App Central: Our Favorite Learning Apps and How We’re Using Them

App_CentralThere are many apps on my device. I’m happy to inform you very few are games. Why is this? Our learning apps take up the bulk of our space, and we couldn’t be more pleased with this decision. Today, we’re sharing our favorite learning apps and how we use them in our adventure called homeschooling.

Grab your reading glasses, we’ve got quite the list! And each one is well-used…

Calculator + – While a standard calculator app came pre-installed on my device, Calculator+ far outshines any other we’ve come across yet. We use this with Algebra helps and Geometry. It’s a lifesaver.

Dictionary (Merriam-Webster 1828) – We own a physical dictionary, but having a dictionary app on my device is a help while on the go. We’re big believers in looking up new words when we come across them, searching out new vocabulary is always a treat. The app includes a word of the day and weekly challenges.

Hiking Project – As we’re continually looking for new places to hike, this app is a lovely resource to have on hand.

Garden Answers – Simply take a photo of the plant you’re looking at and this app will identify it for you. Garden Answers is helpful for those of us who are not experts and/or desire immediate answers without time for much research.

Aniscience – An adorable science app for littles, discovering laws of nature and basic plant and animal species. It’s too cute for words, and a great app for beginners.

Snapseed – We use this photography editing app on a daily basis. The options available are incredible and help the children explore creativity while learning the fundamentals of good photography.

Splice – While used less often, Splice is helpful for making photo/video collage of our adventures. We create quick slides to share with family and friends, learning skills such as Ken Burns effect, slide transitions, and more.

Stop Motion – The title tells you what the app is for, but it doesn’t explain how fun this app really is. Stop Motion is a great tool for the kids to explore film making.

Podcasts While not directly an app for learning, and a pre-loaded app on the device when purchased, this app has proven to be instrumental in learning. There are so many excellent podcasts to enjoy. HERE‘s our current list, which keeps growing continually!

LibriVox – While I’m sure most of you have heard of this app before, we would be remiss in not mentioning it. We use LibriVox quite a bit, downloading reads for the road or to listen to while making meals.

Red Herring – I am not a big player of games, but when I find apps which help feed the mind as well as entertain, I’m hooked. Red Herring is a visually basic game; there are no bells or whistles. What you will find is a challenging word association game which will stretch the knowledge of your vocabulary. Given a list of words, can you determine how to categorize them properly based on what they have in common?

KAMI 2 – Here’s another game which is not high on graphics, but excellent on mind bending and thinking outside the box. You’re given a geometric image and a pallet of colors. You then have a limited number of “taps” to clear the board so the entire image is now one color. It’s more challenging than you think. As a bonus, players can create their own geometric images to challenge friends and family.

Word Cookies – I’m sure by now everyone has heard of this game. We’re addicted and are constantly one-upping each other to see who’s on the higher level. On the off-chance you haven’t heard of this game, each level consists of cookies shaped like words which you need to string together to complete the word list. Each level has new letters and an entirely new set of words which you need to find.

Capitals – Another fantastic word game. Capitals is a two-player game which has you building words using letter tiles in order to clear the board and dominate your opponent.

Piano Tiles 2 – I had reservations about this game at first. How could tapping piano notes be at all beneficial. I was entirely wrong. Piano Tiles 2 – not the original version – consists of only classical music, which the children learn by tapping their device screens. My children now know more about classical music than I, and will quiz each other frequently to name the piece within a certain number of notes. My favorite feature is the history given on each piece, including composer and country of origin.

Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System/Galactic Genius with Astro Cat – I bought the book. Then discovered there was an app. The rest is history. This entire Astro Cat series is genius.

First 5 – This Bible app was recommended by another homeschool mom, and I’m so glad I took the time to download it. It’s a great start to the day.

Bible (YouVersion) – This app was another recommendation, and I love it. There are many Bible study courses you can download for free, along with Bible reading plans. My current plan is 5x5x5 Discipleship Journal. I’m not going to lie… My favorite thing about this app is the ability to select audio; I can have the Bible read aloud to me all throughout the day while doing mindless chores or cooking meals.

Whew! Looking back, this is quite a long list. I’d tell you this is all I’ve got loaded on my kids’ devices, but that wouldn’t be true. Right now, I’ve an entire folder dedicated to chemistry apps for the coming school year. It’s becoming an addiction these free apps. There are many more which come and go, along with apps for purely entertainment value.

