Author Archives: Deanna

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.

Wrapping Up Week 26-27 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
Like many of my friends across the country, our family got hit with a nasty bug last week.  Only my husband escaped it completely, though thankfully I never had the high fevers all five of my kids got.  It took about ten days for it to work it’s way through everyone, so we stayed home and took it easy for most of that week.  Thankfully, we were able to get in most of the school work I had scheduled, so we’re still on track to (hopefully) finish our year before the baby arrives.

I was especially thankful for the computer work the boys were able to do on their own while I was sick or while I was taking care of the other children.  They were able to get through a lot of work independently thanks to their Veritas Press Self-Paced Courses (history and Bible), Teaching Textbooks 4,  XtraMath.org.  Actually, they’re pretty self-sufficient with other things too.  Ian did all his work in The God Puzzle by Valerie Ackermann on his own, and they needed very little from me to go through their Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree (Book 1) and Sequential Spelling.  Sometimes I almost feel guilty for how much they do independently, but then I remember that Arianna will be officially starting Kindergarten next year and I’ll be schooling three kids, and I get over that feeling pretty quickly.

Together we finished lessons 14 and 15 in All Things Fun and Fascinating for writing. In last year’s IEW course the unit on writing a story from a series of pictures was a little frustrating for them because they still really relied on the structure of writing from a source text. This time around they seemed to enjoy the flexibility of this unit, and it was fun to see their growth in this area.

Here’s what else we worked on together over the past couple weeks:

History

We finished reading about the War of 1812 in From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers and then spent the rest of our history time digging a little deeper with the following resources.

Books

We read several picture books about different events from the War of 1812.

Dolley Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown tells the story of the First Lady saving a cherished portrait of America’s first President when the British burned the original White House and much of Washington, D.C.

The Town That Fooled the British (from the Tales of Young Americans series) by Lisa Papp is about the town of St. Michaels, Maryland, which avoided destruction by British cannons when they hung lanterns in the trees to disguise the true location of the buildings.  We also read a similar fictionalization of the same event called The Boy Who Saved The Town by Brenda Seabrooke, but I preferred Papp’s book for two reasons.  First, the illustrations by Robert Papp are beautiful, and I just loved admiring them throughout the book.  Secondly, the main character in Seabrooke’s story isn’t quick to obey his parents but rather tries to argue with them when they ask him to do something.  It isn’t something we encourage in our family and I felt like the boy in Papp’s story showed better character.

Finally, we read By the Dawn’s Early Light by Steven Kroll.  It tells the story of Francis Scott Key witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry, which led him to write the lyrics to what later became our national anthem. I especially loved the illustrations by Dan Andreasen (and went running to verify that he had also illustrated the Felicity books from the American Girl series because his style was so recognizable).  Another book about this story that’s good for kids to read on their own is Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner by Monica Kulling.

I also bought a used copy of Mr. Madison’s War: Causes and Effects of the War of 1812 by Kassandra Radomski, but I decided to hold off on it until my kids are older.  It’s not a “living book” like the previous ones I’ve mentioned, just a non-fiction book about the war.  I’m going to keep it so the boys can go a little deeper the next time we cover this history cycle (Elijah will be in 5th grade, which would be a better fit), but I saw no need to spend time with it now.

      
      
Videos

While we were sick, I went searching for videos we could watch on the War of 1812.  I found two on Amazon Instant Video (both free to watch with Prime).  Anthem: The Story Behind the Star-Spangled Banner focused on the history of the song, from the tune’s roots as a British club song to embellishments in the melody that later became standard practice.  As a former music major, I found this more interesting than my kids, but it was still worth watching.

They preferred Proof Through the Night, which elaborated on the life story of Francis Scott Key.  Produced by the Christian History Institute, this video wasn’t of the same caliber as some of the documentaries we’ve watched, but I appreciated their efforts and enjoyed learning more about the faith of the man who wrote our national anthem.

