Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Teach Wisdom through Proverbs to Middle Schoolers on Up {A Positive Action Bible Curriculum Review}

I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

I was given an opportunity to review Positive Action Bible Curriculum's Wise Up for grades 6-8 - a well-laid out curriculum filled with some wonderful thoughts for studying wisdom using Proverbs.

 The curriculum comes as two parts: 

1.   a 200+ page, 7 x 9 inch softcover student book with illustrations...




and places for students to answer questions which challenge them to explore God's word and places to fill in blank outlines based on teaching.


 2. a sturdy, 300+-page, 3-ring binder teacher manual that contains outlines for three- four- and five-day-a-week lessons...


 core learning objectives, notes on presenting lessons effectively, optional plans for verse memorization...

weekly quizzes, answer keys...

and answer keys, and facsimiles of the student book with answers filled in, plus tabs to put testing materials and answer keys under.

Together, the student book and teacher manual offer a full 35-week curriculum that aims to edify middle-schoolers (and older students) with the wisdom of God as explored in Proverbs as they navigate the new freedoms, higher expectations, and greater responsibilities that go along with growing up.

Because my oldest child is above the suggested age-range for the curriculum and my next child down was busy studying and memorizing things for her Confirmation when this product came in for us to review, I thought I might try the curriculum with my 10 year old.

However, once I really sat down, looked at the materials, and thought about things, I knew the timing for introducing Wise Up to my son was wrong.

All of my children are in wind-down-to-summer mode and the materials just seemed too "schooly" to draw them in at this time of year. So, I decided to us the materials myself, with an aim for deepening my own understanding of wisdom, peppering conversations with my kids with things I gleaned from Wise Up, and discerning how the curriculum might fit into our fall. 

Here are some of the things I noted in going through the first five lessons and browsing the rest:

1. It is unabashedly a Bible curriculum

The materials are written in a direct, logical way to get students to read parts of the Bible, note what these portions teach, and relate concepts to their own lives. For someone who is "all in" with Christ, this is wonderful and helps make connections and recognize applications. Material is presented at a level tweens on up can understand and learn from.

2. The curriculum can be used subtly, too.

For someone who is sadly questioning faith (like one of my children), the curriculum might be too much and be rejected. Thus, for use with children like this, it might be best to do as I am currently doing - go through the curriculum yourself to strengthen your own knowledge, find fresh ways to look at different Bible verses and teaching, then present the material to your child conversationally when different situations arise. Doing so will give you fresh ideas and connections to keep "in your back pocket" and to guide your child with.

3. It is flexible.

The curriculum is written to be used over a full school year and follows a typical curriculum approach - read, discuss, reflect, write, etc. There are suggested outlines for 3-, 4-, and 5-day scheduling, but, honestly, the curriculum can be approached on an open-and-go basis. as long as you have a Bible and a pencil on hand, you can just open it up, start doing the next portion, then stop as you need and start again the next time you have time. 

4. Discussion is good. 

The curriculum is written with the intent of the teacher presenting small lessons to the student at times and with teacher and student discussing things. Thus, it is not one where students can just open the student book, read, think, respond, and complete it. Students will need a parent to present the small lessons orally or give access to the teacher manual so students can read those lessons themselves. Truly, though, discussion is good, so even if doing the latter (which is an approach I have thought about for my independent learner not one suggested in the teacher manual) make time to periodically discuss ideas.

5. If you are Catholic, like us, think about unity, not division.

This curriculum has SO MUCH GOOD in it - so much that helps you to examine Proverbs, unpack Scripture, think about life applications, etc. But, inevitably, because it is a Christian, not Catholic-Christian resource, it also has some parts that I, as a Catholic paused at.

During my pauses I reflected on unity. 

 As with so many Christian, but not Catholic resources I have been blessed to dive into, with this one, I find some rich kernels of thought and truth expressed well.

Wise Up truly does what it sets out to do - provides an understandable study of the wisdom of God through Proverbs.

That said, it also has some portions which do not reflect the fullness of the Catholic faith and its teaching. In turn, that means I sometimes think more deeply about the precepts of my faith and find myself preparing for illuminating discussions in using the curriculum with my children

Such discussion and thought are good things, I believe.

As Christians, we are called to be one with Christ.

Our humanness sometimes focuses us more on division than unity and, when it comes to curriculum choices, this can cause some folks to discard curriculum that might bring to mind a few differences.

I don't think this is necessary. I think, instead, those differences can be discussed, that discussion can be illuminating, and, overall, we Christians can choose to focus more on what brings us together to live as believers who seek to follow Christ.

Look for what makes us the same. Appreciate differences. Live with a heart for Christ. Doing so, I believe, is a wise choice.

Wise Up has some wonderful Scripture study in it and speaks at the level it aims to about things such as discernment. I appreciate that and am glad to have this resource to dive more deeply into proverbs and practical applications of wisdom for tweens on up.

