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28 February 2017

Ohio! Here We Come {Crew Review}

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}

We were asked to review Ohio ~ Here We Come!, which is one of titles in the By The Way Book Series. It's a hardcover picture book about the State of Ohio, and especially nature in Ohio, that aims to help parents to start conversations about their Christian faith with their children. There are also nature posters that you can purchase if you'd like. When I pre-read the book, I didn't see any theological conflicts: the story is a story about a family, and in the course of going about their day, they periodically talk about God and the Bible. It's lovely.

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}

Inside the front cover of the book is a reference to the Bible verse that inspired their company name, and it's one that I love:

And thou shalt teach [God's words] diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and then thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down,and when thou risest up. 
-Deuteronomy 6:7

A book review for "Ohio! Here We Come!", published by By The Way Books.

They don't have our home State yet, so I picked Ohio because the Mormon church has a fair amount of history in that State, and I thought it would be nice to have a better sense of the context for that history as it comes up. It's extra nice that that goal works so well with the goals of the book's author. I shared it with Dragon(6) first, and he was pretty excited: he was jumping up and down so much that it was hard to get a decent picture of him and the book. 

A book review for "Ohio! Here We Come!", published by By The Way Books.

The book itself is beautiful. The pictures that illustrate Ohio are photographs, and there is a ton of them. Bright, beautiful colors, a mix of city and country scenes: there's lots to look at in this book. But it's not just a list of facts; all the interesting things about the State of Ohio you could ask for have been woven into a family vacation story about two kids, Alex and Lexi, who are cartoon kids, so there's a clear distinction between real facts about Ohio and the fictional storyline. I was impressed at how uncontrived it felt as I read it. There are a few places where it's a little forced, but by and large, the story flows well and you just learn along with the kids. I invited Dragon to come and hear the story, but pretty soon Peanut(4) showed up, and I noticed that Hero(10) was hanging around looking interested, too.

One thing that had everyone intrigued the first day we read was this cool treasure hunt. Dragon was poring over these pictures, trying to memorize them, and he was so excited to look for them as we started into the first few pages of the book.  

A book review for "Ohio! Here We Come!", published by By The Way Books.

We started reading, but we didn't get very far before we were talking about all the cool bits of information in the book. We learned about rainbow trout spawning, and about the number of teeth a coyote has - which lead Dragon to wonder how many he has, and the next thing I knew Dragon looked like this, trying to count his own pearly whites.

A book review for "Ohio! Here We Come!", published by By The Way Books.

We hadn't gone very far, when we came to a section about how God, for over 6000 years, has been "turning down the lights of daytime getting ready for the darkness of the night". The verse referenced, Amos 5:8, is one that I had not previously noticed (though it's not far from one of my favorites, Amos 3:7). We looked it up, and it's such a poetic, beautiful verse.

Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night, that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: the Lord is his name.
-Amos 5:8

We talked about the verse a little bit, and about how God is so dependable (which the story points out seamlessly), and then about how when Dragon does what he says he will do, he is learning to be dependable, like our Heavenly Father. It was a great teaching moment.

And then, he wanted to know what came next. Which was piglets on the farm in the story; twelve of them. Peanut did not approve, though I never did get a decent explanation from her about why she never wants to have a pig. Apparently, they are not pets. Four-year-olds know these things, I guess. Dragon thought it was pretty amazing that pigs have so many babies all at once, and gave Peanut The Look when she was so adamant that she didn't like them. Kids are so funny!

A book review for "Ohio! Here We Come!", published by By The Way Books.

It was especially fun to find this verse, from Psalm 118, because it's one that Peanut has been working on memorizing in Japanese. It was an unexpected opportunity to reinforce both the verse, and the meaning of it. And it's just such a lovely verse and a great reminder anyway.

A book review for "Ohio! Here We Come!", published by By The Way Books.

 Reading this with my kids was very pleasant. It looks like a short little thing; I didn't expect it to take long to read at all, but we would get busy chatting about the pictures and the places, and everything, and it took us several sittings to make it all the way through the first time. I think that it's going to have quite a few trips through it before it stops being "new" because it's just so packed full of interesting information, the scavenger hunt, and so many beautiful pictures. It took us several sittings to mosey our way through the whole thing the first time, because there's just so much to see. This book is a welcome addition to our home's library.