For the most part, the apps we download are meant to stretch the mind as well as entertain. While I’m not opposed to playing games, I wish to limit the amount of time blankly staring at a screen. The above list helps keep learning fun, increases our skill, and adds to the adventure called homeschooling.

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

~ Matthew 6:22-23

Your Turn!: Share your favorite learning apps with us so we can partake in the fun!

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Review: Trust Fund and Love Was Near by Mapelle Films

Review_TrustFund_LoveWasNearMovie night can be a challenge. Violence, language, and inappropriate material abounds. Thanks to a review of Trust Fund and Love Was Near by Mapelle Films, movie night just got easier!

Trust Fund is the first independent film to be released by Mapelle Films. The story follows Reese Donahue, a talented young author finding her place in the world, as she runs from responsibility in hopes of attaining independence and romance. What follows is a charming tale of forgiveness and true love, liberally based on the prodigal son story found in book of Luke.

Our family received a Trust Fund DVD, along with a copy of Love Was Near, from Mapelle Films. Love Was Near is a companion book to Trust Fund, giving deeper insight into lessons Reese learned during her journey. Love Was Near is written from Reese’s perspective, in first-person narrative, sharing her adventures and thoughts including “hand written” diary entries. As she closes each chapter, the reader is given questions to reflect upon which relate to lessons Reese has learned throughout the film. Love Was Near includes an introduction to be read before enjoying the movie, followed by twenty-eight chapters which correspond to the film’s storyline.

In addition to both the film and book, we were given access to a downloadable study guide for Trust Fund. While the study guide is slated for “small group study”, we found it easily adaptable to a family setting. The study includes both background on the storyline itself and characters in the movie. The study guide makes a point of sharing the original prodigal son story found in the book of Luke, making a comparison of persons found in Luke’s tale and those in Trust Fund. While you’re there, be sure to view the movie clips! You won’t want to miss out.

While movies are usually a family affair, we ladies chose to watch our first viewing of Trust Fund by ourselves. As suggested, I read the introduction in Love Was Near, then we watched Trust Fund. After viewing the movie, Love Was Near has been a great follow-up, using Reese’s questions for an open group discussion. Love Was Near is a fairly thick book. While my instinct is to rush through the material, discussing everything in one go while it’s still fresh in our minds, I do not believe this would be wise. Instead, we have discussed several points in the first chapters and will continue on through the book with each viewing.

I’ll be honest, I was a little hesitant to review Trust Fund. I not only had doubts about the nature of Reese’s prodigal story and how much would be shown, I was unsure of the film quality itself. We had nothing to worry about. The movie was beautifully made! The story is clean, entertaining, charming, and heartwarming. It is visually lovely. We’re overjoyed with the movie and excited to share this with friends. The bonus, for us, was knowing the filmmaker is a homeschool graduate. How exciting to see his success and inspiring for our children!

I don’t wish to give too much away, so there will be no spoilers in this review. However, I feel the need to point out that while this is a prodigal story, Reese didn’t seem a prodigal as much as misguided. She makes several poor decisions based on little thought and deep emotion, a lesson in itself. The film was suitable for all ages, but it is our opinion this movie would be of greatest interest to girls in junior high and above. Parents should note, while the movie is clean there are elements of romance in the storyline, should this be a concern.

Movie night is still a challenge, but with films like Trust Fund available, our options are growing. We look forward to viewing more from Mapelle Films and increasing our movie library.

If you’d like to learn more about Trust Fund, Love Was Near, or Mapelle Films please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram!

To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Mapelle Films has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: Is there an age at which your children are permitted to watch more romantic movies?

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Podcast Central – Our Favorite Feeds & Why We’re Listening

Podcast_CentralThe kids are loaded. The bags are packed. It’s going to be a long drive. Do we listen to tunes? Possibly. These days, more often than not, our listening pleasure leans toward podcasts. With the excellent selection currently available, who can blame us?

Until recently, I don’t know how much attention I’d ever given podcasts. Now, we have a lovely list of choices at our fingertips and we couldn’t be more pleased. Here’s our favorite feeds and why we listen:

At Home – At Home is hosted by the sweetest group of homeschool mammas. They tell it like it is, no holds barred. Each podcast discusses the reality of homeschooling: what’s worked – and hasn’t – in their families, resources their loving, and helpful tips to get us through our homeschooling year. Each topic is carefully chosen, with thought-provoking questions peppered throughout the session. This is one of my personal favorites.

