Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Doorpost: Bible Study for Young Men

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I have always heard such great things about Doorposts and always seek them out at our homeschool conference to drool over all of their character building products. When I was offered the opportunity to review Because You Are Strong: A Study of Godly Strength for Young Men, by Daniel Forster, I jumped on it for Captain C. This is written for boys ages 12- adult (or mature 10-11 year olds).

When it arrived, I was thrilled with the layout and that I could just hand it to him and he could do it. He is at the age where he can do most things on his own, and resists a lot of  Mom over his shoulder. It is written FOR young men, and acknowledges that young men have an abundance of strength and energy and focuses on how they can use that to glorify God. The skills taught in the book are also very beneficial to young women so don't let that scare you away. Keep reading.

The book is broken into 10 Studies, each divided into 5 days of lessons. Captain C has a good study Bible with a built in concordance. Otherwise, you might want to pick up a concordance if you only have a simple Bible. This Bible study uses actual scripture to learn from instead of filling you up with the author's interpretation of the scripture. I like that. A lot! I want Captain C to be able to open his Bible and dissect it on his own and not have to look for others to explain it to him.

I had C start each school day with this. The lessons say they will take from 5-20 minutes but it usually took him longer. Each study (or chapter) lists the items you will need for the chapter. Most days, the Bible and concordance covered it, but sometimes he needed colored pencils or a second translation of the Bible too. It wasn't anything we had to go out and buy. All could be found in the house or online. He then did the lessons on his own, but when I looked back, he wasn't doing all the writing. I talked with him about it and he didn't like how much there was to write, which there really is a lot. After all, you are forming YOUR conclusions on the scriptures instead of reading other people's so it makes sense you would write more than you read. I'm just happy he is doing it, but gently encouraged him to get his thoughts and responses down too.

I loved how the book was laid out. It teaches HOW to study the Bible. It starts out teaching how to do a devotion (like starting and ending with prayer, reading and stopping to meditate, etc), then taught a new skill each chapter (like how to do a topical study, character study, cross referencing, and on and on). There are so many skills taught in this Bible study that after finishing it, he should be able to use his Bible and a notebook and study anything he is interested in. I love the skills taught, just as much as the content taught. The content was all over the place in the Word, ranging from Samson to 1 John. All of them tied in strength: Strength for the Race, Strength and Temptation, Strength to be Valiant to name a few. All great lessons for young men.

At the end of the book, there are questions you can substitute if you wanted young ladies to complete the study. There is also a separate study for girls called Beauty in the Heart that some of the Crew reviewed. I will be interested in getting that one when P is older!

I love that Because you are Strong doesn't try to feminize the boys, but works with their natural bend to make them Godly young men. I love how it teaches HOW to study. In a lot of studies, we just learn the authors interpretation, because it is easy, honestly, to just read what someone else wrote. It takes more thought to listen to the Holy Spirit and draw your own conclusions, and I appreciated that about this book.

Captain C is almost 1/2 way through the book and will finish it before the year is over. I'm excited about all the skills he is learning and can't wait until Terrific T is older so I can purchase this for him too. It is only $12 right now, and also available in a PDF format. I would recommend this book to anyone with boys this age. There is a free sample on their site so you can check it out.

Also, click on the banner below to see what other Crew mates had to say about these books.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review - Understanding Child Brain Development DVD

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Family Hope Center send us a DVD to review called  Understanding Child Brain Development. At their center, they don't merely treat the symptoms of childhood behavior but go to the source, the brain, and treat it. As a former Special Ed teacher, I was very interested to watch this. This is a 2+ hour live, recorded seminar, where husband and wife team, Matthew and Carol Newell, teamed up with Andrew Pudewa to help parents understand how their child's brain develops and how that development effects every aspect of their lives now. That seems like a "duh" (and a really long sentence!)- the brain controls the body, but they do such a great job of explaining why kids (and adults) act the way they do and how it relates to brain development. Before watching the DVD, I downloaded their handout for free off their site so I could follow along.

 photo CBD-DCover_zps23501872.gifSo much more is going on when babies and children are developing than the physical areas we see. Damage to any of these natural phases can cause problems in the brain that might not be evident until later on. They stress throughout the seminar how the brain is a magnificent organ that can restore itself with help. They want to offer that help, and hope, to parents of children with different abilities. At their center, they don't address disabilities, but work with abilities to minimize the gap between the neurological age and the chronological age. I love that they don't label people as autistic or ADD anything, but just work to bring their neurological age up to "normal."

