to demonstrate how our government became a mix of the others yet something altogether new at the same time.  It was a great way to demonstrate the principle!

Next, we learned about the three branches of government:  the executiDSCF4561ve, judicial, and legislative branches.  She listened to the audio, and we discussed the differences in the responsibilities of each branch.  Then I assembled the lapbook element, while she colored and decorated it with cutouts of leaves.  This element was pretty cool, too, because it looked like a tree when closed, but each branch of the tree opened up to define the roles of each branch of government.  Very clever!  That was the end of our second week.

During the third week, we moved on to learning about suffrage.  The audio track explained to us how there were lots of parameters that were originally placed on voting which servDSCF4560ed to exclude certain groups of voters.  From women to the poor to former slaves, each parameter worked to exclude various people groups.  This was an important lesson to discuss.  Even my husband joined into the discussion as he passed through the room and heard us talking about it.  We learned about the 15th and 19th amendments to the Constitution, and then we assembled the lapbook element.  Haylee thought this one was really awesome, because it made the hands on the cover of the element look as if they were actually holding the scrolls of the amendments.  Then it opened up to explain all that we’d learned and concluded with the resolution provided by the twenty-fourth amendment.

Next, we learned about the offices for which we vote.  While we listeneDSCF4562d to the audio, we assembled a really neat wheel that rotated to reveal the requirements for filling the offices of the President, Vice President, Senator, and Representative.  Haylee was really surprised to learn of the age and residency requirements for each office.  She had no idea there were such specific limitations for candidates.  This concluded our third week.

The final DSCF4557week of the review, we started off by learning about the terms of office for the President, Vice President, Senators, and Representatives.  We learned about how they came to be limited and why the specific length of terms were selected for each office.  Haylee thought that was really interesting.  After listening to the audio, we assembled the little booklet that explained the limitations for the terms, and Haylee colored the cover of it.

Finally, we learned about some of the political parties from the paDSCF4558st and present and the foundations on which each party came into being.  I knew about our two-party system, but some of the other parties were less clear to me, so I personally found this information particularly enlightening.  After listening to the audio, I assembled the lapbook element, and Haylee colored the front of it.  Then we read the information inside together aloud and talked about the differences in the parties.

At this point, we’ve completed just over 1/3 of the lapbook elements.  I’ve peeked ahead at what’s to come, and it all looks very exciting!  We’re really looking forward to completing the project.  For now, I’ve made my own version of a lapbook base aDSCF4564nd have begun to adhere the elements we’ve made onto the base where they will go so that we don’t have to store them in a plastic bag as we go along.  It actually looks pretty cool!  I prefer to use sheets of white cardstock taped together rather than file folders, as I can Velcro it closed and add a strip down the left edge with three holes punched in it so that the lapbook can be kept in a binder.  We like to collect her lapbooks into binders by related subjects so we can reference them later and store them in a neat and tidy way.  This helps to prevent them from getting damaged or misplaced.  The lap-paks from Home School in the Woods are particularly nice and very visually appealing, so I plan to keep them as teaching tools for my younger son down the road.

My husband and I were really impressed with this lap-pak.  It’s very thorough, and the materials are so creative and easy to use.  I usually do the printing, cutting, and assembling myself, and then my daughter does the coloring and decorating, as well as any writing that is required inside each one.  I work on my part in the evenings during my free time after dinner, and then we’re prepared for our lesson the next day.  This makes the lessons take only a short time, and mDSCF4555y daughter doesn’t get bored with the assembly part.  But this is one of the cool things about these products from Home School in the Woods…they are very flexible and allow you to use them as they fit best for your family.  If you have a child who seems to old for lapbooking but could benefit from the material it covers, you could easily do this project in a notebook, as well.  I’ve always thought of notebooking as lapbooking for bigger kids!  But you can use it however it works for you and your children.  The same goes for the pacing.  You can work on it every day like a unit study, or spread it out over a number of weeks.  For us, I think doing it on Fridays would work great since we use a 4-day homeschooling schedule, leaving Fridays for fun activities such as this.