Encounters – A family selection… Each episode features a different creature of God’s creation. We’re encouraged to listen carefully, with ample opportunity given to hear what each sounds like in various situations. There’s a multitude of podcasts already available; we’ve only begun to enjoy this series. For those desiring in-depth materials regarding each podcast, visit their website (link provided) for additional links and lesson plans.

Myths and Legends – Another of our family choices. Truthfully, this is probably our top podcast choice. It’s funny, educational, and simply delightful. Each episode covers a different legend, exploring its historical context and from where the legend itself derives. Be forewarned, some of these legends are quite violent. While there is nothing inappropriate in any of the episodes (at least none we’ve listened to thus far), blood and gore are mentioned.

Your Morning Basket – Designed more for parents, YMB discusses various choices added to morning reading selections and why each has value. Several of the podcasts are interviews with homeschooling families; we’re given a glimpse of how they handle morning basket and what they’re reading. You’ll also find an occasional interview with professionals in the field of literature.

Read-Aloud Revival – Another parental selection, RAR focuses on the joy of reading aloud to our children no matter their age. Mrs. Mackenzie covers a multitude of literature her family enjoys, and encourages families to revisit this lost art. Most episodes are interviews with various authors and experts in literature.

Wild + Free We love Wild + Free’s focus on exploring the great outdoors and education outside-the-box. Why study science, history, or arithmetic inside when you could be learning through hands-on experiences? The podcast is delightful, as is their website and published materials.

Risen Motherhood For mama’s who need a moment of encouragement and edification, Risen Motherhood is a Godsend. Biblical perspective of parenting and womanhood abound.

A Delectable Education While we haven’t specifically chosen a Charlotte Mason approach to learning, we’ve greatly appreciated learning more about this method of education. We’ve learned a great deal, some of which we’ve begun to incorporate into our learning routine.

Listening to great music is always a win. But, we’re jazzed to change-up our schedule with something a little different. These podcasts keep us informed and learning something new. We’re blessed in being able to enjoy such pleasures!

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. “For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Matthew 13:16-17

Your Turn!: Is there a podcast you recommend?

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Review: Fascinating Chemistry

Review_Fascinating_Chemistry

A new school year equals a new study in the field of science. This year we’re focusing our attention on chemistry and we can’t think of a better time to review Fascinating Chemistry by Fascinating Education.

Fascinating Education is an audio-visual approach to teaching science. Fascinating Education offers courses in Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Medicine, and Atoms & Molecules. Fascinating Education is presented by Dr. Sheldon Margulies, The Fascinator, a retired neurologist who uses his life experience and expertise to help students learn. Fascinating_Chemistry_1

Fascinating Chemistry is a series of nineteen lessons which include a video, a script of the lesson and a lesson test. Each video is approximately 45 minutes in length. Videos are complete with menu and glossary, allowing the student to better follow the outline of each lesson. Students are also able to use the helpful menu feature to revisit areas which need strengthening without the hassle of scrubbing through an entire session. Lesson Scripts are an exact wording of the video lessons, including images. Several lessons contain links to lab activities for students to enjoy. Tests are given as multiple choice slide-presentations, with question helps for those who need them. After taking tests, students are able to review their test, print their test, and/or retake their test if needed. PDF versions of tests Fascinating_Chemistry_2are available. Test scores are not kept online, thus should be printed if so desired. Lesson topics include The Structure of the Atom, The Ionic Bond, The Covalent Bond, and more.

Fascinating Chemistry includes nineteen lessons total. Our family found it beneficial to break down these lessons into smaller sections, working through each lesson at a slower pace for greater understanding, rather than viewing an entire lesson in one sitting. We found the videos simple to follow and our narrator, The Fascinator, easy to understand. The lessons were clear and well laid out. The occasional labs are fun and appealing to kids.

It is our opinion Fascinating Chemistry may be used in a homeschooling setting with highFascinating_Chemistry_4 school, junior high, and/or upper level elementary students. The lessons are easy to follow and understand. Labs are equally simple. As the entire curriculum consists of only nineteen lessons, we would highly recommend breaking down the given lessons into smaller, half lessons to stretch the curriculum to fill an entire school year.

Chemistry is the name of the game for the year. We’ve just begun our adventure and are enjoying the hands-on application of all we’re learning. With the help of Fascinating Chemistry this will be a lovely journey. Now if I could only explain to my children chemistry experiments do not all need to consist of blowing things up or overflowing crucibles of foaming chemicals.

If you’d like to learn more about Fascinating Chemistry, as well as Fascinating Education, please visit them at their website. To read additional helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into the Fascinating Chemistry please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: Which area of science are you studying this year?

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Review: Make-a-State Activity

Make-a-StateThanks to Home School in the Woods and Make-a-State Activity, learning about our home state has never been as easy or as fun. This past month we’ve had the privilege of reviewing this incredible resource and can’t wait to share it with all our homeschool friends.

Make-a-State Activity, part of the vast Activity-Paks series from Home School in the Woods, makes learning fun and hands-on. This pak came with just about everything we needed to get started on our learning adventure. We downloaded a digital copy of Make-a-State Activity which consisted of project directions for our lap book, PDF images to complete activities, and a helpful “Start” file which allowed us to see everything in one location with clear directions on how assemble the lap book and all included projects. Make-a-State Activity contained a multitude of projects including Key State Facts, State Wildlife, State Geography, Famous People, and many more. It should be noted, while we chose to specifically focus on our home state of California for this Make-a-State Activity project, all fifty states are included in the Activity-Pak, allowing families to use and re-use this resource to their heart’s content.

Having previously enjoyed HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages, we were better prepared for the large quantity of printing, cutting,Make-a-State, Color_Page and assembly necessary to complete the lap book. However, it should be noted younger children might need assistance with cutting and completing certain portions of the book itself.

While we generally study history together as a family, my son and I were the only ones to embark on this particular learning adventure. Little Man is just out of fourth grade, when learning state history is suggested, and my thought was to use Make-a-State Activity to assist with achieving this goal. We decided to complete the entire Activity-Pak during the review period, working steadily through activities. We were able to meet our goal, easily finishing within several weeks.

Working through Make-a-State Activity was simple and fun. This was a great summer learning project and a lovely way to discover more about where we live. Mom appreciated the variety of options available to us. My son enjoyed including his own drawings, thoughts, and research. We love that everything is included in the downloadable file; we have permanent access to everything – pdf print outs, directions, color pages, and more! We have yet to find another company which does as excellent a job as Home School in the Woods when it comes to activity-paks and lap books. Their resources are top of the line, and incredibly affordable.

Make-a-State, State_InfoNever has completing a state research project been so easy or so fun! Thanks to Home School in the Woods, we learned much and enjoyed the journey.

In addition to Make-a-State Activity, Home School in the Woods offers a wide variety of hands-on history curriculum including Time Traveler American, additional Activity-Paks (Old Testament/New Testament/Composers/Artists), Lap-Paks, Timeline Trio, and their newest feature “A La Carte” projects! We’re excited to take advantage of this latest development, which includes a great number of games.

If you’d like to learn more about any of these hands-on curriculum or Home School in the Woods, please visit them at their website Home School in the Woods and on FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+ and YouTube.

To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Home School in the Woods has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: In which grade did your children study their state/country history?

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Our June Reads

Our_June_Reads_2017It never ceases to amaze us how many books we finish in a month. The lists we share here are merely books we’ve used in a homeschooling/parenting capacity; there are many more which we read on our own! June’s list has a ton of incredible finds from our local library. Everything on this month’s list was completely new to us, which is always fun. All of them were used in our learning to some capacity. Most of them are now on a book wish list.

  1. What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? (Judith Viorst) – From the beloved and internationally bestselling author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst comes a brand-new collection of clever, hilarious, and poignant poems that touch on every aspect of the roller-coaster ride that is childhood.
    A poetry book I specifically chose for the kids. The poems are cute and a great conversation starter regarding feelings. 
  2. The Big Bad Book of Beasts (Michael Largo) – Michael Largo has updated the medieval bestsellers for the twenty-first century, illuminating little-known facts, astonishing secrets, and bizarre superstitions about the beasts that inhabit our world—and haunt our imaginations.
    The title alone had me, but the book itself is a gem. The Big Bad Book of Beasts is a fantastic reference guide for authors and artists, filled with both realistic and fantastical creatures to explore. This was pushed to the top of my ever-increasing book wish list. 
  3. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (Daniel Pool) – For anyone who has ever wondered whether a duke outranked an earl, when to yell “Tally Ho!” at a fox hunt, or how one landed in “debtor’s prison”; this book serves as an indispensable historical and literary resource.
    Our girls continually seek more knowledge about old English traditions and mannerisms. This book was the perfect fit. We highly encourage a slow reading to fully intake the multitude of knowledge to be found within.
  4. The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling (John Muir Laws) – The ultimate guide to nature drawing and journaling. This is the how-to guide for becoming a better artist and a more attentive naturalist.
    The ultimate guide to nature journaling, to be sure. Mr. Laws does a lovely job of explaining how to nature journal, including tips on drawing various creatures and nature finds. Don’t be scared of the obvious skill Mr. Laws has as an artist, however. Enjoy the beautiful examples of his work and move forward in confidence. 
  5. Kid Artists/Kid Athletes (David Stabler) – The series that began with Kid Presidents has new volumes that chronicle the childhoods of 16 celebrated artists and athletes!
    Okay, it was the adorable covers which caught my attention. I admit it. But the pages within are absolutely fantastic! Forget the kids, I enjoyed reading these books and continually am encouraging the kids to dig in. 
  6. Rebel Science (Dan Green) – If you think scientists are boring eggheads in white coats who never leave the lab, this dynamically illustrated book will set you straight!
    We discovered this read at our local bookstore and immediately checked it out from our library to fully explore it’s contents. Now, I’m going to have to buy it. It’s that good. Please note, the author isn’t Christian but that doesn’t come into play when reading, as the book’s intention is to give a timeline of when scientists lived and their contributions to science in general. 
  7. The Atlas of Oddities (Clive Gifford) – Atlas of Oddities takes kids on a round-the-world adventure that will help them see our planet in a whole new light.
    Maps hold a fascination for me. So when I can pick up a beautifully illustrated book for my children to enjoy, I’m all over it. The illustrations are out of this world cute and teach so much. You’ll definitely want to give this one a try.

We generally gather our reading materials from the library, but several of these have been added to our book wish list. Great reads are worth revisiting!  We were so excited to find another incredible selection this month! A few of them were excellent aids in nature study. Join us again next month as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading.

Your Turn!: I’ve been on a poetry kick lately, do you have a favorite poet?

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Review: Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series

“I want to try to help you understand what ‘American Exceptionalism’ and greatness is all about. It does not mean that we Americans are better than anyone else. It does not mean that there is something uniquely different about us as human beings compared to other people in the world. It does not mean that we as a country have never faced problems of our own. American Exceptionalism and greatness means that America is special because it is different from all other countries in history. It is a land built on true freedom and individual liberty and it defends both around the world.”
~ Rush Limbaugh

Adventures_of_Rush_RevereIt’s another summer of fun, and fun just isn’t the same without a few good books. To kick off our reading extravaganza, Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh sent us the entire Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series, and we can’t wait to share them with you!

Rush Revere is a series of fun, historical-fiction books teaching children about American history. There are five, hard-bound books included in the complete set which we received. The books themselves are beautifully bound with lovely illustrated dust covers. The stories are printed on semi-gloss paper made to look like old parchment, colorful illustrations and maps are found throughout each book. In each story, a different portion of early American history is covered.

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims – In an effort to better help his students appreciate history, substitute teacher Rush Revere and his horse Liberty take his class back in time to discover how America came to be. Through the use of technology – and incredible internet connection – Rush Revere’s class watch as he and Liberty show them the real picture. Our first adventure has us traveling through several “time portals”, discovering why the first Pilgrims wished to travel to America, following their journey across the Atlantic, and their plans for establishing a new colony. We meet important historical figures such as William Bradford, Captain Myles Standish, William Brewster, Samoset, and more!

Rush Revere and the First Patriots – Once again Rush Revere and Liberty have us rush, rush, rushing to history. Rush, Liberty, and a few students find themselves exploring the beginnings of the United States. Jumping through time portals, our friends meet important figures as Ben Franklin, Patrick Henry, and many other heroes. During their adventures, we learn of events leading up to the Boston Massacre and talk of revolution.

Rush Revere and the American Revolution – Rush, Liberty, and our favorite time-traveling students find themselves on another adventure; this time exploring 1775 America and meeting heroes who fought for independence. Rush Revere finally gets to meet his hero, Paul Revere, and the kids experience first-hand what it was like on that fateful night at the Old North Church.

