Monday, July 31, 2017

"Trust Fund" ~ A Modern Day "Prodigal story" movie with companion book

My daughter and I are always on the lookout for GOOD films to watch together, so we were both excited to receive the movie Trust Fund by Mapelle Films for review. We also received a go-along book Love Was Near (intended to be read AFTER viewing the movie), for YA girls.

Of additional interest to us was the fact that the cinematographer/producer of this film was homeschooled, and the cinematography is AMAZING! I will add that there is no "cheese" to be found in this film~ it is first-rate!

Quick synopsis: Trust Fund is a modern day retelling of the Prodigal Son story from the Bible.

Essentials that remain the same:
  • Wealthy Family
  • Younger sibling takes inheritance
  • Spends inheritance unwisely
  • Returns home seeking forgiveness
  • Older sibling "rivalry"
  • Sisters instead of Brothers
  • Modern setting
  • Love interest(s)

This was an enjoyable film (and, I will repeat, with gorgeous cinematography) that can easily be watched with multiple generations (12+) without any cringe-worthy moments (no foul language, gratuitous sexuality or violence which all tend to be pet peeves of mine when watching most modern films). I think it would be a work extremely well as a high school and/or college-aged "Girls night in" choice, but there is enough intrigue and the story line is such that it should be enjoyed by the males in the family as well (kind of chick-flick, but not totally ;) ).

We loved the Italian location/filming, but wish there were subtitles for when there were conversations in Italian, as it was hard to figure out exactly what was going on. ;)

You can get a feel for the quality of the film yourself by watching the trailer below...

You can make this an educational experience as well as entertainment,  by downloading Mapelle Films' Downloadable Study Guide, which comes with four parts. Each section includes 
  • Scripture ~ from the Prodigal Son Passage that is the basis for a particular scene in the film
  • Right to the Point ~ draws a parallel between the Biblical story and the movie
  • Deep Thoughts ~ trying to figure out some of the "why" behind some of the actions of the characters in the movie
  • What Do You Think? ~ Questions that assess comprehension as well as offering opportunities for application. 
If you'd like to take that educational experience a little further with a female audience, you might want to consider checking out the companion book, Love  was Near. The book follows the movie story line, with three components for each  of the 28 chapters.

In each, Reese (the main character in the movie) first writes in the first person, giving background information and insight into the story, explaining her perspective and the background for some of the decisions she makes in the movie.

The second part is written in diary form, which offers even more insight into her character and thoughts,  and the third part is more book-club-ish with a number of leading questions to ponder.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Connect with Mapelle Films and Trust Fund on Social Media, where you might hear more about their next film "How to Pick Your Second Husband~ FIRST" as well as connecting with them about Trust Fund:
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram  

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Summer Projects? Paper mache and Plaster Wrap Crafting/Sculpting Kit

Warm weather offers a great opportunity to get outside (If you live where it isn't 100 degrees F +) and do some of those messy projects which you hesitate to do indoors, using products like one of our latest review items, the Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit by ACTÍVA Products.

Before I talk about some of the process of our current creative efforts, I want to mention that these products are also good for the older students and creative folks in general (however, I used this with my 10 year old, so that is more what I'll be talking about). There are a bunch of fun things that can be done mixed-media style with CelluClay, an "instant" paper mache, as well as with Rigid Wrap, which is a plaster cloth gauze, similar to what would be used to make a plaster cast for a broken bone. I have used something like Rigid Wrap in the long ago past to make napkin rings (wrapping the plaster cloth around toilet paper tubes that were cut in one to two inch segments). I appreciate that ACTÍVA Products offers this kind of art supply in a non-toxic, non-carcinogenic form, and for those with sensitivities they will be happy to know that the products are also wheat and gluten free.

Alright,  on with the review! :)

Youngest had been talking about wanting to make a bowl for some time (One of the project options in his AWANA book last year), so while the timing wasn't perfect for us (Would have loved to do this before he completed his book in May), he was quite pleased to be given the opportunity to make one just for the fun of it.
Contents of kit~ 2 packs of Rigid Wrap, 1 package of CelluClay, and an instruction sheet.
Last photo shows that we used about 1/2 of a roll of Rigid Wrap for our project.
We loosely followed the instructions for his bowl using the instructions for "How to Create a Peppermint Candy Bowl" found in the free, downloadable e-book ACTÍVA Products' Favorite Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS. *Note: There are a variety of projects found in the book, mostly for the elementary crowd, especially if they are studying American Indians (totem pole) or Ancient Egypt (Sarcophagus).

