Jul 292013
 

If you like to talk to tomatoes,

If a squash can make you smile,

If you like to waltz with potatoes,

Up and down the produce aisle….

Have we got a show for you!

Yes, I just typed that from memory.

We received our first Veggie Tales video, Rack, Shack, and Benny, for my oldest son’s 1st birthday. Fourteen years and 4 kids later, we still love Veggie Tales.

MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese BattleSo when I was offered a copy of the latest offering, MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese Battle, to review, I didn’t hesitate to accept. I wasn’t disappointed. MacLarry is a well-done video that delivers what I’ve come to expect from Veggie Tales: a fun story, an unusual setting, silly humor, and a good moral.

MacLarry is the son of the chief of the Barber-barian clan. They have a long standing feud with the Romans who have occupied nearby England. They play pranks on the Romans and give bad haircuts. But MacLarry isn’t like all the other Barber-barians. He isn’t good at pranks. Instead, he likes to invent things. His father loves him, but he is disappointed in him. Finally MacLarry decides to leave the village and sets out to find his hero Archimedes.  What happens next, I’ll leave as a surprise, but I will tell you that MacLarry saves the day and his father comes to value his differences. The application verses are found in I Corinthians 12 where it speaks of the body as having many members that are all different, but all necessary for the function of the church.

If you have Veggie Tales fans, you will not be disappointed in MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese Battle.

 

Disclosure: I received a copy of MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese Battle in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions are my own. Post contains an affiliate link.

 

May 312012
 

As homeschoolers we have the ability to take time out and go down rabbit trails with our children as they discover things that interest them. I want my children to find something they’re passionate about and hopefully be able to convert that into a career. And even if they aren’t able to use their passion in their career, they can still have hobbies and other interests that are exciting to them. I love to meet people who are passionate about any subject, because I’m always inspired to learn new things myself when I’m around them.

Annie Crawley is one of those people. She is passionate about oceans and marine life, and she wants to share that passion with children. She especially wants children to love the sea because she believes that people will try to save what they love. There are many problems that the ocean is facing in the years ahead. When today’s children are adults maybe they will be able to find solutions. Annie specializes in underwater cinematography and uses that to make spectacular underwater views accessible to everyone in their own homes.

I received a copy of the What Makes a Fish a Fish? DVD and corresponding Educator Guides from Dive Into Your Imagination to review.

What Makes a Fish a Fish? contains 8 different segments.

  1. What Makes a Fish a Fish
  2. Sea Anemones and Their Friends
  3. Hide and Seek on the Reef
  4. Frogfish are Funny Looking Fish
  5. Bath Time for Fishes
  6. Don’t Be Afraid of Sharks
  7. Dinner Time for Fish
  8. Fishes, Fishes, More and More Fishes

My thoughts:

The DVD is a high quality, professional video. The images are amazing!This sample will give you a good idea of types of things that you can see in the videos.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/mRYfidXk-S4[/youtube]

The narration is gentle but not babyish. The facts are interesting, but not overly complex for younger children. Both my 5 year old daughter and 17 month old son enjoy watching the DVD. My 10 year old son likes it as well, but he does think he’s a little too old for it. I was happy that there were not references to millions of years in these secular videos. (At least none that I noticed.) It did say that sharks have been around since before the dinosaurs, but I don’t have an argument with that since swimming creatures were created on the 5th day and land animals on the 6th.

I confess I was not prepared for what I would find in the educator guides. I knew they were designed for classrooms, so I didn’t expect to find much useful for my family. I was pleasantly surprised. For one thing, these are huge files. There are 298 pages in the PK-K guide! They are well organized with lessons designed for each of the 8 sections of the video. These include activities, printable pages, and extension ideas for additional research. Yes, there is some “teacher-speak” that I’m not used to. The formal lesson plans are different, but for the most part they are adaptable to a homeschool setting. Some activities like doing skits and making bulletin boards require more adaptation than others. But the printable pages from the educator guides could easily be used for notebooking or lapbooking assignments.

