Wednesday, October 17, 2018

St. Bartholomew's Eve: An Heirloom Audio Review

Heirloom Audio Productions
Are you concerned about what your children are consuming on all their screens?  I think most of us are, even if we feel limited sometimes in doing anything about it.  As far as I can tell, it is impractical and unnecessary to abolish all screen time.  What we can do is provide plenty of activities that are engaging without dependence on a screen.  A great alternative to screen time is audio books and stories.  Heirloom Audio shared with us their newest audio drama production, St. Bartholomew's Eve to review and it has been a multi-faceted blessing!

St. Bartholomew's Eve

I am happy to say, this isn't our first Heirloom Audio review, but our third.  Heirloom Audio's audio dramas are more than just an audio book. These are full theatrical productions inspired by the adventures of G. A. Henty.  The beauty of this type of strictly audio adventures is that it requires a listener's brain to create a visual companion to the sound effects, music and fast pace dialogue. This kind of creativity and learning just isn't matched by videos, but equally as engaging.

The 2 CDs we were given are over 2 hours long.  St. Bartholomew's Eve takes place in 16th century France and tells of the Huguenots' (Protestant Christians) struggle with persecution for their differences with the Catholic church. The story follows Philip and his cousin François as they prepare to stand up for their "God commanded" rights to worship God how they believe to be right.  The actors have varying (story appropriate) accents which can make paying attention really important and sometimes challenging, but a really good exercise in active listening.  



One of the growing pains we are experiencing in our homeschool is my need to focus on tasks separate from my children conflicting with their inability (unwillingness) to stay on task and contained for periods of time.  Mr. Butler is always telling me to utilize the television more, but this has given me a great reprieve and sufficiently engaged my kids as well! J has been more than happy to curl up in a sleeping bag in his room or the school room and listen away! It has prompted questions about the freedom of worship and reinforced how significant the history of America's revolution is in the world context as well as just our own national history.  As a family we have had discussions about those who don't believe in God or those who don't feel it important to obey Him.  While it is confusing at first to consider multiple groups claiming to love and obey God and still be at war, the kids have enjoyed the excitement and have gained a little more historical context.


St. Bartholomew's Eve

In addition to the audio CD's, there is also a host of resources at Live the Adventure Club and Live the Adventure Letter for further study of all Heirloom Audio presentations.  Do you have middle school or high school age children?  Consider browsing some of the other crew members for different ways to utilize these audio dramas - like note taking or history studies.  


Keep Up with Heirloom Audio on Social Media: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeirloomAudio
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeirloomStories
Google+: https://goo.gl/d8btpX
Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial


St. Bartholomew's Eve {Heirloom Audio Reviews}
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Friday, October 12, 2018

Underground Rising: A Brinkman Adventures Review

Brinkman Adventures
Ever since I had kids, I've been keenly aware of the impact excessive screen time can have on children.  My kids are happy to watch television or youtube videos any time of the day, much like the rest of the world, but I have discovered that they can be just as happy with many other things.   Just tonight, they begged me to read "one more chapter" of a book we're reading together (even though I had already read two).  It is impossible (and not necessary) to eliminate screen time altogether, but I do believe there are many other activities that can capture our attention just the same.  Our latest review is about the Brinkman Adventures, an exciting radio show that chronicles real life missionary stories through the fictional Brinkman family.  We were given Season 6: Underground Rising to listen to and enjoy as a family.  

Underground Rising Season 6 Brinkman Adventures
We were given the digital version which included the following six 25-30 minute episodes:

55 – Dutch Underground Part 1 (Covers the time period of the second World War in Holland featuring Reng and Lynn VanKesteren, Netherlands)
56 – Dutch Underground Part 2
57 – Twice Born Fly (Understanding Salvation)
58 – I Wonder Why? (Learning to trust God’s Plan. Missionary family in India)
59 – Free Burma Rangers Part 1 (Follows the life of a missionary Dave Eubank from school, through a career change and onto the mission field in Burma, assisting persecuted villages and sharing the love of Jesus. Thailand/USA)
60 – Free Burma Rangers Part 2


My 5 and (almost) 8 year old have listened to all six episodes and have really liked every one.  There are some serious themes and periodically there will be a warning to listen with your parents if you are under 10.  The is a precaution I appreciate, not really because the stories are too intense.  My kids are on the more sensitive side when it comes to sad or scary stories.  One or both of them will be the first to ask to turn it off it gets remotely intense.  The importance of the precaution is more about being available to answer questions or continue the conversation.  