The remainder of this lapbook will take us through the caucuses and primaries, national conventions, elements of the presidential campaign such as platform, stump speaking, media, and advertising, as well as raising money, statistics, election day, the electoral college, inauguration day, the electoral race, and the “vocabinet.”  And all of it will be presented in a fun and interactive manner with this lap-pak project.  It’s such a great way to prepare your kids for this year’s election process, so be sure and check it out!  We’ve really had a lot of fun with it so far, and we’ve already learned a lot.

Find out what other Crew members have to say about this great product from Home School in the Woods by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I got up to a lovely card and a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers from my husband this morning.  There were even daisies in it…my favorite!


My kids got up and rushed to get ready for church this morning so they could open their traditional Valentine’s goodie bags.  Every year, they make and decorate the lunch sacks with hearts as a school craft and write their names on them, and then we save them to fill with treats for Valentine’s Day.  They could hardly wait to get downstairs this morning!  They tried to get Hayden up, but he wasn’t going for it, so they started without him.  Sadly, I think he’s gotten too big for treats from mom, because now it’s afternoon, and he still hasn’t even looked at his.  Sad smile  (sniff, sniff).


I usually make some kind of special breakfast for them, like heart-shaped waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, but there just wasn’t time before church.  I did make them a nice breakfast of a Black Forest ham and cheese omelet on a fluffy biscuit with fresh banana and strawberry slices yesterday, though, so hopefully that makes up for it a bit.

What kinds of Valentine’s traditions do you have in your house? 

I hope you all have an extra special day. Red heart

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Thinking About Science

Now that I’ve got a solid math plan in place (I went and bought the workbook for Teaching Textbooks 4 to skim through as we transition to the complete set for Teaching Textbooks 5) for Holden, my next dilemma is what to do for a core science program for Haylee for 7th grade next school year.

She has always done Sonlight Science and has loved all the Usborne books.  But General Science 2nd Edition Full Course CD-Romshe’ll be doing Core H next year, and Science H moves into Apologia Exploring Creation with General Science.  Now I remember how intense that program was and how it sucked the joy out of science for Hayden.  To be honest, it seems more like high school level science to me.  Haylee is not nearly as astute as Hayden was, so I can guarantee that it would be far too overwhelming for her.

The trouble is, I’ve never used any other core science curriculum but SonligExploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiologyht, so I had no idea what was out there.  So on Friday, I went down to our local homeschool bookstore, Moore Expressions, and I chatted with the owner, Cherrie Moore, about what some possibilities could be.  She suggested that some of the Apologia elementary sciences would be entirely appropriate for middle school, and I’d have to agree.  She suggested that Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology would be appropriate for 7th grade, followed by Exploring Creation with Chemistry and PhysicsExploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics for 8th grade.  I already own the Chemistry & Physics because I reviewed it a couple of years ago when it first came out.  But I’d have to buy the Anatomy for next year.  I was really leaning in that direction until I caught a conversation where someone on the Schoolhouse Crew was asking a similiar question about what to use for middle school science next year.

That conversation led to a discussion of something we reviewed just a year ago called Visual Learning Systems.  It had completely slipped my mind, and I still have an active subscription that will continue for quite some time.  Both Haylee and Holden really liked this program, which combines online video instruction with printable pre-tests, post-tests, video note-taking, vocabulary exercises, and experiments.  I looked through the modules they have available in the secondary level for middle/high school students, and they have a 32-lesson series for Life Science that looks perfect for Haylee to use for 7th grade, and then we could use the 32-lesson series for Physical Science for 8th grade.  Wonderful!  It lends itself well to our 4-day/week school schedule, too, and I now have the ability to project the videos from the computer to our new smart TV so she can watch it on the big screen.  Love it!

I also plan to supplement with the free online lessons from Science Fusion that I have listed in the post entitled Homeschooling on a Dime? FREE Resources

I’m so glad I got these two key subjects squared away for next school year!  It will be here before we know it since we start again at the end of June.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday to you and yours!