Saturday, October 24, 2015

TOS Review: Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Starter Set from the Institute for Excellence in Writing

IEW Phonetic Zoo

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) sent me their complete Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Starter Set to review as part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. Have you heard about IEW? I have been reviewing their awesome spelling program for over a month now and it is a perfect fit for Alyssa. Phonetic Zoo was designed by Andrew Pudewa and James B. Webster. This spelling program is based on the premise that auditory input ensures the correct spelling is absorbed in the brain one letter at a time.

I've become a HUGE fan of IEW's products. In the past, I thought they would be too complicated to implement, but I was wrong. Their programs have made our homeschool days easier and I feel like we are thoroughly covering the subjects taught. We are currently using their writing, grammar, and spelling in addition to several supplemental products I own.

This phonics-based self-teaching spelling program is suitable for children ages 9 and up in grades 3 or higher. They have three levels (A, B, and C). Be sure to give your child the spelling placement test to determine which level is best for your child. You may want to give more than one placement test over several days to determine the level needed. A starter set should be purchased in the beginning, because it contains EVERYTHING you need to teach spelling.

What We Received in Our Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Starter Set
  • 5 Audio CD's
  • MP3 Audio Downloads
  • Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes (Downloadable E-Book Format with PDF Files)
  • Large Lesson Flash Cards (ALL Words and Jingles for ALL Levels) 
  • Personal Spelling Cards (Track Misspellings Across All Subjects)
  • Small Zoo Cards
  • Spelling and the Brain Video Seminar (Streaming Video Link Provided in Teacher Notes E-Book)

 photo Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B_zpsmmeoy9u5.jpg

Audio CD's
The Audio CD's are enclosed in a hard case. There are 5 discs. Each disc contains 10 lessons with the corresponding  audio tracks for corrections. The last disc includes only 7 lessons and the Final Exam audio. A card stock insert was placed at the front of the CD case providing the purchaser with directions on how to access the MP3 audio downloads and the Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes E-book.

Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes
The Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes E-book provides instructions on how to access your linked video resource, Spelling and the Brain, followed by the Table of Contents. It begins with an Introduction to the Phonetic Zoo program and how it teaches spelling. The book also explains How to Use the Program with step-by-step details. Furthermore, it includes a Brief History of the Blended Sound-Sight Program as a resource for you.

The Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B program consists of 47 incrementally taught lessons which are also found in the Teacher's Notes E-book. It may take you 1 to 15 days to complete ONE lesson. Lesson are underlined and numbered in bold print at the top of the page. The lessons are NOT cumulative; they are organized by categorized spelling rules. Therefore, you can start on any rule you desire and can relate it to your reading lessons or book studies. Teacher tips are scattered throughout the lesson pages. The Rule or Jingle, Discussion Points, and Word Lists titles are bolded for organizational purposes. A personal spelling list is included every fifth lesson in addition to the last lesson. This is a wonderful way to integrate spelling into other subjects. Throughout the week, Alyssa and I would jot down incorrectly spelled words from other subjects.

A longer final exam is offered at the end of the leveled program which will indicate whether your child progresses to the next level or not. It is divided into two days or parts. Depending on the level, 25(A) - 35(B) words are given for each part. Level C contains 70 words which are given on one day. The book includes the dialog for the audio which is found on the CD. Audio MP3's 1-86 cover the core lessons and MP3's 87-92 cover the final exam.

There are also several Appendices which provide you with helpful teaching resources. A Student Spelling Test Sheet is included as Appendix 1 which will be useful if you choose not to purchase a college-ruled spiral notebook. Appendix 2 consists of the Placement Test Guides and Appendix 3 discusses the Six Syllable Types which serve as helpful reminders for the educator. Included in the Teacher's Notes E-book is a list of commonly misspelled categorized words found on the Personal Spelling Lesson Alternatives Appendix 4 page which is based on various rules such as ng, ch/tch, months of the year, days and holidays, tricky -ing and -ed, etc. Appendix 5 lists 240 Commonly Misspelled Words. Appendix 6 explains the Phonetic Zoo Set-up and offers you printable templates to create your own. Finally, Appendix 7 contains directions for a Spelling Poster or Folder with Printouts.

Lesson Cards
These 8 1/2" by 5 1/2" manila colored sturdy card stock cards contain all three levels of words on each card. Animal images with their names written next to them will be on the front left side of the card. The right side of the card will consist of three leveled sets of words. Three words are given for each level. Educators use the words for their particular level purchased during lessons. For example, I focused on the words in Level B for Lesson 2 which were grieve, deceive, and neither in our discussion. The back of the cards contain the complete word lists for each of the 3 levels on the right-hand side with the rule or jingle on the left-hand side. Personal Spelling Lesson Cards are included to write down individualized words.

Spelling Zoo Cards
The glossy spelling zoo cards are 3 1/2" tall by 2 1/2" wide. The lesson number and rule with images are found on the front side. The jingle or chant (hint) will be seen on the back of the card. These cards can be used as motivational student rewards to display on the wall for practice or as part of the child's personal Phonetic Zoo.

Optional Lesson Items Needed
  • College-Ruled Paper or Composition Notebook 
  • Rubberband for Zoo Cards
  • Binder Ring
  • 2 Colored Pens
  • CD Player or Computer with Headphones
How We Used Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B
I used this program with Alyssa (almost 8 years old) 3-5 times per week. She used the program for the recommended 10-15 minutes, but I allowed up to 30 minutes for spelling review time or to repeat the audios and chants if desired. She is an excellent, natural speller working above her age and grade level in all subjects.