  • Step one: Choose a pleasing shaped bowl to use for your model (preferably plastic) and cover well with Plastic wrap.
  • Step two: Assemble the rest of your items... scissors for cutting the Rigid Wrap, a vessel for holding warm water, and a work surface. We used a styrofoam tray inside a shallow cardboard box to make clean up on our porch easy-peasy! 
  • Step three (shown in 2nd picture): Cut Rigid Wrap into workable strips. Since we were covering a bowl, I thought triangles would do the best job, with the fewest wrinkles. 
  • Step 4: Begin covering the bowl, wetting the strips in the warm water (Styrofoam tray), and smoothing them on~ making sure to overlap some to give strength. 
  • Steps 5&6: Add at least two more layers on the base layer
  • Step 7: Add some decoration if you'd like. We added the wavy line by folding some longer strips of Rigid Wrap and squishing them into a rope when it was wet. *Note... we added a base to the bowl, but it may have been a little too dry by the time we did so, so that doesn't show up in the finished product... it fell off.
  • Step 8: Let it dry!!! 
    • *I will note that the instructions talk about 15 minute drying times, but I think that might be for a single layer, in dry humidity. It was probably 80+ humidity the day we worked on this, and we had three layers~ it still wasn't dry overnight~ 
      • Remedy... we microwaved it for 30 seconds at a time~ it took 2 or 3 times before I was comfortable that it was done. 
  • Step 9: Paint it! You will see in the finished photo that the inside has a nice texture~ we chose not to dab paint into all the wrinkles the plastic wrap left, and really like the way it turned out! 

  • Step 10: Coat with a protective gloss (we used Modpodge) and let dry. 

Youngest is pretty happy with his final product

While I don't recommend using it for chips or fruits, it makes a perfectly acceptable receptacle for wrapped treats! Youngest is very happy to have something to display his birthday goodies in (and offer them around upon occasion as well...). 

We didn't have time to complete a project with the CelluClay pack before we left on a two week road trip, but I have some great ideas for it. I always have ideas to use with paper mache, so I am looking forward to having a chance to do some of them with Youngest at a later date. And who knows, maybe he'll crank out some napkin rings to use for gifts later on this fall. If you are at all "crafty" this kit is worth a look!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Fascinating Education~ Fascinating Physics

A couple of years ago we reviewed Fascinating Physics (with my then just barely 15-year-old ~ please do go ahead and check out that review if you are a newer reader, as much of the information is still the same, and I may not go into quite as much detail here). Fascinating Education has given us another opportunity to review their course, which is appreciated now that he has reached a more typical scholastic level to comprehend a physics course.

The 15 Fascinating Physics Lessons/Modules
I mentioned in my first review that my Middlest utilizes the laws of physics when juggling, playing pool, and while playing baseball and fishing without even thinking about it. Fascinating Physics offers examples that use physics in every day life (or maybe even in the less ordinary life led by someone in the C.S.I. field~ which should help to grab the attention of some teens!), which helps to give answers to the question "Why do I need to know anything about physics?"

The course is set up to particularly suit audio and visual learners.  In order to begin the audio/visual lesson the student can click the graphic, or the red "lesson" button (Shown in the graphic on the left). This starts up an audio/visual lecture (approximately 45 minutes long), with a number of slides.
If your student is less "auditory" you'll be happy to know that the blue "script" button contains the text of the lesson, which they can read, but I do recommend watching the presentation as well, since some of the slides are not static, like the photos in the text, and can help comprehension of the topic.

If you want to break the lesson up a little, or time requires you to take a break to get to an activity, no worries, the program remembers where you were, and offers the ability to resume where you left off. This was particularly helpful for us as our summer schedule had us going in many directions at once, and there wasn't always a block of time every day.

You can see that the chapter is broken up into sections, and you can easily click on a title to review anything that wasn't understood. We also appreciated, as mentioned above, the ability to work through this in smaller chunks throughout the day, when necessary, and having the titles of each section made it easier to figure out where a good stopping point might be.

In the Physics course there is a "need help?" button that opens up an audio/visual slide (My son's computer only played the audio for some reason... I love my Mac! :) ) to help them reinforce the information learned in the lesson. I appreciate this help,  particularly when there are so many formulas to remember. Dr. Marguilies believes that testing should be another opportunity to help ensure the student grasps the material and so offers helps to make sure they succeed.

I actually think providing the formulas is more "real world" because today everyone looks everything up. My son felt this was a bit like an open book test, with answers given to him in the "helps." I suspect that we are more likely to use the online test as a "review" and then follow up with the printed version for most units.  I will note that the "help" video only opens the first time the question is attempted, so not entirely "open book" because there is no replay. If they don't grasp the concept after the help, I would suggest going through the "Script" again, and then retaking the test.

