Review: Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks

Like most of you, we’re constantly on the lookout for new resources which will add to our learning experience and encourage family adventures. We’ll be honest, when first given an opportunity to explore Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks we weren’t sure how these would fit into our routine. Would our big kids benefit from this? Oh, my friends; you have no idea! After one short month, our family can’t stop saying enough about this amazingly fun, educational resource.

Brain Blox is a family-owned company whose mission is to help families draw closer to one another and be purposeful in their time together. Every item available at Brain Blox Nation seeks to help them accomplish these goals. Available now, Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks develop children’s understanding of mathematic and engineering principles, develops problem solving skills, improves spatial awareness, and more.

Always up for a new adventure, our family gladly accepted an opportunity to review Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks. Our box included 200 natural wooden building planks, a lovely red canvas drawstring backpack, and a Brain Blox Building Ideas pamphlet.
In addition to our Natural Wooden Building Planks, we found we had access to the Brain Blox website, including a menu of “Free Stuff”. We were pleased to find a multitude of resources available:
•Let’s Build! Idea Cards – A digital set of building cards, organized by level of difficulty.
•Brain Blox World eBook – A visual display of building project ideas.
•IQ Brain Puzzles! – A digital set of thirteen challenges, incorporating spatial learning.
•Build Idea Videos – Links to engaging YouTube clips sharing fun building projects.
•Build Ideas Booklet – A quick list of building ideas which correspond to video clips.
•Brain Blox University – Lesson plans enhancing spatial awareness and offering more fun
•Conscious Kids Journal – A set of colorful journal pages including exercises in Affirmation, Weekly Kindness, Generosity, and more!

Once our box arrived we immediately began to explore. We were impressed with the wooden building planks. Brain Blox are 100% all-natural and earth friendly; chemical free and safe for kids. Made of premium New Zealand Pine, each plank is cut smoothly and perfect for little hands. They feel good in the hand, with no rough edges. The drawstring backpack is made of sturdy material; a cheerful color. And while the wooden building planks alone lend themselves to a world of possibility, the Brain Blox website has no end of amazing resources to encourage learning.

I was curious to test the building planks on my big kids, wondering what they might create first. Leaving the Brain Blox package out on our learning table, I gave no instructions, but left them to explore on their own. After a quick look at the included Brain Blox Ideas pamphlet, they decided to tackle the helix project first. It took several tries, but they finally got it. They quickly began to understand this might be more of a challenge than anticipated; creating a structure with the given height they desired.
Throughout the following weeks, we took out the Brain Blox when visiting with friends and their littles. It soon became a favorite, even amongst the dads! The men found great fun in building tall structures, encouraging the little kids to then topple their buildings; cheering them on.

To enhance my children’s learning, I chose to incorporate many of the IQ Puzzles into our routine. At the start of our day I would set out the puzzle, allowing the kids to approach the challenge at their discretion. The first few proved very simple for them; taking only a few moments. This was encouraging for me, knowing they could solve them quickly. Later puzzles took several minutes and occasional group effort, but proved equally fun.
On days we did not work on IQ Puzzles we focused attention on Let’s Build! cards. Given more simple structures, our kids were challenged with enhancing the original design; making it their own.

I would have liked to make use of Brain Blox University and the Conscious Kids’ Journal pages, but found these more suited to a younger audience. They are certainly lovely options, and perhaps might use them in the future while teaching classes. We did, however, make sure to spend time viewing the Brain Blox YouTube channel. The videos are amazing fun; engaging and clever! The videos are well-made and a joy to watch. Playlists include: “Get Inspired”, six separate projects including a pirate ship and more; “Build Ideas”, eight projects including everything from airplanes and a castle gage to a fishing dock and the Parthenon; and “Brain Teasers”, four challenges using Brain Blox to help enhance spatial awareness!

Thus far, we’ve enjoyed everything about our time exploring Brain Blox. Using the wooden planks has been great fun, and a learning bonus! They have quickly become a favorite amongst our little friends who enjoy visiting and hold a great deal of potential for future projects. One of our favorite Brain Blox project ideas has been the Build Ideas Character challenge, an art opportunity which involves painting our planks to look like any character we enjoy. It has been especially fun to view the many ways Brain Blox has chosen to paint their own planks, many of which are seen in their YouTube videos!
The only thing addition we would like to see to Brain Blox? While we love that their IQ Brain Puzzles and Build Ideas! cards are in digital format, it would be nice if these were also available for purchase; preferably on good card stock and laminated. We like the idea of being able to pull these out to use without having to use the internet. While we could print them ourselves, we confess, sometimes it’s just easier to purchase. It would be nice to have that option.

The suggested age range for Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks is 4-104, and we honestly believe that stands true. These wooden planks hold a world of possibility and may be enjoyed by all. We can’t wait to share these with new homeschooling families we often have the privilege of hosting and using them in future coop classes, in addition to keeping them an active part of our learning day. Both as a learning tool and family fun, Brain Blox are a wonderful addition to the household. We highly recommend taking advantage of this learning resource and would encourage making them a part of any learning routine.

If you’d like to learn more about Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks or Brain Blox, please visit them at their website and on FacebookYouTube, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this series, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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Review: Fun Family Chess by Brain Blox

Major mom confession. I do not know how to play chess. I know, total failure, right? For years I kept telling myself that if I only had a cheat sheet to tell me which pieces moved where, perhaps I could learn. Then we discovered Fun Family Chess by Brain Blox. Excuses aside, it was time this mama learned the fine art of the game.

Brain Blox is a family-owned company whose mission is to help families draw closer to one another and be purposeful in their time together. Every item available at Brain Blox Nation seeks to help them accomplish these goals. Available now, Fun Family Chess encourages families to stop thinking of chess as too complicated and instead embrace this epic game.

Ready to finally learn this incredible game, our family was offered one Fun Family Chess set. Fun Family Chess includes a folding wooden chess board, thirty-two wooden chess pieces in pouches, a full-color chess book, two reference cards, and a chess cube. In addition to the game itself, we were encouraged to take advantage of the multitude of free resources available on the Brain Blox website and given a free two month Gold Membership at the ChessKid website, a family safe website where kids can learn and play chess online.
Once our box arrived, we immediately began to explore. We were pleased to discover the game board and pieces are well made and beautifully designed. The included reference cards are printed on heavy card stock, durable and beautifully designed. I would definitely be using these while learning the game. Our Fun Family Chess book shared everything from how to set up the chess board to tips on better game play. After familiarizing ourselves with the set, we took time to peruse the Brain Blox website; learning more about the free resources available and how they might better help mom learn how to play.

As everyone in my family already knows how to play chess, it was my turn to put aside any reservations I might have and learn the art of strategy. I immediately jumped on the Brain Blox YouTube channel and began their tutorials. My first video taught me how to set up the chess board; noting the chess board is bordered by images of game pieces to help beginners. The second and third videos explained how to play Fun Family Chess, a game which incorporates the rolling of a chess cube to determine which piece will be moved. Using the reference cards, I would then determine how that piece should be moved and learn to strategize. This would help me become familiar with each of the pieces on the board and practice moving around the playing field. Simple, straightforward, and easy to learn; without the rules of standard chess. My fourth video shared how to play a standard game of chess.

I spent several days playing Fun Family Chess, and have since proceeded to playing Standard Chess. I have not set myself up on a schedule of play, but do my best to incorporate this into my routine as often as possible, with the goal of playing several times per week. Each game can take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour, depending on my ability to strategize and focus on the game. I have also taken a moment or two to try the ChessKid website but, as the purpose of my learning is to spend more time with family, found being on a website useful for personal practice when no-one else is available.
I didn’t want to miss out on anything, so I was sure to take a few minutes to explore “Free Stuff” on the Brain Blox website. I was pleased to find a free Conscious Kids Journal; a set of colorful printables designed to build character in our children. Journal pages include exercises in Affirmation, Weekly Kindness, Generosity, and more! I imagine these would be lovely to incorporate into a weekly routine with littles.

Thus far, I have truly enjoyed Fun Family Chess. The set itself is well-made and lovely. I found the chess book to be a helpful resource to have on hand, and appreciated that Brain Blox included this with our set instead of assuming we would prefer to learn online, all while reminding us that video tutorials are available for those in need. Fun Family Chess game play was very fun. As a beginner, it took the stress out of choosing which piece to move and instead allowed me to focus on learning the pieces, as well as strategy. Using the resource book, I enjoyed learning about Standard Chess. I was able to acquaint myself with terms such as “Check”, “Checkmate”, “Stalemate”, “Pawn Promotion”, and more!
Viewing the YouTube tutorials was amazing fun. Each video was entertaining and simple to follow. Their videos are very well made and a joy to watch.
Being OCD, the only observation I might make regarding Fun Family Chess, is that I wish the board and the pieces were not different colors. Silly, but true. The wooden board is black and white; the pieces brown and white. I am sorely tempted to paint my brown pieces black. But that is still up for debate. Other than my ridiculous need for things to match, I love everything about Fun Family Chess!

It’s true. I didn’t know how to play the game. But, thanks to Fun Family Chess, that has all changed. Now if I could only manage to strategize a tad better… Oh, well. I’m sure it will come with time, right?

If you’d like to learn more about Fun Family Chess or Brain Blox, please visit them at their website and on FacebookYouTube, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this series, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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Review: HiGASFY Art History Video Series

Join us as we review HiGASFY Art History Video Series.

Is art history a portion of your homeschooling routine? I’ll be honest, until recently, I never gave it much thought. I can just imagine the collective gasp, but hear me out. I never taught ‘Art History’ as a school subject because… well… we LIVE art. Literally.
My husband is an artist by profession. Our children have been encouraged in this area since birth. Our home library is overflowing with reference books, art studies, and reproductions by favorite masters. We visit galleries on a regular basis. It’s just a way of life.

