Friday, March 30, 2012

I See Sam (Reading

Youngest received yet another package as part of my TOS Crew Reviews this year. This time it was a reading program from Academic Success for all Learners. Crew members were given 2 sets of books from the "Little Book Series"  in the appropriate range for their child's level of reading. (Be sure to check out the TOS Crew blog. You will get to read insights from others who received other levels/colors of little books).

Littlest has been learning his letter sounds, so starting at the very beginning was obviously "A very good place to start". Book one in set one (The red books) introduces a few sounds, and a few words. The "Instructor Guidelines" booklet gives simple guidelines for teaching the sounds and the words. Once the child can correctly visually discriminate which sound goes with which letter, and repeat the sounds correctly you move on to the second page. This page has a few words to learn. Following the same simple directions, the words are sounded out (Read the slow way) and then spoken (Read the fast way). Keeping the sessions as short and encouraging as necessary, continue until the sounds and the words can be read with no mistakes. Then... move on to the text. :) 
I didn't take a picture of the first couple of pages, but they each only have one word on them... "See" once as a statement See. and once as a question See?  We talked about how your voice goes UP when you see a question mark, and stays flat or goes down when you see a period. But what makes the "Story" at this point are the illustrations. The characters are very cute, and the line drawings certainly evoke emotion. Further along in the book we reach this page, where the rat (A cute rat, but a rat none-the-less) is excitedly pulling on his friend Sam's mane...
Very simple, but it gets the point across in an engaging manner (Youngest really studied the pictures, and in later stories he started asking ME questions about what was going on and why...)  and youngest was able to achieve success right away. The pace is somewhat slow, but again, the pictures enhance the story-line. In the video further down he is reading from book 7, where a few more sounds have been added in, and he has to visually discriminate between similar words with common elements (Sis, Mit, Mat and Sam for example). (He also gets distracted at one point by the pictures and takes his time getting to the second word on the page... ;) )
One of the incentives that is incorporated is a chart for each set that is filled in as each book is completed with no errors. The Series 1 chart has numbered flowers to color or otherwise fill in. I had some rainbow smiley-face stickers that were just the right size, so we've been using them. He loves it!

Once we're through the red set of books, we'll move on to the orange set. At this point, I have to say that I am very impressed with these simple little books. They are consummate in their simplicity. The decades of work that went into creating them? Well the proof is in the pudding. I have a little man who has known *most* of his letter names for awhile, is just starting to work on sounds, but now, thanks to "I See Sam," he is also successfully reading a handful of words, and charming stories all on his own. These books seem to have "lit his fire" so to speak. (Today I caught him trying to sound out the words on the buttons on the dishwasher.... "Mom, what does "W" "aaaaa" "sssss" "h" say?)

Here is a little (4:45 minute) video of youngest reading his latest book.

Nitty Gritty~
Age~ K- 3.8 grade reading level
Series~ 8 color-coded sets of books~ up to 27 books in each set, with a total of 141 books in the series
Price~ $30 per set if purchased individually, and a variety of "multi-set" options that can be viewed on the website. 
You Tube
Website/Store where you can browse around, and even check out some Free Resources including  a free sample book.

Again, given that we aren't even really truly "Kindergarten" age (OK, so, I guess technically youngest would be considered K4), I am very impressed with how well these are going over with my little guy. Because the "Progress" is so incremental, it encourages success right away. We started going through two of the books each week. Now the process has slowed down a little as the words have become a little more work, and we are only going through about one new book per week. Not too shabby, all in all! I'm pretty impressed! :)

As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where to spend your homeschool budget. If you have any questions about how we used these books, please leave a comment and I'd be happy to do my best to answer.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stand by Meby Neta Jackson

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Thomas Nelson (March 13, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***


As a child growing up on the campus of a Christian school where her parents taught, Neta Jackson began creating imaginary worlds at a young age. Loving horses but not having one, she wrote stories about them instead. By the time she reached high school, she had so honed both imagination and writing skills that when her English teacher submitted one of her stories to a Scholastic magazine writing contest, it won first place. With that first win, Jackson knew beyond the shadow of a doubt she wanted to be a writer. She’s been writing ever since.

After marrying the love of her life, Dave Jackson, the couple chose to settle in the Chicago area where Neta had attended college. Throughout their marriage, the Jacksons have worked together as a team, writing a multitude of books together on topics ranging from medical ethics to stories of gang kids, sometimes sharing the task with other experts who have served as co-writers. Together, they have also penned forty historical fiction accounts of Christian heroes, called the Trailblazer Books, along with another five-volume series called Hero Tales: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes.