Rush_Revere_Books

Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner – Rushing off on another adventure, our favorite time-traveling crew find themselves in 1787. Heated secret debate over the Constitution and Bill of Rights, lead our friends to meet James Madison. A hop through the time portal has them learning about a famous portrait of George Washington, the Star-Spangled Banner, and a song by Francis Scott Key.

Rush Revere and the Presidency – Rushing into our next adventure, the time-traveling crew discover just how hard running a brand-new country can be. While the students are campaigning for student body president at their local middle school, Rush Revere and Liberty have them jumping through time portals to meet presidents George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson during their time in office. Learning importance lessons from each, the students hope to win the election and save the day!

Based on our experience, we would estimate the reading level from approximately 2nd-5th grade. While my junior enjoyed reading for exploration, the books are better suited for our son in fifth grade. He has a greater appreciation for Liberty’s humor and breezes through the stories with ease. It’s taken him only a few days to finish each book. I was the first in the family to read through all the books, as I was especially keen to give them a try. I found an empty afternoon and finished all five in one go. Both of us chose to read the books independently and finish at our own pace.

Kids_Reading_Rush_RevereqIt’s impossible to tell which book in the series was our favorite, they are all wonderful. Each had many adventures we enjoyed and lessons learned. The stories are clean, well-written, educational, and enjoyable; all features we look for in our book choices. We loved “Liberty Asks How Smart Are You” questions at the back of book one, which prompted further discussion and allowed us to dig deeper. A few highlights of our read were Rush always in colonial costume, even students in the story comment on his outfit. We found this silly, and inspirational. Rush’s horse, Liberty, is quite the funny character. At times offering colorful quips, more likely to be appreciated by young boys reading the story. We were pleasantly surprised to find the stories light-hearted and enjoyable, holding kids’ interest while teaching much. As a bonus, pictures were included of kids and their books; some in costume and others with their horses, Liberty.

As we explored answers to Liberty’s questions, we made sure to spend time perusing the incredible resources to be found online at Two If By Tea. Scholarship information, challenges, projects, activities and more abound! We especially appreciated the Homeschool Depot, where we could send a message to Maddie and the Rush Revere Crew. We also found homeschool resources for each book, with lessons on William Bradford and other heroes. You can even have a look at Rush Revere’s library!

The Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series has been fantastic to review! We’ve learned much and enjoyed our new adventure in learning. What a perfect way to start our summer of fun.

If you’d like to learn more about Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series, as well as Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaughy, please visit them at their website. You can also find Adventures of Rush Revere on social media sites such as FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

To read additional helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: What is your favorite historical-fiction book series?

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Our May Reads

Our_May_Reads

It never ceases to amaze us how many books we finish in a month. The lists we share here are merely books we’ve used in a homeschooling/parenting capacity; there are many more which we read on our own! May’s list has a ton of incredible finds from our local library. Everything on this month’s list was completely new to us, which is always fun. All of them were used in our learning to some capacity. Most of them are now on a book wish list.