If you'd like to learn even more, and check out some samples, visit the FAQ page , where you will find more information that details Dr. Margulies' philosophy, links to course outlines and more.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dragon Seed (A Litfuse Young Adult review)

A couple of years ago I reviewed The Ology by Marty Machowski, so I was pleased to be added to a Litfuse blog tour for Marty Machowski's new book, Dragon Seed. I'm always on the lookout for good young adult fiction, and I appreciate even more when it comes from a Christian Worldview. Teens of all ages tend to read a fair amount of dystopian/fantasy literature these days. Well, you can't get much more dystopian than a plot that includes spiritual warfare, but what a lot of folks may not understand it that it *isn't* fantasy! I suspect that many of them don't have a handle on the reality of the "shadows" in the background of their lives.

Dragon Seed offers a glimpse of what spiritual warfare might look like in both Biblical and Modern times with a story that moves between both eras, touching on the life of a semi-rebellious teen in today's world, and offering a "could-have-happened-this-way" fictional account of the demon-possessed men of the Gadarenes.

I have found myself talking about this story with teens in the past week or two, even though I read it a few weeks ago. It's a story that sticks with you, while creating a memorable "picture" of the principalities and powers with whom we wrestle.

The Bible Study at the back of the book offers the opportunity for some good conversations about pride and desire, how they seldom reap anything but trouble, and that humility and servanthood are the mark of true greatness. Not a message most teens want to hear, but the sooner they realize it is truth, the sooner they have the opportunity to become competent leaders in a world that is seriously lacking, and learn to be on the winning side of good vs. evil.

 From the publisher~
An angry teen, a desperate mother, a missing father, and a shadow lurking in the background.
Machowski pin1Things were going from bad to worse for Nick and his family. Tempted to run away after yet another argument with his mom, Nick receives a handwritten, leather-bound copy of an old book-a family legend passed down to him from his great grandfather. The book, called Dragon Seed, leads Nick deep into his family's history and introduces him to another angry young man who lived in the shadows (the shadows of the tombs). Like Nick, you'll be shocked to discover where he fits in this story of epic proportions!
This page-turning, young adult fiction story invites older children and teens into the real-life struggles of Nick. But it also ushers them into an imaginative exploration of the life of the young man Jesus saved as he wandered through the tombs. Best-selling author Marty Machowski uses both stories to introduce the reality of spiritual warfare and how its shadows affect and change us.
Machowski, a trusted teacher for children of all ages, presents a thoroughly biblical view of spiritual warfare that emphasizes the importance of humility and dangers of pride. Teens will be drawn to the story of Nick and his struggles and will learn, as they read, to also identify the shadows in their own life and turn from them. While the biblical teaching is evident throughout the narrative of Dragon Seed, Machowski also includes a twelve-lesson Bible study at the end of the book to help teens ground their understanding of spiritual warfare on biblical principles.
Youth pastors, leaders, and parents will also want to explore with teens the small group study at the end of the book with its unique take on spiritual warfare that emphasizes the biblical theme of humility. This is a perfect book to read with a group and discuss together the implications of Nick's struggles for their lives.

Marty Machowski is the Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for over 25 years. Marty leads Promise Kingdom, the children's ministry of Covenant Fellowship. He is the author of a systematic theology for children entitled "The Ology," "Long Story Short," "Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God," "The Gospel Story Sunday School Curriculum" and the companion "Gospel Story Children's Bible." He and his wife, Lois, and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania area.
Find out more about Marty at and connect with him on Twitter, as well as visit his page on Litfuse Publicity's site to learn more and read other reviews. 
If you're looking for a gripping read for your teen this summer, or you are looking for an interesting book/Bible study for your teen group or book club, take a look at Dragon Seed.

Home School in the Woods Make-A-State Activity Pak

Home School in the Woods has once again generously provided a variety of hands on history products to the Homeschool Review Crew for review. This time my youngest and I took a look at the Make-A-State Activity Pak, part of the Activity-Paks series. Crew members received other titles in the Activity-Paks series, as well as titles from the Time Travelers American History Series, the Lap-Paks, and others received the Timeline Trio, so if you've been wondering about any of these products, make sure you click through the link at the end of my post to read those reviews.
You can also check out my previous reviews for Home School in the Woods:
Activity Pak: New Testament (2009), Olde World Style Maps (2010), Great Empires Unit (2013), Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt (2015), Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections (2016) Project Passport World History Study: Renaissance & Reformation (2017)

My first experience with Home School in the Woods was using their New Testament Activity Pak, which is still one of my very favorite resources (I love the Armor of God project!), so I was looking forward to using the new Make-A-State Activity Pak. It is a little different than the New Testament Pak in that it allows your child to make a Lap Book for each state in the union! Shew! That's a lot of bang for your buck right there! :)

Each State Lapbook will have some similarities and some differences. Some activities use the same template for each state that just need to be filled in with the pertinent information, and others are state-specific.

