Friday, October 31, 2014

Jim Hodges Audio Drama- TOS Review

As some of you may already know, I homeschool two auditory learners who love to listen to books on CD.  And I have a crew here that loves history.  When you combine those two things together you have a review that my family asks for.  Add to the fact that the audio book in question is one of GA Henty's historical books and it is one that my family begs for!

Since we had several on a list to choose from, my 12 year old son asked for In the Heart of the Rockies: A Story of Adventure in Colorado, produced by Jim Hodges Production. Whether it is because he spent several of his earliest years in that area and calls it home, or whether he just  likes the history of that time, I am not sure, but regardless, he waited excitedly for the CD to arrive.

Jim Hodges Productions Review

In the Heart of the Rockies is a tale of adventure in the 1860s that lasts 10 hours and 53 minutes.  That is a lot of adventure!  And yes, you read that right- almost 11 hours!  That is because this, and all of the other titles offered, are the unabridged readings of GA Henty's original tales. In the Heart of the Rockies tells of a young boy, Tom Wade, who looses both of his parents and decides to leave England in search of a his uncle who is prospecting for gold in the Rockies.  What follows is a tales of courage and excitement that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  While GA Henty's writing style may take you some time to get use to, you will soon find yourself engaged and having no problem understanding.

And why GA Henty?  If you have never read or heard one of this famous author's books you are in for a treat.  With quality character traits that we can only pray our kids learn, to high adventure and elegant writing, these books will become family favorites.  For our boys, the listening of them on CD only enhances the excitement!

As a bonus, study guides for each CD are available for $12.00.  Written by a lady who has a love for history, these guides are quality work. They have vocabulary, listed in the order the words are encountered rather than alphabetical, questions for each chapter, as well as additional activities for extra exposure.  History, literature, geography, math and art are all covered.  If you are a unit study kind of teacher, there is no doubt in my mind that this would make a great unit study for your middle school or even high school child! 

As for us, well, my boys said I was taking the fun out of the audio drama.  Go figure.  Therefore I let go of my previous "school" plans and just had fun.  We used the guide loosely to discuss a lot of the questions, but only because we wanted to, not because we had to. We also liked having the vocabulary readily available to check on words that we were not sure of.  One of the things I love about homeschooling is the opportunity to be flexible.  And one of the things I love about these guides is the built-in opportunity to do so!  You can do as much or as little as you want.  Whether you intend to use them for graded school work or simply use them for your extra "fun" knowledge, they are well done and worth getting!

You can purchase In the Heart of the Rockies for $25.00.  It, and other CDs offered are recommended for ages 10 and up, mostly because of subject matter, but my 7 year old had no problem listening as well.   If you have children sensitive to subject matters like death, I would advise you as a parent to listen first to determine if your child is ready to listen to this CD.  Keep in mind that it only works on MP3 type players- for us that was our home computer only.   Downloads are also available!

You can also find Jim Hodges Productions on Facebook!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Clued In Kids- TOS Crew Review

Everyone loves a treasure hunt, right?  That's pretty much the premise of Clued In Kids! This cool little company has figured that out and made it easy for parents and educators to do treasure hunts of all kinds with minimal effort.  I LOVE the minimal effort part.
First you pick a theme.  There are many to choose from so whether planning a birthday party, a holiday themed party, or just a rainy day activity, you will be able to find one that suits your needs.  From fairies to pirates to Easter, Clued In Kids has you covered.  Since our oldest has had to become wheat free we decided to try the Gluten-Free Treasure Hunt  ($5.99) and then added the Winter Treasure Hunt  ($5.99) for fun.  All of the treasure hunts are recommended for kids as young as 4, but can be modified to fit older kids as well.
Next you just print out the clues and you are ready to go (some of the treasure hunts are available as a physical product). At the bottom of each clue is the location of where you are to hide it.  Places include your closet, your bathroom and your refrigerator.  Once you have hidden the clues you hand the child or children the first clue and off they go.  Solving clues involves filling in puzzles, looking for hidden pictures, and unscrambling words.  Each solved puzzle then sends the children to the next clue.  Of course, at the end of the hunt is a hidden treasure- your choice, of course!

Fun and easy!  My kind of activity.

Let me tell you about our experience.  We actually decided to do the Winter Hunt first.  Because I am in charge of game night occasionally for a young church group, I decided this would be a fun activity to do with the group.  We have readers and non-readers in the group, so I emphasized we were a team and needed to work together.   Older kids read the clues and we tried to let the younger ones lead us to the next space.  Tried, being the operative word, of course. ;)  I also had to modify a few of the clues a little as we were in a church setting and not a house.  The washing machine became the dishwasher and I had to "plant" a pair of shoes with one of the clues in it.  Even with these modifications, the hunt was fairly easy to set up and just took a few extra minutes to change up.  I taped the modified clue over the original one.
And prizes, everyone loves prizes.  We bought glow sticks from the Dollar Store and the kids seemed thrilled.  Remember, it is not about the end result as much as it is the thrill of the hunt!

