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Just how are we supposed to answer such big questions from children when they are big questions with no visible, concrete answers even for us? That is especially difficult when you know a lot rides on that answer. One such question is about the existence of God? How do we know God is Really There? is a book by Melissa Cain Travis and illustrated by Christopher Voss and published by Apologia that might get you started with your little ones and maybe, even firm the debate dialogue in your own mind.

Father and son reading the book which is the cover pic of this book.The story is a simple plot that plays out in many bedrooms, kitchens, backyards, and yes, treehouses over and over. A mother and child or a father and child playing and learning together when a child suddenly asks that question that makes our mind jerk to a halt and releases the feelings of inadequacy and even a little fear as the questions of our own spill into our mind. What? How did we get here now? How can I possibly explain this to him when I can’t always put words to this myself? How do I tell her that I just know God exists because I see Him everywhere when He is invisible? Using wonderful illustrations that look drawn by a child and almost real enough to touch the crayon wax and words that fill your mind with awe and lead you through a rational discovery through the known ideas of science to the abstract thinking in a step by step path to the only conclusion that makes sense of a person who chose to create the world and has the power to do it. You end with a pretty powerful answer to that all-important question: How Do We Know God is Really There?

Father and son looking through a telescope at Saturn as they explore God's creation to discover Him as Creator.

The  book’s scientific content does seem a bit weighty for very young children, but it can be a good read-to-me book for five to eight year olds and a good read together book for up to about ten or eleven with some children. The concept though can be used in conversations beyond that age level. Many young children and some special needs children may not get all the deep content the first time, but they will get the gist that can be grown through repeated readings as they grow older. The analogy to to rewinding a video is a humorous way of toning down that weighty science material. if it isn’t enough, the idea might lead you to something even better that your child will understand, so don’t fear giving this book a chance.

Father and son discussing how they can know God is really there by exploring creation to know there is a Creator, God.

You can find this book on Apologia’s web site to get more information or to order. The price is $16.00 for a durable, glossy, full-color hardback copy. That is affordable, but is it worth it? Three parents that I asked to read the book felt it was a great way to handle this tough question. Two students I read it to, including one in ASL, got really big-eyed and curious and really loved the pictures. The book got even the four year old who happened to be listening, too, talking about how “God is so big and can do anything.” That delight was enough for me to make it a part of our library permanently.

I received a copy of the above product to facilitate the writing of a frank and honest review. A positive review is not guaranteed. All opinions are my own. Your results and opinions may vary.

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The Ultimate Planner System with the Student and Teen's planner on top and the Parent's Ultimate Planner on the bottom.

The Ultimate Planner System integrating the teacher’s Ultimate, The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students, and The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens taming the chaos.

The Ultimate Planner System with the Student and Teen's planner on top and the Parent's Ultimate Planner on the bottom.

Planners? You may be wondering why I am reviewing planners when I can’t see to use them. Well, I love planners. I have to use computer planners now, but I used to love my Day Timer when I could see. My life was so full that if I lost my Day Timer I would have a heart attack. I came close once, and that was a lesson enough to always keep it handy. When I taught school, I had a lesson plan notebook. It did its job, but without flair and whimsy. I always searched for something that I felt showed my personality and gave me features that I wanted to use. I was never successful. Lesson plan books were so boring back then. Times change. Good things come to those who wait. As a homeschool teacher, I needed a Day Timer and lesson plan book combined and more. How do you put it all together to keep you together and your students on track. Apologia has some nice planners for homeschool students and teachers. I recently got to hold all three of their planners: The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens, The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students, and The Ultimate Homeschool Planner. All three are designed by Debra Bell, author of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling with many features allowing flexibility for your needs.

The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students is bright and colorful with blank monthly grids and undated weekly assignment pages to allow the planner to fit anyone’s school calendar. There are Scripture verses and trivia questions alternating across the tops of the calendar and assignment pages teaching lessons of life disguised as fun facts and musings. There are a few pages at the beginning that let the students fill out their favorite verses, music, best friends, colors, desires, and dreams to record a little snap shot of who they are in this one year. There is also a little guide to how to study to get the student started on a life-long process of organizing and learning to help them also love to learn. There are history timelines, a clear ruler, scientific method flow chart, geography features, math facts and more to help them have useful information handy. The student can keep up with their grades, reading list, physical exercise  plans, and activities all in one place to keep them on track. I love the little calendar stickers to highlight certain events in a fun way. These are all kept in a spiral-bound, durable book built to stand up to life’s happenings in a young student’s life.

