The Cat of Bubastes – Audio Drama (Crew Review)

cat-of-bubastes-review
When my oldest was just a baby I started researching homeschooling and stumbled across a discussion about author G.A. Henty.  As I learned about this man’s character-building historical novels, I knew I wanted to share these with my boys when they got older, and I decided to start reading some for myself.  One of the first Henty books I ever read was The Cat of Bubastes, set in Ancient Egypt.

Fast forward a few years, and we have been blessed to become familiar with the work of Heirloom Audio Productions, a fabulous company that is bringing Henty back for a new generation by creating exciting audio dramas of some of his most popular novels.  Their latest creation is none other than my old favorite, The Cat of Bubastes.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to get a chance to review this CD set.

About The Cat of Bubastes

The Cat of Bubastes tells the story of Amuba, a young man who grew up as a prince but is taken to Egypt as a slave after his people are conquered in battle.  He and his father’s friend Jethro (who was given the order to protect him) become faithful servants to the Egyptian high priest Ameres, a man hungry for spiritual truth.  Through his friendship with Ameres’ son Chebron, Amuba becomes familiar with Egyptian spiritual beliefs, including the sacredness of cats.  They also befriend some Israelites and learn about the one true God.  When Chebron accidentally kills the family’s honored cat, the boys must flee Egypt and head to Amuba’s homeland, where he fights to reclaim his throne.

Along with the CD set of the audio adventure, we were given the following bonuses:

  • The Cat of Bustastes on MP3
  • eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter (pdf)
  • ebook of G.A. Henty’s original story with colorful graphics (pdf)
  • A beautiful printable pdf poster with inspirational quote
  • cast poster (pdf)
  • soundtrack (mp3)
  • “Behind the Scenes of The Cat of Bubastes (mp4 video download)

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
The study guide can help you use the audio adventure as more than just entertainment and turn it into an educational experience.  It includes a basic biography of G.A. Henty, as well as historical background information about Moses.  Then it provides a listening guide that breaks the recording into small chunks and gives questions to help younger listeners understand what’s happening in the story or provide older children with prompts for written assignments. Scattered through the listening guide are interesting facts about Ancient Egypt, and there are suggestions for further reading.  The next section contains three Bible studies:

  • “God Meant It for Good”
  • “The Knowledge of God”
  • “Idolatry and Tyranny”

Finally, the study guide concludes with more historical background information.

Our Experience

Although the boys and I have been enjoying adventures from Heirloom Audio Productions for the past few years, my husband has only recently discovered them, as he entertained himself on long overnight drives during our road trip this summer by listening to all the past recordings.  So when we went on a weekend getaway recently, he was excited that we had something new.  Our whole family enjoyed listening to The Cat of Bubastes together.  As the excitement built and the boys are rescued by an Egyptian Prince, even my husband couldn’t help blurting out, “Moses!” when they asked his name.  It was so fun getting to enjoy the story together.

The great thing about Henty’s adventures is that they’re not just exciting adventures, they bring history to life.  I love that as we listened to The Cat of Bubastes my children were learning about life in Ancient Egypt, their culture and religion, and even getting some insight into what life was like for the Israelites during their time of captivity.  It helped make the Bible more real to them, and that’s more than any textbook could do.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
It’s really hard to pick a favorite out of all the Henty books Heirloom Audio Productions has brought to life, but this latest offering would definitely be near the top for me.  It is so important to me to be able to provide my boys with literary role models to help them develop a picture of the kind of men they want to become, and Heirloom Audio has given us an entertaining and powerful tool for helping mold their young minds.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
Crew Disclaimer

Wrapping Up Week 11 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
As we get further into this first year with Classical Conversations, I’m starting to feel like it’s not going to be a great fit for our family.  I think it’s a great program, especially if you like having someone else plan your year.  My problem is just that I still want to do my own thing, and doing CC on top of all that is proving to be a bit much, primarily because we lose most of Monday each week.  We already lose most of Fridays for the kids’ various music classes (choir, handchimes, composer study, and various others), so that leaves us just three days to try to squeeze in everything else I want to do.  (And I’m not even covering a science curriculum this year!)

This week was even crazier, as we had a field trip on Thursday.  Thankfully, the boys are both really good at working independently, and for the most part they are diligent about getting started and doing their best without too much prompting from me.  I had actually forgotten about our field trip when I wrote up their checklists for the week, yet they still managed to accomplish everything by Friday afternoon.

And our field trip was SO worth it.  We’ve been to Riley’s Apple Farm before, but this was the first time we’ve attended one of their “homeschool days.”  The kids got to learn about life on a homestead in the late 1800’s by participating in the many chores and activities a child living then would have done.  They helped build a log cabin, sawed wood, beat rugs, pounded coffee, did laundry, hauled water, made rope, pressed cider, wrote fancy letters with a feather pen, and so much more.

dscn2304

What We Did This Week

Bible

Now that Elijah’s got his Veritas Press Self-Paced History Course he’s not quite as eager to get through his VP Bible Course, but he’s still plunging ahead beyond my expectations.  This week he completed more than twice the lessons I had scheduled, finishing up the 10 Commandments, completing the entire unit on “Aaron and the Golden Calf,” as well as “Moses Gets New Tablets” and starting in “The Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant.”  At this rate, he should finish Genesis – Joshua by Thanksgiving.

vp-bible

History

This week we read Chapter 13: The Birth of a Nation in The Light and the Glory for Children, covering the Continental Congress’ appointment of George Washington as the leader of the Army, the failed Canadian campaign, the retaking of Boston, and the vote for Independence.

We also watched four episodes of Liberty’s Kids:

  • #8 “The Continental Congress”
  • #9 “Bunker Hill”
  • #10 “Postmaster General Franklin”
  • #11 “Washington Takes Command”
cabin-faced-westLiterature

I read The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz aloud to all the kids.  It was a sweet story about a girl whose family has left Gettysburg to live in the “Western Country.”  I had never read before and chose it for this week because in flipping through it I had seen that George Washington was in it briefly.  However, it is actually set after the Revolution, so I wish I’d saved it for later, because we have lots of other books set during the War that I want to try to read.  (For instance, Guns for General Washington by Seymour Reit is about Henry Knox transporting the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston to help retake the city.  It would have been perfect for this week, but now I’m trying to figure out whether to try to squeeze it in or just save it for our next time through the history cycle.)

Biography

Since we only had two full days at home, this was a good week to watch a Torchlighters DVD.  We watched The William Tyndale Story and the accompanying documentary, which helped all of us appreciate our easy access to a Bible in English.

Writing

all-things-fun-fascinatingThe boys finished up Lesson 3 in All Things Fun and Fascinating, writing their own version of the old fable “Belling the Cat.”  It is so rewarding to see how much easier it is for them to write this year after all their hard work last year in their IEW class.  This week they only needed to focus on adding “strong verbs,” but both of them automatically threw in other “dress-ups.”

I’m SO glad I decided to use this book this year, and I’m thinking we’ll be sticking with IEW materials for several years to come.  I wish I had known about them back when I was teaching in a classroom.

Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

The Pray-ers (Crew Book Review)

ctm-publishingI don’t often find the time to read fiction these days, so I was thankful for the opportunity to review a new book called The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles by Mark S. Mirza (published by CTM Publishing Atlanta).  I was intrigued by the premise of the novel, namely, the power of prayer in the lives of believers and the role of both angels and demons as they interact with the human world.  At 372 pages, I wouldn’t call this softcover novel a “light” read, but by using the medium of historical fiction, the author is able to convey a lengthy teaching on prayer in an entertaining manner without it getting dry.

Summary

the-pray-ers-book-coverThe Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles follows three mostly separate story lines, all taking place in different eras (although the same angels and demons are involved in each one).
In the 1st century, the book follows the journey of a young man named Thales, who is discipled by his uncle Epaphras (based on the biblical Epaphras, a leader in the church of Colossae), and those with whom he shares the good news about Christ.

The second story line follows the ministry of a 19th Century traveling preacher.  A Northerner who feels called to minister in the south, Alexander Rich devotes his life to prayer and ministering to the people around him, from Confederate soldiers in the beginning of the book, to his neighbors in a small town whose gossipy ways could destroy his ministry as the book progresses.

Finally, in the current day, the book introduces the reader to a college track coach named Dale, who also leads the men’s prayer ministry at his church.  He and his wife Margie have a powerful prayer life, and that guides them as they minister both in the church and at the college where they both work as they interact with students and other faculty.

The book jumps back and forth between these three eras.  Throughout all three stories, the reader is privy to the workings of demons and angels who are assigned to thwart or help the Christians in their work for the Lord (with the same ones being present in the lives of the main characters across the span of history).

What I thought of The Pray-ers/Book 1 Troubles

To be honest, I had a hard time getting into the novel.  The characters seemed exaggerated: the “Pray-ers” were too perfect to feel real, and many of the others they encountered seemed like caricatures.  Consequently it took me a long time to warm up to them.   By the middle of the book I was engaged enough to want to keep reading to find out what happened, though I found the ending lacking resolution.  (Perhaps this is because the author has written a sequel, which should be released in the next few months.)

