Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls (Biblical Fiction for Kids ~ A Review)

My Youngest son is always up for reviewing books, especially those with some sort of Historical twist, so he really enjoyed reading the first two books in The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series, published by WorthyKids/Ideals.

The stories follow a a sibling pair, time-traveling with the use of scrolls, a similar device to another popular time-traveling series. However, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls explores Biblical History, and doesn't engage in the use of a well-known evil literary character as an innocuous librarian... (Yeah, personally couldn't stomach that other un-named series, almost entirely based on the use of that character... Character choice is important, folks!)

I will tell you right now that my Youngest sped through both books the evening they arrived, and declared them to be very good! He enjoyed reading these fictional stories with a Biblical basis that included a little humor and were very relatable for a ten year old. However, he is not great with book reports (I need to work on that a bit more), so I will give you my synopsis of each book. :)

Book 1 

In The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Beginning, we are introduced to the main characters, 9 year old Peter, his older sister Mary, and Hank (their time-of-day-telling dog), along with their Great-Uncle Solomon, and archaeologist and the keeper of the Hidden Scrolls.

We find out that there is a legend attached to the scrolls, which can only be opened by "the chosen ones."

As it turns out, Peter and Mary are called by the Lion's roar, and end up going on an adventure back to the very first day of Creation~ when the world was without and form and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep... just imagine what that must have felt and looked like...

Along the way they end up meeting Michael the Archangel, who saves them when the waters are divided (before there is land) and gives them a little insight to their task. The words on the scroll are written in Hebrew, and they have to decipher them in 7 days, or they will be left in that time period, never to return home. While this isn't my favorite choice of conflict, it does add an element of excitement to the story for younger readers. 

The children see each new thing being formed, and even encounter the snake in the garden before Eve is created (Mary offers a Karate Kick to his head, which surprises the snake (Satan), who of course has no foreknowledge of such machinations~ but he's a quick learner, and it only works once).

The children manage to figure out the words on the scroll, and are immediately returned to their Great-Uncle's library, to discover that their week of adventure had taken less than an hour (probably only moments) in their own time.

Book 2

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: Race to the Ark

In this story, Peter, Mary, and Hank are sent back to the time of Noah and the Ark. They encounter the lawless people of the world, help with the animals and organizing the ark, and meet up once again with Satan, in the form of the Dark Ruler. The angel Michael gives assistance as needed, and a Lion helps out as well.

My only beef with this particular story is a little mix-up on the part of the author~ Jubal Cain and Tubal Cain are introduced as Noah's brothers (and an artifact of Tubal's handiwork is found in Great-Uncle Solomon's possession). However, while they all had a father with the same name (Lamech), I'm pretty sure that Tubal Cain and Jubal Cain were descended from Cain, while Noah was descended from Seth. Use this as a teachable moment~ that even authors and grownups (And Biblical Scholars) make mistakes, and double-checking research is hugely important. ;)

So, what age are these books good for? My Youngest is ten and enjoyed reading them, just like he enjoys reading Hank the Cowdog and Encyclopedia Brown books. He also enjoys reading lengthy chapter books (He read the entire Redwall series this summer...), so I would say that these books should appeal to a range of ages and reading abilities.

Both books are written on a 560L Lexile reading level, which is suitable for grades 2-6. That being said, the comprehension level probably starts a little lower, which would make this a great read-aloud for children ages 5 and up.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Captain Bayley's Heir (Another Fantastic Heirloom Audio Production)Review)

Following fast on the heels of my most recent Heirloom Audio Productions review of In The Reign Of Terror, is this review of their newest title, Captain Bayley's Heir. This story mainly follows the adventures of a young English lad named Frank Norris.  Frank is falsely accused of theft, and upon his notion that his guilt is believed true by those closest to him (due to extreme circumstantial evidence), he heads to America, and California's Gold Rush Country. His hope is to return a rich man, with the ability to prove his innocence.  It also traces the circumstances of Frank's family~ his Uncle, Captain Bayley,  his cousin, Fred Barkley, and his "adopted cousin," Alice Hardy as events occur back in England.

As to the title~ there is some question throughout the story as to WHO, exactly is (or will be) Captain Bayley's heir, but you'll have to get nearly through the entire story to find out the answer to that question. ;)

So, to backtrack a tiny bit, if you haven't read any of my previous Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews, I received in the mail a 2 disc CD audio production (Radio Drama-style) of G. A. Henty's story Captain Bayley's Heir. Along with the physical CD, I was given access to the Live the Adventure Club Website, which offers bonus materials to go along with the CD, plus a whole lot more.