To see what other Homeschool Review Crew families thought of their books - and to have a sneak peek at all 6 titles that we're reviewing for By The Way Books - click the banner below:

Click to read Crew Reviews

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25 February 2017

Odd Bits: Spring Birds, Audiobooks, and More

Odd Bits: A Baby Steps link round up of interesting tidbits dealing with spring birds, audiobooks, and much more.


Odd Bits: A link round up of interesting tidbits dealing with spring birds, audiobooks, and much more.
American White Pelican, courtesy WikiPedia

I've always had a hard time knowing what to do outside, but counting birds for the eBird project has become a favorite. So far this year I've seen ten species (and I didn't hardly peep a foot outside in January, because it was so miserable), and but surprise was that there are already American White Pelicans in the area this year. I looked them up, and they're not common in our area until closer to April, though it's not unheard of to see them around the area now, either. Pelicans are cool. They have a really distinct way of circling around overhead, always near our river. I like watching them; this year we'll have to see if we can't get down to the waterfront while they're there so we can watch some of the other things they do. Pelicans are fun to watch.


There's some cool free audiobooks out there. LibriVox has several of our favorites, such as Children of Odin, and The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Before Achilles. Those are some that the kids go back to over and over. This week, I found another free one that I want to have a listen to: Lafayette and the Revolution, about how a French Marquis came to be fighting in the American Revolution.


So, NASA's been finding planets around other stars for a while. I even had an app on my phone for a while that would show me things about them, before I deleted it in favor of language learning stuff. Now, they've found some cool ones: planets that might have water. And they're not even that far away. I need to figure out where Aquarius is, because that's where NASA says this Trappist system is located, and it'd be cool to know how to stare in their general vicinity.


The kids invaded and nabbed my electrical tape to enhance their sticks. The big guy has created a pilum; the small two immediately copied him, but theirs are swords, they tell me. It's really quite remarkable what a little electrical tape can do to a stick. And the things they come up with in "play"; I certainly didn't tell them to recreate ancient weapons. I just said to go outside to play! I'll be interested in seeing how long these stick around: they are carefully stacked outside the door, after I told the kids that their "weapons" were not allowed in the house.

Odd Bits: A link round up of interesting tidbits dealing with spring birds, audiobooks, and much more.


I'm a Constitutionalist, and I learn foreign languages for fun: I believe that words matter. They have meaning and how you put them together is important. But it still sometimes catches me by surprise to see how big a difference it makes to change the structure of a sentence, even just a little bit. With a little bit of mindfulness, we can avoid teaching (or at least avoid reinforcing) ugly stereotypes by tweaking the way that we speak about groups of people: The "zarpies" example in this article is particularly interesting. Reading that article made me think of the research on teaching colors that I read a while back - the one that explained why color is so difficult to teach, and why kids often will take a lot longer than you'd expect to really get the hang of it. Turns out that some linguistic mindfulness will go a long way here, too.

22 February 2017

Back Outside

After what feels like about six solid weeks of sick family, and way too much winter, we got a reprieve: everybody got healthy just in time for a beautiful February thaw. It's crazy warm: got up to 60 today, but it really shouldn't be above freezing here. Everybody is celebrating by playing outside. The paper had a picture of people golfing on a green that was a least half white still with snow, wearing sweatshirts. That pretty much sums this week up. This far north, people know not to let the warm weather pass you by, whenever it happens to hit. And we were out there with the best of them, drinking in the awesome weather. Actually, I kind of wonder if it's not the start of an early spring: yesterday I saw pelicans, and today there were blackbirds singing. We're supposed to get some three inches of wintery slush and snow this weekend, but today it was beautiful, so today's top priority for school was to be out in it.

Our park floods every spring. It's so interesting to watch. The ice actually sinks, and then the water is on top. Or maybe the ice melts top down. I really don't know. But the ice is at the bottom of all the puddles. And it's a regular thing each spring.