    

Biography

For our biography this week we read about Lottie Moon, an American missionary to China.  The boys each read Lottie Moon: a Generous Offering from YWAM Publishing’s “Heroes for Young Readers” series, as well as Lottie Moon: What do you need? from the “Little Lights” series.

  
We’ve been doing school for 6 weeks straight since our Christmas break, so I’ve decided to take next week as a “Sabbath” and let the boys have some time off.  I’m hoping to use the time to get the house tidied up and reorganized for our next stretch of school, which will take us right up to Passion Week.

Wrapping Up Weeks 24-25 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
In the last two weeks, we’ve had three awesome field trips (to the Aquarium of the Pacific, and La Brea Tar Pits, and the Discovery Cube), so we got a little behind on our regular schoolwork and are still playing catch-up going into next week.  I normally wouldn’t pack so much into such a short time frame, but we wanted to join our homeschool group at the aquarium.  Then we had free admission to the tar pits because of our membership to the natural history museum over the last year, and we wanted to be sure to visit before it expired at the end of the month.  And finally Ian was having a fun day at Disney’s California Adventure performing with his handchime choir (and of course, just enjoying the park), so I took the other kids to the Discovery Cube that day, where we became members so our whole family can go back anytime we want over the next two years.

I have to admit, I had to battle the side of me that just wants to get through all our work and force myself to be okay with getting behind.  Since we aren’t doing a formal science curriculum this year, however, I was glad for chance to let the kids explore and learn on their own during those three days, and they all really were wonderful experiences. Luckily I scheduled a catch-up week in February when I wrote out my lesson plans for the year, so we should be back on track soon.

Here’s what we’ve been doing over the last two weeks in between all the fun:

History

In From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers we read about the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Marshall.  It was a great week for talking about the different branches of the government, and the boys watched two Learn Our History videos, one about the the Supreme Court, and one about the President.  Ian also watched President Trump’s Inauguration with me and we had some good discussion about the practical side of changing Presidents.

      
Then we started reading about the War of 1812.  I want to be able to spend some time focusing on the Star-Spangled Banner, so I didn’t rush through these chapters.  We’ll probably spend at least another week on this war, as I have some picture books I want to read to help it come more alive.

Biography

The boys read two books on one of my favorite Christian workers: George Müller: Does Money Grow on Trees? and George Müller: Faith to Feed Ten Thousand.

   
The rest of our time was spent trying to squeeze in our usual work and enjoying our latest read-aloud, The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks.  We got a little behind in our writing assignments from All Things Fun and Fascinating, but hopefully we’ll catch up in the next few weeks!

Wrapping Up Week 23 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
I didn’t write a post about a “Word for 2017,” but if I had, my word this year would SAVOR.  It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to get everything done and the busy pace of life around us in Southern California, but this year more than ever before I have felt the Lord prompting me to savor the precious moments I have with my children.  Savor the last few months of Nathaniel being the youngest and soak up all the affection he lavishes upon us.  Savor those sweet hours by the fire reading to my older boys.  Savor the cuddles with Arianna as she reads her first words, and the constant serenading of Nico singing his ABCs and number songs.  Savor those little flutters getting stronger every day as my final pregnancy ticks away and we get closer to the arrival of our youngest child.

School happened this week.  Of course it did.  But since it was mostly just continuing on with everything I wrote about last week, I see no reason to cover the majority of what we did.  I’d rather spend the time doing some of that “savoring” and just jot down some notes for future reference about our time studying the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. (Hear the Classical Conversations families breaking into song?)

Books

           

Videos
Geography Activities
  • We continued learning the states by adding those in the South and Northeast on this online geography activity
  • The boys colored in the states in area of the Louisiana Purchase on our maps (following current state lines, so it’s not entirely accurate, but I just wanted them to get the general idea of how the nation was expanding over time).

Wrapping Up Week 22 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a weekly wrap-up (I think my last one was Week 12 of this school year), but I’m already regretting taking such a long break.  I often refer back to these posts to see what resources I used when covering a particular subject, and I’ve left a gaping hole in that record.  I’m hoping to at least pull together a list of everything we used to cover the American Revolution, as that’s the thing I’m most likely to want to come back to.

As is often the case when returning after the holidays, we’re making a few changes for the rest of the school year, the biggest being that we’ve decided not to return to the Classical Conversations community we were a part of in the fall.  Due to some minor concerns with my pregnancy, I am taking my doctors’ advice to cut back on activities and will be trying to spend more days at home.

I had considered taking one more week of holiday, especially since we just returned from a family missions trip to Mexico, but I’m a little concerned about completing our school year before the baby comes (hoping she’ll hang on until May), so we plunged back in completely this week.

Preschool

Arianna (age 5) has been showing so many signs of being ready to move ahead with reading.  Although she’s been doing well on Reading Eggs, she lacks confidence, so I decided to start being more intentional with her each day.  When we’re cuddling up to read together, I’ll occasionally ask her to find a certain word on a page (she loves things like I Spy and Where’s Waldo books, so to her this is a similar kind of game).

We also started going through a very old Harper & Row reader, Janet and Mark.  I learned to read with this series, and my mom used it in her Kindergarten class for decades.  She even had the book broken up and stapled into individual story books, which we inherited when she retired, so Arianna is proud to see her progress as she masters each “book” and moves on to the next.  They use a whole word approach, rather than phonics, which she already gets plenty of in her Reading Eggs lessons.  She is SO excited to finally be reading actual books, and I’m glad these books are helping her be successful.

Just as a final note on this, it took her a while to get used to the style of this reader.  I know many people are turned off by the unnatural way of speaking, and Arianna definitely thought it was strange.  However, she was aching to find some reading success, and it didn’t take her long to get over the odd syntax because she was so thrilled with her achievement.  (My oldest, Ian, had the opposite experience.  He was bored by these books and gained confidence so quickly he didn’t really need the them the way Arianna does.)

Elementary

With the two older boys, we had reached a couple natural “breaks” in our curriculum before the holidays, so things felt fresh and we enjoyed getting to move ahead this week.

History

Before the break, we had finished up The Light and the Glory for Young Readers and moved on to the next book in the Discovering God’s Plan for America series, From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers.  (We’re using the older editions of all the books, which are titled “For Children” instead but are essentially the same, just without the questions at the end of each chapter).  That put us just after the American Revolution and the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

This week we read chapters 2 and 3, which covered the migration of people westward toward the Mississippi River and the circuit riders who preached during the great period of revival in that area during the decades after the Revolution.

I want to be sure the boys are getting a good foundation in geography, so we started working on memorizing the states, beginning this week with the original 13 colonies.  They used an online geography activity to get started (computer games make everything more fun, right?) and then labeled a map of the colonies from Map Trek: The Complete Collection.  This book is an incredible resource for history lessons, with maps that can help build understanding from the span of history.  The included CD-ROM includes reproducible student maps, so it’s easy to just print out what you need.

In addition to the map of the 13 colonies, I printed up one of the entire country and had the boys color in the states those colonies became (noting the name changes of West Virginia, Vermont, and Maine).  As we continue learning about the expanding nation, we’ll color in additional areas.

The boys also got in some extra geography practice as they put together a couple different puzzles of the continental U.S.

Biography

To coordinate with our history lessons, our biography this week was Daniel Boone: Bravery on the Frontier from YWAM Publishing’s “Heroes for Young Readers” series.   I was hoping to also read a couple chapters about Boone from Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans but it just never happened.

[Note: During the weeks I didn’t write about, we covered John CalvinJohn Knox, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Amy Carmichael (also another book on her and the DVD from Torchlighters including the documentary).]

Literature

I don’t want to always have our read-aloud books line up with what we’re studying in history, but it seems like that’s what I do more often than not.  This week we read the first half of Streams to the River, River to the Sea by Scott O’Dell, an award-winning novel about Sacagawea.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, never having read it myself.  We enjoyed O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins a few months ago, so I figured we’d give it a try, even though I wasn’t sure if the boys would get into it.

All of us have ended up really enjoying the book, however.  They beg me to read more each day, and it’s making me want to read more about Sacagawea on my own.  We’re getting into the chapters on her journey with Lewis and Clark now, and I’m looking forward to tying it in with our history lessons (and biography) next week.

Spelling/Writing

For spelling, I’ve made a minor change.  Ian has been going through Sequential Spelling 1 for several months now, and it has been incredibly helpful for him, both in terms of his actual spelling ability and as far as his confidence is concerned.  However, there are a full 180 days worth of lessons to each level and I wanted to find a way to accelerate him through Level 1 a bit so he isn’t stuck at at this level through next year.

However, I wanted to avoid skipping lessons or making him do multiple ones each day, and this week we tried out what I think will be a good solution.  I’ve had Elijah join him in the program, and rather than using the DVD-ROM or having me administer the “test” each day, they take turns with the Student Workbook and Teacher Guide.  That way each of them goes through two days’ worth of lists each day and has to concentrate on the spelling of the words, but they each take a turn writing the words down and being the “teacher.”  I also selected several of the week’s words and created a list at SpellingCity.com so the boys can play games while getting in a little extra practice.

In writing, we completed Lesson 10 in All Things Fun and Fascinating from IEW.  I still have to work with boys pretty closely each step of the way, although they are starting to be able to write their rough drafts mostly independently.  Sometimes they get caught up in their writing and skip over things from their outline, but I usually just let that go until we start editing because I love that they’re so focused on getting their ideas written.  Then later we go back over the outline to make sure they included everything important and they work through their checklists to make sure they’ve used all the writing elements they’re supposed to have in each paragraph.  They’ve both come such a long way since we started using IEW materials last year.

Math

Once we reached the last lesson focusing on teaching multiplication in Teaching Textbooks 4 (lesson 66) back in early December, I had them hold off on moving ahead.  Instead, we spent a few weeks just focusing on multiplication facts.  We played “Memory” games, where the boys had to make matches of the problems and answers.  They played games on multiplication.com and used Learning Wrap-Ups.

And of course, they kept up daily practice on XtraMath.org (both boys had either mastered or come close to mastering addition and subtraction, so I just changed the program over to multiplication).  We also listened to the skipping counting songs from our Classical Conversations audio CDs several times a week in the car.

This week it was time to start moving ahead, and it was obvious that the time we spent working on memorizing facts was well worth it.  They were able to move through the more advance multiplication problems fairly quickly because they didn’t need to stop and look up each fact on a times table.

Independent Computer Work

After lunch, I usually try to lie down and rest with the little ones for a while, so the boys work independently on math and a few other extras on the computer.  I’ve tried to give them some variety each day so they don’t get bored, yet I’m trying to be intentional as well.  Here are some of the things that found their way on to their lists this week or will in the near future:

Most of these aren’t free, unfortunately.  Some we still have subscriptions to after I wrote reviews, and others we’ve chosen to purchase after getting a chance to try them out because we found them to be so worthwhile.

So that was our first week of school for 2017!  I’m looking forward to a few solid months before we switch into baby mode.

A Royal Christmas to Remember by Jeanna Young (Book Review)

I have seen “The Princess Parables” series by Jeanna Young and Jacqueline Johnson at various conferences and such, but I’ve only ever glanced at them without reading through a book.  When I was given a chance to review A Royal Christmas to Remember, I was more than happy to take a closer look.  My 5-year old daughter loves all things princess-related, so I knew she would enjoy it.

