Monday, February 25, 2019

Go Back in Time to See Moses Lead the Israelites out of Egypt and Jericho Fall {A The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls Book Series Review}

Interesting, adventure fiction set in Bible times and true to Bible stories!  That's what my youngest two children and I recently enjoyed as we read Books #3 and #4 of The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series from WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.

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When we were given the opportunity to review 
The Great Escape (Book #3) and Journey to Jericho (Book #4), my youngest cheered. He remembered Books # 1 and #2 of the series, which we'd read for a prior review, well, and was excited to see where the two main characters - Mary and Peter - and their dog, Hank, would go next.  My daughter was curious, too.  So, as soon as the books came into the house, we began reading them together.

What Is the Premise of the Secret of the Hidden Scrolls?

In The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series, two siblings, who are staying with their Great Uncle Solomon, end up traveling back in time with their Dog, Hank, to different Biblical periods, having to solve mysteries on scrolls in order to return to present times.

While in Biblical times, the threesome meet real Biblical characters, witness key Biblical events, face evil, and solve mysteries. As they do, readers become engaged in adventure, imagination, and fun, while also learning more about Bible stories.

Why Were These Books Written?

Author M.J. Thomas went looking for engaging books that would teach kids about the Bible, but could not find any to his liking.  So, he decided to write such books himself, naming the main characters after his son, Peter, niece, Mary, and dog, Hank.

He wrote the books so they could be read as independent reads for children ages 6-9 at a grades 1-3 reading level or enjoyed as read togethers.

Each 100+ page softcover book includes adventure, time travels, and Bible stories that capture children's attention while building their faith and knowledge, and the books conclude with references to encourage families to dig deeper into the actual Bible. 

What is The Great Escape About?

My daughter offered to tell you about Book #3. She said:

The Great Escape is about two children named Mary and Peter who travel back in time with their dog, Hank, to the time of Moses. They land in the middle of the desert and somehow find themselves inside a pyramid, where a black panther tries to attack them.

Mary and Peter escape, swim across the Nile River, and meet a girl named Shephara. The girl invites them to her house, and they discover that Shephara is a princess.
Shephara, Mary, and Peter witness Shephara's father, the pharaoh, refuse Moses' request to let the Israelites go for the first time.  The Nile River then turns to blood. The same sort of pattern goes on for all the plagues except for when the firstborn son of every family dies. For that final plague, Mary, Peter, and Hank end up with the Israelites and Peter is not killed by the Angel of Death. 

Then, Peter and Mary travel across the Nile River with the Israelites before they solve the secret of the hidden scroll and return to present day.  

They ask Great Uncle Solomon what happened to their friends in Egypt and reads them the Bible story. 

Even with the pattern of the plagues, the book does not get boring.  The author M.J. Thomas keeps it entertaining by presenting things in different ways, such as Peter's journal, Shephara dealing with the plagues because her father is so stubborn and listens to his "Great Magician" who does "magic" (tricks). 

I have read the story of the plagues and Moses and his people's deliverance from Egypt in the Bible and think that this book keeps to the real story. It just adds fictional characters to help readers picture themselves back then. 

The book also has a couple pages that tell you where in the Bible to find the people, places, and events from the story. 

I would recommend this book to kids who like entertaining chapter books written with simple words and a few illustrations. People who like fiction, the Bible, and Bible History will like this book.

What Is Journey to Jericho About?

My youngest son offered to tell you about Book #4.  He said:

I read Journey to Jericho over my mom's shoulder as she read the book to my sister and me. In this book, two kids named Mary and Peter and their dog, Hank, travel back in time to the fall of Jericho. They carry with them spy gear from their Uncle Solomon and a scroll with secret words they have to solve in order to get back to Uncle Solomon's house. 

In the beginning of the story, Mary and Peter are at their Uncle Solomon's house and discover a secret room. They go in it, and Uncle Solomon finds them. He tells them about how he was a spy and gives them supplies and spy names - the Bear and the Monkey.

Then, Peter and Mary hear the lion's roar and know it is time to travel back in Bible history. They end up in the Israelites tent with the tabernacle, are caught, and are accused of being spies. They get out of that trouble and being welcome in the Israelites camp.

Later, they follow spies into Jericho, defend a young girl who is bullied, and make friends with her family. Her family helps them escape from a Man in Black and get out of Jericho.

They hide in the mountain, cross the Jordan (which was hard), witness the Israelites marching around Jericho, and sneak back into Jericho to warn the friends they made there to escape.

The Man in Black tries to catch them and steal their scrolls, but due to the angel Michael and Mary's spy skills, he fails. The walls fall and the secret of the scroll is solved just as Mary, Peter, and Hank were going to get stuck back in time.