The first area where we really stopped was shaded, so it was still almost completely frozen. But so muddy along the edges. Which was great. We looked at deer tracks and some other ones that we never did quite figure out what they are. Something cat-sized, with probably 5 little toes that left perfectly round holes behind. Sadly, the pictures are junk. Maybe I'll see if I can photoshop them. My friend and I set and tried to figure out what kind of animal might have made them, but we never did decide. If I can get them to photoshop nicely, then I'll probably do some asking around to see if I can find somebody who knows more than me to tell me about them. I was pretty excited to just figure out where to find them. Two different kinds today!

While we were trying to figure out the tracks, the kids were working on the big cedar tree they've dubbed "Talia's Tree", after the tree in the Percy Jackson series. My friend's kids figured out what they've all wanted for ages: how to get into it. My kids tried hard, but didn't quite make it up. Not for lack of effort, though.

Her family is more athletic than ours, and they had shoes better suited for climbing than what we'd gotten for our kid (who knew snow boots need to be able to go up trees!!) and I think that both are factors in why my kids didn't get up. I have a feeling that this will be a new favorite destination, though, and that as soon as I let them wear their tennis shoes the boys will be working hard to get up there. Good things going on all around. Looks like a cozy tree.

There's this lovely field of grass. We stayed on the path; but I love the sound of the wind in the grass, and it's just so pretty today. Not many birds there today... but the kids did sound like kids do when they're outside after being cooped up for a while. Lots of running and yelling and laughter. That sounded nice, too.

It's hard to tell here, but these mushrooms were half-drowned. They didn't seem to object. Hardly even discolored, even after sitting in so much ice water for however long. I was a little surprised at how sturdy they seemed to be.

We stopped for a while and had a lovely game of Pooh-sticks. The water was going under the little bridge quite quickly, but a surprising lot of the things they kids dropped in the water never made it out the other side. They all tried a nice variety of sticks, leaves, grass... all sorts of whatever was handy. Big bunches, one by one. I think they tried every variation.

 I was pleasantly surprised at how dry they all stayed: we'd warned them early on that if they played in ice water and got wet at it, then the outing would end early. It was warm, but not that warm. Even with sleeves being rolled up so they could get the "river rocks" at the bottom of the runoff, nobody got seriously wet. They did, however, discover that 8 inches of ice water can numb your fingers pretty quick.

When us Moms had decided that the water play had gone long enough, and they were getting adventurous enough that we wanted a new scene for exploration, we headed off to the "Stick Shack". Where the big kids happily played their Minecraft game (cracks me up that they call it that -- it's the same game my sister and I played, gathering stuff and putting it places and pretending it's other stuff), and the little kids climbed their tree. We won't let the big kids play in this tree, but it's just right for our small people.

The way that Peanut got up there kind of blew my mind: she stuck her foot up in the tree, right about the height of her ear, then sort of just... stood up. I'd been about to suggest that she try the nice fork in the tree that was belly button height, when suddenly it was apparent that no advice was necessary. Sometimes she surprises me. She keeps telling me she's getting Big... I need to start believing her, I think.

So winter's not done with us, and it'll probably be a while, maybe a month or more, before we have a day as beautiful as this one, but it sure was nice while we had it! It'll remind us that the end is in sight as we move from record highs to heavy snow: tonight's map says maybe as much as 10 more inches, if it doesn't all turn into freezing rain. I'd rather have the snow, but I doubt that Mother Nature is taking opinions!

20 February 2017

Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece {Crew Review}

We love  history, and learning about ancient civilizations is a particular favorite, so when we were asked to review HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece, everybody was excited.

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews

Home School in the Woods has done a really beautiful job creating this history study pack. We were given the downloadable version, which was really easy: download, double click the file called "start" and it came right up in Firefox like a webpage: everything I need, all right there. The Project Passport is organized into 25 "stops" or lessons, and the first one is longer, because it's a lot of set-up. For the first stop, we made some "Scrapbook of Sights" binders, and printed out the included timeline to start them out. The included printables are uniformly beautiful, generous, and well-organized, so that finding them when you need them is a snap. Both Hero(10) and Dragon(6) are doing this. It's designed for kids in grades 3-8, but there is no way that Dragon is going to sit this one out, so I didn't even ask him to, even though he's only in first grade. Hero even went to the trouble of looking up Greek-style lettering for the front of his folder, which I thought was really cool.

A Homeschool Review Crew review of the Ancient Greece Project Passport World History study offered by Homeschool in the Woods.
Binders with printed "scrapbook" covers from the Passport Project.

Peanut(4) gets a scaled-down version for similar reasons: if we are painting, coloring, cutting, and pasting, she needs to be in it, doing school (ask her and see). So the boys both got binders, according to the directions, and I sewed the timeline into a file folder for her with my sewing machine, and let her do a map, which we glued into the folder. Just enough for her to feel included. That ended up working out really well, because I did most of the work on it, so it became a sample for the boys to look at. (It did cause some problems later, as she "participated" but had no where to put things; I discretely recycled a few pages later on in the project.) The maps took us a long time, because the kids all decided that they wanted to paint them. We love maps, and the Project Passport has two maps right at the start: one a close-up of Greece, and one larger that shows most of the Mediterranean Sea. We also had a look at our globe at this point, to place Greece on a global scale. There are several additional maps later in the stops, as well. Dragon has done some map work on Egypt, as he'd also been learning about ancient Egypt recently, and it was especially fun to see him make connections, and begin to realize that the Greek stories and the Egyptian stories have places where they touch and connect.

A Homeschool Review Crew review of the Ancient Greece Project Passport World History study offered by Homeschool in the Woods.
One of the days we when worked on the maps that detail just Greece.

The process of doing the maps and building the binder this way took a long time - we probably worked on them 2-3 times a week for 2 weeks, but I feel like it was time well spent: the boys had enough time to really see the maps. And it was so pleasant; one week we even looked up "Ancient Greek music" on YouTube (not part of the stop) and listened to what various artists think their music might have sounded like while we worked on our maps, which lead to some really great conversation. Because the various maps all got labels on different days, the names and locations are becoming familiar: if we talk about the Aegean Sea, they know exactly what I'm talking about and can find it pretty readily on both maps. They have taken a lot of ownership of and pride in these projects, and the beautiful printables really encourage that.

A Homeschool Review Crew review of the Ancient Greece Project Passport World History study offered by Homeschool in the Woods.
Working on our collection of maps - this shows both boys work, plus my sample.
Dragon's work is the binder at the top; Hero's is on the right. Mine is at the bottom.

I had Dragon use the included labels, and glue them onto his painted map. I was a little concerned about all the labels that needed to go on the map, but with the printed labels, it's not a big deal, even though he's a little young for the project. I painted Peanut's, but she was excited to do the label gluing herself. There are actually quite a few labels, and instructions in the teacher notes about when to add them to the map. These pictures were taken after the first stop, so the maps are still pretty simple. I like that we'll add things as we talk about them, rather than doing it all at once in a barrage of strange place names without meaning. This way, they only add a place after it's been discussed in the text and has some meaning for them.

A Homeschool Review Crew review of the Ancient Greece Project Passport World History study offered by Homeschool in the Woods.
This is Dragon(6)'s detail of the Greece area, showing the map and the labels.

A Homeschool Review Crew review of the Ancient Greece Project Passport World History study offered by Homeschool in the Woods.
This is Hero(10)'s version, with the hand-written labels.

There was a reading -there's one for each stop- with narrations from both boys. The readings we typically do are more narrative than factual, but that wasn't a problem. Both of them did great with a more nonfiction type of reading, and the level was great for them both. We laid some great groundwork, and some good conversations about the geography, and the whole first stop was extremely pleasant.

One feature that I especially liked from the reading was that they discuss the traditional settlement of Noah's sons following the flood being in ancient Greece. Having been educated in the public schools myself, I often don't know about connections like this between Biblical history and secular history, but the distinction between "Biblical history" and "secular history" is artificial. There is only history; real history includes both aspects. I love it when the materials we use treat it as the one interconnected whole that it is. One of the booklets we made for the lapbook is a family tree of Deucalion/Noah's son Hellen, and we built it to be color coded to the map of the areas that they settled, which was pretty interesting to see. I had never realized that Greece had "tribal" areas before. The booklet was fiddley to put together - well beyond what Dragon could assemble on his own, though he did get some fine motor practice in helping to cut things out, but I felt like, once I'd made it, it enhanced his understanding of what was going on, and he is two years younger than the recommended age for the project. He thought it was pretty cool that you could make a little book like that, and was able to explain the family structure when it was finished. We came back a different day and added the various places mentioned to our other maps. Hero did his a different day, and much more independently, because he was sick again when Dragon and I did this. These booklets will be assembled, with several others, into a lapbook later in the Project. For now, we just tucked them into the front of the binder to keep them safe.

