Tag Archives: Bible

“Stick Figuring” Through the Bible (Crew Review)

Nothing is more important in our homeschool than learning about the Bible, though I don’t often mention it on this blog anymore because we do Bible time in the evenings with Daddy and I don’t think of it as part of our school day.  I often wrestle with wanting to spend more time in the Word with my kids during the day, however, so I was excited when GrapeVine Studies gave us a chance to review their materials for Old Testament 1: Level 1 Creation to Jacob, including a Teacher Book, and two student books: the Level 1 book for ages 6-8 and the Traceable Level 1 book for ages 3-5.

About GrapeVine Studies

Grapevine Studies Review

GrapeVine Studies lead children on a chronological journey through the Bible, guiding them through stick figure drawings for each story to help them learn.  Old Testament 1: Creation to Jacob consists of 12 lessons designed for the whole family (preschool- 8th grade) to go through together, with age-appropriate student books for multiple levels.  The lessons are intended to be done over the course of about 4 days, so this entire book can be used for 12 weeks of school (about 45 separate sessions).

Grapevine Studies Review
As this chart shows, there is an Old Testament Overview designed specifically for preschool and Kindergarten students (the “Beginner” level), but the lessons don’t correspond with the other levels (it only covers Creation to Babel in the first book).  To include younger children in the older ones’ lessons, there is a Traceable Level 1 book that has the drawings already marked with gray lines, which is a really helpful option for families like ours with both preschoolers and older children.

Grapevine Studies ReviewThe Old Testament Overview for Levels 1-4 is presented in four books, with Part 1 covering the major stories of Genesis from Creation to Jacob.  Our family all worked at Level 1, with the boys (2nd grade and Kindergarten) using the regular student book and Arianna (age 3) using the traceable version (which was identical except for the addition of the gray line drawings).  The 82-page student book has blank timeline pages with the names of each story for the students to fill in as the teacher guides them through the lessons.  Level 1 is really just about introducing the major stories and characters, helping the children see how they are all related by creating them a physical timeline so they have a mental frame of reference to place each story in context.  (Older students go deeper with memory verses and additional material for each lesson.)

Teacher involvement is essential.  The main part of each lesson comes from the material in the 100-page teacher book.  That’s where you’ll find the Bible verses to go along with each picture, as well as details about what should be drawn.  The color illustrations are intended to be drawn on a whiteboard for the students to copy as you progress through the lesson.

Our Experience

My kids really looked forward to our Bible lessons with GrapeVine studies.  The boys appreciated the simplicity of the stick figure drawings, and Arianna loved being able to join us for this part of “school.”  (She reminded me every day that we needed to do our Bible lessons!)  She did really well tracing the pictures and then coloring them in, and the boys like sneaking glimpses of her pages to make sure they knew what their figures should look like.  Once or twice they asked me to give them her pages (I received the books in pdf form so we just printed them out, though they are available to purchase as softbound student books as well), but eventually they realized their drawings didn’t need to look exactly like hers, and they had fun being creative.

Once we had done a few lessons and gotten into a groove I enjoyed the lessons as well, but I felt like we got off to a bit of a rocky start.  There was a lot of introductory material in the Teacher Book about the studies themselves and the philosophy behind them, but not a lot of guidance for a newbie wanting jump into teaching.  Although I rarely follow lesson plans exactly, I found myself really wishing the first lesson in particular (which was a little different from all the others because it was solely about the timeline) had a suggested script.  The kids were so excited about doing their pages that they wanted to race through each event, and I wasn’t sure whether to try to explain in picture or just save that for when we did the later lessons on each story.

The kids didn’t seem to notice my floundering, however, and the later lessons did get easier for me to teach as I learned when to make them set their drawing pages aside so we could actually read in our Bibles and talk about each story.  Most of these stories were familiar to Ian and Elijah, so it was a fun way to review them.

I was really glad my kids enjoyed our time with GrapeVine Studies, but it required a bit more preparation and teacher involvement than I’m ready to give at this point in our family’s journey.  I do love the idea of everyone being able to participate at their own level, however, so I will definitely keep these studies in mind once the babies are old enough to join us.

Grapevine Studies Review
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Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls DVD (Crew Review)

New Liberty Video ReviewImagine facing execution for teaching your children how to say the Lord’s prayer in the language you speak at home.  As I watched Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls from New Liberty Videos, I learned that back in the Dark Ages, mothers faced this very threat.  Though many Christians today have multiple Bibles on their shelves, we sometimes forget that most people who have followed God over the ages have not been so fortunate.  The Scriptures are a treasure with a fascinating history, and this DVD offers viewers a glimpse at the Bible’s intriguing past.

What is it?

sMysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls ($19.95) contains video footage from 3 lectures.  Contrary to what the title indicates, only the first segment is actually about the Dead Sea Scrolls.  However, all three are about different topics related to the Bible, its history, and how it came to be passed on to us over the past few thousand years.  Each segment is only about 20 minutes long, so while none of them go into great depth about their topics, they do provide enticing introductions that leave the viewer wanting to learn more.  The format is simple, without flashy graphics, but the information is fascinating enough all on its own.

This DVD would be most interesting to teenagers and adults, so I didn’t watch it with my children (though they did sit with me as I watched the final segment and appeared to be paying attention).  I watched each of the three segments separately since they are all on different topics.

1. Dead Sea Scrolls

In the first segment, Joel Lampe teaches all about the scrolls found at Qumran: the contents, the materials used in creating them, the languages used, as well as a bit about the geography and history of the region.  Did you know that only about 25% of the writings found were from Scripture?  The scrolls contained many other writings, but there were pieces found containing writing from every book of the Old Testament except Esther.

When I hear the word “scrolls,” I picture large pieces of parchment rolled up, but in actuality, the Dead Sea Scrolls consist of 19,000 pieces that scholars have had to carefully reassemble into scrolls.  Lampe tells about the work that has been done on the scrolls since their discovery back in the late 1940’s.  As technology has advanced, scholars have been able to learn more.  For example, infrared technology has allowed them to study writing that was previously impossible to make out, and DNA technology has allowed them to match fragments of the same animal skin parchments rather than relying on visual clues alone to piece together this enormous puzzle.

2. Hebrew Word Pictures

The second segment on the DVD is lecture by Dr. Frank Seekins that provides a fascinating introduction to ancient Hebrew. He’ll have you reading several Hebrew words in minutes.  Hebrew characters represent both sounds (like our alphabet) and pictures (like Chinese characters), so not only do they tell you how to pronounce the word, they also tell you about its meaning.

As he gets deeper into the meanings of the characters, he shows how truths of the gospel were foretold even in the creation of the Hebrew language long before Christ, as well as focusing on words that talk about the relationship between man and woman.  Dr. Seekins is obviously passionate about what he studies, and anyone with an interest in learning about the Scriptures in the original language will finish this portion of the DVD hungry to learn more.

3. The Forbidden Book

The final lecture on Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls is about the history of the English Bible, taught by Dr. Craig Lampe.  Starting back in the time of Constantine, Dr. Lampe traces the history of the Bible from the original Greek text.  He tells of how the Bible was first translated into Latin, which eventually became the only legal language for the Bible, even when it was no longer spoken by most people.  Through the work of men like Wycliffe, Erasmus, Luther, and Tyndale eventually the Scriptures were translated into other languages, allowing thousands to be blessed by the Word of God.

My Thoughts on Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls

I was eager to review this DVD because I love learning more about the Bible.  The only thing that left me disappointed after watching it was that each segment was so short.  I truly appreciated the passion each lecturer showed for his subject, and I felt that 20 minutes from each really only scratched the surface.  I look forward to seeking out further resources to explore the topics further.

New Liberty Videos has many interesting titles available, and other members of the Crew got a chance to review different DVDs, so be sure to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to find out about those!

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iWitness Books from Apologia (Crew Review)

Apologia Review
I’m always on the lookout for kid-friendly resources to help my children learn about the Bible, so I jumped at the chance to review three books by Doug Powell from Apologia Educational Ministries: Old Testament iWitness, New Testament iWitness, and iWitness Biblical Archeology.  These books are unlike any others I’ve come across, and it was a delight to get the chance to explore them.

About the books

What makes these 9″x6″ softcover books so unique is the way the information is presented on each page.  Rather than separating the text and illustrations, Powell (an award-winning graphic designer with a Master’s degree in Christian Apologetics) has created beautiful full-color pages that integrate the text, making it appear as handwritten notes on separate scraps of paper, parchment, or the pages of books that are part of the pictures.

This creative presentation makes these books easily accessible for older children (reading level is about age 11 and up) while still being “meaty” enough for adults wanting to learn more about how the Bible as we know it came to exist.  I have always had a fascination with the canon of Scripture and the history of the Bible, but in spite of all I’ve previously read on the subject, there was still plenty of information in these books that was new to me.

Each book sells for $14.00.  Here’s a quick look at what they cover:

Old Testament iWitness

Apologia ReviewOld Testament iWitness tells the story of the Hebrew Scriptures:

  • the history of each book
  • the meticulous process the Jewish scribes used when making copies, ensuring that the original text was passed down over the centuries without change
  • comparison of the “Hebrew Bible” with the Old Testament used by Christians
  • what makes these books “inspired” and why are they included in the canon
  • the Old Testament in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Powell also discusses the writings of the inter-testamental period (between the last books to be written within the Old Testament canon and the books of the New Testament).

New Testament iWitness

Apologia ReviewNew Testament iWitness is just as thorough in its coverage of the New Testament books.  Much has been written in recent years about “other gospels” and early writings that are not included in the canon of Scripture.  Powell goes back to when the individual books of the New Testament were written and discusses how they were used by the church in the first few centuries after Christ.

  • lists drawn up by historical church councils
  • criteria used by early Christians to determine canonicity
  • use in the writings of early church fathers
  • rejected books not included in the canon
  • how the New Testament books were copied over the ages
  • information about various manuscript types and how scholars study them

The book provides a fascinating look at how we have been given the New Testament as we know it today.

iWitness Biblical Archaeology

Apologia Review iWitness Biblical Archeology goes through the chronology of biblical history, discussing archeological evidence that relates to biblical figures, places, and events.

  •  inscriptions about flood stories from various ancient civilizations
  • claims about finding Noah’s Ark
  • descriptions of Old Testament battles
  • copies of biblical manuscripts
  • artifacts from Jesus’ time
  • discussion about the Shroud of Turin

Powell covers all sorts of finds that would be of interest to anyone curious about archeology and how it relates to the Bible.

How We Used It

Ian and I started with Old Testament iWitness (although there’s no need to read them in any particular order).  I read aloud to him during our morning Bible time and we worked through several pages each day (as long as his attention span allowed).  Some of it was beyond his understanding, but at the same time I think it was a good introduction to learning about the canon of the Old Testament.  He may not remember the terms “Septuagint” or “Apocrypha” next week, but now that he’s been exposed, I think he’ll notice them more the next time he hears the words.  He already knew the books of the Old Testament, so he was able to understand the comparisons with the Hebrew Bible pretty well.  We haven’t covered the inter-testamental period in history yet (though we discussed it a bit in our Bible lessons when we moved from the OT to the NT), so that part was new to him.

For this review I was expected to read through these books with Ian, and while that was my original intent, I wasn’t able to get through all of them with him.  There was just too much information packed into these three books for me to get through with a 1st grader in 6 weeks.  Once I realized we weren’t going to get through all three books together I decided to skip New Testament iWitness with Ian and just cover what we could out of iWitness Biblical Archeology.

