Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women (What we can learn from the women of the Bible)

Some of you may remember that I reviewed a devotional book for young women last year,
Adored 365-day Devotional. My daughter has enjoyed using it throughout this past year, and I was delighted to receive another devotional from Zondervan, Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women.

This devotional is set up similarly to Adored, with a verse, a devotional thought, and space for the reader to record their thoughts/responses to the devotional, with a coordinating maroon ribbon to help them keep their place. 

Instead of the more general topics addressed in Adored, Beloved addresses the women and girls of the Bible, offering insights into their lives that will help to build up a young woman's faith through their examples, while still exploring topics relevant to today's older teens and twenty-somethings.  

It starts out with a few devotionals drawn from Proverbs, and then moves through the Bible, starting in Genesis, and touching on the lives of Biblical women (some well known, and others more obscure) up through the book of Esther (which brings us all the way to Day 312 of the year). From here it moves into the New Testament, starting in Luke and ending in Galatians and Timothy, with a focus on Timothy's mother and grandmother. The devotionals aren't *always in Biblical book order, but pretty close.  

Although I personally prefer the blue color theme of Adored, Beloved has a lovely floral pink/maroon color scheme, with happy little flower silhouettes at the top of each page, and again, that nice satin marker ribbon.

This is a fantastic gift for the Young Lady in your life, as you encourage them to get into the Word 365.

I hope this review is useful to you as you seek out gifts that make a difference this year. 


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Kidzaw.com Master Kitz The Starry Night

This (last?) review of the TOS Review Crew 2018 year is a fun one! Kidzaw.com has put together some fabulous art kits for your young (or older) artist, inspired by the Masters. We were sent the Master Kitz The Starry Night, which, if you know your art titles, is obviously from Van Gogh. This made me very happy, as well as his older sister, who is an Art Ed major, and a fan of van Gogh. As a matter of fact, one of her major projects last year was a collage of the precursor to The Starry Night, and right now she is painting in oils a pair of old boots. So it's a lot of fun to have them both doing Van Gogh inspired projects at the same time, albeit 7+ hours apart. ;)

Van Gogh on the Left, Eldest on the Right for both pieces

If you visit the Kidzaw Website you will find more kits inspired by Klee, Kadinsky, Klimt, Monet, Rouge, and Hokusai. Each kit comes in a very nice, self-contained, magnet closure box, as you see here:

Inside this particular box, we found two pieces of deluxe art paper and a large Starry Night Cyprus Tree (Both rolled up, the stencil is green...) Washable (Yes! It comes off hands very well!) Blue, Black, and White Acrylic paint, 4 oil pastels (white, yellow, orange, and dark blue~ apparently the kit has been updated with a 5th, light blue pastel as well), low tack star sticker mask sheet, a Van Gogh texture roller, a sponge roller, instructions and a colorful information sheet. The Van Gogh roller has a protective covering on it when it arrives (as you see in my unboxing photo), but it has a nice texture to give the feel of Van Gogh's strokes. 

So, we are * almost done with this project~ There are a few steps involved, not the least of which is getting the paper and the stencil to lie flat (Paper is easy~ tape it down. The Stencil was a little more tricky, and after having it flat on the table overnight with the box and a few things stacked on top of it, we still needed to use tiny rolls of masking tape in strategic areas to get it to lie flat on the paper). I'll go over the process as we followed the included instructions. 
First, the star masks are placed on the upper half of the paper, then the entire paper is covered with Van Gogh strokes with the roller using blue paint, followed by a "cloudy" layer with white paint.
The star masks are removed, and when the paint is dry the stencil is laid down and the sponge roller is used to apply black paint.
After waiting for it to dry (It really is very fast-drying paint), the stencil is removed, and it is time to apply the oil pastels.

This is one of the places where we have figured out how we want to do things differently on the second piece of paper.
Probably do a blue sponge layer of paint first.
A darker layer with the Van Gogh roller of blue and black paint mixed across the top, but stopping more halfway, because we found the oil pastels didn't cover quite as well as we'd hoped.