A Homeschool Review Crew review of the Ancient Greece Project Passport World History study offered by Homeschool in the Woods.
Dragon(6) with booklet of Hellen's family and their tribal areas in Greece.

Periodically through the project, the kids receive "postcards" from ancient figures. When I first saw these, I was pretty skeptical about their value, and almost decided to skip it. However, after the boys received the first one, from Agamemnon, they had turned on a Librivox recording of a retelling of the Trojan War, and both boys immediately recognized Agamemnon in the story, and were excited to hear what happened to the character that had sent them their first postcard. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this simple activity laid the groundwork for getting more out of the literature they were listening to. There's an option to print these with a border on the back and have the kids draw on them, but my printer hates to print double-sided, so I skipped that. So far, it's the only activity that my cranky printer has made problems for. The printables are uniformly well-done and beautiful, and all the assembly we've done so far (such as the post card rack here) has great instructions. Older kids probably would be able to do it pretty independently; my younger kids were able to do it with minimal instruction.

A Homeschool Review Crew review of the Ancient Greece Project Passport World History study offered by Homeschool in the Woods.

Another project that gets assembled early on then added to as you go along is the "Greek Weekly" newspaper. I decided that only Hero would do this section, but because he's been quite sick, he hasn't started it yet. Although it's geared for grades 3-8, there's a lot of things in the Project Passport that are easily adaptable to younger kids, but my first grader just isn't ready for this kind of activity. The instructions have some cool ideas for assembling it to look like a real newspaper, and suggest printing on fancy paper, front to back, so that you can turn the pages properly, but in the end I decided to just keep it simple: a file folder cut down a little became a divider in the Scrapbook of Sights binder, and I just hole punched the pages and put them in his book. I like that there's a place for writing in this, and I also like that the areas given on the pages are small enough to not overwhelm my reluctant writer. I think that, if you had a more enthusiastic writer or an older student, it would be a simple thing to make up a few pages for the stories to continue, as newspapers frequently say, "Story continued on B-13" in real life. There is no included printable for that, but finding lined paper, or even printable lines if you're using fancy paper, shouldn't be a difficulty at all.

A Homeschool Review Crew review of the Ancient Greece Project Passport World History study offered by Homeschool in the Woods.

One thing I would love to have seen more of is links to museums for samples of scripts and art, though they do include some line drawings of various artifacts and clothing. However, the text includes some great vocabulary that could easily become key-words for searching online collections that so many museums have generously put out there. Additionally, I wish there was more literature or Librivox (or other audiobook) recommendations that line up with the "stops" on our trip. There are a book titles mentioned in the "Additional Resources" section, but a "this story fits here" where those resources belong in the timeline would be really useful. (I think there is some of that, in later stops, but because we spent the bulk of February fighting influenza, we haven't gotten as far in the project as I had hoped, and if it's there, I haven't found it in the later materials that I've looked through so far.) We love stories: literature is so much more memorable than the textbook-style text that's included; it's personalities that stick, not places and dates, and so literature tends to impact the student far more strongly than texbooks, and it would be nice to have more recommendations. On the other hand, I feel like the activities helped build some framework for where the stories belong, both in terms of on the maps, and also in the discussion of their government, housing, and clothing, and quite a few others, which all have a place in the many included activities. There's even some recipes to try. Our regular studies include quite a bit of Greek myths and epic tales of all sorts are a favorite that my kids go back to repeatedly whether I assign them or not. The activities at the stops are adding a whole lot of depth and context to what they learn in the stories as they are exposed to them. 

With 25 stops, this Project Passport is really packed, and to really do it justice, it needs to be planned a couple times a week over a longer of time, probably several months. I don't want to rush things. We learned quite a bit during the review period, and had a lovely time doing it. My kids are excited when they see Greece on the schedule, and we are all -including me- learning a whole bunch of new things.

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study

This is one of several different Project Passport kits that Homeschool in the Woods offers, and the Review Crew members were fortunate to be able to try all of them, so if  you want to know what other families thought of Ancient Greece, or any of the other Projcet Passport kits, click on the banner below to read about it.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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15 February 2017

Voluntary Reading

One of my favorite homeschooling milestones so far is that point where they finally get good enough at reading that they discover that reading is delightful, and you start to see voluntary reading. Dragon is there. And it's just so much fun to see him read -- and read to his little sister -- and enjoy it so much.

12 February 2017

Tasty Snack?

Dragon: I need something for my stomach.

Mom: Shall we give it a boot?

D: {giggles} No!

M: A worm? A tasty fish head?

D: No! We don't even have one of those! And if we did, it would taste nasty!!

M: Well, you don't like any of my suggestions, but you're not making any of your own...

D: How about some peaches?

M: Sure. Go get 'em.

I do enjoy giving that boy a bit of a hard time.

11 February 2017

Made in His Image

A discussion of man as being made in God's image, or image bearers of God, examining Mormon doctrine and its Biblical support.

This post is part of a series; check back soon for more on the Plan of Salvation in the Bible.

The Plan of Salvation
Premortal Life
Veil of Forgetfulness
Made in His Image (this post)
The Fall of Adam
Earth Life
The Spirit World
Kingdoms of Glory

In the beginning, God created everything. He made the earth, the plants, fish and the animals and the birds. When they all were completed, He saw that it was good. All these things, and then the final touch, which He said made it very good:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 
-Genesis 1:27

This idea that we are created in God's image is emphasized, twice here in verse 27, and once in verse 26. In fact, it's the same language in verse 26 as is used in talking about how Seth resembles his father, Adam:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...
-Genesis 1:26

And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image...
-Genesis 5:3

It's no wonder that the same sort of language was used: the Bible teaches us very clearly that we are the children of God.

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs...
-Romans 8:16-17

In the Church we talk about this a lot, being made in the image of God, especially in the context of our teaching that God has a body, that He looks like us and we look like him, the way that a child looks like his mortal parents. The Bible talks about prophets talking with Him face to face, Moses and the 70 elders of Israel saw Him and mention of His feet, and we know He used His finger to write the Ten Commandments. So the Bible teaches explicitly about how God the Father and Christ are two separate, physical Beings, and we believe what the Bible teaches.

In the very first chapter of Genesis, Moses clearly explains the form and nature of God in this simple statement:
"God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27).
 Any man of faith can understand this unambiguous statement. Moses was not speculating when he thus put God and men in the same mold. He spoke from a personal knowledge. By the power of the Almighty he had been "caught up into an exceedingly high mountain." There "he saw God face to face, and he talked with him.
"And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty...
"And, behold, thou art my son...
"And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior"(Moses 1:1-4,6).
This clear and certain knowledge of God the Eternal Father and his Only Begotten Son and man's likeness and relationship to them was given to Moses at the time he led Israel from Egypt.
-Marion G. Romney, The Key to Peace, April 1970

But in the process of reading about how to homeschool better, I've read a number of Protestant's blogs recently, and they turn it around, and instead of talking about how we are "made in His image", they often talk about how we are "image-bearers". I like this way of thinking about it as well, and what this says about our souls, our character, our potential. We talk about it this way in the Church, too, Brother Uchtdorf, for instance, was speaking to this aspect when he talked about our potential for creativity:

For whatever reason, though, this concept of being image-bearers of the Divine character, has really struck me through reading these blogs and talking to the homeschoolers on my favorite message boards, not just in a single capacity, such as creativity that Brother Uchtdorf talked about in his talk, but in a whole host of virtues and characteristics that we carry embryonicly: we are designed to be wonderful. The presence of God's children is what elevated creation to become very good. Goodness is, in a sense, in our DNA. Although we live in a fallen world, and none of us lives up to this potential, still, we are commanded to "grow up" to be like our Father: we bear the image of our Father's character as well as the image of His form, and thanks to the Grace offered by our Savior, we can hope to obey that command.