They have some great ideas on how to help children be successful and close the gap. That's exciting stuff! So much of the video was spent explaining the brain and how they work with them in the center. I would have loved to have more details on how to help our kids at home. Mr. Newell sprinkled in advice along the way, but really just the last 10-15 minutes were spent talking about how we can help our kids at home. If you live close to them in PA, you could go get help there, but for those of us that don't live close, we were sort of left with a teaser - lol. Some basic things we can do at home to help, without getting professional help, are to drink more water and eat REAL foods. I think we would all see a big difference if we would change our eating habits. He also talked about eliminating electronics and spending more time outside - a man after my own heart.

I was very interested when he was talking about the way our eyes work. Princess P was just diagnosed with convergence insufficiency last week, which means her eyes aren't working together properly. This is causing a big struggle in reading because her eyes jump around and skip words, repeat lines, reverse things and it is so frustrating for her (and her momma!). I watched this video again this week after learning this, and Mr. Newell says this is linked back to crawling on the belly when she was a baby...and a lack of opportunities to move when she was a baby. I was so into it and wanting to know what to do now to make up for anything (which I really can't see how she had any less opportunities to creep and crawl than the other two - for crying out loud, she didn't walk until 18 months!) but he doesn't really go into it other than to say she needs to go back to creeping and crawling. We are doing eye therapy but I would love more info on this too. He does say that the more you stimulate the brain, the more it grows toward wellness, so I'm hoping our eye exercises will fall into that category. If not, I'll look into making her crawl on her belly - hey, it's worth a shot.

The Family Hope Center sounds like such a fantastic place for kids. Unfortunately it is in PA...and we aren't. This DVD almost felt like a 2 hour infomercial for their center. They do a great job of telling of the need for their center, and I 100% agree with them. It was fascinating to watch (and not just because he looks like a long lost Baldwin brother). But what about all of us that can't go to the center? I would love if there was more info on how we can help our kids ourselves at home. Just a little more detail on how to make them creep and crawl (Are we being literal here?) and how long? They are vague on that - basically you do it until they progress??

They do give about 7 key ways to help all our kids, but again, they are pretty vague. They range from eating better (nothing from a package, which I agree with and wish we were more consistent with) to finding a local doctor to do craniosacral therapy to get the brain "breathing" again. There is one about an hour from here, but that's it for our area...I looked.

Check out this video from Andrew Pudewa that explains these DVDs better than I can.

To order the DVD for $19, you can call 610-397-1737 or you can order Understanding Child Brain Development online from IEW.

Check out what others on the CREW had to say about the DVD by clicking on the banner below.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to school for C

CC started today for Captain C; he's in Challenge B (8th grade). I took a quick picture for my collage. :)

You'll have to click on it to make it larger since it is so wide.

C has always done well with academics. My prayer for him this year is that he will love learning. He has the skills now to learn anything, but he needs the desire to keep learning more and more.

I love this young man!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review: Bible Study Guide for All Ages

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Bible Study Guide For All Ages is a genius curriculum designed so that all ages can study their Bible together.  This is perfect for families with different aged children (like most of us) so you can work through the same material at the same time, but their activities are on their level. There are two ways you can do this - orally, where you just read and discuss together, or with their student pages. This is what we used. We were sent their Intermediate Level Student Pages to review as well as their awesome Bible Books Summary Cards. The Intermediate Level pages are for children in 3rh-4th grade. Since P is going into 3rd grade, and T had just finished 4th when we signed up for this, I ordered the same set for both of them. They have a Beginner set (3-K) and Advanced (5th-6th) that match up with these lessons, but their Primary (1st-2nd) is a different series so I picked Intermediate for both so we could work together.