And this is as far as we've gotten at this point. The pastels definitely take a little more concentration and time. I will say, that looking at this as a photo, from a distance, it looks much better than looking at it up close in person, which is often the way of impressionist art. :)

I am always a fan of well-done art kits that engage kids in the process and create an interest in the specific artist. Because of my Eldest's major, we do have a lot of discussion and exposure to art and artists, and Youngest was pleased to be doing something that coordinated with his big sister. I think this would be a fabulous gift to give to any aspiring young artist.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Friday, November 2, 2018

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines (A course in Working while Schooling from Home, with Kids of All Ages)

This next review comes from Lisa Tanner Writing. Lisa is a fellow TOS Homeschool Review Crew member, and she has written an online course, Balancing Diapers and Deadlines, to help busy moms be more productive. It is geared towards "mompreneurs" who are running a business from home but can apply to anyone involved in more than one thing (including writing a blog) on a more or less daily basis. 

Lisa has broken down her course into an introduction and seven units. 
  • Building Your Foundation With the Basics
  • Minimize Your Decisions
  • Minimize Your Decisions: The Annual Meal Plan
  • Sustainable Growth
  • Growing a Business With Your Kids Around
  • Boost Your Productivity
  • Closing Thoughts

Now, we didn't have time to go through and implement the whole course (at a two or three lesson/week pace), but I did go through the first couple of units and skimmed through the rest of the lessons, to get an idea of what it contains. 

Screenshot of a portion of two units
Building Your Foundation With the Basics covers getting your family on board with your business, creating routines and basic structure. There were new ideas, like having a daily action plan that is created each morning, and basic reminders for when the plan gets off track. We were just talking about schedules at our homeschool meeting last night, and this concept totally relates to the back-to-the-basic idea of SIMPLE planning. It's a lot easier to adjust when one thing makes waves in one day, instead of having to adjust the whole week from one small blip.

Minimize Your Decisions is a huge Unit that tackles one of the major roadblocks to doing anything inside the home... the HOME, and keeping it organized. There are eight lessons in this unit that include tips on getting/keeping the house in shape, set chores/chore times, and an interesting reward/consequence system. There is a lesson on giving each child a day of the week to take some of the decision-making out of your hands and put it in theirs. We're still working on implementing some of the ideas in this unit, some of which we've used in the past and let slip by over the years, and others which are brand new but make sense~ Use Your Broom!

Minimize Your Decisions: The Annual Meal Plan is where I am at in the course at the moment, so haven't had an opportunity to actually implement it yet. The idea of meal planning is still something that scares me. :) I'm a what's in the fridge/what's on sale kind of person, but from my first peek at this unit, I'm thinking that it might actually work with my Fly-By-The-Seat-Of-Your-Pants style. It also includes lessons on planning for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and creating a master shopping list.

Sustainable Growth appears to cover how to actually grow a business without burning out, including how to handle time and technology.

Growing a Business With Your Kids Around gives tips and suggestions for being able to work around or with each age group and even special needs kids, if that applies to your family situation. Lisa includes integrating homeschooling and a business, so if you ARE a Mompreneur, this will be a particularly interesting unit!

Boost Your Productivity has five lessons that appear to continue the "Make a Plan" idea as well as provides suggestions for things that help you to use our time wisely.

Closing Thoughts offers encouragement as you are planning your work, and working your plan (and sometimes getting tripped up when the plans fall apart).

There are things in this course that will apply to almost everyone and others that may not. For instance, "Let's Talk About Laundry" in the Minimize Your Decisions Unit relates much more to large family logistics (I can't imagine having to do three loads of laundry each day, but when you have 10 kids... that's the reality). However, everyone needs to do laundry, and it's good to have a plan to get it done so you don't have to think about it.

Not everyone has kids in all stages, so Growing Your Business With Your Kids Around may have a lesson or two that don't relate to your current situation. However, for the most part, there are things that will apply to most family situations in every single Unit.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Heirloom Audio' latest production~ St. Bartholomew's Eve (A Review)

My Middlest son has enjoyed many of Heirloom Audio's Henty productions, and I was hoping that perhaps my Youngest would finally be ready to appreciate one of these historical fiction audio dramas, so I was looking forward to the arrival of St. Bartholomew's Eve

In the past I have held off listening to previous Heirloom Audio producitons with my youngest to due to some sensitivities and the fact that typical battle descriptions (and audio) would have bothered him, but I figured that he could handle most of what I'd heard in past reviews.  I decided to use this as some "audio/history" schooling overseen by Middlest (who is now 18) while I drove to pick up Eldest from college for fall break, so I put it on the iPad for them to listen to, and I popped the CD's in the car so that I could pre-listen in my early-morning driving (You might recall that I listened to Heirloom Audio's Wulf The Saxon on my way to PA last February, these long, solitary car trips being a good time for *me* to listen).

