Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Inspired to Equip Us

Wolves, Gladiators, and Shipwrecks #LivetheAdventure

Heirloom Audio Productions has to be our FAVORITE discovery since joining the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Their newest audio theater production, Beric the Briton, has been our latest review item. The kids were both ecstatic to open the package to find a shiny new set of CDs based on another G.A. Henty adventure. This is one of the few activities they enjoy doing together with no bickering!

This 2 disc set includes 2 and a half hours of adventure with plenty of extras. We received the physical 2 disc set along with access to a special package of downloads. The most exciting bonus is a 389 page e-book of the original Beric the Briton story by G.A. Henty. We also received a printable Bible quote picture, a printable promotional poster, a digital study guide, an MP3 download of the audio book, an MP3 file of the musical score, and a Behind the Scenes documentary video. For anyone who does not receive the Live the Adventure newsletter, access to it is included also. Beric the Briton is offered in a few different package choices that can all be found on their website.

Of course, our favorite part was the audio theater production! The kids popped the first disc in as soon as they were able, and we finished it quickly during trips back and forth to town. Beric is a Briton, but he spent time living with Romans and learning some of their ways and strategies. Now his island is going to be attacked by the Romans, and he finds himself thrust into the battle. He and his friend Bodouc face many hardships and finally find themselves enslaved to be gladiators. Every moment of this audiobook is full of excitement and anticipation.

In the past with other Heirloom Audio productions, I have used the study guide to ask the kids questions at the end of each listening session. This time we kept the study guide until the end, and then we went over the questions. We also spent some time working on the vocabulary words contained in the guide. The kids really enjoyed looking up Roman remains on Google Earth as suggested in the study guide. They explored and spent lots of time asking questions and looking at the available pictures and graphics on the Roman Empire on the app. This was their first experience with Google Earth, but they LOVED it. I would love to print the study guide, but it would require quite a bit of ink. I keep saying I'm going to check into having it printed at an office supply store but with crazy summertime activities, I just haven't had the time.

The cast is full of talent with names like Brian Blessed, Brian Cox, Cathy Sara, and John Rhys-Davies providing voices. The sound quality is very pleasing along with the musical score although the excitement can be LOUD at times. This was a great adventure to keep us entertained in the car as we make 20+ minute trips to do errands. Both Apple and Speedy were wrapped up in Beric's tale and couldn't wait to find out the ending. I also enjoyed the story and appreciated the extra elements of study that the study guide provided. With a story that involves wolves, lions, gladiators, shipwrecks, war, and a little love, it's hard to imagine anyone that wouldn't be hooked!

I think with each production Heirloom Audio improves. Every new audio book we receive from them becomes our favorite. It's hard to say which one is the best overall. We often refer to the stories and I am constantly recommending them to other families. The theme of faith is woven seamlessly into each story and makes me love them even more.

See what other Crew members thought of Beric the Briton:
Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

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Monday, July 18, 2016

A New World

Book 2 of the Summer Grove series by Cindy Woodsmall finally arrived on my doorstep for review. Fraying at the Edge continues the intriguing story of two young women who have learned they were switched at birth. Skylar grew up in the world with 2 parents who are both now married to other people and have other stepchildren. Ariana grew up in an Old Order Amish community with her closer knit but poor family and many siblings. In Book 1, the 20-somethings were told they had to switch lives for a year or suffer worse consequences.

Skylar has been thrown into an Amish home with no electricity, little money, and no way to score the drugs she thinks she needs. Ariana is forced to get a driver's license, remove her prayer cap, and wear Englisch clothing. Both girls experience a complete upset when they arrive to their new worlds. The swap of the girls affects both of their families and everyone around them.

This was such an interesting storyline. Skylar and Ariana face unusual circumstances, and I think the author did a great job of walking the characters through the challenges. A Book 3 should definitely be in the works! After reading another book about them, I can't wait to find out how things end for Ariana and Skylar. There's no telling in this particular series.


