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Apr 26, 2017

Drive Thru History® The Gospels ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

Drive Thru History The Gospels

If you're familiar with Drive Thru History® courses (Ancient History, American History, or The Holy Land), I think you will really enjoy Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”.  I had to laugh, when the day the DVDs arrived, Xav started the first disc.  He watched the intro for a moment and said, "Drive Thru History?  Where's his MINI Cooper?"  I have no idea if Dave Stotts drives a MINI in Ancient History.  I guess I don't pay attention to the "important" stuff.  I did note, however, that for this round Dave is apparently driving a 40 year old Land Rover.  You're welcome.  (Well, I'll be.  I just looked up a mini and found a review on Car and Driver for the Mini Cooper S that looks identical.)

Drive Thru History The Gospels

Dave Stotts and Drive Thru History® make learning about the past more fun.  Seriously.  I have active boys.  They love the visual action, the quick and concise way Dave presents the information, and the neat graphics that appear on the screen with Stotts.  He even interacts with some of the "holograms," as my boys call them.  You are exposed to various texts, images, and pieces of art through these graphics.  History isn't  just about the dates, but also the action.  The punks love to hear or see the true stories that are connected.  It's a much richer history than the timeline, though that is also very important.

When I watched the trailer, I was so choked up.  I cry my eyes out every time I see a depiction of what my savior did for me.  I am so deeply humbled by that.  You can see the trailer and cry your eyes out, too.  You're welcome for that as well.

The Gospels: The Extraordinary Life of Jesus of Nazareth is a three DVD set with a hardcover booklet/case.  Each of the 18 episodes is nearly 30 minutes long and is broken down more into chapters.  The entire set explores the life and times of Jesus, using the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as well as outside historical information about the lives of rulers and the people at that time.

Disc 1 of the series begins with a quick and historical look at the time, people, and locations covered in the Gospel accounts and the importance of genealogies.  Jesus' birth and the beginning of his ministry is also covered here.

Disc 2 contains Jesus' miracles, The Sermon on the Mount, and His travels with the apostles.

In disc 3, Dave Stotts talks about Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, His trial, crucifixion, and resurrection.

I'm including a lot of photos this time, because the photography and cinematography are amazing.  Hope you don't mind!

Drive Thru History The Gospels

Drive Thru History The GospelsThere is a lot of really interesting extra-Biblical information that I think really expands on what the Bible tells us about Christ and the times he lived in.  For instance, in episode 4 we learn about King Herod and his Herodium, one of several of his palaces.  I knew very little about him beyond the Biblical account.  It's mind boggling to me what the wealthy rulers did to show their superiority over other people.

First, Herod had one mountain moved to the top of another mountain.  By hand.  Not his hand, of course.  Herod Antipas, who ruled during Jesus' ministry, had a large bath house with three temperatures in the various pools.  Herod's actual *pool* - in the middle of the desert - held nearly 3,000,000 (that's Million!) gallons of water.  In the desert.  Like his father, he had little regard for the lives of the people.  Whereas, Herod the Great ordered the murder of all sons under the age of two in an attempt to kill the King of the Jews, Antipas murdered John the Baptist as well as a number of prominent men, even family members, to keep his rule secure.

Drive Thru History The Gospels

Not knowing how the crucifixion would be portrayed, I chose to watch episode 16, The Crucifixion of Jesus, without the boys.  I think the most dramatic portrayal of the crucifixion they have seen is from What's in the Bible?.

I've seen many graphic portrayals of the suffering of Christ, but rarely in drama is the entire process explained.  Drive Thru History® used art and some live action while explaining what crucifixion does to the human body.  At first, I thought how God must feel about his children who devise ways to torment their brothers and sisters.  My heart was breaking.  When Dave told of Christ on the cross crying, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!"  I lost it.  I just wept, that gut wrenching, cleansing weeping.  I am telling you this because I want you to know how incredibly moving this was.  This scene was not melodramatic.  It was just deeply moving.

sigh...  OK.  Take a minute if you need it...