Mary and Peter fall into the couch of Uncle Solomon and ask Uncle Solomon to read them the rest of the Bible story about Jericho. They ask if the Ark of the Covenant was ever found, and Uncle Solomon says, "No, not yet."  They reply, "Maybe we can help." Uncle Solomon then says, they have more adventures to come.

I thought it was interesting to see how Mary and Peter's story joined in with the real story of the fall of Jericho, which I already knew about. It is fun to read about the kids' adventures and to kind of imagine what it would be like to be them. This book is a good way for people who know the Bible stories to see them in a new way and for people that don't to learn about them.

I would recommend this story to younger listeners and readers who want to learn about the Bible in a different way.

In these books, author M.J. Thomas brings readers on adventures back to Biblical times alongside siblings Peter and Mary and their dog, Hank.

The recommended reading age is ages 6-9, or grades 1-3, and I'd say that is right on target.  I will also add that the stories, though relatively simple, are written well enough that even my 11 year old child with dyslexia remained engaged reading an occasional page to me and having me read the rest.

Learn More

I appreciate how each of the books we've read from The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series engages my children with a clever combination of Bible stories and fun characters solving a mystery as they adventure back through time to key Bible events.

If you'd like to read about the first two books in the series, read
our prior review.

Learn about Books 1 and 2.

Want more opinions about Books 3 and 4? Click on through to read any of the sixty Homeschool Crew Review family's thoughts about these books.

Read all the reviews!

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Poetic Round Up of Tried-and-True Lent Ideas from 15+ Families

Can you believe it?  Lent is just 10 days away. Have you decided how you and yours will give, fast, and pray?

I am still creating an outline of how I plan to live this season of the liturgical year with my family. In doing so, I've been praying and thinking... revisiting my past Lenten posts and drawing inspiration from friends and fellow bloggers.

This morning, I also bean musing poetic about Lent as I did once about Advent

Thus, now I share a Lenten poetic round up to help you find ideas and inspiration for how you and yours might live Lent this year.

Please enjoy this collection of thoughts linked to ideas and printables from different Catholic bloggers and websites

Perhaps the Spirit will use a phrase from the poem or a linked piece to whisper to you about the Lord's intentions for your family's Lenten journey.

'Twas 10 days before Lent
and across blogosphere
folks have been asking:
What are you doing this year?
To fill this liturgical season
with prayer, fasting, and giving, 
which Lenten practices
will you include in every day living?
What might help your family pray
for people from every nation?
Will you make time to pause each week 

to pray the Stations?
Might you pick a Pretzel Prayer Pal
 or focus on a special intention?
Will you begin a prayer journal,

and be open to divine intervention?
Will you have your children color

through the Mysteries of the Rosary as you pray?
Or make a book out of paper bags

to use for Stations of the Cross each Friday?
Will you get out into nature

with the New Way of the Cross?
Or spend time with Lent for Children-

a beautiful resource offered at no cost.
In what ways might you fast
and encourage your children to fast too?
Is a 5-minute sacrifice 
the right fit for you?
Will you make an extra effort
to love more this Lent?
Or aim to make dropping a bean

in a jar more frequent?
Will you make a crown of thorns
to encourage daily sacrifice?
Or will forgoing screentime 

to spend time with read alouds suffice?
Will you challenge your children to
to show 40 acts of love to others?
Or pause to share a three o'clock hour tradition
with sisters and brothers?
Will you bury the alleluia?
 a Pray, Fast, Give Chain?

Or, perhaps, set up 
a Lenten feast table again?
Will you use a Jesus Tree?
Will you count, pray, and give

with a free printable as an aid
as you learn, love, and live?
Will your use a Lenten candle cross

to focus meditations?
Or maybe gather 40 bags

of Lenten donations?
Will you print out free daily planner pages
to help keep you on track,
knowing that the Spirit 
has always got your back?
As we enter this Lenten season,

surely choices abound-
But, they matter little
unless meaning is found:
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving

help us devote ourselves to the Lord,
as we seek true conversion of hearts and minds
moving forward.
This Lenten season
may we each come closer to Jesus Christ,
giving thanks for His merciful love
and ultimate sacrifice.

Thank you to the following folks for blessing folks forward with ideas like those shared through the links above:

May you have a blessed and beautiful Lent which prepares you well for a glorious Easter!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Enjoy an Edible Chair of St. Peter Building Challenge on February 22!

It's no secret: My family enjoys celebrating faith through food. We also like design challenges. 

So, last year, inspired by Tracy at A Slice of Smith Life and Jessica at Catholic Cuisine, my family spent time learning and chatting about the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle  before having fun with an edible chair design challenge!

If you are looking for a tasty and engaging way to share about the feast of the Chair of St. Peter and its significance with kids, I recommend trying a similar challenge!