How glorious it is to have the revealed word of God, to know that we have a child-parent relationship with Him. ... The central message of all revelation is that God is our Father. We therefore are inherently good. ...
I am fully aware that in the world there are individuals who basic motivation seems to be contrary and disruptive and evil. I know this exists, but it is against their nature. 
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, 88-89

Scripture chain: Made in His image
Genesis 1:27
Genesis 5:3
Genesis 32:30
Exodus 24:10
Exodus 31:18
Hebrews 1:3
Moses 1:1-4, 6
Matthew 5:48
Romans 8:16

Click the button to see the index of my Bible Study posts, including this Plan of Salvation series, or come join the conversation over on Facebook; we'd love to have you.

We're studying the Bible; We'd love you to come join us.

09 February 2017

Psalm 14: Peace in Trial

A study of Psalm 14, and its message of peace and hope, with supporting examples from the Book of Mormon.

My husband and I have observed that, the past while, maybe a year, maybe two, it seems like everybody is having a really hard time, all at once. Normally, when I look around at my friends, at any given time there a several going through something that is really hard. But lately, I feel like there is more hurt. More people crying out in pain, more people suffering stoically, more people limping along under great burdens, doing the best they can. I don't know why it is that suddenly everyone is hurting all at the same time. Maybe we just finally started seeing properly, though our friends we have discussed this with have noticed the same trend. I've seen some really beautiful examples as people try to lift each other, even when they are, themselves, hurting badly.

Some pain is simply a part of life: illness, injury, disability, death. Many times these things are just part of the mortal condition that is meant to test and try us. But sometimes, the pain comes from the actions of others' poor choices. Sometimes it's the result of ignorance or accident; sometimes it's callousness or cruelty.

This Psalm speaks that kind of pain.

Do all these evildoers know nothing? 
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on the Lord.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrated the plans of the poor;
but the Lord is their refuge.
O, that salvation would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores his people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! 
-Psalm 14:4-7, NIV (see also KJV)

Pain, poverty, trial, loss, heartache... these things are part of the human condition. It was meant to be so. Experiencing these things builds in us the capacity to appreciate, to experience fully, their opposites: health, comfort, peace, togetherness, and joy. Taken in isolation, things look grim, but, as Lehi tells us, "all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things" -- including permitting the more unpleasant experiences that life offers. The Lord intends us to be happy, in spite of the trials.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, 
thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 
Then shall you call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, 
and I will hearken unto you. 
And ye shall seek me, and find me,
when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: 
and I will turn away your captivity,
and I will gather you from all the nations,
and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord;
and I will bring you again into the place
whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

-Jeremiah 29:11-14

It's not the experiences that make a believer or an unbeliever; trials are common to us all: it is our choices, especially if we choose to learn to know our Savior that determines the outcome of our trials. Nephi left the same comforts of home that Laman and Lemuel did, and they all traveled through the same wilderness.The big difference between them was that Nephi knew the Lord, he took his questions to God, and as a result, he understood at least some of the reasons for the hardships. In short, he knew and trusted Christ.  He knew what the Psalmist knew, what the scriptures teach us to know: the Lord was his refuge, and He wants to be ours, too.

Christ bore the burden of our infirmities so that he would know how to succor us; He gives us the opportunity to develop the same compassion through the experience of our own pain, so that we can follow His example and learn to go about doing good.

Thanks to Him, wounded souls may be healed and broken hearts may be mended. There is no burden that He cannot ease or remove. He knows about our infirmities and sicknesses. I promise and testify to you that when all doors seem to be closed, when everything else seems to fail, He will not fail you. Christ will help and is the way out, whether the struggle is with an addiction, depression, or something else. He knows how to succor his people.
Marriages and families that are struggling for whatever reason—economic challenges, bad media influences, or family dynamics—will feel a calming influence from heaven. It is comforting to “feel and see” that He rose from the dead “with healing in his wings”...
-Walter F. Gonzales, Learning With Our Hearts

Psalm 14 gives us the recipe: we call upon the Lord, we make Him our refuge, and then He is present for us. Then He provides for us, strengthens us, and our afflictions are swallowed up in the joy of Christ.

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07 February 2017

Times Alive {Crew Review}

The timing was perfect when we were asked to review Times Tables the Fun Way. I was excited to have a tool to help my son learn his multiplication facts, and Hero(10) was interested, too, though he doesn't usually get excited about learning math facts. Times Alive is online lessons with animated songs and stories to learn times tables the fun way; it's  mnemonics for multiplication facts. Hero had the concept of multiplication down, and was ready to work on memorization of all his facts before we do our speed drills and move into multiple digit work: perfect. 

A review of the Times Alive online lessons for learning multiplication facts in a fun way.

What it is: mnemonics to help remember the multiplication tables through the nines.
What it is not: lessons in multiplication. 

This is an OK supplement. It's been a nice way for Hero to remember things, now that he's built an understanding of multiplication concepts in our regular math lessons, and he likes it, which is important. Learning the multiplication facts is an important hurdle to get over, and this program has done a nice job of making that work much more pleasant for him to get through.

Here's a screenshot of the dashboard. The program marks when you've completed a lesson; you can see here that he'd done the first one and part of a second - those are the yellow circles on the top left - when I took this screenshot. It's really easy to glance at the screen while Hero is working and see how far he has gotten as he progresses through the lessons.

A review of the Times Alive online lessons for learning multiplication facts in a fun way.

There are eighteen lessons, and while some cover a single fact, others cover a group of math facts: the zeros, ones, the twos, the fives, and the nines are all taught as a group. This works well for the zeros and ones, but I feel like it's increasingly problematic for the larger numbers: it's just not that effective. The twos "mnemonic" is just skip counting. For the 5s they offer skip counting and a correlation to the clock. And with the nines it's the trick where the digits add up to 9. Each remaining problem has a little mnemonic and a song to help remember it. You can see a sample from their promotional materials:

Hero started out by taking the pretest. He'd been introduced to multiplication and understood how it works, but we haven't done any serious work on multiplication facts prior to using Times Alive, and that was apparent from the pretest; I told him that I didn't expect him to know it all or to be at all fast, because we haven't worked on this yet. But it was still stressful. Then he started just going through and listening to all of the movies and songs. This took a couple sittings; I let him work through it at his own pace. I felt like the speed of the presentations was overly slow, but he never complained about it, so it must not have bothered him. I can, however, see how the slower pacing would be really advantageous if you had a student that needed that. And customizing the number of repetitions of the various songs and clips is as simple as just clicking on the lesson again.

A review of the Times Alive online lessons for learning multiplication facts in a fun way.

A few of the songs are catchy enough that, after working on his multiplication, my son continues singing, "six times four is twenty-four..." for quite a while. And it's appealing enough that my six year old wants in too, though I didn't let him, since he hasn't got the conceptual framework for multiplication, yet, and this program will not give him one.

A review of the Times Alive online lessons for learning multiplication facts in a fun way.

There's a Student Report for parents and teacher to look at, to see how their student is progressing, which is find and easy to read. It shows the pretest results, and then the results of each little quizzes they have at intervals through the program. After doing the videos he shows marked improvement in both speed and accuracy.

Unfortunately, there are some serious drawbacks to the program. On the Student Report, I don't seem to be able to see what problems he missed on any of the quizzes, which means that I can't ask him to review the specific trouble problems without giving him an additional test outside of the program. I feel like being able to identify and target facts that are giving him trouble is an important function for this type of program, and it's frustrating that it's not there. Also, when it's time to do the practice problems, it's sometimes possible to just hit enter and skip through the problems without doing them, and that could cause problems if your student is inclined to do that sort of thing. I am also disappointed that several of the problems rely on skip counting, rather than having a real mnemonic: I don't want him to continue to have to rely on skip counting; I want him to actually remember the individual problems. He could already skip count prior to starting the program, so there's basically no boost for those sets of facts.

Still, even with these drawbacks, and having been under the weather for much of the month-long review period, Hero enjoyed working on this program (even when he didn't feel good), and his multiplication facts improved dramatically in spite of having several days off school. Using it has been both enjoyable and good for him.

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