Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls BOOK REVIEW

Who doesn't just love a good read-aloud?  And score when these MJ Thomas kids books include historical facts from the bible!  My next review includes two books from WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.  I received physical copies of books 3 and 4 of The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series.  These chapter books are recommended for ages 6-9 and grades 1-3.  Little Bug is in kindergarten and is just now learning to read so these were a little advanced for her to read on her own, but perfect to use as read-alouds.  Big brother even likes to sit in and listen.  There is just enough action and adventure to keep your interest.  Each chapter book is 120 pages and includes illustrations and easy to read print.

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series currently includes 5 books with book 5 just recently being released.  When author MJ Thomas went looking for a good book for his 9-year-old son that included faith, adventure, and education, he came up empty-handed.  His son encouraged him to write such a book and the Hidden Scrolls series was born from there.  The main characters in the books include Great-Uncle Solomon, Peter, his older sister Mary, his dog Hank, and Arch Angel Michael.  Great-Uncle Solomon is an archaeologist who has a house full of wonderful artifacts and a special room where the adventures begin.  When the lion roars, they rush to the library to pick the next scroll and the adventures begin as the kids are transported back in time.  The scroll contains clues and a puzzle for them to solve before their allotted time is up. If they fail they could be stuck back in time!

The Legend of the Hidden Scrolls
The Scrolls contain the truth you seek.
Break the Seal.  Unroll the scroll.
And you will see the past unfold.
Amazing adventures are in store
for those who follow the lion's roar!
(p.2, The Great Escape) 

The Great Escape (Book #3)

In The Great Escape (Book #3) Peter, Mary, and Hank are transported back to Egypt during the time when the Israelites were in bondage to slavery under Pharoah.  They meet princess Shephara, daughter to the Pharoah. She rescues them from the river and invites them to the palace for clean clothes and a meal. Peter and Mary get to witness Moses and the plagues.  There's lots of adventure and mystery to keep you on your toes.  Who is the Black Panther and just what connection does he have to the Magician?  Will the kids escape the plagues?  Will Michael come to their rescue?  You must get the book to find out!

Journey to Jericho (Book #4)

In Journey to Jericho (Book #4), Peter and Mary discover that Great-Uncle Solomon used to be a spy!  Peter and Mary get code names, The Bear and The Monkey.  They find out that Great-Uncle Solomon became an archeologist after he found an artifact that could help prove the Bible is true.  His new mission was to do just that.  The lion roars and their new journey begins in the Tabernacle.  They witness God speaking to Joshua and his orders to take the people to the promised land. As seems the norm in the stories, later Michael warns them about Satan and to be careful. They meet up with Caleb and Phinehas, the two Israelite spies, in Jericho.  Does Hank return after leading enemy spies away?  After meeting up with Rahab are they able to warn her in time before the walls of Jericho fall?  Who is that strange man in black and does he capture them?  Do they complete the puzzle before it is too late?  Get the book to find out!

I really like this series and I don't feel like you miss out on anything (other than another exciting adventure) by not reading the books in order or having the whole series.  Each book explains what the premise is to what is going on.  Each book states the legend and Michael shares the rules of the adventure. I especially like that at the end of the books there are scripture references you can follow to learn more about the real story in the bible.

Scripture references for actual bible story

I like the stories and it keeps the kids on their toes about what happens next.  Little Bug just loves books and hearing Bible stories and this is really right up her alley.  She will be able to read these stories by herself most likely within a year or so.  The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series are definite keepers and we recommend them as additions to your library. You can read an excerpt of Chapter 1 HERE.

You can reach WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, and TWITTER.  Also, be sure to check out the reviews from my fellow crew members by clicking on graphic below.

The Great Escape & Journey To Jericho {WorthyKids Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Using Straw in the Chicken Yard

DON'T DO IT!!  There, I said it, again.  About 2 or 3 years ago I vowed never to put straw down in my chicken runs.  I had used it over the winter to protect their feet from the snow and cold and it worked great at the time.  UNTIL . . . the snow melted, lots of poop, then lots of rain which then turned into LOTS of STINK!!  YUK!  It was a horrid mess and a LOT of work to clean up.  I vowed, never again!  Well, this past winter for some reason our local farm store was having trouble keeping shavings in stock and I went back to putting straw down in the runs after we had a couple of near blizzard type snowfalls.

