Monday, February 29, 2016

FAITH BUILDERS BIBLE from Zonderkidz: a Review

Faith Builders Bible: For Kids Ages 6-10, From Zonderkidz
A Review For You!

     Doesn't this book just look cool?  I was stoked that I was chosen to review the Faith Builders Bible from Zonderkidz.
    Since my 6 boys are HUGE FANS of lego, I thought this would grab their attention and be a fun way to incorporate bible time/learning.  Who wouldn't love a bible that incorporates Lego building?!

Let Me Introduce It =)

    Faith Builders Bible is an NIrV (New International Readers Version).  It's  8 1/2 inches tall by 5 1/2 wide.  It's not too big for little hands, which is nice (but the font is really small.)
     The table of contents page is presented in a fun and different way with building blocks which is visually perfect for little eyes and minds trying to grasp different parts/books of the bible.

     There are also a few pictures right at the beginning to build with your own blocks with matching bible verses.

There are 21 building pages spread throughout the entire Bible.  They are very colorful pages that depict a Biblical scenes recreated with blocks. Each scene includes a building block verse and a short synopsis of the bible story, such as: Samson's Demolition, David defeats Goliath, and the Fruit of the Spirit.

The dictionary in the back is a great resource to help young readers with vocabulary and there is a "quick list" of great bible stories in the back that you can reference to.

How We Used It:

     I would call upon any of my kids that wanted to listen and build (some just wanted to listen).  At first I chose the stories the correlated to a building project but quickly realized we were going to run out fast so I tried to do every other.  
     When doing a story that had no building prompt, I was hoping they would build something inspired by the story.  If they already knew the story that was easy but most the time they just built whatever.

     They "easy readers" version was nice and made for a good flowing story.  The wording was easy to articulate for me and easy on listening ears and inquisitive minds.  It was also not to hard for a young reader to read when they wanted to take a turn at it.  

     When our reading correlated with a building project, it was fun to read and memorize the "building block verse"  and to read the story synopsis before reading the story from the bible. 
      Also, my boys liked using this bible for other assignments they had for school which included reading, writing, and word finding.

     Building with the legos while listening gave the kids something to do in the absence of having pictures to look at and they enjoyed it.  
     I liked seeing them pull bible stories from the pages and bring them to life in front of them with the lego's.  I think I probably liked seeing that more than they enjoyed building it.  They were pretty ambivalent about the projects.

     We enjoyed using the book and often I found my kids sitting with it and reading it and/or using it for others school work.  As soon as they had built everything though, their interest in it for building ideas stopped.

     *Note:  to make reading and building easier.  I let my kids take a picture of the building project with their tablet so they could look at it while I read the story.  If not, there was no way to actually do the reading and the building at the same time.

What We Thought About It:

     Our first impressions of the FaithBuilders Bible was "this is awesome" and then it kind of fell from there with the end thought being "this was alright".   
     Initially my boys were all super excited and spent some time looking it over, reading it and building some things. 

 When they exhausted the building, they were not as captivated by it.  I still saw them picking it up and my 10 year old boy likes reading it to his younger brothers.  However, the younger readers all gravitate more toward the bibles with some pictures and the older kids/better readers gravitate toward the study bibles we have.

     All of them wished that there were more building prompts and some of the projects would have been better with directions.  They enjoyed the bible story's that had building prompts but there were so few of them in relation to the bible as a whole.  I realize that it would be somewhat un-realistic to have a building prompt for every story but a few more would have been nice.... or even several pages at the end with building ideas with references to story's with page numbers.
     The projects were "OK".  They thought the building projects were fun enough but there was nothing really in there that they were super excited to build.  They all built things with a happy heart and even my 12 and 14 year old sons got into the building!  However, their approach was more like "nothing to do on a rainy day" and not "Boy oh boy!!  Can we go build?!". 

     There are no "building kits" that come with it.  Not a huge issue if you have a lot of legos and creative kids but some kids could become frustrated to not have what they need.  My boy's did a lot of improvising and were not phased by the differences between their creations and the pictures.

 The overall size of this Bible is great.  It is not nearly as thick as some out there which is nice for young kids, however the size of the font is really small. I would have preferred a larger bible with bigger font.   I do like the "easy reading" in this version though.

Building Prompt page: showing the
story synopsis and building block verse
     There are no study sections or explanations on the pages like study Bibles.  Plus there are no additional pictures.  
     My kids all like it when there are study guides, hints, pop outs and a few pictures.  I think the easy reading was great but larger print and a few more "things" would have really added to the Bible.

     Another thing, the building prompts did not correlate to the location of the story it went with in the Bible.  It was confusing for some of the kids as the pictures would inspire a desire to read more but the pages it was near had nothing to do with the picture.  It frustrated them and they gave up.
     The short story synopsis' were great though and the Building Block Verse were fun and often used for other schoolwork.