The story starts with the five sisters anticipating a beautiful Christmas with their father, the King.  Their main focus is decorating the castle, and their only concern is that they might need more space to store all the decorations in the future.  They go to bed on Christmas Eve thinking mostly about what they’re hoping to find under the tree in the morning, despite their father’s attempt to remind them of their many blessings and the gift of Jesus.

Everything changes when the princesses are awakened in the middle of the night as their father heads out to fight a group of evil invaders.  When dangerous men break into the castle, “their trivial thoughts of presents and Christmas decorations ceased to matter.” The princesses are not harmed, but when they learn that many in the village have been affected, they decide to share out of their abundance and learn the joy of giving to others.

The story was a sweet way to remind my daughter to turn her thoughts outward, especially at Christmas time.  She was drawn to the colorful illustrations by Omar Aranda, and I appreciated a book that acknowledges the true meaning of Christmas: celebrating God’s generous gift of His Son.

BookLook disclaimer

Sentence Diagramming from The Critical Thinking Co. (Crew Review)

This is the first year we have done any sort of formal grammar instruction, and I’m curious about different resources that are available.  I was thankful for the recent opportunity we were given to try Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co.™.

About Sentence Diagramming: Beginning

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}Sentence Diagramming: Beginning is a 72-page softcover workbook consisting of 12 lessons.  Designed for use with Grades 3-12+, the lessons are simple but not childish, so they can provide instruction and/or practice at any of these levels.

Lesson 1 begins with as simple a sentence as you can get, with just two words forming the subject and predicate (e.g. “Cats purr” or “Artists draw.”)  Subsequent lessons add in new concepts one at a time, building upon what the students have previous learned, until their diagrams become quite complex:

  • Lesson 1: Simple Subject and Main Verb
  • Lesson 2: Direct Object
  • Lesson 3: Adjectives
  • Lesson 4: Adverbs Modifying Verbs
  • Lesson 5: Predicate Adjectives
  • Lesson 6: Predicate Nouns
  • Lesson 7: Prepositional Phrases (Adjectival)
  • Lesson 8: Prepositional Phrases (Adverbial)
  • Lesson 9: Compound Subjects
  • Lesson 10: Compound Predicates
  • Lesson 11: Compound Direct Objects
  • Lesson 12: Compound Predicate Adjectives and Nouns

Within each lesson, the student gets to work through 4 different types of exercises (after brief instructional section with examples at the beginning of the lesson):

  1. Correcting errors in given diagrams
  2. Diagramming given sentences on given diagrams
  3. Writing original sentences on a given diagram
  4. Diagramming given sentences independently

Answers for all exercises are given at the back of the book.

Our Experience

I was surprised at how much my boys enjoyed the process of diagramming sentences.  It really appealed to their mechanically inclined brains, and I think it helped certain grammar concepts “click” in a way that has eluded them up to this point.

I really liked the way each lesson approached the diagrams from several different angles, and certain ones worked better for each boy depending on their strengths and how they think.  I would usually go through the examples at the beginning of each lesson, explaining which new concept was being presented.  They we would go through a few of the exercises in each section together, and I would have them try others on their own.

sentence-diagramming

I especially appreciate the copyright, which allows me to make copies to use within my family.  As a mom of many, I try to look for resources that I’ll be able turn to again and again, rather than having to repurchase multiple copies for each of my children.  Some of these lessons I just did at home with the boys on whiteboards, but others I copied for them to take with them when we were doing school away from home.  It was great to have this flexibility.

The minimal instruction made it easy to get into the first few lessons, but as they get more advanced, I think it would be hard for these lessons to stand alone.  The book shows how to draw the diagrams, but it doesn’t provide much explanation for why words are placed in certain spots, why some lines are slanted, and things like that.

Because of this, I think I would hesitate to go much further in the book on its own.  We are using it in conjunction with our current grammar program, which is teaching the boys about parts of speech more thoroughly, and as they get more comfortable with those labels, I think we’ll come back to Sentence Diagramming: Beginning to help broaden their understanding.  It’s also a great resource for families already doing sentence diagramming with their grammar program but looking for clear examples for extra practice.

