Author Archives: Deanna

“Roadschooling” Around Flagstaff, Arizona

I have dreams of being a “roadschooling” family, hopping in an RV and flitting around the country educating our children as we visit amazing places.  Alas, my husband’s job (which, thankfully, he loves) isn’t the kind that can be done remotely, so the chances of us becoming full-time roadschoolers are pretty slim.

We do the best we can, however, to take advantage of learning opportunities whenever we do manage to get away, and we recently had one of my favorite trips ever.  We were headed to Flagstaff, Arizona for a car show in which my husband’s family was participating, and we decided to take a few extra days to explore the area.  Thanks to our 4th grader, we even got into the National Parks for free!  Here are some of the places we visited during our week in Flagstaff.

Grand Canyon National Park

The one thing we knew we wanted to do as soon as we started planning this trip was visiting the Grand Canyon.  I actually decided to spend our whole year studying geology just because I knew we’d want to know what we were seeing.

So much of the information out there about the Grand Canyon tries to explain its formation from a secular worldview, and I knew that as we walked through the park, the information being thrown at the kids would similarly attempt to discuss its history without considering the Bible’s account of the early years of the earth and the catastrophic impact of the Flood of Noah’s day.  Therefore we spent some time as a family learning about what scientists with a biblical worldview say about the history of the Grand Canyon.

Here are some of the resources we used before and during our trip.

Preparation:

My husband and I also watched a few videos on our own so we could be prepared to answer some of the kids questions.  (Older kids could learn a lot from these, but I don’t think my kids could sit through them very well yet.)

Our visit

We decided to add a little extra fun to this excursion by taking the train. Grand Canyon Railway takes you 60 miles from the town of Williams (about 35 miles from Flagstaff) to the South Rim of the canyon.  The scheduled departure for the return trip left us about three and half hours to explore.  I would have liked more on my own, but that was just about the perfect amount of time for my kids.

We walked along the rim enjoying the scenic views, ate lunch at one of the lodges, then enjoyed the Native American dance presentation at Hopi House before heading back.

       

Slide Rock State Park

Okay, so this was more about fun, but the drive down to Sedona and this whole area has some amazing geological features as well.  We were there at the end of September, so the crowds were less than what I’ve heard it can be in the summer.  The water was still really cold, but we had a great time!

Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest National Park

East of Flagstaff are two great educational spots to visit.  Meteor Crater has a great visitor center to learn more about meteors in general and this site in particular.

Nearby, the Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park is like no place I’ve ever been.  It was unbelievable beautiful, and the kids could tell right away that the area was formed by volcanic activity.

Preparation:

  • Awesome Science: Explore Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest National Park (streaming or DVD)
  • study meteorites

Our visit

We did both of these in one day, but we probably could have spent the whole day driving around Petrified Forest National Park and spending time in the visitor centers.  There were several places you could stop and get out to walk around and see the petrified logs.

Montezuma Castle National Park

That 4th Grader’s National Park Pass came in handy again on the day we went to see some of the Native American ruins down south of Sedona at Montezuma Castle National Park.  The museum and trail signs gave a lot of information about the people who once lived here.  There’s also a second location that is a part of this park (Montezuma Well), but we had some little ones ready for a nap and decided to head back up to Flagstaff without stopping for that.

Walnut Canyon National Park

My husband took the older boys off to explore more Native American ruins one day while the little ones and I stayed home.  After hearing his report, I’m glad we did since he said there were a lot of stairs that wouldn’t have been fun babies to wear or carry.  I’m glad they got to go, and this site was special because they were actually able to go into some of the ruins.

Lowell Observatory

Our trip to the Lowell Observatory one evening was the highlight of the trip for Arianna. It was my first time visiting an observatory at night, and we loved getting to look through some of their enormous telescopes to see things like the rings of Saturn, as well as listening to a presentation about the constellations visible at that time.

This is the place where Pluto was first discovered!  There is a whole room about it, which the older kids and adults found fascinating.  There is also a fabulous “SpaceGuard Academy” exhibit for kids that was a major hit with our family.  We were literally the last ones to leave the observatory when they closed that night because my children wanted to stay in that exhibit longer.

