Monday, February 29, 2016

Scripture and Bricks: A Super Combo! {A Faith Builder Bible Review}


When I saw that Zonderkidz has a Faith Builders Bible and that we'd be able to review, I knew exactly how my oldest would react when he opened it:

Yep!  Excited!

Granted, his excitement had more to do with the brick building aspect of the book than with the scripture contained in it, I know.  But I'll take that.  Anything innocuous that can lure my child in to perusing the Word and writing stories of faith more readily into his heart is a win to me.  For although my oldest loves God and lives his faith daily, he does not often choose to actually crack Bibles open.  I was hoping the
Faith Builders Bible would get him to choose to do so more, and it has to some degree.

How We've Been Using the Bible So Far 

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

Since the Faith Builders Bible came into our home, it has, indeed, been a win for our family.  Often enough, I have seen my oldest and my other children browsing it.  We've also been turning to it to look up the Scriptures that go along with a devotional we've been doing this Lent.  And, of course, the Bible has been inspiring some creative Lego builds here.

For example, after the children performed in a Simon of Cyrene play during our parish collaborative's Lenten mission...


...they came home, and with additional inspiration from browsing the Faith Builders Bible...

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

...they built their own crucifixion of Jesus scene (albeit with themed bricks from a non-human brick set.)

(Those are all soldiers around Jesus hanging on the cross, a "tree".)

Then, they went for the cheerful and transformed the scene to the Resurrection. 

(The "tree" is now a tomb and the guards are falling over with incredulousness as the women come to the open tomb.)

After that, my oldest decided to make me guess what his next build...

Can you figure it out?  I'll give you the hint he gave me:  It's from the Old Testament.  See the Ark in it in the middle of the front.  Now look closer at the figure right behind it:

He's carrying a horn.  It's Jericho!

The imagination of children make me smile.  The brick-built scenes and conversations that have come up since we received the
Faith Builders Bible do, too.  For the scene pictured above were not the first ones my children built with inspiration from the Faith Builders Bible and they, undoubtedly, will not be the last.  Twenty-four full-color pages of brick-built scenes in the Bible offer plenty of inspiration for future.  In fact - Shhhh! Don't tell my children, but... - they have me thinking about a possible course for a new co-op we might do next fall.

What Else Does the Bible Include?
Faith Builders Bible is a 1,144 page hardcover New International Reader's Version Bible meant for children.  It contains complete Bible text, minus the deuterocanonical books Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch, as well as longer versions of Daniel and Esther — which are found in the Old Testament canon used by Catholics, but are not in the Old Testament canon used by Protestants.   It also contains:

  • 24 full-color pages of well-known and loved Bible stories with related memory verses

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

  • introductory pages that get children building and also explain what the New International Readers Version is, how it came to be, and how it differs from some other translations (such as using shorter sentences, friendly to children, using a single consistent name, for, say, the Sea of Galilee, etc.)

  •  helpful dictionary pages

So, basically, the Faith Builders Bible wraps Scripture, child-friendly reading, faith, and fun into an inspiring mix hat can engage children.
A Note for Fellow Catholics

I know many of readers here are Catholic, so I want to address the fact that this Bible is not a Catholic one.  Personally, I do not have a problem with that My children already know that there are differences between Catholic-Christian  and non-Catholic-Christian Bibles and practices.  So, I simply use any differences they note as jumping off points for discussion.

For example, the  "Building with Books of the Bible" pages in
the Faith Builders Bible provide easy visual pages to look at when explaining the differences between Catholic and non-Catholic Bible versions.  Simply look at the pages and ask, "Do you notice any missing books?" 

Further, the Lord's Prayer contained on a full-color page in this version is not the Catholic version.  My children have not noticed that yet, but, when they do, we'll chat about it.

Likewise, there is a page for the ABC's of Salvation.  When my children ask about that page, we simply expand on it, chatting about how
nothing contained in the ABC's is "bad", but that the "formula" is incomplete.  Our faith tradition has both Scripture and Tradition, all based on God's Word and example.  Thus, the Sacrament of Baptism is missing from the equation, since Jesus commanded his disciples to go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Likewise, the idea of community is missing, too.  For, yes, our relationship with Jesus is a personal one, but it is also a communal one.  Through faith in Christ, we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church.

I have admittedly not read every word of the 1,144 words in the
Faith Builders Bible, but I am fairly certain that as I do, nothing alarming will come up. Different, yes.  Problematic to me as a Catholic-Christian capable of teaching the tenets of my faith to my children, no.  In fact, since this Bible is easy-to-read and draws the children in with its Lego-build illustrations, it actually helps me teach my children our faith by acting as an engaging catalyst for discussion.

Would We Recommend It? 

When I asked my oldest for his thoughts on the Faith Builders Bible, he said:

Mom got this for me, she said, "I got us a Bible to review."  I was like, "Awwww." 

Then she showed it to me and I was so excited.  A Lego Bible!  I like Legos.  Right away, I started looking at the pictures.  They were good.  They helped me have fun looking at the Bible.  Anyone who likes Legos might like this Bible.

I'd concur with my son that anyone who likes Legos and the Word of God might like this Bible version.  On the not-perfect side in our experience are that the font size in the book is small, the Bible lacks features such as the study notes, footnotes, maps, red font for Jesus' words, etc. that might be found in some other Bibles and, also, is not the complete Bible as my children and I know it.  The "this is great" side however, outweighs these issues. Among these, the Faith Builders Bible:

  • is hardbound, which makes it durable.
  • is formatted in two columns to make reading full-text pages easier.
  • has pages that are not so thin that children may immediately and inadvertently tear them (as happens with some Bibles).
  • contains in-text citations for any quote that refers to another place in the Bible.  (The citations are placed in parenthesis right after the quotes.)
  • contains memory verses (called "Building Block Verses").
  • offers some Lego build challenges.
  • entices children who might not otherwise crack open a Bible on their own to do so.

So, overall, I'd say this Bible is worth a look for any Lego-loving child!

Learn More

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

Discover what 100 Schoolhouse Review Crew families thought about the Faith Builders Bible.

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

The Faith Builders Bible currently sells for $24.99.  You can also find Zonderkidz on Facebook and Twitter.

I'd love to see photos of your Faith Builders Bible-inspired Lego build creations.

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Scenes from a Children's Simon of Cyrene Play

Late this afternoon, my children were able to join others in a brief play that kicked off our parish collaborative's three-day Lenten mission.  The play was an original one beautifully written, directed, and narrated by a talented parishioner.

Since my children and I only heard about the opportunity to join after the initial rehearsal, we came to the church early today to get up to speed on what the kids would do.

Luke was a bit surprised when he was asked to stand in for Simon of Cyrene, who would be absent.

Jack piped up that he'd like to be Simon, but once he saw how big and heavy the cross was, he rescinded his comment.

So it was that we settled on roles and went to find some costumes to be the littlest Roman soldier:

 ... a woman in the crowd...

...and Simon of Cyrene.

The children and I had some laughs while getting their costumes on.

 Then, it was time to welcome people to Jerusalem.

Jack stood guard at the gate.

While Nina joyfully waited (even if Jerusalem at that time was hardly joyful.)


After everyone was seated, the wait came to an end.

The guard had to leave his post to go move Jesus along.

Not long after, amidst words from the narrator and song from the choir loft, Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service.

And so the play was performed with the author narrating it as the children simply acted out the narration and a man sung from the choir loft.

I would love to post some images of the whole cast in action, but as I did not get permission to do so from everyone, I can only post snapshots of my crew.  I hope you've enjoyed them and, perhaps, are inspired to do something similar at your own parish or co-op.

I'd love to hear about Lenten and Easter children plays you and yours have participated in.  Links to favorite scripts and resources are welcome, too.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Begin a Children's Adoration Hour (More than Once if Need Be!)

Several years ago, a Catholic homeschool group I was in approached a local priest about leading a monthly series of formal Holy Hours for children.  He kindly agreed and the initiative kicked off. 

Although I am a "cradle Catholic", I was new to such experiences and was grateful to the organizing mom and agreeable priest for introducing my children and I to children's Adoration.  Unfortunately, though, the introduction was short-lived.
You Never Know if You Don't Try...

 If I recall correctly, the format used for the first Holy Hours my children and I experienced was that of the World Apostolate of FatimaThis format offered a beautiful, formal, and traditional Holy Hour approach, which worked best for families with older (or more sedate!) children.