I would recommend these DVDs to others, especially families with young children. You can purchase the DVD’s on the AnnieCrawley.com site for $19.95 each. She is offering free shipping on any order placed through the end of June. Also, if you add a comment in the notes that you are a homeschool parent, she will give you a download of the pdf for FREE! This is a tremendous value because they will be $69 when they become available on the site. The printed educator guide are $299! That is not something that a homeschooler can likely take advantage of, so if you’d like the guides, I highly recommend ordering soon.

Be sure to visit HomeschoolCrew.com to read more reviews of Dive into Your Imagination.

Disclosure: I received a DVD and corresponding  educators guides for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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May 172012
 

Science experiments.

We really don’t get along.

It all started in the 9th grade when I caught the towel on fire in the lab. I seem to have struggled with science labs ever since. And I’ve taken a lot of lab classes. I don’t know what it is about me, maybe I’m just bad luck in the lab. But failed science labs seem to follow me around.

What’s a homeschool mom to do though? I don’t want to skip science! As my kids have gotten older, I have them do more of the experiments. And I’ve learned how to identify the sources of experimental error over the years.

But sometimes it is nice for my kids to see how the experiment is supposed to work.

And now I have found a great resource for doing just that.

Go Science!

Go Science videos include science demonstrations by Ben Roy. He performs these demonstrations with a live audience of students in elementary and middle school. Not only does he perform the demonstrations, but he also explains why they work. And he always points the child back to how science demonstrates God’s power and creativity.

There are 6 titles in the series.

  1. Motion and the Laws of Gravity
  2. Simple Machines, Sound, Weather
  3. Magnetism, Electricity, Engineering, and Design
  4. Chemistry, States of Matter, Life Sciences
  5. Air, Flight
  6. Water, Space, Solar System

I received 2 DVD’s from Library and Educational Services to review.

Volume 3 includes fun demonstrations such as an electromagnet, making a compass, and a Tesla coil. In Volume 5 there are the Egg in the Bottle experiment, Can Crush, Cartesian Diver and many more. Each of these videos is between 45 minutes and 1 hour long.

We own a lot of science videos, but none are like these. Most of the videos we watch are documentaries. Some do include demonstrations, but these are the first I’ve watched that contain just demonstrations.

Ben Roy is very excited about sharing science with children and it shows in these presentations. My 10 year old son really enjoys these videos and will watch demonstration after demonstration. That’s not really the way the videos were designed to be used though, because the segments are a bit repetitive when watched one after another. My 5-1/2 year old daughter insisted that she was NOT going to like these videos, but I noticed that she didn’t leave the room when they were on. Later she admitted that she actually did like them after all. Even my toddler was entertained.

On the other hand, my 14 year old son and 12 year old daughter were not very fond of the videos. The suggested age range is 6 to 14, so they are at the upper end of the target audience. And my older 2 children are very no-nonsense type of kids. They have never liked programs in which they felt they were being talked to like… well, like children. That’s just how they are. I didn’t mind Ben Roy’s enthusiasm myself. I do think that since these are videos of live demonstrations, some of his volume and excitement would be better suited to being in the audience than it is for the video. It’s kind of like the difference between actors on stage and film. Stage actors speak loudly with exaggerated movements, while film actors act like you’re right there, because the camera is.

This sample is a good representation of the rest of the videos.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/0Qbdlc-Q7Nc[/youtube]

I think the demonstrations are excellent and the science is well-explained, but some students may be bothered by Ben Roy’s style.

I received these videos from Library and Educational Services. They are a wholesale distribution company that sells books and media to resellers,  libraries, and schools. Homeschoolers are included in the schools category! I have purchased from them in the past, and their prices and selection are fantastic. The Go Science videos are only $8.97 each, or you can order all 6 for $47.95.