These days, both are busy penning their own works of adult fiction. Jackson began her individual effort in 2003 with the Yada Yada Prayer Group series, inspired by her real-life Bible study group, a multi-cultural gathering of dynamic women who have played an important role in her life for over fifteen years. Since publication of the first Yada Yada Prayer Group novel, the seven-book series has sold over a half-million copies and given rise to countless prayer groups across the country and the publication of a personal prayer journal for prayer group participants. In 2008, Where Do I Go?, her first book in the four-book House of Hope series, was published. The second book in the series, Who Do I Talk To?, won a Christy Award in 2010 for excellence in Christian fiction. Recently, the fourth book of the series, Who Is My Shelter?, was nominated for Best Inspirational Novel for 2011 by RT Book Reviews. Stand by Me is the first in Jackson’s new SouledOut Sisters series.

The Jacksons have been married 45 years and have raised two children plus a Cambodian foster daughter. They continue to live in urban Chicago where, together, they enjoy writing, gardening and spending time with their grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.


How does God expect us to get along with those people who are always causing us pain? Are we supposed to keep helping those who repeatedly take advantage of us? Exactly what is the key to living in peace with difficult people? These are the questions award-winning author Neta Jackson addresses in her latest novel, Stand by Me (Thomas Nelson), the first book of her newest series, SouledOut Sisters.

Inspired by her own Bible study group, Jackson began several years ago to write about a multi-cultural gathering of dynamic women in a collection of books known as the Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Since publication of the first Yada Yada Prayer Group novel in 2003, the seven-book series has sold over a half-million copies and given rise to countless prayer groups across the country. Jackson followed the Yada Yada novels with the four-book House of Hope series. Though the series is not dependent upon its predecessors for understanding, Jackson has used the individual lives of familiar characters to introduce some of the more complex issues prevalent in our modern society. By allowing her characters to lead the way, Jackson has shed light on issues like drug addiction, the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and even the racial conflicts that can so easily arise within any culturally diverse group.

In her newest work, Stand by Me, Jackson introduces her readers to Kathryn Davis, a young college student who has left her prestigious Phoenix family behind to move to Chicago after dropping out of medical school against her father’s protests. Her newfound faith in Christ helps temper the realization that she has stepped out of her family’s good graces, but does little to alleviate the pain of their rejection.

When Kat discovers the dynamic multi-cultural membership at Souled Out Community Church, she longs to be part of it. But her unconventional behavior and brash eagerness have not helped her win favor with the church members. And, much to her dismay, Avis Douglass, the one woman in the church whom she most admires and would love to know better, is the one who is the most aloof.

Kat has no idea that, after being confronted by a number of serious problems all at once, Avis and her husband, Peter, are beginning to question God’s will for their lives. Having been recently estranged from her HIV positive daughter and being worried about her welfare, Avis would like nothing more than to quietly retreat into the recesses of her faith and find the answers she seeks. Her attempts to do so, however, are thwarted at every turn by the flamboyant Kat, who has apparently decided to foist herself on their lives whether they want her to or not.

Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 13, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548645
ISBN-13: 978-1595548641



Midwest Music Festival, Central Illinois

Kat Davies ducked into the billowing exhibition tent staked down in a large pasture in central Illinois like a grounded Goodyear blimp. She’d been at the Midwest Music Fest three days already—didn’t know it was a Christian festival until she got here—and needed a little respite from the music pulsing morning-till-night on the Jazz Stage, Gospel Stage, Alternative Stage, Rock Stage, Folk Stage, and a few more she’d forgotten.

Besides, she’d be heading back to Phoenix in two days, and sooner or later she needed to figure out how to tell her parents she’d “given her heart to Jesus” after the Resurrection Band concert last night. Maybe this tent had a quiet corner where she could think. Or pray. Not that she had a clue how to do that.

Kat had a good idea how they’d react. Her mother would flutter and say something like, “Don’t take it too seriously, Kathryn dear. Getting religion is just something everyone does for a year or two.” And her father? If he didn’t blow his stack at what he’d call “another one of your little distractions,” he’d give her a lecture about keeping her priorities straight: Finish pre-med at the University of Arizona. Go to medical school. Do her internship at a prestigious hospital. Follow in the Davies’ tradition. Make her family tree of prominent physicians proud.