Do I Recommend It And To Whom?

     Despite some of the things that I would prefer to have different, I still liked it and would recommend it to others.  A strong reader through about 12,  who is into Lego/building blocks would like this Bible, especially if they do not like lot's of extra's and just want a "clean" look and feel to their bible.  In fact, if you told me you had a child he was very into "right/wrong... black/white.... no extra fluff, who also likes Lego" then I would HIGHLY recommend this bible for them

Overall Opinion...

     I'd rather use a different children's bible/study bible for my own kids.  We did enjoy the building prompts, but again, there weren't very many.  And while the easy readers version was nice, I think there are other bibles on the market that read just as nice... but with pictures too.

    That concludes my review of  the Faith Builders Bible from Zonderkidz..  I hope you enjoyed my honest review and hope you go on over, check it out and see if it will work for you!

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dyslexia Therapy with NON-dyslexic kids? YES INDEED! Part 3: 5th grade

PART 3 in "Dyslexia Therapy with NON-dyslexic kids".  And, YES, you have read the title correctly!  This mini-series is all about using dyslexia therapy with kids who DO NOT have dyslexia!      In this post we will continue with A10's story...

     A became a 5th grader.  Nothing has changed.  He still can barely muddle through a "Flat Stanley", he keeps finishing all of Reading Eggs and then retaking the test and scoring into the program still (although it's better each time).  He still can not read well enough to do Reading EggsSpress (which is the next level of reading eggs and works differently). Writing is still a joke and he has no spelling or grammar consistency.   He is a year ahead in math.

     Early in the school year (I think it was the end of September or beginning of October) I was helping a friend with a purchase order for her umbrella school and was introduced to Do It Yourself Homeschool Journals by the Thinking Tree/Dyslexia Games.  These journals are AH-MAZE-ING.  You can read about why we love them so much here! I didn't really know much of anything about them or the company but thought they looked like great fun and a wonderful way to encourage my kids to explore learning.  (They are all that and SO MUCH MORE)

     So, I made my purchase and subscribed to her FB page.  I wanted to watch for sales on new products and her company primarily falls under "Dyslexia Games".  Well, I started getting things in my news feed about dyslexia and eventually I started paying more attention.  I became very curious about the dyslexia series and wondered if perhaps it might be good for A even though it was clear that he didn't have dyslexia.  My mind was made up when, one day, I saw THIS picture!
The image that changed the way I saw A and helped me understand what was
going on in his head!
     These are all the "markers" for dyslexia.  These are things the "Left Brain" should do.  I started reading them.  While A does not have all of them he has a few and all of a sudden, THINGS BEGAN TO MAKE SENSE!!!  A has, what I now call, Left Brain Gaps.  AND here is what they are:
  • READING: losing place in text, moving and overlapping text, and needing to re-read.
  • SPELLING:  can't remember what words looks like, difficulty "hearing sounds", and similar sounds cause confusion.
  • WRITING: difficulty getting ideas on paper, organizational problems, can't find the right word.
     Everything else he doesn't have a problem with, but THOSE THREE THINGS ARE MAJOR!!!!  My boy's brain finally made sense to me.  He has gaps!  Here are examples of things he does:
  1. You can tell him how to spell "rocket", have his trace "rocket", have him look at and copy "rocket".  Then take all helps away and just tell him to write "rocket" and you will get something like "rokut".  There is NO spelling memory!
  2. When he reads, he constantly pauses, back tracks and re-reads.  It's painstaking.  Well, when you have no "spelling memory", one has to constantly re-learn each word!  
  3. Writing.... well, I was happy when he dipped his toes a bit into comics and would write things like "bam", "wush" (woosh) and "halp" (help).  Intricate drawings with very little words.  It would take him a long time to choose a word, and the fact that, as he got older, he knew he didn't have the skills to write what was in his head, he was pretty unmotivated.  Writing was not fun, it was all work.
       Listening to A trying to read was so long, so boring, so tedious, and so..... mind numbing.  I'd sit there and smile and encourage him during our "tutoring session" but inside I was dying!  It took the poor kid 2 minutes to read "Dad, came home in his blue truck".  A would read a word or two, back up, process, add another word, back up, process, say things to himself like "ok, yah, "Dad", "truck, oh yes, ok, truck". Then he would read the whole sentence over, more from auditory memory than actual reading.  Progress..... right.
      Interestingly enough, if you said a word to him, like "Can you find the word dragon", or "pick", or whatever word you said, on the page, he could usually find it.  His "auditory reading" was fine and when he knew what the "word said as a whole" he could find it.  The words are all up in his head!!  Thank you reading eggs!!!  But why are they stuck and how do I get them out???

