Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Jim Hodges Audio Books: TOS Review

Jim Hodges Productions is the place to find Jim Hodges Audio Books and we were privileged to review Winning His Spurs: A Tale of the Crusades which takes place around AD 1188-1192.

MP3 CD - My family loves audio books! We have quite a few recordings that Jim Hodges has done and many of them have become family favorites. If you've never had the privilege of listening to Jim Hodges' recordings, you're in for a real treat. His voice isn't as deep as some narrators that we are familiar with, but I think that also makes literature like this less intimidating to younger listeners.

In Winning His Spurs, King Richard the Lionhearted is on his Third Crusade to the Holy Land. Henty's books take a few fictional characters and weave it in with true historical narratives. Cuthbert de Lance is a young man who goes on the Crusade along with King Richard. Boys and girls will both love this adventure of Henty's!

We have not done much studying of the Crusades (yet . . .) so it was fascinating for us to study this time period. Sometimes I found drawings/artwork from this time period and shared it with the children to trigger their imagination. And often I say, "Draw what you hear!" as they listen to Hodges read. For some learning styles, this can keep busy hands focused and allow them to listen more effectively.

One advantage to listening as a family is that you can explain difficult things that may come up or discuss parts which some kids would tend to skim over if they were reading it independently.

Study Guide in PDF format- ($12) Mine came in downloadable PDF format and is a fairly traditional study guide. Each chapter in the study guide has a list of some of the great, rich vocabulary that Henty uses. It's listed in order of appearance, not alphabetically. The guide also has basic comprehension questions and includes activities. Some were really creative such as studying falconry in-depth (still practiced in modern times!) or research into  the medieval relic trade.

 There is always a quiz after several chapters. Links are also provided to vocabulary quiz sites (always monitor internet usage, moms!!). Some of these vocabulary quiz sites have games. There were also links to videos, like one on King Richard on the History Channel that corresponded with the reading from chapter 14.

One thing I prefer about this study guide by Hodges is that one reading chapter corresponds with one study guide chapter. We have used other study guides that have a child read several long chapters that correspond with one study guide chapter - that's a format that didn't work for us. So I do like the way that Hodges formatted this study guide.

Some suggestions for future study guides from Jim Hodges Audio Books:

*They should give more pre-reading activities to prepare a child for the literature, particularly if the child is unfamiliar with G.A. Henty's works.

*I would have liked to see more questions that cause the student to think and analyze the literature rather than just clear-cut black and white questions. There really should be both styles of questions in a study guide - particularly to cover different types of students. I have some children that are really challenged when they're forced to think beyond clear-cut question, but it makes them evaluate and understand the literature much better.

*The study guide does cover some literary devices like personification but I would have liked to see the guide explore more of these literary devices because Henty certainly uses them. It would have also enriched the study to explore some of Henty's writing techniques - in particular how he incorporates a fictional character into true history.


Literature and accompanying study guides like this give you a variety of options for multi-age classrooms (i.e. homeschool families with more than one child!). You can listen to the story as a family - which we do - and then discuss the study guide together. Assign projects or research according to the age of the child. My younger ones just listen to the story, but my older ones are given much more extensive assignments.

Take the time to check out more Jim Hodges Audio Books reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew such as A Knight of the White Cross: A Tale of the Siege of Rhodes. You can also find out more on Facebook. Now I have a number of these on my list to buy because they're well worth adding to our family's listening library!

Price: $25 for the MP3 CD like what I received or you can the digital download for just $18.
Study Guide: $12
Ages: recommended for ages 10 and up, although all of my children were listening. This age range is probably best for good comprehension of the literature and mastery of the study guide.
Length: 9 hours, 8 minutes

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sauerkraut, Polka Dancing, and Two Year Olds

Last Friday was the 2nd Annual Oktoberfest at the Linguistics Center.

What? You didn't get your invitation?

Hmm. Well, you missed quite the party.

Over 350 people attended because when missionaries hear the words "free food", you know you'll have a good turnout . . .