The DVD set comes with a book built into the case.  Each video has a four page spread devoted solely to it.
  • Title page, which lists a quote.  Most are Bible verses, but there are also quotes from the likes of Mother Teresa, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Harry Truman.
  • Summary page with a short synopsis of the content.
  • Five discussion questions and a list of the related Biblical readings.
  • The Side Road which offers interesting tidbits about minted coins, the Garden of Gethsemane, and Passover, among other subjects.  This page also highlights art or photos from The Gospels episodes.

Following these four pages, another artwork or photograph from the series is featured as a two page spread.

Drive Thru History The Gospels

Dave Stotts is often humorous, but never irreverent.  The videos can be many things, but are never boring.  This would make a nice homeschool curriculum or Sunday school or small group study.  One episode each week and the corresponding discussion questions and Bible reading, make an enjoyable and doable study for the target audience of middle school and up, but all ages will really enjoy this exciting look at Biblical history.  It would be an excellent choice for a Lenten study.

At the time of this writing, the first episode is available on the Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” page.  Just click on the word "here" on that page.  No code is necessary. 

Find Drive Thru History® on social media.

The Gospels {Drive Thru History® Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Apr 23, 2017

Day 5 The Scripture Box ~ Scripture Memorization

WHEW!  Well, I did not get this Day 5 post prepared ahead of time.  It was a crazy week with other commitments and I had no time to finish.  So here is Day 5, one day late.  Thanks for being patient!

I've posted about this before in one of my wrap up posts a couple of years ago.  I'm updating our scripture box and decided to share it.  We haven't actually used it in a while, so we're starting from scratch with daily verses.  I suspect we'll move through it much more quickly since all those verses are already rattling around in our heads.  This is also a great time to start Merrick on the scripture box.

If you google it, I'm sure you'll find lots of similar boxes.  We had ours in a plastic container which was fine when we only had a few cards.  As our card collection grew, I realized they were too big when they had to stand upright.  So, I picked up this new box at Dollar General.  It's tall enough to close even when all the cards are standing up.

I keep several sharpies of different colors in the box.  When I write a new card, I choose the color based on where/why we are memorizing it.  Co-op is orange, Rangers (which we no longer attend) is blue, and AWANA is green, etc.

The first verses you want to learn go under the "daily" tab.  You'll practice them, well, daily.  Once you've learned it/them, you move that card to the "odd" or "even" tab to practice on odd or even numbered days.  As you learn more scripture and shift the cards back, they will go under a day of the week, and eventually under a number card to be recited on day each month.  In this way, even verses you've memorized will be practiced at least one day each month.

Besides the cards I've written, we've collected random cards from VBS, magazines, favorite websites...  all over the place.  These are currently tucked in the back.

We used these cards often for a few years and then got out of the habit.  It's definitely a simple way to keep practicing verses and Hiding the Word in Their Hearts.

Thanks again for joining me (and the rest of my Crew mates.  We've enjoyed sharing our thoughts with you and I sincerely hope you are feeling inspired.

5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Apr 20, 2017

Day 4 Philippians in 28 Weeks ~ Scripture Memorization

Hi again!  It's day four of 5 Days of Hiding the Word in Their Hearts and today we'll talk about  memorizing *entire books of the Bible*!  Yikes!  Right?  I confess, I have not yet actually memorized an entire book myself.  I *have* been able to study complete chapters and file them away in my rattly brain.  Our homeschool co-op used to have the parent who presented chapel assign a memory verse, but a few years ago we started memorizing chunks of the Bible.

This post contains affiliate links.

A really excellent tool for memorizing large chunks of the Bible is Stacy Farrell's Philippians in 28 Weeks™.  Stacy provides cards and techniques that you could use in relation to any scripture you wish to commit to memory.