Superstition Mountain Museum

Okay, so our final stop for the week was not exactly near Flagstaff, but Ian was begging to go, so we made a little detour on the way home to visit Superstition Mountain, which is east of Phoenix.  One of his favorite books is Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach.  He has checked the audiobook out from our library multiple times, and he liked it so much he was even willing to read the second book in the series since there was no audio version available.

This little town has a fascinating history, and Ian was astounded as we went through the museum and he realized how much of those books was based on true events and real people who have lived there.  Our whole family enjoyed walking around the museum area, and I bought all three books in that series for our family library as a souvenir.  Someday I hope we can go back and spend a day on the Apache Trail, which is supposed to be a beautiful scenic drive.

And that was our week of roadschooling around Flagstaff.  If you’ve visited other great sites around Flagstaff, please share in the comments!

Veritas Press Courses are on Sale!

At the Back-to-School picnic with our homeschool support group on Sunday, one of the dads asked Eli about his favorite subject.  It only took a second for him to decide.

“History!”

We are now starting our third year using a Veritas Press Self-Paced History Course (we’ve made it to the 1815-the Present course!), and the boys still enjoy it as much as they did when we first discovered these fantastic programs.  They love the review games that make it feel like they’re playing video games for school, and I love how much they are learning in process.  Win-win!

If you’re looking for something your kids can do independently for history, I highly recommend these Veritas Press courses. They even have recommended literature to along with the online portion, with the books broken down into daily assignments to help students know what they should be reading that after they complete their lesson. (We like to do these as family read-alouds.)

We’ve also done two of the Bible courses and they were equally well done. All the self-paced online course are on sale right now, so it’s a great time to check them out!

Kwik Stix are now available at all BJ’s Wholesale Clubs!

I’ve mentioned before how much we love Kwik Stix for coloring. You get the bold, bright colors of tempera paint with ease of crayons or markers (and without the mess of regular paint). Now you can buy them at BJ’s Wholesale Clubs!  (They are also available on Amazon or at Toys R Us.)  All my kids enjoy using them, especially my 3-7 year olds.

These would make a great gift, and the smaller sets could even be stocking stuffers.  I know we’re still a few months away from Christmas, but I like to spread out the expense of gifts over a few months, so it’s about time to start thinking about these things!

What We’re Using for School This Year – Kindergarten, (2nd) and 4th grade

I know I’m not blogging much these days (really enjoying the time with our sweet little Clara, who is almost 4 months old already), but I wanted to at least share what we’re using for school this year. (We’ve been back to school for almost seven weeks now).  As my kids get older I feel like I’m “fine-tuning” our curricular choices to fit them better, so I wanted to share a little about why we’ve ended up with various items this year in hopes it might be helpful to others.  (I’ve read through tons of reviews and blogs to help me come up with things to fit our needs, so I’m guessing others do that too!)

Kindergarten

Let me start with Arianna, who is beginning Kindergarten.  Being the third child, she has it a lot easier than poor Ian did back when I planned (and revised) his Kindergarten year.  She does daily computer lessons on Reading Eggs and Math Seeds, goes through a page in A Reason For Handwriting – A, and then is working through Outdoors and In, the second book in the old Harper & Row Basic Reading Program. (Seriously old school–from the ’60s. I learned to read on these and my mom used them in her Kindergarten classroom for 30 years!)  She also tags along for some parts of Bible, literature, and art with the older boys, but other than that, she just plays and learns as she goes about normal life.

4th (and 2nd) Grade

As far as the boys, they are doing almost all their schoolwork together, mostly at the 4th grade level.  Ian is “officially” 4th grade this year, and since Elijah (technically in 2nd age-wise) can keep up with him academically on pretty much everything, it’s easiest to just teach them together.  Here’s what we are doing:

Bible

Bible Road Trip – Year Three and complementary videos

We are reading through the entire New Testament, following the schedule from Bible Road Trip, as well as some of its suggestions for additional study.  I printed out all the notebooking pages and had them spiral-bound, but I wouldn’t do that again because we’re not using every page, and we can’t add in maps and such.  Still, I really like what notebooking is doing for the boys as far as helping them process and absorb what we have read. Ian is also reading the Upper Grammar literature suggestions, all set during the time of Jesus and the early church.

