Secret of the Hidden Scrolls Review

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I heard author MJ Thomas on a podcast this spring and I was really excited about what he had to say. When one of his sons was in about second grade, he had to write a book report but couldn’t find a book that he was excited about. He asked his dad to write one for him. So MJ Thomas set out to write a book that would not only entertain his son, but teach him about his faith through making Bible stories come to life in a historical context. Thus, his series, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls was born. I was disappointed that my local library did not carry these books, but I put it on my list of books to read with Clarissa.

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I was so excited to see Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) and Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) of the series published by WorthyKid Books as an option to review this fall. The timing wasn’t great because it was during the time that Tiffany was born. But I read the description to Clarissa and she was really excited about the books. I knew that we would still be reading at bedtime, so I asked for them. I am so glad that I did!

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) follows siblings Peter, Mary, and their dog Hank as they spend a month with their Great Uncle Solomon who is an archeologist. They travel through time to explore the story of David and Goliath. On their journey, they have to follow clues to solve a message given to them by the angel Michael. They only have four days to solve the puzzle!

I love that Clarissa was able to see some of the historical context from the Bible story and that the actual story seemed true to what the Bible says. It also brought up some great discussions for us. For example, David originally told Mary that she could not go with him and Peter to deliver food to his older brothers. The reason was because Mary is a girl and girls are not allowed on the battlefield, which was surprising to Clarissa because we just spent four years on an army base where there were definitely female soldiers. Also, in the book David had sisters living at home, which I had not really thought about before since the Bible focuses on the brothers. David also talks about a poem he wrote (Psalm 23), which I thought was great because that is on our list of things to memorize for November. So now Clarissa has a context for that as well.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) was also wonderfully written. This time, Peter, Mary, and Hank go to ancient Babylon. They land in a temple of the Babylonian God Marduk. There is a statue (idol) in the temple and the high priest tells Peter and Mary that they need to bow down and worship the idol. Peter and Mary refuse because they will only worship the One True God. This makes the high priest (and his pet raven) very angry. They have to escape being captured with the help of the angel Michael.

The book teaches about architecture (ziggurat) and history (7 wonders of the ancient world) along the way. Peter and Mary escape to the hanging gardens where they meet Hannah who also refuses to worship idols. Hannah also happens to be the granddaughter of Shadrach. While visiting her grandfather’s spice shop, Peter and Mary heard the story of the fiery furnace in person. They also met Daniel. I always forget that Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den is several decades after the fiery furnace. In this book, Peter and Mary eventually get thrown into the lion’s den too and they, along with Daniel, are protected by their angel friend Michael.

I like that at the end of both books there is a list of chapters in the Bible that correspond to the story so that you can compare the book to the actual Bible story.

We have only read books five and six in the series so far. The stories stand alone, so you can read them out of order. Clarissa really wants us to get the first four in the series because she enjoyed them so much. While reading these books, book 7 was also published. I am excited to announce that the publisher is running a giveaway. You can enter to win signed copies of all seven books in the series by clicking here. There will be three winners.

We did these books as a read aloud, but I think they would be great reading for a younger elementary student who is a confident reader. The books are marketed for ages 6-9 and claim they are written on a first through third grade reading level. I think a first grader would have a hard time reading this independantly though. There are a few black and white pictures in each chapter to help engage your younger readers.

Depending on your curriculum goals, these books could be used for Bible, Reading, or History. These also provide some great discussion starters about Bible stories and imagining what it would be like if we went into the Bible story or which stories we would like to become a part of. I am excited to read the rest of the books. I look forward to being able to read book 7 near Christmas time since it is about the birth of Jesus. You can read about what other families thought of the books here.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd's Stone (Book 5) & The Lion's Roar (Book 6) {WorthyKids Books Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Bible Letter of the Week Review

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Clarissa really enjoys Bible stories. She also gets really excited when we do crafts or activities about these stories. I was debating what I wanted to do with her as far as a  Bible curriculum for first grade. I was excited to see Bible Letter of the Week Curriculum Notebook on the list of choices from Crafty Classroom.

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Bible Letter of the Week Curriculum Notebook is marketed as a preschool curriculum. There are 26 weeks of lessons, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each week has four days of lessons with several activities to complete each day. There is a Bible story theme for each week as well as a Bible verse to memorize, practice writing each letter, activities to practice each letter sound, as well as some math activities for each week.

Clarissa has really enjoyed reading and discussing the Bible stories, the coloring pages and crafts, games, and math pages. She is also practicing her handwriting. I started off by supplementing this to our reading program and using this twice per week so that she would not be overwhelmed by the amount of work that was expected of her. Halfway through the letter A, she told me that she wanted to do this program every day instead of twice per week so we changed what we were doing.

Clarissa was most excited about the Alphabet Quilt. Each week, there is a square that shows the letter of the week, a picture of the Bible story, and even the Bible verse. She is excited to build this quilt as the year progresses. I like this aspect of the program because it will be a good review of what Bible stories and verses we have studied throughout the year. At one point she said to me, “Can we keep this quilt forever?”

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I like that the activities are similar each week so that Clarissa knows what is expected of her. She builds confidence with the repetition and also feels like she can do it herself without as much prompting from me. I like that the numbers get bigger for the math as the year progresses. So it makes sense to complete the weeks in order so that your math builds. I also was able to plot out the school year so that “J for Jesus” will fall in December for Christmas and “R for Resurrection” can be in April for Easter so it would make sense to do this curriculum over the course of an entire school year.

I think this would be a great curriculum for families with multiple children because you can pick and choose which activities to do with each child. You can do the main things the same with the Bible stories, crafts, and letters. But you can pick and choose the other activities (there are about 20 activities for each week to choose from). So the older kids can be included in the weekly Bible stories and memory verses. Your younger elementary kids won’t be completely bored with the math or the handwriting and letter activities. Your preschoolers and kindergartners would probably love the whole thing but you can pick and choose based on their developmental level.

The Crafty Classroom offers several different curriculum including reading, math, and even US geography. This may have been Clarissa’s favorite program that we reviewed all year so I am interested to see what other families thought of the various curriculum that they reviewed. I think we will be using Crafty Classroom in the future.

Hands-on, Low-prep and Ready to Go Learning - Tots to 3rd Grade {Crafty Classroom Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

His Mercy Endureth Forever Book Review

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I am always looking for ways to point Clarissa to Jesus and teach her about the Bible. Last year, I reviewed T is for Tree as part of the Homeschool Review Crew. The publisher reached out to me in the fall asking if I would be interested in reviewing another book and I accepted.

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I really enjoyed His Mercy Endureth Forever: Psalm 136. The book is as it seems. A reading of Psalm 136 in its entirety, written in the King James Version. I appreciated that it used the entirety of the scripture, word for word. The pictures were wonderful. They really made the words come to life.

This is a great way to introduce kids to God’s word. Kids like to read the same books over and over again and I think that this can easily become a favorite with the repetition of the words and the vibrant pictures. Children can easily memorize this passage as they read through the book. There is even a glossary at the end of the book to explain vocabulary that might not be as familiar to children.

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I think His Mercy Endureth Forever: Psalm 136 would be a great addition to a family or Elementary Sunday School bookshelf. I look forward to reading it with my girls in the years to come.

Nothing Book Review

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Clarissa and I are always looking for good books to read. I get especially excited if the book points Clarissa to Jesus. This is one reason we were very excited to review Nothing by Natalee Creech published by Worthy Kids, an imprint of Hatchette Book Group.

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Nothing: Nothing Can Separate You from God’s Love! is a wonderful book based on the scripture Romans 8:38-39, “Nothing can separate us from God’s Love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” The publisher recommends it for ages 4-7, but I think the age range could go wider than that. It’s a great book with a lovely message.

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I love that the simple words in this book remind my daughter that there is nothing that she can do or anything that can happen to her that will make God stop loving her. The pictures are fabulous. There are pictures of space ships and the deep seas, crazy weather, and normal kids.

At the end of the book, I was ready to talk to Clarissa about the message. That it doesn’t matter what she does wrong or what kinds of crazy things happened in her life, God would always love her. And she got this silly look on her face and she said, “Mom! I know that God will always love me!” We didn’t need a long discussion to convince her and that was good for this mama’s heart. If that’s the only thing she learns before she leaves my house, I’ve done my job. I look forward to sharing this book with friends and her Sunday School class at church.

Nothing (Nothing Can Separate You From God's Love) by Natalee Creech {WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group Reviews}

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Our favorite Easter books for preschool and young elementary

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The two biggest holidays on the Christian calendar are Christmas and Easter (Resurrection Day). I feel like Christmas probably gets more press time than Easter. But we still have a list of books that we read every year in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Day.