Except . . . she’d walked out of her biochemistry class at UA one day and realized she didn’t want to become a doctor. She’d tutored ESL kids the summer after high school and realized she liked working with kids. (“Well, you can be a pediatrician like your Uncle Bernard, darling,” her mother had said.) And the student action group on the UA campus sponsoring workshops on “Living Green” and “Sustainable Foods” had really gotten her blood pumping. (Another one of her “distractions,” accord- ing to her father.)

Was it too late to pursue something else? Her parents were already bragging to friends and co-workers that their Kathryn had received her letter of acceptance into medical school a few months ago. Feeling squeezed till she couldn’t breathe, she’d jumped at the chance to attend a music fest in Illinois with a carload of other students—friends of friends—just to get away from the pressure for a while.

What she hadn’t expected was to find so many teenagers and twenty-somethings excited about Jesus. Jesus! Not the go- to-church-at-Christmas-and-Easter Jesus, the only Jesus she’d known growing up the daughter of a wealthy Phoenix physician and socialite mother. That Jesus, frankly, had a hard time com- peting with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

But these people talked about a Jesus who cared about poor people. A Jesus who created the world and told humans to take care of it. A Jesus who might not be blond and blue-eyed after all. A Jesus who said, “Love your neighbor”—and that neighbor might be black or brown or speak Spanish or Chinese. A Jesus who said, “All have sinned” and “You must be born again.” The Son of God, who’d died to take away the sins of the world.

That Jesus.

That’s the Jesus she’d asked to be Lord of her life, even though she wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. But she desper- ately longed for something—Someone—to help her figure out who she was and what she should do with her life. The guitar player in the band who’d challenged the arm-waving music fans last night to be Christ-followers had said, “Jesus came to give you life—life more abundantly! But first you must give your life to Him.”

That’s what she wanted. Abundant life! A life sold out to something she could believe in. To give herself to one hundred percent. So she’d prayed the sinner’s prayer with a woman in a denim skirt whose name she never learned, and a “peace like a river” f looded her spirit.

Last night, anyway.

But by the light of day, she was still heading in a direction—medical school—that she didn’t want to go.

Big fans circulated the air in the large tent, though mostly it just moved the stif ling July heat around. Thick, curly strands of her long, dark hair had slipped out of the clip on the back of her head and stuck in wet tendrils on her skin. Redoing the clip to get the damp hair off her neck and face, she wan- dered the aisles, idly picking up brochures about Compassion International, Habitat for Humanity, and YWAM. Huh. What if she just dropped out of pre-med and did something like this Youth With A Mission thing. Far from Phoenix and the Davies Family Tradition. Go to Haiti or India or—

“Nice boots,” giggled a female voice nearby.

Kat glanced up from the brochure. A cute brunette with a shaggy pixie cut grinned at her from behind a booth that said Find Your Calling at CCU! Kat self-consciously looked down at the Arizona-chic cowboy boots peeking out beneath her designer jeans and f lushed. Ever since she’d arrived at the fes- tival, she felt as if she’d walked into a time-warp—girls in tank tops, peasant skirts, and pierced nostrils, guys wearing pony- tails, tattoos, shredded jeans, and T-shirts proclaiming Jesus Freak. Kat had felt as conspicuous as a mink coat in a second- hand store.

“Thanks. I think.”

The young woman, dressed in khaki Capris and a feminine lemon-yellow tee, laughed. “This your first time to the Fest? Where’re you from?”

Kat felt strangely relieved to be talking to someone else who didn’t look like a throwback to the seventies. “Phoenix. First time.”

“Wow. You came a long way.”


“Detroit. But during the year I’m a student at CCU in Chicago. I get a huge discount off my festival fee if I sit at this booth a couple hours a day during the Fest.” The girl grinned again and extended her hand across the stacks of informational literature. “I’m Brygitta Walczak.”

Kat shook her hand. “Kathryn Davies. But my friends call me Kat. With a K.”

“Like ‘kitty kat’ ? That’s cute. And . . . blue eyes with all that dark, curly hair? Bet the guys love that.”

Ignoring the remark, Kat glanced up at the banner above the booth. “What does CCU stand for?”

“Chicago Crista University. Usually we just call it Crista U. Located on the west side of Chicago. I’ll be a senior next year. Christian ed major.”

“Christian ed? What’s that?”

