Friday, March 24, 2017

A picture book to remind a child of their God given, unique identity

We all want our children to know they are truly special, one of a kind; As a christian parent, we want to take it a step further and also teach them that they are designed, down to the smallest detail, by a loving Creator. Of course, mainly that means loving them well and telling them on a regular basis who much you and God love and appreciate who they are; but every once in awhile an extra fun way comes a long- a treat like a new picture book written as just such a reminder! When God Made You is just such a book- a real gift for every child to have a loving parent read aloud to them. 

This book is bright, lyrical and very engaging. The text is in rhyming format, sort of a riff off of Dr. Seuss. The word choices trip you up a bit at times, especially for little ones to follow along with; but at the same time, I am never one to fault a kid's book for writing with an upper level vocabulary. I thought the continuous repetition of "You" through out much of the narrative kept kids on track with exactly what the book was about, even if they got a little lost in some of the descriptives. 

The illustrations are so colorful and lively- definitely a great draw for little eyes. The pictures follow the little girl through her morning at home and then on a trip to the park. She meets an artist who seems to be lacking some inspiration and the little girl joins in the creative process with her own unique style, which leads to some really fun and imaginative drawings. I appreciated in this section the emphasis on God truly enjoying each of us as individuals just for the pleasure of the little things we do, create and are.

The story is summed up with "You being you is God's dream come true." That's an encouraging thought I want to share with my boys and I'm glad to have this book to help remind us all.

 I received this book from the Blogging for Books program

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Story Travelers Bible: A timely children's bible with a unique twist

I think it's safe to say there is a literally a bible translation, version and edition for everyone. Of course, the bible-the gospel- is already enough for absolutely every single person on earth already stand alone. On top of that, there has definitely proven to be a market for "customized"  bibles for different groups ( children, teen, woman, mom, firefighter, etc, etc.) with add-on devotional readings and other details to interest the chosen reader type. I will admit to owning several different versions and translations of bibles in my home and am always up for adding another, if the addition proves unique from what we already own. My husband and I both have our own preferred study bibles and we have quite the stack of children's bibles around! I just recently bought my oldest a full text "kid's" bible for 6th birthday to start following along in during bible reading time, church and awana. I seem to be slowing down in "need" for bibles for our household for this season. But then recently I ran across an intriguing, new illustrated bible "story book".

 The Story Travelers Bible is a packed full of 85 fully illustrated bible stories and lots of neat extras! It is marketed towards 4-8 year olds- an extremely ideal age range for my house and an "transitional" age I feel like falls between toddler/young child story condensed bibles and the full text older kids' bibles. I am excited to use the Story Travelers Bible with my boys during our daily Morning Time bible reading time for school. We have been going through a "Bible Road Trip" reading plan from start to finish and think this will be the perfect edition read our bible stories out of. I think it is a great fit for a "school time" bible because of the extras added through out. There are some really neat "pop up" sections that give kid's further details regarding the geography, time period's culture and other educational topics; as well as prompts to think about how to apply the text to building their own faith. 

This bible has an introduction story that invites us to meet the our Story Traveler partners- Lana, Munch and Griffin-who are starting off a week of vacation bible school. This year's theme is "Getting to know God" and the children start to timidly confess to each other that they all try to read their bible but none of them really feel like they know God well or can relate to the stories of the bible as actual real events. Next thing you know, the children are exploring an intriguing, yet abandoned minibus outside of the church. They climb in to check it out when suddenly, the bus comes to life and they are all whisked away in a whirlwind..

I think that should do a proper job of getting my boys excited for the "adventures" to come! The lively and engaging, yet not overly cheesy illustrations really help each story to jump off of the pages as well. Our friends in the story get to blast to the past and visit each bible story and find out how real the bible characters and God's love and involvement in their lives truly was. The ongoing narrative of the kids' adventures woven around the actual bible stories doesn't "get in the way" or add any unnecessary perspectives or opinions, but actually does an impressive job of helping kids understand more of the timeline and geography of what's taking place as the Story Travelers make sense of maps and their surroundings. I also really appreciate that while obviously this book is a bible paraphrase of sorts (as most kids bibles are) after each story there is a note about where to find the corresponding full bible passage in a full text bible. 

With Easter coming up soon, I plan to read thru the events of Jesus's life leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection with my boys over a couple weeks. I am looking forward to using The Story Travelers Bible to take that journey with us. 

Thanks to Tyndale Publishing for providing me with this bible to share with my boys and my readers!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Everybody can help Somebody: A good lesson for all ages

I remember being newly an adult- newly married and pregnant with my first child when Ron Hall and Denver Moore's Same Kind of Different as Me came out and it really affected me. It's described as the story of a modern-day slave, an international art dealer and the unlikely woman who bound them together- an intriguing story line, to be sure! I was really excited to see the authors had recently came out with a children's picture book version of their story.

 I love the simplistic illustrations and engaging, yet accessible text used to share this inspiring story with kids. I so enjoyed cuddling up with my boys and introducing them to a man who lived such a very different life than any that they are familiar with. Denver truly lived a life that most of us assume was a burdened lifestyle of the past. What an eye opening account for my kids to hear of the childhood he lived, especially to their "privileged" one in comparison. 

Then to read of how the love of God tracked him down and transformed his life and touched his heart through some unlikely friends. This is the kind of story I want to engrain in my kids' hearts: that God can use them to share his love in ways and with people they could never even imagine.

Thanks to Book Look Bloggers for providing me with a copy of this title to review.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

An Amazingly Thorough, yet Whimsical Theology Course wrapped up in a Children's Book

Consistency is not my strongest suit but I have more than learned the value of good habits and routines. One practice that has started to "stick" fairly well in my boys and my daily rhythm is "Morning Time"-this happens after breakfast and chores and before I do any individual school subjects with the boys separately. We all gather at the dining room table and enjoy a "broad feast"-not of food, but ideas. We start with a quick prayer, go over our AWANA verses and read a section of the bible for our Bible Road Trip. We focus on learning a new song from Songs for Saplings each week, they offer some great catechisms set to catchy tunes. We also cover some fun, out of the ordinary ways to learn math, church history, and the boys love our time for nursery rhymes and a silly poem. The point of Morning Time is not academic but to connect as a family and focus on things that are good, true and beautiful. 

A book that I had on my wishlist for some time and was so excited to incorporate into our Feast was The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski. This book is incredible, really. When I think of the good, true and beautiful, I picture this book. Machowski offers a dense and rich spread of theological truth written towards kids, but just as nourishing for adults and wraps it up in a gorgeous, heirloom quality format of a book. One of the tag lines from the publishers is "A beginner s book of systematic theology in the form of a beautifully illustrated storybook." I think this is really the perfect way to sum up what this book is. It truly is a very comprehensively laid out theology course in the form of an engaging children's story. 

It begins by introducing us to our main characters- Carla and Timothy who are exploring their church building when they discover not only a secret underground stairway but also a mysterious package that beckons them to "Open and Read". Within is a letter explaining that they have in their hands a last of it's kind historic children's book that teaches the Theology, the study of God. And so begins our journey with Carla and Timothy thru The Ology. 

The book is very systematic about it's teaching approach and I think that's perfect to make sure even the youngest child can begin but also make sure the more advanced student has a through and solid foundation. It starts with The Ology of God, which covers the attributes of who God is. Then, we move to The Ology of People where we're reminded of our creation and first parents. Next, we have to face the hard facts in The Ology of Sin which does a great job of clearly explaining to children what sin and it's consequences are, both at the first instance in the Garden and in their lives now. The Ology of the Promise and the Law explains God's "rescue plan" and how the law was first introduced and what it's purpose is.

 The hope comes with The Ology of Christ when children are told of Jesus' divine and human aspects and what all he did for us. Things go a little deeper still when we get to The Ology of the Holy Spirit and learn of the introduction of the Holy Spirit to the first believers and how it is with us now. The Ology of Adoption into God's Family gives us many reminders of our truest identity. The Ology of Change I think is where things start transitioning to being a great challenge and lesson to older children, past the basics of what God has done for us and focused in on how we can live for him. This section deals with how we can grow and have victory in Christ and I'm thinking my oldest who just turned 6 would really get a lot out of these lessons at his stage in understanding the faith. The Ology of the Church does a wonderful job of explaining what the purpose of the Church is and why we need to be a part of it. A much helpful to teaching parents section on The Ology of the End Times gives some great insight into the tricky subject of "things to come". And the whole book is tied up nicely with the last chapter The Ology of God's Word where we are reminded of the importance and power of this book we're studying so in depth. 

