The Link Reviews
by The Link Staff
Published by Rod & Staff Publishers
by Kyle Zook
This Christian-based series of language arts books is grounded in the premise that the first seven years of a child’s life is the most formative. It is during these years that the child puts in place the foundation that will shape the adult s/he will eventually become.
By focusing at an early age upon fundamental Christian concepts like who and what God is and the way good Christians should act, this series of books also introduces the building blocks for good reading skills by a practical focus on phonetics and supplemental readings.
This is a complete and robust series of readers designed for different levels of use from small households to classroom use. These books are best used in tandem with Rod & Staff’s other publications in other skills like science for a more rounded education, but can also function as a stand-alone series intended for students from grade levels one through nine.
The first levels focus on simple Christian concepts and supplement these with suggestions for teachers as well as cognitive and phonetic-building exercises in worksheets. Later readers offer more lengthy text selections that draw from a wealth of spiritual sources, from the Bible to famous historical figures to popular and lesser-known Christian literature.
Although the focus of these readers and activity books is Bible-based, the skills they are developing in children are completely practical. The focus on activities draws on building connections to concepts and allowing children to come to conclusions in an ordinate way. But it’s certainly not just all work and no play. There are coloring exercises, connect-the-dots and many other suggestions for teachers to keep students engaged and interested.
The readers definitely build upon the lessons learned in the books prior to it, so the recommended course would be to teach from the beginning of the series, if at all possible. It should also be noted that the material could definitely be considered as non-denominational, although there is a section for Anabaptist themes in later levels for those who are inclined to pursue this aspect, but yet still interesting to read for those just intrigued about learning of these people and their beliefs.
In looking through the series, one cannot help but admire the amount of time and research that has gone into developing these textbooks. As the editor’s note in the Series 7 reader “A Time To Gather” states, “Scripturally sound literature for children is difficult to obtain.” The editors have gone to great lengths to find stories and passages that emphasize Christian values and concepts, and yet are entertaining and delightful for young readers to enjoy.
If part of your focus in homeschooling is protecting the spiritual values of your children, then the Rod & Staff series of language arts books is something you should strongly consider adding to your curriculum. These are high-quality textbooks that have been tested in classrooms and family-level settings and will provide your children with the building blocks needed to pass the standards set by most universities. – K.Z. ■
945 S. Orem Blvd, Orem, UT 84058; 800-974-8339 or 801-374-1188 Fax: 801/374-6888; www.begintoread.com Ages 3-11; Grades Pre-K through 5th
Begin To Read.com’s Home School Learn-To-Read Set is a multi-level, complete line of reasonably-priced early-reading products designed to help parents teach their young children to read and then some. The program is phonics-based and provides the rudimentary work that is the core of phonetic reading. The entire Home School set consists of 72 brightly-colored booklets, from 12 to 16 pages each, arranged in sets of 6 booklets, with each set focusing on a specific vowel sound, a variety of consonant sounds and then a series of words created from combining the two. The booklets center around a cartoon boy named Max, his friend Kim and his cat, Razz. As one progresses through the books in a set, the sentences that utilize the vowel and consonant combinations becoming increasingly complex and long, so that practice is realized simply by performing the lesson.
Each booklet also touches upon a stated value, providing the parent an opportunity for discussion, i.e., Book 1, Set 1 has as its value “friendship”. Book 2 of the set has as its value “companionship”, etc. For parents who appreciate this broader application of teaching more than one topic, such a “moral” value provides an added bonus beyond learning to read using phonics. The last page of each booklet provides a list of six discussion topics, arranged by level in ascending degrees of intellectual difficulty, so that the list can serve more than one age group as well. For instance, in Book 1, the Level 1 topic is Knowledge of Details, Facts and Information suitable for a younger child and for the parent to ascertain how much information the child retained. For an older child, Level 6 covers Drawing Conclusions and Judging Ideas, and allows for a discussion of whether the action in the story was wise or not.