In order to memorize an entire book of the Bible, Stacy recommends you
  • Read it daily. 
  • Record your insights.
  • Repeat the current verse(s) you're working on.
  • Recite from memory.
It's both that simple and that difficult. I know that sounds odd.  The process is easy, but the act of follow through can be (monotonous, time consuming, frustrating, or whatever other adverbs you can think of!  Ha ha!).  The actual Philippians book is a workbook of sorts with places to record your reflections and thoughts about what you are reading, a checklist for each day, marking your progress, copywork, and Philippians flash cards.

A Home School Adventure Co., publication, Philippians in 28 Weeks™ is a simple and painless way to memorize an entire book of Scripture.

I've been debating including this part, but in the end I decided I would.
I'm including a SPOILER ALERT.
It's about a non-Christian movie (The Book of Eli) that is rated R.
I'm not sure how many of you might have seen the film The Book of Eli.  If you haven't, I'm not necessarily recommending it, though I did mostly like it.  It's rated R and is a pretty rough movie about a post-apocalyptic earth.  In it Eli is trying to get a book (the Holy Bible) to the west coast.  Well, he isn't just carrying the Bible there.  He reads it every day.  The trip has taken him a ridiculous amount of time (30 years or so), and (SPOILER ALERT) when he reaches his destination, he realizes he no longer needs the book.  He has memorized every word of the Bible.

5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Readers in Residence ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

Apologia Educational Ministries helps parents teach their children, using a Christian lens with classes in Bible, sciences, apologetics, and worldview.  We're familiar with several of the elementary science courses and have really enjoyed using them.  The What We Believe series has been on my short list for quite a while.  I am always excited to see the name Apologia Educational Ministries show up on the Crew vendor list.

This time we're taking a look at a language arts course, Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth). This is a newer homeschool reading curriculum from Apologia.  Where do you go after your child learns to read?  Once a child learns to read, he then uses reading to learn.  RIR is a companion curriculum to Writers in Residence.  Both of these curricula are written by Debra Bell.

Apologia Educational Ministries Readers in Residence

Debra Bell is a public speaker, author, and former high school and college English teacher and homeschooler.  I'm going to be ordering one of her famous homeschool planners this summer.

I received the Readers in Residence Volume 1 set which includes
  • The All in One Student Text & Workbook which is 562 spiral bound pages.
  • The Answer Key which is a 232 page softcover book
The books are sold separately or as a set at a discount.

Each of the six units are divided into modules.  The units cover things like
  • Character development
  • Book genres
  • Reading strategies
  • Using Venn diagrams to compare and contrast
  • Vocabulary activities
  • Personification
  • Setting
  • Resolution, and just tons more.

In the back of the Student Text & Workbook you'll find a dictionary, Reader's Toolbox Strategies, a glossary, and Appendix with
  • Sleuth's Log
  • Character Map 
  • Comic Strip and Storyboard Templates
  • Rubrics for units 1, 3, and 5
  • Book Club Flier with room to write the details, copy, and hand out.
  • Index
  • About the Author page
  • Notes
Three assigned books are needed for the course.
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan.
  • Charlotte's Web by E. B. White.
  • Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
  • Three books of the child's choosing, within the parameters set in the book (suggestions are provided for each type).
The units based on a specific book each take approximately 8-9 weeks.  The units in which the students select their own books each take about 3 weeks to complete.  The included suggested schedule is for 4 days of work in each of 32 weeks.  A specific version of each of the assigned books is recommended, only so referenced page numbers will match up.  None of these books are so large, though, that you shouldn't be able to figure out what point in the book is being referred to if you have a different copy.

The suggested books for the On Your Own units cover several grades (3rd to 7/8th) to make it easier to select age appropriate books for older, struggling readers.  While the assigned books might seem "young" for older children, the whole point of the On Your Own section is to learn to carry over the skills from Units 1, 3, and 5 into any book they would choose to read later.