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There are 416 lessons total in the Bible Study Guide and when completed, you will have covered the entire Bible. I was sent only Unit 1, which includes lessons 1-26. It covers Joseph, Daniel, and part of Jesus' life  on earth. The Units sell for $5.95 each and I received a copy for T and another for P.

There is no teacher's guide for these pages and no artificial source text. I love that they just use the B-I-B-L-E, yes, that's the book for me. Oops. I digress. Each lesson starts with a quick review with "answers" listed below- not the answer-answers, but the Scripture reference of where to find it. This is great so you can pick it up anywhere. If you haven't done the previous lessons, it's ok. It tells you where to find the answers so you can still do the "review." T, P and I would sit with our Bibles out and look up each reference, even if we knew the answer, so we could "prove" that we were correct. This was great for getting the kids looking things up more. Remember Sword Drills, from back in the day? I wish we did those still. This was sort of like that. Whoever found it first got to read it.

After the review, we started on the lesson. The layout of the pages is a little odd, where after the review, you do a Memory Workout (that I will talk about in a bit) and then there is a teaser and then you flip the page over for the lesson. After the lesson, you flip it back to the front page for the rest of the work.  That allows a full page for the lesson, which is nice, but it's a slightly awkward way to do it. No biggie. They have a CD of songs, that we didn't have, but I was able to google some and found some that matched and were usable.

The lessons are designed like a comic, which was highly appealing to my kids. The lesson itself took us about 20 minutes usually. But the before and after work rounded us out around 30-45 minutes. We did this twice a week Most lessons had a timeline on it where the kids put themselves in on today's date, and then added in things relating to the story. I love timelines so I appreciate this. I like the kids to see that the Bible isn't a story - it is History, Truth, Facts, just like they are on the timeline, these events are on the timeline. Other lessons had maps of where the event happened. This tied in well with our CC geography studies.

We saved the "Get Active" section for the end, after we applied it and prayed together. These were fun additions, but some of them were lost on just having two people doing them. They would be great in a Sunday School classroom with more kids, which the curriculum is good for.

 photo bible-book-summary-cards_zps28dfa8ff.jpgNow for my favorite part of this review: The Bible Book Summary Cards. These I loved. They are letter sized flash cards for each book of the Bible. On the front are visual cues and on the back are descriptions and questions. Here is a sample of the front and back of the Exodus cards:

Bible Book Summary Card SampleBible Book Summary Card Sample

By us reviewing these together, the kids (and me!) have a better understanding of what is in each book of the Bible. They are nice card stock pages, but I still put them in page protectors so they will last longer. You can use them for putting the books of the Bible in order (mix them up and let the kids arrange them correctly), show the card and have them tell about it, or ask the questions and have them answer. I will be hanging on to these, long after the student pages are done. It tells you which ones to use in the lessons, but I changed it up a little to meet our needs. We introduced them a little faster than they suggested. They are $24.95 for all 66 books. These are keepers!

Click on the banner below to read what others thought of these products and others they offer.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

One week

Little Miss has been with us for one week now and the changes in her in this short week are amazing to me. She is becoming more like a "normal toddler" everyday. We still have a long ways to go and a lot of ground to make up, but it is so encouraging to see little changes.

I have heard over and over this week (and all during the foster care process too actually) that "I couldn't do that" and "It would be too hard to give them back." I get that. I really do...and am dreading it all too. This week, my best friend had to "give back" two precious boys that have been part of their family for months. It sucks and it is hard.  But you know what, the changes in Little Miss in this one week are worth the pain it will be to give her up. And I know my friend would say the same thing. They changed those boys' lives forever by being selfless and loving on them as if they were their own. If not you and me, then who?

Yes, it will be hard...but no harder than a 2 year old who lived the way she lived. How fair was that to her? She didn't get a say in it at all. She was born into it. We are grown ups, and have well adjusted children...we are blessed and we have a choice. Yes, it will be so hard on the kids. Princess P said the first day that she wants to keep Little Miss. It's going to be hard. But if we all worried so much about how much it was going to hurt US for the kids to leave, there would be no one to care for these kiddos who just want a safe place to be.