     I'd like to talk about that for a minute, Reading Eggs that is.   You see it really is an amazing program! A loves using it (as does his younger siblings too).  I love that it is such a fun, systematic way to teach reading, AND I do not have to do it.  With so many other kids in the home, it is nice that I can delegate this one to an online program.

     So, A has been working through reading eggs.   It's helping.  He's passing levels.  The words are in his head.  But he can not do the next level, which is, reading eggspress, because he can't actually read consistently.  I know this sounds weird.  I really do not know how to explain it.  So, I just kept resetting reading eggs, having him re-take the placement test, he would always score a little higher that the last time, and he would continue with doing reading eggs lessons.  (NOTE:  my other kids who are younger than him doing reading eggs have not had the same outcome.  The words get in, the words are remembered.  The program works!)
     I decided not to stress it.  The words are getting in there.  The program is fun and creative.  I AM SEEING PROGRESS but it's slow.  I figured, we will keep moving along and eventually, everything will just click!

Language Lessons - Charlotte Mason Style Language Arts    I will say, that at the beginning of his 5th grade year, we did start to see some real forward progress.  Between September and October he progressed to being able to read a "flat Stanley" by himself and quickly ditched those for Magic Tree House books.   He could read very short instructions as long as they had "common" words.  Nothing too long or fancy.  More or less though, he skipped over any word he thought was "hard" and I am not really sure that he was "getting" most of what he was reading.  Afterall, it's hard to like a story when you are missing half of it through lack of reading the words.  But I was happy at the progress I saw.
  He was also able to do, with relative ease, the Queens 3rd grade book.  This was pretty huge.   Queens is gentle and lovely.  We love Queens!  I would read the directions and A did the work; we modified some stuff.  He still had trouble with long lengths of text.  But, he could do it and within a reasonable amount of time.

     This brings us back to The Thinking Tree and Dyslexia Games.  I felt like I was starting to unravel a mystery with A and that picture I saw was the beginning.  I had already considered possibly doing the dyslexia series with him, not because he has dyslexia but because, well, I was willing to do anything I thought might help him.  It still kind of sounded a bit crazy to me though.  
     We did purchase the do it yourself homeschool journals.  I immediately, like, IMMEDIATELY saw changes in A.  The homeschool journals are written and designed with "right brained kids" in mind, while still working just fine with "left brainers".  A definitely falls more on the "right brain" side.  A also has these "left brain gaps".  The journals say "draw or write".  Now the pressure was off for A.  He could read things and draw his comprehension- BRILLIANT!!!
     We got him a reading journal.  For whatever reason, having a book to record his readings was a huge motivator for him.  It's weird because I would print out similar type pages for a folder but none of my kids really liked that, BUT A READING JOURNAL... Hello the reading exploded in my house!  I think it's no coincidence that the getting of the homeschool journals and the acceleration in A's reading coincided together. We saw this in other areas too!  He started to whiz through his LA book with little help needed.  He was consuming Magic Tree house books.  He was interested in finding words, writing, and making birthday cards that actually said something!
      A told me (not to long ago) that his homeschool journal helped him read.  He said things were easy to read and understand in there, that he liked finding words for the spelling pages, he wanted (did you read that?  wanted...) to write more because he wanted the names of the books he was reading by the pictures.  A liked reading things he picked out and watching documentaries on things he was interested in and recording his work.  A was inspired!
A working in his homeschool journal.  I tell you what, he went from a kid
who tolerated school to a child who LOVED LEARNING!  Thank You
Thinking Tree!  Your journals made the difference!
     Sprinkled throughout the journals are "brain games" and "dyslexia fonts/helps".  Was this part of what was helping?  I had no idea!  BUT what I saw was a very educationally excited 10 year old boy!  I decided then and there to stop with my normal K-4thish curric and pare down.  Thinking Tree Books or bust baby!!!! (In all fairness- he did finish his Queens 3rd grade book.  He was truly moving at an accelerated speed and finished the book in November.  I did not get the Dyslexia Games books until December- so it worked out).
     I ordered fun-schooling spelling journals for A on down (roughly K-5th), and they added that to their homeschool journals and reading journals (A only on that one), and they all do reading eggs and math.  And then, well, then, I decided to look very closely at the dyslexia games series.  If the little bits in the journals were helping A, then the whole program should really help!  A obviously was right brained and the whole thing with dyslexia games is brain training in fun ways!  So, I ordered the whole series.... all three levels!