You'll find information about organizing five book club meetings.  A kickoff, a meeting after each of the three assigned books, and a grand finale.  This is a fun way for the students to get together with other people reading the same books and studying the same information.  It's a great idea for a co-op or get together with other Readers in Residence students.  As an alternative, you could start an online book club with friends near and far.  Some of the Crew started a Facebook group to share what our children were doing in RIR.

My first impression when I received the books - Ah Maze Ing.  Xav's first impression - intimidating.  That feeling stuck with him the whole time, unfortunately.  We really struggled to keep him on schedule.  Even reducing the amount of work each day, we were only able to get him through about three weeks of work in the five weeks we have had it.

We talked about book genres and who his favorite authors are.  Xavier has just discovered his dad's old Gordon Korman books. He also likes JK Rowling, anything that makes him laugh (he especially likes Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield comics), and the Adventures in Odyssey Imagination Stations books.

He and Merrick (because Merrick has to do whatever the bigger littles are doing) designed their own book covers.  Xav's book has won some award he created, so he drew a medallion on his cover.  I had to laugh when he asked if he could really publish his book.  I said he'd have to actually write a story first!  Though that's not the point of *Readers* in Residence.  :)

While Xav is certainly capable of reading the books used in this program, he was daunted by the size of the textbook and the amount of reading in the student book (on top of the books studied) that was required to keep him current in it.

This is the first time I have ever had a problem with one of my punks not loving something from Apologia as much as, or more than, I did.  I so wish I could tell you how very much we loved it.  It's a stellar homeschool reading curriculum with solid teaching.  I was amazed with how much is covered.  It is just a bit much for Xavier this year.  At this point, I plan to put it away until the fall of 2018.  That gives him a year and a half to develop the skills needed and the confidence in that deeper understanding to discuss and decipher what he reads.  Xavier is at the low end of the grade range, which is really pretty wide developmentally.

While *I* did look over the huge sample on the landing page (nearly 100 pages - larger than the sample on the product page) and I liked what I saw, I realize now it may have been best to work on it a bit with Xavier before I received Readers in Residence for review.  So, that is my recommendation to you.  If your child is a bit on the younger side or is struggling, work through the sample as best you can.  The entire first three modules of Unit 1 are there.  If you don't feel like your children are quite ready, put it off for a year.

Find Apologia on social media.

Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) {Apologia Educational Ministries Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Apr 19, 2017

Day 3 Child Training/Virtue Bible ~ Scripture Memorization

Welcome back to Five Days of Hiding the Work in Their Hearts!  I am so honored that so many people are reading these posts and I really hope some of them inspire you to use them or come up with your own new ideas.

Today, I want to tell you about the Child Training Bible.  This Bible is so much more than a Bible.  I bought the set way back when it first came out and I was so completely moved as I assembled my Child Training Bible (CTB).  It was created by a lovely, young mother named Mindy Dunn.

What's included.
A "key" which is what you see on the left below. 
3 Tabbing guides.

You will need to have post it flags, highlighters that won't bleed in your Bible (or colored pencils), and a Bible.

The key sheet fits in a medium sized Bible (you can find a link on the CTB website which leads you to the perfect items to complete the project or see the size and decide if you already have the perfect fit).  The guides show you the correct color and placement of post it flags needed and tells you which Bible verses to highlight.  You can see in the photo above, by lining up the two images, I have tabbed a verse for Jealousy, one for Laziness, and one for Not Listening.  There are also tabs at the top and bottom of the page and highlights on the left facing page.

The best part about this tool really was preparing it for use.  I got so much out of it myself as I looked up, highlighted, and tabbed our CTB.  It took only a couple of evenings to finish it.  I felt positively inspired by it when I was done.

The only thing I didn't *love* about the Child Training Bible was the focus on negatives.  It sometimes felt like the Bible was only used as a list of don'ts.  I didn't want the punks to sigh, "I did something wrong so mom is getting the Bible out again." 

Enter the next product made by Mindy.