When I asked them if they liked the Brinkman Adventures and how it compared to other audio books/drama they have listened to, they decided they liked Brinkman the best for a few reasons.  


  • Music - They found the background music in the Brinkman Adventures to be just the right amount and the right amount of intensity.  
  • Fighting - In other stories they have listened to, there was a bigger focus on fighting (think battles, attacks with swords, etc.). Brinkman focused more on dialogue and what the people were doing.  This (along with the music) kept the (negative) intensity at a minimum.
  • Real life - While there is a lot of history being talked about, you also get plenty of modern day living.  This makes it more relate-able to their own life, I think.



We listened to the episodes on our computer and after the first episode, they decided it was more enjoyable to listen in sleeping bags!  

We listened to Season 6, but that means there are 5 more seasons available.  In addition to the physical CDs or digital downloads, there is curriculum available to use the Brinkman Adventures in a family or group setting.  It definitely looks like an enjoyable way to dive in to scripture and real life issues in a different way.  Most of it seems suitable for the 8-12 age range.  They also produce a podcast that goes behind the scenes, sometimes interviewing the actors or the real missionaries themselves.



While I have not experienced a missionary life on a foreign field, I have been taught by many who have, from the pulpit and friends as well.  Considering yourself a missionary at home or welcoming the call to a foreign field is not something we pick up on television or in our mainstream culture.  One of the important things The Brinkman Adventures does is it introduces the realities - and importance - of the missionary life into our families' perspective and vocabulary.  



If you are considering purchasing The Brinkman Adventures, from now through the end of October you can receive 10% off your order with the code FALL10.  If you're interested in an older child's opinion of this series, click on the image below to read other Crew members' reviews.


Brinkman Adventures Season 6 Reviews

Follow Brinkman Adventures on Social Media: 


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Brinkman-Adventures-152895116079/


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Monday, October 8, 2018

Socially Expected Does Not Necessarily Mean Important

Our culture in America right now puts a lot of pressure on moms, in spite of all the pushback from real life. The list of unspoken rules that signify being a “good mom” are endless, yet viciously wounding. If you polled 100 moms today, I expect the majority would produce quite a few things that are keeping them from “good mom” status. I’m really bad at sending out thank you notes and annual cards, Christmas or otherwise. I get stressed out far too easily. And that’s just for starters. Every time I fall short of society’s (albeit unrealistic) expectations, the critical commentary starts up in my head and it is so hard not to lose sight of the truth. The truth that parenting, homemaking, and educating are imperfect processes, performed by imperfect people, none of whom are systematically lined out before us, awaiting a mere nod of approval in order to fulfill all roles appropriately. Success is messy, hard and, likely, not what we expected.

There isn’t one of us who can “do all the things” without something suffering. That has been the case, since the dawn of time. The curse of our generation is that we are made aware of all the other things “everyone else” is doing in real time, and scrolling through the newsfeed begins to combine everyone else’s lives into one big perfect pot that we foolishly compare our life to.
As parents, and especially in our choice to homeschool, we certainly want to give our children lasting gifts, independent skills and powerful memories, to pull from their entire life, even after we’re gone. That desire is what makes us so susceptible to social media’s false judgments. We start thinking that fulfilling that list of socially-expected things is going to mean we are doing all the important things right, too. If you take the right pictures, clean your house just so and carve the perfect body size, does that mean you are a good person? If your kid wears the most expensive clothes and always makes the team, will that ensure he is kind and merciful? If you always have the cutest pictures of you and your spouse, always celebrate anniversaries in style and go to all the right parties, does that prove that you are in a loving, fulfilling and respectful marriage? No, not in a million years!
There is so much to get distracted by, both good and bad, but we need to double-check who we are letting judge what matters. Someone else’s to-do list may never give us the harvest we seek. Decide what you need to do to please the Lord in your marriage, your children’s education and your home. After that, whatever anyone else is doing does not get to be your standard without your permission.
This post was originally published by Homeschooling with Heart Blog from The Old Schoolhouse.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Books of the Bible At-a-Glance: A Teach Sunday School Review

Teach Sunday School
One of the most under-appreciated blessings of our age of technology is our enhanced ability to study the Bible.  We have such access and a more complete vision of what the inspired writers were doing than any other time.  It is a shame that we are not a more diligent people when it comes to Bible study, myself included.  That is just another reason I am happy to share with you a neat resource from Teach Sunday School. We were given access to their digital Books of the Bible At-a-Glance that includes a page for every book of the Bible.  