During the Holy Hours, the presiding priest stayed on the altar, leading the service and offering a thoughtful homily. 
The children sat in pews with their families, ideally, listening, praying, adoring, and taking turns leading decades of the rosary.  In reality, though, some children (like mine!) tried to escape the pews, got super wiggly, and, at times, even needed to be taken to the back of the church.

Luckily for we moms with "busy children", the mom who organized the Holy Hours also invited everyone to enjoy a snack, a meaningful, hands-on activity and some fellowship after the prayer time each month.  It was the snack and the engaging additional activities that helped me keep my children coming back each month.  For, in all honesty, at my children's young ages and with their wiggly ways, they just did not get much out of the Holy Hour portion of the monthly initiative.

I dare say, the same was true for some other children, because, unfortunately, attendance at the monthly Holy Hours began to dwindle, and, before too many months passed, the initiative ceased.

Although managing my children at the Holy Hours was often a challenge, I was sad to see the program peter out.  I had hoped that in experiencing it on a regular basis, and in witnessing the example of older children, my children would come to love Adoration.

Going It Alone

With no group option for children's adoration, I began making time for my husband or me to take our children to adoration on our own.  Our efforts to do so were not always met with welcome by our children, but, eventually, were met with a genuine plea of, "I want to go to Adoration." 

Unfortunately, due to changes in work schedules, my husband and I allowed something not-so-great to happen:  new work hours did not match well with Adoration chapel hours in the next town over, so, as much as I hate to admit it, we stopped prioritizing getting ourselves to adoration regularly.

Granted, we did get to the chapel occasionally, and I was able to participate in occasional Holy Hours at our parish, but a
s our own weekly commitments to Adoration weakened, so did our children's experience of frequent, fruitful quiet time with Jesus.

Renewing Regularity through a Group Children's Adoration Hour

About a year and a half ago, after a new local Catholic homeschooling group began, another mom and I began chatting about our desire for a regular group adoration hour.  I told her about a website I had found, Children of Hope, and she agreed that the format it described seemed like an appropriate one for our children, formal, yet interactive and with opportunities for children to move, also something we could lead on our own, or that could be led by a priest if we were blessed enough to find one who could offer our group his time. 

Thus, my friend and I began praying over beginning a children's adoration hour and, sensing it was meant to happen, began making inquiries.  I reached out to some priests I know, but their churches did not have regular Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and their schedules were unable to accommodate exposing the Holy Eucharist for our group.  My friend reached out to some she knows and got permission for us to bring a group of children to an existing adoration time.  However, she was told that it must be a completely silent adoration.  We did not feel our children were ready for that.

So, another mom got permission for our group to gather for a private hour of Adoration, where we could speak some and guide the children, at a church near her.  Unfortunately, the hour was quite an early one and the location a bit far for many in our group. 

With so many roadblocks, my friend and began to wonder if our idea of a group children's adoration hour was really "meant" to happen.  Unsure, we stopped pursuing it actively and just left it to prayer and the Spirit's work.

Well, the Spirit did work!  About a month ago, a priest that my friend had contacted some time back got in touch with her, told her a new Adoration chapel had been built at his parish, and that he would welcome our group.

Wow!  We were thrilled!

My friend immediately got word out and a surprisingly amount of families from our group signed up for the first children's hour.  Then... snow!  Inches and inches of snow. A blizzard buried our plans.

Doubt crept in, but did not last. We decided to have my friend ask the priest if we could simply reschedule for another day this month.  He said, "of course."  She got word out, and four families ended up joining in for our group's first children's Adoration hour.

It went beautifully!

The wonderful parish priest met us in the chapel and led our group in praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.  Before praying each decade, he led the children in a discussion which engaged all but the youngest of our children.  (And, as moms of crawling children tried to corral their wee ones, the priest simply smiled and said, "Let them be."  It was so beautiful witness the mix of formal prayer, yet the encouragement of free movement for those young children that truly needed it!)

Then, when the priest had to leave us to attend to parish business, we invited all the children to move from pews to the space in front of the altar.  There, we began a modified version of the sample format for children's adoration as described at Children of Hope.  My favorite parts of that experience was witnessing the children earnestly praying in silence for a few moments, as well as hearing them share prayer intentions with one another.  Children praying, in silence and aloud, while visiting Jesus is simply precious.

