TOS Review: Teach Sunday School

Teach Sunday SchoolI love to read my Bible everyday, but when I first got started it felt intimidating. There are so many names, so many stories, and just so much information that I had a hard time keeping it all together in my head. I often asked myself how one book related to another, and who wrote what, and when did this all occur? For this review we got to check out the Books of the Bible At-a-Glance printable sheets from Teach Sunday School. I wish I had had these when I first started my Bible reading journey, they would have made things so much easier!

Books of the Bible at a GlanceThere is one page for each book of the Bible, organized by order. So once you print them you can just put them in a binder and flip through it as you read your Bible. This makes it easy to find the pages you need whether you are reading the Bible in order or studying a particular book. Each sheet features several categories helping to give you a full picture of that book at a glance! Some of the information included tells you who authored the book and a general date of when it was written. If there is debate about that time frame, they include a note. In addition (and this feature I really liked) for the Old Testament books they tell you about what period in history the book covers! This is a nice feature since sometimes the prophets were talking about recent events (like when Moses wrote Exodus) but at other times they were writing about events that would take place in the future. This is also helpful if you are reading a story set in Biblical times (say God King: A Story in the Days of King Hezekiah) because you can then match it up to the book when the story takes place!

Books of the Bible at a Glance 

For the New Testament, they tell you what major issues the book was addressing at the time. You also get tons of other information like a summary of the major stories included in each book, what makes the book stand out (Claims to Fame), famous verses, and other important points like which chapter you would look at to find a particular item. For me personally, these sheets were like very thorough bite-sized introductions to each book of the Bible.

We used these sheets to preview whatever book my son happened to be reading (he is currently interning at our church with our children’s pastor and daily reading and journaling is one of his tasks). I think these would be particularly great for someone who is new to Bible reading because they help to make things less overwhelming. After reading the sheet for each book you get a general idea of what to expect as you read. You could also use these in so many ways, like to play games in a co-op situation. You could easily have kids do a “scavenger hunt” using the sheets, assigning them to find the book that talks about “X” or find the book that took place from “here-to-here” or find the book authored by “this person”. You could also print them out and hang them in your homeschool space so your kids have a reminder of what book they are reading and what takes place there.

We really enjoyed these and I think they would be a great addition to any homeschool. To learn more, connect with Teach Sunday School on social media here:

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Books of the Bible At-a-Glance { Teach Sunday School Reviews}

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TOS Review: Drive Thru History Adventures

Drive Thru History AdventuresHistory should be an adventure! Unfortunately for a lot of students (including mine) typical textbook instruction just doesn’t bring the stories to life. My youngest enjoys hearing and seeing things that relate directly to the topic he is studying. So, we were excited to check out the Homeschool Video Curriculum from Drive Thru History Adventures.

Drive Thru History AdventuresThis curriculum is a combination of videos/discussion questions and activities that let you explore history where it took place, all at your own pace! There are three specific topics offered: American History, Ancient History, and Bible History. My son decided to check out the Bible history portion of the course for this review. It offered 18 different lessons on topics all about the life of Jesus.

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The lessons include a video portion hosted by Dave Stotts, whom you may know from the TV series. He is an affable host as always, delivering information while making you feel like you are there with him the whole time. Videos typically last around 30 minutes or so, which was a good length for my son. In addition to the videos, you have access to discussion questions that are great for reviewing what your child learned after watching the video.

I also really liked how each lesson also includes the scripture it is related to and fabulous pictures and artwork as well. “Side roads” offer extra information about the people and places discussed in the lesson, and at the end there are additional links to articles and other websites that you can research for more information. The part that really ties it all together are the printable PDFs that go along with the lessons. Basically these are printed copies of the discussion questions along with the scripture readings, a lesson summary important quotes, and the side road from the lesson. So, you could actually use these to do the lessons if you didn’t want to watch the whole video (but I don’t know why you would do that because the videos are great!). Answer keys are also included.

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With this subscription you also get access to Adventures TV. Here you get all kinds of great extras including videos of extra side roads such as the history of recent holidays, Biblical sites, and random fun stuff like “the history of cheese”, behind the scenes looks at the filming of the series, and a separate set of “Dave’s Adventures” where you can check out the host talking about a manner of things serious and not so serious! My son really enjoyed a lot of these because they were short and usually humorous and he could watch them before or after completing a lesson.

When we finish with the Bible History curriculum my son wants to move on to the American History section. Since both the American History and Ancient History consist of about 12 lessons each, I think you could easily move through at least two sections in one school year. While I feel like the curriculum itself is aimed at slightly older students, I think younger children would simply enjoy watching the videos themselves without the additional activities if you wanted to do this with a family group.

We have really enjoyed Drive Thru History Adventures and would definitely recommend that you check it out! To learn more, connect with them on social media here:

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TOS Review: Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”

Drive Thru HistoryIt has always been a dream of mine to travel to the Middle East and explore the places where Jesus walked. Unfortunately, due to life and budget restraints, that will probably never happen. However, this review offered me and my family a chance to experience those places anyway. The DVD set Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” from Drive Thru History® will take you on an amazing adventure through Biblical history.

Drive Thru History The GospelsIf you are familiar with the series, you may know the host, Dave Stotts. He is your tour guide as you watch the DVDs, taking you through the country and explaining the importance of each place. The set includes 18 episodes, each 30 minutes long, and they explore about 50 sites mentioned in the Gospels!

Drive Thru History The GospelsWe love history in our family anyway, but even if you aren’t huge fans, I think you will still find this series exciting. Dave’s presentation is very very good. You can sense his enthusiasm for where he is and it makes you feel excited too. My son thought it was really cool to “see” so many of the places he has read about in the Bible. I think it almost made it seem more real to him, less like a collection of stories, and more like a real history book. I mean, my son knows that everything in the Bible is real, but there is something about seeing the actual locations that makes it more so somehow.

I also liked that each episode was only 30 minutes long. This made it easy to work them into our schedule around the other things we were doing. Some days we watched one episode and then picked up watching another later in the week. However, one one day when my son wasn’t feeling well we watched several episodes back to back. I also like the fact that the series has such broad appeal. It is aimed at grades 5 and up, but I easily think you could watch this with the whole family, and with younger kids, use a story Bible to share the stories of what happened in those places with them.

I also think you could easily add this to an existing Bible study or go ahead and just read the Gospels themselves as you watch the series. There is something about making that connection between what you are reading and the images of the actual places that make it seem deeper and more real. The DVD series itself comes with a study guide that includes scripture quotes, a summary of each section, and questions you can use for discussion if you wish.

We would always talk after each episode, sometimes using the study guide as a starting point. Other times we would break out our Bibles and go read the parts of the Gospels that correspond with that particular episode, and I swear, each time we did that it was like we got something new from it, even though we’ve read those same chapters over and over again.

My family really enjoyed the Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” series. In fact, I’m seriously considering getting some of their other series to watch in the future. We would definitely recommend this if your family wants to know more about the life that Jesus lived.

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TOS Crew: Spiritual Circle Journal

Spiritual Circle Journal

Having a quiet time with the Lord every morning is so important to me, but it took me a long time to figure out exactly how to do it. I never really had anyone explain to me what a “quiet time” was supposed to be and it took a while for me to get comfortable and find a Bible reading plan and journaling system that works for me. I want my son to learn how to enjoy his own quiet time too, but I’m hoping to make it a little easier for him. So, I was really excited to get to check out the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens from Spiritual Circle Journal.

Spiritual Circle Journal

The journal is designed for ages eight and up. Liz Lassa, the author, first created a Circle Journal for adults (which I would love to check out!) and got so much positive feedback she decided to create one for kids as well. The journal comes with a colorful cover and 65 journaling pages that you can have your child use on a weekly basis. It also includes a separate section in the back where kids can summarize the things they have learned.

One of the cool things about the journal is that it has a special page where kids can design their own cover if they want to. My son liked “personalizing” his journal and making it his own. After they make their own cover you can tear the regular cover out and use theirs instead. The first few pages include an introduction where the different parts of the journal are explained. Liz makes the connection between writing and how it makes things stick in our minds, which is part of the idea behind the journal. By writing and recording their thoughts it helps kids internalize what they are learning in their quiet time.

We followed the suggestions given in the intro and I did the first few journal entries with my son. The key at the front of the journal is very helpful, because it clearly explains how to fill out each section, and my son referred back to it a lot when he first started journaling. Each page offers a section where kids can record verses or song lyrics that are important to them, what kinds of worries or other things are on their minds at the moment, a summary of messages from their Bible reading or from church, prayers, thank-yous, and more.

My son is 15 and is very into Christian contemporary music. He plays it all the time. He really liked writing down his favorite song lyrics on the page. At first it took him a while to figure out how to fill out each box, and that’s okay. They don’t even have to fill out each section every time. The hardest parts for him were the “God Moving” section and the “action” section. But, I can say that even as an adult, it can be hard to make those connections at first. When he started working on the journal I would try to guide him with questions like “How did your week go, was there any moment you look back on where you feel like God was really working in your life?”. After a while he got better at making connections between events in his life and God’s hand at work.

I think that’s what I like most about the Spiritual Circle Journal, the way it helped my son make connections between the Bible, God and his daily life. While we often talk about how God walks with us every day and does great things for us, I think the overall concept can be hard to grasp for kids. Journaling like this really makes my son think about what he has read in the Word, and what he has seen during the week. I feel like his quiet time is a lot more thoughtful than it was. We use the journal 2-3 days per week, which is plenty for now. I think this is starting him off on the right foot and will develop a great habit he will carry for a lifetime.

The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens only costs $15 and you can get a bulk rate for a Co-op. I would definitely check it out if you would like to encourage your child to build a deep and thoughtful quiet time. To learn more about Spiritual Circle Journal, connect with them on social media here:

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TOS Review: Grapevine Studies New Testament Overview

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

I am always looking for ways to actively engage my boys in Bible Study. We read the word together, but finding creative ways to get them to dig deeper is challenging. For this review, we got to check out the New Testament Overview Part I Level 4 from Grapevine Studies. Aimed at teens, it is a chronological study that focuses on the time period from the birth of John through Jesus’ baptism and His temptation.