The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens is very similar, but dressed for the more mature. Knowing that college and career preparation is becoming more intense the Scripture and facts at the top of the pages are replaced with vocabulary words for SAT and other testing preparation. More space is allotted for more classes and a credit track guide is added to help the student get what is needed on that journey. There are also calendar pages for a few years into the future because teens have to look further ahead than when they were younger. There are still stickers because no one truly outgrows those. Though the cover is a little more mature, it is just as durable because this planner will probably go further than just the bedroom desk and floor.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is for the orchestra leader of all that is magical and necessary in the homeschooling lives of your family. It, too, is bright, cheerful, and durable for all the chaos in and out of the home where learning takes place including the kitchen with its soup and the dirty, wet bleachers of the soccer field. With similar features like Scripture and quotes from famous people, monthly and weekly grids, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner fits in nicely with the student and teen planners, but it goes further than that. The thing I love the most is that the three planners are actually part of a system helping you to orchestrate your homeschool and life activities coordinating with your students to keep everyone on the same page, but also learning organization skills and planning strategies for school and life now and into the future. With a user guide explaining the system and how to do yearly, monthly, and weekly planning for yourself and with your students (up to six students easily), and Monday Morning Tutorials (to help your students work in their planners) and Friday Afternoon Reviews to discuss the week and providing accountability, encouragement, and support, the planner system takes you easily through a year better able to handle the chaos that can come.You can set goals for each student, set up pre-planning guides to prioritize family needs and activities, set up resource lists needed for each student letting you know what to gather before it is needed. Another favorite feature of mine is The Lord’s Day which is the beginning of your weekly plan. You begin in a quiet place recounting God’s faithfulness during the prior week and committing to make God’s Word the key of your plan for peace. As you find areas that you are vulnerable in, you can create a battle plan to strengthen your resolve along with fighter verses you can write to refer to during the week to help you stay on track. There is even a list of these verses available free on DesiringGod.org. This along with your Friday Reviews with each student gets you started and ended in a better place each week and ready to tackle the next week. This really is one of the best designed programs I have seen and the first that truly makes the teacher and student planners coordinate and integrate for learning organizational skills and provide growth from year to year. Add the teaching tips and the year-end review helper, and you have a system that carries you forward.

As a former public school teacher, I could have used many of these features even for a classroom of forty students to keep my head in the game, and my spirit where it needed to be for my students despite these planners being focused for homeschoolers. As a homeschool teacher, I know that it fits the homeschool lifestyle to a tee with structure and flexibility to suit most families’ needs.

The prices also fit the need, too, as The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is $28.00 and The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students is $19.00, and The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens is also $19.00. These are affordable prices for taming the chaos and imparting skills for growth. My only wish is I had these kind of features in a digital, non-visual based planner that I could use. Well, we can’t have everything we want, but it is nice to know that some things are taming the homeschool chaos.

Check them out on Apologia’s website.

I received a copy of the above product to facilitate the writing of a frank and honest review. A positive review is not guaranteed. All opinions are my own. Your results and opinions may vary.

A love of reading is the second best gift you can give your child. The first best gift a child can receive is the love and salvation of Christ, of course. A love of reading can open a child to God first and life. I was recently sent a print book called Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families by Sarah Clarkson to review which highlights the importance of loving to read and how to pass it along.

Ms. Clarkson’s love for reading is obvious and contagious as she lovingly describes her childhood with books. Ms. Clarkson initially shares some of those memories with us showing us how much a childhood of sharing books with your child can impact their lives and future so positively. Then in detail, she shares how the reader can begin that journey as well by giving examples from her parents’ teaching of her and her siblings. The sharing the love of reading comes alive through her examples and it is easy to catch the excitement and passion to pass it along.

In the last section of the book, Sarah Clarkson describes the various genres of literature from a children’s book perspective. She lists and describes excellent examples by author of each genre suggesting proper age groups. When she felt it appropriate, she also listed cautions of which the reader needs to be aware. The lists are not exhaustive, of course, but they are a good starting point for helping you pass along the love of reading.

Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families by Sarah Clarkson is an excellent reference book for your homeschool library. It can be purchased for $17.00. Let it ignite a passion for reading in you and then pass it along to your children.

To find out more and find out about this and other books available from Apologia’s Whole Heart division, go to www.wholeheart.org.

Though I was provided samples of the product to do this review, I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

If you are looking for a one stop, all around help for homeschooling, you can most likely find what you need with Debra Bell’s The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling published by Apologia Press. This update and revised version is probably one of the best homeschool resources available. Debra Bell’s warm and witty style of writing makes it one of the most enjoyable reads available.

If you are looking for help deciding if homeschooling is for you, you have it here. If you are looking for helping finding the right curriculum, you have it here. Debra Bell is an experienced homeschooler and former schoolteacher. She has numerous tips and stories to guide you on your homeschooling journey. With over 500 pages divided into 10 parts and 34 chapters and resource sections, the book is well-organized covering other topics like organizing and planning your homeschool, using computers and choosing computers, homeschooling teens, and evaluating your homeschool and student’s progress. What really makes this book so good in addition to the useful information is the fact that Debra Bell makes it all entertaining. Her humor and her glimpses into her own homeschooling experiences keeps you interested as you learn and gain confidence from her tips and tales.

You can find The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell for $20.00 and find even more tips at http://www.apologia.com.

I received a free copy of this product in order to write this review, but the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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