I found iWitness Biblical Archeology to be a wonderful complement to our study of ancient history.  He found the information about the epic of Gilgamesh interesting because we covered it in history earlier this year, and we’ve learned a lot about Egyptian chronology as a family so he was able to understand that as well.  I will definitely be pulling this book out the next time our history cycle covers the biblical period.  It is full of evidence for the truth of scripture and helps show children tangible evidence for what they read in the Bible.

Because I didn’t have time to read New Testament iWitness with Ian during our review period, I read through it on my own.  I found it to be a faith-building study on the history of the New Testament.  Powell does an excellent job of explaining why certain books are included and others are not.  I especially appreciate his explanation of manuscript families and textual criticism, topics of great importance to me in considering which translation(s) to use with our family.  I look forward to using it with Ian (and my other children) in the future.

My Overall Impression

Overall, I’d say at least half of the material was over Ian’s head as a 6-year old.  The visual format kept his interest fairly well as I read out loud, but I know there was a lot he didn’t understand.  However, that in no way detracts from my enthusiasm for these books.  They may not be a great fit for first grade, but I know we will turn to them over and over again in the years to come.

Connect with Apologia on Social Media

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/apologiaworld
Twitter – https://twitter.com/apologiaworld 
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/105053356034237782125/posts
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/apologia/

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Wizzy Gizmo (Crew Review)

Wizzy Gizmo CollageWe are always on the lookout for new audio entertainment, so we jumped at the chance to review Wizzy Gizmo‘s Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?, which takes the listener on a creative, sensory journey through the first chapter of the Bible.

What is Wizzy Gizmo?

Wizzy Gizmo offers several products that are designed to help engage children in learning about the Bible.  In addition to Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?, they have two books based on Old Testament stories (the first tells the same story as the audio drama from Genesis 1, and the second moves on to Genesis 2), and a set of cards that teach about the books of the New Testament.  (Other members of the Crew received these products to review, so you can visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to see what they had to say about them!)

Wizzy Gizmo Review

The audio drama is much more than a retelling of Genesis 1.  The story features “Gizmovision,” an invention that “takes any book you have and creates a life-like world inside a bubble.  You not only see the story, but you can touch, taste, feel, and smell the story.”  Wizzy Gizmo, the inventor, and a group of children (along with a couple of silly sidekicks) embark on a journey into the biblical account of Creation.  Day by day, they hear the words of the biblical text (read from the New American Standard Bible) and then use all their senses to observe what it would have been like to be there.

There are several catchy songs interwoven through the story, some just silly and fun, but others very worshipful.

Our Family’s Experience

Before we listened to Who Created Everything?, I had some hesitations about Wizzy Gizmo.  I was afraid it was trying to add modern elements to the biblical story of Creation in order to make it more entertaining to kids.  Once we listened to it, however, I was reassured that this was not the case.  Instead, “Wizmovision” is used to help the bring the story to life, allowing the kids to think about how all their senses would experience the wonder of Creation.  More than once I caught myself thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s what it would have been like!”  It made the Creation story real to me in ways I had never considered.

I was impressed by the quality of the album.  Although at times the acting seemed a bit forced, the overall production was excellent.  (Audio samples are available on the website.)  The music was beautifully orchestrated, and I especially enjoyed the last few tracks on the CD that were just the soundtrack with no voices.

P1030666As for my kids, all I can say is that they have never all been so into any audio entertainment right from the start!  I first put it on in the car as we returned home from a morning out, hoping it would capture their attention enough that no one would fall asleep before we could get home for naps.  It sure worked!  They were immediately drawn in and spent the entire ride listening and laughing, especially when it got to the “Mango” song.  The boys begged to take the CD into their room when we got home, and I think they listened to it four more times that first day.  Arianna, who’s only 2, enjoyed it every bit as much as Ian, who is 6 and usually likes to listen to things beyond the attention span of the younger kids.  (The recommended age is 4-12, but I think some kids on the older end of that span might find it rather juvenile.)

I appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into the production of the Wizzy Gizmo resources.  The “Who, What, Why and How?” page on the website shares a lot of the careful decisions made by the creators to ensure that the products are thoroughly biblical and wholesome.

[Note: The website itself seems to be still under construction.  In addition to several typos that made me cringe, we were unable to find any of the “games, puzzles, and other fun activities” the CD insert said were there.]

Just the Facts

Final Thoughts

We want more Wizzy Gizmo!  Since the CD is labeled “Episode One,” Ian’s been begging me to get “the rest of them,” but there aren’t any addition albums yet.  Our whole family enjoyed this one so much that we’ll be quick to purchase any new audio dramas that Wizzy Gizmo produces in the future.

Connect With Wizzy Gizmo on Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wizzygizmo
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wizzygizmo
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/wizzygizmo/
Google+: http://www.plus.google.com/+wizzygizmo
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/wizzygizmo

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3-Year Bible Survey for Students (Review)

BRT collage

When I first started this blog most of my posts were about the Bible lessons I started doing when my oldest turned three as I sought to be intentional about discipling him.  Now he’s just starting 1st grade (and there are two preschoolers and a baby coming up close behind!), and I would still say the most important part of my children’s home education is our time in God’s Word.  I have several goals:

  1. I want them to know about the Bible (historical context, authors, genres, canonization, etc.).
  2. I want them to know what’s in it (where to find what they’re looking for).
  3. I want it to be a part of their daily lives in such a way that when they are grown they can’t imagine a day passing without being in the Word because they are eager for God to speak to them through it.

So how do I go about pursuing those goals on a day to day basis?  We spend time each morning in Proverbs, and time each evening in family devotions, both times helping meet the last two goals.  But now that Ian is starting 1st grade, I want a thorough, systematic way to help us meet the first one.  That’s why I was SO excited to find Bible Road Trip.

What is it?

Bible Road Trip is a 3-year curriculum design to be used over and over as a child matures from preschool all the way through high school.  (I love repeatable cycles!) It takes students on a journey from Genesis to Revelation, teaching about each book and helping them come to a greater understanding of the overall message of the Bible.

I have many friends who limit their homeschool Bible time to the ties they can make between the Scriptures and whatever else they are studying.  While I think that is an important part of educating and discipling our children, I also think it is essential to have a time devoted specifically to studying the Bible on a systematic basis.  I thought I was going to have to create my own program to take my children through the Bible the way I desired, but Danika Cooley, the author of Bible Road Trip, has put together a curriculum that leads students through God’s Word, helping them understand what they are reading.

The program is broken up into three 32-week years, making it easy to fit into a school year with flexibility for holidays, time to catch up, or extended study:

  1. Year One covers the Old Testament books of Law and History
  2. Year Two covers the Old Testament books of Poetry and Prophecy
  3. Year Three covers the entire New Testament.

There are 5 separate levels of study, following essentially classical delineations:

  • Preschool-Kindergarten
  • Lower Grammar (Grades 1-3)
  • Upper Grammar (Grades 4-6)
  • Dialectic (Grades 7-9)
  • Rhetoric (Grades 9-12)

For each week of study, there are assignments at each of these levels, so the entire family can be focusing on the same portion of Scripture simultaneously in ways developmentally appropriate to each students stage of learning.