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

Grapevine’s studies incorporate fun stick figure drawings that any student can do. They take about 12 weeks to complete, if you do them every day. The teacher’s book includes a convenient 4-day schedule, which gives you one flex day, but you can certainly tweak it if you want to. Resources you need (which we already had on hand) include a dry erase board and markers, colored pencils, and a Bible dictionary and Atlas. The cool thing about the teacher’s guide is that it includes a full script that you can use for teaching if you wish. I think this is especially helpful for new homeschoolers who might need the extra support until they feel comfortable creating their own lessons. You can also use the script as a guide and teach the lesson in more of a discussion format.

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

After reading the scripture, students  draw a stick figure their version of it onto the lesson pages. This is helpful because it allows them to interpret the lesson on their own. You can also draw your own interpretation on the whiteboard, but I just allowed my son to do it himself, but with younger children, or if you are working with multiple levels, I think it would be helpful if you drew some stick figures yourself to get them started.

Lessons also include review questions that I mainly used for discussion. You don’t have to follow these exactly, but I like to use them as starting points. For example, if a certain question leads to other questions, or encourages your kids to think about a certain point of the Bible passage, then go ahead and follow that tangent. Perhaps the Lord is leading you on that path for a reason, so follow it.

The final question in each lesson involves some type of application, and this was the part I felt was the most important. This is where the rubber meets the road in Bible study. We can read and discuss all we want to with our children, but if we don’t get them to understand how to actually apply it to their lives then we aren’t really getting that far. Some application questions ask students to take passages and apply them to life today, while others ask them to connect one passage of the Bible to another. I feel like, at this level, the Grapevine study can lead to some very deep discussions.

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

The study also includes timeline activities, regular reviews, and final reviews. On the whole, I feel like the studies from Grapevine encourage students to look at the Bible in a different way. For my son in particular, the stick figure drawing technique was engaging and an effective way to get him really involved in thinking deeply about God’s Word. The Level 4 New Testament Overview is available in a variety of forms from eBook to PDF. Grapevine also offers multi-level studies for families who want to teach students of different levels at the same time.

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TOS Review: GrapeVine Studies

Grapevine Studies Review

I consider Bible study to be the heart of our homeschool. We want everything we do to point our children to the Lord, but, especially as they get older, I want to engage my boys in an active study of God’s word. However, the key part of that equation is truly engaging them. So many Bible studies seem to be based on dry recitation of verses and facts. Don’t get me wrong, scripture memorization is important, and we do that, but I think that for any kind of learning to really stick, kids have to be actively engaged in the learning part of it. For this review, we got to check out the Old Testament 1: Level 4 Creation to Jacob  Bible study from GrapeVine Studies. It’s a very different sort of Bible study that still focuses on the important principles, but uses different methods to get student’s attention and get them involved in learning.

Grapevine Studies Review

To complete the level 4 lessons, students will need access to a Bible concordance or dictionary. We have an older version of a concordance given to us by my mother in law that we used, but there are also plenty of online resources you can use to find this information. The study comes with a pretty extensive teacher’s guide that you do need to become familiar with. Of course all homeschoolers like to tweak the programs they use, but this one does have some pretty specific methods that teachers will need to follow. The nice thing is that everything is all laid out in the guide, including the schedule, so it is pretty easy to follow.

Basically, the teacher’s guide walks you through the lesson, complete with a script and detailed images showing you exactly what to draw! I found this to be very handy. Now, keep in mind that you do NOT have to be an artist to use this curriculum. The whole idea is to use stick figuring to complete the pictures, which makes it perfect for parents and students alike. I have very very limited artistic talent. Stick figures are about all I can handle. So, when I was modeling the pictures on the whiteboard, they were almost laughable. However, my 14 year old has inherited quite a bit of artistic talent from his grandmother, and his pictures were much better than mine.

Each lesson starts with the timeline, where teachers introduce the Bible passage and help students map it out. I feel like drawing it out on the timeline really helped to cement the events in my son’s mind. The guide gives you an idea of what each student page should look like when you are done, so you can kind of eyeball if your child got the right idea or not. From there, you move into the formal lesson, taken from other Bible passages and including memory verses and key points all broken down in the guide. Students also have drawing pages where they take visual notes on this part of the lesson as well. Lessons are spread over several days, and at the end of each section there is a review-type page that involves having students use a concordance or dictionary to answer questions related to the lesson.

Now, while we did follow the instructions for all of the drawing pages exactly as they were given, I found this program worked better if I read the teacher’s notes the night before each lesson, and then summarized them rather than reading them verbatim for my son. He’s older, so he doesn’t need word-by-word instruction. For the lesson days, we often read the passage from the Bible for that day, then I summarized the key points from the teacher’s notes again while he did his drawings. In all, we spend anywhere from 15-30 minutes a day working on Bible four days per week. On the fifth day he did Bible reading on his own.

