TOS Review: God’s World News

I am always looking for ways to encourage reading at my house. My younger son (in 7th grade) is not a huge reader, not because he can’t, but because he doesn’t want to. I have found in the past that magazine subscriptions are one way to get him to sneak in little snippets of reading here and there. So, when we got a chance to check out a magazine from God’s World News I decided to give it a try. The company offers several different magazines for children of all ages. We got to check out a few issues from Top Story, their middle school level magazine.

Each 32 page issue features a number of different articles, editorials, and other content aimed at kids interest levels while also teaching a Biblical worldview. As part of the subscription, we even received a world map that we could use to track where the stories in each issue took place. I thought this was a nice feature, great for teaching geography, but also, reading the articles and visually connecting them to a place on the map seemed to make those faraway places seem more real to my son. There is even an online version of the map for each issue that coordinates with the wall map they send you!

Now, when we signed up for this review, I wasn’t sure how interested my son was going to be in the content of Top Story. He is easily bored and is most focused on legos, comics, and superheroes. However, when I handed him our first issue and asked him to take a look, I was pleasantly surprised. The August issue had articles about immigration, airplanes, and one on the Arizona wildfire tragedy that was of particular interest to my son since my husband is a firefighter. Each issue also has several News Shorts that contain short articles on hot topics in the news. I appreciated the biblical tie-ins in the articles, such as the one about flying and how God meant for man to take risks and try new things while exploring His creation.

The September issue had a feature on Robots which my son really enjoyed. There were also articles on mining and a biography of Alexis de Tocqueville. In October the focus was on movement and there were articles on the various patterns of movement for people through the ages. I felt each issue was a really good mix of current events, biographies, and feature articles. The magazines are colorful, and the included quizzes and activities make this a nice addition for our homeschool. I sometimes used the quizzes for a reading grade for my son, and we did some additional research on some of the topics.

A subscription to a God’s World News magazine also gives you access to exclusive online content. With your customer number you can log in on the website and receive answer keys to the quizzes in each edition, download a digital copy of the edition, and lessons related to articles in the magazine. The October issue had a lesson explaining the Ames Room illusion (which was related to geometry), with a Biblical connection and a quiz. It also had a lesson giving more detailed information about cutting-edge cancer treatments with a written assignment to go along with it.

The issues also include biographies of various people, and on the website there is additional information and quizzes. Subscribers receive emails from God’s World News each week with details about what additional content is available on the site.

I also got a sample of World magazine, the God’s World News magazine for adults. It was chock-full of thoughtful articles on a wide range of topics that were good for discussion between me and my husband. Some of the articles were appropriate for my high school son as well. I would recommend previewing each issue as some of the topics are somewhat “heavy”. One issue I received talked about the biblical view of the death penalty. It was a great article that really got me thinking, but it’s not something I would necessarily feel is appropriate for my kids at this time.

God’s World News offers magazines for kids from Pre-K to high school. A yearly (10 issue) subscription is only $28.00, which I think is a good price for the magazines and the online content that you get. Top Story contained a lot of interesting articles with a biblical focus that encouraged my son to read and think about how to apply God’s principles to the topics he was reading about. I would definitely recommend a subscription to anyone. The factual content of the magazine can be worked into your schooling in many ways, or you could read it just for fun.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about their subscription to God’s World News, click here:
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TOS Review: Moving Beyond the Page

“It was a dark and stormy night”. That’s the beginning to one of my favorite books of all time. I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was in the 5th grade, and I have read it many times ever since. I used it in my classroom, and in my homeschool. So I was really excited to find out that I was going to get to review this unit for Moving Beyond the Page. It was so much fun! These units are designed for ages 9-11, but even though my son is 12 they suited him perfectly.

I was looking forward to sharing the story of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace with my 6th grade son. So when we got our stuff, we logged in and started. The literature unit is internet based. When you log in, you gain access to PDF’s with worksheets, questions, and activity pages. The How to Use Moving Beyond the Page section includes a helpful video and explains how the concepts in each unit are connected. For the Wrinkle in Time unit, we used a Space unit study that coordinated with the story very well.

I really like the way the student activities and worksheets are set up. There is a good mix of literature concepts, vocabulary, and even grammar. When you login, there is a menu at the top for all of the PDF files, making it easy for you to download and print whatever you need. My son is an independent reader, so I had him go through the lessons himself. Usually, I would preview each lesson with the parent overview option set to on. This gives you the answers to the questions and some teaching suggestions.

My son was able to read the lessons easily. They begin with an intro and some ideas to think about that apply to each chapter. He was then assigned to read the chapter, and answer some questions. You can print the questions out if you want. This was followed by some activities. In some cases, I printed out a worksheet for him to do. These were good graphic organizers that focused on story elements, characterization, vocabulary, etc. The directions for all of the activities are very clear, and I really appreciated the vocabulary work. My son struggles in this area, and the practice of breaking words down into their individual parts is an important skill for him to learn.

The lessons include a weekly spelling worksheet, and a suggestion for how to do spelling activities. The units are designed to be completed in around three weeks. I will be honest, we went a little slower. While my son is reading independently, he still does not enjoy reading, so I tend to break things down into smaller chunks for him. The unit ends with a fun final project. In this case, it was using what my son had learned to create his own science fiction story.

The Space science unit can be used completely on its own, but it makes a great tie in for A Wrinkle in Time. For the science unit, we got a hard copy. It is set up in the same way as the online literature unit. It includes a list of necessary materials, and came with the book Leap Into Space. I have to say, the bright, colorful book was great. It didn’t have too much text on one page, and is loaded with information and experiments.

Since he was already familiar with the setup for the units, it was easy for my son to dive into these lessons. The Getting Started section is written directly to the student, and gives them some basic information about what they are going to be studying. There is a reading assignment followed by questions and activities. Many of the activities were easy to complete, with stuff you already have lying around the house. We made an ellipse with some cardboard, thumbtacks, a ruler, and some string. The activities are broken into days, and some have multiple options for ways to complete the projects. These activities were a lot of fun for my hands on boy!The final project was a “space tour” that included taking a quiz, and writing a tour guide script for each planet. We had a lot of fun with this, and my son even used his legos and other toys to set up his own “tour site”.

I think either of these units would be a great addition to your homeschool, but if you really want your child to get into it, do them concurrently. If you have a child that doesn’t enjoy reading so much, but loves science, studying the Space unit with A Wrinkle in Time may help them get hooked on the story. You could also read the book aloud to your child, and just have them complete the activities on their own if you wanted to. A hard copy of the Wrinkle in Time unit costs $23.98 and includes the guide and a copy of the novel. The online version costs $19.92 and gives you online access to the guide and you still receive a copy of the book. Both the online and hard copy versions include parent overviews with notes and answers.

The Space unit costs $29.98 for the hard copy, which includes the guide and the Leap into Space book, and $25.92 for the online package. If you enjoy unit studies, I would highly suggest you check these out. They are well worth the cost!

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this and the other products from Moving Beyond the Page that we got to check out, click here:
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TOS Review: Papa’s Pearls

I was raised by my grandparents. Born in 1920, they lived through the Great Depression, and World War II. They were genuine, hardworking, “salt of the earth” type of people. There is a reason that generation is often called “the greatest”. For this review, I got to read a book by Diane Flynn Keith about her own father, who came from the same era. This book, Papa’s Pearls, made me laugh and brought me to tears.

Papa’s Pearls is a collection of stories that are a reflection on the author’s life with her father. Each chapter focuses on one or more life lessons she learned from her father, linked to one of his popular sayings. Throughout the book, you get a very clear picture of what her father was like, and how much he loved his family. From lessons about money, to dealing with disappointment, Papa made sure to pass on his pearls of wisdom to his family.

I think Papa’s greatest legacy is his love for his family. Every chapter in this book draws a beautiful picture of how he lived that love out in his everyday life. He made sure everyone in his family knew how much he loved and treasured them. Reading this book made me wish I could meet Papa myself. I would love to have a conversation with him. I think he would have been a great friend, to anyone.

I read this book in about a week. Seriously, I just couldn’t stop! After reading it, I chose a few chapters to read out loud with my own kids. I was lucky enough that my sons got to know my nana when they were little, as she lived in our home. They have heard stories of their own “pop-pop”, my grandfather. They immediately associated what I was reading to them with him. We talked about how life is so different for us than it was for my grandparents (and about how, in some ways, we wish we could have lived in that era). The beauty of this story is how it touched my children’s hearts. They want to hear stories from me about my grandparents, and they want to hear stories from their own grandparents too. That connection, with those family members, is really what this book is all about.

This is a picture of me and my own dear pop-pop when I was little. There are no words to express how much I loved this man and how much I miss him. I am fortunate to have spent my life with him, and to have heard his own stories. I often wished I had been able to put them down on paper. With Papa’s Pearls, it’s almost like hearing him speak.

Papa’s Pearls is available for $14.97. It is well worth that price. I would recommend it as an addition to anyone’s library!

For more information about purchasing this book, check out the website here:
http://papaspearls.com/get-your-copy/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this book, click here:
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TOS Review: Progeny Press

Progeny Press creates literature study guides for children in grades K-12. They have hundreds of guides available and for this review, we got to sample two of them! We used The Hobbit Study Guide, and the Treasure Island Study Guide. We received both guides as a download to the computer.

The Hobbit study guide is intended for high school and, having read the book more than once, my oldest son wanted to dive right in! However, I made him slow down a little, so we could discuss the introduction and how the guide worked. Each guide begins with a synopsis of the book and a section that gives background on the author. There are also pre-reading activities included. These were interesting, and, even though we had read the book before (both as a read aloud and my son on his own) we still completed these activities. They were simple, but did give us some new information to relate to the book.

I decided to have my son re-skim the chapters as a refresher while he completed the study guide. It is divided into sections by chapter, with vocabulary and other questions and activities for each section. The most awesome thing about these guides for the computer is that they are interactive! My son could just read the questions and click or type his answer directly onto the computer!! This made doing the work much easier. There were also additional activities included, for example, a section of the guide talked about “characters” and how they are used and developed in stories, and one of the activities was to write a character sketch on someone from the book. I also appreciated the “dig deeper” section, where there were questions that related the book to passages from the Bible. Typically, my son and I would read the passages together and use these questions for discussion.

I was impressed with the amount of discussion on literary devices and story elements in this guide. In addition to characterization, there were lessons on metaphors, epithet, and setting, among other topics. I think it is important that children come to know these terms, especially while in high school, as they will likely hear them frequently in college literature classes. The guide ended with several topics that could be used for essays, as well as a few creative projects. I had my son choose one of each, and he actually enjoyed doing them. Since there were so many options available, he did not have trouble finding something to write about! The download includes an answer key, as well as an introduction letter that explains how to correctly enter answers on the guide. We found both of these to be very useful. The cost of the instant download for The Hobbit study guide is $18.99, and I think it is well worth it!

The second study guide we got to review was the guide for Treasure Island. This one is intended for middle school, so I used it with my 6th grade son. This guide is also interactive, and is set up in the same was as The Hobbit guide, with a synopsis, author information, and pre-reading activities. My son had not read this book before, so we went through this one a little more slowly. We actually spent the first week focusing on one pre-reading activity a day, to give my son some background on the book. He found these very useful, as they gave him some information to relate the story to as he was reading. Because of the old style of language used in Treasure Island, he has needed help getting through some of the book, so we have been reading some sections together. My son has found the vocabulary sections of the guide to be particularly helpful.

Again, the amount of literary instruction in this guide is impressive. There were lessons on mood, foreshadowing, stereotypes, and other topics. The “dig deeper” section gave us many appropriate biblical passages to read and apply to the book, leading to much discussion. We are almost finished with this guide now (as I said, my son is working through this one at a slower pace) but I have looked ahead to the end of the guide, and I already see three or four projects my son is going to want to do (some of them related to pirates 🙂 ). My second child is not a big reader anyway, and the language of Treasure Island has been somewhat off-putting for him, but he loves the story, and because he can easily do this guide on the computer, it hasn’t been much of a struggle to get the work done. The Treasure Island instant download costs $16.99 and also includes an answer key. In my opinion, it is definitely worth it!

Both guides are also available in CD and print format, although the prices vary according to the format you choose. Personally, I was so happy with both of these, that I plan to go through the selection of other guides available and choose a few for us to use next year. If you have more than one child using the same guide, you are permitted to save another copy so each child can have their own. These are some of the best, and easiest to implement, study guides we have ever used! To learn more about Progeny Press, and see the hundreds of products they have to choose from, visit their website here:

http://stores.progenypress.com/StoreFront.bok

To see what other Crew members thought of these guides, and all of the other ones we got to sample, click here:

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Abraham’s Journey

Inspiring the American Dream is a website created by Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian who hope to inspire today’s youth by “instilling in them the values, principles and virtues necessary to achieve the American Dream.” Robert has many years of experience in the publishing industry, and their first book, Abraham’s Journey, is a story of a boy who learns that hard work can take him further than he realized!

This book is written for children ages 7-12, and begins in current times. Abraham’s parents have lost their jobs and there is no money to buy presents for Christmas. Abraham wants to help his family, so he decides to “text” his friends to see if they can think of any ways he can make some money. While he is doing this he meets another famous Abraham from the past, who takes him on a magical journey to help him discover his talents and how he can use them to help his family. Along the way, young Abraham meets many people who show him that hard work and dedication can pay off.

Abraham’s journey would easily work as a short read aloud for younger students, or a read-alone book for older kids. The pictures are well illustrated and colorful, but some of the text is rather long, so if you have a child who doesn’t enjoy reading, you may want to read it with them. My son read it on his own, and he said it was “ok”. I think, for him, there wasn’t a whole lot of action, and with Abraham meeting a new “famous character” on every page, he got a little confused (“Mom, how could Amelia Earhart give Mark Zuckerberg flying lessons? That doesn’t make sense!”). I think it would have been better for him if the story had kept all the characters from the same time period, and maybe written another book where he met people from a different time period.

At any rate, I can think of a lot you can do with this book for a homeschool. You could easily spend time researching the lives of the different characters and learn about how their dedication allowed them to live the American dream (even when others said it couldn’t be done). I think that alone could inspire your kids to think about their goals and how to achieve them. I liked that the message of the book was that you shouldn’t expect things to be handed to you, you have to WORK for what you want. I think that’s an important message for children to hear.

All in all, I thought this was a cute little story, though it wasn’t one of our favorites. You can buy Abrahams’ Journey for $14.99 and check out the Inspiring the American Dream website here:

http://inspiringtheamericandream.com/preserving-the-american-dream/

To see what other Crew members thought of this book, click here:
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**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for this honest review. I was not required to write a positive or negative review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Grace and Truth Books

Grace and Truth books is a Christian bookstore with loads of products for adults and kids! If you are looking for faith-filled, God-honoring stories to read to, or with, your child, this is the place to find them. For this review, we got to check out two books from the Children’s Character Building Collection. These books are reprints from the American Tract’s Society’s children’s selections from the 1800’s, and there are books for boys and girls.

The first book we read was, The Little Medicine Carrier. In this story, you meet 11 year old George, who gets his first job as a medicine carrier, delivering medicine to the people in the town he lives in. Along the way, George faces many temptations that may get in the way of doing his job, and he learns some important lessons in honesty too. Even though this book is old, it is written in an easy to read style (i.e., not a lot of “Old English” language). The characters are relatable, and the main adults in the story are always encouraging the children to make choices that bring honor to the Lord. This is a great book to open up discussions with your children about what it means to work hard and be honest and responsible, even if no one is looking. My son (who is also 11) easily read this story on his own and really enjoyed it. He thought George and his friends were fun, and he was very quick to point out the lessons he learned….he also said “Hey, maybe I could get a job as some sort of delivery boy” :). The Little Medicine Carrier costs $4.75 (as do most of the other books in this collection) and I believe it is worth every penny!

The second book we got to read was The Reward of Childhood Truth. This book consisted of two seperate stories, both with a similar theme. In the first story, Charles and Harry run into some trouble with a neighbor. This neighbor is a proud and somewhat lonely man, who is not a Christian. Throughout the course of the story, the boys honesty and truthfulness work their way into the heart of the neighbor, and he experiences a very happy change in his life. In the second story, young Mary experiences the consequences of lying. The Holy Spirit works in her heart to lead her to confess, and she learns that telling the truth is always the best option. Again, both of these stories are written in easy-to-read language. After we finished the stories, we had some very heartfelt discussions about how our actions can bring honor and glory to the Lord, and also reach other people for him. The children are much like our own boys and girls, and I think that is what makes these stories so much fun to read! The Reward of Childhood Truth also costs $4.75, and will work as a read aloud or read alone story!

Grace and Truth Books has many, many other books to read with your kids, you can check out all of the Character Building stories, and the others here:

http://www.graceandtruthbooks.com/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about these stories, and the others they got to read, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received free copies of these books for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

A Cry From Egypt

This year, my boys and I started studying ancient history for the first time. When we began homeschooling, we started our history stories with the medeival time period because, well, I thought knights and castles would be a LOT more interesting to my two young boys. While I find the study of ancient history very exciting, I have always been worried about tackling this topic with my kids. How can I make something that happened so long ago seem entertaining?? Won’t they just be bored??? And what about the stories of all the gods people worshipped long ago? How do I handle that?

Fortunately, our study of the ancients is going much better than expected!! And, the book I got to read with my kids for this review, was both interesting and exciting. Hal and Melanie Young, the authors of Raising Real Men, have their own publishing company called Great Waters Press. Through this company, they work to publish books that “make biblical family life practical”. One of these books is A Cry From Egypt, written by Hope Auer (a homeschool graduate :)) and illustrated by Mike Slaton (another homeschool graduate!!).

The story focuses on Jarah, an Israelite slave in Egypt before the Exodus, and the struggles she and her family face. They are torn between remaining loyal to the God they know, in the face of all the Egyptian gods. Jarah witnesses firsthand the brutality the slaves faced, but she also witnesses the saving hand and the awesome power of God as the plagues come to Egypt. (below is a picture of the author, Hope Auer)

I don’t want to tell you too much about the story, because you really need to read it for yourself. I will tell you that I was very impressed with how well this book was written (and the fact that it was written by a homeschooler didn’t escape my notice 🙂 ). Hope began writing this novel when she was 13, and she has worked on it ever since. What I love most about this book is that the biblical and historical details fit in so well with the story. Sometimes, when reading historical fiction, some of the “history” can seem like it’s “forced” into the book. That is not the case with A Cry From Egypt. The story fits together seamlessly, making it very easy to read!

I used this as a read-aloud with my 6th grade son, to complement the ancient history program we are already using. He could have read it on his own, but after looking it over when I received it, I knew I wanted to read it too!! My older son is also studying the same time period, but with a different program. However, I discovered he often found a way to be nearby when we were doing our read-aloud, because he wanted to hear the story too!!

Most of the chapters were easily read in one sitting, and it was really cool when my boys would make the connection between the story, and the things we were reading in Bible and History for school that day/week. It’s like the book helped to bring the facts to life for them, which is AWESOME, in my opinion!! This book is the first in the “Promised Land” series, so I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the books!

Great Waters Press also has other books available that you might want to check out. A Cry From Egypt costs $12.50, and I think it is worth it. On top of being a great story, the illustrations and cover art are gorgeous, and the book itself has nice thick pages and is well put together (that’s important around my house, because books get carried everywhere, and we need ones that are going to stay together!!).

For more information, check out the website here:

http://www.raisingrealmen.com/ourstore/bookswepublish/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this book, and the other one we received from Raising Real Men, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.