So far, I have appreciated its approach to teaching about wisdom vs. foolishness...

...and applying Bible truths to our home life, a parent's responsibility to children's and a child's responsibility to a parent.

I have also  paged forward to chapters on attitudes, friendship, character, love, integrity, humility, hard-work, self-control, courage, success, and more, seeing some wonderful and clear teaching as I browsed and looking forward to diving into it more deeply. 

I would recommend Wise Up for families or even co-op classes - that have students that would benefit from a Bible-based, straightforward, accessible and flexible curriculum that uses Proverbs to teach about God's wisdom and how to apply the Bible to living. I also am finding it is a good, straightforward study for me - a mom - to make some connections myself and "back pocket" specific Proverbs, Bible stories, etc. to weave into conversations with my children as I continue to try to meet each one where he or she is at.

To see how others have used this curriculum more directly with their children and to see what they thought about another Positive Action for Christ curriculum for 5th graders called 
Possessing the Land, head on over to the Homeschool Review Crew where you will find links to video and blog reviews.  It is always good to glean ideas from how different real life families use resources!

Positive Action Bible Curriculum

You can also find Positive Action Bible curriculum on Facebook and Pinterest.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Engage Your Child in Math through Games {A Baggin' the Dragon Maths Online Review}

I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Looking for some online math review for your child this summer?

Baggin' the Dragon Maths Online by EdAlive might appeal.

The program is an online math game meant for children's ages five to 15 that offers children an opportunity to practice and grow their math skills using automated adaptive learning. Within the program are 10,000+ interactive math questions that cover such things as:

  • numeration
  • math operations
  • multiplication times tables
  • fractions and decimals
  • measurement
  • money
  • word problems
  • percentages
and more!

The framework of the game aims to engage children while the math questions within it are crafted to make children stronger mathematical thinkers and problem solvers.

We received 12 months access to this program for review and one of my children has been using it almost daily in recent weeks.

He had this to say:
Baggin' the Dragon is a fun math-based game that you play online. It is like a board game with dice and game pieces, but it also includes math drills and fun twists. 

Math drills are on a skill level from one to something like twenty-seven. You get a math problem to do. If you cannot get it correct in two tries, they give you the answer and you lose strength, which is basically game money.
The problems are random, but, if they are too hard you can say so.

The fun twists are question marks you can land on that give you random things. You can also buy power ups with strength that you earn and use these against your opponents.

You can play a short game, a long game, a game against the computer, or a game against other people. I usually just play against the computer because other people are not on when I am.

I think this is a fun product and I would recommend it to ages six to twelve who like video games and math, because it combines the two in an engaging way.

I probably will keep using it when the summer is over. That is all I have to say.

I appreciate that my son enjoys using the game and that its adaptive technology increases the challenge for him while presenting him with a wide variety of math skills and problems to help him grow

I also like that the parent page has reports that show how he is doing.
In reviewing such reports, I noticed some patterns of where my son's math skills are weak and where he is strong.

(Ad, okay, how his skills are all over the place according to standard" levels with some low scores in 4th grade standards with high ones in upper grade standards.)

Oddly, though, I also noticed a quirk: not all of his work is recorded. I have seen his computer screen when he is working and know he has worked more regularly than the daily and weekly reports make things appear. We both think this is because he often does not finish the games, because he is called to do other things. 

So, if there is one thing we'd appreciate seeing changed about the program it would be that all work is recorded - whether a game is completed or not - and that each time a child logs in, their game simply picks up where it left off.

Another of my children also tried this program out, but she is a hard one to please with online programs and, although god-natured about trying it, just was not interested in continuing with the program.

I was hoping her little brother's regular use of the game might draw her back in, and, that she might therefore become more engaged with the game and have its adaptive learning help her practice and fill in some skills, but that has yet to happen.

Thus, I am thinking that, since we have the game for a year, I might reintroduce the program to her in the fall and just have her do problems from specific areas without the game portion on days when she is too busy to do her core math program.

This more direct approach, I think will be more pleasing to her than the game aspect and will provide her with a quick way to take advantage of the
adaptive learning to practice skills while at the same time providing me with some feedback through the parent reports) about how she is doing.

I have not done this yet, because, well, it's all about timing and buy-in here. I want to wait until the former is ideal so the latter can happen.

With all this in mind, overall, I would say that if you have a child - like my nearly 11 year old - who likes online programs, math, and games, Baggin' the Dragon Maths Online can make for a fun summer - or anytime - supplement to keep math skills going while providing purposeful diversion; however, if you have an older child like mine who does not favor online programs/games, this one may not be one to spend limited online time with unless you use the questions only approach I am going to try out.

As often happens here, every child in my home is different and a win for one is not always a big win for another. That said I still think 
Baggin' the Dragon Maths Online is an overall win for ease of use, quick and informative reports, and adaptive learning.