The Virtue Training Bible came out a bit after the CTB.  This set is HUGE with many more keywords to tab.  I do not own the VTB, though, I would *love* to have it some day.  What I really like about this set is the more positive focus on virtues.  Rather than the "don'ts" it consists of more of the "dos" of the Bible.

I saw on the website that the Child Training Bible is also available in French and Spanish.

5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Apr 18, 2017

Day 2 N is for Notes ~ Scripture Memorization

Welcome back to Day 2 of Hiding the Word in Their Hearts!

One thing I know really helps *me* memorize a verse is saying it frequently throughout the day.  The most likely way I will do that is if I see it regularly.  For years now, I've added notes to the bathroom mirror.  I've used the markers and crayons that crayola makes to write on glass, but usually all that takes is one shower to cause it to run and make a mess.  I started making post it notes.  Sometimes, they are a new verse I want to memorize and sometimes, they are of an uplifting or encouraging verse that I already know, but may need to be reminded of.

I also have this verse with a picture of my boys right where I see it every morning when I get dressed.

 Confession:  That is not the whole picture.  Some days are rough.

And this one hangs on our fridge.

At Walmart, I found this sweet box of cards to be colored.  I like coloring, but I don't do it often.  It seems sort of like the kind of thing someone with scads of free time can do.  I get out my special Faber-Castell pencils and no one else can use them.  :)

We know repetition aids with memory, so there's no wrong way to make notes for yourself or your family.  Any place in your house or car or work that you will look at regularly is a *perfect* place for scriptural encouragement.

5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

A Net In Time Schooling

Apr 17, 2017

Day 1 Slugs & Bugs ~ Scripture Memorization

There are so many ways to learn Bible verses and to hide The Word in our hearts.  I'll be spending this week telling you about some of my favorites.  Today, I want to show you (and let you listen to) Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible.

This is a review, but not a review.  I love Slugs & Bugs and want to tell you about it, too.

*My disclaimer about a lack of disclaimer*
Ahem.  Slugs & Bugs, Randall Goodgame, and the monsters have never heard of me.  
I am reviewing an item I love, and the kids enjoy, simply because we think they're pretty cool.

I was introduced to Slugs & Bugs when I won a copy of the Sing the Bible CD.  We have listened to it countless times.  The boys sing songs like Two Shirts, Alien, Trust in the Lord, and Old Testament Song all the time.  The tunes are catchy and cover many musical styles.  The best part about Sing the Bible, though, is that the song lyrics are *word for word* Biblical scripture.  Talk about hiding the Word in your heart!

Sing the Bible features Randall Goodgame and his friends.  Sally Lloyd-Jones (The Jesus Storybook) and the African Children's Choir appear throughout the tracks on this album.  A harmonica solo, songs with a Celtic flair, and African beats are among the different sounds.

TEN COMMANDMENTS SONG from Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible Vol 2.

Slugs & Bugs friends also include The Count and Franky.  Some people may not like monsters in their Christian music, but on the Slugs & Bugs blog recently, Randall said,
For me, reared as I was on Sesame Street (Cookie Monster, The Count, and Grover’s “The Monster at the End of this Book” come to mind) – it is easy for me to use monsters for mildly scary / humorous purposes. 
That said, there are deeper message at work. First, do not fear… maybe the Bible’s most frequent admonition. Also, things are not always as they seem. What may at first seem monstrous may prove otherwise, so be slow to judge. 
Third, I’m thinking of the great passage from Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton about bogeys and dragons… his point was that fairy tales show that there is something stronger than darkness. In all of the way S&B uses monsters, it is with a similar spirit – that the context of the Gospel overwhelms fear. 
Finally, I go back to examples like Sesame Street’s Grover and Bugs Bunny’s abominable snowman. By incorporating “monsters” into fun settings, we bring them onto our level, which allows not only freedom from fear but the beginning of empathy for the “other.” (These are friendly monsters!) And after all, no one I encounter daily is completely evil. most everyone I meet is a mixed bag (like me)!