I am now again reminded of and regretting my decision.  I hauled 6 full wheelbarrow loads of yucky straw and poop from one of my smaller runs. On top of that, I'm pretty sure one of my hens now has a crop blockage (hopefully not impacted) she is dealing with.  She most likely got it from eating the straw, ughh!  I'm treating her but might end up deciding to just cull her.  Yes, some of the chickens are pets but their purpose on our homestead is food so the majority of my current stock is expendable.  Those we have tagged as our pets will stay with us till they pass but freezer camp is the option for the rest as the time arises.

I still have another run to clean out and part of my main coop run too.  Work I would not have to be performing had I just put extra shavings down instead.  I hope I don't forget this again.  It is just so not worth all the extra work to have to haul it away.  Add to that a sick hen who is most likely not laying right now due to her illness.  I hope she pulls out of it.  She is a pretty good layer (Copper Marans) who is just now about 1 1/2 years old.

Straw might work for some, but for me it does not.  Do you use straw in your coop and/or runs?  I just personally prefer pine shavings all around.  It has always done me well and kept my hens and roosters happy and healthy.

Friday, February 22, 2019

IXL Learning Review

I am excited to share with you today our review of IXL by IXL Learning.  I received a full annual membership to this online program for both my Kindergartner and my 9th grader.  I used this adaptive learning program many years ago with my 9th grader when he was much younger and I REALLY liked it.  It was such a help to me in evaluating and keeping him on task in his math.  Yes, that was back when it was only math.  They had started to introduce the language arts just as I was moving him on to other things.

Little Bug enjoying her lesson

I am so happy to be able to try this program out again with both my kids.  It has grown so much!  They now include not only math and language arts but have added in science, social studies, AND Spanish.  You have access to the following subjects for the following grades:

  • Math - PreK through 12th grade
  • Language Arts - PreK through 12th grade
  • Social Studies - 2nd through 8th grade
  • Science - 2nd - 8th grade
  • Intro to Spanish - all ages

Please be aware that when they state that it is a comprehensive K-12 program, it is not a full curriculum.  It is truly a phenomenal review type program.  You can use it as a curriculum with help from you.  For instance, when my son was younger, I used it to see where he needed help and then we used other curriculum or resources to fill in the gaps where he needed more learning.  I used the program to continually quiz him on the subject.  Currently, I am using it with both he and his sister as a review program to again determine where their weaknesses lie and where they need more help in both language arts and math.  It helps me to evaluate their progress quickly and easily.  We generally only use it for less than 15 minutes a day and I have instructed my 9th grader to keep it to no more than 30 minutes.  This keeps their mind fresh and allows them to have positive reinforcement.  They both use it daily.

screenshots of sample subheadings within subjects

It was easy to sign up and register our accounts.  You also get a parent account so you can review and test questions out yourself without messing up the stats for your kids.  I REALLY like that each account has access to ALL grade levels.  This is SO important when you are dealing with weaknesses and trying to evaluate where your child is.  If you need to drop down a grade level or move up in certain areas you can do that!

our accounts

When you begin the program there is an option to complete a diagnostic section.  This can help you to place your child in the appropriate grade levels and subjects.  I did not use this for either of my children since I knew where I wanted them to begin and then just used the troubleshooting area to adjust their learning.  Also, when they log on to their accounts it comes up to a recommendation page that recommends areas for them to pursue based on what they have been working on.  I like to have Little Bug play in this a bit but then I switch over to where her lessons are listed to be sure we are covering all the areas I want her to be covering.

9th grade level recommendations

Recommendations for Kindergarten level

There are an unlimited number of questions in the subject areas and each subject area is broken down into MANY subareas so you can really drill down to specifically what topic they need help on.  As they answer their questions, they are rewarded with good job type phrases.  They earn points as they go through the questions and get them right and lose points if they are wrong.  This can be frustrating when they reach a high score and are then bumped back due to a wrong answer, but it also challenges them to acquire the coveted award at the end.  The award area is more encouraging for younger kids, but my 9th grader still hates to lose and challenges himself to do better in scoring.

