Monday, February 29, 2016

Zonderkidz : Faith Builder's Bible (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Let's admit it:  one of the most intimidating books ever written is the Bible.  Asking a 9 year old to pick up the typical Holy Bible and start reading, much less understand what they are reading, is asking for a lot.  So when we were given the opportunity to review the Faith Builders Bible from Zonderkidz, a Bible geared for younger readers, I knew it was something I wanted to check out for myself.  Of course, when my son saw that the cover had LEGOs on it, he BEGGED me to get it.

There have been very few books that my son has been excited about receiving.  This Bible is, without a doubt, on the top of that extremely short list.  He knew ahead of time that it was on it's way and he staked our UPS guy almost daily in the hopes of delivery.  When it did arrive, he ripped open the package and the excitement on his face was apparent.  Mom was happy too - as said, he doesn't get excited over books and here he was excited over God's Word.  What more could a Mom ask for?  I should mention that Garrett loves LEGOs so this Bible was right up his alley.

All smiles
At first glance, this is a beautiful hardcover Bible.  It is the perfect weight and size for smaller hands. Compared to our current children's Bible (we were using The Beginner's Bible, also from Zonderkidz), the Faith Builders Bible is considerably less bulky and weighs much less.  There's more than a pound difference between the two Bibles. This might not seem significant but I found that the kids quickly preferred the lighter weight and smaller size of the Faith Builders Bible over that of the larger Bible. However, it is still a full length Bible containing both the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation.
A Side By Side Comparison of Size
This Bible uses the New International Readers Version (NIrV), which we were already familiar and comfortable with as our Beginner's Bible uses the same translation.  For those who are strictly KJV readers and want the purity of that version, this might be a setback for you. However, I find the NIrV translation to be perfect for my struggling reader in not only putting the scriptures into a way that he can understand but also being easy enough that he can read it himself and help build confidence in his reading in the process.  The NIrV is written on a 3rd grade reading level, making it perfect for younger elementary kids as well as ESL students to read.

Since it's arrival in our household, the Faith Builders Bible has seen much use and hasn't had time at all to collect dust on the bookshelf (which is saying a lot as we live in the Mojave and something can collect dust in less than a day).  We quickly began using it for both our weekly scripture memorization as well as our daily Bible/Biblical History studies.  The simplified wording is wonderful while explaining the story of Abraham, the Creation and the Birth of Christ. 

What makes this Bible different, however, is the twenty-four full colored pages of LEGO build ideas involving important principles or stories from the Bible.  Each of these pages contains a short description of the story or idea as well as a "Building Block Verse" to go along with it.  These pages do a really great job providing a visual of what is going on in the discussion.  The mini-figures used in the pictures are absolutely adorable and I know my son would love it if I could find some of them for him so that he can duplicate many of these pages. 

Some of the topics included in these colored pages are the following topics:

The Books of the Bible
Building the Tower of Babel
The Ten Commandments
Building the Tabernacle
Bringing Down Jericho
Jesus is Born
The Last Supper

The pictures of these dioramas are amazing and indeed give a great platform for children to launch from in order to create their own scenes from the stories they are reading.  For example, while not included in the colored pages, we used the Faith Builders Bible to read about Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus traveling to Egypt while Garrett used his LEGOs to build the pyramids.  Any of the wonderful stories of the Bible can easily be interpreted using mini-figurines and building blocks. 

To say this Bible was a hit in our house would be an understatement.  Garrett has almost constantly been trying to build something out of this Bible and is constantly bringing me his projects, all with a huge smile on his face.  We even found some outside resources dedicated to using the Faith Builders Bible as part of a study, including additional build projects not shown in the book.  Garrett has been very proud of his builds from this Bible and one of his crosses sits almost constantly in front of the TV while he's playing Minecraft.

My one and only complaint is the 9 point font:  while this is perfect for Garrett, it's a bit hard on my old peepers.  This is excusable however, as this Bible's target audience is the smaller set with much better eyes.

While I know eventually down the road, Garrett will outgrow the NIrV translation, for now, this is the PERFECT Bible for him to learn God's Word.  Any bible that can get an autistic 9 year old to actually pick it up and read it, even if it's just in order to get more build ideas, is #1 in my book.  

Find out more about Zonderkidz and the Faith Builders Bible at 

To read other Crew Member Reviews for the Zonderkidz Faith Builders Bible
click the banner below. 