The monster are also not on every song (or even many songs), so don't let that deter you.  I think they are cute, friendly, and always desirous of doing God's will.

I have Sing the Bible 2, 3, and Christmas arriving in a few months (I got them through the Kickstarter campaign for 3 and Christmas).  It feels like it will be forever and I could certainly purchase StB2 and get it right away, but I will be patient.  You can order all the current, awesome Slugs & Bugs albums in the store.  They are not all scripture, but they are all clean, wholesome fun that moms and dads will like as much as the littles.

If you're lucky enough to see Slugs & Bugs LIVE, I recommend it.

Slugs & Bugs and Randall Goodgame combine fun and scripture.  Some songs are deeply moving and others raucous good fun.

Hey, some other moms on the Crew are sharing five days of posts.  You're sure to find other topics that apply to you and your homeschool.  Check them out!

5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Apr 15, 2017

M is for Mud Season

Some weeks blogging through the alphabet is planned out months in advance.  Some weeks, it takes some serious thinking.  In Vermont, the logical M word would be maple and I seriously thought about it.  After all, Maple Openhouses were held at Sugar Shacks all over the state just a couple of weeks ago.  But then, *this* just happened.  (PS.  I'll tell you all about maple another day.)

Vermont has six official seasons.
  1. Spring
  2. Summer
  3. Fall/Autumn
  4. Stick Season (That time between the end of September/mid October when all the leaves have fallen and when winter finally arrives.) 
  5. Winter
  6. and Mud Season
Mud season is a lovely time of year, often warming up into the 30s-50s, rainy, gray, and brown.  The only splash of color in mud season is a daffodil or crocus.  Which reminds me, we need to plant more spring bulbs this year.  We get a nice long rainy season each spring here in Vermont, but we also have the winter thaw.  There is a ton of liquid running off hills and seeping up out of the ground as the thaw line moves through layers of dirt and clay.

I'm sure you can imagine what that means to a dirt road.  Or maybe you can't, so I'm here to show you.

These are actual pictures from my road.  We were the third car *that day* to get pulled out of that exact spot!

This week, I heard the grader shortly after I got up.  I like the sound of the grader in the spring.  The driver spent about half an hour working on a particularly rough spot in front of the neighbor's house.  When he left, it was only superficially improved.  Sadly.  I think the town purchased a gravel pit *just* for this road.  I'm sure that's not true, but it sure seems like it.

Later, that same morning, I came home to a road closed sign.  I decided that the work being done was *probably* at the same area on the other side of my house, so I took the chance.  Thankfully, I was right.  And this is what we found.

Merrick spent some time "helping" by tossing one small rock at a time into the pile of stone being spread on the road.  Don't worry.  No equipment was running at the time.  We were waiting for one of several loads of very large stone to be delivered.  I was amazed at how much clay was under the road.  And equally surprised to see a fountain of water when the stones were being tamped down.

This is what the road looks like here now.   Smooth....

Too bad the rest of our road wasn't as nice.  :)

Join us every week at A Net in Time and Hopkins Homeschool for Blogging Through the Alphabet!

A Net In Time Schooling

Apr 14, 2017

Five Days of Hiding the Word in Their Hearts

The Homeschool Review Crew is hosting another 5 Days of Homeschooling link up.  I'm happy to be joining them this time.  Here on Insane in the Mombrain, I'll be writing about Hiding The Word in Their Hearts.

Each day next week, starting on Monday, I want to share something we have found helpful for remembering God's Word and bringing it to mind regularly.  I hope you'll join us here and also pop over to the Crew Blog to see what everyone else is sharing!

This is my anchor post and as each post goes live, I'll be listing it here.  If you can't find something, this is the place to look for it.  Thanks for joining me!

