Now that both of my girls are in junior high (oh, my - did I really admit that??!!!), I'm always on the lookout for Bible studies we can use at home that are age-appropriate and meet their spiritual needs.
Some Bible studies are too simple in that they are really designed for younger children, even though they're touted to be at the junior high school level. Some Bible studies would be appropriate for many junior highers, but not for those students who have been regularly studying the Bible on an almost-daily basis for many years. Some Bible studies tend to ask only "Who, What, When, Where" types of questions, which really don't get to the heart of the Scriptures. Our family prefers a Bible study that gets to the heart of the matter and includes questions that cause us to apply the biblical principles to our everyday lives.
About a month ago, we received and began using "Discovering Our Amazing God", by Deeper Roots Publications. This particular Bible study has been written for students in grades 6-9, although it's targeted for 7th graders. While the authors state that it's been designed to include Bible stories that are less familiar because they are taught less often in most churches and Sunday School programs, we found that our girls were still familiar with the sections of Scripture that we read together in the evenings.
Discovering Our Amazing God contains a few black and white line drawings to help illustrate the text and provide interest. When I was reading this book on my own, before we began using it together as a family, I decided that I'd like to build some pages on my website that included photos, audio stories, recipes, and other items of interest that would go along with the lessons in Discovering Our Amazing God. While I haven't finished doing this for the entire book, I've enjoyed developing some interesting pictures and other items for our family to use when working through this Bible curriculum. You can access those extra pages HERE, if you are interested in using them with your family or small group.
Discovering Our Amazing God does a great job in including prayer for specific unreached people groups found in the 10-40 Window, the region of the globe between 10 degrees north latitude and 40 degrees south latitude, which typically includes Asia and north Africa. The illustrations and drawings for each people group are beautifully drawn, and we enjoyed looking that these reminders to pray for people around the planet.
Deeper Roots Publications' website didn't seem quite as easy to access information about their various Bible studies for different age groups, but I did find that visitors can download a free sample of Discovering Our Amazing God HERE after entering their email address and first and last name.
Here's what our family enjoyed about using this Deeper Roots Bible study:
1. We love the focus on various people groups throughout the world and the reminder to pray for them.
2. The questions were more in-depth than some of the other Bible studies we've done together as a family.
3. The student workbook gives plenty of room to write and take notes.
4. The parent guide directs parents how to work through a lesson to accompany the student workbook. Also, a variety of tips on how to enhance each lesson is provided.
There are a few things that we thought could use some improvement:
1. The website isn't quite as user-friendly as we'd like, so it was harder to find some of the books and materials in which we were interested in learning more about.
2. Some of the suggestions in the lesson require a parent to do a little bit of research to find material to use with the lessons before using the lessons with the family. For example, one day's lesson asked the parent to show a clip from a Superman video. I searched on my own and found a YouTube link, but it would have been nice if this info. had been included with a list of links, or better yet, a CD containing some of the extras which would make this program better. As it was, I had to preview numerous Superman video links to find one that was appropriate and met the needs of that particular lesson. Links to maps required for the lessons, or appropriate maps on an accompanying CD would be nice, to help the lessons to be ready to use instead of requiring parent work ahead of time. Homeschooling parents aren't so lazy that they can't do this work ahead of time, but when most parents are teaching 8+ subjects in the home already, it can be overwhelming if every subject requires even just a few minutes of planning each day. Pretty soon, mom is burned out and ready to throw in the towel.
3. The homeschool materials, which we received, still looked like they were written for the classroom. Quite a bit of the wording was written for the classroom. While this isn't a turnoff for me, I know it can be for some homeschooling families.
4. I'd also like to mention that this Bible curriculum includes writing opportunities in some of the lessons, focusing on journaling and writing essays. While I thought that the journaling suggestions were appropriate for a Bible curriculum, we chose not to do the writing assignments. My husband and I decided years ago when the girls were very small that we wouldn't do anything during our family Bible times together that would make it seem like the Bible was merely another school subject in which they needed to to schoolwork. We have always wanted the Bible and the study of the Scriptures to be a holy time, considered far better than any schoolwork our girls would ever learn! Now if they choose to attend Bible college at some point in the future, there will obviously be more in-depth Bible study where they will have writing assignments, but that's another scenario altogether.
I'm sure the authors didn't intend the writing assignments to be considered "schoolwork", but many homeschooled students today would consider them to be homework. We told our girls that if they were interested in doing some journaling with these lessons, that would be wonderful, but it wasn't something that we were going to force onto them. True spiritual, biblical journaling must come from the heart if it is to be effective, and not from an assignment. I agree with the authors' quote from Howard Hendricks that was included in Discovering Our Amazing God that "Most of us read too much and reflect too little," but I also know that forced reflection isn't really true reflection at all. We chose to not do the writing assignments with our girls.
5. The Parent Guide: because the Teacher's Notes were in a separate side margin, my husband found it trickier to switch back and forth between the parent text and the student text (contained on the same page) and not miss something that should have been said or done by the teacher at various points in the lessons. If they had been intertwined step by step, in the midst of the student questions and comments, that would have been easier to follow question by question. We missed things numerous times and needed to jump backwards because something important was missed. I'm sure that some families wouldn't have difficulty with this, but we found it a bit challenging. In addition, the parent notes were in very small print in the side margin. While I can read it easily with my bifocals, other parents may find it more difficult to read with a small font, especially if they don't yet realize that they need reading glasses...or they're not willing to admit it!
6. I'd also like to see a Materials Needed list at the beginning of each Lesson and at the beginning of each Day's studies. Of course, a parent can read through the entire lesson on his own ahead of time and then gather the needed materials and supplies, but many parents don't have the time to devote to doing that, especially if they have larger families, so a materials list would be helpful.
7. A few times, we were asked to look up words in a dictionary. It would have been nice to include the definitions from Webster's 1828 Dictionary in the lesson itself, which are available free online, or from the actual reprinted 1828 Dictionary, because those definitions are often so different and so much more biblical than the definitions from a modern day dictionary.
Overall, my husband and I think that Discovering Our Amazing God has great potential for families to use with their upper elementary and junior high children! Our girls seemed to like the study and not have complaints about it. That's always wonderful!
Check out what other TOS Crew members have to say about Deeper Roots!
Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of Deeper Roots in exchange for my honest review of this Bible curriculum. No other compensation was provided.
My daughters love riding horses just about as much as any other American girl loves to ride. They don't receive frequent opportunities to ride, but when they are able to ride a friend's horses, they are in heaven! (Or at least, they think so.)
When I noticed that Tyndale was asking for reviewers for Backyard Horses, by Dandi Daley Mackall, I knew this would be a great book for us to receive and have the girls review it.
Unfortunately, part way into the book, Brittany couldn't find it anywhere.
A couple of days before I wrote this review, we narrowed it down to two places where it might have been left. Sure enough, my sister-in-law called to ask if we were missing a book. Yup!
She was able to bring Backyard Horses by our house this afternoon, so Brittany finished reading the book this evening.
In case you're not familiar with the new Backyard Horses series of books, this first book, Horse Dreams, is about a ten-year-old, Ellie James, who spends a lot of time daydreaming of owning a black stallion show horse and winning trophies in the horse show. At some point, the answer to all of her dreams and prayers gallops into her life, but will she recognize it? This book is about Ellie and her quirky family in their exciting, horse-loving adventures.
Here are Brittany's thoughts about the new Backyard Horses series:
"I thought the book was interesting because it was written from a child’s perspective. It was written in present tense, though, and I found that harder to read and enjoy. Horse Dreams was a quick, easy read, which I like! I'm excited for the next book in the Backyard Horses series!
I liked the “cliffhanger” at the end of the book. Okay, not really, because it leaves me wondering what will happen next, but it also makes me want to read the next book!
Ellie is a girl with no friends that are girls, and her best friend is a boy. I wasn't sure how old Ellie is. Her mom is kind of weird and crazy. Her dad appears wimpy in one scene. One thing I did notice is that sometimes the adults seem “dumb” (not dumb, but you get the point), whereas the kids appear “smart”. I'm not sure I agree with that.
Horse Dreams did include bits and pieces of God woven into the story. It wasn't completely centered on God; there could have been more biblical ideas in the book. This is the same author of the "Winnie, the Horse Gentler" series. I loved reading this book!"
~ Brittany, age 11
author Dandi Daley Mackall
Our family will look forward to reading the rest of the series by Dandi Daley Mackall. She has written over 400 books for children and adults! Wow. You may learn more about Mrs. Mackall's books HERE.
Horses will probably always be a favorite topic in our home, and I'm glad. They are beautiful creatures!
Horse Dreams is now available for purchase in many bookstores and also on Amazon and ChristianBook.com. We'll anxiously await the rest of the books, because we don't want Brittany to lose her mind while she waits to find out what happens next!
Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review of this product. No other compensation was provided.
In preparing for our new school year at home, I've neglected to post the winners of my two most recent giveaways! Sorry, everyone. It's been busy around here! But here they are:
Robert Pierre CD giveaway winner:
The winner of the Robert Pierre CD giveaway is....commenter #5, Debbie! Her website is really cute and designed for homeschooling families, so if you homeschool, you may want to check it out: http://debbieshomeschoolcorner.blogspot.com/
The GraceCard DVD giveaway winner:
The winner of the GraceCard DVD is....commenter #1, Leslie A!
