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Book Reviews, Homeschooling

Psalm 23: Board Books for Christian Formation

The new school year tumbles in, with torrential rains, soaked earth, and flickering electric power. Online classes begin, with technology connecting us to classrooms in Serbia and Romania, classmates in Ethiopia and the United States, and language studies in Russian, Chinese, and Greek.

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I am a member of the Psalm 23 launch team. The publisher, Harvest House, provided me with a complimentary copy of Psalm 23 in exchange for writing and publishing this review. I was already a fan of the Baby Believer Primers by Catechesis Books before being selected for the launch team. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

My third culture heart is so delighted we have been fortunate enough to build an intentionally global homeschool (after all, we serve a global God!) I love seeing how this plays out in little details, like virtual classrooms which span the globe, a world wall map centered on the Pacific Ocean, not the United States, and middle school math built around the UK framework. (Singapore math is my go-to for elementary grades.)

A Global Worldview Extends to the Very Youngest Members of Your Home

Seeing the world with a wide-angle lens also goes hand-in-hand, I think, with seeing kids as born persons. A global worldview sees all people, regardless of geographic location or age, as equal and equally deserving.

The eager 3-year-old deserves to learn something new each day, just the same as the 6th grader. There is no minimum age for learning, nor is there a maximum age for open-ended play. (The sixth grader can play with LEGO while I read aloud. The preschooler is not an afterthought to lessons, nor is he an interruption. And board books are just as valuable as Shakespeare. Yes, really.)

Lochlan started out the school year with the newest board book from author-illustrator team Danielle Hitchen and Jessica Blanchard, Psalm 23: A Colors Primer.

I love this series of books, and I love the concept behind them:

Baby Believer Primers help you teach your children the central tenets of the Christian faith that they may never know a day apart from the Lord. –catechesisbooks.com (emphasis mine)

Isn’t that beautiful?

Previous books in this series have derived their text entirely from hymns, creeds, and Bible verses, and the Psalm 23 primer is no different. Other than the colors, the text of Psalm 23 is all Scripture, with each colorful two-page spread illustrating a verse from the ESV translation.

Baby Believer Primers from Catechesis Books teach Christ-Centered Truth Alongside Preschool Basics

Since it’s a colors primer — prior Baby Believer books have included shapes, emotions, numbers, movement and more — Psalms 23 walks kids through ten colors:

  • brown
  • green
  • blue
  • grey
  • black
  • orange
  • purple
  • yellow
  • red, and
  • white.

A serene blue scene, for instance, is used to illustrate “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul” while flowing oil and brilliant yellow sunshine brings to life “you anoint my head with oil.” The book ends with a gleaming celestial white, reminding us “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

The illustrations are top-tier. Each page is drenched in deeply pigmented color. Lochlan recently learned his colors, so he was feeling pretty proud of himself as he “read” the book by shouting out the color for each page. He also loved how illustrations switched back and forth between horizontal and vertical spreads, since it required him to turn the book sideways — and this is quite hilarious when you’re three!

A side note: While I have no theological issue with depictions of Christ — I am typing this next to an icon of Christ the Shepherd — some readers may wish to know that this book contains an illustration of a shepherd cradling a lamb.

There are now NINE books in the Baby Believer series!

Baby Believer books have a special place in my heart. Aveline and Lochlan are actual miracles; click through to read my review of Jesus Heals, and the story of God’s miraculous healing hand.

(P.S. Lochlan is wearing a hand-me-down Småfolk shirt, which Aveline originally wore in kindergarten! I saved it out of pure hope. You can click here to see teeny-tiny four-year-old Aveline wearing the same exact shirt back in 2015. Once you click through, scroll down! She’s wearing it in 4 different photos. Oh, time!)

I’ve absolutely loved reading these primers with my dear kids —

I’m thrilled to add Psalm 23 to our regular rotation. It’s launched at a perfect time — the beginning of the school year — and Lochlan is thrilled he gets a new book, too, while sister digs in to her stack of school books.

You can purchase Baby Believer books directly from Catechesis Books, or shop at any major retailer.

My prayer is that Lochlan tucks Psalm 23 away in his heart, never doubts God’s endless love for him, and grows up to always love Jesus.

What is your prayer for your kids this year?

Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Fischertechnik E-Tronic Review: Easy STEM Elective for Middle/High School

STEM education has been firmly in the spotlight for a long time now, with no signs of wavering. Learning materials promising to infuse science, technology, engineering and math into your homeschool are everywhere. But without actually opening the box and trying the products, it can be hard to know if pre-packaged STEM projects are truly worthwhile, or if they’re just really expensive toys masquerading as educational. Let’s take a look at one popular STEM toy and see if it’s worth the hype.