First, I gave her the placement tests to determine the level appropriate for her age and abilities. I tested her with all 3 lists covering one placement test each day for 3 days. All of the tests indicated that it was best to start her at Level B. I was hesitant at first thinking it may be too challenging, because the website states that Level B is typically recommended for 6th-8th grade students between the ages of 10-13. I went ahead and requested Level B thinking I could always use the Level A word lists on the cards and verbalize the tests using IEW's method if I chose the wrong level.

Then, I listened to the Spelling and the Brain audio MP3 before the curriculum arrived. I already owned a copy of this two-hour MP3 lecture which was part of the TWSS curriculum I reviewed in the past. However, a link is provided to Andrew Pudewa's Spelling and the Brain talk when you open your Teacher Notes E-Book. Andrew Pudewa captured my attention with the knowledge he shared on the topic. He was very informative and offered useful information about the brain, the program, and how to teach spelling. He explains the need for frequency, duration, and intensity when teaching spelling. He also discusses the benefit of word categories or similar groupings when building a child's repertoire of words and spelling rules. The philosophy behind the program is that spelling is sequential and that auditory input is the best method for learning to spell. This video will help familiarize you with the program and spelling in general. I recommend watching it prior to using IEW's Phonetic Zoo.

I printed out the beginning pages of the teacher PDF e-book notes as soon as I received my package. I would have printed the entire e-book if I had more ink. The Teacher Notes can be stored in either a three-hole punched binder or folder. I have mine in a folder. I also printed out several useful Appendices found at the back of the Teacher Notes for future use. The smaller Zoo Cards were bundled together with a rubber band and the large Lesson Flash Cards were held together by a large binder ring.

Prior to the first lesson, Alyssa and I listened to the introductory lesson together. I reminded her how to pause a lesson and adjust the volume on the computer. I also showed her how to skip ahead to a particular lesson.

Next, I introduced and presented the spelling rule, chant, or jingle on the large flash cards which helped Alyssa remember the spellings. I explained the relationship between the animals on the card to the spelling rule. I also gave my daughter some background information (history) about the spelling rule from the Teacher's Notes in addition to a few rule exceptions. I asked her to verbally spell the corresponding 3 lesson words for her level listed on the front of the card. There is a short 3-word list on the front right-side of the flash cards organized by leveled groups. We used the words next to the capitalized Letter B. Occasionally, I would ask Alyssa to spell aloud the three Level A words as well.

I never taught or went over the specific word list for each lesson. She didn't see the word lists before taking the audio test. Her paper was numbered 1-15 double-spaced.

Alyssa listened to the lessons on the audio CD or on iTunes (downloaded MP3's) on our MAC computer with headphones. I couldn't find a personal CD player with actual headphones for a reasonable price at the store. In the beginning, she didn't use headphones, because we had just moved but there weren't any distractions in our home. She is an only child and our home is very quiet.

Introductory music played prior to the lesson. The words on the CD were dictated or narrated aloud by the author instructors. Two different narrators (Andrew Pudewa and James Webster) took turns giving sets of dictated words. Alyssa wrote them in her spelling composition notebook as a test. The instructors said the spelling word, used the word in the context of a sentence, and then repeated the word again. She paused the CD when necessary. The spelling rule or chant was stated at least 4-5 times during each lesson which helps solidify learning. I believe it may have been repeated every three words.

My daughter checked her spelling work using the next audio track which is indicated as "Corrections." First, the instructors said the spelling word once and then they spelled it twice letter-by-letter. We focused our attention on how many words Alyssa spelled correctly rather than the number misspelled. In the beginning, if she misspelled any words then she would rewrite all of the words next to her first attempt. If she made a 100%, then I would NOT ask her to rewrite the list. She would just listen to the "Corrections" audio track to compare her spellings to the correct spellings.

Over time, I required her to write the corrections regardless of her score for comparison purposes. This also meant that she was practicing her words at least twice a day (repetition/frequency). We ONLY moved to the next lesson after she made 100% on the same lesson two times in a row.

We always had two pens available for the lesson. We used a blue and a black colored pen. Her daily attempts would be completed in blue ink and her corrections would be written in black ink. If she misspelled a word, then she placed an "X" next to the number for the word spelled incorrectly. As she listened to the instructor, she was allowed to draw one line through a word if she made a mistake and spelled it wrong but realized it before hearing the corrections audio track. Sometimes after hearing the word used in the context of a sentence, she would realize she spelled the word incorrectly. I allowed the strike-throughs, because I also noticed that during a test Alyssa would often write difficult words two different ways. She said she wanted to see if it "looked right." Many times her final answer was the correct spelling.

The next day if her score was not 100%, then she would re-take the test covering the same word list. We would use a piece of paper to cover previous attempts when necessary. I felt confident that if I left the room, my daughter would be honest and NOT peek at the corrected list from the previous day.

After completing a lesson, Alyssa would receive the collectable spelling zoo card as a motivational or reward tool. She likes to collect and display the cards on the classroom wall to review or practice.

Her personal spelling list for Lesson 5 consisted mainly of Lesson 2 (ie/ei) words, but it included words from all of the levels (A-C). Lesson 2 was a very difficult lesson. I did notice that even though she made 100% twice on this word list she was still writing several of these words incorrectly which is why I included "ie/ei" words on her personal spelling list. Blank lines were provided on the Personal Spelling List Lesson Card enabling the educator to write personalized words for the list. I wanted to challenge Alyssa by attacking the advanced words and reviewing words she should know from previous levels. I verbally quizzed her on all three of the Lesson 2 leveled word lists. I jotted down the words she spelled incorrectly first on scrap paper and then on the larger lesson card once I chose 15 words for a lesson. These words in addition to a few other misspelled words from other subjects or leveled word lists were added to her personal spelling list. As we work through the lessons and other subjects, I keep an index card close by to write down spelling errors for future personal spelling list lessons. I plan on using Appendix 3 (Extra Spelling Rule Word Lists) and Appendix 4 (240 Misspelled Words) as tools to create personal spelling lists in the future.

We started creating our Phonetic Zoo to review previously learned spelling rules using the smaller zoo cards. We found a large tri-fold board in my storage unit to display the Phonetic Zoo. The pages were printed from the Appendices at the back of the Teacher's Notes E-Book. I am hoping this will help Alyssa retain the rules and register them in her long-term memory. My daughter will review the material displayed for 5-10 minutes each lesson day. Eventually, all of the Phonetic Zoo materials will be placed in a workbox once we get settled in our new home.

She recently completed Lesson 9 scoring a 100% twice. Since she spelled all the words correctly, on Monday she'll begin Lesson 10 which is a personal spelling list. Her scores were pretty consistent throughout the review period. She never took a test more than 3 times each and almost always spelled 12-15 words correctly each time. I would call that a perfect fit with regards to her placement level!

What We Like
  • Short, Quick Lessons - The lesson takes only 10-15 minutes to complete.
  • Only 15 Words Per List - It wasn't a super long list of words to memorize.
  • Individualized Pace - The rate of progression through lessons is differentiated and personalized. No specific timeline for completion is given. It is strictly based on your child's needs and abilities. They do suggest completing a lesson every day. 
  • Ease of Use - The user-friendly program is NOT complicated. 
  • Mastery-Based Program - Alyssa continues to work on a particular spelling list until she makes a 100% twice before she can move on to the next lesson.
  • Builds Independent Learning - My daughter completes most of the lesson independently, because it is a self-teaching, teacher-guided spelling program. Minimal amount of teaching and prep is required. I introduce the rule and the history behind it, help create personal spelling lists, and check her work. 
  • Effective - The program is working for us! She applies the concepts learned to her writing across all subjects. 
  • Animal Theme - The theme captured my daughter's interest. She loves all things related to animals. 
  • Portable - I appreciate that the program is portable and can be taken in the car or on the go!
  • Complete - The spelling program contains word lists for ALL levels. You know what they'll learn in the future and what was previously covered. You can always verbalize the word lists if needed.  
  • Multi-Sensory - Children learn best when what they hear is reinforced by what they see (utilizing BOTH auditory and visual learning methods). I am all about utilizing multiple learning approaches. 
  • Sequential - The words learned are spelled in order sequentially letter-by-letter and the correct spelling sequence is stored using auditory input. 
  • Maximized Frequency - Alyssa is consistently and repeatedly seeing the same information using both visual and auditory methods. Repetition aids mastery-based learning goals.
  • Contextual Learning - Words are used in the context of a sentence on the Audio CD making it more relevant and meaningful. They will understand better which word to use if homophones are given. 
The cost of the Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Starter Set spelling program for first-time users is $99. Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Audio CD's can be purchased separately for $79 if you already own a leveled starter set. They also offer a Phonetic Zoo Budget Pack with NO Audio CD's available for $29.

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice.

I definitely recommend this program if your child is an animal lover or if you're looking for a more independent approach to spelling to free up some time to plan. I HIGHLY recommend this spelling program for auditory learners. Eclectic, Classic, and home educators using a Blended Sight Sound approach to learning may appreciate the educational goals of this spelling program.

Overall Thoughts 
Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Starter Set from IEW will give Alyssa a solid spelling foundation. We've successfully used this program and seen an improvement in her spelling. It has proved to be the best choice or fit for my daughter's needs and abilities. Alyssa is applying the rules learned from the lessons to her writing compositions. She is a perfectionist and LOVES beating her previous scores. She challenges herself to make a 100% each time. This program also frees up time up for me to plan lessons for other classes I teach or subjects we cover. We will continue using this complete spelling program for the rest of the year and will look into purchasing the Audio CD's for Level C next year.

Vendor Suggestions
  1. Comprehensive List or Posters for Rule Exceptions
  2. Laminated Zoo Cards
Possible Cons
  • Children might get frustrated when they don't make a 100% and have to take the same test over and over again until mastery is reached.
  • The speed of the lesson may intimidate children. Remind them that they can slow it down by pausing a lesson. 
Social Media
Twitter @IEW
IEW Blog
You Tube

View the Excellence in Spelling You Tube video below to learn more about the Phonetic Zoo Spelling Program.

The Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog contains several IEW reviews including Phonetic Zoo Spelling (Levels A-C), Timeline of Classics, Teaching With Games, and A Word Write Now. I can't wait to read the Teaching With Games review. I've had my eye on that book and a few of their other IEW products for a couple months now!
IEW Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Bag of Bones

We came across these delicious Halloween Cheetos at the store. I don't usually buy chips, but my daughter and I wanted to try something new and we were craving a snack. These are SOOOOOOO good! I love white cheddar! They are a bit salty but oh so good. Alyssa had fun trying to create a complete skeleton with a handful of chips. We found them at Walmart. Let me know if you like them if you try them.

I will link this post up at Life at Rossmont's Wordless Wednesday Linky.
Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

Sunday, October 18, 2015

BookLook Blogger Review: NIV FaithGirlz! Bible

The BookLook Blogger Review Program sent me the NIV FaithGirlz! Bible to review. I knew as soon as I saw the adorable owl and colorful cover that it would be the perfect gift for my almost 8-year-old daughter. She adores owls and purple is her favorite color so I immediately requested it once it became available. She needed a new age-appropriate Bible. This one will surely encourage her to read and discover God's Word.

Author Biography
Nancy Rue the best selling author, editor, and tween expert who wrote the in-text features of this Bible.  

Book Description
The FaithGirlz! Bible published by ZonderKidz (Zondervan) with trendy and unique magnetic closure is packed with exciting in-text features that help tween girls better understand themselves and Scripture. It teaches girls that the Bible is real, relevant, and that the story of God and his people is also their story. The FaithGirlz! Bible uses the bestselling New International Version (NIV) translation to reference Scripture.
Overall Thoughts and Opinions
The FaithGirlz! hardcover Children's Bible which released on August 4th contains approximately 1,490-pages which brings God's Word to life. It is chock-full of special features scattered throughout the Bible that will draw in the reader.

I believe that the NIV version is one of the easier to comprehend versions for children currently seen on the market. The New International Version is one that is reliable and can be trusted. It can also be easily adapted if using it in conjunction with your Bible homeschool curriculum or during Sunday School. This complete NIV version contains several insightful footnotes and commentary to further understand the passages being read. There are sectional headings within the text to aid the reader.

The color selections chosen for this high-quality constructed Bible will appeal to most girls. The text print is dark violet purple with other features in a dark pink font color. It is an easy to read font style and color. The font size is  small, but is also the norm for the Bible size.

The sturdy and durable cover has vivid colors that immediately catch your attention. The design on the front is of two cute purple, pink, and white stitched owls with purple, pink, and white stitched flowers blooming around them as they sit upon a tree branch. My daughter will most likely say that the cover is symbolic of or makes her think of a mother and her daughter's journey studying the Bible together. The Bible also has alternating dark and light horizontal turquoise stripes and a metallic purple polka-dotted handy magnetic closure binding. The unique magnetic binding safely protects the side and pages of the Bible.

The format, layout, structure, and style of this Bible makes this version accessible, interactive, and user-friendly. It does contain helpful study features, tools, and informative content. Let me share with you some of the special features and useful tools in this Bible.

Special In-Text Features
  • Book Introductions - Highlights the 4W's in Each Bible Book: Who, Where, When, What (Main Idea), and Explains How the Bible Book Connects to the Story 
  • Treasure This! - God's Word is Kept Close to Your Heart With Referenced Verses Appropriate for Scripture Memorization
  • Dream Girl - Readers Use Their Imagination and Visualization to Place Themselves in the Story
  • In Your Own Words - Create a List of Sequential Events to Recap or Retell the Bible Story in Your Own Words
  • Oh, I Get It! (Bible Wonders and Answers) - Life and Feeling Applications Explained Which Lead to Additional Scripture Verses to Read and Further Expand on the Story
  • Bring It On! - Contains Multiple Choice Question Quizzes to Help Girls Learn About Themselves and Point Them Directly to God While Addressing Heart Issues
  • Is There's a Little Ruth, Moses, Deborah, Eve, etc. in You? - Focuses on Common Characteristics Between the Reader and the Bible Character and Provides Referenced Verses
My favorite features are the Book Introductions, Bring It On, Treasure This, and In Your Own Words

I really appreciate that the Book Introductions summarize the big ideas or overall picture of the Bible book for new or experienced readers in a simplistic way that they'll remember. The characters, setting, and main points are highlighted in this section. Many of us and our children learned about the 4 W's and How strategy of summarizing content in school. This section will help them understand the Bible book better and help the reader apply the lessons learned to life. 

"Bring It On" is another favorite section of mine, because it allows the reader to interact with the Bible based on real truth . . . questions they must honestly answer about themselves. This feature is found inside a dotted circle. Each response choice sends the reader to a referenced scripture passage they must read. In turn, they'll learn about the relatable heart issues and Bible truths behind their answers while learning lifelong lessons. For example, on page 30, the Bring It On question is When I pray, I: A. Say a prayer I know by heart; B. Basically ask God to take care of me and my family; C. Talk to God like we're having a conversation. On the next page in the dotted circle it states that If you answered C. Go to 1 Kings 3:5-9 which reveals a conversation in through a dream between God and Solomon where God tells him to "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." What I love and appreciate most about this section is that my daughter will be reading different parts of the Bible in one sitting. She's not stuck in one Bible book for any specific time period. She's becoming more familiar with the Bible books and the Bible's content as she explores new verses. 

"Treasure This" gives the reader short and sweet referenced Bible scripture verses to commit to memory and hide in their hearts. My hope is that my daughter will rewrite the verses and store them in an index card box to review on a daily basis. 

The "In Your Own Words" Section has a Word to the Wise Woman note that I love. For example, the Bible states on page 7 that "The evil in this world will try to convince you that your own way is better than God's, but God's always has the best plan for you." I believe these advice tid bits will serve as great reminders to girls as they read through their Bible. It sums up key points about that part of the Bible.  

I can't wait to find out what my daughter's favorite features will be! This is a fantastic Bible and I wish they made a Bible with similar feature for mothers possibly even one that could be used with this one as a mother-daughter study together. I am always looking for ways for us to study similar material together because children can hear different perspectives. The features in this Bible enable the reader to reflect on what they are reading at a much deeper level.  
Helpful Tools
  • Table of Contents - Divided Into Two Main Sections (Old and New Testament)
  • Preface - Discussed the NIV Version and Other Background Information
  • Table of Weights and Measures - Compares Biblical Units of Measure to Approximate American and Metric Equivalents
  • How to Begin a Relationship with Jesus - Details What it Means to Be a Christian, to Ask Jesus Into Your Heart, and Describes Salvation
  • Through the Bible in a Year Reading Plan - Encourages Girls to Read the Bible in a Year Rather Than Allowing it to Collect Dust and Sit on a Shelf
  • Promises from the Bible - Provides the Reader with Referenced Scripture Passages about God's Promises Related to Feelings the Tween May Be Experiencing (Ex: When You are Angry, Feel Guilty, or Art Anxious)
  • Perspectives From the Bible - Section That Refers the Student to Referenced Bible Passages Explained from a Biblical Perspective about a Specific Topic Such as Anger, Baptism, Resurrection, Faith, Giving, Happiness, Hospitality, Love, and More
  • My Notes Journal Pages - Offers Space for the Reader to Jot Down Notes on Lined Pink Stationary-Like Designer Pages 
My favorite tools found at the back of the Bible are the "Through the Bible in a Year" reading plan and the "How to Begin a Relationship with Jesus." 

I want my daughter to have a resource that guides her when studying the Bible and "Through the Bible in a Year" reading plans are helpful. She can still read through the Bible at her own pace but the authors provide guidelines for an independent learner wanting to accomplish this goal which I definitely appreciate.

I have a strong desire for my daughter to build and maintain a relationship with Jesus. The "How to Begin a Relationship with Jesus" section in this Bible describes the steps to take when accepting Jesus in your heart in an easy-to-understand format which makes it less complicating for an adult to explain when this step is taken.

One thing my daughter looks for in a Bible is the topical indexes that allow her to study passages related to issues or feelings that she is experiencing. She's been using them for years. If a Bible doesn't have them she tends to NOT use it as often. She'll appreciate the Promises and Perspectives sections.

The features and the appearance of this FaithGirlz! Bible make it more appealing and inviting to girls. Hopefully, they'll want to open and read the contents.  

Publisher Suggestions
  • We prefer a larger Bible font size. I wasn't fond of the print size. I think that it is too small for young readers unless it is being read aloud. With that being said, it is the average font size for most children's Bibles.
  • I suggest adding Bible maps as one of the helpful Bible features or tools. I always try to integrate geography and history into our Bible study. 
  • There may not be enough writing room for younger children to recap the information read from the "In Your Own Words" section.
This FaithGirlz! Bible retails for $39.99 Zondervan website store.
The Faith Gateway store offers it on sale for $31.99.
It is currently on sale at Amazon for only $27.36.

Yes, I highly recommend the NIV FaithGirlz! Bible to any Christian parent or grandparent with a tween girl especially if they love owls and the color purple is their favorite. It would be a wonderful birthday, Easter, Christmas, or Baptism gift for any Christian girl. Younger girls or teens between the ages of 7-14 may find this version useful and suitable during their personal studies. Bible study teachers of a girls small group study may want to use this Bible version in class.

I know my daughter will want to show her new Bible to her Sunday School teachers and pastor. She'll cherish it forever! The FaithGirlz Bible is an absolute perfect fit for my daughter. I plan on giving it to her as a birthday or Christmas gift, but I am really having a hard time waiting and not giving it to her early. I believe this Bible will help her grow closer to God during her independent Bible study time. I look forward to seeing how she interacts with this Bible in the near future.

I received a complimentary, free copy of this book from the publisher as part of the BookLook Blogger Review Team Program in exchange for an honest review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 
I review for BookLook Bloggers

Saturday, October 17, 2015

BookLook Blogger Review: Believe Storybook: Think, Act, Be Like Jesus by Randy Frazee

I had the pleasure of reviewing the Believe Storybook: Think, Act, Be Like Jesus written by Randy Frazee and Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton as part of the BookLook Blogger review program. I am always looking for books that teach my daughter, Alyssa (Age 8), about God. I never expected the book to be so big and thick. It is a wonderful addition to our personal library.

Author Biography
Randy Frazee is the senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, TX where he partners and leads with Max Lucado. Mr. Frazee is the mastermind behind the Storybook campaign and best selling author of the Christian Life Profile Assessment, The Connecting Church 2.0, and The Heart of the Story

Book Description 
Believe Storybook: Think, Act, Be Like Jesus is part of Frazee's national church-wide program aimed towards teaching children to think, act, and be more like Jesus. It was published by Zonderkidz. Themes are interweaved into both New and Old Testament Bible stories. 

Faith Gateway Special Price $15.99
Amazon $16.37

Note: Prices subject to change without notice. 

My Thoughts and Experiences
The Believe Storybook is a well-written 256-page large hardcover book that encourages children to model their behavior after Jesus and his thoughts, actions, and beliefs. The book has glossy pages and a dust jacket for protecting the cover. The book's foundation is on the beliefs, practices, and virtues of Christian life. The simple illustrations created by Steve Adams are captivating. The illustrator uses the white space well surrounding text with meaningful and relevant depictions that complement the Bible stories. The images enhance the text and help the reader focus on the theme.

I love the unique book layout and organization. It's nice to read something that is set up differently from the other Bible storybooks. The full-color book is divided into 3 main sections: Think, Act, and Be. The book consists of 30 themed chapters; 10 chapters are included in each main section. Each chapter covers an Old and New Testament story. I really appreciate that the book combines the Old Testament stories with New Testament stories. There is a collection of 60 Bible stories from BOTH the Old and the New Testament woven throughout this book. The content is NOT in chronological order. The book provided readers with a Jump to Jesus connection which reveals the bigger picture of how Jesus fits into the story in addition to a Believe Key Idea and Key Bible Verse at the end of each chapter. The verses can be easily memorized by younger children with the help of an adult.  Thought-provoking questions were scattered throughout each chapter. The questions help you and your child dig deeper into the message or theme. Children will reflect and apply the key verse and theme to their lives.

Each Story Contains
  • Key Thought-Provoking Question
  • Referenced Old and New Testament Bible Stories
  • The Jesus Answer Connecting the Stories
  • Key Idea and Referenced Verse
Themes Covered
  • God
  • Personal God
  • Salvation
  • The Bible
  • Identity in Christ
  • Church
  • Humanity
  • Compassion
  • Stewardship
  • Eternity
  • Worship
  • Prayer
  • Bible Study
  • Single-Mindedness
  • Total Surrender
  • Biblical Community
  • Spiritual Gifts
  • Offering My Time
  • Giving My Resources
  • Sharing My Faith
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Self Control
  • Hope
  • Patience
  • Kindness/Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Humility
WOW! That's a lot of great information with beautiful illustrations packed into one book. There are many significant topics included in this book that I know will help my daughter develop spiritually and grow closer to our Almighty Father. 

How We Plan to Use This Book
I am going to use the Believe Storybook as a supplemental Bible read aloud to our curriculum with informal discussions at bedtime for approximately 15-30 minutes each night after I give it to my daughter as a birthday or Christmas gift. Although, I'm sure my daughter will probably read this book during her independent reading time. We'll aim to cover one chapter per week. We'll begin on Monday with a discussion related to the Theme and Key Question. We'll read and discover a new Old Testament Bible Story on Tuesday. My daughter will practice locating the referenced verses. On Wednesday, we'll make connections and relate to the story as we discuss the Jump to Jesus section. The New Testament Bible Story will be read and discussed on Thursday. I will end the themed chapter study on Friday by reading The Jesus Answer. Through games and play, I will help my daughter memorize the weekly Key Verse and encourage her to find ways to apply the Key Idea to her life with step-by-step suggestions.

I HIGHLY recommend The Believe Storybook for children between the ages of 4-8 years old. However, Christian adults and older children will definitely appreciate the content and relevant messages found in this book. The book's content is age-appropriate and the font size is larger than most picture books. Younger children may need help holding and reading the book due too its size and word length.

This book can be used as a Bible curriculum, guide, or standalone personal devotional in your home, homeschool, Sunday School, or in a small church group. It would make a great gift or coffee table book.

Be ready to explore the Bible with your children and discover new ways to discuss the themed topics. This is one book that will be read and reread for years to come.

I received a complimentary, free copy of this book from the publisher as part of the BookLook Blogger Review Team Program in exchange for an honest review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 
I review for BookLook Bloggers

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Pumpkin Patch

We took a trip to a small Pumpkin Patch yesterday. We always have fun choosing our pumpkins in October. Alyssa found a baby pumpkin she REALLY wanted. She plans on making it her pet or baby by adding sticker facial features. We also found a smaller white pumpkin to paint in addition to a larger one to carve.
Baby Pumpkin Pet
The Chosen Pumpkin
Being Goofy
I will link this post up at Life at Rossmont's Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

TOS Review: Little Boy DVD from Review no 2 sent me a physical copy of the Little Boy faith-based DVD to review as part of the The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew Team. is a Christian online movie store offering a wide variety of family-friendly, entertaining, educational, and inspirational movies. Little Boy is a Christian DVD rated PG-13 for some thematic and violent content. There is also racist dialogue. The movie lasts 106 minutes and contains a few actors and actresses you may recognize such as Michael Rapaport, Kevin James, David Henrie, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin, and Emily Watson. This movie was recently released in August 2015. Review no 2

The heartwarming movie tells the story of a little 7-year-old boy named Pepper Busbee, who is teased and bullied, because of his short size and stature hence the title of the DVD. The movie takes place in a small, quiet town called O'Hare in California during the 1940's.

Pepper, the Little Boy, struggles with his faith which is constantly tested throughout the show. His father is fighting the war but suddenly becomes Missing in Action (MIA). His father was sent to fight the war against the Japanese-Americans during World War 2, because London had flat feet and was rejected from duty.

Pepper is determined to bring his father back alive and safe from the war. He is so persistent with his efforts that the community takes notice. The main character, with his determination and faith, gave the community hope that a miracle could possibly happen. He believes if his faith is strong enough that he can do anything including bringing him back from war.

In the movie, faith is compared to a mustard seed. Pepper asks how he can get more faith. The priest gives him an old list of deeds or tasks that must be completed including but not limited to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, and visiting a prison. One major deed was to befriend the local Japanese-American resident, named Hashimoto, who also faces the wrath of prejudice from town locals. After watching Pepper complete his good deeds, my daughter asked me the next day if she could visit a hospital and started brainstorming ways to help others.

The story definitely reveals the never-ending love between a father and his son who have an undeniably strong and unbreakable bond. During their adventures prior to leaving for the war, his father frequently asked him, "Do you believe we (YOU) can do this!" Pepper always yelled "Yes, I believe we can do this!"

There are many individual stories within one larger, more complex story. You'll have to pay close attention to the details and maybe even watch it several times to truly peel away the layers and understand the depth of the movie. 

Our Experience
I watched this DVD with my almost 8-year-old daughter in the evening during family movie night. We were so excited about seeing it and spending snuggle time together on the couch especially since we've been so busy with school and the moving process. We truly enjoyed the evening as we watched the story unfold.
Making Sure Her Baby is Fed
While We Watch the Show
We discussed several themes and events during and after the show. It was a great opportunity for a teachable moment enabling us to tie in a quick history lesson too. I wanted to make sure she understood what was happening and why. The movie content didn't bother her at all and she wasn't scared when viewing any violent war scenes, but she is also very mature for her age.

The plot kept us engaged and flowed smoothly creating a cohesive, dynamic story. The characters' performances were exceptional especially Jakob Salvati, who was nicknamed the Little Boy.

The high-quality DVD contained several powerful, profound messages woven into the plot such as faith, love, friendship, family, prejudice, sacrifice, perseverance, tolerance, and bullying. Faith was explored from two different perspective including viewpoints from individuals who believe and have faith and those who don't believe. 

Overall, this was an outstanding family-friendly Christian DVD that captured our hearts! We will definitely watch the movie again and share it with our friends. We were immediately drawn into the story's plot.

The movie really does encourage you to think about what matters most to you in your life, to consider who you are, and realize what you can do. It inspires you to believe that miracles can happen with a little faith. The movie teaches you to believe in yourself without doubts no matter what others think about you. It encourages you to stand up for your beliefs and to keep your faith strong in times of distress. You can accomplish anything with faith!

Check out the photographs below capturing several intense movie moments! Some of your family members may shed a few tears after watching these scenes. I know I did!

Favorite Uplifting Movie Quotes
"It takes courage to believe."
"Faith won't work if you have even the slightest bit of doubt."
"Faith is powerful."
"If I can get enough faith, nothing is impossible - right?"
"It's up to YOU to achieve the impossible!"

Favorite Movie Scene
The youngest brother, Pepper, yells out that he CAN move a mountain during a harsh, emotional argument with his older brother, London. What happens next . . .  rattles and shakes the community.

Let's just say this is a MUST see movie!
 I don't want to spoil the ending or any other relevant parts 
so grab some popcorn or candy if you're anything like me . . . and decide for yourself if its worth viewing.  


Note: Prices are subject to change without notice.

I HIGHLY recommend this engaging movie to Christian families with mature children ages 12 and up. Viewer discretion is advised prior to showing this movie to younger children. Younger children may not fully understand several of the themes such as bullying, tolerance, magic, violence, and racism.

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Watch the official movie trailer for Little Boy below to see if it moves you to watch it.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read reviews for five different DVDs. I can't wait to read the reviews about the Do You Believe DVD which is on my movie wish list! Review No 2

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Friday, October 9, 2015

TOS Review: Progeny Press Miss Rumphius Literature E-Guide

Progeny Press Review

Progeny Press recently sent us their Miss Rumphius Literature e-Guide Study to review in downloadable digital PDF format as part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. I've been curious about the Progeny Press study guides for several years now, so I was thankful for the opportunity to finally try one. I am also in need of a literature curriculum for the nearby future. I wanted to focus and be more intentional with teaching reading comprehension and vocabulary development using high quality literature. I truly believe that reading high-quality literature helps children gain skills that will cross into other subjects while developing vocabulary and reading comprehension.  
Progeny Press Review
Progeny Press offers over 100 literature study guides emphasizing a Christian perspective. The study guides are organized into four main grade range categories: Lower Elementary (K-3), Upper Elementary (3-5), Middle School (5th-8th), and High School (9th-12th). Each guide takes approximately 8-12 weeks to complete if you work on one page per day. You can easily slow or speed up the pace.

This 43-page e-guide study written by author, Dory Zinkand, is suitable for lower elementary students in 1st-3rd grade. The study guide is designed to be utilized with Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius book which is set in Maine early 1900's. The book is about the life of Miss Alice Rumphius which is narrated by her niece, Alice. The foundation of the book is based on the three goals Miss Rumphius set for her future as a child beginning with the memories with her grandfather. The book paints a picture of the adventures and experiences Miss Rumphius has as she explores the world and completes each goal. As an older woman, she engages the children's attention in stories about her travels. Miss Rumphius's young niece makes the same goals as her aunt aiming to make the world more beautiful. If you haven't read Miss Rumphius before . . . it is a story that will hopefully motivate your child to make the world a better place.

The picture book is NOT included with purchase of the study guide. However, you can purchase the book online or in stores for a reasonable price. You also have the option of borrowing the book from your local library. I already had a copy of this wonderful book in my book collection so we started the study immediately.

The study guide begins with information about the Study Guide Author. A Table of Contents follows the Peer Review Panel notification. It gives you a quick glance at the study guide layout and organization. There is a Note to the Instructor which explains the use of Progeny Press study guides. They recommend that the child has access to a good dictionary, a thesaurus, and a Bible (NIV optional). For some studies. you may also need a topical Bible or concordance, access to the Internet, and possibly an encyclopedia set. The Synopsis gives a paragraphed summary of the main ideas from the book. The study guide contains an About the Book's Author and Illustrator informational sheet which summarizes key points of Barbara Cooney's interests and accomplishments. The Before-You-Read Study contains activities that could be completed prior to reading the book. It provided us with several scripture references to consider which focused on planning, setting goals, and God's plan. The next part dived into a seed discussion relating to Bible scripture verses. The last activity was a seed hunt where observation was a means of exploring nature. The Before-You-Read Activities followed the Before-You-Read Study. Two core activities were mentioned. The first one stated that Alyssa could plant and care for lupines and the other activity consisted of marking and following Miss Rumphius's travels using a world map.  

The study guide is divided into 3 core sections. Section 1 is about Alice, the child, setting goals for the future. Section 2 explores Miss Rumphius's travels and her return home to live by the sea. Section 3 is about how the Lupine Lady makes the world a better, more beautiful place to live. This layout enabled Alyssa to see the different life stages of Miss Rumphius more easily throughout the story.

Section Activities Included:
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension Questions
  • Looking at Artwork
  • Dig Deeper   
  • Projects and Activities
  • Grammar and Geography were also intertwined into the lesson.
The Related Resources sheet contained several booklists indicating books written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney in addition to related books of interests. The Resources followed the After-You-Read Activities. She made several beautiful lupine notecards as bookmarks for me at the end of the study. An Answer Key was also provided as a reference for the educator.

How We Used It
I used this study guide with Alyssa (almost 8 years old) as a supplement to her literature curricula. She is currently working on 3rd-5th grade level work as part of her core literature curriculum. My daughter has mastered basic phonics and most advanced phonics skills. We used the study 3-5 times per week for 30-45 minutes a day. We did double up work on several days and occasionally worked only 3 days a week. 

You'll need a computer with an Internet connection and Adobe Acrobat Reader to read the PDF files. I was sent an e-mail about the study guide. I created a store account and immediately downloaded the file from their website. I printed out several days worth of material, because we were preparing for a move and I knew my printer would soon disappear in a box. 
We used the study guide in the following way to keep the lessons short and sweet. We usually focused on one of the following sections per day which was the perfect work load for my daughter. 

Day 1: Before Reading Activities, Reading, Grammar, and Vocabulary
The study guide included vocabulary drawing activities which correlated with the guide. Alyssa drew pictures to understand vocabulary terms better which was an age-appropriate way for her to gain understanding. 
Drawing Vocabulary Words
She also identified the meaning of words within the context of the story by using the illustrations and surrounding words. A dictionary was used for one vocabulary activity. Other vocabulary activities included matching and multiple choice questions. 
Dictionary Skills

We wanted to plant lupines, but couldn't find the seeds in stock at our local gardening store. We discussed planting them next spring instead of during the hottest summer month in Texas. Alyssa did, however, create a list of well-thought out educational goals for the week as part of her Making Plans activity. I offered step-by-step suggestions to make the goals more attainable and realistic for the time period. 

She also reviewed the plural format for words that ended in f or fe. She was given a pair of sentences. She wrote and completed the second sentence with the plural form of the underlined word.   

Day 2: Comprehension 
I asked Alyssa to answer the story comprehension questions in written format so that she could practice answering using complete sentences. I knew I always had the option of asking her to respond verbally if it ended up being too overwhelming or if it took away from the enjoyment of reading the book. I was impressed with the types of analytical and literal questions about the character, setting, author's craft, and key ideas. 

Day 3: Bible and Character Study
The Dig Deeper and Looking at Artwork sections included a variety of thought-provoking questions that truly provided a meaningful and relevant connection between the reader and texts. The "Dig Deeper" section incorporates Bible scripture and character study features. The Miss Rumphius study emphasized honor and hospitality which were two character traits we haven't really studied thoroughly until now. We brainstormed ways for her to show hospitality and honor to others. I love that the study guide is biblically-based! This was one of our favorite sections to discuss! 

Day 4: Art Appreciation
The artwork integration was perfect because art lessons were set aside temporarily due to our recent move. The "Looking at the Artwork" section helped Alyssa focus her attention on details and the elements of art while appreciating the author’s illustrations. My daughter also noticed artwork within the illustrations of other books she read. She focused more in the details of illustrations after using this study. Her favorite artwork conversations occurred in the 2nd and 3rd section when the author discusses the significance and use of both dark and light shades. Alyssa was fascinated with the concept of perspective when exploring artwork. We are still unpacking boxes, but as soon as we find the watercolor paints she wants to paint a sea using dark and light colors to show depth. 

Day 5: Project Planning Day
We completed MOST if not all of the study in sequential order during the review period. She's currently finishing up her final projects in hopes to give one as a gift to a particular family member. I encouraged Alyssa to plan, organize, and create a few of the mentioned “after reading” projects on the fifth day. We did glance ahead to see what projects were coming. I also told her to think about a project that she could do that would enable her to beautify the world in some manner.

What I Liked
  • Downloadable PDF Digital Format Makes the Content Immediately Available
  • Variety of Activities
  • Vocabulary Activities Focus on Words in Context 
  • Thought-Provoking Comprehension Questions
  • Biblical Christian Viewpoint (Scripture Integrated into the Study)
  • High Quality Literature Selection Choice
  • Flexibility
  • Print What You Want When You Want
  • Can Supplement ANY Literature Curriculum
  • Profound Message
  • Integrated Several Subjects Including Geography, Art, Bible, Grammar, Literature, Science, and More
Geography: Scrambled Locations Traveled
Possible Cons
  • May Be Writing Intensive for Younger Children Within in the Age Range
  • Repetitive Content May Bore Some Children, but Repetition Helps Solidify the Learning Process. 
This study guide is available through the online Progeny Press store for the reasonable price of $11.99. The corresponding literature books are also offered at an affordable price.

Progeny Press products are available in 3 different formats including the printed bound copy, the CD with a PDF file, and the PDF in digital downloadable e-guide format.

Click the following link to see sample study guide pages

Overall Experience
Overall, the Progeny Press Miss Rumphius Literature Study E-Guide helped my daughter think deeper about the text she was reading which was one of my goals this year. It did enabled her to comprehend the story at a more analytical level. I really saw her thinking about each question and reflecting on what she learned when reading.

We both appreciate how the guide provides before, during, and after you read activities which sparked a deeper interest and captured her attention with regards to the topic before reading the book. Alyssa really liked hearing the profound message of this story and appreciated reading the selected literature book. She also enjoyed completing the activities, but said it was a lot of writing. I did ask her to write in complete sentences. This book has inspired and motivated her to do something important in our new neighborhood or community. My daughter also loves flowers and thinks lupines are stunningly beautiful. 

I believe Alyssa would have preferred using their Interactive Study Guide which would enable her to type in the answers so hopefully they'll offer this format in the future. According the the website, they have no plans to offer the Interactive format for the lower elementary study guide titles.

Are you looking for a study to supplement your lower elementary literature curricula? I recommend this study guide to Classical or Eclectic Christian educators. If you utilize a literature-based approach your will find this study appealing.

This study is complete and packed with activities that will challenge your child's level of thinking. If your child doesn't like writing, I recommend the upper elementary interactive guides so that they can type in their answers as opposed to writing everything. The study guides will definitely get your children thinking deeper about the story and relating the key ideas or themes to the Bible.

Listen to the story behind Progeny Press to find out more about the company. 

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Visit The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read more Progeny Press reviews about the Miss Rumphius literature study guide and reviews for several other study guides including but not limited to Stone Fox, Tuck Everlasting, and Sarah, Plain and Tall.
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