Live the Adventure Club is a unique subscription service. It offers:
  • Three physical products shipped to your door per year (New Henty Audio Dramas, as they are produced)
  • Educational Treasures and Teaching Resources which include Study Guides produced for those CDs, as well as History and Grammar Textbooks from the 1700s and 1800s
  • The Ability to Stream over 500 Old-Time Radio Shows
  • Listen and Learn Read Along Program
  • Daily Inspiration and Devotionals
  • Hundreds of Fun activities and Games
  • Full Access to Live the Adventure Radio
  • Community Forum to exchange ideas and tips
I will mention right here that there is a 3-Month Free Club Trial being offered (at the time of posting) with a deeply discounted $1.00 purchase of the 2-CD set of Captain Bayley's Heir, as well as $20 worth of Adventure Credits to use in their online store. That seems like one of those deals that is too good to pass up, in my opinion. ;) Be sure to check that out after you read the rest of my review. 

Now, I want to tell you a bit more about the Adventure club features as they relate specifically to the Audio Dramas. 

There are some online options for younger listeners that include coloring pages, word-searches, and other activities that relate to the time period of various audio drama productions. The word-searches can be completed online, or downloaded and printed. The letters can be reduced or enlarged in size to suit your child's needs. That's pretty cool attention to detail! 

Coloring Pages
The Listen and Learn Along Program offers the ability to listen to each chapter of audio while reading along with the script (With each word highlighted as spoken in the color of your choice). 

Following the audio portion, your child can then take a listening/reading comprehension quiz to earn points towards an adventure badge. There are also more questions that offer the opportunity to think more deeply about the text, and what the character's motivations are, or what they might be thinking to cause them to act in a certain way, or say certain things. 

At the end of those deeper questions you will find a number of vocabulary words that are defined as you mouse over them. Sadly, I couldn't capture a screenshot while mousing over, but it does work nicely. ;)

This portion of the website is the multimedia version of the pdf Study Guides that I've mentioned in the past. These are still available as part of the Educational Treasures found on the website, if you prefer to have something to print and bring with you, or if you have limited internet access, are traveling, or what have you. Here are some screenshots of the pdf study guide.

The study guide still includes the comprehension questions (Listening Well), the digging deeper style of questions (Thinking Further), and the vocabulary words (Defining Words). It also includes some other interesting tidbits that Expand Your Learning with information that correlates to the story. At the end of the study guide you will find a list of extra reading resources for further expansion on the historical time presented, as well as 3 Bible Studies That focus on some of the themes in the story. In Captain Bayley's Heir the Bible studies are about:

  • God's Grace
  • Becoming A Christian
  • Honoring Your Parents

They each include a number of statements, followed by Scriptures that back up those statements, and can provide a good opportunity for discussion.

This brings up something else~ in my last review I mentioned that I was disappointed that the ability to download the mp3s of the Audio Dramas was no longer an option, as that made it more difficult for my son to listen to the audio while traveling. I am happy to report that they are once again available as a downloadable zip file, and I appreciate that as the convenience it truly is. 

I am happy to say that this audio drama has lived up to my previous expectations, and the Live The Adventure Club as I mentioned, is a unique product, that I expect will be enjoyed by many households due to the vast number of resources and value that it offers.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Heirloom Audio Productions
  • Product: Captain Bayley's Heir
  • Ages: 6-adult (Publisher's age) 10-Adult (my age recommendation)
  • Price: As mentioned above, Heirloom Audio Productions is currently offering a $1.00, 3 month trial ~ (After the trial period is up the plan charges $24.97 every three months, and guarantees that three new physical CD sets will be sent three times per year as they are produced) this gives you the 2 CD set of their newest title Mr. Bayley's Heir and access to many MORE resources including the bonus features mentioned above.
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Friday, September 22, 2017

Matthew West ~ All In (Review and Giveaway)

Hey, friends! It's been awhile since I've had a review and a GIVEAWAY! :)
What a nice way to start out the Fall Season! 

This time it's Matthew West's new album All In

Here are my quick impressions/what the songs are about,  plus a few bonus videos from Matthew West to give you the real story. :) ~

Track 1: All In 
~ No testing the waters here~ he's all in!
Story behind the song:

Track 2: Broken Things 
~ Encouragement that God can and does use broken things to accomplish mighty things

Story behind this song, too... 

Track 3: Mercy is a Song 
~ More encouragement~ Mercy is a song, and Freedom is a choir singing...