However, the teacher in me was intrigued. Perhaps we had missed something, maybe our kids would benefit from a more formal art education study. Always up for another learning adventure, we determined to take a closer look at what HiGASFY Art History Video Series has to offer. What we discovered was a world of fun!

Have I Got A Story For You!

HiGASFY Art History Video Series is a subscription based video series which takes viewers on an art history adventure discovering four artistic eras: Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist Periods. In each of the four series, our host, Miss Beth, along with her friend GASFY, an animated green drop of paint, introduces three artists of the era and the paths their lives took in making them the greatest masters of their time. Through storytelling and engaging conversation Miss Beth shares key pieces of art created by each, as we get a closer look at their work. Each of the four series includes twelve YouTube videos for viewing, each approximately twenty minutes in length; a lesson plan; flash cards; and a “Name that Artist” Power Point assessment.

Ready to embark on a new adventure, our family was given a three-month subscription to the entirety of the HiGASFY Art History Video Series, along with access to all curriculum bundles. For our purposes we chose to begin with The Renaissance, which was afterwards followed by Baroque and the Impressionist Period; in that order.
To ensure we would be using the curriculum in a manner which best fit our family’s needs, I spent time reviewing the Renaissance bundle and what was included. The Renaissance introduced us to three artists: Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and Raphael. In addition to the twelve videos in the series, more educational opportunities awaited us.

Within each curriculum bundle, we received access to sixteen corresponding lesson plans. Lessons Plans offered the ability to explore learning adventures in Study Objectives, Hands-On Activities, Critical Thinking, Vocabulary, Geography, and Group Activities.
Some suggested activities included resources listed on the HiGASFY Pinterest boards; including hands-on creations and art projects. Lesson Plans had scheduled breaks throughout allowing for opportunities in personal sketching, catchup on projects, and group activities.

HiGASFY Flash Cards were available for download via the website. Each set of flashcards reflected major pieces of artwork discussed in the chosen video series. The flashcards are intended to be double sided; with full-color illustrations portrayed on the front, the artists’ names and titles of the pieces listed on the back.
Ideally, the flashcards might be printed on cardstock and laminated; allowing for extended use and creating a more professional look to the cards. However, these could easily be adapted by printing each page singly; placing them in plastic page protectors, back to back. Either method would work well.

The “Name that Artist” assessment was a Power Point presentation; a review of the same pieces of art included in the flash cards. The assessment is full-color, with no sound.
Should printing full-color flash cards be an issue, or for those preferring an interactive learning experience, the assessment might be an alternative to using the flash cards.

Our family determined the best place to begin was with The Renaissance, given that it was the oldest era available for study. We would then work our way forward in time. After looking over the lesson plans for this bundle, we chose to focus our attention on the video series itself and the critical thinking portions of each section. As our students are mainly in high school, this would best meet our family’s needs.
Over the course of the month, we viewed one video per day. The exception was the first two videos in the series, which we watched in one sitting. While progressing through each video, brief pauses in viewing were taken to discuss critical thinking questions and embark on short geography lessons. At the end of the series, an assessment using the “Name that Arist” presentation helped us wrap up our lessons.
Following this routine, we were able to complete The Renaissance within a two week period of time. We followed this series up, as planned, with Baroque and then the Impressionist period. We applied the same routine to each of the series.

HiGASFY proved to be a fun adventure in learning! Miss Beth was engaging and clearly has a passion for art. GASFY was a cute addition to each video lesson, asking questions one would expect from a typical young person learning art history for the first time. The art lessons themselves were thorough and never boring.
We enjoyed being introduced to many pieces of art; Miss Beth pointing out various aspects of each painting one might miss if viewed too quickly. As particular pieces of art corresponded to Bible stories, we appreciated Miss Beth taking a few moments to review the Bible passages before moving forward. All artwork consisting of nude figures were carefully manipulated so parents need not be concerned with inappropriate material. Miss Beth introduced art styles such as Chiaroscuro and Etching. Students learn art concepts including landscapes, portraits, and still life. She did a fanatic job of continually reviewing lessons learned throughout each series.
We learned a great deal about each of the chosen artists. – Who knew they could be so temperamental? – We found we preferred Michelangelo to other Renaissance artists. In regard to Impressionists, Monet’s earlier work was appreciated more highly than later projects, especially his caricatures. We loved Monet’s garden and all the work he put into it. We really liked Pissarro’s works; they have a great mood. When studying Degas, we preferred his sculpts to his paintings; Little Dancer is incredible. Mr. van Gogh? He was… an unusual man.