Each "lesson" is short and concise with coordinating scripture and a whimsical illustration to engage kids. There is so much packed into this volume that I don't foresee us getting through it any time too soon and I am totally ok with that. Like any delightful thing you want to draw it out, soak it up and savor it. That's most importantly, how we should feel about God's word and I think Marty Machowski has doing a wonderful job of invoking a similar feeling about the complementary study of Theology with this outstanding title. As only the best kid's books can do, I feel like this is a gift not only for them, but for me as the lucky parent who gets to read it to them. This book will be treasured by my family for many years of growth and spiritual formation to come and recommended to all my  dearest Mama friends. 

Thanks so much to New Growth Press for providing me with this title to enjoy with my children and wholeheartedly recommend to my readers.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Introducing my boys to Civil Rights Heroes- Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks

It's Black History Month and, to be honest, that usually doesn't mean a whole lot around our house. We are not African American and do not live in an area with many African American people, really at all. So I guess that has made me a bit lax about teaching my kids much about racial issues and tensions- from either side;but I have to admit with the tensions and divide in our country currently,it is hard to escape the fact that it is obviously still an issue to many. While I personally don't agree that it as alive and well of a "disease" now, I am very aware that it was a real civil rights issue not that long ago. It is part of the history of our country and I want to give my kids the full scope of our nation's story. So I was very excited to get the chance to review two new, outstanding board books from WorthyKids/Ideals

The Story of Rosa Parks is an engaging, little board book that introduces young children to "the Mother of the civil rights". This book does a wonderful job of summarizing who Rosa was as an individual- where she grew up, who she married- and what actions and ideals we remember her for- quiet conviction and courage. I just love the soft and almost dream-like illustrations and thought the text was straightforward and approachable for kids.

The next book, The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. is very similar in style as these two books are part of a series and I am glad to own them both! My boys had a little bit of an earlier introduction to MLK as my husband got the day off for MLK day and we took a family fun day to the coast. While we driving, we had a fun moment of "homeschool on the go" when we explained to the boys why it was a holiday and who we were remembering. I was surprised with how interested my 6 year old was-he and his Daddy even did some more online investigating on MLK while I ran into a coffee shop. It was a neat chance to see how "real life learning" really does happen! :)

This board book starts with asking children if they know why we celebrate MLK day and then follows up by explaining who he was and what we remember him for doing. I appreciated the book's approach to present MLK as a child who wanted to things just like any other kid would- eat at restaurants with his family, drink from any water fountain he came across, and go to a good school- but that he couldn't. I think these were valid civil rights areas for kids to understand why MLK stood and fought for what he did. 

I truly do feel that both these historic figures are heroes for my children to look up to and am thankful for a resource to introduce them to these names at a young age. Both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. fought injustice and took a stance for their ideals and convictions, but they did it in a peaceful, civilized way. I think that's a lesson that many in our country need to take note of right now-I hope to instill that idea in my kids from an early age.

Thanks to Worthy Publishing for providing me with these books to review and share with my readers!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Fun Way to School: Thinking Tree's Fun-Schooling Journals

