Friday, November 13, 2015

GrapeVine Studies ~ Stick-Figuring through the Old Testament (Review)

If you've followed my TOS Review Crew blogging career through the years, you might remember a post way back in 2009, when I was first introduced to GrapeVine Studies
At that time I reviewed and used the older levels with my oldest children and our Japanese Exchange Student. What a great way to give her a visual overview of the Bible!

Now, six years later, I was pleased to be chosen to review Old Testament 1: Level 1 Creation to Jacob  with my youngest child. We have a slightly unusual situation, in that we attend a VERY small church on Sundays, and my son is in a Sunday School class of two. Youngest is 8 years old, and his friend just turned 5. I enquired whether I would be able to use this study with them for their Sunday School class, and was given the go-ahead. Please note the classroom licenses at the end of my review, if this is an option you would like to use.

On with the review...
Level 1 has an option that was new to me, The Traceable option, and given the wide age spread, and the fact that I didn't really know the abilities of our young friend, I thought that Traceable might be the safest course to take.

GrapeVine Studies uses stick figures to highlight the major events of the Bible. This is an ideal method to teach children, because it engages each of the learning styles with simple figures that just about anyone can draw~ 
  • Hear the Bible (auditory)
  • See the figures being drawn (visual)
  • Draw (or trace) the figures yourself (Kinesthetic) 

The first week our young friend was absent, so it was just Youngest, and so we did the introductory "Timeline Review" lesson with printed pages for Youngest. Because we don't have access to a white board or a chalkboard, this week I just told him what colors to use on the traceable figures, using the teacher's book as my guide.

The next week, our young friend was there... Hurrah! However, we started out with some technical printer difficulties (both at home and at church!) so I was not able to print out pages for the boys to draw on. Because the lesson must go on, we just folded copy paper in half and the boys drew their figures for the Days of Creation one day on each half of the paper, following my examples using the whiteboard app on my iPad. (Unfortunately I left those pages at the church in their binders, and didn't have a chance to take photos, I'll try to add those in later).

The following week the printers were working again, and the boys both used the traceable pages. There were mixed reactions on both parts... Youngest decided that he preferred to draw his own figures instead of tracing ... uh oh! I really like having the pages printed with the titles and the Scripture References. However, we accidentally discovered something that helped me out~ if I print a traceable page for our young friend, and then copy it on the copier, the traceable pictures are so light they don't copy! I don't know if that was intentional or not, but it is working well for my purposes, with two children, and a fairly wide age/ability gap.

Our young friend is a VERY active lad, so doing the Stick Figuring throughout the whole class works EXTREMELY well to keep his attention through the entire lesson~ because he is involved with his ears, eyes and hands! Win! Sadly he's been absent for the past few weeks, so my Youngest has been doing the studies on his own... :(

Although Youngest isn't the most excited about the drawing aspect, he DOES remember what he's drawn, including the colors, so GrapeVine Studies is doing the job it is intended to!

Be sure to go GrapeVine Studies website to check out the samples and guides to helping you choose levels and more.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: GrapeVine Studies
  • Product: Old Testament 1: Level 1 Creation to Jacob 
    • Family Use License
      • Level 1 ebook  ($10) Hardcopy ($12.50)
      • Traceable ebook ($10) Hardcopy ($12.50)
    • Classroom License
      • Level 1 Class ebook License ($37.50)
      • Traceable  Class ebook ($37.50) 
    • Old Testament 1: Level 1-2 Teacher License ebook ($18) hardcopy ($22.50)
  • Ages: Traceable (3-5) Level 1 (6-8) 
Visit GrapeVine Studies on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ , and Periscope: @Grapevine Studies.

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Holiday Gift Round Up #1 (Artsy!)

I know, and you know, that Christmas is not all about giving and receiving gifts, commercialism, or decorations. However, I do appreciate having this time each year to share my love with others in a tangible way. Yes... I know, that should be happening every day, but that doesn't mean we should ignore days set aside for special purpose... ;).

Besides, what better time of year to declare the Good News, 
the Advent of the Light of the World, 
than near the darkest days of the year... 
A time to look forward to with great 
With that in mind, and in the effort to try to help you save some pennies (and possibly earn a few myself, if you are so kind as to shop through my affiliate links below), I will be posting a few Holiday Gift Round Up posts as I see deals and bargains that I think are interesting. Most of these will be from Amazon, and prices *do* tend to change rather quickly and without notice there, so be sure to check the price before you put an item in your cart. The prices I have listed are current as of the time posted. 

Joanna Basford, one of the main artists involved in the "Adult Coloring Book" craze has her books on sale at the moment... These are a great option for those who are looking for intricate detail with a leless of a "Zen" focus...
  $9.89 (38% 0ff)                $9.89 (38% 0ff)               $10.17 (40% off)

A few more coloring books: 
$10.79 (52 p       $9.89 (70 pg)       $9.00 (52 pg)            $9.99 (80pg)

And some pretty pencils to color them in with.... 

$19.79  (49% off)

$36.97(57% off)

for the artist who is really serious 
about shading and blending.... 

$61.15 (46% off)
If your artist likes to color "on the go" as it were, this is a nice, easy to handle sharpener to add to a stocking, or small gift package...

If someone loves, or wants to try their hand at watercolor painting, I can recommend this larger set of Prang watercolors: 
$7.99 (27% off)
and I haven't tried this brand, but it looks very similar to a set I purchased years ago and LOVED (From the now defunct Pearl Arts and Crafts Store), and the price can't be beat! (Note, this is an add-on item...)
$4.54 for 36 colors
This is also similar to the set I owned, with good reviews, and reasonable price. I really like the Kohl-I-Noor set up... unique!


I even found some watercolor paper pads on sale...
                                                          $6.74 (50% off)

Lots of interesting products to consider for the art-lover (either yourself or someone you love) :)

I hope this was helpful/useful to you. Please do let me know in the comments if this type of post is something you appreciate.


The Ology: Ancient TruthsEver New (A LitFuse Review)

My latest review item is a Theology book for children. Theology? For children? Really? Theology is a hefty topic for anyone, but teaching it to children is not an unheard of proposition. Consider... 

Webster's 1812 defines Theology as the science of God and divine things; or the science which teaches the existence, character and attributes of God, his laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice.

Although I didn't grow up in a denomination that taught a Catechism, it is my sense that the purpose of a Catechism is to teach a church's theology. Again, quoting from Webster's 1812 : Catechism: An elementary book containing a summary of principles in any science or art, but appropriately in religion, reduced to the form of questions and answers, and sometimes with notes, explanations, and references to authorities.

So, we can see that various churches have taught Theology to their children for centuries, but a Catechism can be a little difficult to remember (much harder for some than for others).  When tied in to "story" almost everyone can connect the concept to the Scripture. 

What a delight to find this new book,  The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski, teaching essentially the same basic Christian Doctrines as might be found in   most Protestant Churches, but in a new and refreshing way, with stories children can relate to and absolutely gorgeous illustrations (that might also serve as a nudge to their memories). 

About the book:
The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New (New Growth Press, October 2015)

A page-turning storybook of theology for kids

In the cellar of the old stone cathedral, Carla and Timothy uncover a life-changing treasure, a carefully wrapped ancient book known as The Ology. What adults might describe as a beautifully illustrated storybook of systematic theology, the kids discover to be a story of adventure, mystery, and wonder that leads them to the truth about God, themselves, and the world around them.

Truth is for kids, not just for adults! So The Ology gives kids of all ages a beginner's theology book to help them understand who God is and how we, as his children, relate to him. Arranged within a traditional systematic theological framework, each truth inThe Ology is also connected to the larger redemptive story of Scripture. The doctrine of God, for example, is presented in the larger framework of creation, where the attributes of God are more clearly on display. The Ology takes abstract theological concepts and makes them easier to understand with the use of creative examples, illustrations, and analogies. The goal is not to say everything that could be said about a theological topic, but rather to share the key thoughts behind a theological concept. The Ology is a starting point to learning theology and aims to create a hunger and desire in children to learn more as they grow older.

Designed for six-year-olds through preteens, this flexible resource includes built-in adaptations for use with younger or older children, so that entire families can enjoy it together. Read The Ology to preschoolers, read it with grade-school kids, and let older kids discover the "hidden" truths by reading the corresponding Scripture passages for each section. However you read it, The Ology will give your children a gift that will last a lifetime---a solid foundation of life-changing biblical truth that will point them to the God who loves them and gave himself for them.

 Check out this preview!

A companion The Ology CD from Bob Kauflin and Sovereign
Music will also be available.

Purchase a copy:

 About the author: 

Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for over twenty years. He is the author of the Gospel Story for Kids series, which includes The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, Old Story New, and the Gospel Story Curriculum, as well as the Advent devotional and curriculum Prepare Him Room. He and his wife, Lois, and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Find Marty online: 

A little more from our perspective...

11 Doctrines are covered, with specific chapters or lessons within each Unit, with 71 lessons in total.

  • The Ology of God
  • The Ology of People 
  • The Ology of Sin
  • The Ology of the Promise and the Lamb
  • The Ology of Christ
  • The Ology of the Holy Spirit
  • The Ology of Adoption into God's Family
  • The Ology of Change
  • The Ology of the Church
  • The Ology of the End Times
  • The Ology of God's Word

Each lesson is covered in one or two double page spreads. The text on the page is the story, accompanied by one or two Bible verses that back up the truth being learned. A beautiful illustration on the facing page is surrounded by Scripture References that take the illustration deeper and further.