While we did not choose to make use of every aspect of the lesson plans, we did research each option thoroughly. While viewing the helpful HiGASFY Pinterest projects, we noted listings are not titled according to lesson plans and we look forward to this organization perhaps being put into place in the future. All other aspects of the bundles flowed beautifully. The lesson plans are very well organized and include a great deal of learning opportunities.
We should note we did have issues with accessing lesson plans on our iPads. Apple devices have issues with Flash files, and thus all lesson plans needed to be viewed on my desktop or via printing. Not a major issue, but something to consider all the same.

For the purpose of our review, and because of our family’s current needs, we progressed through HiGASFY at a much quicker speed than I would honestly recommend. There is truly a wealth of information and possibility available using this curriculum. Ideally, I would recommend using one curriculum bundle per quarter of the learning year; covering all four eras over the course of a single year. You could easily stretch each course to a sixteen week study, using one lesson plan per week. Whichever best meets your students’ needs.

All-in-all, HiGASFY has been a fascinating aspect of our routine. I feel like we’ve learned a great deal. As we write this review, we are currently in the middle of the Post-Impressionist series and loving every moment. We will be sorry to finish the last of the series, but hope there might be more to come! And… we can always start over and slow down!

If you’d like to learn more about HiGASFY Art History Video Series, or to view a FREE lesson, please visit them at their website and on FacebookPinterest, YouTube, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this series, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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We’d love to know… Is art history a portion of your family’s learning adventure?

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Review: Britfield & The Lost Crown

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We may have mentioned a time or two that our family loves books. Not just a little. A lot. There is always room for one more great read, and this month we added to our growing library with the first book in a spectacular new series, Britfield & The Lost Crown.

“Tom continued to think about the day as he stared at the peeling paint on the ceiling. He thought about Mr. Grievous’s threat, the file about his parents locked in the office, six more years at this miserable place and his friend Sarah. It was a long night, but Tom knew at that moment it was time to leave Weatherly.”

~ Britfield & The Lost Crown

Britfield & The Lost Crown is the first book in a new series by C.R.Stewart released by Devonfield Publishing. Britfield & The Lost Crown is an adventurous story taking readers through a discovery of prominent English landmarks as they uncover the mystery of young Tom’s past. Aided by his best friend, Sarah, and a slew of amazingly helpful acquaintances, Tom will do everything in his power to uncover who he really is and remain free of their hateful orphanage forever.

Already the winner of several awards, our family was eager to review the first book in the new series and excited to explore the multitude of learning possibilities. Our family received a signed paperback copy of the book, access to the Britfield website, and a link to download the Britfield Study Guide.

As I prefer previewing reads before passing them off to our children, I made sure I was the first to sit down with the book. Being a quick reader and given the reading level of the story, I found I was able to complete the book within one evening; finishing in approximately four hours. Afterwards, I made the book available to my children and took time to explore the possibilities of the Britfield study guide and website.

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I found the Britfield Study Guide to be well thought out and thorough. Available for free to teachers and homeschoolers, the study guide includes learning opportunities focusing on vocabulary, comprehension and “Going Deeper” exercises which encourage learners to think beyond the story. Portions of the study guide also include “Learn More with Technology” which assists learners in becoming familiar with online research.
For our family’s purposes we chose to focus our attention on the “Going Deeper” portions of the study guide, preferring to approach the questions openly in group discussion. We found this worked best for our family as the other sections of the guide would have been a review of skills already learned by my students and I wanted to spend a greater amount of our time on the Britfield website.

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Upon visiting the Britfield website, we were immediately impressed by the amount of options available to us. Readers can learn more about not only the series itself, but the author, various awards, opportunities for teachers to explore the Britfield Classroom Creativity Experience, and the upcoming Explorer’s Club.
For those ready to jump into a learning adventure inspired by the book, a series of seven options are also available for exploration: Yorkshire, The Midlands, Oxford, Windsor, Richmond, London and Canterbury. Selecting any of these subcategories will immediately launch you into a fresh study of this English landmark. Depending on which landmark you choose to focus on, readers have the option to examine maps, peruse beautiful photographs of the given area, learn a bit of history and geography, and more.
We explored every aspect of the website. We found the resource too good to pass up, and eagerly studied each landscape thoroughly.

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We found Britfield & The Lost Crown to be a wonderful book. The story was clean, well-paced, had beautifully developed characters, was filled with adventure, and encouraged a desire for deeper study. We found the book to be enjoyable for even our adults readers, while easily manageable for younger listeners. The book would be a perfect Morning Basket read for families to explore together, giving plenty of opportunity to incorporate both the Study Guide and website learning adventures.
If the front cover – beautifully illustrated and incredibly soft to the touch – doesn’t immediately grab you, within minutes the story will pull you in and have you wanting more.

From what we are told, movies for each of the books in this fantastic series are in the works! No news yet as to when they will be released, but we’ll definitely be keeping our ears open for any new developments. Until then, there is still plenty to explore while we wait for the next installment in the series.
I am so glad we took the time to review Britfield & The Lost Crown and add yet another amazing read to our home library. Don’t you just love a good book?