Oh, I say that with a smile -- especially since I loaded up all eight kids just because of the free food and maybe because of the polka dancing . . .

And because I'm married to the Center Director . . . 

I love the above picture, but the one below probably gives a more accurate picture of our relationship --

It's difficult to act poised when your husband is trying to smear his sweaty forehead on your cheek. Ewwww.

It's not his fault that he was sweaty - he spent a lot of time doing this on Friday --

400 bratwurst, 250 hot dogs, 100 pounds of carmelized onions, and 85 pounds of sauerkraut . . . 

(Thanks, Marshall!)

With the German music blaring over the loudspeaker in celebration of Oktoberfest, there was also spontaneous polka dancing -

Which mostly involved our sweet friend Christy and the Toliver children --

I love how my two year old is literally airborne in this shot --

Not your traditional polka dancing move.

Thanks, Paula, for sharing so many of your pictures with me . . . 

Although it makes me a bit jealous of your highly superior iPhone 6 camera . . .

Look at those lovely faces!

So, all in all the 2nd Annual Linguistics Center Oktoberfest was a smashing success. It was also a celebration of SIL's 80th Anniversary, so there was some speaking involved.

(I could explain the whole SIL/Wycliffe Bible Translators relationship but I don't think I even understand it) With that said, it's an immense blessing to be a part of such a huge international community committed to Bible translation.

I did hear a rumor that there was a mom at the Oktoberfest who was irresponsible enough to completely ignore her two year old while she talked to dozens of people - aka worked the crowd. And I also heard a rumor . . .

. . . That the aforementioned two year old used her mother's phone . . .

To take dozens and dozens of selfies.

But I can't confirm that those rumors are true.

Have a great Monday! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

New Liberty Videos: TOS Review

"Christian DVDs changing lives now and for eternity" is the motto of New Liberty Videos and recently we had the privilege of reviewing one of their DVDs: The Forbidden Book.

The Forbidden Book is a 60 minute DVD that tells the story of remarkably brave men like Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Luther who were committed to making Scripture accessible for everyone - even while risking their own lives.

These men are truly heroes of our faith and although we are very familiar with these men, our entire family learned from this fascinating documentary. The history of the English Bible is one that really resonates with our family since we actually work with Wycliffe Associates. Getting Scripture into the hands of those who are without is what we are committed to, so this DVD in particular piqued our interest.

In addition to men like Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Luther, this documentary also covers church history like Erasmus, the printing press, Greek manuscripts, martyrs, the Geneva and King James Bibles, and the Bible in America.

What the Kids Thought: 

  • I liked how the DVD was put together because it really followed the theme of how God worked through the preservation of the Bible in history. The sovereignty of God and the indestructibility of God's Word was obvious throughout the entire video. Everything built up to the one point until William Tyndale translated the Bible into English and how that led to the Reformation. I saw how important the Reformation was because of all the people that had struggled and died for the sake of God's Word. (14 year old daughter)
  • I thought it was interesting how many people tried to stop the progress of God's Word being translated and distributed to the people. But the DVD clearly showed how people tried - yet failed - to prevent it from being translated. It talked about how Wycliffe would teach at a college and the students copied all of his lectures by hand - this was even before the printing press. Those lecture notes became like ammunition though that was used against them by the church in Rome. The established church was trying to stop what Wycliffe was doing. (17 year old son)

  • I found it interesting that so many people gave their lives for the sake of having God's Word translated into a language that the common people could understand. (13 year old son)
Here's a great quote from the end of the DVD and so fitting for our times: 

"It is impossible to mentally or socially enslave a Bible-reading people."

-Horace Greeley (1852)

Teaching Origins ObjectivelyMysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and A Nation Adrift are just some of the DVDs available from New Liberty. Check out their website to find out more and even to watch brief clips.

Ages: For the entire family! You may want to preview some DVDs from New Liberty first if you feel the subject matter is too serious for your children.

DVD Price: $19.95

Take the time to read other Schoolhouse Review Crew reviews on New Liberty Videos.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apologia iWitness: TOS Review

Apologia Educational Ministries is a vendor that we have grown to trust over the years. While we have mostly used their science materials in the past, we were excited to see that they have a new series out for children that help develop their Christian worldview: the iWitness series by Doug Powell.