 Over thirty
Homschool Review Crew families also tried Baggin' the Dragon Maths Online or other EdAlive programs for reading and spelling. If you'd like to see their thoughts, click on through to find links to each Facebook, video, and blog review.


You might also want to connect with EdAlive via:

Sunday, June 27, 2021

What Have the Mulberries Been Teaching Me This Year?


It's mulberry season here, and when my daughter and I noticed the fruit on a tree nearby starting to ripen before we left for a short camping trip, we wondered if we would miss prime picking time this year.

So, soon after we returned, we went on a walk to see if there were still any good berries.

There were! 

We picked a container full that day and, the next day, between rain clouds, picked another.

On of us go laughably "stained" as we did.

Since then, there have been plenty more berries ripening, and, during walks, we've picked a handful to nibble here and there.

As we have done so, we've noticed that, oddly this year, not all of the seemingly ripe berries are good.

While some pack a familiar punch of delightful tastiness, others seem flavorless, and one or two have even caused us to spit them out with an "Ew! THAT as a bad one!"

Strange, huh?

Same tree as in past years, but more 
inconsistency than ever.

Same branch, same outward appearance in the color and size of berries, yet each one
 offering different levels of flavor.

Luckily, there have been plenty of tasty ones, and we've found that when we mix the fruit together to make chia jam and other seasonal foraged fruit goodies, the not-so-flavorful berries have been masked by yummy ones, becoming good on average.

And that's where my mulberry lesson came in:

I was thinking about today how like life those berries can be.

Our Lord is so generous in granting us moments of life to enjoy freely, yet some bits of life take time to come into their own.

As they do, some moments are rich and delightful. Others not so much.

Those delightful and not-so-hot moments often come close together.

If we dwell on the the moments that aren't savor-worthy, life can become pretty hard to swallow. But, if we take all life's moments together, on the whole, life is quite rich and fruitful.

I don't know about you, but I admittedly sometimes tend to dwell on feeling hurt, numb, bothered, challenged, beaten, or, fill-in-the-unsavory-term...

Then, praise God, I typically realize what I am doing, and the Spirit moves me to choose to place my focus on gratitude, hope, encouragement, beauty... all the glorious welcome gifts that come along.

Of course, doing so does not erase the bitterness or distaste of some moments in life, but it sure does change the overall flavor, making life so much more palatable - and even delight-inducing.

This year, the mulberries have been reminding me that every moment leaves its mark...

And, although not not every moment is a good one and the marks can look pretty bad...

... it's all a part of the process of living, and, overall, life remains so praiseworthy.

Thanks be to God for the gift of life (and the free gift of foraged mulberries!)

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Spirit of God, Thank You

Spirit of God,
Thank you for granting our daughter and all confirmands

The Gift of Wisdom
so that she may see the world through Your eyes, 
exercising the virtue of charity;

The Gift of Understanding
that she may understand more clearly 
the mysteries of faith;

The Gift of Counsel
that she may make difficult decisions with prudence
and avoid the deceits of the devil

The Gift of Fortitude
that she may have the strength and courage
to live in the faith despite difficulties and disappointments;

The Gift of Knowledge
that she may discover Your will in all things;

The Gift of Piety
to be able to express her special love 
and commitment to You always;

And the Gift of Fear of the Lord
- the right kind of fear - 
that fills her with dread of sin 
 and causes her pause often 
to wonder and revere your Love.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Tomorrow Will Dawn with Hope and Joy

There are days when your heart feels broken.

Not because of a calamity, but because of the quiet sorrows of everyday life. Sorrows that, for one reason or another, cannot be shared with other people and begin to feel so burdensome. 

Sorrows that sit just under the surface of every moment, undercutting the blessing of hope that God offers us.

Sorrows that 
threaten to steal all your joy.

Luckily, there are also moments when you remember that sorrows can sanctify.

They can be offered up. They can be turned into prayers. They can be shared with God even if not with other people.

And, when we stay rooted in faith, hope always endures. Joy wins.

As Psalms 34:18 says, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed."

If today you have felt swallowed by sorrow, take heart. The Lord is near.

This day will end and another dawn new.

Trust in the Lord. He is a healer of hearts.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Why My Kids May Have Multi-Colored Hands for Corpus Christi

Want a fun - albeit messy - project for Corpus Christi?

Take a little water, add a bit of dye, and stir in some sawdust.

Mix it around with your hands to get the color good and even.

Spread it on tarps to dry in the sun.

Do it again and again.

Create a palette of different colors.

And wait to see what another can create.

A beautiful sawdust carpet!

Ready for a Corpus Christi Eucharistic procession.

The simple act of service in helping dye sawdust can turn into a beautiful temporary work of art that becomes part of a day that honors the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us a memorial of your Passion, grant us, we pray, so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption. Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever.
 ~The Collect

May your Solemnity of Corpus Christi be blessed!

(The last two photos are courtesy of my friend who made the carpets)


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