Indescribable Devotional Book Review

Indescribable Devotional Book Review

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using the links.

Louie Giglio’s Indescribable is a devotional for kids that incorporates scientific facts. I purchased it to use in our homeschool as a group devotional. Considering Louie Giglio’s dynamic speaking style and love for science (see this video about DNA and laminin – wow!), I was very excited about reading this book.

Indescribable Devotional Book Review

How It’s Set Up

Indescribable has 100 devotions, each being two pages long. Each devotion begins with a Bible verse followed by the devotion itself, and then ends with a prayer. Each devotion also has a “Be Amazed” sidebar with a (usually) scientific fact.

The science in the devotionals cover four major topics:

  • space
  • earth
  • animals
  • people

Devotions covering these topics are peppered throughout the book, but the introduction contains a handy dandy list of page numbers for each topic. The typical reader might start reading with the first devotion and go straight through, but thanks to the topic list, you can use Indescribable as a resource for your science studies.

My Thoughts

Indescribable is a nice devotional for elementary students, with easy-to-understand text, cute drawings, and interesting pictures. I read Indescribable aloud to my kids during our group learning time, and it usually instigates some fun conversation and online investigation on the scientific topic covered.

While it’s a nice devotional, Indescribable is not what I expected. Each devotion does talk about a scientific topic and relate it to some spiritual lesson, but the relation between the science and the spiritual lesson is often not direct. This lack of direct connection between science and “spirit” makes Indescribable a devotional with some science when I expected a book with a lot of science that reveals spiritual truths. In other words, I expected a book with a lot more of the laminin-type of material I mentioned above, only written to be understoood by kids. Since my expectation for the book was different from what I found, Indescribable did not grab me as I’d hoped.

To whom would I recommend [product]?

(Based on Learning Preferences and Three D’s I describe in earlier posts.)

Recommend to…

  • Students that do well learning via the Spoken Word may appreciate Indescribable as a read-aloud.
  • Students that do well learning via the Written Word may appreciate reading Indescribable on their own, possibly as part of their morning devotional.
  • Students that do well learning with Visual learning methods will enjoy the drawings and pictures.
  • Students that love science.
  • Families that enjoy a family devotional.

I would NOT recommend to…

I would not recommend Indescribable to anyone looking for in-depth, The Case for Christ-type of correlation between science and God.

My Best Tips for Using Indescribable

  • Consider your kids’ preferred learning methods before deciding how to use Indescribable. I found that even a child that really enjoys science (but does not learn well with the Spoken Word) had a hard time being attentive when I used this as a read-aloud group devotional.
  • If you decide to use Indescribable as a resource/supplement for your science studies, do the work of plugging specific pages into your planner on the appropriate dates. For example, if you’re studying DNA, you may want to plug page 76 into your planner to use as a devotion at around the time you cover this topic.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Indescribable

While not exactly what I expected, Indescribable is a very nice devotional for elementary students.

Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles Review

Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles Review

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using the links.

I’m using Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles, published by Scholastic, with my soon-to-be fifth grader. I chose it for some fun handwriting practice during the summer, but we may continue with it next school year.

Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles Review

Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles takes a novel approach to handwriting practice. Rather than practicing handwriting with dry source material, students write jokes and riddles in cursive. Since I have three boys that love a good joke, I knew that my oldest would love sharing new jokes with his brothers.

How It’s Set Up

Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles has 42 practice pages. The first two practice pages give the student an opportunity to practice writing the alphabet, first uppercase then lowercase letters. There isn’t any instruction about how to form the letters, other than arrows to serve as a reminder. So this workbook assumes that the student has learned how to write in cursive already and just needs some practice.

Since there can be differences in how cursive letters are formed (ex, the letters F and T), it’s important to note if letter formation reflects what the student has learned in the past. Since my son learned a different way to form some letters, I gave him the option to continue writing the way he learned, or try out the new letter formations. He chose to stick with what he learned in the past.