In addition to the 72 books, the Home School Learn To Read set also includes two CD-Roms. One allows the parent to supplement the daily one-on-one teaching with playing and learning with the material found on the CD -- which are the same characters and the same sequence as that presented in the books. The other CD-Rom, I am Learning To Read, is the perfect companion to the first 36 books of the series, offering activities to supplement the books. The set also contains a two-binder set of reproducible writing lessons that compliment the reading program, with creative writing and art assignments. Each of these components can be purchased separately, so the family on an extreme budget could purchase one portion at a time and then add on as the funds became available. I would encourage you to visit the website and see for yourself how thorough and yet inexpensive this complete reading program is. ■
by Jeffrey Paul Oakar
Inevitably in life, concepts that are original and unique make strong impressions and the rest get forgotten. In the world of second language acquisition, bad language learning software programs are a dime a dozen while great ones are extremely hard to find. On those “blue moon” moments when a great language system hits the market, they should be snapped up immediately! Such is the case with Greek ‘N’ Stuff’s Hey Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!” The main idea behind the program is to assist your family in acquiring an understanding of the ancient biblical Greek (known as Koine). This is done using a system of reading and writing activities as well as vocabulary and grammar work.
Why is learning ancient Greek important? For those families who place great importance on the message of the Bible and its literal word, translations just won’t do. As we all know, even the best translations of foreign language texts never quite attain the full meaning and purpose of the original idea. Having a grasp of Koine should allow students to go straight to the literal message of the New Testament.
Of course it’s an understatement to say that coming to grips with an ancient language is never quite that simple, and this objective will not be met without dedication and hard work. However, if willing and able, you will find that Hey Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! provides everything you’ll need to help you reach your goal. The program includes seven extensive levels complete with workbooks and answer keys. In the beginning stages, students will cover the Greek alphabet as well as other activities designed to create a base vocabulary and reinforce what they’ve learned. In later stages, students will get into more complex grammatical structure like verb inflections, articles, accents and gender nouns. The final stages cover passive voice structures as well as perfect verb tenses, infinitives and third declension nouns. The complete package comes with hefty spiral work texts, CD-ROMs with pronunciation practice, vocabulary flash cards and answer key booklets.
On the surface of it, Hey Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek may seem very specialized, but an essential benefit to completing the program is the learner will also expand his or her English vocabulary because of the vast amount of Greek roots that our language contains. Furthermore, the learner will come away with a significant base of Greek roots to learn other languages. Greek ‘N’ Stuff also offers Latin and Bible studies programs. For more information, see www.greeknstuff.com or call 1-309-796-2707. ■
by R.K. Mortenson
This is the second book in Rev. Mortenson’s Bible-based fantasy trilogy about an 11-year-old boy who stumbles upon a strange world of talking books, live chess pieces and the Darkness that opposes the Light and attempts to ensnare him in despair and shadow.
Landon Snow lives in Minnesota and visits his grandparents in the small town of Button Up, where his extraordinary adventures take place. In the first book of the trilogy, Landon adventured on his own. In this second installment, he inadvertently involves his months-younger sister, Holly, who is intellectually precocious, mathematically inquisitive and a valuable companion to her brother in his subterranean foray to a netherworld where his adventures take place.
Their journey begins with the pages of Landon’s King James Bible fluttering in a room devoid of wind. The boy reads the passages on the pages that have been underlined by a long-ago previous owner of the Bible, and these passages set the stage for the adventure and its underlying principle – in this case, it is the temptation of Adam and Eve in Gen 3:1-6 and the Darkness that is opposed to The Light. [Matt 4:16; John 3:19-21 and John 12:35-36). Landon and Holly will meet the darkness and its subtle twisting of the truth, which brings despair and hopelessness.
Mr. Mortenson skillfully blends the ancient concept of how one becomes deceived by the darkness, along with improbable events and imaginative, colorful beings. Landon and Holly meet a variety of strange characters and battle against living shadows that threaten to overtake them and the world of the Button Up Library – a magical place where Landon has adventured before.
The Landon Snow series is excellent reading for children between the ages of 10 and 13 or 14 – especially those who enjoy adventures and are familiar enough with Scripture that that they can relate to the values and beliefs upon which the storyline and its action is based.■
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