Good job phrases for positive reinforcement

You can see from your student's dashboard what they have accomplished so far (there are little awards next to subject completed successfully). For more information, there is an "Analytics" section that also shows you how long they used the program, what subjects were covered, what days they were active, how many questions they have answered, etc. The areas covered under analytics are usage, troubles spots, scores, questions, and progress.  This area is so helpful in determining if they are completing their work, how long they are spending, and what you can do to help them progress (areas of weakness).



Finally, be aware that this is aligned to Common Core Standards (within your own state nonetheless!).  We do not use Common Core, but that being said, I still find the curriculum very useful to us.  You can pick and choose what you want to cover with your child(ren).  There are direct links to the skills listed in this section so it is very user-friendly.  I find this program so flexible and useful to us for our needs.  I honestly can't say enough about it.  Perhaps it is because I have a history with it, but I have also seen the positive results that this program can produce.  I really like the way it quizzes the students and I find it to personally be very efficient for us and the way we do things.  

If you are looking for extra practice or need a program that helps you to fill in any gaps then I highly suggest you check out IXL by IXL Learning.  I really like it for those two reasons and recommend that you check it out yourself.  You can access sample questions for free on the site or sign up for a FREE 30 day trial.  Bonus:  Check out their printables page for award certificates and other fun printouts.  You can connect with IXL on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, and YOUTUBE.

Be sure to check out the other reviews from my fellow Crew members.

Immersive, Adaptive Learning Online {IXL Learning Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, February 18, 2019

Mud, Mud, and MORE Mud!

Just when you think it can't get worse, it does.  This horrible wet, cold, winter can now leave, please!  We have had just too much rain/snow and not enough sunny, warm days to dry it up.  Our backyard is a soupy mess and the chickens are not happy. The above pic is from the area around the outside of my main coop.  We have tried to lay straw down but it just isn't holding up under all the mud.  Walking from the house to the coops to take care of the chickens has become an Olympic event!!  To make matters worse, we have more rain in the future forecast. So glad that the area where the chickens have their runs does not have all this mud since we have worked on building the areas in the runs up so to diminish/eliminate any flooding issues.

The other super crazy part is our weather.  It can't make its mind up.  We go from the above picture to this!

And then back to the wet soupy mud.  Ughh!!  It really gives one reason to complain!  But God says to rejoice in ALL things.  Trying to find the joy in all this mess.  I know it's in there!

Anxiously awaiting warmer weather and sunnier days.  Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.  Many blessings to you!

Friday, February 15, 2019

G.A. Henty For The Temple REVIEW

It is time again to share with you another wonderful audio drama review from Heirloom Audio. For those of you familiar with these outstanding stories from G.A. Henty, For The Temple will not disappoint you. I have done several reviews for Heirloom Audio and their productions are always astounding.  I received a physical product consisting of 2 audio cds in a trifold case.  I also received a link to download a PDF version of the study guide that goes with this story.

If you are not familiar with these audio dramas, you are in for a treat!  Heirloom Audio does such a fantastic job with their cast lineup and the quality of their radio dramas.  Of course Brian Blessed is once again in the lineup.  We never cease to be drawn into their stories.  You feel as if you are right there in the midst of the story.  The audio is so intense and the acting is phenomenal.  Some of their stories are so intense that I think they might be much for younger ears but this one was not quite as intense.  I felt it was appropriate for both my 15-year-old and my 6-year-old.  Their audio dramas are generally recommended for ages 6 and up with ages 9-15 being the key target age, especially with the boys!

The story begins as they all do with Mr. George off on an adventure of some sort.  He meets someone and then the storytelling begins.  This time it begins with spilled coffee and a request for any stories attached to his attache case.  He is in a Vienna cafe and a gentleman, Peter, walking with his coffee trips over Mr. George's attache case and accidentally spills his coffee.  Peter is an artist looking for inspiring ideas and Mr. George commences to share one of his stories with him.

The story of For The Temple is based on the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The setting is 67 AD when the Roman empire was headed by Emperor Nero and occupied Jerusalem.  Mr. George stresses that the greater problem at the time though were the Jewish leaders. A young Jew, John of Gamala, soon to be betrothed to Mary a family friend, is one of the main characters.  His family owns a vineyard that he stands to inherit. Mary takes off in a boat and gets John to swim after her.  She rows too far out and a storm begins to carry them out to sea.  A ship comes along with Josephus as the Captain.  Josephus offers John to enter the military he leads and John decides to go.