I’m normally a fast reader, but I found a few repeated distractions that slowed me down.  The author, Mark S. Mirza, feels a strong conviction about not showing any respect to Satan or his demons, so he refuses to capitalize their names.  I appreciate the sentiment, but by ignoring the conventions of English, I felt like it not only made it more difficult to read smoothly, it actually called more attention to those characters, which I’m sure was not his intent.  I found myself skipping over (or at most, skimming) the passages about the demons because I prefer to read quickly and I found those sections frustratingly slow to get through because I had to really concentrate on where the names were.

The other thing I found distracting was the number of errors throughout the book.  I kept having to stop a re-read certain “sentences” because they didn’t make sense the first time through.  Most of the time when I went back over them I realized they weren’t complete sentences (or sometimes they were just phrased awkwardly or punctuated incorrectly).  With careful editing this problem could easily be remedied.

mark-headshot-authorThere were many things I enjoyed about the book, however.  I appreciate the Mirza’s use of fiction to share his message, and as long as the reader goes in knowing that this was his intent, the didactic tone will probably be acceptable.  Throughout the book there are footnotes containing Scripture references for those who want to see the biblical basis for what they are reading.  (That’s not to say I agreed with every bit of theology, but for the most part I felt comfortable with the Mirza’s interpretation and artistic license.)  His notes at the back of the book are also helpful for understanding both the characters and some of the thoughts behind the writing of the book.

Overall, I would say The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles encouraged me in my own habits of prayer by modeling a lifestyle of continual prayer through the characters.  It also reminded me to be more aware of the spiritual realm and the battle the is going on around us.  If you prefer to read fiction books and are looking to grow in your prayer life, you could find this book to be both enjoyable and helpful.

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
Crew Disclaimer

KidsEmail.org (Crew Review)

kidsemail-review
My children are all still fairly young, and while we do utilize computers and the Internet a lot for school work, I am reluctant to let them spend additional time online because it can be such a dangerous place.  When the opportunity came up for us the review an Annual Subscription to KidsEmail.org, I wasn’t sure if I was really ready to let even my older kids (ages 6 and 8) have access to the world of online communication.  Still, we agreed to give the program a try.

KidsEmail.org Annual Subscription

About KidsEmail.org

KidsEmail.org Annual SubscriptionKidsEmail.org allows parents to set up email accounts for their children (up to 6 accounts) with more control than a traditional email service would allow.  From controlling what senders are allowed to write to their children, to receiving copies of emails, to restricting when children are allowed to access their inbox, KidsEmail.org has many features parents will appreciate.

There are three types of accounts that can be set up:

types-of-accounts

Once you’ve chosen what option will work best for your child, you can customize exactly what features you want them to be able to access.  Settings can be altered for individual child accounts or for all of them at once.  Here’s what the “Safety Settings” look like in the parent controls.

 

safety-settings

It’s not just the parental controls that make KidsEmail.org appealing.  The set-up is very kid-friendly, and there also features kids will appreciate:

They can choose their own background themes.

backgrounds

They can create drawings within their emails (though I couldn’t quite figure out all the functions in that panel).

drawing-function

 

Our Experience

I was really impressed by how much KidsEmail.org allowed me to customize our family’s email experience.  I signed both of my older boys up right away and set to work getting familiar with the parental controls.  It was really helpful to be able to establish what I wanted for both of them at the same time.

It was also easy to create a global contact list that is accessible for every child on my account. Since they aren’t really old enough to have friends with email addresses, the only contacts I allowed for them were myself, my husband, and their grandparents.

Elijah was the only one interested enough to sign on and get started. He started emailing Grandma right away.

elis-email

They ended up corresponding back and forth several times before we went on a trip and then he forgot all about it until I asked him about it.  (He also emailed Grandpa, but that correspondence fizzled out quicker for some reason.)

Even though my kids get to see their grandparents fairly regularly, I think this is going to be a fun tool for them to communicate more, and I hope they will take advantage of it.  As they get older, I’ll gladly add others to their list of approved contacts and help them learn to use some of the other features.

KidsEmail.org Annual Subscription
The uncertainty I had felt in the beginning worked itself out.  I’m not sure my boys have enough desire yet to use email on a regular basis.  However, when they reach that point, I love knowing KidsEmail.org can provide the security and parental controls that can help me feel comfortable allowing them to take that step.

KidsEmail.org Annual Subscription
Crew Disclaimer

Wrapping Up Week 10 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
My passions were given free reign this week as we continued our study of American history, moving on to the story of Paul Revere and the battles at Lexington and Concord.  Although we did do all the rest of our normal subjects, history pretty much ruled our week.  We even got Daddy interested through all our discussions.  Leigh Bortins talks about how homeschooling redeems the education of two generations, and we are definitely experiencing that in our family.  Eric and I both learned alongside the boys this week as we dove into the American Revolution.

daddy-reading

History: The Start of the American Revolution

I am really glad we are using The Light and the Glory for Children (and its sequel) as our “spine” this year.  It is helping set a good pace for us as we move through the events of early American history.  Without it, we might be tempted to speed through the entire Liberty’s Kids series, but because we are going chapter by chapter in the book, we have time to really explore each event, looking at various books and videos to help the children become familiar with the important people and details.

Light and the Glory   libertys-kids
This week in The Light and the Glory we read “Chapter 12: War!”  It covered several important subjects:

Paul Revere: We’ve talked about Paul Revere before, when we were going through Five in a Row, but that was three years ago, so we pulled out some of our favorite resources from that study, as well as adding a few new ones this time around.

  • paul-reveres-ridebook: Paul Revere’s Ride (there’s an audio recording of this poem from Homeschool Radio Shows)
  • audio: “Listen My Children” from Homeschool Radio Shows.
  • audio: Adventures in Odyssey #197 “The Midnight Ride” (This was interesting because it discussed some errors in Longfellow’s poem as well as giving more information about Paul Revere.)
  • video: Liberty’s Kids episode 5 “Midnight Ride”
  • video: “The Flame Returns,” part of Animaniacs Season 3, Episode 25 (streaming on Netflix right now, though they call it Vol. 2, Episode 12)

Lexington and Concord: The battle at Lexington lasted only about 15 minutes before the British moved on to Concord, but it is important because it marks the beginning of years of fighting between the Americans and the British.  We found several good resources for learning about it, and the boys really memorized a lot of details that kept popping up in each one.

  • book: Sam the Minuteman (We also used the literature guide from Progeny Press, which led to some great discussions, as well as a helpful vocabulary lesson that was reinforced in several other resources we used this week.)

sam-the-minuteman   study-guide

george-the-dummer-boy

  • video: Liberty’s Kids episode #6 “The Shot Heard Round the World”
  • video: Schoolhouse Rock “The Shot Heard Round the World” (and we watched “No More Kings“)
  • video: April Morning (This is full-length movie starring Tommy Lee Jones about a father and son at Lexington.  It’s not rated, but my husband and I watched it with the older boys and we were okay with it.  It is about battle, but there’s no gore and as about little violence as one could have given the subject.)

Ethan Allen and the “Green Mountain Boys” at Fort Ticonderoga:

Ian and I also watched The American Revolution, which covered all these subjects.  (I found it this streaming on Amazon Prime and it’s aimed at children, so I figured we’d give it a try.  Ian, always ready to watch anything, joined me in previewing it, but I found it a little too slow to show to the other kids and after we got interrupted I didn’t bother going back to finish the whole thing.  The best thing about it was reinforcing things we had already learned about.

Chapter 12 in The Light and the Glory also mentioned the battle of Bunker Hill, but we’re saving that until next week when it’s covered in Liberty’s Kids to talk more about it.

Biography

The last sentence of Chapter 12 in The Light and the Glory introduced the man who would step up to lead the new Continental Army: George Washington.  I decided to make him the focus of our biography studies this week so the boys would be more familiar with him as we move on.  We read George Washington: America’s Patriot from YWAM Publishing’s “Heroes for Young Readers” series, as well as George Washington by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

 washington-ywam washington-daulaire

Veritas Press

Elijah has been begging me for months to sign him up for a  Veritas Press Self-Paced History Course, and while he loves his VP self-paced Bible course, it just hasn’t satisfied him.  This week I heard the VP was having a Back to School Sale (use code BACKTOHOMESCHOOL for $100 off until 9/26!) on their Self-Paced courses, so I decided to go ahead and get him started on “Explorers to 1815.”  In the first three days he completed 7 lessons, and the first words out of his mouth when we woke up Saturday morning were, “Can I do a history lesson?”

veritas-press-e1815
These courses really are amazing.  The only thing I would change is that I wish I could purchase them on CD-ROM so we could pass them down from one child to the next.  I’m not requiring him to do any of the lessons at this point.  It’s just a chance for him (and Ian to some extent, as he enjoys watching) to review things we’ve already learned about, and hopefully eventually he’ll catch up to where we are in our family history study.  I’ve made a note of when 6 months is up to make sure he’ll have enough time to complete the course before our subscription runs out, but I’m hoping he’ll just go through it at his own pace without me ever needing to schedule it.

Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

Wrapping Up Week 9 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
This week we squeezed as much of our regular schoolwork in to the first three days, and then headed out of town with my husband’s side of the family for a classic car event they participate in each year.  It was a great chance for the kids to see a new part of California, learn a little more about cars (which are a REALLY big deal to that side of the family), and spend some time with Papa (my father-in-law), their aunt and uncle, and the cousins.  In addition to enjoying the beach and the bike trail that runs alongside it, they got to visit the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, which tied into our reading of Island of the Blue Dolphins earlier this year, and we visited the old San Buenaventura Mission to add to our ongoing study of California history.  I was surprised by how much Elijah remembered about Junipero Serra, whom we read about back in Week 2 of this school year.

san-buenaventura-mission
To make sure the days could truly count as school days, I also prepared packets of worksheets for the older boys, using some pages from CC Connected to review our Classical Conversations memory work, plus some grammar and math worksheets that went along with what we’ve been studying lately.  They didn’t get through even half of what I prepared because we ended up taking so many little excursions, but I’m still glad I pulled the packets together.  I’ll keep them handy to pull out while the boys are sitting through Arianna’s ballet lessons or I’m at Bible study.

Here’s what we worked on this week:

Bible

Image result for the god puzzle ackermanIan has been going through The God Puzzle by Valerie Ackermann, and now that we’re a couple months into it, I’m starting to appreciate it for more than face value.  This was a last minute curriculum decision (as in we were like a day out from starting school and I realized I only had Bible plans for Elijah so I went to my shelves to see what I could find for Ian), and at first I really wasn’t sure if he was getting anything out of it.  He’s a reluctant writer, so he doesn’t give me much on the open-ended questions.  Still, the “Talk About Sections” have given me some good insight into his theological understanding, and lately he’s been eager to get out his book to go through it.  I think it’s a good fit for him, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the year goes.

As far as Elijah, he has been racing through the Veritas Press Self-Paced Course on Genesis – Joshua so quickly, I actually told him to take this week off.  My plan was to have him finish this course by Christmas break so he could do the next course in the second half of the year, but I think he’s probably going to finish earlier than that.

Math

Both boys are doing their math almost completely independently, with daily fact practice on  XtraMath.org, and 4-5 lessons a week in Teaching Textbooks 4.  (I have the whole book scheduled over the course of the year, and I try not to have them do anything on days we have CC unless we’re behind.)

Writing/Spelling

We finished up Lesson 2 in All Things Fun and Fascinating from IEW, as well as Week 7 in Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree (Book 1).  Ian is gaining a lot of confidence as he proceeds through Sequential Spelling, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief at having finally found something that is really helping him start to improve.

History

This week we didn’t have a chapter in The Light and the Glory for Children scheduled because I wanted to watch the Liberty’s Kids episodes that correspond with what we’vealready read (episodes #2-4: “Intolerable Acts,” “United We Stand,” and “Liberty or Death”).  learn-our-history-jpgInstead, I planned other short readings from various older books I’d gotten with the e-book bundle from Yesterday’s Classics.  We read about Patrick Henry, as well as two short stories about children in the days just before the Revolutionary War.  We also watched the another DVD, Learn Our History: The Birth of a Revolution.

t for now I’m going to try to stick with our schedule to let these history stories really sink in.  Thankfully, I found one more cute video to show them that drove the story a little more into their heads: Pups of Liberty: The Boston Tea-Bone Party on Izzit.org.  (I don’t know if you have to be a member to watch the streaming video, but membership is free, and you can get one free DVD a year, plus free streaming of other videos, so we signed up last year and they just happened to email me about this video on Thursday so it was perfect timing!)

Miscellaneous

We didn’t read a biography this week, but we did watch the Torchlighters DVD on John Bunyan (both the animated feature and the documentary).  It was a little late to go along with our history timeline, but I’m still glad we squeezed it in this week.  Our read aloud book was also a little behind where we are in history, but the boys really enjoyed Newbery Medal winner The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds, which is based on the true story of a boy who bravely helps his mother protect their family against an Indian attack back in 1756.

john-bunyan  matchlock-gun

Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

Download Club from Christian HomeSchool Hub (Crew Review)

CHSH Review
One of the awesome things about homeschooling these days is how easy it is to access resources via the Internet.  I love being able to go online (sometimes at the last minute) to find things to go along with subjects we’re studying. We were recently given the chance to review the CHSH Download Club, a subscription part of CHSH-Teach.com (the Christian HomeSchool Hub).  It’s a great place to turn to find things to help me out as I educate my children.

About the CHSH Download Club

The CHSH Download Club gives members easy access to over 50,000 pages of educational downloads.  Memberships can be purchased for 1 year ($25) or a lifetime ($99.99), and members have the unlimited ability to download any the files shared on the site. Most have been uploaded by CHSH’s creator, Lynda Ackert, but other members can also share files they have created (or have permission to share).

