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Dec 7, 2017

G is for Giants

It seems like I'm always buying someone new shoes or a pair of pants to replace the high waters they're shlubbing around in.  I'm pretty sure they are going to be giants.  Well, maybe they already are.  Meet my kids, the BFGs.

Hopkins Homeschool

Nov 23, 2017

Redhanded Homeschool High Fives ~ Our 2017 Crew Favorites

It's time once again, as the Homeschool Review Crew year comes to a close, to choose our Redhanded Homeschool's High Fives for 2017.  I can't believe another year is behind us.  There were about 75 vendor "runs" this year.  My family reviewed 47 products to share with you.  Plus two single reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

For the 2017 Homeschool Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards, voting is very difficult in some categories.  We must choose *just one* vendor or product in each of the Crew's categories.  I've relaxed that rule for my blog.  'Cuz it's my blog, natch!  So where the punks or I loved more than one thing, I'm giving them all High Fives.

As usual, there are old favorites, new treasures, and things I've "had my eye on" for someday.  These favorites are all products that I would, actually have, or might again really pay money for it.  I think it's important that you can trust that when I tell you we absolutely loved something, I really mean it was *that good*.

Malachi's High Five
Carole P. Roman.  We really like her If You Were Me and Lived In... series, but Mal especially enjoyed our first fiction book from Carole, Oh, Susannah: It's in the Bag.  Actually, they all did and we have since read the second book and they're hoping for more.  The reading level is a bit below the older punks, but they love the stories, just for fun.

Xavier's High Five
First, Xav tried to choose Stopmotion Explosion again.  I told him he had to stick to products we reviewed in 2017, so he voted for The Brinkman Adventures - season 4 (see Merrick's High Five below).

Merrick's High Five
The Brinkman Adventures - season 4.  The Crew reviewed season 2 in 2014.  Since then, I've purchased seasons 1 and 3.  These fictionalized versions of real life missionary stories are always a hit.  They have a curriculum out for season 1 that I want to check out at some point, too.

My High Five for Moms
Homeschool Rescue from Only Passionate Curiosity.  I only managed to get through part of the program during the review period.  Now, I'll have a bit more time and I intend to finish it through once.  Then I want to work through it once each year to update our homeschool plan. is way more than just classes for the kids, though it certainly is that.  We've used this off and on since, I think 2011, when it started.  Back in those "olden days" if you had a subscription to the print Old Schoolhouse Magazine, you were given access until your subscription ran out.  I had over a year of it.  About a year after it expired, I won another year in 2013.  In 2014, 2016, and 2017 I received access as a reviewer for the Homeschool Review Crew.  Hey, we're all family.  :)  I have decided to not return to the Crew in 2018 for various reasons, so I purchased two years during the BOGO sale last week.

These curriculum favorites are products we are still using, have completed this year, or will continue to use in 2018 and beyond.

Language Arts High Fives
Crafty Classroom's Learn to R.E.A.D. program - Merrick loves having his own school stuff that no one else does and the notebooking pages are so much fun for a Kinder.
Channie's Handwriting and Math Workbooks - I only reviewed the one handwriting workbook for littles, but I liked it so much, I ordered handwriting journals for the bigger littles and several math workbooks.
Reading Eggs - We've had Reading Eggs before.  I liked it so much, I was willing to pay for it when the bigger punks were littler.  Now Mal and Merrick are happily using it.  Merrick also likes to dabble in MathSeeds, though it placed him lower than I thought he should be.  I consider MathSeeds "just for fun" school.

Math High Fives
CTCMath.  Always.  And it's now a complete math curriculum for grades K-12. Another curriculum I have happily paid for and will again.

Science High Fives
Think Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe is so much fun with all the hands on challenges.  I love that we are encouraged to include the whole family in this subscription.

Social Studies High Fives
Drive Thru History - The Gospels.  The Drive Thru History series is fantastic.  We're also using the American History videos for part of Xav and Mal's history this year.
Heirloom Audio ~ In the Reign of Terror and Captain Bayley's Heir.  While I have reviewed other Heirloom Audio titles for the Crew, I have also purchased copies of other titles in the series.  These audio dramas are crazy good.