Throughout the story, John meets many Bible characters we are familiar with such as Joab, King Agrippa, Simeon, Tiberius, and Nicodemus.  He gets training to be a warrior and participates many battles.  He ends up being a great leader of a band of warriors that have many successes.  In the end, he is captured by slave traders but manages to use a ring that Titus gave him to get out of his situation.  He does get back home safely.  He marries Mary and they begin a family.  Through his journeys, he learned of Jesus and he goes back, much to Mary's dismay, to learn more about this Jesus. I don't want to give away the details of the story, you must listen to it yourself!  As the battles ensue you will be on the edge of your seat as to what each outcome will be and how John will once again escape death.  I also like that there are some underlying themes of forgiveness, perseverance, honor, and integrity woven throughout the story.

I can't end this without mentioning the study guide.  I LOVE when they include study guides with their stories.

This is not your ordinary study guide in my opinion.  It is jam-packed with review questions and resources that allow you to immerse yourself and your students in the subject matter.  The study guide for this audio drama consists of 51 pages.  It begins with a list of the production crew and the cast. Each track on the CD matches up with a page from the study guide to cover "Listening Well," "Thinking Further," and "Defining Words."

In The Listening Well section there is a set of excellent review questions for the track just listened to.  The Thinking Further section asks your student to work a little harder and either look something up, draw conclusions, or speculate about Harry and what he is doing. The Defining Words section is an excellent way to add a language arts aspect to the study.  There is a list of vocabulary words to look up or use any way you wish. Every so often there are extra boxes that have extra information about the background of the story/characters/time.

This study guide concludes with a list of resources for further study, a bible study, and a background story with more details about the story.

I was not disappointed and I would highly recommend you check out For The Temple from Heirloom Audio if you want your kids to have an interesting and fun way to learn about history.  Be sure to check out the other reviews through the link below!  Have fun!  You can also check out my other Heirloom Audio reviews (In the Reign of Terror, Captain Bayley's Heir, Wulf the Saxon, and St. Bartholomew's Eve).

You can connect with Heirloom Audio on FACEBOOK, TWITTER and INSTAGRAM.

For The Temple {Heirloom Audio Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, February 11, 2019

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

We have had so much rain over the past month.  I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but we have had just TOO MUCH rain.  It has rained, flooded, froze, thawed, rained more, froze more, and on and on.  It has been raining almost nonstop again since yesterday and isn't supposed to stop till about noon tomorrow!  Our ground is so saturated and our backyard is badly flooded in several spots.

The walk to the chicken yard multiple times a day has become treacherous due to the ice and/or mud depending on the temperatures. When the weather has been at and below freezing temperatures I have had to make extra trips to the coop to collect the eggs before they freeze.  So far we have only had one frozen egg I had to throw away.  Not bad when we are currently getting 12-15 eggs per day.

Enough whining.  There have been some beautiful days, but I am so ready for spring to be here!  Ready to get the garden started.  Ready for warmer, sunnier days.  May your day be blessed.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Is Spring Just Around the Corner?

The girls were enjoying our unseasonably warm weather the other morning. I always crack up at their "water cooler" chat times.  You can just imagine what they were discussing or complaining about!  You can see the crazy garden in the background in utter disarray.  Wow, got a lot to do to get it cleaned up for this year's planting!  I was sure we would get it prepared before winter but we didn't.

We have some exciting plans for the garden this year so I am excited to get started on it.  Perhaps this weekend if the weather permits.  It is still winter but I plan to take advantage of any crazy warm days when we can.  Last week we enjoyed some beautiful robins, bluebirds and a cardinal.  I have never seen so many robins in our yard at once.  It was so odd, yet very special and beautiful to see.  Based on the wildlife around here it seems that perhaps spring might arrive a little early.

We still have more cold on the horizon, but we will enjoy the next few days of warmth while we can.  How is the weather in your neck of the woods?  Have you noticed that spring seems perhaps a little early where you are too?

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