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
From preschool unit studies and flashcards to high school history courses, the CHSH Download Club has something for every grade level in a wide array of subjects.  Full curricula are available for several subjects, as well as an abundance of worksheets and activity pages.  There are also organizational helps and several old books (now in the public domain) that are available to download.

by grade

It is extremely easy to search for documents to suit your family, as they are listed in a variety of ways: by subject, by grade level (above), and by months (below).

by months-organization

Our Experience

I try not to rely too much on worksheets for my kids, so I wasn’t sure how much I was going to use my membership.  However, I have found that my preschooler really enjoys having pages to color and work to complete. I ended up using the CHSH Download Club quite a bit to find worksheets and activities for her to do while my older boys were doing their own school work.

It was really easy to find work for her.  First I went into the preschool section and found a few topics that I thought would interest her.  She loved coloring a picture of the planets in the solar system as she listened to the boys do a lesson from their astronomy course.  She was also excited to create her own “All About Me” book.

CHSH Collage
Then I went into the section listing files by months to find seasonal activities to keep her busy this fall.  I’ve printed out several sets of worksheets to use over the next few months.  Some I’ll just let her write on.  Others I’ll put in sheet protectors in a notebook for her to do over and over with dry erase markers and then save them for my younger children.  (All the files are in full color, but most of them I decided to save money on by printing in black and white.)

CHSH Printed Collage

Final Thoughts

It was really handy to have one place where I could find so many pages for Arianna.  I love the idea of the CHSH Download Club, where homeschool families can share ideas, and I look forward to seeing it grow.  There are already so many pages available, and if more members add files, it could be an even more helpful resource for homeschool families.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
Crew Disclaimer

New Edition of Apologia’s Astronomy for Elementary Grades (Crew Review)

Review Apologia Astronomy
When I first started our homeschool journey, the one curriculum I heard praised over and over was the elementary science series by Jeannie Fulbright published by Apologia Educational Ministries.  I was eager to get started with it as soon as possible, so when Ian was in Kindergarten I jumped into the book on astronomy.  However, it proved to be a bit much for him at that age, so we stopped partway through the book.  Several times I’ve considered picking it up again, and Ian has asked when we were going to finish it, but the time never seemed quite right until now.  Apologia just came out with Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition, and I was eager to dive back in and see what changes had been made.

About Exploring Creation With Astronomy, 2nd Ed.

We received the following:

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review
The Exploring Creation series is unabashedly Christian.  Each chapter of Exploring Creation With Astronomy features Bible verses and discussion about how God designed the universe.  Fulbright also makes a point of sharing information that refutes claims by secular scientists that do not line up with biblical truth.  For example, in the chapter on the sun, she points out that if the earth were actually billions of years old, the sun would have been so dim or faint at that time it could not have provided enough warmth for life.

Each chapter contains text, pictures, activities, “Think About This” sections which expound upon the text, and questions to prompt the students in narrating back what they have learned.  The activites are usually fairly simple and utililize items that are easy to obtain (or you might already have lying around the house).  For example, to demonstrate how the moon reflects the suns light rather than being a source of light itself, the book had us use a CD to create a reflection.  The boys loved moving the CD around and watching the reflection dance around the room!

reflection activity
Both notebooking journals provide daily lesson plans with checklists of what should be completed each day.  There are 72 days’ worth of lessons in this schedule, so if you do 2 lessons a week, you can get through the book over the course of one school year (36 weeks).  Though these suggestions are helpful, of course you can choose a pace that works best for your family.

daily schedule
Most of the pages in the two notebooks contain the exact same activities, with a few minor differences.  The lines given for writing in the junior notebook are wider spaced and have a dotted middle line to make it easier for younger students to form letters correctly.  Also, on the crossword puzzles, the first letter of each word is filled in to give the younger students a head start.  Finally, at the end of each lesson, the older students’ notebook has a page with questions for them to write what they remember, as well as a place to record their favorite part of the lesson, whereas the junior notebook has two coloring pages instead.

notebooking page
The audiobook breaks down each lesson into separate components, following the sections listed in the daily lesson plans.  The book is read by the author, Jeannie Fulbright, who really brings each lesson to life with her pleasant, friendly voice.  The conversational tone of the written book becomes even more casual as she reads, making it feel like you’re just listening to a friend explain a fascinating concept.  The instructions for the activities are NOT read; the audiobook simply tells the listeners they can now complete the activity on a given page in the textbook.

Comparing the 1st and 2nd Editions

Right off the bat, I could see some differences between the old edition and the new.  The 2nd edition textbook has more pictures and less text on each page.  Activities are more set apart from the text visually.

compare Astronomy editions
The notebooks are now full color on every page, rather than just the mini-books. In the old notebook, the parts to cut out for booklets (similar to lapbook components) were all at the back of the book, but now they are right in order with the other lesson pages.