Extra-Curricular High Fives
Creating a Masterpiece.  I wish we had been able to fit more of Sharon's lessons in before our subscription expired, but we really enjoyed learning how to make real art while we had it.
Doctor Aviation with Daryl Smith.  This one expires pretty soon and we enjoyed it a lot, though we didn't get through as much as we would have liked.

My Bonus High Fives
Lamplighter's The Secret Bridge.  While this wasn't the best book I ever read, I enjoyed it and it opened up a whole new world of literature for us.  Since this review, we toured the Lamplighter Ministries Book Bindery and purchased five or six more books and three audio dramas.  I especially recommend Sir Malcom and the Missing Prince and Teddy's Button.
Northern Speech Services' Color My Conversation was one of those "didn't know I needed" kind of curriculum.  We did set this aside, but will be picking it back up and starting over after the holidays.

Check out the *Official* Homeschool Review Crew Blue Ribbon Award winners and look in the Linky to read about my Crew Mates' family favorites.

Nov 17, 2017

F is for Family Christmas (Slugs & Bugs) ~ A #5things Post

*Giveaway Has Ended*

We're listening to Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible Family Christmas.  It was the first Christmas album I allowed this year because I was so excited when it finally arrived.  I was on the Kickstarter this summer and I could not wait to get all my fantastic music!  One copy of Sing the Bible, one copy of Sing the Bible vol2, two Sing the Bible vol3, and two Family Christmas.  Since I already own the first volume, thanks to a blog giveaway just like this one, I will be sharing three of these albums with YOU, my readers.  Check out the trailers below.

Today's giveaway is for a copy of Sing the Bible Family Christmas.  I haven't done a #5things post in a while, so I'm going to do that and tell you five things about Family Christmas.

  1. Randall Goodgame and Andrew Peterson are the brainiacs behind Slugs & Bugs, with the first CD released in 2007.  Now, it's a family affair and all the Goodgames are involved.
  2. Most Sing the Bible songs are *word for word* from scripture, using various Bible versions depending on singability (or the Slugs & Bugs MSV - most singable version).
  3. Family Christmas intentionally has that A Charlie Brown Christmas feel, ala Vince Guaraldi, and also a Peanuts inspired cover.
  4. Moms (and maybe Dads) will love the music as much as the kids.  Seriously. 
  5. I think my favorite of the 12 tracks is Mary's Song, sweetly sung by Livi Goodgame and using the ESV of Luke 1:46-49.
So there you have it, #5things.  Really there are tons more to tell, but I think you should just give them a listen.

You can read a bit more about how we use Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible to aid in scripture memorization.

Enter the giveaway rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Also, I'm on another round of Blogging Through the Alphabet.  Check it out.

Hopkins Homeschool

Nov 13, 2017

E is for Evangelism ~ Operation Christmas Child

National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child starts on Monday.  Not sure what Operation Christmas Child is?  It's an arm of Samaritan's Purse.

From the Samaritan's Purse website:

Mission Statement

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

They provide assistance to people in need around the world.  By responding to natural disaster sites, war torn environments, and more, they are able to share the Good News to hurting men, women, and children.  They help people rebuild, give medical care, work with wounded US veterans and their spouses, train people to care for animals and plants to provide food and a livelihood to individuals and their neighbors, greatly improving their quality of life.  And really, that's just a small sample of the many things Samaritan's Purse does.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry that reaches kids ages 2-14 around the world.  With the gift of a shoebox, the door is opened for the eternal gift of the gospel.  Children receive a gift, prayerfully and lovingly packed by other children, families, and churches.  Items packed generally include school supplies (paper, pencils, crayons, coloring books), hygiene items (soap, washcloths, tooth brushes), clothing (a shirt, socks, underpants, shoes), and toys (a slinky, whistle, cards, dolls, soccer ball with pump).