All practice pages other than the alphabet pages have the same setup:

  • the top half gives the opportunity to practice writing words from that page’s joke/riddle (written in its entirety below the practice words)
  • the bottom half has lines for the student to write the joke/riddle
  • the margin gives handwriting tips for the student and a bonus joke/riddle

A blank page at the end of the workbook allows the student to add his own jokes/riddles.

Students have the option to create their own joke booklet when the workbook is completed (instructions at the front of the book). A dashed line between the top and bottom portions of each page shows where to cut.

Teacher Prep

You may want to decide how you want to schedule Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles. I have my son use it about four times a week. He writes the practice words on a practice page one day, and then writes out the joke the next day. Other options for using this workbook include:

  • having the student do one practice page per day
  • allowing the student to work out of it as much as he likes per handwriting session
  • rotating it with another handwriting workbook or copywork

Student Time

How much time a student spends on this will depend on how you use it. The way we use it, it takes my son less than 10 minutes a day.

To whom would I recommend Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles?

(Based on Learning Preferences and Three D’s I describe in earlier posts.)

Recommend to…

  • Students that have previously learned how to write in cursive and just need practice.
  • Students that love jokes!

I would NOT recommend to…

Students that need instruction on how to form cursive letters.

My Best Tips for Using Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles

  • Keep it fun. Don’t require too much in one day
  • If your student learned how to form cursive letters in a different way than shown in this workbook, and you are allowing them to continue with the way that they’ve learned previosly, provide a handwriting guide showing the familiar cursive letters so that your student doesn’t get confused.
  • If you like the idea of making handwriting practice more fun for your child but don’t love the content of this workbook, use books in your home library to create your own handwriting curriculum. Focus on books that delight your student, and choose sentences or very short passages. Maybe underline words for them to practice, create copywork forms using a cursive font, or handwrite into a notebook for your student to copy.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles

Cursive Writing Practice: Jokes & Riddles is a great way to inject some fun into what is normally a tedious and boring subject.

Bob Books Curriculum Review

Bob Books Curriculum Review

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using the links.

Bob Books are a series of sets of phonics readers. I’ve purchased and used five sets of these readers in our homeschool, currently with my youngest.

Bob Books Review

Bob Books have been a fun addition to our homeschool as a supplement to our phonics curriculum. While each reader is short, simple, with usually only one color to a page (besides black and white), the stories are silly and short enough to become favorites with kids. The short stories allow even a beginning reader to easily read an entire book in one sitting, which has thrilled my kids and increased their confidence. I often hear, “I want to read another!” from my newest reader.

Contents

Each set comes with: 

  • a varying number of brief, paperback readers (possibly 8, 10, 12)
  • a parent guide that gives tips for teaching your child to read
  • and some sets include an additional resource, like flash cards or puzzles. 

Teacher Prep

Teacher prep consists of choosing the box set appropriate to your student’s reading level. For help in this regard, refer to the back of the box – you’ll find available box sets listed in order. You’ll sometimes find even more specific information, like an “Appeals to” suggestion for grade (ex. “Appeals to Pre-K-1st Graders”) and a suggested reading level (ex. “Reading Level Kindergarten”).

Student Time

Since we use Bob Books as a supplement to our phonics curriculum, we usually read just one book a day, which take less than five minutes. Sometimes we extend reading time by discussing words that rhyme, reading comprehension questions, etc.

To whom would I recommend Bob Books?

(Based on Learning Preferences and Three D’s I describe in earlier posts.)

Recommend to…

  • Students that love the Written Word but aren’t yet fluent readers will likely love Bob Books and feel so accomplished when they can read an entire book!
  • Students that prefer Independent activities will enjoy these readers on their own, possibly after having read each reader with a parent.

I would NOT recommend to…

Students that are highly Visual may not love the simple aesthetic of Bob Books, although the charming pictures may make up for the simplicity.

My Best Tips for Using Bob Books

  • The simplicity of each reader may tempt you into rushing through each book with your child. But remembr that, while the readers may look like pamphlets to us as adults, to your child each reader is a REAL BOOK. So treat them like real books. Allow your student to read it through slowly and to have fun with it. Talk about the characters. Ask your child what they think will happen next. Discuss how much you both liked, or disliked, the story.
  • Students that require more Interactive learning methods may enjoy these free Bob Books printables from This Reading Mama.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Bob Books

My kids have been charmed by the Bob Books readers. Even my most reluctantly reader enjoyed them, and seeing his reading fluency and confidence increase made my mama’s heart happy!

Homeschool Mid-Year Update – Homeschool History Curriculum

Homeschool Mid-Year Update – Homeschool History Curriculum

If you’ve seen my current Homeschool Curriculum Choices video, you already know that I’ve struggled with my choice for homeschool history curriculum this year. We began the year in experimental mode, trying a couple of things to see what sticks, but generally hoping that we could study American History as a group (with kids in 4th grade, 1st grade, and pre-k) in a low-pressure and enjoyable way.

We’ve had some successes and a couple of…well, not exactly failures, but things that were not as successful as I’d hoped. The thing that surprised me the most was how emotional I’ve been over the study of history. But I’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s look at some specifics.

Homeschooling with Minecraft

My boys love Minecraft, and my oldest has been begging me to work Minecraft more into homeschooling, so I decided to give Minecraft Homeschool a go via Skrafty.

Skrafty for Homeschool History

Skrafty has a number of areas available for study, but we decided to focus on just the U.S. History portion. I planned for my son to work through the lessons once a week, and expected it to be pretty hands-off for me. I was hoping that it would work well as a supplemental learning activity.

In general, I was pretty impressed. Each unit had six or so lessons, with a written portion and a video. The students completed quizzes (sometimes for each lesson) and were given a Minecraft build assignment for each lesson, as well.

Struggles with Skrafty

And here’s where we get to my struggles with the website. My son usually needed some sort of reference picture to create his builds. I don’t let my kids Google (that’s a whole other issue), and we didn’t have a lot of reference books (something I hope to rectify in the future). So he needed help from me to find the reference pictures. I’m more than happy to help him, but didn’t love that it was last-minute help since there was no way (that I know of) for me to see what topic each lesson would cover in advance. So he would read/watch the lesson, then needed me to get started on the build, interrupting whatever I was doing. Not the hands-off experience that I’d hoped for.

Another problem I had with the builds was that not all assignments were a great fit for a Minecraft build. For example, building an Iroquois village is pretty straight-forward and doable. But some assignments, like showcasing events in an explorers life, were, I felt, too ambiguous for a younger child. And even some of the suggestions, like building a statue of an explorer, were too difficult and advanced for even my very knowledgeable Minecraft builder.

The bottom line is that some assignments just really weren’t fun. Since we were doing this specifically for fun, I decided to forego the U.S. History portion of Minecraft Homeschool for the time being. It probably would have been better-used by an older, more independent student, or as the ONLY history (not a supplement).

Our Other History Resources

When I’m putting together a learning unit for my kids, I try to get a variety of resources that cover the same general information. I find that covering the same information in different ways helps the learning to stick better with my kids.

History Planning

Because I have a love affair with spreadsheets, I put together a handy-dandy spreadsheet to keep track of resources I come across. In my spreadsheet, I have columns for videos, reference resources, read-alouds, independent or guided reading, and a miscellaneous column for fun activities (activity books, lapbooks, Minecraft, etc). I enter items into the spreadsheet if they’re a possibility for us, but we won’t end up doing everything.