There is also now a complementary Apologia Astronomy Science Kit, which has the materials needed to complete most of the 42 activities in the text, as well as 21 additional bonus activities.  We did not receive this kit, so I can’t speak to its contents, but it sounds like an easy way to do the activities without having to gather materials, as well as being a great resource for students who want to go even deeper in their study.

Our Experience

Because we had already covered the first few lessons the first time we used this curriculum, I decided to cruise rather quickly through the first part of the book without doing most of the activities.  We listened to the audiobook in the car (best to do with the book in hand, since the author refers to many of the pictures as she reads).  The audiobook is a fantastic addition, and I found it was helpful to use on a regular basis.  Ian is a strong auditory learner, and he did really well listening as he jotted down notes and drew illustrations in his notebook.  This alone made we want to come back to Apologia.  Ian could go through this course almost independently thanks to the audiobook.  (I don’t know if they had one with the first edition or not, but from now on I will make sure I get one when it’s available!)

As we listened to the audio book I followed along in the old edition to see what changes had been made, and there are several things I absolutely LOVE about the new edition.  The main reason we had abandoned the first edition back when Ian was six was because it was just too wordy for him.  In the new edition, almost every paragraph has seen cuts and is much more concise.  Before, I felt a little overwhelmed at how much I needed to read with Ian each day to keep on pace to finish the book in a year.  This time I was actually surprised at how quickly we got through each day’s lesson.  Yes, he’s older now, but I would feel much more comfortable using this with a Kindergartener now.  (Though there’s so much “meat” in the book, it really is a quality curriculum for all the way through the elementary grades.)

I like the new breakdown of lessons into daily schedules (provided in the notebooking journals, not the textbook).  Although the old notebook did this to some extent, the new format is much easier to follow and check off each activity as it is completed.

mini bookWe didn’t do all the activities in the notebook (we skipped the copywork because my boys are already doing other copywork and they find it tedious), but we did enjoy the other pages.  I especially liked the “mini-books,” which are like lapbook components that the students cut out, write in, assemble, and then attach to pages within their notebook so when the student has finished the course they will have an extensive collection of work all in one spiral bound book.  Having the pages in order in the new edition got my boys excited as they saw what was coming up, and these were a wonderful way to keep them learning while giving them something active to do.

Final Thoughts

Apologia has taken a good curriculum and made it even better!  The newly designed pages draw the students in without overwhelming them, and the colorful, eye-catching notebooks help them get the most out of each lesson in a fun, creative way.  We’re looking forward to spending more time in Exploring Creation With Astronomy, and there’s a good chance we’ll be coming back to this series to learn about other science topics as well.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wrapping Up Week 8 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
This was a week for making memories, which meant school was pared down to just the basics, and we focused on time with family.  Grandma and Grandpa met us at the beach one day helped the kids boogie board, collect shells, dig in the sand, and jump waves.  I have to admit, it was tempting to just stay home and crank out school work since I already had big plans for later in the week, but I know we won’t always have the grandparents around, and I want to be sure my kids get as much time with them as possible.  We had a great day, and I was glad we’d made the effort to get everyone down there for a few hours.

Ian and Elijah attended a two-day music camp to focus on reading music and improving their skills playing with a handchime choir, so on one of those days I took the preschoolers to Disneyland to have a special time with just them.  Then Daddy and I took the big boys together a few days later to do the “big kid” rides and things that would interest them.  Splitting it up gave everyone a chance to do what they wanted, and we had a wonderful time making memories with the kids.

Memory Week Collage
During the days we were home, the boys got through the math, spelling, and Bible they needed to do for the entire week, and I gave them just a couple days’ worth of grammar so they can split one week of work over two. (Since we’ve got a couple days planned out of town with our other grandpa during which I’d like to keep schoolwork to a minimum.)  They also did one key word outline from All Things Fun and Fascinating since we started it late and I’d like to try to get all the way through it before we finish our school year.

History

Image result for liberty's kidsThe one subject I did actually spend some time on was history, mostly because I was eager to dive into the next chapter of The Light and the Glory for Children.  In “No King But King Jesus” we read about the tension that built between the colonists and the English monarchs over several generations.  After reading about the Boston Tea party, we watched the first episode of Liberty’s Kids.  There are 40 episodes altogether, which I’ve scheduled to watch as they correlate with our reading over the next few months.  (My kids have watched part of the series before and loved it, but this time I want to be more intentional about really getting the most out of the historically accurate parts of each episode.)  I love studying the history of our country with my kids!