If you’d like to learn more about Britfield & The Lost Crown please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitteror Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this fantastic read, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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Review: Library and Educational Services LLC

Despite recently given, well-meaning advice, one can never have too many books. And thanks to Library and Educational Services LLC our investment in our children’s love of literature and learning just became easier!

“Library and Educational Services is a wholesaler of books, CDs, and DVDs. We have been selling primarily to Christian schools, churches, specialty stores and resellers for over 40 years. We specialize in materials for children. All of our prices are 30% to 70% (or even more) off publishers’ list prices every day. We give homeschools the same discount other schools receive.
 
We carefully review all items we carry so that they are not contrary to Biblical standards and values.”

Recently, our family was given the opportunity to review Library and Educational Services LLC and learn just how easy it was to find literature for our family’s learning adventure. We were offered a first-hand look at their vast selection of reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction book series. With over two hundred titles to choose from, in a wide range of age categories, we were excited to explore. In addition to an assortment of reinforced hardcover books, our family was offered a book from the best-selling paperback series Who Was…, Who Was Jim Henson, and a CD, Trapped in Aesop’s Fables!, from the Lifehouse Theater series.

Given a link to Library and Educational Services, our family was able to immediately access their website and begin exploring the multitude of titles available for purchase. Browsing was effortless. Resources could be found by topic, grade, medium, or simply by searching for specific reads. Having been offered a book from the Who Was… series, our family began by choosing a title from this category first; selecting Who Was Jim Henson. Afterward, we took a moment to choose our CD from Lifehouse Theater and selected Trapped in Aesop’s Fables! Finally, we moved on to exploring their range of reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction books. With so many titles to choose from it was hard to narrow down our choices. We decided to order World War II: Essential Histories (a set of six books covering the war) and Awfully Ancient (a set of three books which comically explore various aspects of ancient history).
Our order totaled eleven items with an invoice of approximately seventy dollars, listing a savings of over a hundred and fifteen dollars on the resources themselves. We completed the process of checking out and awaited the arrival of our books. Within a week and a half, our box arrived and we were ready to explore our chosen resources.

Our books arrived in a single box, packed carefully. After taking a moment to unbox them and share a few photos our new finds on Instagram – Yes, I am that kind of mom. – I determined to not force the books on our children, but instead strategically place them in a prominent location and see how the kids responded. My efforts were well rewarded. Our second oldest daughter quickly discovered our books had arrived and promptly began reading aloud portions of the Awfully Ancient series to her siblings. Thus far, all of the resources have been a hit.

This was our family’s first experience using Library and Educational Services and it was lovely. We were impressed with the wide variety of materials offered at great prices and the ease of the ordering process; in addition to being pleased with the quality of the materials we received.
Who Was Jim Henson is of the same quality as other books we’ve previously viewed in the series and an enjoyable read. Trapped in Aesop’s Fables! is beautifully recorded. All of our selections of reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction books lived up to their description. The binding is sturdy, offering longevity to families who might have young hands holding books, without the frustrating habit some reads have of binding which is too tight to properly read the marginal text. World War II: Essential Histories proves to be a handy resource for deeper studies on this topic, while Awfully Ancient has by far been our favorite choice. Our students found the series engaging, funny, and educational. They were an instant hit.

With so many resources available through Library and Educational Services it will be a challenge to determine which books to explore next! We were quite pleased to find a large selection of MasterBooks homeschool curriculum available, and you KNOW how much we love MasterBooks. In addition, Adams’ Chart of History, Writing Strands, and the Blast Back series – just to name a few – are all certainly worth a closer look. Library and Educational Services even lists coloring books amongst their catalog, as well as games and crafts. There is so much to enjoy!

I am so glad we had an opportunity to review Library and Educational Services LLC. I would highly recommend this resource to anyone looking to build their home libraries and supply their children with good, clean materials. The selection available is remarkable and the prices just can’t be beat. Now, if only I had the budget to buy everything I want…

If you’d like to learn more about Library and Educational Services LLC please visit them at their website and on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this fantastic read, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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Review: Nothing by Natalee Creech

It has been said a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps this is why picture books continue to draw people in, no matter our age. When we find a book which perfectly blends the magic of illustration with the gift of words, we know we’ve found a keeper. A recent family find, Nothing by Natalee Creech, published through WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, not only fits the bill but is using the medium of picture books to share the Love of God. It doesn’t get much better!

Worthy Publishing Group is an established book company whose mission is, “To help people experience the heart of God.” Of their vast selection of titles, WorthyKids creates vibrant children’s literature including Nothing by Natalee Creech. Together, former teacher turned librarian, Ms. Creech, and talented illustrator, Joseph Cowman, bring to life this beautiful picture book expressing the heart of Romans 8:38-39.

“NOTHING can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: note death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.”

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Nothing is a hardbound, full-color picture book with over thirty pages of beautifully created illustrations. Readers will find this to be a book of highest quality. From the dust jacket to the pages within, Nothing is a well-crafted read. Suggested for children aged four to seven, Ms. Creech’s rhymes are sure to delight and teach the depth of this passage, while Mr. Cowman’s art will draw them in.