Monday ~ Music (with Slugs & Bugs)
Tuesday ~ Notes Around the House
Wednesday ~ The Child Training Bible
Thursday ~ Memorizing Whole Books (Philippians in 28 Weeks)
Friday ~ The Scripture Box

5 Days of Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Apr 12, 2017

Color My Conversation ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

When I saw Northern Speech Services on the list of vendors for the Crew this year, I was immediately intrigued.  Xav has been in speech therapy and Merrick needs it.  I was sort of hoping the product we were offered would be for speech articulation or stuttering, but I was just as excited when I learned about Color My Conversation, 2nd edition.  This is definitely one of those products you didn't even know existed, but completely fills a need in your home.  Northern Speech Services also offers seminars, online courses, and many products for speech and language pathology.  They've been in business for 45 years, providing speech pathology services that whole time and SLP training and products later.

Most people need to engage in some form of conversation every day.  For those who struggle with this skill, their relationships can be seriously impacted.  Rosslyn Delmonico authored the Color My Conversation program to help both special needs and mainstream children develop the art of conversation to the best of their abilities.  Rosslyn has been an SLP for over 35 years and began developing CMC in 2006.  CMC uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching social language skills.

Northern Speech Services Color My Conversation

What's included.
  • Dry Erasable Stepping Stones
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Ball
  • Gameboard
  • Game Tokens
  • Poster
  • Ribbon
  • Picture Cards
  • Dry Erasable Wall Cards
  • Instruction Manual on CDRom
  • Music CD

Also, training videos are available online.  These short videos explain the entire program and guide the facilitator through the process involved in each lesson.

Personally, I did  not care for having the Instruction Manual on CDRom.  I understand the company wanted to be "environmentally responsible," but each lesson has as many as ten PDFs.  While some  of those files were reproducibles, which makes sense to have on a CD for easily printing and keeping them looking professional, I thought the actual instructions should have been printed and bound.  Give me the complete program in my hands (or at the very least, one single PDF) so I can flip through it easily.  I did print *some* of the pages.  Several times, I actually dragged along my laptop with me so I could read over the manual while I waited in the car for one of the punks to finish up at lessons.  It wasn't ideal, but I didn't have to try to figure out which pages I might/might not get to while I was gone and find myself limited to only the pages I had printed.

Even five year old Merrick did the worksheets.  Sort of.

The reproducible pages consisted of parent letters with editable fields, activities for the children to use "at home" :) to reinforce the lesson, and a worksheet for them to complete.  Song lyrics and chants are also in each section.

The stepping stones are holding up very well to regular use by my punks.  I'm impressed by the quality of all the program components, and I think you will be, too.  The surface is suitable for dry erase markers and the bottoms are similar to, but thicker than, a computer mouse pad.  (One of the boys made that observation, so I went with it!)  We write the appropriate words on each stone, but you can even draw pictures for pre-readers.  There are two yellow (hello and goodbye), one green (conversation starters), one red (conversation stoppers - and no, not the embarrassing kind of conversation stoppers!), and four blue (topics) stones.

The cute, yellow Color My Conversation ball arrives deflated, but can be inflated with any ball pump.  Or you can select another ball to use.  Some balls are easier to catch than others, so just take that into consideration before deciding what to use.  We have used bean bags, beach balls, a textured ball (easy to catch), and a round, stuffed toy.

The game board is huge and very sturdy.  It's a nice, thick bi-fold game board with the stepping stone conversation path on one side and four games on the alternate side.  The game tokens are plastic and come in a handy drawstring bag.

The song CD is simultaneously goofy and cool.  The music is fun, maybe even a smidge hip (Is it still hip to say "hip?"  I'm probably too old and uncool to know!).  The lyrics are typical, goofy kid song type lyrics.  A couple of my boys really liked them.  If we listen often enough, I'm relatively sure they will become some of the random songs that make up the soundtrack of their lives.

The lessons covered are divided into Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert levels.  Everyone should start in the Beginner level, even though the time spent on one level will be reduced.  Some older kids may find it silly, but I think it's a good idea to have this solid footing all along the conversation path.