 

The curriculum suggests using the videos from the What’s in the Bible? With Buck Denver series, which we love. Additionally, because we have all the Animated Stories from the New Testament videos from Nest Entertainment, I went through and jotted down which weeks they correspond with, and we are watching those during lunch time so our younger kids can enjoy them as well.

History 

Veritas Press Self-Paced Online Courses

The boys are finishing up the Veritas Press Self-Paced Online Course on the Explorers through 1815, which they wanted to do as a supplement to our family study last year.  Then in September they will start the final course from 1815 to Modern Times.  History is one of my favorite subjects, but since I am trying to be more hands-off this year, I am doing my best to let go and just let these courses be enough.  (Well, kind of.  See Literature below.)

Math

Teaching Textbooks – Math 5

This will be Ian’s third year and Elijah’s second using Teaching Textbooks.  I can’t say enough about this program.  The boys enjoy their lessons, they learn well and get lots of review, and all the grading is done for me.  I’d say they are about 95% independent in completing their math, just needing me occasionally to help explain something they don’t understand.  This was one subject I didn’t have to think about at all when choosing what to do this year.

Writing

Student Writing Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing

Two years ago, my boys were a part of a class that went through IEW’s Fable, Myths, and Fairy Tales writing lessons.  Then last year at home we went through All Things Fun & Fascinating, and I saw them continue to grow as writers.  I hated to see them lose ground this year, but I wasn’t really up to leading them through another book on my own while adjusting to another baby at home.  Then I realized I had the materials for the Student Writing Intensive – Level A, which is essentially a writing class on DVD.  We are really enjoying watching the lessons taught by Andrew Pudewa, and it is great review of the concepts the boys of already learned in their previous IEW lessons.  I am having them write the papers that are outlined or discussed on the DVD, but we are not doing any of the extra writing assignments (at least not at this point) because so far the boys are doing a great job of applying the concepts and my goal is to keep this year as light as possible.

Grammar

Fix-it! Grammar Book 2 (Robin Hood) from IEW

I really was trying to plan a minimal workload for school this year, but the boys learned so much from their Fix-it! book last year with just a short amount of time each day (done almost completely independently) that I decided to continue with the second book in the series.  We don’t do the grammar cards or the vocabulary list, which maybe I’ll regret at some point, but I mainly want them to keep the grammar concepts they learned last year fresh in their minds, so this is an easy way to accomplish that (while adding to it, of course).

Literature

Little House series, Chronicles of Narnia, and historical fiction selections

 

We are about halfway through the second book in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I hope to get through as much of the series as we can complete by Christmas.  When we come back after New Years I want to start going through the Chronicles of Narnia.

I also have several of the suggested literature suggestions for their Veritas Press history course (and a few historical selections of my own), which I may have the boys read independently, or else we’ll use them to break up our read-alouds when we need some variety.

Science

Geology Study

I wasn’t really planning to do much with science this year until we planned a trip to the Grand Canyon for this fall.  There is so much to learn about the Flood and how it impacted the earth, and the canyon is a fabulous place to observe some of those effects.  I have planned our year around various geology videos, particularly the Awesome Science DVD series that takes a look at several National Parks, hosted by a teenager, Noah Justice. The first six episodes have study guides which I have printed out (available as downloads from Answers in Genesis–I got them free on sale), though I’m not sure how much of them I will end up using.

We are also working through some of the Classical Conversations Cycle 1 science sentences (since we’ve never done Cycle 1 and they apply to what we’re studying) and will probably do most of Cycle 3 as well, since that’s what CC communities around the world are working through this year.