Homeschool History Curriculum

Favorite Resources So Far

Some of our favorite resources so far have been:

  • What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know (and others in this series) – I’m using the American History portions of these books for their historical summaries. The summaries are written perfectly for children, so I like to read from these books as we enter a new topic.
  • Sticker Fun History – My kids LOVE this book. It’s cute and funny and very informative. We used pages from the explorers portion of this book this year.
  • Encounter (Jane Yolen) – This picture book shook me up. It looks at Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World through the eyes of a Taino boy. As someone that most likely has Taino blood, I really wanted to share this other point of view with my children.
  • A Lion to Guard Us (Clyde Robert Bulla) – I love his books. They’re appropriate for children without being cartoonish or dumbing down truth.
  • The Dreadful, Smelly Colonies: The Disgusting Details About Life in Colonial America (Raum, Elizabeth) – This was assigned reading for my fourth grader. I love that it’s so different than how we usually teach history to kids!
  • The Voyage of the Mayflower (Graphic History) – My fourth grader is loving all of these Graphic History books.
  • Pilgrim Cat (Peacock, Carol) – A fun picture book about a fictional stray cat’s participation in events on the Mayflower and beyond.
  • William’s House (Howard, Ginger) – We loved this picture book that shows, in story form, how a new environment affected architecture in the New World.
  • Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims (Bulla, Clyde Robert) – This book made me go online and read more about Squanto! So good.
  • Finding Providence (Avi) – It was so interesting to me to see that, even as people were fleeing to the New World for religious freedom, human nature took over and those that were fleeing persecution were making the same mistakes as their persecutors.
  • If You Lived in Colonial Times (McGovern, Ann) with Living in the Colonial Times Notebooking Pages – I read this book to the kids a couple of years ago, but this year I had my oldest read it independently and work through a lot of the notebooking pages.
  • The Sign of the Beaver (Speare, Elizabeth George) – This has been such an interesting book, both about the way of life back then, and the responsibilities that even a 12-year-old boy had. We did have discussions about terms that were used back then (“Indian” and “savage”) and why those terms are incorrect. To be clear, I didn’t feel that the book was disrespectful at all, but I just wanted to be sure that my kids understood.

Using History Read-Alouds

For read-alouds, I’m using both picture books and novels. When I’m reading from a novel, I’ve found that I need to keep the kids’ hands busy as they’re listening. (If you follow me on Instagram, you know that the struggle is real.) I generally let my preschooler run in and out during the reading if he’s especially antsy. But in an effort to quell the chaos, I’ve collected a list of activities for us to try…and I’m sharing it with you because I care. 🙂 Just click the image below and you can download it for free!

Free Download!

Struggles with Homeschool History Curriculum

And now we’ve arrived at the emotional part of my experience with teaching history this year.

When I first started researching curriculum possibilities for early American History, my main concern was the dumbing down and even altering of facts in order to make history lessons appropriate for children.

For example, historical figures like Benjamin Franklin tend to be presented as harmless, bumbling geniuses. The truth is that he was probably a dirty old man! And how about Pocahontas? After doing my own reading about that poor young woman’s life and the ways that she was used and abused, I was LIVID that there is any other narrative.

And no, I don’t want to share all of that with my kids just yet. Young children are not emotionally equipped to hear all the negative things, some of the really worsts truths out there. So I’m not saying that all that should be presented to children. But do we have to stray so far from the truth? I was determined to study history with my children in a way that would preserve truth while presenting only age-appropriate information.

And as a Christian – not a cultural Christian, not a social Christian, but a born-again, Jesus-loving, Bible-believing Christian – I was also interested in teaching history from a Christian world view. But even that desire had its problems.

The biggest issue I see is that some sources interpret history by claiming to know the mind of God. Specifically, there’s a theory that God intended for the “New World” to be “discovered” at that exact moment in history, specifically by Christopher Columbus. Much is made about the name “Christopher” meaning “Christ-bearer.” He’s portrayed as a hero that was brave enough to follow God’s will and bring the message of Christ across the world.

I question all of this.

How do we know that it wasn’t within God’s will for the “New World” to be populated by people (other than those that we now call Native Americans) at an earlier point in history, or even later? I suppose it depends on an individual’s view of free will, but I personally believe that God gives us free will and freedom in exploration. Regardless, I can’t know for sure because I can’t fully know the mind of God.