At first, this study seemed a little complicated. However, once we got into a groove, it got pretty easy because you really repeat the same steps the whole time. My son enjoyed drawing his notes, because like I said, he is a natural artist. I would definitely recommend this study for students who like to draw, or for kids who tend to get fidgety during lessons, because it gives them something to do with their hands.

Grapevine Studies Review

Grapevine offers several different levels and types of studies, some of which can be combined. For help deciding where to start, check out this flow chart:
Grapevine Studies Review

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TOS Review: Real Life Press

Real Life Press Review

I am always looking for ways to include more Bible study in our curriculum. However, as my kids get older, this isn’t always easy. So, I was happy to give the Firmly Planted, Gospels, Part 1 curriculum from Real Life Press a try for this review. The curriculum comes with a PDF Family Study Guide and Student Workbook.

Real Life Press Review

This ten-week study focuses on events from the life of Jesus like his birth and his miracles. I like the fact that it is only a ten-week study because it allows you to move onto other topics. When the guide says “family” they mean it. The study guide breaks the lessons down into activities for younger and older children, so you can truly use it to teach all of your kids at once.

Lessons are divided into daily activities, starting with a main passage that is the basis for the lessons. Scripture memorization for both younger and older kids is included. A short passage explaining the significance of the passage promotes discussion. After that, there are short readings from the Bible for each day, with an extra section for older students that invites them to go deeper into the passage, and a section that talks about ways kids can apply the lesson to their lives that day.

For us, the length of these passages was perfect. Reading them out loud took around 10 minutes. I appreciated the digging deeper section because it gave all of us something to think about. In some cases, we were shown connections between the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus and the fulfillment in the New Testament. Other times, we explored other Biblical characters like David and Moses. The life applications sections invited us to pray, think about Christ’s sacrificial love, and how to model that in our daily lives.

In the workbook portion, you get several activities to go along with the lessons. While no official schedule is given for these activities, they are pretty easy to break down into a few for each day. The same types of activities are included for each lesson, and you can certainly pick and choose the ones you want to do. The activities have a nice balance for older and younger students.

There are some basic questions about the passage, that you can print or discuss orally. Copywork for younger kids and a journaling page for older students encourage kids to explore their thoughts about the passage. At first, these were hard for my boys, because journaling about the Bible was new to them, but eventually, they got the hang of it. Mazes and coloring pages are fun activities, and there are two crosswords, one for older kids and one for younger.

Sometimes when I was reading, my kids would work on the word search, and even though he is older, my middle schooler occasionally asked to do the coloring page. But for me, the best part of the workbook was the exploring the Bible section that taught us more about the structure and connections in the Bible itself. I found these to be very interesting and they led to a lot of “A-ha!” moments for all of us.

In addition, there are mapping activities and other puzzles you can use. For the older kids in particular, the Upper Class worksheets invite students to delve deeper into the subject. These papers include further Bible passages for kids to read and interpret, and questions to really get them thinking. I thought these were VERY appropriate for middle and high school students. For example, in the lesson on John the Baptist, the focus was on repentance and sin, and encouraged kids to look at their own lives and identify the areas they need to work on.

I found that the Upper Class section typically gave us our deepest discussions, and that made me very happy. As my boys become teens I know they face so many challenges, and it is important that I find a way to give them as much support as possible. However, tackling these topics isn’t always easy, so being able to use the study as a starting point, and having a Biblical reference for the discussion, was really helpful.

On the whole, I was very happy with this study from Firmly Planted, and I would be interesting in using their other ones (the series is going to take you all the way through the Bible in 10-lesson sets). The workbook portion of the program costs $24.95 for a PDF download, and you can print copies for your own children. The student book that contains the story and daily readings costs $9.95 for the PDF. The only thing I would change about this is to have a physical copy. While I loved all the colored pages, they took a lot of ink to print, and ink is expensive.

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TOS Review: Great Commission Films – IndoctriNation Movie

IndoctriNation DVD Review

For this review, I got to watch the movie IndoctriNation from Great Commission Films. The documentary follows Colin Gunn and his family as they tour the country interviewing teachers, administrators, pastors, and others about the state of Christianity in our public schools. My hubby and I watched this movie together as it is definitely aimed at parents and other adults. Before I begin my review, I want to give you some background on how my family started homeschooling.

I started homeschooling my children mainly because I felt that I was not getting enough time with them when they were in school. Even though I was a teacher, I spent my time with my own students, and I felt like my kids got more quality time with their own teachers than they did with me. Also, towards the end of my 12 year career, I began to feel fed up with the fact that the instruction that happened in my classroom seemed to be mandated more and more by the state and national governments. I was frustrated by the fact that I no longer had the control to give the students what I could see they needed, because I was told to focus on specific standards, with specific curriculum, to prepare for specific tests. However, I have never felt like our schools themselves were “bad” or anything like that, and for the most part, I still believe this to be true.

After watching the film, my hubby and I thought that Gunn definitely brought up some good points. First off all, the documentary touches on our current style of “one-size fits all” education, which many people are aware does not work. He also talks about how originally, control of education was meant to be in the hands of states and local districts, not the federal government. Through his interviews, he touches on other topics, such as how other faiths and ideas are allowed in many curriculums, but Christianity, specifically is ignored. The documentary uses a lot of Bible-based quotations to drive home the point.

In one case, the documentary focuses on a particular young teacher who actually left the profession because she felt she was asked to deny her faith. Well-known authors and critics of the public school system, such as John Taylor Gatto, are also included in the film.

By the end of the movie, my hubby and I felt we had a lot to talk about. While we both agreed the movie brought up some things about our school system that did concern us, we also felt like there wasn’t much balance to the film. Whenever I read/watch/listen to information about a controversial topic, I like to see both sides represented so that I can compare the two and decide for myself which one I agree with. I felt like all of the people featured in the film were basically against public schools.

Nonetheless, the movie focuses on a very important topic for Christian parents. A lot of research cited in the film makes it clear that many students leave the church by the time they are out of high school. Obviously, there is something going on that is causing these young Christians to lose their faith, and it is really important that the Christian community talk about it, and try to find out why. I think this movie would be great for a discussion group at a church or an adult Bible study because the only way to come up with solutions is to have conversations about (sometimes uncomfortable) topics. Indoctrination costs $19.95.

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TOS Review: Purposeful Design

Purposeful Design Review

Good creation resources are a benefit to any homeschool. I am always on the lookout resources that will attract my kids attention and explain things in a way they understand. For this review, we got to check out the book Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation from author Jay Schabacker at Purposeful Design.

This book is suitable for all ages and features seven chapters, each one devoted to a particular day of creation. With over 90 pages, it is chock full of information, plenty to start a unit study if you wanted. What struck me first about the book is the beautiful photographs that accompany the text. From landscapes, to people, to animals, Schabacker brings you the world in vivid color. The book provides easy to understand explanations for scientific topics like the water cycle and the seasons, which make this a perfect resource for moms with littles. However, it also provides a great jumping off point for further study for older children, making it great for use with multiple ages.

Purposeful Design Review

Bible verses are spread out throughout the book and provide an excellent source of memory work. I appreciated how Purposeful Design makes it clear how exact our world is and how radically different it would be if just one thing were out of place. For example, one section talked about how Earth is perfectly tilted on its axis, and discusses the consequences if that tilt were off by even a little bit. To me, that just reaffirms that our world was deliberately created.

In addition to the book, parents can download a free curriculum to go with it at the Purposeful Design website. The PDF file contains questions for each chapter, additional verses to memorize and think about, as well as discussion questions you can use to further make the connection between creation and God. For younger kids, you could do a lot of this orally, but for older children, you could easily print it out and use it as a review for each chapter. I felt like the curriculum was a great addition to the book, especially if you wanted to use it as a starting point for a unit study. When combined with other books about the stars, planets, plants, etc. and maybe a couple of episodes of The Magic School Bus or documentaries, you could definitely create something to last for at least a semester.

Of course, this is also an excellent choice to simply add to your bookshelf. Use it as a read aloud, or put it in your book basket for your kids to explore on their own. It is full of factual information which makes it a great reference. You could also use it to supplement other curriculum you are using if you are studying topics like astronomy, earth science, or life science.

In 2013 Purposeful Design won the Illumination Book Awards bronze medal, and in 2014 it was awarded a bronze medal in the Coffee Table category by the Catholic Press Association. I think it definitely deserves those awards, and is well worth the price of $18.95.

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TOS Review: Apologia iWitness

Apologia ReviewI have to be honest with you, I have fallen in love with every product I have ever tried from Apologia Educational Ministries. Seriously, I recommend their stuff to all of my homeschool mom friends! So of course, I jumped at the chance to check out their new worldview iWitness books. We got a copy of the Old Testament iWitness, New Testament iWitness, and iWitness Biblical Archaeology. The books are appropriate for all ages as read-alouds and I think the pictures and format would appeal to children and adults, but for reading alone they work for ages 11 and up.

Apologia Review

The books are written by Doug Powell, and are set up almost like a scrapbook, with different fonts and pictures set up to look like a collage. Old Testament iWitness tackles questions like “who wrote the Old Testament?” and “How were the books collected?”. Powell presents historical evidence factually, allowing the reader to put the pieces together and draw their own conclusions. My oldest son and I read this one, and both of us learned things we didn’t know. It also inspired a lot of discussion, and a desire to go back to the Bible and read the books themselves (which I really appreciated).

Apologia Review

In New Testament iWitness, topics explored include the authors of the books, how they were handed down, and how we know they are accurate. It also includes some church history. This book I read with my 8th grade son who found the information about how the books were copied and the different translations so interesting that he wanted to go to our Christian bookstore and look at the different translations so he could compare them himself!

Apologia Review

The iWitness Biblical Archaeology was probably the most interesting book for both of my boys. It was the first one my youngest grabbed, and his brother kept bugging him to finish so he could check it out. It begins by talking about the Flood and the search for Noah’s Ark (a topic of high interest for both of my kids). I found the parts about the Dead Sea Scrolls very interesting, and the section about the world during Jesus time also sparked a lot of discussion.

As is typical of Apologia, all three of the books are beautifully done. The images are just gorgeous, and I think these will work very well for kids who are visual learners. The text is broken up into small chunks, which is good for kids like my youngest son, who sometimes gets overwhelmed with a lot of words on one page. However, I do have friends with kids who get flustered when pages seem overly “busy”, and there is a LOT to look at on these pages, so I could see them having a problem with that.

I think these books are a fascinating read just for fun, but you could also easily use them for school as well. For my high school son, they make an excellent resource for worldview or a study of church history. I like how the author presents the facts without a lot of opinion. For my younger son, we used them as a supplement to our regular Bible study, and I kind of let him go for further exploration of whatever topics he found most interesting. Each iWitness book costs only $14.00, which is a great price. These are a perfect addition to any library, and also make excellent “coffee table” books!!

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TOS Review: Veritas Press

Veritas Press Review

As my children get older, I am always looking for new ways to challenge them in their schooling. With rising 8th and 11th grade students, I find that my boys are now coming up with more in-depth and thoughtful questions, particularly in the areas of history and our Biblical studies. So, I was pretty excited to get to try out the Self-Paced Omnibus I program from Veritas Press. This program is aimed at students in grades 7-9, so I figured it would be perfect for my 8th grader!

Veritas Press Review

Now, one of the first things I really liked about this program is the fact that it is self-paced, allowing you to move as slowly or quickly as you want. This makes it perfect to start in the summer, where we could do lessons 3 days per week, and then move up to 5 days per week when we officially get back to work in the fall. However, after having done some of the sections now, I will say that we may have to move at a slower pace all year due to the reading. There is a LOT of reading each week, at least from the viewpoint of my non-reading loving boy. And the reading is kind of hard too. We read through two books of the Bible and parts of the Odyssey for the program. In some cases (like Genesis and Exodus) you cover an entire book of the Bible in five sessions! If you have a child who loves to read and is really good at it, they will be at a huge advantage for this course. But, if you have a struggling reader or someone who does not enjoy reading (like in my house) you will likely have to slow down the pace or read along with them.

So, in the cases of Genesis and Exodus, my son and I alternated the reading, with him reading a section alone and then me reading to him. The Odyssey we had to read together because the Greek tragedies are still a little much for my son to tackle by himself. The videos that went with each session were much easier for my son to digest. My son really liked Mr. Etter, the teacher. He has a pleasant speaking voice and a warm personality which makes the videos easy to watch. Each daily session takes about 30 minutes or more (at least so far) which is a bit lengthy. Sometimes we would take a stretch break in the middle of a lesson.

Lessons are broken into different sections, with Mr. Etter speaking directly to the camera in lecture-type formats, interviews with experts and people on the street, tours of famous historical sites, and interactive quizzes and activities. The menu on the side lists the table of contents, but you cannot always skip around in the videos, some parts are locked until you finish the previous section. The course also comes with a PDF download of a book to go along with the program. You have to download it through another program called bookshelf, and the textbook is kin d of like a guide, it includes summaries of all the reading, as well as questions for discussion and debate.

The quizzes and activities were age appropriate and easy to finish. I liked the fact that students could go back and look at their quiz to see what they got wrong after. The program keeps grades and everything for you, making it less work for the parent. I got my own log-in and could see what my son was doing as well as his grades. I would have liked this program a little more if you could skip around in the lessons, reading what you wanted without following a schedule, but it is not set up that way. I feel Omnibus I is a very complete program and you could just add in some math and science to have a full year of school.

In my opinion, Omnibus is a very rich and detailed program that is great for advanced students. I think my older son (who is now in 11th grade) would have loved this! I can see that it is going to be a bit more challenging for my youngest boy, but I am hoping he will grow into it. Omnibus I costs $295 dollars for one year of access. Yes, that is a lot, especially since it is just for one year, but if you consider that math and science are all you need to add after that, it makes the price look a little better. If you want a Biblically-based, thought-provoking program that will challenge the way your child looks at the world, I would definitely recommend Veritas Press Omnibus I.

To learn more about this program, get in touch with Veritas Press through their social media accounts:

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TOS Review: Apologia What on Earth Can I Do?

Apologia Review

I love doing Bible studies with my kids and learning more about the Word of God. However, as they have gotten older, I have felt a need to include more worldview studies in our curriculum as well, because I want to prepare them for the challenges they will face as they leave my home and enter the world. I fell in love with the elementary worldview curriculum from Apologia Educational Ministries a few years ago, and was so very excited to get the chance to review the fourth and final book in the series, What on Earth Can I Do?

Apologia Review

This curriculum is aimed at grades 1-6, but I started using it with my boys when my youngest was in 3rd grade, and now I am finishing up the series with him in the 7th grade and I would say it is still very appropriate for him. First, like everything that comes from Apologia, the hardback book is absolutely beautiful. The illustrations and soft colors make all of their books stand out from the crowd. The focus of this book is stewardship, and how to use what God has given us to serve Him. It includes 8 lessons that always begin with some type of story, followed by the lesson itself, and a closer look at the parables of Jesus at the end. Since this is the first book of the series, it follows the Who Is My Neighbor? book but I think you could really do the series in any order you wanted to and I would highly recommend doing the entire series with your child.

Apologia Review

The curriculum comes with several extras including a Notebooking Journal, Junior Notebooking Journal, and Coloring Book. If you are familiar at all with Apologia’s notebooks from their other courses, you know how incredible they are. If not, let me tell you, they are the perfect complement to the textbook. They include questions, crosswords, copywork, word searches, mini books, and more that relate to the lesson. The fact that the notebooks are tiered make them especially appealing to homeschoolers because it allows you to use the curriculum with multiple ages at once. When we first started this series, my oldest son was doing it along with us. As a sixth grader, he used the regular notebooking journal while my third grade son used the junior journal. While you can certainly just read the book without the journals, I feel like they add a lot to what kids learn in the book.

Notebooking Journal Mini Book

My children enjoy the variation of activities, and I feel like doing the extra work helps them to remember more of what we are learning. Plus, the journals give you a great keepsake at the end of the course.

Mini Book

At the front of the Notebooking Journals there is a suggested schedule which makes planning really easy. The book itself also contains a lesson plan. Basically, each chapter is divided into six lessons, with plans for you to work on the curriculum two days per week. Now of course, this is highly tweakable! 😉 and we actually worked on this daily, because I wanted to get through as much as we could before summer. I would say we spent about 15-20 minutes per day working, with reading and activities.

Apologia Review

Lessons begin with a fictional story meant to demonstrate some aspect of the lesson. We have read some wonderful stories in these books, and the first one in this case focused on a family living in Britain during World War II. My son was instantly drawn into the story, and each time we started a new lesson he couldn’t wait to hear what happened next. Probably my favorite part of the lesson was the Parables of Jesus at the end. Each chapter closes with a retelling of the parables, using actual characters so you can connect with the story. They provide beautiful illustrations of how God wants us to use our talents here on Earth.

I think that What on Earth Can I Do? is a fabulous curriculum I would recommend to anyone. The hardback book costs $39.00 while the journals are $24.00 each and the coloring book is $8.00. I think they are well worth the price, but if you cannot afford everything, definitely get the book. I look forward to snuggling on the couch and reading this with my son each day. This curriculum takes all those things I am not very good at explaining, and puts it all on pages for me to read easily. After completing this worldview series, your child will have a much better understanding of what it means to be a Christian in today’s world.

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TOS Review: The Brinkman Adventures

Brinkman Adventures ReviewDo you love a good story full of adventure and excitement? We do at my house, and we also have a penchant for books on tape and old-time radio shows. Therefore, I was really excited to get the chance to review The Brinkman Adventures Season 2: Episodes 13-24 by The Brinkman Adventures. I originally thought only myself and my 7th grade son would be interested in listening to these, but as it turns out, my 10th grade son got into them too!

Brinkman Adventures Review

What it is:
We got the CD set, four discs with over five hours of stories appropriate for all ages. The Brinkman family are a large Christian family, and many of these stories take place during one of their road trips. Along the trip, the family experiences setbacks, but God’s providential hand brings them through all of them. As they meet and stay with a former missionary family, they invite them to share their stories, and these become their adventures. I don’t want to give too much away, but some of the stories that stood out the most to our kids were the stories of rescuing children from mines where they were held captive and forced to work against their will, and the mystery they encountered in a French castle. The stories of smuggling Bibles into countries where they are illegal, encountering God every step of the way are memorable and exciting.

How we used it:
We put these stories on at home when my son was working on his individual work. I usually have music playing in the background anyway, so we decided to play these instead. We would listen to the stories at home and then bring them in the car when we were driving around. At first, I did not think my oldest son was paying much attention, but as the story on the first disk ended, and my youngest and I got ready to start history together, my oldest asked me “Aren’t you going to put the next one in?” At that point I realized he was excited too. We finished this set of discs in about two weeks, and believe me, my kids were begging me to get the next ones!

What we thought:
Okay, I kind of wish we had started with the first season, because I feel like we missed out on some of the Brinkman’s story. In the very first story we listened to, it began by talking about the babies that Mrs. Brinkman had lost, and going to visit their grave. I have to say, this startled my sensitive son, who asked me “why are they talking about dead babies?”. It did open up a discussion about life, but I think knowing the background in that area would have helped.

However, from that point on, it was non-stop excitement. We have read about missionaries before, and our church actively supports many missionaries who have come to speak at our church. The thing is, so many times missionary stories seem kind of dry, or brutally violent, and I know that makes them realistic, but it has made it hard for my kids to get into hearing about them. The way the Brinkmans tell these stories absolutely draws them in! They have a gift for making you feel like you are right there with them, fleeing through the jungle and hiding from enemies.

Seriously, these stories are a perfect form of family entertainment. Try them out in the car, or after dinner. I can almost guarantee that you will be hooked. In addition to the stories, the Brinkman family has honest discussions about God and how He uses people to do his work. The kinds of discussions that can inspire your family to talk about these topics too. I would highly recommend the Brinkman adventures for some great family entertainment. The CD set costs $25.00, while the MP3 download costs $17.00. My kids are already after me to get another set!

To learn more about The Brinkmans, check out their Facebook page: The Brinkman Adventures on Facebook.

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TOS Review: Home School Adventure Co.

Home School Adventure Co.

As my boys get older, teaching them a biblical worldview becomes more and more important to me. Especially now, with a high schooler preparing to enter dual enrollment classes, where I know his beliefs are going to be challenged. I want to prepare my son to defend his faith, but to be honest, I do not know much about Christian apologetics. So, I was very excited to get the chance to review the Mere Christianity Journal from Home School Adventure Co.

Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal

What it is:
The Mere Christianity journal is aimed at ages 12 and up and is meant to be a companion to the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Numerous copies of the book are available for download in the public domain if you do not already have it on your bookshelf. The journal is organized by chapter and contains thought-provoking questions for discussion.

How we used it:
I used this program with my 7th and 10th grade boys together. After downloading a copy of Mere Christianity, we spent at least three mornings a week reading through the book and discussing the questions. One thing I liked about this is the fact that Lewis’ book is organized in short chapters, making it easy to read out loud. After reading the chapter, I would read the questions and we would all talk about them. Each chapter is accompanied by a number of questions in the journal. Each question takes a point from the chapter and expands on it, or challenges you to think about how to apply it to real life. With the ages of my boys, this led to some lively discussions. I will say I was a little nervous about reading Mere Christianity at first, because I wasn’t sure how my boys would relate to a book written in the 1940s, but I have to say that Lewis’ topics are just as applicable today as they were then. Each week, we had some very pointed discussions that I think really made my boys question what it means to be a Christian and live a Christian life how they apply Christian principles to their everyday life.

What we thought:
I think the Mere Christianity journal is a great way to encourage discussion and conversation about topics that your child is going to encounter as they grow older. I appreciate how well the journal makes the questions easy to understand, and helps get kids thinking about how Lewis ideas apply to their lives today. He asks some hard questions, that really cause you to look at how you view Christianity and also about how other people view it through you. We know we are challenged to walk as light in this world, but how do you define what that means in a practical sense? This is a challenge all of us face as parents, and personally, I look for all the help I can get. With the Mere Christianity Journal and book, you have a really good place to start. Some of these questions really caused me to think about the ideas that I hold as well. I think this would work very well for Bible Study for homeschool middle schoolers and high schoolers. If you do a family Bible time, you may want to use this as a family during that time. The Mere Christianity journal costs $28.95 for a print edition and $18.95 for a digital download. They are currently offering a promotion that gives you 10 percent off until May 15. Use the code CREW-10 to get your discount! If you ask me, they are well worth it!

Home School Adventure Co.

If you want to know more about the Mere Christianity journal, check out the Home School Adventure Co. social media pages:

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TOS Review: Notgrass Company: Draw To Learn

I have used several curriculum products from the Notgrass Company in the past and I have always been pleased with their stuff. Therefore, I was very excited to find out we were going to get to try a book from their Draw to Learn series. Aimed at kids in grades Kindergarten through 8th, these books take kids through books of the Bible and lets them illustrate the passages as they go!

Each one of the Draw To Learn books has over 150 lessons. They can be used with any Bible translation you choose. On each page, the child reads the assigned passage, and then illustrates the lesson following the directions on the page. Kids may be asked to draw a specific part of the passage, or to draw something that represents the message of the passage as a whole. With kids on the younger end of the spectrum, you could read the passage out loud and then have them complete the drawing, but for older kids, this is definitely something they can do on their own.

The book I used with my 7th grade son is Draw To Learn Proverbs. I was really excited to get this one because it’s the one I really wanted. I just feel like there is so much for boys at this age to learn from Proverbs, you know? Anyway, I sat down with my son, showed him the book, and explained what he would be doing. And that was pretty much it!! He took off with this Bible study and really did it on his own. He enjoys drawing, and he just started youth group and has been getting into reading God’s Word, so I did not have to prompt him to do this at all, even in the summer!

Since it is summer, we only did one lesson each day. I think that is a fine pace, and you can easily complete this book in one school year. However, with older kids, you could probably do two lessons a day if you wanted to. Basically, after my son would get done with his illustration, he would bring the book to me and we would talk about the passage, his picture, and how the two were related. I think that having him draw his own picture for each passage he read really helped him think about and internalize what the message of the passage was. This is his picture from Proverbs 9:1 about the house of wisdom being built with seven pillars.

After reading this we talked about examples of good pillars to build your house (and life) on versus bad pillars to build on. This is a really important discussion for where he is in life right now…getting ready to start middle school. He will face so many big choices in the coming year, and I want him to be wise when making decisions.

These Draw To Learn books are wonderful. If you are looking for a simple, but effective and fun, Bible curriculum to use with your kids, this is it! The books themselves only cost $14.95, which is so reasonable. I think you could easily use this with multiple kids at different ages by just buying each of them their own book. Read the passage together as a family, then have your kids each create their own illustration. If you want to know more about Draw To Learn, check out the Notgrass website where you can look at samples.

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