Track 4: Amen 
~ This one is a high energy tune that will be a favorite in my house. ;)

Track 5: The Sound of a Life Changing 
~ Kind of a cool auto-biographical song/looking to the future for other's lives

Track 6: Something Greater 
~ Another song about life~ (And BGV's by Carrie Underwood... :) )

Track 7: Jesus & You 
~ Love song to his Lord and his wife. ;)

Track 8: The Beautiful Things We Miss 
~ Encouragement to slow down and not miss the beautiful things... 
(Teary eyes are a possibility with this song... ;))

Track 9: 1 Song 
~ drilling it down to Hallelujah! Thank You, Lord! Amen, I'm made new! 
(In a style a little reminiscent of Nico and Vinz' "Am I Wrong" ~ I like it. ;) 
~ disclaimer: I know next to nothing about Nico and Vinz beyond that song. ;) )

Track 10: Power Love Sound Mind 
~ not rap, but spoken word with a melodic chorus~ not a spirit of fear...

Track 11: Never Ever Give Up 
~ Up-beat encouragement ~  a good, positive  "amp up" song.

Track 12: Dream Again
~ When the doors (and the World) seem closed and against you
~ an anthem of starting over and giving it up to God
~ letting Him show you how to dream again...

Track 13: Becoming Me (Featuring Lulu West)
~ another family-inspired song that pulls the heart-strings
~ (and Lulu has a very sweet voice)

Track 14: You Are Known 
~ written as a note from the One Who Knows...

Summing up~ the entire album is about being "All In" in relation to the Lord, to family, community, and even to his career as a singer/songwriter. From his liner notes: "... these songs are written in the hopes that they will be arrows straight to your hearts reminding you that the goal is to reach the end with no regrets." Essentially encouraging us to understand our position, and seek to hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

The album is now available for purchase. Great gift idea to tuck away for a holiday or special event.

More information...
Matthew’s heart behind the album:
Matthew wrote his new album All In with the goal of encouraging himself and others to get up off the sidelines of their faith and really live it out – to go all in in your time with God, all in with your family, all in with your community, and all in battling your fears that may hold you back from becoming who God made you to be. Along that same theme, Matthew will be launching a 6-week All in Challenge on his social media starting 9/18, and each week Matthew will be challenging his fans to go all in in a different part of their lives. What does it look like when a heart that knows Jesus takes a step and holds nothing back? How can we go All In in the places that mean the most?
If you would like to enter my giveaway, please make sure to wait for the Rafflecopter to load.... :) 

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

HOT Glue gun Review

Being a crafty type, being a mom, and being a homeschooler, glue guns are one of those tools that are somewhat regularly in use. For YEARS, I've only used the low temp glue guns, due to having small children around, and wanting to avoid potential hazards. However, my youngest is now 10, and I *think* I can relax my guard just a little bit.

I was please to be offered the opportunity to review a HOT glue gun, because sometimes the low temp guns just don't quite have what it takes to STICK. :/

The Cobiz Hot Melt Glue Gun with 60/100 W power options has been working well for my intended projects, as well as at least one un-intended project.

Same youngest mentioned above had a run in with a bad hop baseball, which broke the earpiece near the temple of his glasses. When his glasses broke before we tried super glue (nope) and duct tape, but they were extremely shaky "fixes." With this new Hot Melt glue gun, I am happy to say that the glasses are holding up pretty well, and will hopefully make it until he's due for his next appt in a month, when he can get new glasses! (Did I mention this is the second time the frames have broken~ insurance won't pay twice... ;/ )

I haven't had quite as much free time as I would like to try out some cool projects with my son (we have some mica that wants to be attached to something... but we haven't found the right something just yet)

However, I wanted to check it out, anyway, so I made a nifty little "pallet" coaster to hold my icy water cups on the side table in the living room, in the hopes of reducing condensation damage to the table
Glue gun heating up~ I could wish that the wire stand was a little more sturdy~ makes me a little nervous, but haven't had any trouble with it yet... 
See how fine the glue drops? I'm pretty happy with that! :) 

A couple of notes: The glue gun took a little longer than I expected to heat up and allow me to feed the glue stick through the first time (closer to 10 minutes), but it was much closer to the target 5 minute time the next time I used it.

I didn't actually use the 100W power because the projects I had required small streams of glue, and my understanding is that the higher power creates a thicker stream of glue.
The 60W stream of glue from this gun is FAR superior to anything any of my low temp glue guns ever put out... Those popsicle sticks aren't budging! :)

All in all, I'm pretty impressed and pleased with this glue gun, and can't wait to put it into action getting my crafty on. ;)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Let’s Go Geography (Elementary Review)

Let’s Go Geography offers a geography program for kids K-4th grade that covers many of the world's countries (and some regions) over a three year course. I was happy to review this with my youngest (even though he's a smidge older than the target group), as it's been awhile since we focused on geography in a somewhat systematic manner.

For this review I was given a one year subscription, which allowed me to use any of the lessons for all of the countries included in the 1st year of the curriculum. While I considered hopping around a fair amount based on interest or coordination with other studies, I finally decided that we would do the lessons mostly in order. Part of my reasoning for this was to take advantage of the focus on one continent at a time (within the continents I am choosing to go "out of order" depending on outside studies or current events).