Topics covered (With printing hints)
  • State/Generic Template (print multiple copies at once to save time) 
    • Key State Facts
    • Origin of State Names
    • State Song
    • State Wildlife
    • Regions
    • Sports Teams
    • State Timeline
    • State Government
    • Famous People From... 
    • Native Tribes
    • State Industry/Agriculture/Climate
    • State History

    • Combination~ some components are Generic and can be printed in multiples, others are Specific and only need to be printed once
      • State Symbols
      • State Quarter
      • State Seal and Flag
    • State/Specific (Print one of each page) 
      • State Motto
      • State Landmarks
      • Recipes
      • State Vocabulary
      • State Geography
    We chose to start with the state I was born in, and will move on to the state we live in, and the state where my Eldest is going to go to college, OR possibly one of the Dakota's per Youngest's interest. We're also going on a cross country road trip this summer, so he may add some states to his interest pile. ;)There are a number of ways that the Make-A-State Activity Pak can be approached. You could study them in the order they entered the Union? By Region? Alphabetically?  You could simply study them as they come up in core subjects, or study them as you visit them if you are a homeschooling family on the go, or if you have relatives spread all over the place, you could start with the states of their residence.

    We received the downloadable file for this Pak, so when I want to get started on a state, I head to that folder, and click the Start.htm file which opens a browser window with a welcome and instructions on how to proceed. If you haven't ever used an Activity Pak before you will definitely want to go through the Introduction.


    From there, my habit has  been to print the papers needed for each activity. This can be a lengthy process (think an hour and a half for the entire project), but I like to get it done all in one fell swoop if possible. I enlisted the help of my eldest to load the printer with the colored and white paper and/or cardstocks required for each activity as they came up in the Project directions. Nice thing those directions! They tell you exactly what you'll need to complete each project. You'll see in my screen shot below that I had the project directions open. I also had the window you see on above on the left open on my computer that has all the pdf files. I find it easiest to work this way, because the directions tell me (how many) of which kind of paper to load for each activity. 

    I will mention that I took this printing opportunity to print a bunch of the pages that had multiple state information on them (ie: I printed ALL of the motto pages, so that next time I go to do a state, that will already be printed), and I printed 3 copies of all the generic project templates so that I would be ready to go with the next states that we decide to study. You can see that I ended up with a pretty hefty stack of printed pages!                                                    *Note~ one thing that I would appreciate, if any of these projects are revamped at all: Currently the pdfs for printing are all separate files, which is helpful at times. However, with the advent of smarter printers that can handle printing front and back, I would appreciate the ability to have a single pdf file with ALL the pages~ the few that require front and back printing took me sooooo much longer than they would have if I could have simply printed them "duplex." 

    Once the pages were printed... 
    I created the lapbook. The first project was to color the Montana postcard for the cover page, so we put that on right away, and then began to work through the activities. Our pace because it is summer-time was one or two projects/week, but if doing this during the school year, I would anticipate completing one/day. At that rate, you could complete one state in four weeks, as there are 20 activities for each one. 

    A generalized note about boys and girls and different ages~ it has been my experience that girls tend to be more interested in the crafty side of things~ cutting and pasting and coloring in, while boys tend to be more about getting the task done.

     My son enjoys doing some of the coloring, but he's not big on cutting and pasting, so I pre-assembled the majority of the projects that required a little bit of fancy work (to avoid frustration on his part), and just let him fill things in. (The Industry and State Gov't booklets are cool, with pop-up pieces! ~ not a terrible rendition of the Montana State House! :) ) 

    All this to say that if you have crafty kids, they are going to LOVE these paks, and mom will only be minimally involved~ but if not, plan to do a fair amount of cutting, gluing, and taping yourself (this isn't a problem for me, because I enjoy it!). If you have older kids (And yes, I do think this can be a valuable resource to supplement history or geography for an older student), you probably won't have to do anything beyond purchasing the paper and ink to complete it! :) 

    A bonus project is included~ Name that State!  ~ a file folder game. I haven't created this just yet, because I want to laminate portions of it, and I just haven't had time to get that done, but I hope to do so before we head out on our road trip~ because everyone can use a little help brushing up on their US Geography! :) You can see it in the bottom right of this sample graphic... 

    Really, for the amount of material included in this Pak, I think it is a HUGE deal. If you are planning to cover any states in detail, I highly recommend checking out Amy Pak's Make-A-State Activity Pak! 

    If you'd like to check out a mini project, Home School in the Woods now has an A' La Carte page with (currently) about 50 component projects/activities from larger packets available individually (fantastic for adding a little pizzaz to your current studies!). They are offering the Erie Canal project on that page for free if you use the code alacarte at checkout. It was specifically chosen because it is the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the canal this past week!

    Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
    You can visit Home School in the Woods on their social media pages ~ I'm sure Amy Pak would be delighted to hear from you! :)
    Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ , and YouTube

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