  1. Ordinary People Change the World (Series by Brad Meltzer) – WE CAN ALL BE HEROES. That’s the inspiring message of this lively, collectible picture book biography series from New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer.
    A friend on Instagram shared this incredible series. We immediately pulled every available book in the set. My son is in love. So am I.
  2. Make: Magazine (Maker Media) – As the leading voice of the maker movement, Make: publishes tested projects, skill-building tutorials, in-depth reviews and inspirational stories, accessible by all ages and skill ranges.
    I happened across this publication while perusing for other periodicals. This is an amazing resource for learning! Each issue is filled with tons of incredible projects to make with detailed instructions. Check them out… Make:
  3. The Beauty of the Beast, Poems from the Animal Kingdom (Selected by Jack Prelutsky) – A stunning collection of poems celebrating “the beauty and wonder of the animal kingdom.” Poet and anthologist Jack Prelutsky has chosen 200 works by 123 poets from Carl Sandburg to Seamus Heaney, with a tip of the hat to his own “The Multilingual Mynah Bird.”
    An incredibly fun book to explore with the kids. Many animals were covered, and all of the poems lovely.
  4. The Curious Garden (Peter Brown) – While out exploring one day, a little boy named Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.
    It was the art which drew us in, but the story which kept us coming back for multiple readings. The Curious Garden is a wonderful story and quite inspiring.
  5. Art & Max (David Weisner) – Max and Arthur are friends who share an interest in painting. Arthur is an accomplished painter; Max is a beginner. Max’s first attempt at using a paintbrush sends the two friends on a whirlwind trip through various artistic media, which turn out to have unexpected pitfalls.
    An adorable read, through and through. We loved how this story explored the fun and adventurous aspect of art.
  6. What To Do With a Box (Jane Yolen & Chris Sheban) – If you give a child a box, who can tell what will happen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expedition. The most wonderful thing is its seemingly endless capacity for magical adventure…
    We’re continually on the lookout for books which encourage children to think creatively. In this case, outside the box. Mission accomplished!
  7. The Little Island (Margaret Wise Brown and Leonard Weisgard) – There is a little island in the ocean—and this book is about how it is on that little island, how the seasons and the storm and the day and night change it, how the lobsters and seals and gulls and everything else live on it, and what the kitten who comes to visit finds out about it.
    Suggested by an online acquaintance, this charming story helped us focus on our nature studies; learning to experience God’s creation through all of our senses. 
  8. A Child of Books (Oliver Jeffers) – A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy. She invites him to go away with her on an adventure into the world of stories… where, with only a little imagination, anything at all can happen.
    I confess, the cover caught my attention. It went in my basket without further thought. Was opened in the quiet of my home. And devoured entirely, from beginning to end. We loved the clever illustrations and thoughtfulness of the story. 
  9. Finding Wild (Megan Wagner Lloyd) – There are so many places that wild can exist, if only you know where to look! Can you find it? Two kids set off on an adventure away from their urban home and discover all the beauty of the natural world. From the bark on the trees to the sudden storm that moves across the sky to fire and flowers, and snowflakes and fresh fruit. As the children make their way through the woods and back to the paved and noisy streets, they discover that wild exists not just off in some distant place, but right in their own backyard.
    Another nature study find by Mom. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the story without the tendency of some books towards glorifying nature to the point of considering man an evil. 
  10. The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs (Tristan Gooley) – Gooley has compiled more than 850 outdoor tips—many not found in any other book in the world—that will open readers’ eyes to nature’s hidden logic. He shares techniques for forecasting and tracking, and for walking in the country or city, along the coast, and by night. This is the ultimate resource on what the land, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and clouds can reveal—if you only know how to look!
    I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. It came highly recommended so we gave it a chance and were pleasantly surprised. We learned so much from just the first chapters, we cannot imagine pushing through this book quickly. Even a single reading will not be enough to fully absorb its material. For nature explorers, this book is a wonderful guide and help!

We generally gather our reading materials from the library, but several of these have been added to our book wish list. Great reads are worth revisiting!  We were so excited to find another incredible selection this month! A few of them were excellent aids in nature study. Join us again next month as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading.

Your Turn!: How do you know when a book is so good, you have to buy it?

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Review: Captain Absolutely from Focus On The Family

Review_Captain_AbsolutelyComics are all the rage in our home. From my husband’s work to classic Superman, we enjoy a good graphic novel. So it was with much anticipation we reviewed Captain Absolutely from Focus On The Family. Today, we’re excited to share this fun, educational, Biblical resource with you!

Captain Absolutely is a graphic novel which focuses on using a Biblical worldview to battle everyday challenges such as fear and guilt. In Captain Absolutely we meet our hero, Captain Absolutely, and learn how he gained his incredible power. We are taken through a series of subsequent events in which Captain Absolutely meets several villains – Dr. Relative, Cap’n Crastin, Fear Chemist, and more – who wish to ruin the town of Metropolitanville and take over the world. Captain Absolutely uses his knowledge of Scripture to fight each enemy, while kindly showing them the error of their ways.

Captain Absolutely is a full-color paperback graphic novel. The pages within are printed on glossy paper, in tune with traditional modern comics. The illustrations themselves are fun. The story is fast-paced and silly while faithfully teaching Biblical truths, complete with Scripture reference for each argument the Captain uses to defeat his foe.

As Captain Absolutely touches on important Biblical topics and discusses the gravity of truth, we handed our story to an expert both in the field of comics and apologetics… my husband. In addition, both our oldest daughter, our son, and myself read through the story.  This was not a required read for the kids, merely something we strategically placed in anReading_Captain_Absolutely advantageous position of the learning environment to encourage interest. The reading took approximately forty-five minutes for my son and husband to read through together; about twenty for me and my daughter individually.