Each week is broken up into two main sections.  “Dig Deep” contains the bulk of the lesson:

  • Researching the Word (using the Bible study books listed below)
  • Reading the Word (5 daily assignments including a few comprehension questions)
  • Memorizing the Word (weekly memory verse)
  • Notebooking about the Word
  • Praying about the Word (focusing on different countries around the world)

This is followed by a section for “Explore Further,” which includes:

  • Learning More about the Word (related videos, etc.)
  • Crafting Through the Word (hands-on projects to help reinforce what was learned)

Getting Started

Since Ian is in 1st grade, I’ll just be discussing how to use the program in the “Lower Grammar” stage.  Here’s what we needed to collect in order to begin using Bible Road Trip:

 There are also a few recommended resources for extra learning:

P1030468Our Experience

We spent some time on Week 1 and 2 of Year One, which cover “What is the Bible?” and “Exploring the Old Testament,” but then we jumped ahead because I want to use Bible Road Trip to enrich the boys’ study as we finish going through the Bible in our family devotions.  (We started in August 2012 and are just about finished with the Old Testament period in our chronological study.)  After those introductory weeks, we skipped ahead to Year Two to find the sections on Daniel so we be “on the same page,” and then we went back to Year One to finish the story of the exiles’ return in Ezra and Nehemiah.

Year Three will soon begin being posted week by week, and that’s what we plan to use for this coming school year as we head into the New Testament as a family.

What We Liked About Bible Road Trip

I like that Danika has created the program as an adaptable tool for families.  “The goal is to acquaint our children with the Word of God, not to create busy work.”  If the suggestions she makes for each lesson aren’t helpful, it’s not going to cause problems if you decide to skip them with your family.  On the other hand, she provides some wonderful ways to engage children, especially in the “Explore Further” section of each lesson.

BRT1I think my favorite part of the curriculum, however, is the Notebooking Journal.  The pages Danika has created are just stunning! They contain many full-color works of art from masters such as Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt. Notebooking is such a great learning tool, and these pages are going to create a beautiful record of what we have learned.  Ian loves going through the Bible notebook we created during his preschool years, and I know this will be something he goes back to again and again.

(Incidentally, I first heard about Bible Road Trip when I purchased a lifetime membership to notebookingpages.com and received the Year One lesson plan pdf as a bonus.  If you want to find out more about the benefits of notebooking, their website is a great place to start!)

What We Adjusted for Our Family

When going through the Bible I always have to make a decision about how I’m going to do it: book by book or chronological order?  There are pros and cons to both approaches, and those are passed on when choosing a Bible curriculum.

We have been using a devotional that goes through chronologically, which I think really helps kids grasp the flow of history and see where the different stories they read in the Bible fit into the big picture.  Bible Road Trip goes through book by book, so while you get a good sense of history in Year One, you miss a few things (like the stories of Daniel) that are described in the books of prophecy in Year Two.  As I said above, we solved this issue by using the appropriate lessons from the Year Two curriculum since we already have a chronological framework established.  When I begin the entire 3-year cycle again, I will probably just do Bible Road Trip as written, but I’m wondering if there will be some confusion with abandoning the chronological approach.

I also opted not to use the “Praying About the Word” section.  It’s not that I had any issues with it; on the contrary, I thought it was a valuable addition.  Still, it seemed to be completely separate from rest of the study, which made it feel like a supplementary curriculum in and of itself.  We just are doing so much already that I decided to hold off on it, at least for now.

Just the Facts

Interested in starting Bible Road Trip?  Here’s

  • Recommended ages: preschool-highschool
  • Weekly lessons plans and notebooking pages are available for free if you download each week separately!
  • If you want the convenience of having the whole year in one place (great for printing the year in advance with one click!), you can purchase the Year One and
    Year Two lesson plans ($20 per year) and the corresponding Notebooking Journals ($20 per year for each level: Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, or Dialectic) as pdf files.

My Overall Impression

I’m excited to find such a valuable tool to help disciple my children.  I am so thankful for the research Danika has put into Bible Road Trip and the time she has taken in making it available for other families to use.  I’m sure I’ll be sharing more as we get further into our journey!

DISCLAIMER:  I received the Year One Notebooking Journal for free in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.  This post contains affiliate links.