Art

Art Class DVDs

Arianna LOVES art, and I had all three older kids take free trial lesson at a local art school to see if lessons might be a good idea.  However, the lessons were really expensive, and Arianna didn’t quite have the attention span to sit through a 90-minute lesson.  Still, I wanted to give her some sort of instruction to help her develop her gifts, so I looked into a few options.  When I came across the Art Class lessons from See the Light, I knew I had found what I was looking for.  All the instruction is on DVD. (Do you see a theme this year? I am so thankful for all the video resources out there!) The kids are REALLY enjoying the lessons.  We do art once a week, and they look forward to it and beg to do the next lesson out the week in between.  (Sometimes we even do two in one session because they want to keep going.)

Spelling

Phonetic Zoo

Ian started making some progress last year using Sequential Spelling, but he was still behind in spelling and I felt he really needed a little bit more instruction than that program offered.  He is extremely auditory, and I wanted to find something specifically geared toward auditory learners.  After watching Andrew Pudewa’s seminar on Spelling and the Brain for the second time (I watched it last year when I first started getting concerned about Ian’s spelling struggle), I decided to take a break from Sequential Spelling and try IEW’s Phonetic Zoo.  We’ve only been using it for three weeks, so I can’t say much about it yet, but I am hopeful about how it might help Ian.

Other

Elijah is blessed with a natural gift for spelling, so I am not having him do any structured program at all. Instead, I am working with him on reading with expression (something Ian does very naturally but Elijah does not).  We are going through Shel Silverstein’s poetry in Where the Sidewalk Ends, taking turns reading the poems as expressively as possible.  He is also having fun getting back into Spanish on Duolingo.

So that’s what our year looks like!  Hope it gives you some ideas if you’re still trying to figure out what to do for your family this year.  Blessings.

 

Bible Verse and Hand Prints for Father’s Day

Yesterday I posted a picture of our Father’s Day present, which the kids and I made using their footprints.  Today I made a matching picture using their hand prints.  I’m considering it a belated Mother’s Day gift to myself, even though we’ll be giving it to Daddy with the other one.

Let me just say, it is a LOT easier to do footprints with a baby and toddler!  I had to wipe Clara’s tiny hand prints off at least four or five times before I got them looking like this, which was far from perfect.  Still, I figured it was about as good as I could get, so I decided to keep these.  If anyone knows any tricks for getting good baby hand prints, please share in the comments!

 

Bible Verse and Footprints for Father’s Day

I haven’t been posting a lot lately as I’ve been trying to savor this last newborn experience with our sweet little Clara, but I wanted to post a picture of our Father’s Day present in case anyone feels inspired to make something similar for their family.

I’ve been wanting to find a way to capture all our children’s footprints in art now that we’re almost certain our family is complete, and I knew I wanted to incorporate a Bible verse.  After finding some canvases at Hobby Lobby, I picked out the verse from several I’d been mulling over, sketched out a few layouts I thought might work, and then set to work using the acrylic paints I had at home.  It kind of took shape on its own as I laid down the background and then tried to squeeze all six children’s footprints in as planned, but overall I’m pleased with how it turned out.

P.S.  Here’s the matching picture I did with hand prints the next day (much harder than footprints with a baby and toddler!):

Princess Prayers (Book Review)

We recently got a chance to review a new book, Princess Prayers by Crystal Bowman (inspired by Jeanna Young and Jacqueline Johnson).  This sweet, colorful board book with a padded cover is a great way to introduce little girls to the idea of praying throughout the day.  Each page features a simple rhyming prayer related to different parts of one’s day, followed by a related Bible verse.  The book starts with a prayer for first thing in the morning upon wakening and ends with “my nighttime prayer.”  In between, the prayers cover various topics like thankfulness, appreciating the beauty of God’s creation, trusting God when we feel afraid, and acknowledging God’s love and care.

This book is designed to draw in “girly-girls”.  From the hot pink spine, glittery cover, and fun illustrations featuring the characters from the Princess Parables series by Jeanna Young and Jacqueline Johnson, there is much that appeals to little girls like my 5-year old daughter.  The rhyming text by Crystal Bowman doesn’t refer to the characters at all, however, so even girls unfamiliar with the series can enjoy the prayers without feeling like they’re missing something.