We found Captain Absolutely functions under the assumption the Bible is true. We are presented with basic worldviews and how a Biblical worldview responds to each argument. This is not a philosophical defense of truth, but a sharing of Biblical wisdom. With that said, all of us enjoyed this graphic novel. My husband found it to be a good foundation for younger children learning Biblical truths. He recommended the story for children aged 8-12, but noted finishing the entire novel in one read might be a bit taxing. To fully absorb the concepts being presented and prevent fatigue, perhaps reading Captain Absolutely over a few days time might be of benefit. My daughter and I thought the stories to be quite silly, with many good points made for the reader to think on. Our son laughed continually through the reading; the storyline made for many good talking points and further truths to be shared. He thought the silliest “villains” were Edward Snooze – who fought Captain Absolutely with pillows – and Cap’n Crastin – who’s heartfelt desire was to be on television.

When passing comics to our children, we parents are continually on the lookout for appropriate content. Captain Absolutely met all of our requirements: It was clean, engaging to the mind, easy to follow, and as an added bonus, pointed our children to Christ. Our son learned a great deal through his reading, and this initial story has laid beautiful groundwork for future discussion of truth and Biblical wisdom.

If you’d like to learn more about Focus On The Family, as well as Captain Absolutely, please visit them at their website. You can also find Focus on The Family on social media sites such as FacebookTwitterPinterest, Instagram, Google+, and YouTube.

To read additional helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into Captain Absolutely please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: Is there a Christian comic you’d recommend?

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Review: High School Essay Intensive from Institute for Excellence in Writing

High_School-Essay_IntensiveOur oldest daughter will be a junior this coming month! With scholarships, grants, college SAT’s and ACT’s right around the corner, we can’t think of a better time to review High School Essay Intensive from Institute for Excellence in Writing. Read on as we share this new resource to hit A Homeschool Mom’s shelf!

High School Essay Intensive is a writing program, including a case containing five DVD’s which comprise the course and a Portable Walls for the Essayist folder. Printed on the folder are helpful tips for becoming a better writer: Types of Essays, Transitional Words & Phrases, Essay Models, and more. Included in the Portable Walls for the Essayist folder is the High School Essay Intensive course work. This course work is to be completed as the student watches the DVD’s and Mr. Pudewa teaches lessons. Topics covered in High School Essay Intensive are “General Strategies for Essay Writing”, “Understanding and Preparing for the New ACT Essay”, “Understanding and Preparing for the Redesigned SAT Essay”, and “Strategies for the ‘Personal Essay'”. In addition to the DVD’s, we also received a code to video stream these same lessons. This is an especially helpful resource for students using computers which no longer have disc drives or prefer this medium.

While there are many ways in which High School Essay Intensive could be completed, we chose to do a “crash course” and finish the entire set in a two-week period of time. Normally I would not recommend this course of action, but I was a little impatient to finishMr. Pudewa Teaching the material. The main reason for our hurry was an IEW conference being held by our homeschool group. What better way to fully immerse ourselves than to have completed the curriculum and then attend the conference as a review? Our second reason for the rush was a desire to fully train our oldest daughter for the college and scholarship essays she is currently filling out by the stack.

Having no prior experience with IEW, we went into our review with open minds. Our focus during our review was on “General Strategies for Essay Writing” and “Strategies for the ‘Personal Essay'”, as these have the greatest application for our family at this point in time. We found the DVD/Stream lessons to be easy to follow and entertaining. Mr. Pudewa has a comfortable manner in his teaching, addressing his filmed audience by name and offering funny anecdotes to keep the viewer interested. Course work allowed students to take careful notes while following along with lessons, using a fill-in-the-blank method of note taking. While the title of the course, High School Essay Intensive, and the nature of the topic might seem heavy, we were pleased to find the lessons manageable and even fun. There were several new skills we learned; ones we will be implementing from this point forward. We especially appreciated Mr. Pudewa’s explanation of introductory sentences and a TRIAC method of writing paragraphs.

As we have written essays during our lessons for years, and are new to Institute for Excellence in Writing, I was extremely interested in reviewing High School Essay Intensive. I was pleased to find we are on the right track with our writing, yet we’ve learned new skills we can apply to future papers! While we chose to move quickly through the curriculum, we will be re-visiting it at a slower pace at various points to keep the information fresh in our minds.

If you’d like to learn more about Institute for Excellence in Writing, along with High School Essay Intensive, please visit them at their website. You can also find Institute for Excellence in Writing on social media sites such as FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

To read additional helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into High School Essay Intensive please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: Do your children stress when an essay is assigned?

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