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  • Peek-a-Bible The Easter Story is a great lift the flap book that tells the story of Resurrection Day. It starts with Jesus riding into town on a donkey, includes The Last Supper, the garden, Jesus on the cross, and His resurrection.
    The Easter Story is a cute little board book that tells the story with nice pictures and easy sentences.
  • God Gave Us Love is a long conversation between Little Cub and Grandpa about loving someone but not always liking what they do. At the end they talk about how God loves us so much that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins.
  • God Gave Us Easter is another story about little cub. This time, Papa explains that Easter is even better than Christmas because Jesus died on the cross for us. He also talks a lot about how spring can point us to Jesus. I also really like that Papa explains what it means to listen to God and when Little Cub wakes up in the morning she is excited to report that she heard from God too.
  • Lily’s Easter Party has been one of Clarissa’s favorite books since we bought it when she was two. In this story, Lily invites some of her friends over for a special Easter egg hunt. At the egg hunt, the children are instructed to put the eggs in a basket on the table. Then once all the eggs are found, mom and dad sit down with the kids and open the eggs in order. Each egg has a small object inside that tells the story of Jesus and his Resurrection. This is a great book if you have resurrection eggs, but you can also read it on it’s own.
  • The Parable of the Lily is a story about Maggie who receives a present in the mail in the middle of winter. There were instructions to put the box in a cool dark place and plant it in spring. One day, Maggie accidentally made a mess in the cellar and threw her box into the yard and forgot about it. On Easter morning, she woke up to beautiful lilies in her yard. She was excited about new life. She realized that the gift was from her father and she learned a lesson in forgiveness.
  • Holy Week is a new one for us this year. It is a board book that talks about the names of different emotions and places them with a Bible verse and a picture to tell a different part of the Holy Week story.
  • In The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, Brother and Sister Bear start the story really excited about all of the candy that will be in their Easter baskets but learn the real story of Easter in Sunday school.
  • We love Little Critter in this house, so Happy Easter Little Critter gets read too, even though they have an Easter bunny and do an egg hunt at the church picnic.

You can read our favorite books about Christmas here.

Poor Zacchaeus

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When I was younger I learned a song about Zaccheaeus.

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed him by, He looked up in the tree. And He said, ‘Zacchaeus you come down. For I’m going to your house today. For I am going to your house today.’ ”

So what did I learn about Zacchaeus? He was short. I don’t know about you, but if someone is going to talk about me in 2,000 years, I don’t want the only thing that people remember about me is that I was short.

If you actually read the story in the Bible, there is more to the story than the fact that Zaccheaus was short. Luke 19:1-10:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of all my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

So we see a change in Zacchaeus during the course of this story. In the beginning, Zacchaeus was a tax collector who was probably not very honest because the people in this town didn’t like him. But Jesus didn’t care about that. Jesus wanted to go to his home because Jesus knew what Zacchaeus was capable of. And because of this, Zacchaeus changed. He wanted to give to the poor and pay back the people that he had stolen from. So when Jesus remembers Zacchaeus, he remembers his salvation and not all the bad things that he had done.

People may not be talking about my life in 2,000 years. But people will talk about me when I am gone. What will my children and grandchildren remember about me? Will they remember a mom who yelled too much or ate too much candy? Or a woman who loved hard and tried to show grace?

The day Clarissa decided she wanted to be baptized

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Clarissa and I talked about baby Jesus a lot in December. We talked about his parents, his birth, the shepherds, the wise men; all of it, when we did Truth in the Tinsel.

This month, Clarissa and I are going to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and learn how to pray. Before we do that, I wanted to review some of the things we learned about Jesus. So one day we looked at the pictures in her Bible about Jesus’s dedication at the temple (at 8 days old) and about when His parents couldn’t find Him because He stayed at the temple (at 12 years old).

 

I wanted to move on to Jesus being baptized and our conversation took a very interesting turn. When we looked at the picture of Jesus being baptized, Clarissa said, “So when Jesus was being dedicated at the temple, it was like he was being baptized. That’s how babies are baptized. And then they get baptized as an adult too.” So we stopped to talk about it.

I explained that when babies are dedicated to the Lord, it is really about the parents. The parents are making a decision to raise their child to know who God is. The parents want their child to love Jesus so they pray that their child will love God. When an adult is baptized, it means something very different. When an adult is baptized it means that they want to show other people that they love Jesus.

 

Clarissa immediately said, “Oh. I love Jesus. I want to be baptized.” I explained that usually our pastor baptizes people in a river so we need to wait until it is warmer outside. But she was very adamant that she wanted to be baptized. Immediately. Right now. I told her she needed to wait at least another half hour until Daddy came home.

She agreed to that and got to work making a sign. “Mommy how to do you spell Baptized?” Then she put on her bathing suit and asked me to fill up the bath tub. She got impatient waiting for Tim so she decided to baptize herself. “Mommy, I did it!” What?

 

 

Then Tim got home and we talked about what happened when John baptized Jesus. And Clarissa was like, “I already got baptized, you don’t need to do it again…” She didn’t want us to dunk her.

I’m not sure this counts as her official baptism. I’m sure she’ll want to do it again when she’s older and understands it a bit better. But I so appreciated her heart and how she wanted to do it right now.