As for the Gluten Free hunt, which was created in response to a life threatening health issue with the creator and her daughter, we chose to do this one in our home with my two younger kids.  The older, age 12, did not have nearly as much fun as our church group, but my 7 year old loved it.  The theme was not nearly as exciting I think, but it was informational.  If you have a child with a newly modified diet this could be a good way to help them learn information in a less threatening and scary way.  I did find that the information presented on what gluten was and how it affected one's diet seemed a little weighty for the younger kids that would appreciate a treasure hunt, but on the other hand, kids often surprise us with what they can learn and understand!  Oh, and the treasure?  Gluten free s'mores, of course! ;)
If you are looking for a fun, inexpensive way to entertain your kids, look no further.  Clued in Kids has all you need for a treasure hunt sure to thrill your kids in a form sure to make it easy for you to do so!  Enjoy!
You can find Clued In Kids on social media as well-
 Twitter: @cluedinkids

Ordering is easy!  For $5.99, you can choose between a variety of themes to download!
If you sign up for the newsletter, you will get access to a FREE treasure hunt!
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Liberty Videos- Anthem for a Nation- TOS Review

New Liberty Videos is a company that produces unique videos, most with historical themes such as Dead Seas Scrolls, Warriors of Honor, and Origins.  We had the pleasure of receiving Anthem for a Nation to view and review recently. This video is intended for general audiences but does have some subject matter that may not be suitable for young children, such as abortion.  I would encourage you to use discretion when viewing it with your family.

Anthem for a Nation is a 42 minute video that first begins with a beautiful collage of scenery shots set to music.  Many scenes like New York City and the Statue of Liberty are quickly recognizable, while others are not.  My first thought was, wow, I wish we had been able to watch this video last year when we were studying American history.  The video then launches into some basic American history facts like the signing of the Declaration of Independence and why Ellis Island was important to our nation's history.  Again, included throughout are not only pictures and images from those time periods, but also video clips when appropriate.  Just seeing videos of people in lines at Ellis Island gave me chills.

It was at this point in the video that I felt like there was a switch in purpose.  While still using historical facts, the video began to focus on the Biblical background of our country rather than just your common history facts and figures.  This change did not bother me in the least, but for someone looking for a "school book" approach to history, this change is liable to bother them.

New Liberty Videos ReviewIn documentary style, the narrator points out the biblical background of the founding fathers and the constitution.  He mentions that prayer is allowed before government sessions, but not in school and then talks about the results of this lack of faith in the public sector.  Roe versus Wade is briefly discussed, including video clips of demonstrations.  It is done tastefully and though my 7 year old did not understand what that section was about, it was a long enough exposure for him to ask what they were doing with "all the red signs."

One of the things my 12 year old son and I found most interesting in the whole video was that the narrator pointed out that what he called the "epicenter of American government" in Washington DC were four buildings that made a cross when lines were drawn on a map to connect them- a lighthouse, the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.  Whether intentional or not, it was a neat picture to see.

My overall opinion of this video is that while it is done well and has beautiful quality, it is a little over dramatized.  When songs like "America, You are Too Young to Die" and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" began my oldest rolled his eyes.  We are probably more patriotic than your average US citizen but it seemed at that point the video took on more of a propaganda feel than one of American History being taught.

I will leave you with a quote from the video that struck a chord with me-

"America is great because America is good.  When America ceases to be good, it will cease to be great."

I have to wonder if we are not already on that downward slide.

You can purchase Anthem for a Nation and many other themed videos from New Liberty Videos for $19.95.  You can watch a video clip of it on Youtube to get a better feel of the movie.

 Other titles were reviewed by our Crew members and I encourage you to check them out by clicking on the banner below.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Storin' Up

The Simple Life

Who named it that?  Because quite frankly there is nothing simple about living off the land.

My kids have taken to calling me a squirrel lately.  And not because I am easily distracted these days, though that may be true.  But because they think it is funny that I am storing up for the winter.


Because I can.  And because it saves money.  And because I love fresh food in the winter. And because I am perfectly happy to stay inside all winter long, snuggling with my kiddos and reading a book.  And watching the snow fall.


And so I have dehydrated hash browns

and canned potatoes

Frozen squash

and pumpkin (at .50 per two-cup bag!)

 and apple pie filling and applesauce

and tomato sauce.

And help process 60 some chickens for the freezer.

The processing crew!

and a cow is on the calendar!

For the record, when the de-feathering machine stops working, I go on strike until someone fixes it.  I am not a hand plucking kind of gal!  Which is why it is always good to have an engineering student helping with the process who knows how to fix things!.

So while he did all of this...

The old(er) men mostly watched supervised! ;)

And in case you think the girls did not do much, proof- of a little work and a little fun too!

Next on the list of things to do- elderberry syrup!  We have used it in the past and swear by it for staying healthy!

Now, if I could just find a way to stock up on chocolate! ;)  Lots and lots of chocolate.  I think I am going to need it!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Rejoicing in this day!- 52 Weeks of Family Scripture Memorization

Each day has been given to us by God.  
Each day we should wake up and rejoice in that!

Because let's face it, otherwise there is a lot to be discouraged about.  If we take our eyes off God and put them on our circumstances or the circumstances of those around us, we will not feel much like rejoicing.  It is just that simple.  Life is hard.  Days are hard.  Sometimes minutes are hard.

But we have a God that loves us.
He has given us our time on this earth to love Him, glorify Him, and tell others about Him!

To rejoice in Him and the day He has made.

Each day.  No matter our feelings, no matter our circumstances.
Or maybe, despite our feelings and despite our circumstances.

God is bigger than any of that!

Teaching that to my kids and myself this week!!


Missional Call