Books of the Bible at a Glance

When it comes to truly understanding the gospel and how the books of the Bible work together in such a significant way, genuine comprehension is so important.  Even though there are specific verses that are so meaningful to us as Christians, being able to put them in context is a necessary mark of understanding.  These one-page book summaries help reinforce that kind of learning.  As the case is when learning any kind of historical event, the audience being spoken to and events surrounding a statement matter! 



Books of the Bible at a Glance
These printable reference sheets can be used in a variety of ways.  I am currently involved in a small group study where we're reading and discussing the book of Mark.  When I received these sheets, I printed the page on Mark and took it with me.  Most of the information was somewhat familiar to me, but having it in one spot helped steady my perspective and assured us of a steady and accurate understanding of what we read.

Books of the Bible at a Glance
Since I am an educator for children, I am also seeing these sheets as a great resource for their learning.  Of course, any time we're discussing a book I can print the page out and make it available.  There is also the option of printing them all out and keeping them in a binder of some kind.  I think it would be fun - and educational - to use them as sort of a quiz game.  "What book had this famous verse in it?" or "What is the 6th book of the Old Testament?"  It could be a really fun way to reinforce their big picture understanding of Bible.

These would be especially helpful for students (of any age) new to the Bible as an introduction to each book.  In our local congregation, we usually study an individual book over the course of a few weeks (depending on how long it is) and providing everyone access to the reference sheet for the chosen book could be a nice addition to everyone's study.  The uses are many and the importance of Bible study is so great that a tool like Books of the Bible At-a-Glance should not be overlooked! 




Follow Teach Sunday School on Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SundaySchoolLessons/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/biblefun/
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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SundaySchoolSample


Find out more ways this great resource was used by checking out the rest of the Crew Reviews.
Books of the Bible At-a-Glance { Teach Sunday School Reviews}
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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Purpose In The Pain

I think every homeschool parent hesitates—at least in the beginning—to share their children’s academic difficulties for fear of being judged and told they should quit. Of course, we want our kids to do well for their own sake, but when a parent invests so much of themselves into this adventure and lifestyle, we can get self-conscious about swimming upstream. The last thing we need is someone in our ear suggesting it’s been a good run, but now its time to stop kidding ourselves. For the next time you are tempted to give in to the peer pressure that shouldn’t matter (but for some reason today really does), let me encourage you to use the struggles to teach your family a greater lesson. No matter what we’re talking about, when we look at life with wisdom and perspective, there is a purpose in the pain and struggles.
The other night I was trying to explain what I was upset about to my husband but was unsuccessful and not handling it well. Suddenly, the parallel to my daughter’s behavior earlier in the day was blatantly obvious. The struggle that she and I have in dealing with each other (because of our fiery similarities) is what I’ve heard many parents give as the reason they could never homeschool. But that same struggle is what teaches me to be a better mother to her and teaches me how I have to grow. When we are successful at resolving these explosions of emotion or headstrong gridlock, we are becoming more like Christ and gaining skills for life!
As a society that has championed the instantaneous and speed, we just give up too soon. The message that if it doesn’t work out right away, then it probably never will is given through the culture’s attitude toward relationships, toward physical labor, and general health. When it takes work we are more inclined to try for something easier. What a tragedy when we miss the huge blessing and success that could be ours with just a different perspective.
The boy whose father failed him can break the cycle with children of his own. Any academic struggle can bring forth a work ethic that doesn’t come when things are learned with ease. A tragedy can teach coping and genuine empathy in the future. Financial struggles can bring generosity and charity when things have turned around. Any time we find ourselves blocked somehow in teaching our children—butting heads because of personalities, a genuine learning difficulty, or just trying to spark curiosity where there is none—it is a huge opportunity to accomplish something great. The successes in life are where we work through a struggle.
It isn’t the seven-foot-tall guy who happens to be good at basketball that we’re impressed by or the child born into wealth affording college that we say is special. It’s the person born with a physical difficulty who goes on to the Olympics or the great orator who began with a terrible stutter. Overcoming the struggles is what makes us great!
 This post was originally published by Homeschooling With Heart Blog from The Old Schoolhouse.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Homeschool Hesitations: Happiness

Last week, we began this series on Homeschool Hesitations and today I'm talking about happiness.  Somewhere along the way of keeping the peace in circles with vastly different lifestyles, I lost permission to be happy with my choices.  In an attempt to not stir up conflict, I find myself being the wallflower especially when it comes to homeschooling stuff, but it ends up being pretty lonely.  It's never wise to rub someone's nose in your own satisfaction, but it is good and right to be content and joyful with aspects of your life.  Dare I say, it is down right commanded in the Bible - Philipians 4:8.  As I've said before All Roads Have Rocks which simply put means no choice is without difficulties.  Still, sharing successes and joys should always be a regular part of any relationship!



It's not that different than our lives as Christians.  We are happy with our decision to follow Christ, but do you ever catch yourself NOT sharing that joy simply because you don't want to incite conflict with a non-believer?  Maybe your lifestyle in Christ absolutely prevents you from the trouble they are having, but you hide your success or joy to prevent an awkward conversation?  I find myself there a lot.  How many times have you complained about your mother to someone who lost their's when they were young?  I've itemized the struggles of marriage to the unhappily single person more than once.  Or complained about pregnancy to someone who can't have any?  We know of many, many friends with children that are sick, challenged or even haven't survived that immediately puts whatever struggle my children are having into the trash.  So, the need to be sensitive and aware of other people's feelings in conversations is very, very real.  Even still, that doesn't mean it is wrong for me to ever share the joys of my life.


The differences we possess (either by choice or circumstance) often brings this polarizing effect when, if we were wise, we would use it to learn.  I have a lot of (public) teacher friends that have all sorts of approaches and techniques that I can potentially learn from, depending on my needs.  My brother is an orchestra director at a local high school - his experiences are a wonderful resource for me, especially as my kids get older.  With all of the reviews I'm able to do and the experiences I'm having teaching my kids various subjects, makes me a potentially good resource for someone who's public teachers may not have enough time to address their child's specific needs.  

This morning, I slept in until 8, woke up to J reading in his bed and miss Z coloring, got everyone fed, J and miss Z worked on school stuff for about an hour and half and then played with the outdoor/mud kitchen for the rest of the morning.  I LOVE that we can spend our time that way without car drop-off lines or frantic morning routines.  That makes me happy and you should be able to share whatever makes you happy.  

The bottom-line is this: When you find something good, don't hide it.  

Always consider others' feelings and be gentle and kind with your words.  Always.  But continually hiding your joy is not being kind to your family and especially the God who has blessed you.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

I Know It: A Math Practice Site Review

I Know It Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade

My son got a couple of new books of a series he's reading from the library and (as usual) ever since, all he wants to do is read.  I'm not complaining about that, but it does make him even less motivated to dig in to math practice than normal.  It's not that he can't do it, he's just not motivated.  Thankfully, he loves trying new things so when we got the opportunity to try a new math practice site, the gap between his motivation and successful engagement was filled!  I Know It is the newest thing from the creators of SuperTeacherWorksheets.com, a great printable website we reviewed last year.  I Know It is an interactive supplemental math practice site for elementary ages K-5 that provides skill practice across grade levels.  





How It Works

For this review we were given a family subscription that allows for 4 users, of which we used 2.  As the parent/admin user, I choose what skills/assignments each student is to work on including how many problems and they can then complete them in whatever order they choose.  This program is only a practice site and NOT a full math curriculum.  Skills are not taught, but merely practiced.  Each question does allow for a hint, but that is the extent of instruction.  Since miss Z is still learning to read, that is sometimes a hindrance for her with online programs set up for K and older.  However, each question was accompanied by an audio option that would read it to you.





When setting up each user you provide a grade level, but as the teacher I can assign practice skills across any grade.  That feature is one I really appreciate and have not seen in previous math programs we have used.  J really enjoys multiplication and division, but gets weary of multiple digit addition and subscription.  It helps to start him with things he finds easy and work up from there.  That covers 2nd grade AND 3rd grade.  

Each user's homepage features their assignments, but also has access to all of their level topics if they want to explore or practice on their own as well. There is a Progress section that allows the parent to see the students' status in multiple ways, including Recent Activity, Individual Progress, and Assignment Progress.  If, for example, a skill was completed but still not mastered, I can assign it again.


What We Thought

Overall, it was a win for us!  Both kids were able to use it and enjoy it.  During each practice session there is an animated character that reacts to successfully answered questions.  As kids are known to do, they loved this part!  One minor thing that caused frustration was that it would automatically sign us out after we stopped using it and would convert to a trial version, which lets you use it for so many questions or so much time.  This would result in me having to log back in in the middle because their session would quit working.  Not a big deal, but it took us a while to figure out what was going on.
Other than that, this is a great resource for boosting those math skills!

Interested in trying it out?  Right now they are offering a free 60 day trial to homeschoolers and teachers.

I Know It Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade

Follow IKnowIt on Social Media : 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iknowitcom/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/iknowit_com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iknowit_com/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/iknowitcom/pins/

Interested to see what other grade level students thought?  Read more of the Crew Reviews below:
Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade {I Know It Reviews}
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