Be sure to visit HomeschoolCrew.com to read more reviews of Go Science.

Disclosure: I received these videos free for the purposes of this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Oct 162011
 

When you tell people that you’re teaching Latin to your children, you get a variety of responses.

People who don’t homeschool tend to think it’s a bit odd and usually lump you into the category of parents who push their kids too much in academics. (OK, so they don’t say that exactly, but you can imagine the look accompanied with the standard, “Oh, really? Why? Isn’t Latin a dead language?” comments.)

People who do homeschool have usually heard of other homeschoolers who teach their kids Latin, so they’re not usually as surprised. But their reactions tend to vary based on their own homeschool philosophies. On one end you have those who think that you need to relax more. That is contrasted with those on the other end of the spectrum, who want to know what Latin curriculum you use, because they’re either planning to, or are already teaching Latin too. I’m always eager to talk about curriculum, so I much prefer the latter.

A few years ago, there were not very many options for Latin study. It seems that more people are recognizing the value of teaching Latin, and as a result, more companies have begun offering Latin programs specifically designed for homeschoolers. While it is fantastic to have so many options, it can make choosing curriculum a daunting task.

Visual Latin

One of the newer Latin programs is Visual Latin. I had heard nothing but positive things about this new program, so I was excited to take a look at it for myself.

I received Lessons 1-10 of Latin 1 to review. (The entire Latin I course consists of 30 lessons.) Each of these lessons is divided into 3 video segments. The first segment introduces the topic and discusses the basic grammar. The second segment has sentences, and the third segment is Latin reading. Also included for each lesson are worksheets in pdf form.

I received the downloaded version of these lessons. (DVD’s are also available.) These can be watched on the computer or on the television if you are able to connect your computer. (That’s what we did.) They can also be watched on an iPod or iPad. I wish I had an iPad to test it out on. I didn’t try it out on my iPod, because I don’t typically find it a very convenient way to watch videos.

My two older children have been studying Latin for several years now. (They’re on different levels using different programs. But that’s a story for another day.) Since neither of them are beginning Latin students, I didn’t have a child who could truly test this product. (My younger children are not ready for Latin because they’re not reading well enough in English yet.) But I had my older son (13 years old) view the videos with  me. I choose him so that he could start the year with a little basic review, and so that I could get his opinion of the program. (I also needed him to help me hook my laptop up to the television.)

Visual Latin

What did we think?

First, Dwane Thomas, the instuctor, is very funny. He also explains the concepts well. But we both especially enjoyed his humor.

This approach to Latin is entirely different from that in any of the other curricula I’m familiar with. Rather than starting with memorizing noun or verb endings, Dwane starts with examples of whole sentences and demonstrates the different endings by showing many examples. It definitely is a more interesting approach.

Did I mention how funny Dwane is?

The downloads were convenient and easy to use. You are allowed to make enough copies of the worksheets for your immediate family. That is a significant savings over purchasing consumable worktexts.

What I can’t say is if this different approach to learning Latin is effective or not. I can’t say because there wasn’t anything unfamiliar in the lessons that we studied, which the exception of a few vocabulary words. I tried to imagine myself not knowing Latin. I don’t know if I would be confused or not. What I suspect is that this program is super for some types of learners, but some children may prefer a more traditional program.

I think that if my older son were just now starting Latin, Visual Latin would be at the top of my list. (And I have 3 more children who will be studying Latin in the future.)

The good news is, you can take a look at this program for yourself before you buy it. Visual Latin allows you to download free sample lessons. Or, if you don’t want to download lessons, you can watch a complete lesson on their website.

You can purchase the lessons in groups of 10 to download. Each 10 lesson set is $25. That cost is quite a bit less than buying videos and texts for the other Latin programs I’ve used. (You do have to print the texts yourself.)