The first Sunday School lesson I ever taught was on the fruits of the Spirit. I come back to that verse in Galatians again and again. It's one I've covered with my kids several times in several different ways over the years. It is a verse that is easy to remember that should guide and remind us what we should be as Christians. Unlike the "shall nots" of the Ten Commandments, this is the "shalls". Both are important and relevant, but sometimes we need to hear what to do instead of what not to do.

It's been a tough few weeks for us. Hubby and I find ourselves removing friends from social media and avoiding the news and Facebook. We take refuge with friends and family that have reached out to offer support and prayers during these difficult times. We cling to our friends who live similar lives and understand the toll it takes on our family.

Mostly we fall to our knees and pray. We pray for a change in our nation. We pray for our neighbors to find the Lord. We pray that we are doing enough with our children to help them know God and find their own walk with Jesus. It's tough. It's a time of painful decisions. It's a time of change.

However, we won't dwell there in the difficulty. We will rise up each morning and remember what we should be. I ponder over those fruits as I go throughout my day. I think of ways to remind my children to bear those fruits. I thank God He gave us His word so we'd know. So we could follow Him. So we can count our blessings.

If you are in a tough place, don't live there. Find joy. Find peace. Be gentle and faithful and exhibit self- control.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse that you return to again and again? I have lots but I think I'd call Galatians 5:22 my favorite parenting verse. It's the one I must remember the most as a parent and the one I want my children to emulate. It's the one I want to live out as a Christian.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Bible for Pre-Readers (Giveaway Included)

Not so long ago I was teaching my two to read. It was always a struggle to find books that were easy to read but more than just a few words. Both kids progressed past the phonic books, and it seemed like we were always looking for something for them to read that wasn't quite a chapter book. I wish we had The Look and Tell Bible back then! This latest review item is just right for 3-6 year olds that are starting their own reading journey.

What a better place to start than with the Bible? This large hardback book is sure to catch your little one's eyes with its appealing illustrations. The 23 pages are made of shiny board book material so there's no worries about rips or tears. The Look and Tell Bible begins with the story of creation. It uses a mixture of words and pictures to tell the story. Next come the stories of Noah, Joseph, Moses, David and Goliath, and Daniel. Each of these includes one page of key words with large illustrations and then a page long story. You can see a great preview here. Your little one will also get the stories of the birth of Jesus, the feeding of the 5,000, the Good Samaritan, and Easter. 

This big boardbook hits the highlights of the Bible to share the Good News with your youngest children. The shiny pages and bright illustrations will keep them interested in the tales. If they are beginning to read, a book like this will help them gain confidence as they work through familiar stories with the mix of words and pictures. What a great gift this would be!

Would you like to win your own copy? I have one to giveaway. Enter via the easy Giveaway Tools widget, and one entry will be randomly selected on 7/19.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Reading Through the Bible

If you've been around here for awhile, you know we've spent the last year and a half reading through the Bible with our adult Sunday School class. We aren't finished yet, but we've come all the way through the Old Testament, and we're well into the New Testament. We began reading a book or half of a book of the Bible through the whole Old Testament. When we began the New Testament at the beginning of the year, we slowed down a bit and read just 4 chapters a week. After the Gospels, we felt the urge to go back to covering a book a week as we were eager to get into some of Paul's letters.

If you are seeking a new study for a class or community group, I encourage you to put away some of the popular and wonderful DVD and book studies for awhile. There are some great ones out there, and we've enjoyed many of them. However, I believe just reading and studying God's word has huge significance. In any group, you are likely to have people who read through the Bible frequently, some that dabble along in it, and some who have never read it in its entirety. Reading and discussing God's word together is a great way to fellowship and strengthen relationships.

We've been so pleased with our weekly discussions with our class. I feel like every person has drawn closer to the Lord even if they weren't able to keep up with the reading each week. I hope we've all made our Bible time a habit that will continue for the rest of our lives.

Recently we read Romans. It occured to me that many churches and pastors recommend the book of John to new Christians. It is a great starting point for someone who needs to understand Jesus and His life, death, and resurrection. After reading Romans, I'd say it is the next book from the Bible that a Christian needs to read. Paul covers so many areas of faith and life that are pertinent today. As Christians, we must know God's will and much of it is covered in the Bible. Reading it from cover to cover gives us a clear view of God's plan and His story for us.