Beginner lessons focus on greetings and farewells, conversation starters and stoppers, and adding topics, appropriate questions, and topic changers.  Eye contact and body language are important parts of communicating and some gestures and signs are incorporated.  Examples of ways we can be perceived as rude/disrespectful to others and how to avoid that are also covered.

Intermediate and Advanced level topics focus on adding to the skills already learned.  Conversation Coaches will focus on teaching WH questions (who, what, where...) and being able to ask a variety of questions related to a topic, as well as comment appropriately.  Speaking loudly and clearly, and carrying these techniques over into other conversations are covered as well.

I want to be totally transparent here when I tell you this.  Two of the boys have been struggling with school.  I won't name names, but it is becoming quite stressful for us.  There has been some whining and short tempers.  While the punks sometimes feel self-conscious about role playing, we have had so much fun with this program.  We have smiled and laughed and never felt the tension that has become such a part of our regular school day.  The looks on their faces when I walked out the door the first day, closed it behind me and *knocked* was priceless!

A fun game that we played was called Wynnie’s Wakootabonga Lightning Challenge.  In this game, one of my guys selects picture cards and quickly must decide, based on the picture, what the conversation topic will be.  Then he asks one of us three questions about the topic.  Once he finishes that, he chooses another card.  He earns game tokens for asking all three questions and can count up the tokens at the end to see how many cards were played and (sneaking in a bit of math) multiply the tokens by three to determine how many questions he asked.

All the activities are being done as a group, but I decided to take advantage of having Mal all to myself one day while his brothers were playing.  I didn't time us, and we went through 16 cards together.  Completely uninterrupted!  We had several detailed conversations besides the Q&A-type format.  He was attentive and I think he enjoyed the focused time on him as much as I enjoyed spending it chatting with him.

Merrick likes looking at the sturdy facial expression cards.  They're so cute.  The game I play with him involves deciding what emotion the face shows us and seeing if we can make the same face.  He just made that up with me one day and we talked about feelings and worked through the whole deck.

I noticed the words we wrote on the conversation stones often wore off between uses (obviously, because they're dry erase).  Construction paper in the appropriate colors made a nice place to list our hellos, goodbyes, and other stone contents.  All we needed to do was pull out our expanding lists and rewrite them on the stones.

The guided path is fun to pull together and easy to follow.  Merrick loved making short conversations with Daddy when he got home.  He walked his dad to move through the conversation stones.  "Now you move to the next one."  Mal also taught his community coordinator how to play on one of her visits.  And, gravy! we had a blast coming up with Hellos and Goodbyes.  I did need to point out to them that some of them would be goodbyes you would only say to friends or maybe family members.  Teachers, co-op parents, and acquaintances would require goodbyes that were more respectful.

Have fun stormin' the castle!

In fact, CMC opened up worlds of training for us.  I often thought about the troubles the boys have with making conversation, we talked to them about it.  I just didn't think about *showing* them and *training* them in the art.  Conversation *is* an art.  While some people are naturally capable conversationalists, social language does not come easily to everyone.  I've noticed that there are plenty of people (not just those with special needs or young children) who struggle with
  • Monopolizing a conversation.
  • Not recognizing when a topic isn't of interest to the listener.
  • Giving monosyllabic responses.  (Some people are so adept at this, you don't even have to ask them a yes/no question!)
  • Searching for an acceptable topic.
  • Ignoring someone who says "Hello!"
  • Making eye contact.

I actually struggle to make small talk myself (see? transparent, here.).  I often feel awkward around people I don't know especially well.  Working through Color My Conversation with the punks has been a confidence booster for me as well.  I feel like I have a small repertoire of topics and techniques stored up.

Color My Conversation is suggested for ages 5-12.  I think it is a great tool for people of any age who struggle with the mechanics of social language.

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Color My Conversation {Northern Speech Services Reviews}

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