Well, my friends, I'm afraid that I have a very different review to write this time. While the cast is still amazing, and the production is incredibly professional, this time I felt it really was too much. For family-friendly listening, I expect some of the violence to be tuned down, but in this instance, it appears that Heirloom Audio actually dialed it up.

After listening through a fair number of tracks I sent a panicked message to my son, telling him to remove the audio drama from the iPad, and to NOT listen to it with my Youngest. Why would I do such a thing? I freely admit, I avoid horror, and I tend not to watch heavy drama and shows with major battle scenes myself, but I can generally stomach most things termed "family-friendly." I understand and appreciate the value of the themes of honor and bravery, etc... However, by the end of this story, I was feeling bothered and queasy due to a number of scenes and themes, for quite some time after as well.

I was bothered enough that I later downloaded a free version of Henty's St. Bartholomew's Eve and skimmed through it, doing some word searches from particular scenes. While there is still some violence (This *was a terribly bloody uprising against the Hugenots), the actual Henty version is not nearly as graphic as the audio drama in my opinion. In fact, one of the storylines in the audio drama that bothered me centers around a young lad (11 or 12 years old, so right at my Youngest's age), but when I skimmed/searched the Henty novel, there was no mention of this boy. It would appear that his character was thrown into the plot mostly as a gratuitous emotional string to pull, which I really do not appreciate at all. Additionally, the use of Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" is another instance of adding to Henty's work something that was not in the original and adds to the gratuitous flavor of trying to push a point that wasn't original to the story (It is integral to the non-Henty storyline of the aforementioned boy).

I don't believe that the age range is appropriate for this particular recording. I do think it could be a good supplement to a high school, or even college course covering this part of history. It could open up the opportunity for discussion about the dangers of Mob Rule, which is history we appear to be close to repeating, as well as the excellent character traits of the two main characters, who behave very bravely, with humility, and wisdom. But in my opinion, this is NOT suitable for young children.

That being said, it might be time for me to pull out some of my older Henty Audios for my Youngest to listen to. I think he would be fine with most of them now (although I will double-check with Middlest on the ones that he mainly listened and I only skimmed through, to get his opinion).
Here are those titles, and my reviews for you to consider:
Wulf the Saxon
Captain Bayley's Heir
In the Reign of Terror (might wait a bit on this one as well)
The Cat of the Bubastes
Beric the Briton
The Dragon and the Raven
In Freedom's Cause

I hope in future that Heirloom Audio will return to sticking fairly close to the Henty stories when they write the screenplays and consider toning down some of the audio violence if they really want to reach families. Not all of us have our media tuned in to the graphic blood, guts, and horror that are so prevalent today (some things are better left to the imagination...).

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Heirloom Audio
  • Product: St. Bartholomew's Eve
  • Ages: Heirloom Audio suggests 6-16, I would NOT  go by that, and instead would put it strictly at a high school and up.
  • Price: Multiple options: 
    • 2-CD Set $29.97 + $4.97 shipping
    • MP3 Download $19.97
    • Live the Adventure Club $7.95/month (1st month free, and St. Bartholemew's Eve CD's free, just pay shipping fee of $4.97) 
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Friday, October 12, 2018

Brinkman Adventures~ Old-Time Radio dramas with current story lines

My youngest is a history buff (I think I've mentioned that a time or two), and is very interested in World War II particularly, so when we were given the opportunity to review Season 6: Underground Rising from Brinkman Adventures I jumped at the chance.

The Homeschool Review Crew has reviewed earlier Seasons in the series, but this is my first experience with them, so I'll give you a little basic information. In the past each season included 5+ hours of stories told in old time radio drama style, but they are moving to a 2+ hour, six-episode season at this point. Each episode is close to 1/2 hour, so great for short car rides, or for a regular faith-building family-listening time (This would work well for lunch-time listen, or evening family time, if schedules allow).