It seems especially in these times, we need to cling to the words God has given us and look away from social media and the news. We can't learn God's will from other people. We can't abandon God's word for someone else's interpretation. We must read His word. We must pray regularly. We live by faith, not by our works but how can our faith be just if we aren't in communion with Him who we believe in?

I don't have a 5 step plan for you or a directive for what time of day is best. In fact, the only advice I can give you is to set a goal and stick with it. Whether it's reading 1 chapter a day or 1 book a week or the whole Bible in a year, set a goal and share that goal with others. Working in a group as we have will keep you accountable. If you miss a day or a week or even a month, just pick up and start again. God's word is always available for us and that is a huge BLESSING!

Art for Apple #drawinglessonsforkids

ArtAchieve graciously gave us their Entire Level I program for review. Apple has spent the last few weeks working through some of the lessons. We are always on the search for good art videos and lessons for her because I am no art teacher! There are no particular ages to begin each level of ArtAchieve. Apple started with Level I so she could really get a feel of the lessons and using various mediums. There are 4 levels of ArtAchieve available.

Level I contains a total of 13 lessons and the first 4 are available free to anyone! Those first 3 lessons are an introduction to ArtAchieve's methods and introduce drawing lines, objects with corners, and round objects. They also give information on shading. The 4th lesson is a drawing lesson entitled The Czech Cat. You can see one of Apple's uncolored versions of it above. After reading my review, I would encourage you to go and get those 4 free lessons!

Each lesson is online on ArtAchieve's website. When you sign up for an account, it will hold your purchased lessons for one year. You can buy lessons indivdually or in a bundle. The lessons vary but most include a warm up page that can be downloaded and printed, a lesson that can be viewed as a video and as a Powerpoint presentation, and a printout of the outline of the drawing. Those are all accessible through your account. The website also offers information about each drawing and other interesting things to study to go along with each lesson. That page on the website gives the appropriate age range (if there is a specific one) and a list of lesson specific supplies. A tab at the top of the website will also take you to a specific supply list for all the lessons. 

John Hofland is the ArtAchieve author and instructor. He does a great job explaining and showing the process of each drawing. He's included an informative page of FAQs on the website to give tips and further explain the methods he thinks are best. He recommends students listen to music during the lesson, and he shows them relaxation methods. During the video lessons, he shows a piece of art that gave the inspiration to the lesson, and he teaches them about it. For example in Lesson 3: The Hungarian Insects. he gives details on insects and what makes them unique. Following that short lesson, he goes over the supplies the student will need for the lesson, and then he does the relaxation exercise. Next is step by step instruction so the student can create their own drawing. All of the same information is available as Powerpoint slides. Students can use the video or the slides or both! Apple started the lessons using the videos, but recently she said the slides are easier for her so she's been using those.

The Czech Cat

I am so impressed with ArtAchieve! It's certainly more than drawing lessons, but Apple's artwork has shown great improvement. Not only is she drawing new things with success, she's going back and trying the lessons over and over. I think we've seen about 10 versions of The Czech Cat. Her favorite part of the lessons is that she gets to use different mediums. She's already used a variety of permanent markers, washable markers, crayons, colored pencils, pastels, chalk, and acrylic paints. Those are just the ones I've seen her using. The lessons give suggestions for the best materials to use, but it does say it's okay to use substitutions. Apple has received and purchased many art sets over the years so I think she's had all the suggested materials.

The Owl From Bali

Apple really likes ArtAchieve because she is able to do the lessons completely on her own. She also enjoys the freedom to move around through the lessons in any order. She's been doing the lessons in order, but she has been going back to some of them to work on the drawings further. This really is the best homeschool art program we have found so far! She is actually learning different techniques through the videos or slides and she doesn't need my non-artistic assistance. I've already seen her using some of those techniques to create her own drawings. I highly recommend trying the free lessons, and the price is very reasonable if you decide you like them as much as we do! I have a feeling she's going to want to start Level II as soon as she finishes Level I.

See more ArtAchieve reviews:
Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

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Twitter:  @artachieve

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