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What Am I Reading? (Book Reviews)

This month I've had the opportunity to read and review some wonderful books, both fiction and non fiction alike.. There's almost always a huge stack of books beside my bed that I debate which one is next and then rotate on to the next one..     Here's the ones that happened to find their way into my hands this month :)

ICB, Princess Bible, Hardcover, PurpleInternational Children's Bible

First up, the Princess Edition  International Children's Bible from Thomas Nelson Publishing.  I was looking for a more "girlie" themed Bible for my youngest daughter as her brother had a new Bible on the way so the Princess Edition ICB looked like the perfect option.. This is a sturdy hardcover Bible with purple, pearl, glitter and holographic accents was perfect for my extremely girly girl.   This Bible is in a newer translation designed especially for children in mind, putting concepts into natural terms younger children can understand, with modern measurements and geographical locations being used as much as possible throughout.    The first few pages contain an index, explanation of the translation and an index of key verses for various topics such a Kindness, Patience and Respect.   Following the book of Revelations, there is a useful dictionary, an index that shows scriptures that relate to specific Biblical persons such as Jesus, Abraham, Peter and Moses. Another index shows suggested memory verses for young girls to take to heart and incorporate into their lives.    24 full color pages offer quick information such as the names of the 12 disciples, a list (including verses) of the miracles of Jesus, maps from Biblical times, time lines and prayer suggestions. Also included is a ribbon bookmark to make your current reading.

Over all, I found this to be a nice Bible for my 7 year old daughter.  The font size appears to be a 12 point font and is easy to read. The Bible itself is smaller in size and easy for smaller hands.  My only complaint is the textured glitter accent on the bottom quarter of the top cover can begin to become an irritation to small hands after a short bit of time.

The Prophetess (Daughters of the Promised Land Book #2): Deborah's Story 

by Jill Eileen Smith

Jill Eileen Smith is a Christian author I am very familiar with as I have read a number of her other
books, including the "Wives of King David" series. This particular book is the 2nd of Smith's "Daughters of the Promised Land" series and while I did not previously read the first book about Rahab, you can easily pick up any book in Smith's series in any order.

The Prophetess is the story of Deborah, the only female prophet in the Bible.   Very little is known about Deborah but as this is a work of fiction based on a Biblical figure, Smith takes liberties to weave an amazing story about this woman God used to help defeat the cruel and oppressive enemy of Israel, the Canaan General, Sisera.   The story also weaves historical facts into the fictional account of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.

Smith always does such an amazing job pulling the reader into the story. This book was no exception. While Smith admits that very little is known about Deborah other than what is written in Judges 4 and 5, she presents a vivid picture of what might have been going on behind the scenes beyond Deborah and Barak's fight against Sisera.  I highly recommend this book, along with any of Smith's other writings. 

21 Seconds to Change Your World:  Finding God's Healing And Abundance Through Prayer
by Dr Mark Rutland with Forward by Mark Batterson

Many of us have recited both the Lord's Prayer as well as Psalms 23 many times in our lives, but how
often do we really think about the words we are saying?  Mark Rutland presents both of these familiar texts in depth as well as presenting amazing stories of people who's lives were changed as they applied both of these verses to their lives. 

At under 200 pages, this book is a very quick read but Rutland does an amazing job presenting information without bombarding the reader with too much technical details.  The book is divided into two parts  dedicated to David as the author of the 23rd Psalm and to Jesus as the author of the Lord's Prayer, as well as showing the parallels between the two.   Each line of their scriptures is then broken down and explained in layman's terms. Rutland then shows how now only are there parallels between David and Jesus, but also between the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer. 

I liked this book and I found  much of the information interesting.  My own complaint is that I am of the belief that Jesus meant exactly what he said, we should pray "like" the Lord's Prayer.  I think when we just recite his example, or the 23rd Psalm, it becomes routine and habit and the true meaning is left out.  Even if it's just 21 seconds, I feel those 21 seconds should be used to wholeheartedly speak with God in the way Christ suggested, not recite his example.  Other than that complaint, however, I do recommend this book. 

Raising Uncommon Kids:  12 Biblical Traits You Need to Raise Selfless Kids
By Sami Cone

As a mom raising children in today's society, I'm probably like every other parent in hoping that my children will not grow up to be like many of those you hear about in the news.  We want to teach our children to be strong in character and morals, to try to always do what is right, to follow Biblical principles and teaching and to apply all of these things to peer pressure situations they will find themselves in when not with us.    Because of this, I really wanted to read this book in the hopes of maybe finding some gems to help make the the spiritual vs secular fight a bit more fair. 