The Brinkmans are a fictional family, but the stories that take place are based on real, present-day missionary experiences around the world.  This season is a little different because they do take a step back into the Dutch Resistance/Underground of World War II in the first two episodes (which was a great introduction to the series for my aforementioned history-loving boy). The other 4 episodes in Season 6 take place in the US, India, and Thailand/Mynmar/Burma. I'm not going to give you a rundown of each episode, as you can listen to samples on the website. However, here is a quick synopsis of the themes for each episode:

In addition to offering interesting stories, these radio dramas offer the opportunity to discuss key faith/character-related concepts, including themes of salvation, helping when it's risky, trusting God's plan, resisting evil, and more.

One of my favorite features is a "Real Story" page for each series (it is suggested that you visit the pages AFTER listening to the dramas). These pages offer background information about the real people upon which each episode is based, with photos, interviews, podcasts, videos and more. They give insight into specific story inspirations, as well as why certain scenes were included, and how the recordings were made. For instance, I thought the Dutch accents of the actors were quite good (my husband's aunt is Dutch, so I'm familiar with the sound), and the Real Story page for Season 6 introduces us to the people behind the voices... who aren't using a learned accent~ Beachglass Ministries traveled to the Netherlands to record!

I can see how some of the information included could spark a full-blown unit study for each episode, moving this more into a weekly drama-listening idea. In addition to the history related information, I saw science-related videos and graphics, recipes, supplementary reading suggestions, geography, social studies, etc... Great idea for summer learning that is just fun! Oh... what a neat idea for a summer camp, with a geography/missions-oriented focus! Hmmmm... I might have to think about this some more!

Map where Brinkman Adventures take place (looks like Seasons 1-5 included, 6 may not be up there yet)

I know that these are recommended as family listening. Personally, for our family, aged 10 or 11 is about right for handling the intensity of some of the scenes. I also realize that my family may not be the norm (We tend to err on the side of listening later rather than earlier), so I do hope you follow the link at the end of my review to hear what others had to say. I suspect there may be some variation in the age suggestions.

Youngest really enjoyed listening to these stories. His favorite episodes were the last two, Free Burma Rangers Parts 1 and 2. He found the military background coupled with the mission to tell others about Jesus very exciting to listen to. He has expressed a desire to hear more of them, which brings me to the graphic you see below. Brinkman Adventures is offering my readers a 10% discount through the end of the month. This is a great option to pick up for Christmas or Birthday presents.

10% Coupon Code expires 31, Oct, 2018
Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

CashCrunch Careers Survey (What do I want to be when I grow up?)

With an eighteen-year-old in the house, my next review was definitely one of interest, especially as he isn't certain what direction he wants to go in the future. CashCrunch Games has put together an online tool, CashCrunch Careers, using information from the US Department of Labor and corporate recruiting to help answer the questions people might have as they are weighing the pros and cons of higher education and future employment. 

The basic concept is that there are many career options that are suitable for each individual's strengths, but sometimes some of those career options might be overlooked because they don't jump right out at a person. For example, a career in law enforcement doesn't necessarily point only to regular police officer work. Dispatchers, clerical workers, detectives, scientists, and positions like parole officers, which might be considered more social, all fall under that umbrella. 

Because I haven't been in the greater workforce for almost 2 decades, I decided that I would take this CashCrunch Career survey also (high school was a LONG time ago for me... and things (and I) have changed. I figured it would be interesting to see how our results compared as well.

So, the first thing to do once you have an account and are logged in is to take the survey, which is 75 questions long. It's one of those "Choose which of these words best describes you." I honestly don't know anyone who actually enjoys taking these sorts of surveys because they are very difficult to answer, particularly when some of the words seem so closely related.

Here are some examples of the questions in the survey:

Once you've filled out the survey, your report is accessible (for as long as you might need it) to return to and revisit/investigate various employment sectors that might be good fits for you. 

It was rather interesting to see the overlap (but not complete overlap) of both my and my son's results...

My Son's Matches

My Matches

From here you can click on each career area for more definition... This is an example of my #15 match, Food Service Manager. You can see that while there is a much slower than average projected growth in this "Hospitality and Tourism" sector, there is a high projected need of 83,7000 (this is somewhat confusing to me in that there are other career options that are listed as having a faster than average growth, but the projected need is less than 10,000). 