Stay tuned for part 4!
LINKS for this series:
Part 1,
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Monday, February 1, 2016

Dyslexia Therapy with NON-dyslexic kids? YES INDEED! Part 2: starting to see some light

PART 2 in "Dyslexia Therapy with NON-dyslexic kids".  And, YES, you have read the title correctly!  This mini-series is all about using dyslexia therapy with kids who DO NOT have dyslexia!      In this post we will continue with A10's story...

A has always liked art
Part 2: Starting to see some light

     I hope you all don't think I am a horrible mother for speaking about how difficult things were with A.  The truth is, while he has many millions of wonderful qualities, the horrendous-ness was so overwhelming, for so many years, that it did overtake life.  Have you ever been there with one of your kids?  Ever felt like no matter what you do that it was never enough?  Like, you just could not get through?  That.  THAT!  That was life with A for 8 YEARS!!!!  Okay... I will call it 7 years, the first year wasn't that bad ;)

Now, take a deep breath...
     Something magical started to happen when A turned 8.  I think it was a combination of things:

  1. He was getting older.
  2. We finally found a consequence/discipline he did not like.
  3. We stopped negotiating with terrorist. Yah... haha.  No, seriously.  We drew a very firm line and A had to toe it.
  4. Some more changes in school were made.
     I know you are probably wondering why I am talking more about his behavioral issues than school stuff?  Simply because, you CAN NOT DO SCHOOL with a KID WHO IS INSANE DISOBEDIENT!  Heart issue must be dealt with in order to accomplish anything else.  Some heart issues are smaller and you work on them on a continuum  and some you need to just hit head on and life does not progress until they are fixed.  A had some of both.  As long as A was with Mom or Dad he was fine.  It was when he was out of eyesight/earshot/arms reach that things happened.

     When he turned 8, though, things really did start to get better.  He exhibited more self control, consideration for others and a general dislike for picking up sticks ;)  We saw that he was yeilding and this was good.
A is happy about his Teaching Textbooks scores
     It was also at this time that he started "Teaching Textbooks" for math.  It's what I used with all my kids at that point- so no "amazing" reason here.  He liked it.  He didn't have to read anything and that made math easy.  He also didn't have to write anything because it was on the computer.  And when he did have to figure a problem on paper, no big deal, it was just numbers.  JUST NUMBERS.  He had no problem "reading" numbers, just words.... hmmm.....
     It was also at this time that he started using a program called Reading Eggs.  He loved it!  I won't go into detail because I have a post about it.  In short though, it's an online reading program that does an assessment of your childs reading level and then plugs them into the system where they are at.  It then systematically, and in a super fun way, continues to teach your child to read.  A likes games and we do not do computer/video games so for him this was a huge treat!
     So, A's school consisted of reading eggs, handwriting and spelling by tracing (I made a folder for him with dry erase pages).  And science and history as a one room schoolhouse. I kept trying our Queens LA, but it was just not working, so I set it aside.  Things were going pretty good, I thought...

     Well, that was 3rd grade, and 4th grade.  He finished reading eggs and the report said he was reading at a 3rd grade level.  But he couldn't really read. I will admit.... I really felt like a lot of this was my fault.  Life was quite jumbled for some time, We had a lot to adjust to.  Between big kids and babies, "elementary school" was my go-to to shluff on.  I knew that reading was not coming easy to him like his older sibling but maybe it's because I am not spending enough time helping him..... maybe....

     Now commence me tutoring my homeschooled kid!...

A and I at the library
     A had knee surgery (he severed his ACL- we have no idea how) right as 4th grade started.  He had physical therapy twice a week for about 9 months.  These coincided with my oldest daughters work hours so we had time to kill. We redeemed the 2 hour wait by going to the library and doing school. So I tutored my homeschool kid twice a week.
     We started working, again, in our QUEENS LA.  I think I had him in the kindy or 1st grade book.  Thats the level he was on.  I bought books with things that would interest him but had more pictures with short descriptions.  We stuck with level 1 and 2 readers.  He worked in his handwriting folder.  I really thought that he needed to just read, read, read.  He needed to practice, and get fluent, and all his problems would end.

     So, as you have probably guessed, they didn't end.  They did get a little better.  By the end of A's 4th grade year he could stumble through a "Flat Stanley".  It was not enjoyable but he had a good attitude (most the time).  He was VERY aware by now that he was way behind on reading.  He was motivated to get better with reading but frustrated that it was so much work.  We did see some positive growth, however.  Here are some things that DID start happening shortly before he turned 10:

  • He started to ask how things were spelled,
  • He began wanting to write.
  • He liked making comics.
  • He could read a 1st and most 2nd step readers to his little brothers with no reading help (but fluency was still bad)
     I figured those were all signs that he had just not been ready to read and was getting there.  Maybe his 5th grade year would BE THE YEAR!!!

Stay tuned for part 3!
LINKS for this series:
Part 1,
Part 2
Part 3