Right now, this “Beginning” book is the only one available on The Critical Thinking Co.™ website, but I would be interested in seeing what the Level 1 and Level 2 books (mentioned on the title page) look like when they come out.

One Last Thing

The Critical Thinking Co.™ believes in the Importance of Preschool Academics, and has some great resources for parents who want to give their children some academic experience before they reach official school age, such as their “Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™” bundle, which includes five apps designed to teach basic skills.  You can see what other Crew members thought of these programs and other products from The Critical Thinking Co.™ by clicking on the banner below.

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
Crew Disclaimer

Elementary Spanish Online (Crew Review)

middlebury-interactive-review
Foreign Language can be a hard subject for home educators to teach if they don’t know the language themselves.  I really want my children to develop a proficiency in Spanish that exceeds my own limited abilities, so I have been incredibly thankful for the online courses available from Middlebury Interactive Languages.  Both of my older boys have benefited from their Spanish 1 course for Grades K-2 (see reviews of Semester 1 and Semester 2), and recently Elijah got a chance to start working through Elementary Spanish 2 (Grades 3-5).

About Elementary Spanish 2 (Grade 3-5)

Like all the Middlebury Interactive Languages Courses, Elementary Spanish 2 uses stories, songs, videos, and interactive games to help students learn basic vocabulary.  Depending on the activity, they must listen, read, write, and speak the key words for each lesson.

Elementary Spanish 2 (Grades 3-5) covers 16 units over two semesters, each unit consisting of six lessons.

units

Within each lesson, there is a variety of activities.

middlebury-collage

Students can go back and repeat lessons as many times as they want.

Our Experience

This course was definitely more advanced than the Grades K-2 course, mostly because of the addition of the reading and writing activities.  Elijah reads at at least a strong 3rd grade level, but I think this made the course more challenging than he expected.  While I do think it is important to be able to read and write when learning a new language, I am cautious about adding in too much of this.  In my own foreign language experiences, focusing on the written aspect of the language has hindered my ability to speak and understand it when spoken.  middlebury-interactive-languagesThis is mostly due to the fact that I am a VERY visual learner and NOT strong at auditory learning.  I think there was still enough variety in this course to make it worthwhile for students like myself, who really need to focus on listening and speaking to become proficient, but because of this aspect, I didn’t like the Grade 3-5 course as much as I did the one for Grades K-2.

The only other issue we had was that because this course was building upon what Elijah has learned in the Spanish 1 course, it was beyond my own knowledge of the language.  He struggled a little more in this course, but now I’m not able to help him nearly as much.  Most of the time just going back and repeating some of the introductory lessons in the unit was enough to answer his questions and get him back on track, but I could see where it might be helpful to have the teacher support, which is available for an additional cost.

Overall, I still think Middlebury is a great option for families whose students need to work independently on learning a foreign language.  I love the way the stories immerse the student in the language by using only Spanish, highlighting the vocabulary words to help them understand while getting them accustomed to hearing the language spoken fluently.  My children may never speak Spanish completely fluently themselves, but Middlebury has at least given them a good foundation upon which to build.

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
Crew Disclaimer

Just Checking In

Changes are upon us.  Our family is growing, and I’ve decided to take a break from the Homeschool Review Crew after finishing up my last few reviews in the next few weeks.  This school year has just felt too busy, and something needed to go.  I’m trying to figure out how much I want to be blogging in this season.  I love having a record of what we’ve done (and I go back to look things up more often than you’d imagine), but I’m also ready to back off a little bit.  I haven’t posted a wrap-up in a few weeks (we took last week off of school), so I thought I’d try to catch up this weekend, but then that didn’t happen either.  I probably won’t be writing weekly, but I don’t want to give it up entirely.  It may take a while to find a new rhythm.