While I did enjoy reading this book, in all honesty, I found it to be more about common sense.  I already know that in order to raise children who display the traits I wish for them to have, I must first display these traits for them to observe and learn.   Children learn by example and it is our job as parents to present that example.. Cone does a great job going into detail about the 12 various traits we should display for our children (love, forgiveness, wisdom, humility, compassion, ect) and gives examples of how exactly we can show these traits to our kids.   Each of these traits have their own dedicated chapters so if one was to want to work on one particular trait at a time, it would be easily managed.

I really liked Cone's writing style - she doesn't beat around the bush and is pretty straight forward but she is also very engaging and entertaining.  While I didn't find any earth shattering revelations (maybe that just means I'm doing a better job that I originally thought at raising these kiddos), I did find it a great read and a great reminder as to what is important in raising kids of character. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

P is for Pocket Gopher

For the last two days, I wondered what to write for this post.. I mean, P can stand for many things but none of them seemed right.  Last night, my P kinda fell into my lap, or at least in my  headlight high beams.

Being that I live in the desert, rain not a normal occurrence for us, especially in winter but this El Nino has changed things up and California has been getting lots of the much needed rain.  Last night, it was not only rainy but cold, at 8:30 it was 47* and still falling when my husband and I decided to head over to the shoppette (which is like a gas station) on base to grab something to snack on.  While driving home, we saw what we can only describe as "something" in the middle of the road, soaked to the bone, half frozen and barely moving.    All we could tell was that it was a rodent of some variety with huge digging claws on it's front feet but honestly, that was about it  As it's fur was so wet we couldn't see it's eyes and originally assumed it was a mole of some sort. 

Unfortunately, we didn't have any work gloves or towels in the car but we did locate a Storm Trooper Halloween costume left in the back when we went to see Star Wars so we used that to carefully scoop the critter up and wrap him up securely.  It didn't move other than it's nose smelling and twitching.  We knew that with it in the condition that it was in,  it was as good as dead as either a coyote or a bobcat would quickly make a dinner out of it and leaving it in the road would result in a squished rodent.

Once in the house, we informed the kids that the critter was wild, we didn't know what it was but that we were going to bring it in the house temporarily to allow it to warm up.  We set the ground rules that the kids were not to touch it as it had some VERY large teeth and we placed the miserable creature in a small glass terrarium that we had.  As the costume had absorbed some of the wetness, we could now see that the creature had eyes, eliminating our original mole idea and we had no clue what it was.

A search on Google for "Mojave Desert Rodents" led us to a creature called a Botta's Pocket Gopher.  I had never heard of a pocket gopher before.  Honestly, my only real introductions to gophers was the whistling one on Winnie the Pooh.     Our wet visitor had been identified.  We allowed it to rest and we all went to sleep.

This morning, our rescue looks much better and is back to, what I assume, is his old self.  

Dried and warm, he's much more active and is moving around as one would expect a gopher to do..  He did a great job during the night of completely destroying the foam backing of the terrarium to make himself an area to dig around and burrow into.     Unfortunately, it's only 51 degrees outside right now and I really hate to let him go with it being so cold but I know he's ready to be on his way promptly..  Charles is about to release him in the field across from our house (no gophers in our yard, thank you).   

The really cool thing about this experience is that the kids and I have been talking about Rodents these last few weeks in school and we will be actually discussing pocket gophers in the next two weeks.  So the kids have gotten to actually observe a real life pocket gopher in a safe way.  

I also think it's a great lesson for them in regards to taking care of nature.  They have seen that we rescued this animal as a way to help it but that it is not a pet. It was a temporary visitor to our home and it goes back to the wild now that it can safely be released.    Hopefully, it will also help them develop a respect and a feeling of empathy for creatures, especially when we see so many videos today of people abusing animals.   ( I should mention that this gopher wasn't the only thing we rescued - my husband also helped out a few toads frozen on the road as well.. haha)

This blog post is being linked up with the "Blogging Through the Alphabet" linkup hosted by Through the Calm and Through the Storm and  Adventures with Jude .   
Be sure to check out both of their blogs and link yours up as well :)

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Vasquez Rocks

Tiburcio Vasquez
With Monday being President's Day and Dad was off since it was a government holiday, we decided to take the class out of the classroom and head out to Agua Dulce to visit the Vasquez Rocks Natural Park. Located on 932 acres, the park is located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains and contain many gorgeous rock formations that were formed from Volcanic and earthquake activity as well as from erosion.  The park is named for Tiburcio Vasquez, a California bandito who evaded capture from the law by hiding among the rocks from 1873 to 1874.