I no longer have littles in our home. (There are days I am still coming to terms with this sad fact.) However, a good picture book should always be appreciated, no matter our age! I specifically wished to review Nothing as my husband is an illustrator and the cover of the book immediately caught my attention. I also have the privilege of having little people visit me on a regular basis and having new picture books to share with them is a treat. Nothing was no exception.

Upon receiving our read, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the book. The illustrations were everything I previewed online and more. The cover and dust jacket are simply magnificent. A mix of mat and high gloss layers, with a rich color palette, this book pulls you in and begs to be read. The pages within are well bound, easy to turn, and equally charming to behold. And while the illustrations are worthy of many moments of admiration, the text itself is no less lovely. Through her gift of rhyme, Ms. Creech reminds readers there is nowhere we can go where we are separated from the love of our God. Her ability as a writer, her heart for children, and her love of the Lord shine through wonderfully. Readers could visit this book regularly and never tire.

We mentioned Nothing is suggest for children aged four to seven, but we would slightly disagree. While we find the reading level to be accurate; frankly, we would recommend this read to anyone who has an interest in beautiful picture books and a heart for poetry. Nothing might be intended for the young, but will bless those of any age. Myself and my children, ages ranging from seventeen to twelve, all agree; this is a beautiful book.

From time to time, everyone should be reminded that nothing separates us from the love of Christ. Even us adults. Especially when we are deceived into thinking we are unlovable or our mistakes too big to be forgiven. Nothing is a heartfelt, touching reminder for all of us, from the young to the old, that we are loved beyond anything we could imagine.

If you’d like to learn more about Nothing by Natalee Creech or WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this fantastic read, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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Review: Tied 2 Teaching STEM Activities

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Our family is always on the lookout for fun, new activities we can add to our learning adventure. Even though our children aren’t as young as they used to be, hands-on activities and group involvement is something we treasure. With the help of Tied 2 Teaching and STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading we’re appreciating a change in our morning routine and exploring a world of fun.

Tied 2 Teaching is an online teaching resource with a multitude of printable bundles available for purchase. There you’ll find fun educational materials ranging from history and mathematics to holiday exploration. Just one of their many tools is STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading. STEM Activities comes with an entire year of opportunity, including over sixty-five challenges from twelve monthly bundles. Students are free to choose from either STEM Design Challenges or Building Block STEM Challenges; both include “Close Reading” which gives students a better understanding of real-life application and offer fun insight into the concept being learned.

For our adventure, our family was given a PDF download of the entire bundle. We chose to include two challenges per week into our routine, allowing one day between to gather materials and manage any printing needed. Mondays and Wednesdays were set aside for our activities; with approximately forty-five minutes given to fully explore the topic at hand. While I highly recommended all our children participate in each STEM challenge, I did not require them to do so. I wanted this to be a fun, optional learning adventure. Three of our kids gladly joined in the fun; our high school senior, junior, and my sixth grade son had a blast. Each morning designated, all materials were openly placed on the learning table for our children to explore. A few of the STEM activities we chose were “Design a House of Cards”, “Construct the Eiffel Tower”, “Design a Paper Airplane”, “Design a Balloon Tower”, and more!

We began with opening the day’s chosen bundle and clicking on the included “Close Reading” link. We were quickly taken to the Wonderopolis website where we could fully explore the topic and complete the day’s reading. We learned a great many fun new facts from each. We then tackled the challenge at hand. Some were a little more challenging than others. Who knew building a house of cards could be a tough job? Others were simple, but allowed for creative involvement. Each challenge included not only a physical activity, but printed sheets which helped us formulate a plan before moving forward with our physical activity and follow-up sheets which encouraged us to take a moment to review what we learned and might do differently next time.

There was so much we gained by using Tied 2 Teaching. We discovered we enjoy STEM activities which involve building projects. We appreciated that all links were provided and easy to access and that printable materials were available for us to use as needed. The challenges were fun, creative, simple to follow, and encouraged our family to work together.

Suggested for grades third through sixth, STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading fits the recommended category. However, we found our older students truly enjoyed the fun of each activity. We, too, learned a few new facts and always appreciate a good challenge. We also believe it to be well within the scope of slightly younger students who might appreciate a little educational push. Approached as family activity, it will help encourage working together and offer the ability to make some memories.

Always on the lookout for fun learning activities, we’re pleased to now be including STEM Activities into our regular Morning Table routine. With a multitude of activities to chose from, we still have many more to go. We can’t wait to see what we’re doing next!

If you’d like to learn more about STEM Activities, Full Year of Challenges with Close Reading or Tied 2 Teaching, please visit them at their website and on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest. To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Tied 2 Teaching has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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We’d like to know… How do you incorporate STEM activities into your learning routine?

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Review: Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”

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If you’re like us, you occasionally enjoy incorporating media in your learning day. When that same media helps us draw closer to the Lord and gives us a deeper understanding of the world He created, you know we’re jumping for joy. This past month, we had the opportunity to review Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” by Drive Thru History® and we’re incredibly excited to share this resource with you!

Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” is a beautifully boxed DVD set which includes 3 DVD’s, with a total of 18 episodes, and a complete study guide. Throughout Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”, our host, Dave Stotts, takes us on a journey similar to one Jesus’ disciples would have taken as they spread the Gospel throughout the world, carrying out Jesus’ instructions. Used in tandem with each episode, the included study guide will prompt further discussion with thoughtful questions and illustrations to spark the mind.

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Rather than include Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” in our daily homeschool studies, we instead chose to incorporate the episodes into family time at the end of each day. Snacks in hand, we gathered around the television and watched an episode each evening, Monday through Friday during the course of the review. Each episode lasting no more than twenty-five minutes in length, this was a beautiful way to end our day together.

Our immediate impression was of the care which was taken in creating such quality material. The boxed set itself was lovely. The study guide was clearly laid out, with brief questions all were encouraged to participate in answering. The episodes themselves were fantastic. Cinematically, the videos were incredible. The quality was beyond expectation and overflowing with professional graphics. Frankly, we’ve never seen a history series better made!

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As our review took place leading up to the month of Easter, Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation” came at a good time. Our first episode opened with a quick review of where we left off in Drive Thru History® “The Gospels” and proceeded to walk us through an amazing adventure sharing the spread of the Gospel after Jesus’ ascension. As we progressed through each episode, we were shown such incredible sites as Stephen’s Church and Monastery, the harbor at Joppa, the ruins in Corinth, Ephesus, Malta and more. From Pentecost to the seven churches of Revelation, we followed the Gospel message being taken out into the world and the sacrifice of those who spread the message of Jesus.

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We truly enjoyed reviewing Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”. Dave Stotts did a fantastic job as guide; finding a perfect blend of respect and lighthearted, engaging information which encouraged our family to dig deeper and learn more about the spread of God’s Word. Each episode was filled with beautiful locations, amazing historical information, and Spiritual encouragement. This has been a blessed month.

Our only regret in doing this review is that there were only 18 episodes. We would have gladly sat through several more hours of the series. Our consolation is that four other series are available for us to review and enjoy: Drive Thru History® “The Holy Land”Drive Thru History® “American History”, Drive Thru History® “The Gospels”, and Drive Thru History® “Ancient History”.

If you’d like to learn more about Drive Thru History®, along with Drive Thru History® “Acts to Revelation”, please visit them at their website. You can also find Drive Thru History®. on social media sites such as FacebookYouTube, and Instagram.

To read additional helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Drive Thru History® has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Share with us… If you could pick the next location for Drive Thru History®, where would you like to go?

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Children’s Books – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. But Mostly The Ugly.

My wife, thankfully, is a voracious reader. I say, “thankfully”, because someone has to vet all the literature our children read; and they read a lot. The thing is, there’s a lot of ugly stuff out there, and it’s produced by a secular entertainment industry which cares nothing for the well-being of children. All they care about is pushing the envelope in order to tantalize young minds. In the end, it’s all about appealing to the basest of human nature in order to sell a product whilst promoting a worldview untethered from moral restraints. What’s worse is that the entertainment industry is propped up by secular critics who, quite frankly, are shills for their material (whether for ideological or for pecuniary reasons).

Not all critics, however, are quick to embrace the trend toward dark children’s literature. Meghan Cox Gurdon has made the case more than once for “good taste in children’s books“. You can read her well-argued position at the Wall Street Journal. Her arguments are so good that I can’t improve on them, so I’ll simply quote her to give you an idea where she’s at.

Gurdon observes, “How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

Some of her detractors have suggested that reading about such subjects does not lead one to participate in such things, to which she responds, “Reading about homicide doesn’t turn a man into a murderer; reading about cheating on exams won’t make a kid break the honor code. But the calculus that many parents make is less crude than that: It has to do with a child’s happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart. Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.

Gurdon also notes that an “argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless.” Gurdon responds to this by suggesting that “it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures.

When addressing the literary world’s view of this trend, Gurdon observes, “literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to the words or storylines in young-adult books.” Gurdon goes on to share about an editor who “bemoaned the need, in order to get the book into schools, to strip expletives from Chris Lynch’s 2005 novel, ‘Inexcusable,’ which revolves around a thuggish jock and the rape he commits. ‘I don’t, as a rule, like to do this on young adult books,’ the editor grumbled … I don’t want to acknowledge those f—ing gatekeepers.’ By f—ing gatekeepers (the letter-writing editor spelled it out), she meant those who think it’s appropriate to guide what young people read. In the book trade, this is known as ‘banning.’ In the parenting trade, however, we call this ‘judgment’ or ‘taste.’ It is a dereliction of duty not to make distinctions in every other aspect of a young person’s life between more and less desirable options. Yet let a gatekeeper object to a book and the industry pulls up its petticoats and shrieks ‘censorship!’