We don't know if we will have her for another day, month, or year. We don't know. Thankfully, God does and we are trusting Him to take care of her. But as Princess P said when I told her we would probably only have her a few days, "Well, let's give her the best few days we can."

And so we are. And loving having her here. And praying for her and her family and her future. And that was 4 sentences that started with "and." :) (Oh - one started AND ended with it. Bonus!)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: Notgrass Company - Draw to Learn

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I have heard great things about Notgrass Company but never actually used their curriculum before, so I was intrigued when their Draw to Learn series came up for review. I was sent the physical copy of Draw to Learn: Proverbs, and then received digital copies of all of the Draw to Learn Bible books: (Draw to Learn Acts, Draw to Learn Proverbs, Draw to Learn Psalms, Draw to Learn the Letters of Paul, Draw to Learn the Life of Jesus. Digital copies contain the entire book and can be printed out over and over for all the members of your family. This was perfect for us since I wanted to try it with Terrific T and Princess P and they like to do the same thing (and it makes it easier for me when they do the same books!).

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I received the link for the downloads before the book arrived in the mail (which I didn't know which one I was going to be getting). I let the kids look through them and pick which book they wanted to start with. They chose Proverbs so I printed up the first 10 out of 150 lessons for them. Ironically, Proverbs is the book they chose for us to get the physical copy of too. Kinda cool!

This curriculum is really for anyone that can read the Bible, or listen while it is being read. How's that for an age range? Each day you do one page and it is broken down into three steps - Read, Think, Draw. There is no need for a teacher's guide with this book. The first few pages gives tips on how to get the most out of the books, but the kids can just read each page as they go and and do it. I loved that they didn't have to wait for me to help or tell them what to do. They just grabbed their book, Bible, and pencils and were off.

At the top of the page it tells what verses to read. It wasn't ever very many verses, which was perfect for my two who haven't found the love of reading yet that I'm praying they find!  Then it highlights one verse or phrase and there is a huge empty box that takes up most of the page. Under the box is a quick discussion about the verses you read and the directions for what to draw in the box.

My kids love art, and they love the Bible so this was a win-win for us! We have been doing it everyday as part of their quiet time to start the day, and will continue to use it each morning during the school year. It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how detailed they want to be with their drawings. They use pencils and colored pencils only to keep it simple. We have done about 4 weeks of the Proverbs and then they wanted to do Life of Jesus. I sent the whole book to BestValueCopy, where copies are 2.5 cents a page, and had two full copies of that ebook printed for them. Each book has 150 lessons and I had them both printed and 3 hole punched for $8.79 total! I love their cheap printing! That is for both kids for the entire year! Love it! The printed books from Notgrass are $14.95 and the ebooks to download are $9.95 - and remember that you can then print them for everyone in your household if you get the ebook. That is a much better deal if you are going to be printing multiples. If you just need one copy, I'd get the preprinted one and not mess with it though. It is nicely spiral bound with a heavy cardstock cover. Since I printed all of theirs already, I'm keeping them in a box and just putting a couple of weeks at a time into their daily notebook.

We have really enjoyed this review. The kids never complain about "having" to do it. Anytime they can mix art in with their studies, they are sold. I liked how the discussion questions made them think. It isn't like a typical fill in the blank worksheet - this was lets them think and apply the scripture to their lives. I like how it tells the parents to encourage the kids to do WELL at this and not just rush through it to check it off. There is such beauty in God's Word and it is important to give it it's due. I have been impressed with it and would definitely recommend it. Have you ever used this? If so, what did you think?


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Sunday, August 4, 2013

This is my Africa

19 people from our church just returned from a mission trip to Africa where they did wonderful things for the people and "saw the face of God." (loved how one guy described that like this this morning!) It was such a great trip and I loved hearing about it today and seeing the pictures. It made me think back to my trip to Cambodia a few years ago. I love doing mission work and was tearing up listening to them talk about it.So neat to see God work in the lives of our church members as they are serving others. Blessings for both the giver and the receiver for sure!

After the service, my sweet friend hugged me and said, "What you are doing for {foster baby} is just as important as going to Africa." I had so wanted to go with the group, but decided to make my mission my backyard for this time. There are so many kids at the shelter here, less than 10 miles from me. I am only taking them one at a time, but we are pouring God's love into them with every meal, bath, playtime, and snuggle time. Teaching them that He loves them and we love them, when maybe they haven't known that anyone loves them before.

Tonight, little miss woke up at 11:30, after sleeping for four hours. She was a-w-a-k-e. She is so sweet though that she will lay in bed completely silently, as long as I was there with her. I'm not 100% sure on all the DHS rules just yet, but know that the kids have to have their own bed, so I was careful to not lay by her, but just to sit on the edge and rub her back. After 20 minutes of that, I was tired. But every time I moved, she would dart off the end of the bed (just a mattress on the floor until we figure out if she will fall out of a real twin or needs a toddler bed) and go for the door. Did I mention it was about midnight by now? I was tired! So I just laid on the floor between her mattress and Princess P's bed, which was about a foot or so wide. A few minutes later she had climbed off the bed and was snuggled up to me and started babbling. It was more sounds than she has made since she got here. I so wish I knew what she was trying to say.

I sang to her and she babbled more. I put her back in her bed and kept laying on the floor next to her and she reached out and took my hand. She hasn't held a hand or initiated any kind of contact really since she got here. It was some precious moments.

An hour later, I was still on that floor and she was still awake. Every time I tried to leave, she would jump up and follow and have me pick her up. I was putting her back in bed and saying nite-nite. over. and over. and over.

It might be the exhaustion but I just started to tear up thinking that only knowing me for a few days, she feels safe coming to me and snuggling up to me. I was praying for her and her family and finally, she settled in and allowed me to come downstairs.

Now, it is 1:10am and I am just thinking how much I already love this little blond hair, blue eyed "African" and if I have her for a week or a year, I'll keep trying to teach her how much God loves her and how important she is to Him and others.

And now it's 1:17am and she was just crying again. This is the first time I have heard her cry, and it is sad and quiet and heartbreaking. This time, I went up there and told her softly to get back in bed and she did. I didn't have to carry her or anything. I hope she starts to feel safe enough here to sleep peacefully.

So for now, I'll leave foreign missions to others and enjoy hearing all about their exotic adventures while I have my own little closer to home adventures here.

She is worth it!

PS...1:28am and it is quiet. Dare I attempt to sleep?

Review: BrainFood Learning DVD

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I am always on the lookout for educational DVDs that aren't cheesy or boring. The creators of BrainFood Learning felt the same way. They wanted videos that contained "stimulating and interesting content that educates as well as entertains." They didn't find what they were looking for so began their own "The Fascinating World of" series. I was given the opportunity to review their 52 minute long Fascinating World of Mammals DVD this past month.

 photo mammals_front_500__556451320384055300400_zps4f7f14fe.jpgWhen I saw the cover, I thought the kids would think it is too young for them. They say that it is for kids ages 3-11, but after watching the info video (linked below), Terrific T wanted to see it. I'm so glad we did. After watching it myself, I actually think it could go older and/or younger. Don't judge a DVD by it's cover! It is both educational and entertaining to watch and we all enjoyed viewing it - some of us have watched it several times already. ;)

The video is full of information mixed in with beautiful video and pictures.  They teach all about mammals, and while it isn't a Christian video, there is nothing questionable in it at all. We loved watching the video of a giraffe bending down to drink. That was something I have never seen (or thought of) or learning that lions spend 20 out of 24 hours of their day resting or that beavers mate for life. We also learned about things like scientific classification and the types of consumers. All things we learn through the years of CC so this was nice to reinforce that.