After our Adoration time concluded, we moved to a meeting room to enjoy some liturgical year activities.

Because our initial meet up day fell close to Candlemas, two of our activities were making candles and prayer cards based on the Presentation of Jesus.   

Because our rescheduled meet up day fell close to Our Lady of Lourdes feast day, we also had children make candles and paper mosaic grottoes of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The children were also given an opportunity to revisit a game we played at our last All Saints day party and to bless themselves with Holy Water from Lourdes.

As our meeting time concluded, the priest was able to come back to see us and kindly blessed our candles.

Then, we concluded with a group prayer.

Start Your Own Children's Adoration HourWhat a wonderful experience our recent children's adoration hour and liturgical year celebration was!  I look forward to meeting again next month and encourage others to start similar initiatives.

You can find many resources for children's adoration hours at:

I am sure there are more sites and sources out there for children's adoration, too.  If you know of a great one, please do share about in a comment.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Get Hands-On with U.S. Elections {A Home School on the Woods Lap-Pak Review}


When you have children that spend part of their self-directed playtime creating mock elections complete with campaign speeches and debates, you know the time is right to learn more about real-life history and politics.  HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections by Home School in the Woods has made doing just that so easy!  

The U.S. Elections Lap-Pak, which my children and I have been excited to review, offers a complete self-contained study that allows families to break the big topic of elections down into easy-to-understand pieces, coming away with a clearer mental picture of the history and process of U.S. Elections as well as a fun physical reminder for review or show-and-tell.

Who is the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak for? 

U.S. Elections Lap-Pak is geared for students at a grade 3-8 level, however, in our home, we used it as a family study for my children (ages 5, 8 and 10) and me.  For, yes, this mama, who could have cared less about history and politics in her own school years, has come to love both alongside her children, and this lap-pak has had me learning, too!  

I'd recommend the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak to:

  • families who interested in history and politics that are looking for a study they can do together.
  • older elementary, middle-school, high-school, or even adult students who wish to study on their own about how the American election process developed and how it currently works.
  • visual learners who like reading and illustrations.
  • auditory learners that can benefit from approximately 60 minutes of narrated MP3's.
  • kinesthetic learners who appreciate cutting, pasting, coloring, and lift-the-flap/interactive paper manipulatives.

I would not recommend the product to anyone that likes to open-and-go with absolutely no prep, nor to anyone who does not have access to a printer or the inclination to print many pages.  For, unless you just want to learn and enjoy from part of the product - such as the audio files - you will need to do quite a lot of printing,  cutting, assembly, etc.  (Doing so is well worth it in my opinion!  The unit study is quite complete and the end-product makes a fabulous trigger for remembering what you've learned.)

What exactly is the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak and what special supplies, if any, do you need?

In a nutshell, the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak is a unit-study about the United States presidential elections that will take you briefly through the establishment of the American government and then through a variety of aspects of a presidential campaign and election process.  The version I received came as a digital download ($18.95), however the product also comes in a CD version ($19.95).

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

Regardless of which version of the product you get, key information for the unit study is provided through a 24-page booklet and correlating MP3 audios.  The booklet can be printed as half-page, double-sided booklet like this:

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

Or, it can be printed as a full-page text. 

The text of the booklet is also narrated on the aforementioned MP3 audios.  Thus, whether you are a visual learner or an auditory one, key information is equally accessible.

Using only the text/audio provided, you can complete 21 "paper manipulative" activities that result in the creation of a lapbook that looks like this:

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review
U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

Or, like my family, you can simply attach the fabulously designed and illustrated mini-books to 3-hole punched card stock to make an interactive notebook.

Your lapbook or notebook can then be used as a reminder of your studies.

In creating your mini-books, you will find yourself cutting, gluing, coloring, writing,
researching and more.  To access the information for the booklets, you will, of course, need a computer with internet connection.  To print the project templates you will also need a printer and lots of ink.  Other supplies you will find handy are:

However, do not let the things you may not have at home from this list dissuade you from trying this lap-pak.  My children and I have managed just fine without an exacto knife or dedicated cutting surface.  Thrifty creative families can easily adapt the projects to accommodate available supplies.

When might you use this lap-pak?

Of course, with the upcoming presidential election, now is a prime time to enjoy
the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak.  However, any time you want to learn about the development and process of U.S. elections could work just as well.