In a recent Imprimis article (July/August 2013 issue) adapted from a speech given by Gurdon at Hillsdale College on March 12, 2013, she again shared about those on the secular Left who view her efforts as repressing freedom of expression. This objection is, of course, an hypocritical double-standard. In fact, Gurdon notes in her speech that such secularists “have their own list of books they claim are tinged with racism or jingoism or that depict [GASP!] traditional gender roles.” Gurdon’s larger point is that “the self-proclaimed anti-book-banners on the Left agree that books influence children,” insofar as they demonstrate this by preferring some books to others. This unavoidable elephant in the room is a damning indictment against irresponsible persons who would despoil children’s innocence by promoting an endless stream of material which presents nothing more than (if I can borrow from Dennis Prager) “a proctologist view” of the world.

Rather than continuing, I would invite you to search out Gurdon’s articles on the subject and read through them for yourselves. Allow me to share the ending words of her Hillsdale College speech:

Let me close with Saint Paul the Apostle in Philippians 4:8:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

 And let us think about these words when we go shopping for books for our children.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

FG

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Our October Reads

 

our_october_readsOctober has come and gone. While we most assuredly made time for great literature, this month had us occupied with reading of a different sort. Political material! It made for many a fun conversation, and we all learned a great deal about what is going on in our state and country. In between discussions, events, and family gatherings you could find us in our respective corners digging into this month’s incredible reads.

We’ve broken down our list into categories and included our personal rating from zero to five stars. To read more about a particular book, simply click the title!

Learning Resources:

  • Walden (Henry David Thoreau) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️- A vivid account of the time that Henry D. Thoreau lived alone in a secluded cabin at Walden Pond. For the student and for the general reader, this is the ideal presentation of Thoreau’s great document of social criticism and dissent.
  • Narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass (Frederick Douglass) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Frederick Douglass’s Narrative, first published in 1845, is an enlightening and incendiary text. Born into slavery, Douglass became the preeminent spokesman for his people during his life; his narrative is an unparalleled account of the dehumanizing effects of slavery and Douglass’s own triumph over it.
  • Historium (Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️- There are more than 160 historical artifacts to be discovered in Welcome to the Museum: Historium. Wander the galleries of this museum whenever you wish—it’s open 365 days a year!—and discover a collection of curated objects on every page, accompanied by informative text. Each chapter features a different ancient civilization, from the Silla dynasty of Korea to ancient Rome.

Children’s Books:

  • Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems (J. Patrick Lewis & Douglas Florian) ⭐️⭐️⭐️- The U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate and an award-winning children’s poet join their prolific forces in this picture book of poems about cars. But they’re not just any cars…
  • The Night Gardener (The Fan Brothers) ⭐️⭐️⭐️- One day, William discovers that the tree outside his window has been sculpted into a wise owl. In the following days, more topiaries appear, and each one is more beautiful than the last. Soon, William’s gray little town is full of color and life. And though the mysterious night gardener disappears as suddenly as he appeared, William—and his town—are changed forever.
  • The Little Gardener (Emily Hughes) ⭐️⭐️- There was once a little gardener and his garden meant everything to him. He worked hard, very hard, but he was just too little (or at least he felt he was). A story that teaches us just how important it is to persist and try, no matter what the odds.
  • The Alphabet Primer Series (BabyLit Books) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️-

How are we rating these reads? Good question! If the book has a five, whether learning or for fun, it’s clean and we want it on our bookshelf permanently. Four stars are sorely tempting us, but as our local library carries them we’re in luck. Three stars are worth a look, but we don’t see ourselves reading them too often. Two stars were entertaining, but once was enough. One star was acceptable. And zero. Well, it’s zero.

What to be on the lookout for… 

  • Historium, part of the Welcome to the Museum Series, is fabulous. We’re in love with each of the books. The artwork is beautifully done, and the pages within offer hours of learning fun.
  • Our family likes to collect picture books. This month’s selections were a great deal of fun. The Night Gardener was incredibly sweet. The Alphabet Primers from BabyLit had us wishing we still had little ones. But we not going to let that stop us. A great many books from this series will more than likely find their way onto this mama’s bookshelf in the very near future.
  • Walden was a lovely surprise. We weren’t sure what to expect, and I didn’t know how much the kids would appreciate the essays within. Surprisingly my children loved it! They found the language beautiful and Thoreau’s descriptions and thoughts meaningful.

The weather is finally cooling down, and we’ve stocked up on ingredients for hot cocoa. This is the perfect weather for curling up with a good book and immersing ourselves in a story. Join us again during the month of November as we explore a world of books and the adventure of reading. What will we read next?

We’re curious… Do your literature selections tend to correspond to other areas of learning?

“I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.”
~ Psalm 101:3

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