The Holidays have came and gone and it's now time to find a new rhythm and inspiration for the cold and sometimes dreary Winter months ahead. A couple motivating factors are lingering from the Christmas celebrating- A new electric pressure cooker (Christmas gift from the husband!) to inspire flavorful, yet much quicker dishes in the kitchen and a much deal of a boost, the news that our sweet baby #4 is on the way in early August! What a precious gift this revelation was to receive this Christmas; all of my boys are very excited for a new member of the family and the countdown to baby will definitely help pass the Winter months with anticipation. Though it also means that Mama's energy levels have plummeted pretty impressively during the tricky first trimester and things around our house have had to be slightly adjusted for the time being. The chores mostly get done, though not quite so efficiently. Meals are getting on the table one way or another, a big thanks to my generous husband who has been known to be bringing home a lot more take out after work. School is an important and fun part of our day that I really don't want to completely drop the ball on this front. I wanted lie to you, our full line up of school doesn't happen every day- I will add though that my "ideal" school schedule I set up in the fall is pretty ambitious so it takes a really good day to get to all of it! I am very ok with currently cutting back to the necessities and a few fun extras to keep school a joy and not a burden. We still fit in Morning time on the days that I'm feeling energetic and on the not quite days we aim for reading, handwriting, math and some supplemental fun activity. One of our favorite Fun Schooling resources has been the Thinking Tree Fun-Schooling Journals. There is such an impressive range of options offered- for all different ages, boys or girls, season specific and more. We own the Ages 3 to 7 Fun-Schooling Journal - Do-It-Yourself Homeschooling for Beginners: Homeschool Prep-Book For New Readers and Non-Readers!  and the Ages 6-9 Fun-Schooling Journal - Do-It-Yourself Homeschooling 1st - 3rd Grade: Learning Activities For New & Struggling Readers

My boys love having their own special books and I really like how open ended they are. Unlike usual school work books that are looking for specific answers, these books really are more like a personal learning journal that kids can really make their own. There are prompts and activities on each page such as a page for nature study documenting, plenty of coloring opportunities, pages for recording books read and copy work, and much more!
 Since my little boy using the Ages 3-7 book is on the younger side of the age range there is a decent amount of writing space that he will dictate for me or he'll grow into later, but there is still plenty of coloring and drawing activities to keep him busy!

We have slowly been working our way thru the Beautiful Feet books Early American History Primary Study and came up to an activity where we were to write out The Principle of Individuality and stamp the boys finger prints around the copy work. I felt this would be the perfect type of activity to archive in our school journals. My littler boy went crazy with finger print art all over the poem I wrote out for him. The artwork on the page we chose includes numerous cats hidden through out and he just loves cats, so I had him search for and circle all the cats he could find. 

My oldest kept things a bit tidier with a neat circle of finger prints surrounding the poem and then he played "look and find" with the music notes in the surrounding picture. 

He also had fun filling out one of the Thinking Time pages that asked him to complete lines of patterns- a great exercise in logic skills.

These books have been a life saver for this currently low energy Mama, providing me with a pretty much self directed learning resource that I can easily get away offering to my boys as "pure fun". I think it will also be a neat way to store,"notebooking" style, different school activities that don't naturally fit into another school book. I am excited for the many other options of Fun Schooling journals we will have to look forward to in the years to come!

Thank you to Thinking Tree Publishing LLC for providing these books for me review and share with my readers.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Our First Big Boy Bible

My oldest boy just turned 6-he's growing up in a hurry and taking us to all new stages in life as a family. He's enjoying venturing out of home and doing his own individual activities more and more, the biggest right now is Awana. He just loves getting picked up by his best buddy and his dad each Sunday night and going for a fun night of bible stories, verses and games. Now that he's old enough to really understand and memorize bible verses they encourage him to bring his own bible to look verses up in. Well, so far his bible collection has been made up of The Jesus Storybook Bible and a couple, colorful Gideon's New Testaments. I knew his birthday coming up meant I needed to get him his own unabridged "big boy" bible. But boy, what a wide market it is for kid's bibles- so many options! 

The winner for us was the NKJV: Airship Genesis Kids Study Bible edited by Dr. David Jeremiah. My husband grew up on the KJV of the bible and I used the NIV, I felt the NKJV was a good starting place for a young child just learning how to read. David Jeremiah is the founder and leader of Turning Point ministry and I respect and enjoy his work and teaching there.

I really appreciated the intro letter Dr. Jeremiah included welcoming kids on this "bible adventure" and encouraging them to take ownership of their very own bible- circle verses, write notes, it's yours! Then we are introduced to the crew of the Airship Genesis and given an overview of our mission- explore the bible from start to finish! There is a "mission overview" for each book of the bible and tons of extra fun facts and notes. As well as a concordance and nicely done illustrations of major bible characters.

I was excited to see there's even a whole complementary website for this bible with audio lessons and bible adventures. That will be a fun bonus for my son to work his way through.

I think this will be a great first bible for my curious and growing little boy!

Thanks to Book Look Bloggers for providing this copy to review.