 

Disclosure: I receiving 10 lessons of Visual Latin to review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

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May 092011
 

God has created babies with an incredible ability to learn new things. Just think about it. Everything is new to a baby! They are exposed to new sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures daily. In the first years of life, children develop faster than at any other time. They learn to sit, crawl, and walk. They go from eating only milk to feeding themselves a variety of solid foods. They learn to talk. They learn to read.

What was that?

They learn to read?

MonkiSeeAccording to the Krista Guerrero, the Founder of MonkiSee, babies can learn to read. By repeated exposure to the shapes of the words in connection to concrete images of the word, babies and toddlers can learn to recognize words. And as they learn more words, they intuitively begin to understand basic phonetic rules. Like b says buh.

I received a DVD, Baby’s First Words Volume 1, and the book Know Your Monkey. Both the video and the book focus on body parts and several other familiar items to babies, like blanket, toys, and stroller.

I put the DVD in for my 4 month old to watch.

He was definitely interested!

The DVD is 30 minutes long and shows a word, like “head”, followed by various clips of children or puppets talking about or doing things related to “head“. It’s a cute show with lots of babies and children in it. The video quality is not fantastic, appearing slightly pixelated on our 32-inch high-definition television. Baby didn’t seem to care though.

So does it work? Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure exactly how you’re supposed to tell. My baby can’t talk or even point to his body parts yet, so he can’t show me that he can read the words. Though the DVD is recommended for 3 months-3 years, it would seem to be more effective at the upper part of the age range. I admittedly didn’t have him watch the video daily because I generally try to avoid early exposure to television. But as a busy homeschool mom, I do recognize that the television can help me to get a few extra minutes teaching another child. I would certainly feel much better about having my baby watch one of these MonkiSee DVD’s than Nick Jr.

Visit MonkiSee.com to see the complete product line including videos, flashcards, and books. The book, Know Your Monkey, is currently $9.95, and the First Words DVD is $19.95. A collection of all 3 DVDs is available for only $49.95.

Disclosure: I received this product to review as a member of the Homeschool Crew. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Dec 152010
 

I recently had the opportunity to review The Narnia Code by Michael Ward.  Before I had even started reading the book, I also received a copy of the DVD of the same title. Normally I am very much in favor of reading the book before watching the movie, so that is what I chose to do. However in this case, it might have been best to watch the DVD first.

The Narnia CodeThe Narnia Code DVD is a documentary style video which explores Michael Ward’s theory about the underlying theme of  The Chronicles of Narnia. The DVD includes more biographical information about C.S. Lewis and how Michael Ward came to his conclusions than is available in the book.  It also includes interviews with several C.S. Lewis experts along with their opinions of the The Narnia Code. The DVD spends less time than the book does on the theory itself. In my opinion, the video is a great way to pique your interest in the topic and then follow that with the greater detail included in the book.  Each resource can stand alone as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the DVD and the book! If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift idea for a Narnia lover, you can find buying information at The Narnia Code website.

 

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this DVD to review. I was not compensated for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Nov 202010
 

Workaholic Randy Simpkins (Dean Cain) is preparing for a much needed vacation with his wife Christal and their 3 sons. Somehow as they are loading the van to leave, their youngest son, 2 year old Joe, disappears. Their initial minor annoyance turns to gut-wrenching fear as police and search crews arrive to comb the acres of woods and ponds surrounding their rural Georgia home. As more time passes, the chances of finding Joe safe become slimmer. The whole community comes out to aid in the search, and Randy realizes that his work habits have prevented him from having a good relationship with his family.

I have had The Way Home on my to-watch list for a while and finally found time to watch it last night. I wish I hadn’t waited so long! This true story was extremely well done. Much effort was made to keep the film true to the actual story. First, Randy Simpkins was the Executive Producer of the film. Second, both he and Christal had cameo appearances in the film, and finally the movie was shot at the Simpkins’ home. Dean Cain was excellent as Randy Simpkins. He was completely believable in the role.