Preparing (Physically) for Our Chair of St. Peter Design Challenge

For two years, my children participated in Destination Imagination and I managed their team.  So, I got fairly good at preparing Instant Challenges and thinking about items that could be used as extenders (to achieve length), connectors (to fasten things together), and controllers (to define, confine, contain, or carry things) as well as things that could be used for decorative purposes.

Applying D.I. concepts to a food challenge, then, I gathered and set out:

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  • decorative items: raisins, blueberries, raspberries, and pineapple chunks and dairy-free whipped cream, raisins and cashews. 

Then, I set forth these simple rules:

Within five minutes, use the food items provided to create a self-standing, 4-legged chair with arms and a back.  For bonus points, also create "iron rings" set into the legs and/or add something ornate to your chair.

Of course, my children were eager to create - and eat! - as soon as they saw the array of goodies on the table, but, first, their was learning and conversation to be had.

Preparing (Spiritually) for Our Chair of St. Peter Design Challenge

Once we were seated at the table, we talked about what feast day it was, why we celebrate the Chair of St. Peter, and what its significance is.

To help us, we looked at photos of the Chair of St. Peter as it now is on our KindleFire.

Then, we read about the feast day in our copy of In His Likeness and - connected to a portion of the reading - discussed how human failings have ramifications, but God's plan for salvation prevails. We also prayed for our current pope and that "nothing divide our unity in faith and love".

We also talked some more about the feast day and took a look at what the original Chair of St. Peter looked like.

Ready... Set... Go!  Create Your Edible Chairs!

With plenty of background in mind, we set a timer and set forth the meet our design challenge!

The children worked with great focus.

And even Daddy joined in.

When the timer went off, each of us had a chair.

Most looked similar, with the same basic parts made out of similar materials.

Although some had a a couple missing legs...

Or no legs at all!

And only one had "iron rings", and, thus, was declared the winner!

A Story to Close the Challenge

In reality, however, everyone won, because we all learned about or deepened our understanding of the feast... and we all enjoyed eating the fruits (and treats) of our labor!

While we ate, I read Follow Me: Peter Lays Down His Net, a book which uses beautiful illustrations and child-friendly text to retell the Gospel stories about Jesus' death and resurrection as framed by the relationship between Jesus and Peter, and, thus reminds us that Jesus loves and forgives each of us and wants us to be with Him forever.

Some of my children also watched a Youtube video with me that provides an excellent talk on St. Peter as "the rock:


It was a fruitful, fun, faith through food celebration!  We hope to repeat the design challenge this year (using more plant-based food along with treats for the kids) and hope that, by sharing about our experience here, you might be inspired to celebrate the feast day of the Chair of St. Peter in your domestic church.

A Prayer for the Pope

Before closing, may I ask that you join me in prayer, using a prayer from Catholic Culture:

Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to Your shepherd, the Pope, a spirit of courage and right judgement, a spirit of knowledge and love.By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care may he, as successor to the apostle Peter and vicar of Christ, build Your church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world.We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

For more ideas for celebrating the Chair of St. Peter feast day, see the 10 ideas I previously shared:

Get more ideas!

St. Peter, pray for us. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

For the Temple... and For the Modern Day, Too {A Heirloom Audio Productions Review}

Our family has come to absolutely love Heirloom Audio Productions and were so excited to receive their latest release - For The Temple by G. A. Henty - just after we had finished re-listening to an old favorite (In Freedom's Cause).

In fact, as soon as my children brought the package containing our copy of
For The Temple into our house, a little ritual unfolded: They ripped the package open and cheered, and, then, we immediately began listening to the audiodrama during driving time and laundry time, eagerly immersing our imaginations in history and adventure!

An Old Story for a Modern Time

By the time we had finished
For The Temple, I was thinking, Such a wise selection for these times, Heirloom Audio Productions! Of all the G.A. Henty stories you could have adapted for your award-winning audio theater productions next, you truly chose a relevant one!  For today's world seems wrought with in-fighting in politics, among Christians, and more - and it also is easy for people to get so caught up in a cause that we can miss truth if not looking for it. 

In my opinion,
For The Temple dramatically tells a tale set in history, but, at the same time cautions and inspires us for the current day - making it a fantastic addition for pleasure listening, history studies, character inspiration, and faith-building. 

When Ancient History Speaks to Children

All three of my children love listening to G.A. Henty stories produced by
Heirloom Audio Productions for the sheer excitement and adventure of them. They also "get" the stories on a deeper level - sometimes on their own and sometimes with help.

When I asked my eight year old for his thoughts on
For The Temple, he said:
When I saw For The Temple, I was excited, because I like Heirloom Audio Productions CD's. (A note with the CD) said it was the best yet. I didn't think it was. I think either In Freedom's Cause or the Dragon and the Raven are the best, but this one is very good, too.

For The Temple is about the Romans and the Jewish people battling. The story focuses on John, a young Jewish farmer who turns into a soldier and leads other young men to protect the temple. I liked the battles, especially the one with the battering ram smashing down walls.

In the story, some Jewish people were fighting each other. That wasn't smart. They could have had more people to fight the Romans if they were not fighting each other.

Then, when I asked him if what was happening in the story is still happening today with anyone and if he could tell me a lesson the story taught him, he said:

Today, Christians fight each other sometimes. That's not smart. We should focus on faith not fighting, not focus on earthy stuff, but the heaven stuff.

My eleven-year-old had a lot to say when I asked her for her review of the CD-set:

I enjoyed For The Temple.
For The Temple takes place in the time when Jewish people and Romans were fighting.

This story is about a young man named John from a grape farming family who goes on a boat ride. When a storm hits,  he is saved by a galley ship.  He is invited to go fight the war, and he does.

Later, he ends up making his own force of young, unmarried Jewish men to antagonize Roman soldiers. He becomes a legend as he tries to protect the temple.

This story throws you into the past - an exciting adventure. Will a young man have to choose between being with his family or fighting for the temple? Will a Roman leader who  makes a promise to a Jew keep his oath? Will the Jewish people continue to fight amongst themselves or will the ban together to fight the wrath of Rome? I guess you'll just have to listen to find out.

When I asked her if the CD made her think about anything nowadays, she said:

When I listened, I wondered, will we, as believers in Christ continue to quarrel amongst the different branches of believers or will we choose to put away our differences and preach the gospel through our actions?
I liked this CD set, because it's an exciting adventure.

My thirteen-year-old enjoyed the story a lot - and related it to a hot-button current events topic:

For The Temple is another exciting tale brought to life by the talented people at Heirloom Audio Productions. It tells the story of one of the wars between the Jews and the Romans shortly after Christ's death and resurrection.

John, a grape farmer's son, who is played by Joseph Reed, decides to join the fight against Rome. He forms a band of young, unmarried men who harass the Romans, striking them fast and hard when they least expect it.
For The Temple is probably in my top five Heirloom Audio Productions CD's, because it is fast-paced, filled with battles, and set in a time period I like.  Also, many of the characters show vigor and honor. In fact, there are honorable (and dishonorable) people on both sides.

This CD-set teaches a few things:

(1) To fight against each other is sometimes worse than not fighting against a common enemy.

(2) Sometimes, things you believe all your life are not always true.

(3) Sometimes, those you are fighting against may be better people than those you are fighting with.

Today, in this time, it is a time when we all must unite - Catholic and Protestant, Christian and Jew, against the evils of the modern world.

When I listened to this CD-set, even though it had nothing to do with abortion, it made me consider how we need to stop fighting among ourselves and stop this horrible thing. Abortion is against the will of God and always will be. We need to ban together to fight for the will of God.

I just love how
For The Temple sweeps you away with top-notch voice acting, sound effects, score, and storytelling while also moving you to apply the lessons of the past to the modern day!


There's a Study Guide, Too!

In addition to the physical audio CD-set we received, we also got a link for a downloadable study guide.

We've never been ones to use a study guide as written as we tend toward a more relaxed and eclectic homeschool style than a super structured and bookish one, but, I still appreciate the careful thought and design of
Heirloom Audio Productions study guides and find them helpful to browse and to share parts of with my children.

For The Temple study guide is well-designed and user friendly, with sets of "Listening Well" comprehension questions that can be used with younger children and "Thinking Further" ones that can be used for writing assignments with older students. 

There are also well chosen lists for "Defining Words" to help you focus your children on vocabulary that may be new or unfamiliar, helping them to learn what the words means after hearing them in context.

Also included in the guide "extras", like a brief history of the historical character Josephus and a description of typical foods in Ancient Jerusalem, a Bible Study, and a bibliography.

In my family, we read the brief articles in the study guide and chatted about them, plus I sometimes pulled ideas from the questions to pepper organic conversation with.  I also browsed the vocabulary lists and discussed some of the words I was not sure my children already knew. 

I can see other families using he guide in a more formal way for journaling, formal discussions, reports, papers, unit studies, etc.

Learn More

If you'd like more takes on
For The Temple, click on over to read reviews from the 80 Homeschool Review Crew families that were blessed to listen to it!

Find all the reviews!

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Discover other audiodramas that can help you "live the adventure".  We've happily reviewed all of the Heirloom Audio Productions to date and encourage you to check them out.  They are all top-notch historical adventures told from a Christian perspective.

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