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Wrapping Up Week 7 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
 Now that others around us are starting to go back to school, we’re getting a taste for what our school year is going to be like.  This week we had our first real Classical Conversations morning, with Ian, Elijah, and Arianna all off in their own Ian at CCclasses and me tutoring a group of 4th grade “Journeymen.”  For the most part it went really well.  I’d forgotten how much I enjoy teaching, and I’ve got a great group of kids to tutor this year.  At the end of the day, my own kids were all smiles and excited about the mornings they had had with their tutors, so we’re off to a good start, and I look forward to seeing where this year takes all of us.

I also got to meet with the moms from our homeschool support group, and I’m looking forward to a year of encouragement, support, and fellowship with these awesome women of God.  We’ll be doing field trips, park days, and holiday celebrations (plus a monthly Mom’s Night Out) with these families, so I definitely don’t have concerns about “socialization.”  (Do any homeschoolers actually worry about it?  It seems like the only people who think it’s an issue are people who don’t homeschool.)

We’re still a couple weeks away from starting up our Friday music classes, and I’m also weighing whether I can squeeze in a weekly women’s Bible study, which would start in a few weeks.  There’s a homeschool room that would allow the boys to get some work done while I’m taking care of feeding my own soul, so we wouldn’t lose the morning.  My only hesitation is that it means we’d be out of the house for something every weekday, and I love being at home.  I’ll be praying about this decision.  I’m not sure what would be better for my spiritual well-being: a quiet morning at home or a time to worship and discuss the Bible at church.  Hmmm…

Enough rambling… here’s what we did this week.

Classical Conversations

Cycle 2: Week 1

As I’ve said before, this is kind of a trial year for us with CC.  I’m not willing to set aside the curriculum/style that’s been working for us, just in case we decide it’s not a good fit for our family, so I don’t plan on doing a whole lot of extras related to what we’re learning at CC.  (I realize that 6 months from now I may be kicking myself or laughing at my attempt to avoid the inevitable.)

And this week I just couldn’t resist doing at least a little to go along with our memory work.  If we have things at hand and the kids are interested, I figure I should take advantage of that.

I had printed a page from CC Connected that had pictures from Schoolhouse Rock to illustrate the 8 parts of speech for our memory work bulletin board, so of course Ian wanted to know what those were from.  I found several Schoolhouse Rock grammar videos that helped the kids learn more than just the list of terms.

Schoolhouse Rock

We also read about some of the continents in a series called Our Amazing Continents.  (I have all the books except the one on North America, and I just let the kids choose what they wanted to find out more about.)

Continents books
Finally, we read The Elephant from Baghdad, a picture book about Charlemagne.

Elementary

As usual, now that we’re getting into the swing of things at home, I’m tweaking my plans a a little bit.  Our focus on biographies is turning out to be a bigger blessing than I had anticipated.  I love learning about these inspiring men and women of faith, and my kids have responded positively as well, so I’ve decided to just enjoy them, rather than making them the focus of our writing.

History/Biography

john wesley_zpsuzhewumnSo this week (which was supposed to be a “writing” week), I decided to thrown in a quick look at John Wesley, since he was a friend of George Whitefield, whom we read about in The Light and the Glory for Children as we learned about the Great Awakening.  The only book I have on Wesley is for older kids, so we stuck with a video.  We had watched Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story last year for a review (it’s available for free streaming for Amazon Prime members, though then you don’t get to see the documentary that comes on the DVD), but I figured no one would mind watching it again.  Now that we had some historical context, I think we all got even more about of the story, and I especially appreciated the emphasis on grace over trying to earn salvation through good works, which I think can be a hard concept for children growing up in Christian families.

Writing

IEW outlineI really want the boys to keep building upon what they learned in their writing class last year, so when a friend mentioned that she wasn’t going to use the IEW book she had bought for her children to go through this year, I decided to take it off her hands and make that the basis for our writing program this year.  We jumped right into All Things Fun and Fascinating this week, and I was impressed with how quickly the boys were able to complete the first key word outline.  I’m hoping that between this book and their daily work in Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree (Book 1), Ian will be more than ready to start the Essentials program next year if we decide to stay with Classical Conversations.

For spelling practice, the boys are both working through Wordy Qwerty from Talking Fingers, Inc. and the spelling activities in Essential Skills Advantage, spending two days a week on each.  I decided I also want to start being a little more systematic about helping Ian develop his spelling skills, so we’re trying out Sequential Spelling.  (I’ll have him do this instead of ESA.)  Several people had recommended it in an online discussion I was following, and the DVD-ROM of video lessons was quite affordable on Amazon, so I figured it was worth trying.  My first impression was pretty positive.  It’s definitely not a “fun” program like I’ve been letting Ian play around on, but I saw him grasping new concepts even within the first three lessons, so I’m optimistic.  I’ll give a more thorough review in a few weeks.

Upcoming Reviews

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