Continue reading “Fischertechnik E-Tronic Review: Easy STEM Elective for Middle/High School”
Book Reviews, Homeschooling

Did the Pandemic Increase Speech Delays? (plus, Board Books for Speech Therapy)

Did the pandemic increase speech delays? Some researchers say yes.

According to several recent studies, pandemic-era children are talking less than their predecessors1. As a parent to a pandemic toddler — Lochlan turned six months old in March 2020 — this concerns me deeply.

I’m not an expert in speech pathology, but some data seems to show both a measurable uptick in referrals to speech therapy2 and “a decline in verbal functioning”.1 One starts to wonder if maybe the kids are not okay3 in our current pandemic-response environment. (Researchers in at least one study indicated “factors related to the pandemic had ‘by far the greatest impact on infant and toddler neurodevelopment.'”1

It’s easy to feel helpless when the the broader global situation remains so complex and convoluted. But there is an immediately actionable response in our grasp: read books aloud, and talk to our kids!

Continue reading “Did the Pandemic Increase Speech Delays? (plus, Board Books for Speech Therapy)”
Poetry & Words, Theology

When I was a girl, the grocery stores started to run out of food.

When I was a girl, the grocery stores started to run out of food.

They didn’t tell you that, because it was a corner of the world you’re not supposed to understand, and they don’t tell you how to become a writer, either. Everyone is supposed to become a reader — they tell you that in school — but it remains a mystery how some readers are able to metamorphose into writers.

After all, the writer concerns himself with not just the reason why civilizations fall, but also the American supermarket, the meaning in dappled bananas on the counter at sunrise, the effervescence of this present moment, and using words incorrectly.

No one teaches you how to be writer, except maybe poets and historians.

Continue reading “When I was a girl, the grocery stores started to run out of food.”
Book Reviews, Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Sonlight Pre-Kindergarten Review: NEW Pre-K at Home with Montessori Updates

Sonlight Pre-Kindergarten Review: NEW Pre-K at Home with Montessori Updates

Pre-K at home with good books and hands-on lessons

Homeschoolers are opinionated when it comes to early childhood education. All you have to do is mention preschool or pre-kindergarten in a room full of homeschool moms, and you’ll instantly find yourself the recipient of a ton of free advice — whether or not you want it.

One of the most common bits of advice is to let kids play.

But have you ever stopped to ask, what is play?

Continue reading “Sonlight Pre-Kindergarten Review: NEW Pre-K at Home with Montessori Updates”
Book Reviews, Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Sonlight’s US History Curriculum: Review & NEW HBL D Updates

[Disclosure: Sonlight provided me with a History / Bible / Literature D: Intro to American History, Year 1 of 2 package, and compensated me financially for this post. I have used many Sonlight products in our homeschool prior to reviewing this product.  All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

If there’s one thing I’ve excelled at in our homeschool, it’s procrastinating over choosing a US History curriculum.

As a third-culture missionary kid born abroad, teaching US history has never come naturally to me. When I was young, American history seemed worlds away, and even as an adult, I often still feel like an outsider.

I have zero patience for dry legalist curriculum which holds the Founding Fathers on faultless pedestals, doesn’t consider both sides of a story, and ignores the sorrowful brokenness of our nation’s foundations. (Second-generation homeschoolers, you know what I’m talking about!)

But I knew my own kids couldn’t just skip learning the complicated history of our nation. Eventually, we had to dive in. Having spent my early childhood years in a socialist republic without the freedom of speech, religion, or assembly, I’ve learned that no matter how complex US history is to navigate, we must never take such invaluable freedoms for granted. So I needed to find a complete American history curriculum, especially after my own previous unsuccessful attempts to piece together a literature-based US history course always fizzled out.

Continue reading “Sonlight’s US History Curriculum: Review & NEW HBL D Updates”
Theology

Resurrection

This spring, both Western Easter and Eastern Pascha are marked on my calendar — a week apart, a world apart, yet united as one. It’s fitting. I’ve always had one foot here and one there, floating as it were between the culture of my passport and the culture in which I was raised.

I bought a little green book of ancient Christian writings, and have been slowly reading through the dancing words as the seasons ebb and flow.

And this green book, on the page marked Resurrection, these words penned between 347 and 407 AD jumped out at me–

Continue reading “Resurrection”
Book Reviews, Homeschooling

Book Review: Middle-grade Novel Bronze & Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan

In your quest to add own-voices literature to your homeschool, don’t overlook translated novels! Translated books don’t try overly hard to be diverse, they simply are.

Written in Chinese by children’s author Cao Wenxuan, Bronze and Sunflower follows the two title characters through a summer in a rural village in China in the 1960s, shortly after Chairman Mao established agricultural labor camps during the Cultural Revolution.

Continue reading “Book Review: Middle-grade Novel Bronze & Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan”