Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls (A Homeschool Crew Review)

I love books that not only grab my kids attention but teach history in such a way that it pulls them into the story.  When that history accurately portrays Biblical events in a simple way that the kids can understand, even better.  You may remember that the kids previously reviewed and enjoyed the first two books of the The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series from  WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.  This time around, we have been reading books 3 and 4 of the same series and picking up the story of Peter, Mary and their dog, Hank. 

Book Three - The Great Escape ( ISBN-13: 978-0-8249-5689-9) 
Peter, his sister Mary and their dog Hank journey to ancient Egypt. When the trio become friends with Pharaoh's daughter, they witness first-hand as Moses petitions Pharaoh for the Israelites' freedom.  Plagues wreak havoc as the group race to decode the scroll, gets chased by a panther, and battles Pharaoh's cunning advisor as the story of the Exodus comes to life.
Book Four - Journey to Jericho  (ISBN-13: 978-0-8249-5692-9) 
With limited time to solve the secret of the scroll, Peter and Mary join Israelite spies on a reconnaissance mission to Jericho; sneak Rahab to safety; and ultimately face the scheming man in black as the walls of the city begin to crumble. 

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls is a series of children's books written by author M.J. Thomas who came up with the idea to write them after his lack of finding books to read to his young son that would teach the Bible in a fun but imaginative way. Having graduated with Bachelors degree in Biblical Science from Liberty University, he set out to write a series of children's books that withheld to Biblical accuracy in combination with characters and adventures that would capture the imagination of young readers.

The end result is a series of time traveling adventures that follow the story of Peter, his sister Mary and his dog Hank as they unlock the mystery hidden inside a collection of scrolls discovered by their archaeologist Great Uncle, Solomon.  Each scroll transports the trio to a significant event in the Bible where they have seven days to decipher the message in each scroll.

Each paperback chapter book is relatively short at roughly 100 pages with cute black line illustrations. and are geared at readers aged 6-8 years old.  In addition to helping readers learn about popular Bible stories, these books also cover topics children can relate to such as sibling rivalry.

Our Review:

 My kids love the story of the fall of Jericho.It's actually Garrett's favorite stories of the Bible.  I love watching him act out the marching around the walls, blowing the trumpets and the triumphant shout.  So even though "Journey to Jericho" is actually the fourth book in the series, we read it prior to reading book 3 "The Great Escape".  We didn't need to read the books in order to follow the story, although there was reference in the fourth book  to the children meeting Joshua in the previous book. 

Ashleigh and Garrett were already familiar with the premise of these books, having read books 1 and 2 for a previous review.  These two books follow the same two children, Mary and Mary, along with their dog Hank as they are drawn directly into stories from the Bible to witness the events firsthand.  Along with the help of the Angel Michael, the children must discover the secret hidden within the archaeological scrolls found by their Great-Uncle Solomon within 14 days or risk being trapped in Biblical times for the remainder of their lives.  Each story find the children facing the man 

The kids really enjoyed books 1 and 2 and books 3 and 4 did not fail to delight them once again.  Reading the stories out of order did not create a problem as we were already familiar with both stories (The exodus from Egypt as well as the fall of Jericho ) but even children who might not be quite as aware of the stories would be able to follow along the story and understand without reading the previous books. 

Both books contain 120 pages with black line illustrations scattered throughout the pages.  At the end of each book is a 2 page collection of suggested passages to read from the Bible along with description of what each passage refers. For example, the suggestion of Exodus chapters 3 and 4 let the reader know that these passage tell of God speaking to Moses from a burning bush and telling him to lead his people out of Egypt.

  The reading level for both books is for grades 1st - 3rd, which while Ashleigh reads well above this grade level, was the perfect reading level for my son who struggles with language arts.  The font size also proved to be perfect for him as well which was really great for him as often he has problems following along and losing his place while he reads. The chapters are short and the text is broken up with the line drawing illustrations which helped give him confidence when he was asked to read aloud.  

We really enjoy these books and would highly recommend them for your family library. 

#hsreviews #SecretoftheHiddenScrolls

For more information about The Secrets of the Hidden Scrolls, be sure to visit the website.  You can also find more information on the following social media sites:

Be sure to click the banner below to read more reviews on these two books by other Crew members. 

The Great Escape & Journey To Jericho {WorthyKids Reviews}

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weekend Meal Planning

I was hoping to get this off a bit earlier but time flies when you're having fun.  Spend the weekend hanging out with our friends and having a good time.  We went bowling, the first time we have gotten to go at all this year and we all had a wonderful time :)

We had a great time :)

So what's on the menu this week?

Sunday :  Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

Monday:  Turkey Club Wrap with Chips

Tuesday:  Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Wednesday:  Honey Chicken with Rice

Thursday:  Bean and Rice Burritos

Friday:  Chicken Fried Chicken with salad, Green Beans

Saturday: Salisbury steak, gravy and mashed potatoes

Thursday, February 21, 2019

IXL Learning (A Homeschool Crew Review)

I am always on the look out for new ways of making learning fun for the kids.  Whether it's hands on learning or an application that allows the kids to practice, if it's interactive, it's usually a big hit with them.  For the last few weeks, the kids have been reviewing the full annual membership for IXL from IXL Learning.

About IXL

IXL originally started as a math practice program for Pre-K through High School.  From those early beginnings in 2007, IXL has since expanded their offerings to language arts, science, social studies and even Spanish.  While both science and social studies are offered only for grades 2nd-8th, the other subjects offer practice activities for Pre-K through 12 grade.  Overall, IXL offers more than 7,000 different skills practice.    The program is available for both English and Spanish speakers.

Skills are practiced by using a browser based website or an internet connected device using the IXL app.  Students log into their account and can select grade level and subject categories that they wish to work on.

Once a grade and subject is selected, the student is given a list of various skills they can work on,
Selecting a skill will take them to the practice for the skill.  Practice consists of a series of questions about the subject and the student is given a goal to achieve while answering the questions. 

These goals progress by stages. For example, the first stage might ask the student to answer 4 questions in a row correctly while the second stage might ask for them to answer 6 questions correctly.

 If the student gets the question correct, they are given positive reinforcement such as "Great Job" or "Excellent".. If they get a question incorrect, they are provided with a fairly in depth explanation of the skill so that they can hopefully learn, retain and get the same style of question correct. 

Once the student accomplishes the goals set for the activity, they are then given more positive reinforcement in the form of awards.  These awards can either be in the form of a printable certificate or a virtual prize on the web page.

Positive Reinforcement following the completion of a section
Students also are awarded a medal for completing the skill.  These medals serve as a way to see what skills the student has not only worked on with the IXL program but an indicator as to how they have done with that skill.  Students can repeat the activity for even after being awarded a medal for the skill.

The parents section of the website allows for the parent to see the activity of what the child has worked on.  This section tells you statistics such as how much time the child has spent working on the program, how many questions they have answered, what the questions they answered were, the progress they have made in the program, and even diagnostics and trouble spots that need to be focused on.

 How We Used It

We were given two student accounts for the IXL website, one for Garrett and one for Ashleigh, in addition to the parent account. Both kids were able to log into their account using their own password and work on whatever skills they wanted to work on.
One thing we've really enjoyed about using IXL is that the kids can log in following their normal school lessons, locate one of the activities that covers the material they have learned and then review that information.   They also enjoyed the freedom of being able to work on whatever skills they wanted.  For example, one time I caught Ashleigh working on identification of parts of animal cells - something we have not worked on in quite a while.  On another occasion, I found Garrett working on a section that was about identifying National Landmarks in the US.

Ashleigh has really enjoyed having the IXL app on her tablet so that she can play on it whenever she wants.  She really has enjoyed the program, even more than I thought she would and begged to do it each day until I put it on her tablet for her.  Prior to that, I would wake up to find she had drawn her "request" on my white board and there were many times she asked if rather than doing school, if they could just work on IXL instead.

Some of the daily art work that I have woken up to 

The parent section was rather interesting to me, as it allowed me to really see what Garrett likes to work on vs what Ashleigh enjoys working on.  Ashleigh often works on science skills more than anything where Garrett tends to work on either math or social studies.  I also was very surprised to see that they worked on skills that we hadn't covered as of yet and that they have done well with those sections. 

My kids love earning certificates and awards so the certificate system that IXL uses is right up their alley.  Each time they complete a skill or meet a goal such as answering so many questions in a row, they are awarded either a certificate or an award.

While this is not an actual curriculum as far as a teaching program (it is strictly review material), this is definitely program that we will be using quite a bit throughout the year as just another tool to gauge how well they are retaining the information they are learning through our school year.

#hsreviews #ixl #iloveixl

For more information about IXL Learning, be sure to visit their website.  You can also find them on the following social media sites:

Facebook: facebook.com/IXL
Twitter: twitter.com/IXLLearning
Pinterest: pinterest.com/IXL
YouTube: youtube.com/IXL

                    Be sure to click the banner below to read reviews from the other Crew members.

Immersive, Adaptive Learning Online {IXL Learning Reviews}

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Restoration Series - Jonathans Walk

The year 1999 was a big year in my family.  My first daughter was born in June of 1999.  Not quite 6 months later, in early December, my paternal grandmother died.  And before the year was over, my father was arrested on a parole violation and given 23 years in prison.

Twenty years later, I'm still in contact with my father.  I get at least a couple of envelopes in the mail each week with a bright red stamp warning me that the enclosed letter is from an inmate currently incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. A few times a week, I also get a phone call that begins with a recording stating that the call is from an inmate currently incarcerated, please press 1 to accept, otherwise hang up.

Denied parole a number of times, my father is coming close to the end of his sentence, scheduled to be released in 2023.  When he is released, I know that the outside world will be a shock to him.  He no longer has his wife, his job, his home.  He has no idea what a smart phone is, or high speed internet, or any of the technology that has developed in the last 20 years.  Compact disks were just starting to become popular and most cars still had cassette decks when he went in.

The Restoration Series: Jonathan's Walk

Because of my own personal experiences with my father, I really am honored to be able to share with you a new series entitled The Restoration Series: Jonathan's Walk.  This series follows the story of Jonathan, an inmate in the Texas prison system who made a horrible decision at the age of 18 that resulted in being sentenced to 25 years behind bars.  After serving 15 years, Jonathan was granted parole.  However, for those 15 years he was behind the walls, life continued for his family - both the one he had before he was incarcerated and the one he made while in.

About the Series: 

For years, Jonathan has been in prison. As a result, he has missed milestone moments with his family. He wasn’t there for his daughter’s first day of school or a thousand little experiences with his wife and as a father, he is devastated to be separated from those he loves most.

Jonathan has been looking forward to his release from prison for over a decade. So many life events have been missed and he is now ready to be with his wife and kids again. Of course, this transition isn't going to be easy. The odds are against him: with over half of prisoners returning to prison within two years, Jonathan is aware of the challenge set before him.

Still, he is determined to take the skills he has learned into the world outside of incarceration and stay there, helping build the community that he is part of for years to come.
Prison Fellowship presents The Restoration Series: Jonathan’s Walk, a 5-part documentary film series following one man as he re-enters his community after 15 years in prison. It demonstrates in imagery, powerful storytelling and social interaction what it means to be human and the shared need of all people to see communities restored.

 Though America is home to only 4% of the world's population, we house more than 20% of its prisoners. Recidivism–the tendency of a criminal to reoffend—is out of control. The Restoration Series tells the story of men and women who have experienced The Academy, a revolutionary in-prison program that is combatting incarceration and recidivism head on.

I hope that you will take the time to watch the series.  You can view each of the 5 episodes for free  at the following link:

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Weekend Meal Planning

Can you believe we are already more than halfway done with the month of February?  It blows my mind how quick time goes by.  Seems like Christmas was just yesterday and instead I'm buying discounted Valentine's day candy at 70% off and planning what to make for St Paddy's day (btw, I think we decided that we're going to make Irish Coddle with soda bread.. lol).

Today we headed to town to do our two weeks of grocery shopping and doing some of our other running around that we typically do when we go to town.   It's roughly an hour to get to town so we only go every other weekend so we also pick up pet supplies at Petco and any random things we need from Walmart while we're there.  It's also the only time we really go out to eat and since it was Sunday and Chick-fil-a is closed, we enjoyed burgers at the Habit :)

This week, I moved the Cubano chicken that I had planned last week to Monday..  I was feeling sick that day and decided to make Spaghetti instead.  That's why the meal is on the list again this week, not because we just like it that much.  LOL

Monday: Cubano Chicken Roll Ups with black beans and roasted zucchini

Tuesday:  Chicken Tortilla Soup with Salad

Wednesday:  Chicken & Dumplings

Thursday:  Shepherd's Pie Baked Potato

Friday:  Lemony Turkey Kofta on Couscous with Herb Drizzle

Saturday:  Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

Sunday: Turkey Club Wrap with Chips

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

For The Temple (A Homeschool Crew Review)

It's my first review of 2019 and I'm thrilled to kick off the year with one of my absolute favorite vendors, Heirloom Audio.   This time around, we took a audio trip to ancient Israel and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem with Heirlooms newest release, For the Temple

For The Temple is based on the book For the Temple - A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem by G.A. Henty and is part of Heirloom Audio Productions series "The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty".  It is the 11th book by Henty to be turned into audio theater by the company, with previous recordings bringing listeners to the Civil War (With Lee in Virginia), the First War of Scotland's Independence (In Freedom's Cause), and Ancient Egypt (The Cat of Bubastes) to name a few. 

For the Temple is the 6th recording from Heirloom Audio I have had the pleasure of reviewing.  However, I currently own all 11 recordings (including an additional copy of For the Temple which I had bought prior to accepting this review.  I tell you this because this is a company that I personally support with my own money because I believe they offer amazing entertainment that can be listened to over and over.  These recordings make for great listening while on long road trips or just for a lazy Sunday afternoon when the weather doesn't allow for outdoor fun. 

My collection of Heirloom Audio sitting on my bookcase

What We Received:

I was given the opportunity to review the 2 CD performance of For the Temple presented in a visually stunning, full color trifold case.  I also received the accompanying full color, 51 page Study Guide. 

About For the Temple:

For the Temple follows the story of John of Gamala, a young man with dreams of marrying his betrothed, Mary and living a quiet life following his fathers footsteps running a vineyard.  However, a chance encounter with Josephus changes the path John finds himself on, bringing him to front and center into the Jewish War against Rome.   

Following the battle of Jatapata, hard decisions are forced to be made. Should John and his men risk their lives to fight for Jerusalem.  Realizing that the Temple should be protected at all costs, another twist of fate brings John into a fight with the Roman general Titus and a promise that could change the battle.  Along with tactical choices, John must also make personal choices as to his own beliefs in regards to Yeshua.  

The story, while based on a fictional story by Henty, showcases many figures from Biblical history such as Nero, Vespasian and even an appearance from Nicodemus, the pharisee mentioned in the Bible who visited with Jesus in the secrecy of night to ask questions and was present at Crucifixion and assisted Joseph of Aramathea in embalming the body of Christ.  

As with every other Heirloom Audio Production, the purchase of either the physical CDs or the MP3 downloads come with the complementary full color, downloadable study guide Ebook. These study guides are always a welcome addition with the audio as they provide a good amount of information in the life and history behind the period of time the story takes place. The Study Guide is a wonderful addition as it allows me to ask the kids the questions as we progress through the CD's and check to see how much they are actually picking up from the recording. 

Previously, Heirloom included time stamps in their study guides that coincided with the time at the start of each chapter on the MP3s.  This time around, the time stamps are missing but instead, the name of the Chapter is found at the top of the page.   I personally liked the time stamp and missed seeing them this time around as it made it easier for people like myself who prefer the convenience of  listening to the MP3 format on tablets, computers or phones to jump ahead quickly to find the proper track to match with the guide, as the MP3s are not divided into individual tracks.  

Included in the 51 page ebook Study Guide: 

Listening Well Questions:  These provide the perfect opportunity to test listening comprehension in regards to what your child has heard and remembers. All answers are easily found within the listed track. 

Thinking Further Questions:
  These questions require a bit of independent research or deeper thinking beyond just what was heard. These questions ask the student to do some independent research or to draw conclusions based on what has happened in the story.   These are great for older students and provide a platform for going beyond the story. 

Defining Words:  These provide vocabulary lists of words that were used in the recording that students might not be familiar with.  These words are easily found within a standard dictionary and help to expand the listeners vocabulary and understand the recording better. 

Also included on some pages of the study guide are short tidbits of information pertaining to Jerusalem or Biblical times, such as Food in Ancient Jerusalem,  the Army of Gideon, and the siege of Jerusalem. These short extras do not directly relate to the story but do provide interesting information about the time period. 

Bible Study:  A three page study is also included.  Each page uses Bible verse to allow students to see what the Bible says in regards to topics that are presented in the recording. Study 1, "No Other Savior" teaches that while many believe that all religions and beliefs are basically the same, only belief God can lead to Salvation. Study 2, "Proper Worship" walks the student through the way that God suggests that we worship him while Study 3, "Christ our Temple" teaches that Christ is the true temple of God in flesh and how thru him, our body also is a temple.

The Study guide ends with a few pages that dive a bit deeper into the historical references that the story is based off of.   The Bible is filled with references that describe how the people of Israel defied the Lord, either with the worship of other gods, marrying non-believers, ect.  Because of this disobedience to God, the Bible also tells us that God used enemy armies to bring his people back to him.  This section discusses the Jewish War and the fall of Jerusalem and what significance this had with the Jewish people and Christian history.  

Both the entertainment as well as the educational value of Heirloom Audio productions puts them high on my favorites list.  These are recordings that families will enjoy listening to over and over again - from long car trips to just quiet evenings at home instead of watching the television.

#hsreviews #HeirloomAudio #FortheTemple #LiveTheAdventure #BringingHentyBack #AudioAdventures

For more information about Heirloom Audio and the Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty audio theater series, be sure to visit their website. You can also find them on the following social media sites;

Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial

Be sure to click the banner below to read reviews from the other Crew members. 

For The Temple {Heirloom Audio Reviews}

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Meal Planning

Another week - another meal plan..   I'm trying to use up the chicken in my freezer right now, so we have a few different chicken recipes this week.   Looking forward to next week though as I'm making roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, which is always a huge hit in our house. LOL 

This week, I had to make some shrimp creole.. I haven't had any good Cajun food in a while and every time I do make some, it's almost always gumbo.  I was in the mood for something different, so it came down to either creole or etouffee.  Creole won out.. haha    Really wish I could get my hands on some good crawfish though.. Man California doesn't know what it's missing out on not having any good Cajun restaurants here.. LOL

Sunday:  Shrimp Creole over Rice

Monday:  Toasted Ravioli with Salad

Tuesday:  One Pot Spicy Thai Noodles with Asian salad and mandarin oranges

Wednesday:  Chicken Enchiladas with Rice and Beans

Thursday:  Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Rice Casserole with Salad

Friday:  Cuban Chicken Rollups with black beans and roasted zucchini

Saturday:  In-N-Out  (grocery shopping day)

Monday, February 4, 2019

Weekend Meal Planning

Glad to have this week over and going into a new one.  Not that last week was necessarily bad - it wasn't. Monday was my birthday and so this weekend my husband took the family out to eat yummy Indian food at our favorite restaurant.  Then on Saturday we went out again, just myself and my husband along with another couple that we are good friends with, and they treated me to sushi at our favorite sushi join.  So it was a nice weekend.  But I hit the wall on Thursday and just felt horrible.  Completely drained, no energy, didn't want to do anything..   I hate weeks like that.

Also, add to the fact the lid to my Instant Pot had a little accident.  The kids didn't remove it from teh stove while making ramen and the heat melted the plastic. I ordered a new one that arrived on Friday and I was sooo excited because I hadn't had my IP all week - well, I ordered the wrong size.  The entire time I thought I had an 8qt pot, but no, I have a 6qt pot..  I called IP's customer service and they are suppose to contact me tomorrow about replacing it.  So, I'm not planning any IP meals this week.. I feel completely lost!!!  LOL

But, tomorrow is Monday and so we get a do over to have a better week, right?  And hopefully it will only take a few days to get the new lid for my IP.. Fingers crossed.

On another note - I totally got sick of answering the question "What's for Dinner" 20 times a day. My husband is REALLY bad about it - he will ask and then 5 minutes later he will ask again.. Then 30 minutes later, he will ask again.. And of course, each kid will ask at least one time per kid.  Sooo, I found this really great lil board at Hobby Lobby yesterday that was 50% off, so for 10 dollars, I just might keep my sanity..  Oor, they will be too lazy to walk over and look and will still ask me what's for dinner.. LOL

Sunday:  Grilled Sausage with bacon and jalapenos with Mac and Cheese

Monday : Lentil and Sweet Potato stew

Tuesday: Chicken Burrito Bowls with Quinoa, black beans, corn and avocado

Wednesday:  Breakfast Lasagna  with fruit cocktail and blood oranges

Thursday:  BBQ potato with salad, baked beans and chips

Friday:  Mississippi Pork Roast with mashed potatoes and salad

Saturday:  Air Fryer Burgers with ranch potato skins


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