As mentioned above, there are a number of layers to using the book, from simply reading the story and the verses, to discussing the illustrations, and for older children and adults, looking up the extra verses, and maybe even choosing one or two to memorize.

As my older children have graduated from AWANA (Which in itself presents something of a Catechism in the verses learned in the handbooks), this offers a new, and pleasant way to reaffirm some of the things they learned there, and possibly learn something new.

Already my Eldest (I asked her to look the book over) is delighted by the beauty of the illustrations in this book, and was caught by one in particular~ the lesson on Faith~ which gave her a simple illustration and story to be able to use with the younger children that she helps at AWANA, if they have questions for her. For those who are visually oriented, these beautiful illustrations may be just the thing to help them remember the concept, and maybe even the verses that back it up. Nice!

I can see using this book for years to come, whether with my own children (Aged elementary to high school), or as a part of our Sunday School lessons, and going through it more than one or two times.

Check out what others have to say about The Ology on the LitFuse Page.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday~ Dancers

Dancers 100+ Years Apart ~ Still Art


The Critical Thinking Co.: Practical Critical Thinking/Teacher Manual (Review)

As the tendency for the general public to believe almost everything they are fed (hook, line and sinker) goes up at an alarming rate (evidenced by many facebook posts, newspaper and magazine articles and other social media outlets that tend to make much ado about nothing, and get everyone riled up over a tempest in a teacup, usually because someone forgot to use their brains, and stop and THINK for a minute before continuing to spout nonsense), the ability to read between the lines, or even simply determine Truth appears to be declining at an equally rapid pace.

Thankfully, The Critical Thinking Co.  (a well known name in public, private and homeschool circles) has been fighting against the stream of apathy and declining mental skills by creating books, puzzles, and software all engineered to build the brain's critical thinking skills. This is nowhere more evident than in their Practical Critical Thinking book (and Teacher Manual) for high school students, which Middlest has been working through for the purpose of review, and will continue through the year.

The consumable student text is a hefty book, filled with stories, puzzles, and worksheets designed to stretch and grow the parts of the brain that are required for Critical Thinking Skills. The book is filled with logic puzzles, text comprehension and deductive reasoning exercises to name a few of the activities.

The book covers 4 units, with two chapters each. Within the chapters there are approximately 6-11 lessons, some with multiple activities. You can download a sample that includes the Table of Contents as well as a few pages from the book directly from the product page on the Critical Thinking site.

The Teacher's Manual that can be purchased has two parts, a more compact "Answers" section that includes answers where there are concrete solutions, as well as information for the teacher on the "answers will vary" questions, which explain how the questions will help the student grow their critical thinking skills. The Teacher's Manual is fairly no frills, and could possibly use a little more explanation in places, but in general, it is quite useful. The greater portion of the book is the "reproducible" section that includes all of the activities and puzzles from the student manual. These are only black and white, not in color like they are in the student workbook, for reproduction purposes. This is very helpful particularly for the homeschool families of 2 or more children. *note: the license to reproduce is limited to a single family or single classroom, and capped at 35 copies of each page/classroom or family/year. 

While I can see how this would be a great classroom course, it is equally useful to the individual homeschooler. Discussions can take place amongst the teens in the house (if you have more than one), or with Mom/Dad, as they come up in the text. 

My son has been answering the questions on his tablet and sending them to me, so that I can keep track of where he is. For the more graphic pages (chapter 2 of Unit 1 includes a number of Mind Benders puzzles), he either writes in the consumable book, or on a reproduced page, depending on where we happen to be schooling (Since the text *is* rather hefty). 

Already I can see him beginning to think more deeply, and reconsider his answers when I ask him to "Explain! Explain! Explain!" 

Middlest has been enjoying using Practical Critical Thinking each day. He is finding that it is stretching and exercising his brain. I am thankful to have this to counter the effects of somewhat mindless video games that put *my* brain into a daze. ;)

His favorite activities so far have been the logic/deduction puzzles. His least favorite have been the more personalized "what do I think" sorts of questions, because it's always nerve-racking putting your own opinions out there. 

One other thing he appreciates is that he can pretty much plan on working on this 2-3 days per week in order to finish it by the end of the year. If he gets behind for one reason or another he can work through an activity each day until he gets caught up. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
The Critical Thinking Co. can be found on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest.
I highly recommend checking out their website/social media for samples and free downloads, so that you can get a good feel for what this company offers.

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this product, as well as others that were reviewed, including The Basics of Critical Thinking (grades 4-9), U.S. History Detective Bk 1 (grades 8-12), Surfing the Net: Science (grades 3-6),  and Fun-Time Phonics (grades PreK-2). As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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