 Living in Southern California, the park is less than an hour away so we felt that it would be a great day trip for the kids before the weather started getting too hot.     So we packed up a picnic lunch and headed out early in the morning for a fun filled day of hiking and rock climbing.

If these rocks look familiar, it's most likely because you have seen them time and time again on TV and in movies.  Star Trekkies will instantly recognize them as the sight where Captain Kirk fought with Gorn.  Other TV shows that filmed at the rocks have been A-Team, The Outer Limits, F-Troop, and Murder She Wrote.  As for the big screen, they were also in the recent Sci-fi movie John Carter, The Flintstones, and Dante's Peak among others.

The weather was beautiful and the the temperatures were only in the mid 70's, perfect for exploring.  We explored front part of the park, close to where we parked for the first hour, where we studied various plants such as cactus and juniper (we also found some wild dill), lichen, and mosses.  We also found a few larger caves that we were safely able to explore and climb through.

 This particular cave was rather "kid friendly" with a pretty wide opening that opened to a vault with a ceiling of about 5 foot high.  It had a climb of about 20 foot once inside that led to a wide opening with shelf where we could take a break and look around for a bit.

Here's looking up to the Upper Opening .. The climb wasn't as bad as this picture makes it look.

At the mouth of the upper opening. 

 Dad found a nice lil shelf to lay on and take a siesta. 

Throughout the park, there were lots of crevices and slopes that the kids could safely climb, however, we did decide that we will be investing in hiking books for everyone.

After about an hour of climbing, we decided it was time to take a break and to eat some lunch.  After a wonderful picnic lunch of sandwiches, apple slices with peanut butter and trail mix, string cheese and lots of fluids, we were ready to explore some more..

We decided to check out this particular rock, one of the highest in the park.  This rock is easily 150 foot up, maybe more.  (Not the guy standing by the RV at the bottom of the picture)..

We got about halfway up and it got a little too steep for Ashleigh and Garrett (and Mom too because it was hard to safely climb with the camera) so we perched where we were at while Dad and Alyssa climbed to the top.  When they returned, they said that it was better that the kids hadn't made the climb as it was extremely windy at the top and it would have been unsafe for the kids.

After that climb, we decided to stay at ground level for a bit and check out some of the trails. We found this really neat area where we could really see the striations of the various layers of the stone as well as possible sleeping sites of the Tataviam American Indians.

While the kids were pretty loud while on our hike, we did manage to see a few birds and lizards who were enjoying the beautiful weather.  This lil guy was enjoying sunning himself on one of the rocks and was very nice to stick around while we took photographs of him.

There were so many really neat rock formations that we found (and we only explored a very small percentage of the park).

Looking at lizards under the bush.

After a few hours of hiking and climbing, we headed over to the Visitors Center/Gift Shop area for the park.  There we got to see a Red Tailed Hawk who was enjoying her dinner and then inside we found some displays of various snakes and arachnids located in the park. (Luckily we didn't find any of those).

Yes, This guy is very much alive.

So is this guy, much to the heebie geebies of mom.. lol 

The Gift Shop proved to be one an unexpected highlight of our trip.   Staffed by volunteers who enjoy helping educate the public, especially children, we met a wonderful older woman who spent a great bit of time showing the kids various displays and items that pertained to the spiders in the park.. The spider in the picture above had molted three times already and so the kids were able to look at (and even touch) the skins that had been shed.  They were also shown the borrow of a Trapdoor Spider where they were able to feel the silk lining inside, examine the silk hinge of the door and see how the trapdoor actually worked.  

We had such a wonderful time climbing and hiking and cannot wait to go back again.  We also found out that the Visitor center does various displays and presentations about wildlife throughout the week and will have to make plans to maybe attend a few of those during the summer.

It was an amazing field trip and I'm sure the kids will never forget it :)

This post is part of the the Homeschool Review Crew's Field Trip Inspiration Round up. For other great field trip ideas from around the country, be sure to click the image below :)

Field Trip Inspiration {Round UP}


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