Winners will have until Monday, September 12th at midnight, Pacific time, to respond and let me know their mailing addresses.
And just so that you know, in the next couple of weeks I'll be hosting giveaways for two other movies: The Shunning, based on the original book by Beverly Lewis (an Amish story), and Theo, a cute cartoon animated movie about a man who teaches gospel truths to two darling character critters in his house. So stay tuned for those reviews and giveaways, soon!
We love playing many kinds of games at our home. When a game does double-duty, like enabling us to have a fun time together, but also helping us to review and practice an academic subject, that's even better!
We recently received Civilize This! to give it a try and see what we thought about it. Brittany was excited until she realized it was a "history" game. To her, that said, "Ugh." You can tell that history isn't her favorite subject in school, right? However, she was a good sport and helped set up the game.
Civilize This! is a simple game to set up. The box contains four decks of cards and one die. Simple! This particular set is designed to easily be used in the car on road trips or other travel situations. The directions are printed on the inside of the lid, and the lid nicely closes with a hidden magnet so that the box stays shut while traveling. No need for rubber bands to hold it together! And no way for the directions to the game to become "lost." I like that!
We had a good time playing Civilize This!
Of course, Kelsi and I loved all of the historical questions we were attempting to answer. There are 3 decks of cards with questions from different historical eras: Ancients, Medieval, and Modern History.
I don't remember who won the game.
I actually think we were interrupted by a phone call or something, and we didn't get back to the game right away because of other time commitments.
But Civilize This! is a game that we'll play often, and it's going on our family vacation with us soon.
Civilize This! is designed for 2-6 players, and it's best for ages 8 and up. Now I'd recommend that if children between 8-12 have had very little history instruction, this may be too difficult for them.
We've spent years studying ancient history, medieval history, and now the Renaissance and the Reformation, which Civilize This! doesn't cover. So, we were generally able to answer most of the 5-point questions from ancient history and the middle ages, but were on the weaker side of things with modern history.
Griddly Games has provided numerous suggestions to families to help them make Civilize This! more family-friendly and, in their terms, to "level the playing field". I loved their suggestions! For example, if the whole family is playing the game, Mom and Dad would need 75 points to win, while big brother needs 50 points, and little sister needs only 25 points to win.
Or, another scenario they provide is to make all correct answers worth 5 points, but older players only get to answer the 7-point questions (in which they would earn 5 points, not 7). Yes, there are two types of questions: 7-pt. questions, and 5-pt. questions. Nice!
Civilize This! is a great game for families who enjoy studying history, or are willing to learn about history and culture via games.
Griddly Games also sells other varieties of the Wise Alec card games: Nature Nuts (fun with plants and animals), Sports Buff, and the original Wise Alec Trivia Game. In addition, other games can be found on their site. Civilize This! can be purchased online here, or you may check this page to see where in your state or country this game is available. It sells for around $15.
Take a peek at what other TOS Crew members have to say about Civilize This!
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Civilize This! as a member of the TOS Crew reviewing team, in exchange for a review of this product. All opinions are my own, and no other compensation was provided.
I used to think that raccoons were such darling, delightful creatures. After all, they have tiny, miniature hands and fingers that playfully splash in the water and wash off their latest catch, right?
And that cute masked face. Who can resist smiling at that darling little face? I mean, ever since I was a child, I have always thought that raccoons were so cute!
Until I heard them in the dark of the night, outside in my back yard. Ten of them, all growling and hissing, snarling and fighting. It sounded like a hideous monster, or like the wailing and gnashing of teeth. If you haven't heard raccoons fight and fuss, then you probably still think that they are some of the cutest creatures that God placed onto this planet. But when I hear that loud, snarling sound, it brings fear into my heart - for just an instant. Until I realize that it's just those raccoons who are angry because I haven't been refilling the cat's water dish outside. It is then, when I hear their sound, that I realize how vicious raccoons can be. Yes, they are scavengers by nature, but after hearing and seeing them fight, I would NOT want to come across the path of a raccoon at night, by accident.
Tonight, after hearing that horrible snarling again, it caused me to ponder and wonder how many things there are things going on in my own life that have seemed innocent and harmless for years, maybe even since my childhood, but are actually masked with deceit and are filled with ugliness and misplaced motives.
Maybe I don't even want to think about this. It could cause me to ponder too much, to investigate my beliefs and my pride more than I'd like. But a little introspection is healthy for us from time to time. Maybe I need to ask myself more often, "What are my motives for doing that...or saying that?" The cold, hard truth may not be pretty, but often we need to take off the mask of deceit and really examine our motives. Me included. I'll let you know what comes up, what the Lord shows me in my journey, this journey toward His JOY.
Hi! I'm Julieanne!