“You’re kidding.” Brygitta eyed her curiously. “Mm. You’re not kidding. Uh, are you a Christian?”

Kat allowed a wry smile. “For about twelve hours.”

The pixie-haired girl’s mouth dropped open, and then her amber eyes lit up. “That is so cool! Hey . . . want a Coke or something? I’ve got a cooler back here with some soft drinks. Wanna sit? I’d love some company.”

Brygitta dragged a folding chair from an unmanned booth nearby, and Kat found herself swapping life stories with her new friend. Unlike Kat, who had no siblings, Brygitta came from a large Polish family, had been raised in the Catholic church, “went Protestant” at a Youth for Christ rally in high school, planned to get a master’s degree at Crista U, and wanted to be a missionary overseas or a director of Christian education somewhere.

“Sorry I’m late, Bree,” said a male voice. “Uh-oh. Two gor- geous females. You’ve cloned yourself. I’m really in trouble now.”

Kat looked up. A young man about their same age grinned at them across the booth. He was maybe six feet, with short, sandy-brown hair combed forward over a nicely tanned face, wire-rim sunglasses shading his eyes. No obvious tattoos or body piercings. Just cargo shorts and a T-shirt that said CCU Soccer.
Brygitta jumped up. “Oh, hi, Nick. This is Kat Davies. She’s from the University of Arizona, first time at the Fest. Nick Taylor is my relief. He’s a seminary student at Crista—well, headed that way, anyway.”
Nick slid off his shades and flashed a smile, hazel eyes teasing. “So, Miss Blue Eyes. Has Brygitta talked you into coming to CCU yet?”

Kat laughed and started to shake her head . . . and then stopped as her eyes caught the logo on the banner across the booth. Find Your Calling at CCU.

Transfer to Crista University? Why not?

Netta Jackson "Keeps it real" in her Yada Yada Pray Group novels (Of which I've read a couple in the past), and this spin-off is no exception.  She is a true storyteller whose characters exhibit a depth (And yes, sometimes a shallowness~ no-one is perfect!) that encourages me.

If you want to be entertained, encouraged, and challenged, give Netta Jackson a try! :)


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of FIRST Wild Card Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

D is for... daughter, dancing, drawing, daffodils, and delay

Oh Dear, I was Dilatory in my writing and am now overDue in posting my
D is for..... Blogging through the alphabet post. :(
So, I will keep it short and sweet! :)


Dancing~ (Not professional video by any means, but definitely sweet, dancing at an assisted living center on St. Patrick's Day)

Drawing~ (Do you see the "Bee" here?)

And, believe it or not, the first Daffodils here in New England~


Monday, March 19, 2012

Pride and Pejudice and the Bronze Bow

While bookworms abound in this house, and we do a lot of reading, we tend to do less dissecting, so when Progeny Press offered a variety of their Literature Guides to the TOS Crew for review, I was very pleased. I had heard a lot about the Progeny Press guides but had never seen one in person. They offer Literature Study Guides from a Christian perspective for over 100 titles ranging from Kindergarten through 12 grade. We chose to review the guide for Pride and Prejudice for Eldest, and The Bronze Bow for Middlest. *Note: the guides are available as emailed pdf files, physical CD pdf files, and printed booklet form. Crew members received the emailed files for review.

Although the guides suggest having the student read the novel in its entirety before starting through the study guide, my children preferred to work through them chapter by chapter. However, reading the included synopsis is a good plan. :) Eldest is working through her guide independently, but we are using The Bronze Bow as a read-aloud (as we have never read this book before, but it's been sitting on my shelf for quite some time), with Middlest completing the study guide.

Each set of chapters requires the use of a dictionary and/or thesaurus as well as a Bible and sometimes a concordance and  tends to follow this format:
  • Vocabulary~ Both of my students appreciated the variety of ways that the Vocabulary was presented~ sometimes it was matching, define the word yourself and then compare with the dictionary, crossword puzzle, list antonyms and synonyms~ basically, mixing it up. This made it much more interesting for them.
  • Questions~ Basic comprehension questions
  • Think About the Story~ In The Bronze Bow these tended to be more comprehension questions or "Why do you think______?" For Pride and Prejudice this section tended to deal more with Literary Devices~ hyperbole, analogy, parallelism, etc.... This section tends to be the most time-consuming as it requires... thinking!
  • Dig Deeper~ This section is where the Christian worldview comes in to play~ relating Scripture to what is happening in the story. This section is one that takes a bit of time a "digging" in the Bible, and it is one of MY favorite elements of the Progeny Press study guides.
  • Sometimes Various Literature Elements are covered as a separate section(Characterization, Setting, Conflict) at least in The Bronze Bow.
We were able to take advantage of what I understand is a new feature for the pdf versions of the Progeny Press study guides. The Grades 4-12 study guides are now interactive pdf files. This means that the students can enter their answers directly into the pdf file on your computer. Pretty spiffy!(If you click on the image below you'll be able to see a little more clearly how this particular page was filled out)