Here is an introduction and look at a Let's Go Geography Lesson: 

As you can tell, these lessons incorporate visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning with reading, map-work, music, video and craft options. I love it when all the learning styles are incorporated!

Let's Go Geography doesn't cover EVERY country in the world over the three years cycle, but it does cover a vast majority, giving a pretty good overview by the time it is completed, and at a pace that should make it easy for your child to recall the information learned. You can see in the graphic below that each continent (color-coded) is visited every year, which is also a great way to reinforce where countries are found ("Remember when we studied Belize last year? On what Continent is Belize found? Well, we're going to study another country in South America: Guatemala!" )
While you have the option, as I mentioned, of using the lessons in any order, you can take the "remembering and planning" task out of the equation, and rely on a weekly email to remind you to open/download up each week's lesson if you prefer to go in order. 

As mentioned in the video above, each lesson is set up in the following format:
1. Map It ~ as the name suggests, this section has mapwork, both for the individual country/region, as well as where it is found on the appropriate continent
2. The Flag ~ Color in the flag
3. The Music ~ Links to listen to the National Anthem, and sometimes another song
4. Let's Explore ~ interesting information and photos to help learn more about the country, as well as links to "see" the country via a video tour (usually on YouTube) 
5. Let's Create ~ a Craft of some sort that relates
6. Printables (for the teacher) ~ anything that isn't linked that needs to be printed 

A quick note here also about the layout of each year~ Every 9th week is a BREAK week, or "catch-up" week to finish anything left undone. Every 12th week is a REVIEW week. The review weeks are well set up, with blank maps to fill in the correct country, a match the flag to the country as well as a match an image (from the country) to the correct country. There are other activities as well. For instance, the first review week introduces Latitude and Longitude, with fill in the blank and test your knowledge activities. 

While I appreciated the map-work (perhaps more than my son did), he particularly enjoyed the linked video explorations of each region or country. Many of these are National Geographic and other high quality videos that give a very nice overview of the countries they cover.

I wish the flag pages had an option to print strictly black and white, and just a little larger (they could probably gain 1/2" in both directions and still fit on the map page). This would allow printing with a printer that only uses black ink, and with the increase in size, the ability to color in the whole flag (our American flag has a field of stars on a black background...), instead of having portions of it already colored...

We didn't utilize some of the other activities that are geared more toward the younger set (coloring page and most crafts), but a few years ago he would have loved the coloring pages provided for every country!

Here is one of the crafts we *did* do, for the country of Haiti~ a wax-resist (batik) market scene...

Let's Go Geography offers a well thought out overview of geography for the early elementary ages, with just enough variety in the activities, and solid map-work to give your youngster a firm foundation in where things are in the world.
Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Let’s Go Geography
  • Product: Let’s Go Geography
  • Ages: K-4th grade
  • Price: 
    • One Year Subscription $21.99
      • One Year Subscription in 2 payments $12.99 each
    • Semester Subscription $14.99
    • Some Individual Titles $ 2.49
        • There are other options, and at the time of posting a 25% off coupon was available for the subscription options
You can visit Let's Go Geography on Facebook and Pinterest

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Do you use SWAGBUCKS???

The digital rewards site Swagbucks just hit a major milestone – they have given their members over $200 million in cash and free gift cards since 2008! (Wow! I joined right after they started... December 2008!)

I use Swagbucks all the time to get free gift cards doing stuff I already do online, Usually from searching, but also shopping through their portal, and answering surveys. You can also earn points by watching videos and discovering great deals.

To demonstrate how big a number 200 million really is, here are some fun facts:

If you haven't joined Swagbucks yet, and are interested in earning points that turn into giftcards by doing simple everyday things like searching for information, please consider signing up using my referral link.

Now to go cash in the bucks I have so that I can go birthday shopping for my middlest... Thanks to Swagbucks, I can afford to pick up some things from his wishlist on Amazon! :)


Talk Like A Pirate Day 2017

Robert Louis Stevenson's hand-drawn map
for the original publication of
Treasure Island
Ahoy there Mates!

Just a quick little note for Talk Like a Pirate Day! Thought I would share a post I published three years ago, with a number of resources for your use (I checked links and changed or removed those that were faulty, so they should be all good today).  

Talk Like a Pirate Day Resources

Loads of printables and curriculum ideas for all ages (even up through high school!!!) can be found linked there~ Enjoy!

And here's an interesting article for you to peruse about current naval use of the skull and crossbones... Why the Navy's Top Spy Submarine Flew a Pirate Flag While Pulling Into Port.




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