The message of the movie, though nothing new or earth-shattering, is still something all Christians need to hear. We all recognize the need to put God and our families first, but we allow the things of this world to take the place that rightfully belongs to God and our family. And it’s often such a gradual change, that we don’t realize that we have allowed our priorities to become skewed.

I do think that the film missed a major opportunity to emphasize the wife’s role in keeping the right priorities. Christal nagged her husband about how he wasn’t doing a good job as a husband and father. She spoke to him very harshly. There was no mention of repentance on her part. I think that wives need to remember that we need to be easy to come home to! I am reminded of Proverbs 21:9–

[It is] better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.

and Proverbs 21:19–

[It is] better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.

I am not blaming the wife for a husband that fails to fulfill his God-ordained role, but it is still her responsibility to fulfill her own role. (I am definitely preaching to myself here. I could hear my own complaining tone as I watched the movie. I wondered how I would respond in the same situation.)

I really enjoyed and would recommend this movie to others.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention iton my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission?s 16 CFR, Part 255: ?Guides Concerning theUse of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. This post contains an affiliate link.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_Z3ry2J3OmzA/TOfzAC8M4fI/AAAAAAAAF0A/DHLZ0xRXR5o/s800/dvd_cover_the%20way%20home.jpg[It is] better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
Oct 192010
 

I was recently offered the opportunity to review new Christian films. Not being one who likes to turn down review opportunities, I agreed. Then I started to wonder if I was the best person to ask. You see the problem is I haven’t seen many “Christian” films that I like. I have found that most have less than stellar actors and the plots tend to be, well, a bit forced. For me to enjoy a Christian film, the Christian message has to be seamlessly interwoven into the plot. If it seems tacked on, then it’s not something I’ll recommend.

So in one sense, maybe I am a good person to ask about Christian films. I’m not easy to please so you’ll know my recommendations are sincere. I also am supportive of the idea of making Christian films. I think that with more support, the necessary financing necessary for making good films will be easier to obtain, leading to better films. But I’m still not willing to pay for substandard entertainment. I’d rather watch nothing than suffer through a poor movie.

Now after that lengthy introduction, I’ll actually get to my review!

bringing up bobby


Bringing Up Bobby
is described as “a different kind of comedy about being kind of different.” Bobby is a teenage boy who is being raised by his older brother, James. Their parents were killed in an accident when Bobby was young, so he doesn’t remember them. They also have a sister and a brother that do not live with them.

The film’s plot involves Bobby’s upcoming 16th birthday, the new girl in school whom he has developed a crush on, and the much delayed reading of his parents’ will. The very materialistic older sister and the out-of-touch with reality older brother come into town to hear the reading of the will. Bobby’s brother James is a Christian and recognizes that though Bobby has said he believes what James believes, he hasn’t really trusted Christ for himself.

What did I think?

The acting wasn’t bad. The plot was not predictable. Though billed as a comedy, I thought that some of the movie’s best moments were its more dramatic ones. Most of the “funny” parts I didn’t find to be particularly funny. The out-of-town siblings were both one-dimensional and predictable. However, I think that was intentional.

I liked the message that you aren’t automatically a Christian just because your family is. But the gospel message often felt both tacked on and weak. The preachy part of the movie was part of the plot, but I still found it forced. I am not sure if this movie would appeal to Christian teens. I don’t think it would appeal to any of the Christian teens that I know, but they are either so far removed from the typical teenage culture that they wouldn’t find it funny or are such a part of the culture that they would think it was silly. But I don’t typically like teen movies Christian or not, so I may not be the best judge for this one.

You can watch the trailer here. I think the trailer provides a good representation of the humor in the movie. If you enjoy the trailer, you are likely to enjoy the movie. Over all I would rate this movie as average. I have definitely seen movies that are a lot worse, but I’ve seen much better too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission?s 16 CFR, Part 255: ?Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. This post contains an affiliate link.