The Familyman’s Christmas Treasury (Crew Review)

familyman-review
Can you believe it’s almost time to start thinking about Christmas?  Our family has been getting in the mood lately as we listened to the Christmas stories that make up The Familyman’s Christmas Treasury – Audio Collection.  We received the Digital Downloads of these eight original stories written by Todd Wilson (a.k.a. The Familyman) and read by Jim Hodges.

About The Familyman’s Christmas Treasury

the-familymans-christmas-treasuryI’m pretty particular about what we focus on during the Christmas season, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect when we first started listening to these stories.  I was pleased to find that not only were they all Christ-centered, they were thought-provoking as well.  Here are some brief summaries of the eight stories we received.

Cootie McKay’s Nativity

When a small town’s cherished nativity scene is ruined, they commission a local man to create a new one for next year.  The only trouble is, Cootie McKay is not only a little odd, he doesn’t even know the Christmas story.  Over the course of the year, Cootie learns about Jesus, and his creation helps the whole town see the familiar figures in a new way.

Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster

When Jason gets irritated with his sister’s fascination with their “boring” manger scene, he pretends to blast it to bits, never expecting his wish to come true.  “Captain Chaos” erases the birth of Jesus from history, and Jason sees how different life would be if he had not been born, gaining a new appreciation of the true meaning of Christmas.

The Stranger

As a stranger comes knocking at the homes of members of a small church, fear and distrust threaten to taint their Christmas experience.  On a snowy Christmas Eve, Sam’s family receives the dreaded knock, but his father only hesitates a moment before inviting the stranger in.  The family is soon able to look past Jesse’s outward appearance and their Christmas is truly blessed as they open their home and hearts to him.

The Bishop’s Dream

Not just another re-telling of the story of Saint Nicholas, “The Bishop’s Dream” looks at the true historical man and places him a modern setting, imagining what he would think of the shift toward a holiday focused on Santa and presents rather than Christ.

Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest

Isaac is embarrassed by the plaid Christmas vest his father insists on wearing to church every year as soon as Thanksgiving has past until he learns about the story of Harold Grubbs and how God changed him.

Gladys Remembers Christmas

Gladys hasn’t had a joyful Christmas since she was six years old, just before her mother died.  Years later, while packing up her father’s house, she finds their old manger scene, and discovers love for the the first time since childhood.

The Secret of Snow Village*

Catherine loves to look at her grandmother’s ceramic village.  Somehow Christmas seems better for the small figures, though she can’t figure out what she’s missing until she visits the village herself and finds out what Christmas is really about.

It’s Called Christmas*

300 years in the future, Nook is puzzled when his “Happy Holiday” greeting is returned with the puzzling reply, “It’s called Christmas?”  All traces of this word seem to have been erased, and it is no easy task for Nook to find out what Christmas is, but when he does, he sends a warning back to the past in hopes that Christmas can be saved for future generations.

*These final two of the stories are not included in the collection in the CD collection, though all eight are available in book format.

8_christmas_book_combo

Our Experience

Todd Wilson says, “As the father of eight children, I wanted Christmas stories that took longer than 5 minutes to read, didn’t confuse the truth with a tale, and above all, pointed my children to the Savior. I couldn’t find any, so I wrote my own. My hope is that Cootie McKay”s Nativity will give you gobs of snuggling time, Christmas enchantment, and will point your children to the manger year after year. ”

He has certainly succeeded, and the stories will definitely become part of our family’s Christmas tradition. Ian really liked “Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster.”  I have a hard time picking a favorite, but I think either “Cootie McKay’s Nativity” or “The Secret of the Snow Village” would be at the top of my list.  I loved the creativity and variety in all these Christmas stories, and Jim Hodges is a wonderful storyteller whose warm voice draws you in as you listen.  We enjoyed all of these stories so much, I’m looking forward to getting the two Easter stories for our family as well.

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
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