But even if I accept the premise that God determined exactly when Europeans would “discover” the “New World” and determined that Christopher Columbus would be the man to do it, does it also follow that he deserves hero worship? The answer is an emphatic no! Even if Columbus was God’s chosen instrument, that does not mean that Columbus was a perfect man or that we should gloss over the terrible things he did or the greed that motivated him.

I think that one of the best reasons to study history is to allow the lessons of the past to inform our current and future decisions, as well as the way we see current events, both individually and corporately. In order to do that, we need to recognize that people are complicated, a mixture of good and bad. Consequently, nobody makes the right decision all of the time. Sometimes people make bad decisions, learn from them, and make better decisions. And sometimes good decisions are made by people living out some negative things.

I also want my children to understand that imperfect people can have a great impact on millions of people in the present and the future.

That is a message of both hope and caution to my children.

The hopeful message is that the decisions they make and the service they do can have a great, positive impact.

The cautionary message is that doing something good and impactful doesn’t excuse or wipe away poor choices. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about forgiveness. Yes, we should forgive and hope for forgiveness from other people. But the end does not justify the means. Choices have consequences that are not reversed just because we have a change of heart or did something “good.”

I believe that presenting historical figures in a nation’s history in a more honest way makes them, and their choices (good or bad), more relevant to our children.

Phew! Like I said, I had a lot of emotions, as well as thoughts and ponderings, on this subject. I’m feeling very “extra” right now! I hope that this review of our hits and misses so far this year was helpful! And please be on the lookout for more updates of our year…

You may also be interested in:

Homeschool Science – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool 4th Grade Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool First Grade Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool Pre-K Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Video you may find helpful:

Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2018-2019

** This post contains affiliate links.

Picture Books for Active Boys

Picture Books for Active Boys

Man oh man, I love my boys. They’re hilarious, active, loving, active, smart, active, and…..hold on, I’m forgetting something…..oh, yeah, I remember now – ACTIVE.

I’ve always felt that my oldest boy required an unusually high level of activity. Things like the way he would stand on his head while watching TV…and stay like that…clued me in. He also jumps up and down while playing any video game, for as long as he plays it. And he looks for any opportunity/excuse to fall to the ground and roll. One of his soccer coaches commented that there wasn’t an inch of the field that Michael hadn’t fallen on. I never even knew that a love of fake-falling was a thing.

During Michael’s preschool years, I alternated between feeling frustrated and amused by all the head-standing, jumping, and falling. But my emotions started to settle on “frustrated” when it came time for me to teach him to read. It was a Struggle. And not because my precious boy was doing anything wrong. I had a lot to learn, not only about how to teach a child to read, but also about how my boy learns.

I won’t bore you with all the details of our journey (ugh, the Bachelor franchise has ruined that word for me), so I’ll just say that I learned that Michael best learns through short lessons, lots of repetition, and hands-on activities. And that last one – hands-on activities – is key.

You know what’s not typically a hands-on activity? Reading. No matter how compelling the story, Michael has no problem walking away to do something that is decidedly Not Reading, even during the most interesting part of the story. I blame my husband, who will watch 1 hour and 45 minutes of a movie with me, then kiss me good night and fall asleep during the last 15 minutes. Who does that?

But we powered through. Michael eventually realized that this reading thing wasn’t going away, and he’s become a really good reader. We even found some books that he loves along the way. In the (very professional – not) video below, I share some of his faves. You won’t see anything like The Velveteen Rabbit in there (even my book-loving preschooler begged me to stop reading that one), but I’ll take what I can get.

When I’m Big: A Silly Slider Book
Usborne Lift-the-Flap Picture Atlas
Usborne Lift-the-Flap Computers and Coding
Usborne Look Inside How Computers Work
Pyramids (A First Discovery Book)
Explore Within an Egyptian Mummy
Maze Craze Mummy Mazes
The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories
Minecraft: Redstone Handbook
The Big Book of Building: Everything Minecraft
Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers
(Disclaimer: These are affiliate links.)

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