When I clicked on the Hospitality and Tourism link on the left there Food Service Manager was one of thirty-nine possible job descriptions (as were Lodging Manager and Gaming Manager, which also showed up on my list). I also found it rather interesting that 16 of 20 job matches were "managerial positions. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that, but to some degree, it does make sense based on my life experience for the past 20 years. :)

One of the things I would like to see would be the option to take the survey more than one time. I find that sometimes I might want to change some of my answers and see what sort of difference that would make. My son was wondering the same thing. We were also thinking that sometimes it would be nice to have a "neither" or "both equal" option for most of the words, as sometimes it was just very difficult to choose.

CashCrunch Careers is only one of the offerings of CashCrunch Games.
CashCrunch Jr. ($32.50) for ages 5-12 is a physical board game that helps kids think about the value of money.
CashCrunch 101 for ages 13-21 is currently a free online one-player personal finance game.
Personal Finance Bite-Size ($40) is a lesson resource for teaching high school and college finance classes. If you are a SchoolhouseTeachers.com member you can access this course for free from your member dashboard.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Forensic Faith for Kids (More Apologetics for kids)

A couple of years ago David C Cook introduced us to J. Warner Wallace when we reviewed the  book Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and the accompanying Case Makers Academy website. J. Warner Wallace is a real-life cold-case crime detective who was an atheist until he was in his 30's, when he applied his investigative skills to determine the evidence for Christ. Forensic Faith for Kids is the third in his series of books for children who may begin wondering about the apologetics of their faith as well as corresponding books for adults.

The timing of this particular review was especially fortuitous because my youngest had recently been interacting with a cyberfriend, where he and other online friends were discussing Christianity and it's validity with a young person who had "all the questions." He was very concerned about her questioning the reality of God, Heaven, and what happens when we die because he felt he couldn't give her answers to make her see the truth. I told him that we can't *make anyone believe, all we can do is gain the knowledge we need to be able to plant the seeds and let God do the growing (I Peter 3:15).

Just a note* In case you might think that a book about apologetics for kids might be dull and dry~ I asked Youngest to read the intro, the preface, and the first couple of chapters... but he didn't... he read the whole thing in one sitting!

About the book:

Forensic Faith for Kids combines a story-line about a group of kids in a Junior Detective Academy, working with their local police detective to find a lost puppy's owner along with discovering how to use their forensic skills to help answer a friend's questions about Christianity.
-> See what I mean about fortuitous timing? ;) <- br="" nbsp="">
One of the key things learned is that there will always be questions, but even great court cases that are built on good evidence have unanswered questions. If they didn't they wouldn't need a jury and/or judge to determine the outcome. In the same way, we need to understand that we will never have ALL the answers (I Corinthians 13:12), but we need to make good use of the ones that we do have. 

About the Academy: 

Along with the book, the Case Makers Academy website offers many resources to help your reader engage with the story and the process of investigation.

Each chapter includes a video, a training activity sheet, an academy notebook sheet, and an adult leader guide. I will mention here that while this is perfectly wonderful to use on your own, it is set up very well to be used in a Sunday School class or as an after-school Bible club, or if you prefer, your own Junior Detective Academy.

The videos are J. Warner Wallace speaking directly to your young investigator(s) before they read the chapter. He lets them know a little bit about what they are going to be reading and gives a little background information. He really ties everything all together in the video. As a small example, in the video for chapter 4 he talks about "connecting the dots" and the activity sheet is a connect the dots activity. ;) He also encourages the kids to pay close attention to the sidebars in the book~ they are filled with Detective Definitions,  CSI Activities, reminders to Dig Deep (By completing the activity sheets and notebook sheets), "tools for the Detective Toolbox."

Here's the first video from the introduction to the book:

The Activity Sheets have fun puzzles or activities to complete (like dot-to-dot, spot-the-differences, etc...), the Notebook sheets are Fill-in-the-blank type worksheets that help to make sure your readers understand what they just read. The Adult leader guide talks about important concepts in the chapter and offers discussion question suggestions.

All around, I give David C Cook and J. Warner Wallace 5 Acorns out of 5 for an excellent resource to help train some of the youngest defenders of the faith.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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