Because we only have one really workable computer (My laptop), and computer time is somewhat limited for the kids, Middlest was the only one who took advantage of this feature. It was very helpful though, as he tends to "molt", and doesn't always put books and papers back where they belong, so this became an easy way to help him to NOT misplace his work! :D *Note: the recommended method for working directly in the pdf file is to create a copy of the file (in my case named "Middlest Bronze Bow") and save that file each time he does work. That way the original file remains "Clean" for future sibling work, and he has his own copy, which could possibly be printed for portfolio work.

I installed a copy of the pdf file  on Eldest's ipod touch, and she worked from that, into a notebook, so clearly, it can be used many ways (I don't believe that the interactive feature works in any of the apps that we have, although I'm not 100% certain about that).

I really appreciate the Christian worldview that is present in these guides. Incorporating Scripture into the study of Literature provides a clear example for our children. A literal application of Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. I believe this comparing and contrasting Bible truths with what is written in these novels increases their ability to create  filters that will help them to separate the wheat from the chaff as they grow and become more independent in their reading and viewing.

Nitty Gritty~ 
Progeny Press Literature Guides
  • Ages ~ K-12 (Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, and High School levels)
  • Price~ varies from $10.99 to $27.99 depending on the level and size of the work
  • Formats~ pdf email attachment, CD pdf files, printed booklet, booklet/CD combo (pdf files for Grades 4-12 are "interactive" allowing the student to type directly into the file)
  • Browse titles online, or download the online catalog to your computer
  • Download an interactive sampling of a page from each of 8 different guides to get a feel for how the guides are set up, and the sorts of questions that are asked. 
In general, I must say that I am very pleased with the scope and quality of the Progeny Press Study Guides, and feel that they fill a need in my particular homeschool~ opening  interesting discussion points and analysis, and I don't have to reinvent the wheel! :D

For other TOS Crew opinions (And information on some of the other study guides) please visit the TOS Crew Blog, and click through to the linky.  As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where to spend your homeschool budget.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, March 16, 2012

ESV Grow! Bible

Every once in awhile I receive a "surprise" package from Crossway with something inside to check out and review. Middlest was quite excited that this time it was a new Bible that seemed to be a great fit for him, the ESV GROW Bible. The version we received was the hardcover, but it also comes in a blue or purple trutone (Pleather?) binding.

Right off the bat, Middlest appreciated the readability of the Bible, and I liked the way that each chapter or sometimes section has a little "Title" set apart with a different color background~ just makes it that much easier to find what you're looking for (I particularly noticed this in the Psalms).

There are some other features that are pretty neat, in addition to the more typical "Articles" and charts that are also included:
  • 775 Who, What, When, Where, Why questions ~ for instance Joshua 4:1-24 talks about "WHAT were memorial stones?"
  • 90 "4U" boxes that give examples of Scripture application (Like Nehemiah  rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, and church projects rebuilding homes for those who were displaced by fire, etc... something 4U to do or think about)
  • The beginning of each book has an introduction and a timeline that shows what was happening during the time the book was written (There are more complete timelines in the back of the Bible) 
  • 45 "Cross Connections" throughout the Bible illustrate how the entire Bible points to Jesus, which is such an important concept, that many don't understand. That history, and Bible history in particular are really HIS story. 
Middlest has enjoyed using this Bible to answer his AWANA work,  and for reading at night before he goes to sleep. He told me to say that he likes it very much. :) This is his first experience with an ESV Bible. He has memorized in both KJV and NKJV (AWANA), and we have NIV and NASV Bibles for use around the house, so this is a good one to add to the mix! :)

You can visit the Crossway blog for some insightful posts (The most recent ones relate to March Madness), and while you're there, you can see what other Bibles they have to offer. 

As always, I hope that this review was useful to you, especially if you are on a mission to find a good solid Bible for your elementary/tween-aged Bible student.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free from  Crossway. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."



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