The Fascinating World of Mammals DVD really is fascinating. I am not big on watching "kids movies" and usually get bored or walk away. I truly enjoyed this and watched it all. It is very educational and so entertaining that you just can't look away. The lady's voice that narrates it is very calming and the music isn't annoying, like some can be. They don't just cover the basics either; they really did their research and have interesting facts and info on each of the animals. And I can't say enough about the up close videos of all the animals. I was mesmerized watching the beaver build their dam and the giraffe's "necking" (it's not what you think, but funny to hear the kids talking about it with no idea of the alternate meaning).

I thought it was funny that the little boy that reads the words and definitions sounds just like a little boy in our CC. LOL! I keep thinking I need to ask his mom if he does voice overs. ;)

Watch this short preview to get an idea of how well it is done.

After the video is over, there are some review sections - flashcards and then multiple choice Q&A sections. There are 5 review sections in all. These start simple and get more advanced. You could stop it after the first 2 sections for younger ones. I liked that it got increasingly harder and was a good comprehension check for the kids.

They also recently added some lesson plans to go along with this that are wonderful. I wish we had these when we first watched it, but I've printed them out and we are going to do them when we start school back up this week.

Other DVDs in this series are The Fascinating World of Insects and The Fascinating World of Bird. The videos are $14.99 each. T wants me to buy the other ones too, and I think I will. He is my animal lover and really enjoyed this. We kept it in the van for several weeks and they watched it over and over. Now that we have a new little one staying here, I'm going to put it back in there to help her learn her animals while we drive around.

I don't think you will be disappointed in these videos. Check out what other people had to say on the Crew about all three of these videos by clicking on the banner below.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Let's Get Organized, Organized.

I have done and redone our school room several times over the years. Moved desks into rooms. Hung a giant white board. Tried quite a variety of arrangements, and we always end up schooling downstairs in the kitchen, living room, and our bedroom.

So I decided this year, why fight it? I searched and searched for just what I wanted to make the most of the situation. I don't want our kitchen looking like a school room, but also don't want school stuff just piled up all over the counters and fireplace like it has been...because why put it away upstairs if you are going to just bring it back down the next morning? Ugh. So it stays a mess year round.

I finally decided on a bookcase from IKEA and picked up some containers from there too. I was so excited when the boxes showed up and grabbed my screwdrivers and allen wrench and went to work. I mean, there are no words on the directions so this should be easy, right? It wasn't quite that simple, but wasn't too bad. At one point though, P said, "Why don't we just return them?" but that would be admitting defeat so I took two side off and flipped them and tried again and it worked. Woohoo!

So this:

Became this:

And I am so happy. C does all his work in his room and is good about  keeping it up there. I've bought several organizing tools for his desk this summer too to try to keep it nice and neat this year. So this has T and P's books in the top two cubbies, the things we do together or teacher's books in the bottom right, and things for our bonus kiddos on the bottom left. I need to change that out now that we have a 2 year old bonus one...this was when we were supposed to get a 6 year old so things have changed a bit. I have their books on CD in there and lots of paper, pencils, etc on top. It is great to have it all together.

I also cleaned out our cabinet on the other side of the room under the fish tank and am using it for extras and craft stuff.

While I was in the organizing mood, I printed out all our memory work "week at a glance" pages for CC and got them ready for the year. I have a set in each of T and P's daily notebooks (the striped ones in their cubbies) and then a copy here for me. I'm so thankful for my amazing friend that typed these up for us to enjoy. She is awesome!!

 Back to the kids notebooks I mentioned...I'm trying something new this year with their notebooks. I took the idea from halfahundredacrewood's blog and tweaked it to work for us. Like her, I found a few things that the kids didn't know, that wouldn't take them long to learn if I just took the time to teach them. So I'm taking the time. In their morning notebooks, they have things to copy and learn, geography to draw each day, Bible study and prayer time pages (I'll be reviewing one of those for you soon that I LOVE!!!) etc. I'm excited to see how it works this year.

So, that's that. I'm feeling more organized and just in time! We finally got a foster placement of a 2 year old and I now have no free time. Thankfully God prompted me to get organized earlier in the week so we are ready to go!