For my review, I received the following books:

iWitness Biblical Archaeology
New Testament iWitness
Old Testament iWitness

The first thing I noticed about the books is their size. Despite the big subject matter, the 6 inch x 9 inch books are non-intimidating. Each softcover book is full of fascinating graphics and limited text which cover the subject adequately without being overwhelming. Check out this interview with author Doug Powell for more information.

Old Testament iWitness

This provided an excellent summary of the OT books. It provided historical explanations for the different manuscripts. In addition to information about the original manuscripts, it also gives details about Latin Vulgate, Septuagint, and other ancient documents used for sources. Powell gives the best simplified version I’ve ever heard for how the Old Testament came into existence and how the canon was formed. Many Christians limit their Bible study to the New Testament only. But a book like this  can get young people started on understanding the Old Testament so they have a better grasp and a hunger to jump in and read it for themselves.

I appreciate how they distinguish the books of the Apocrypha as not being scriptural but used within the Catholic church and Greek Orthodox.

Some specific areas I'd like to highlight about the OT iWitness book:

*The introduction mentions how Christ is the fulfillment of OT promises and "He himself is the fulfillment of the law". I couldn't agree more. If we don't have a comprehensive grasp of the Old Testament we can never fully grasp the truths behind - and the necessity of - the Gospel.

*Canon Criteria/Canon Formation - This sections focus on why certain books are included and what the process was. This is critical for our children to understand from the perspective of apologetics (knowing why you believe what you believe!). 

*Timeline - At the back of the book, Powell includes a timeline which highlights major OT events, prophets, and kings. This is a quick, handy reference that I will definitely continue using.

New Testament iWitness

Powell does a great job of giving a summary of NT books. I felt like it was easier to read than the Old Testament iWitness. The layout seemed more open, while the text of the OT book seemed to be too tightly packed. I think it would have been better to add a couple pages to the OT book rather than making the text seem rather dense from a visual perspective. Small detail though. Another small detail is that the creative fonts made legibility more difficult; however I understand that it fits in with the style of the books.

The Canon Criteria section, like in the OT book, succinctly explains what things were required for a book to be included in the NT.

There were a number of great graphics throughout the book - like how the NT was copied and how many copies of the NT exist vs other historical books - that really complement the text well.

iWitness Biblical Archaeology

Powell does a fantastic job in the introduction at explaining something that some Christians fail to grasp: archaeological finds can support the accuracy of the Bible's history but they can never prove that the Bible is true. That's because all archaeology is being done by man's fallible hands. So when some current discovery seems to contradict what the Bible says, we have to keep in mind that God's Word is the absolute standard, not man.

This book is one that I want to show my archaeologist brother-in-law who actually has replicas of some of the artifacts pictured in the book. (including Caiaphas' ossuary which sits in my sister's house -- pretty cool!)

I did feel that Powell got a little carried away with the shroud at the end, but otherwise I think he did an excellent job with the subject matter.

How should you use these three books? While age 11 and up can read these independently, I really think they're best read as a family. With that approach you'll be able to discuss it as a family - and I know in our family that when we discuss it in a group we hear a lot of perspectives and questions that we wouldn't get otherwise. I have some kids that will read a book, have a question, and by the time I ask them what they read, they forget their questions! So take the time to read these three books as a family.

As Christian parents, we know that this is a frightening world in which our children are being raised. We need to be proactive about giving them tools to defend their faith and the knowledge to confidently face the world. Apologia is a great place to find resources and I'm glad to see that the iWitness series continues their great reputation for providing Christian apologetics that are accessible for the entire family.

Ages: Reading level is ages 11 and up, but it can be read aloud to the entire family.
Price: $14 each

Find Apologia at:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/apologiaworld
 Twitter – https://twitter.com/apologiaworld 
 Google+ - https://plus.google.com/105053356034237782125/posts
 Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/apologia/

And find more iWitness reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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