Overall, there is much to love about this charming book of prayers.  My one criticism would be that tying it to the Princess Parables series results in a glaring lack of diversity.  (The series is about five sisters, so it makes sense that they all look fairly alike, but I wish there was more of an effort to show princesses from different ethnic backgrounds, especially in a book like this that doesn’t have a story about the family.)  However, aside from this issue, I recommend the book for anyone considering it for a little girl who enjoys colorful pictures, rhyming text, and of course, anything related to princesses.

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Kwik Stix GIVEAWAY!

A while back I wrote a review of Kwik Stix Tempera Paint Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc. They were a big hit with my kids, but unlike many products, Kwik Stix were not just a passing fad in our house.  They want to get them out on a regular basis, and we’ve actually used up our first set and need to purchase more.  And we have a new option, as Kwik Stix are now available to purchase at toysrus.com!

To celebrate this new partnership, The Pencil Grip, Inc. has generously offered to send a set to one of my readers.  Enter the giveaway below to win your own set of Kwik Stix!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jesus Storybook Bible Gift Edition (Book Review)

Chances are, if you’re the type of person drawn to my blog, you’ve already heard of The Jesus Storybook Bible.  This popular children’s book by Sally Lloyd-Jones is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with a new keepsake gift edition, which our family was blessed to receive in exchange for this review.

Although I’ve heard effusive praise from many people for this Bible storybook over those ten years, I’ve hesitated to get a copy for our family until now because of specific issues I’d read about in other reviews, though I love the overall idea of the book.  Now being able to read the entire thing for myself, I love its ultimate purpose even more.  In retelling these popular stories from the Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones carefully and intentionally shows how each one points to God’s plan for salvation through Jesus.  “Every story whispers his name,” the title page proclaims, and Lloyd-Jones is diligent in revealing the connection to Jesus in each and every one, whether retelling Old Testament history, summarizing the message of one of the prophets, or presenting events from the life of Jesus Himself.  Each story can be read individually and ends with a paragraph or two that points to God’s “Secret Rescue Plan” or the “Promised One.”

I think it is crucial for all believers to understand the Bible as more than a series of disconnected stories, and so I applaud Lloyd-Jones for the charming way in which she presents the overarching story of salvation in a way even children can grasp.  However, the reservations that have held me back from using The Jesus Storybook Bible with my children remain, and there are certain stories I will most likely skip or edit when I choose to incorporate it into our family discipleship.

There are two main issues that trouble me.  First (and most disturbing to me), is the presentation of the Fall of mankind.  Rather than the problem being that Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s direct command, Lloyd-Jones presents the trouble as them believing “the terrible lie” that “God doesn’t love me.”  While I appreciate her description of the consequences of the Fall (“God’s creation would start to unravel, and come undone, and go wrong.  From now on everything would die–even though it was all supposed to last forever“), I want my children to know that the reason evil, sadness, and death exist in the world is because Adam and Eve made a choice to disobey God and trust their own wisdom rather than His instruction.  Reducing the Fall to them believing a terrible lie about God’s love (reiterated later when Jesus appears to the disciples after the Resurrection and commands them, “Tell them I love them so much that I died for them.  It’s the Truth that overcomes the terrible lie.“) misses a major theological point.

The other issue I have is that a great deal of license is taken with some of the stories that end up presenting an interpretation that is not necessarily in line with the biblical text. For example, when the Bible describes man being made in God’s image, I have always been taught that implies much more than a physical resemblance, but Lloyd-Jones has God stating, “You look like me,” like a proud father admiring family traits in his offspring. The Bible says that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah.  Lloyd-Jones tells her readers this is because Rachel was beautiful and Leah was ugly (whereas the Bible just says Leah had “weak eyes”).  In the story of Daniel, Jago’s illustration shows a lion lounging across Daniel’s lap, going beyond the Bible’s description of an angel closing the lion’s mouth.  When the magi come to visit the young Jesus, the Bible doesn’t specify how many there were, but Lloyd-Jones chooses to say there were three wise men, following tradition rather than Scripture.  The interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer strays a little farther than I am comfortable with, though that’s more a matter of personal taste.  I am grateful for the Bible references given for each story, and I would encourage parents to read (or reread) the Scriptures before sharing these stories so they can guide their children as far as knowing what’s actually a part of the Bible and what the author added or adapted in her retelling.

Overall, however, my impression of the book is mostly positive.  Lloyd-Jones’ poetic writing style makes The Jesus Storybook Bible far more pleasant to read than many children’s Bibles.  I loved this paragraph in the story about Noah and the Flood:

“The story was going to wash away all the hate and sadness and everything that had gone wrong, and make the world clean again.  God had thought up a way to keep Noah safe, but Noah would have to trust God and do exactly what God told him.”

This isn’t a storybook for toddlers or even most preschoolers, but I think most children from age 5 or 6 on up would enjoy listening to the stories and looking at the pictures.  The illustrations by Jago are quite distinctive.  I wasn’t sure I cared for them at first, but they grew on me, though I had issues with a few of them.  For example, none of the pictures of Jesus after his Resurrection show marks from the nails in His hands or wrists, even though the Bible is very clear that such wounds existed.

So did I change my mind?  Yes and no.  There is so much to love about The Jesus Storybook Bible, and I would hate to miss out on those aspects because of the issues I have discussed.  The introduction in particular is outstanding and a solid resource for introducing the idea of an overarching story of God’s “Rescue Plan” to children.  I plan to read the majority of it with our family, but I will definitely supplement it with readings from other Bible storybooks or Scripture itself.  In addition to the stories that contained too many liberties in their interpretation for my taste, Lloyd-Jones leaves such well-known and beloved stories as those Moses as a baby and Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace.  However, she also includes things often left out of children’s Bibles, like the story of Naaman and a summary of Isaiah’s prophecies.  Overall, children reading (or listening to) The Jesus Storybook Bible will come away with a better understanding of how every story in the Bible tells the message of God’s love and how much He cherishes relationship with the people He has created.  For that reason, I think discerning families will be blessed by reading and discussing it together.

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Wrapping Up Weeks 28-29 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
Hmm… it’s looking like I should be calling these “bi-weekly wrap-ups.”  Between a week off, Ian’s birthday and some sickness running through my little ones, it didn’t even occur to me until a couple days ago that I hadn’t written in a while.  And really, there hasn’t been that much to write about.  We started reading Heidi, by Johanna Spyri (using the translation by Helen Dole, which I highly recommend).  This is one of my favorite children’s books, but I’ve held off on it for a year or so, unsure how the boys would respond.  So far they seem to be enjoying it.

For history, we’ve continued reading several chapters in From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers, moving into the years when slavery became such a divisive issue.  We’ve talked about the subject before, particularly during our time studying the Underground Railroad, so I didn’t pull in a lot of outside resources.  I did read Who Owns the Sun? by Stacy Chbosky, a Five in a Row book we hadn’t used before.  I’m glad I saved it until the boys were a little older, because it is such a rich text and a beautiful way of helping children process the injustice of slavery.

We’re still tackling biographies regularly, though the boys pretty much went through those on their own over the last couple weeks.  They read about Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton, as well as watching the Torchlighters DVD (both the animated story and the documentary) about William Booth.

      
In our IEW lessons in All Things Fun and Fascinating, we moved onto the next unit, on writing from multiple sources.  I continue to be impressed by how much the boys have learned through their IEW class last year and now the lessons at home this year.  It seems like every week they are able to do a little more on their own, and they are starting to really think like writers, which is a huge blessing to this former classroom teacher who always felt at a loss when it came to helping children learn how to write well.

Of course, the boys continued plugging away in all their other subjects, but there wasn’t anything specific to take note of, so I think I’ll leave it here.

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