Oct 102010
 

My younger children both get completely absorbed in what they watch on television. That is a good thing when I need time to work uninterrupted with my older children. I know they’re paying attention, because they will repeat things that they’ve heard on videos that they watch. So I try to be especially careful in what I allow them to watch, and how much they’re allowed to watch. (And that really should be the case whether they repeated what they heard or not, but it does serve as a good reminder of what little sponges children are.)

That’s why I was happy to receive Trusting in the Shepherd by DaySpring to review. This 40 minute DVD contains 2 different stories about facing fear and trusting in Jesus. In addition to the stories, there are a sing-along song and extra features included. Both stories and the song teach Psalm 23:4.

What did the kids think?

My almost 4 year old daughter really enjoyed the video. She liked the stories, the cute sheep characters, and the songs.

My 8-1/2 year old son watched it as well. He also liked it, but it was a little too young for him, and he tends to be on the immature side.

What did I think?

The animation was average to above average. It wasn’t Pixar movie animation quality, but it was typical for a kids’ cartoon show. The characters were cute. I liked how the story included the children talking with their parents about their fears. I thought the stories were ones that children could relate to. I wouldn’t consider this to be a kid’s video that an adult would enjoy watching, but I didn’t find it to be annoying either.

The songs were catchy tunes. One song was played with guitar accompaniment, while the sing-along song had a jazzy feel to it. I don’t consider either of them to be rock music, but they are both contemporary sounding songs. The scripture quoted was not in the King James. We are not KJV Only, but we do mainly use the King James Bible and do all our memory work in King James, so the video won’t be particularly helpful to us in memorizing Psalm 23:4. I mention both of these issues because I know that different Christian families have different opinions on music and Bible translations.

Overall, I would recommend the video for children between the ages of 2 and 6. I would consider purchasing other videos in the series. You can find more information about Trusting in the Shepherd, including where to purchase it, at www.ReallyWoollyKids.com or on the Really-Woolly-Kids Facebook Page.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Aug 132010
 

What’s in the Bible? is the new video series by the creator of Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer. The series uses puppets and music to teach Biblical truths. I received the latest DVD,Wanderin’ in the Desert from Tyndale House Publishers to review. Wanderin’ in the Desert contains 2 25 minute episodes that cover the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These episodes discuss difficult Biblical topics like the difference between the ritual law and the ethical law (I have heard the alternate terms moral law and ceremonial law.) and why some of the punishments for breaking God’s law seem so severe. These are topics that many Christian adults do not understand, so I was impressed to see these covered in a video for kids.

My 8 year old son and 4 year old daughter both enjoyed watching the videos. They found them both funny and entertaining. My 2 older children (10 and 12) consider themselves too old for puppets, so they didn’t watch them. I found the videos to be well thought out and contained good explanations of difficult topics. But I do have a couple of problems with them.

First, I think that the content and the presentation are a bit mismatched. My 8 year old son liked the puppets, but he didn’t really grasp many of the concepts the video was trying to teach. For example, several days after watching one of the earlier DVD’s (I received a Advance Viewer Copy of DVDs 1 and 2 as well.) he randomly said “Septuagint”. I was initially impressed until I asked him what the Septuagint was. He said it was what that pirate said and the parrot thought he was sneezing.

That leads me to my second concern. The videos are a bit too silly for my tastes. I know, what did I expect from the creator of Veggie Tales? It may be that I am changing, because Veggie Tales never bothered me. But I found these to be borderline irreverent. I am not in any way saying the Phil Vischer is being purposefully irreverent. I was thoroughly impressed by his explanation of the vision God had given him for Veggie Tales and how he lost sight of that in the midst of their popularity. This series was a return to his original vision. While I really appreciate his intent with this series, I don’t plan on purchasing them for my children.

I imagine that I am in a minority with this opinion. Before purchasing you can watch short sample of the first video here.

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase through the link, I will receive a small commission.