Because the unit is self-contained and broken down into small projects, it can work well as:

  • a brief 15-30 minute lesson one or two times a week over a full term
  • an intensive study with one or more brief sections per sitting
  • a co-op class

Where can you find more information?

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

Home School in the Woods offers loads of sample pictures, an audio-sample, and even a scope and sequence on their website.

One hundred Schoolhouse Review Crew families also offer more photos and insights about the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak.

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

You can also find Home School in the Woods on social media at:

Why did we choose the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak and how have we liked it?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, my kids enjoy playing election and politics during their free time.  They have also been involved with support of local candidates in the past, have accompanied my husband and me on prior local and national election days, and have recently taken to watching political debates with me online.  Further, we have been studying U.S. history and geography this year.  So, the opportunity to review the
U.S. Elections Lap-Pak seemed perfectly timed to my children's interests, our family's study, and our nation's current events. 

Upon receiving a link to download our copy of the product, I did so with ease.  It came in a rather large zip file which I unzipped and saved onto our family computer.  Folders inside the unzipped file contain images, pdfs, MP3's and a start menu that make everything easy-peasy to access, understand, and print.

So, after printing out the booklet and some of the first mini-book templates, the kids and I sat down, and, by their request, listened to the beginning of the MP3.  Then, we got to work on the mini-books as we talked about what we'd heard on the MP3.

At first, I was hoping to encourage my children to write through the use of the lapbook, but my gentle push for the to do so began taking away from the fun and learning inherent in the study.  So, as we continued on with the study, I opted to have the kids use pre-printed portions from the template as opposed to lined-space ones.
  Handwriting and free-writing activities can come from another part of our learning at this time.  The kids prefer to listen, chat, color, and assemble with this study, so that is what we've been doing.

On busy weeks, we do but one booklet.  On less busy ones we do three, or even four.  Always, I tend to do a quick oral review, using the physical mini-books we have made to prompt discussion.  Then, we move on to new parts of the study per the kids' eager promptings.

We have also taken a stack of books out of our local library based on the list of recommended resources that comes in the unit material.  These books are not necessary to complete the 21 mini-book projects for the lapbook/notebook, but since all of my children and I love read-togethers, and my oldest likes to devour books on his own, we have opted not to knock the gift-horse of well-recommended books in the mouth.

Further, we have extended our
U.S. Elections Lap-Pak studies by viewing related animated song clips that I watched as a child on television and now enjoy with my kids on youtube. 

Plus, we have connected our studies to field trips, such as one we went on just this past weekend to a mansion that was once owned by a prominent relatively local family whose members have been connected to a number of presidents and have also served in the House of Representatives and Senate.  While we were on a tour of the mansion, it was awesome to witness how our lap-pak studies are helping the kids put pieces of history, politics, and even just vocabulary together.  The questions they asked on the tour and the comments they made were spot on.  Even the tour guide mentioned to me when I bumped into him after the tour how impressed he was with my children's knowledge and interest.  Love that!

So, obviously, I think
HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections is a timely, worthwhile way to spend time learning together.  My kids seem to as well.

My daughter, eight, has said:
I will begin with what I did not like:  the writing.  Now, here is what I did like: the coloring, the man speaking, and making little booklets and the tree... Also,  I did not know that there were fancy names like "anarchy" with the "rule of one", "rule of many", "rule of few"...

My youngest, at five, had this to say: 
I like the drawing and coloring.  We are learning about elections.

My oldest, at ten, who had a headache and fever the night I asked him for commentary about the lap-pak as I prepped to write this review said:

I do no like that I am sick so I cannot do it right now.  I like that there are things to color in and so much to learn about.  I have learned that our government is ruled by three branches, that there are things called justices hat serve for a lifetime, and more.  I cannot wait to finish it!

I agree with my son.  I look forward to completing the lap-pak together, too.  However, I am purposefully taking it slow so as to be sure the kids retain knowledge from each section of the study we explore together before rushing forward and also so we can time parts of the study "perfectly" with how unfolding presidential elections in the news.  I just love how Home School in the Woods has made it easy to learn history, politics, and current events all at once.

What resources are you using to learn about elections and might the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak direct or enhance your studies?  I'd say, "Yes!"

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