We've packed shoeboxes almost every year since the bigger littles were baby punks.  It's part of what we do each fall now and I think they would be pretty disappointed if they didn't get to choose toys and games to include in each box.  We go through our stash of small toys, tools, games, and gadgets and pack items in each box very intentionally.

Some items are more expensive than others, but there are often sales on most items you might want.  I never imagined I could afford soccer balls and pumps for boxes, but I found a sale last year for $2.50 for real soccer balls.  Then I shopped around for inexpensive, but sturdy, ball pumps.  I've purchased small fleece blankets (originally $5, on sale for $2.50 or less) and with some creative folding, rolling, and packing, they are easy to fit in a shoebox without displacing other important items.  Sometimes, a great toy assortment or small stuffed animals become reasonably priced.  I don't get "cheap" toys, but rather items at a good price.  I figure, if my punks would break a toy in ten minutes, a lot of other punks would break the toy in ten minutes.  There's no fun in broken toys.

It's just as much fun to pack for older children as it is for the littles.  I like getting to put a bit more thought into what a 13 year old might be interested in as opposed to a six year old.  I've included small tool kits for boys and crochet hooks and yarn for girls.  Somewhere, on the great wide interwebs, once upon a time, I found crochet instructions with NO WORDS, so no language barrier.  In just pictures, girls can learn to crochet basic items.  The source of that document is no longer on the internet, but it has me thinking of other things that can be taught in photos.

We make purchases year round.  It makes it a lot easier to pack more boxes without a big expense all at once.  I don't follow the Samaritan's Purse shopping schedule; I just purchase whatever I see on sale (shoes, clothes, toys, and school supplies) at the end of the season, then add washcloths, soap, and toothbrushes.  This year, I had so many little girls' shoes, and shirts for both boys and girls I was able to pass them on to a church to include in their boxes.   I had thought about keeping some for next year, when I heard the Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible version of Matthew 6:19-21 and Luke 3:11 decided to get them sent out this year.  I know I'll find more bargains for next fall.

Another great feature of the Operation Christmas Child ministry is that we can track our shoeboxes.  By paying the reasonable shipping fee online, we can print labels for our boxes which can be scanned and we are emailed the country of the box's final destination.  Some years, all of our boxes go to the same country and other years we've had boxes head to as many as four different countries.  Only once have we not found out where our box went and we learned it went to a "hard to reach" area.  This means the final destination can't be revealed for safety reasons.  I imagine that may be one of the places of greatest need for the gospel message.

Check out Samaritan's Purse to see what happens to a shoebox as it travels from your home to a child in need somewhere in the world.

Find drop off locations and times for your area.


Nov 7, 2017

Innovators Tribe ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

When Innovators Tribe showed up in the upcoming vendor list for the Crew, I sent Dad the link and asked if he thought Xav would be able to use the course in any meaningful way.  Xav's my STEM guy.  Well, minus the "M" - math.  He loves experiments and hands on work.  Thinking Like an Engineer looked like something right up his alley.  Dad said he thought Xav could do it, but he knew he would definitely LOVE the course.  Wayne Kroeplin's (Mr. K) courses are for grades 6-12 with some wiggle room.  My punks are in 5th and 6th grade, but math is a struggle.  *So far* math hasn't been an issue at all.  They haven't needed it for anything.  Not even to succeed in the challenges.  The best part about this class is that you are *encouraged* to invite everyone in the family to participate *together*.  This has given us some fun memories of supporting and working alongside each other.  (And believe me, those moments are few and far between.  We seem to be in a very competitive stage.)

Thinking Like an Engineer is a pre-recorded online course.  Pacing is decided by you and your family.  We took a pretty leisurely pace and generally watched one lesson or completed one challenge each week.  Certainly, your students could work at a faster pace.  I think a video/slide show lesson plus a challenge (or more!) in the same week is completely doable.  At one lesson and one challenge, you would spend about 2-3 hours on the course for the week.

Each unit has a "journal" to fill in with the information found in the videos, sort of a guided notetaking page.  The lessons also have assignments.  We've had various amounts of success with the journals and assignments.  One assignment is learning about an engineer that is involved *somewhere* with a topic in which the students are interested.  Well, Mal is only interested one kind of "engineer" and that's a *train* engineer.  I have directed him to transportation engineers and we've looked up how engineering is used in the design of trains and railways.  It isn't quite the same, but he was willing to learn a bit about it.  Xav was interested in engineering as it applies to Lego toys.  While we found listings for job openings in engineering for Lego, they were in a foreign language.  Most of what we found was about designing Lego sets.  So, the researching engineers part didn't go great for us, it was good practice at online researching and we did learn a bit.

Innovators Tribe What You Get

The units include:
  • Intro to Engineering
  • Intro to 3D Design
  • Engineering Rollercoasters
  • Engineering Bridges
  • Nano Engineering
  • Thinking Like an Engineer - Course Conclusion
I thought I'd tell you about some of our favorite activities and challenges to give you a feel for the course.  Lesson 3 is called Engineering Clean Water.  While I watched the lesson and the associated outside videos, I remembered the PlayPump.  Does anyone else recall the water pump that was run by children playing on a Merry-Go-Round?  I always thought that was genius.  Unfortunately, when I looked it up recently, I found out it didn't end very well, for the most part.  Throughout the Thinking Like an Engineer course, we were encouraged to be innovators and try new things.  Even though the PlayPump doesn't work well in all situations, it was definitely innovative.

In lesson 4, you receive the 3D Design software that you will use to create bridges and roller coasters.  We aren't using this yet (so close), but I know Xav especially is going to love it.  He eats that kind of thing right up!

Thinking Like an Engineer

The challenges have been a blast!  Some times we don't handle failure very well, When we have worked on the challenges, there has been an "Oh, rats!" or three, but no one has been angry about starting over and rethinking the processes.  We have had so much fun completing these tasks together.

Our first hands on challenge was to try to construct towers using regular copy paper.  Well, the punks were a bit disappointed, because Mr. K said some students had built their towers a couple feet taller than they did.

His class also stacked more books than we did in the second challenge.  We used one sheet of paper and had two feet of masking tape for this challenge.  We tried fan folding, circles, and concentric circles.

This happened a lot.

 And this.

But through all the challenges we faced, we brainstormed our way through to make the best of the assignment and to figure out what we could do differently or better to improve our results.  Eventually, we got to this.

If I had made just three or maybe four rings, even though they were super tiny, I would have had more stability and been able to stack books higher.

Our third challenge was creating a crude water filter using information from an Environmental Protection Agency video.  We didn't complete that challenge here at home, because a class in our co-op recently did this.  (Hmmm... As co-op yearbook creator, I thought I had taken a picture of that lesson, but it appears I did not.) 

The one thing I really wished for was the "solution" to the challenges.  How did Mr. K's class get 200 POUNDS of books on the single sheet of paper?  HOW?  I need to know!  Maybe gEEk Dad can tell me.  The punks and I absolutely love the hands on quality of the coursework and they really like the videos.  They've learned a lot of information seemingly unrelated to engineering.  I think they especially liked the clean water challenge and we could tell that it was an important problem to Mr. K.

I also enrolled in the free Think Like an Innovator course.  I think the punks are going to like it, too!  Mr. K offers another course, Thinking Like an Architect, also for grades 6-12.  Some of my CrewMates reviewed that as well.  So please click below to read some of the other reviews.

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Nov 4, 2017

D is for Easy, Breezy... Dangerous

We once lost 14 trees to a wind storm.  That's just the trees in the yard.  It doesn't count any in the woods.  It was a terrifying day in which I hid in the basement with the bigger littles.  Since then, we've had plenty of crazy wind storms, but I worry a *lot* less than I used to about trees smashing our house.

The other night, we had another storm and we lost one "smallish" tree, much shorter than those 80footers that were blown over before.  And probably half the diameter.  It didn't hit anything, but was a bit too close for my comfort to the van!

So thankful the treehouse trees remained intact.  I'm pretty sure these geese were wishing they had flown south about 24 hours earlier.

Oct 31, 2017

Let The Little Children Come #2 ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

Today, I want to tell you about some evangelism tools for sharing the gospel with children.  Let the Little Children Come has a Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools Sampler Pack that I really think you're going to like.  Let the Little Children Come is not affiliated with any specific church.  You can see their Statement of Faith on the website.

Like the Is There Anything Better Than Candy? Box Tract I reviewed last month, these tools can each be purchased separately and come in packs of either ten or twenty.  Just check out the fun sampler pack and choose a favorite to share with your audience.  I ended up sending the pumpkin boxes, filled with candy, to the community soup kitchen along with some yummy cookies made by our co-op kids.

Most of the individual tract packs come with one leader's instruction sheet for the whole kit.  This sheet explains how to use the tract, what to say to the child, and lists verses for references.  There's also often an example prayer for children to pray to accept God's gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ.  As with the pumpkin tract boxes, I found the messages to be full of love and not fear.  Some of the tracts, like the Wordless Bracelet Kit, come with a small instruction card in each bracelet kit.  Some of these tracts also are available in Spanish.

Several types of tracts are included in this child evangelism tract sampler.

Three Animated Tracts.  These nifty booklet tracts have several pictures that feature sections made up of vertical lines.  They include an acetate sheet that alternates clear and black vertical stripes.  When the acetate is laid over the picture and moved left or right the picture becomes clear and appears to move. 
"It's like a little movie!"  ~ Xav

  • The True Story of Christmas - Features six illustrated pages, five of which use the acetate overlay.  The last page shares the gospel, including an example prayer.
  • Where's Everybody Going? - Six pages which use the acetate overlay and a page inviting readers to spend "forever and ever" with God.
  • John 3:16 - Four acetate overlay illustrations and the gospel message.

Two FlipAbouts.  I love these things.  Once I figured out *how* they work!  These little cards are so fun to play with.
  • John 3:16 - Tells John 3:16 in four pictures.
  • Gospel Buttons - Shares the gospel in a similar way as the other "wordless" products, using just gold, black, red, and green pictures.

Two Pop-up Tracts.

Two Bracelets.
  • Wordless Bracelet Kit - Children create their own wordless bracelet with the black string and black, red. white, green, and yellow beads.
  • Salvation Bracelet - This is one of those popular, rubbery bracelets, divided into the Wordless colors.
And a mini Wordless Book.

The Wordless items all start with Heaven, but we've always ended with Heaven.  There was a bit of resistance with those, so when we made the Wordless Bracelet Kit, we put the yellow bead at the end.  All the items in the Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools Sampler Pack are well made and I think will hold up to quite a bit of use.  I'm not sure, but I imagine the FlipAbouts won't last as long as some of the others, simply because of the continuous folding that will be happening once you've figured out how to flip it.  They are by far my favorite tools now that I've figured out exactly how they work.  Once I get started, I just keep flipping and flipping and...  The punks' favorites are the animated tracts.  They're pretty neat.  Xav also loves the bracelets.  He is almost always wearing some rubber bracelet or wristband.  He also loves crafting, so the Wordless Bracelet Kit is a must for kids who enjoy assembling things.

Each of these evangelism tools draws children in with a fun experience and allows them to hear the gospel message.  They then take these home with them where they share the fun and the message with their families and friends.  The more times they share the gospel, the more they are exposed to it themselves.

 Let the Little Children Come Gospel Tracks

I think the best part about the Let the Little Children Come website is that you can go to the page of any of these tools and see so much about it before you decide to purchase one.   Each one includes descriptions and usage instructions.  Some of the information even shows a video of how the tracts work or are assembled.

Check out this resources page for more neat evangelism ideas that you can use today! 

Find Let the Little Children Come on Facebook. 

Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools {Let the Little Children Come Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer