Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Manhood Journey Father's Starter Kit from Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio: A TOS Crew Review

Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio
Father's Starter Kit | Manhood Journey
Father's Starter Kit | Manhood Journey
Manhood Journey Father's Starter Kit from Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio

The Bentz Test Laboratory has been exploring something for the men this time.  They have been working through the Manhood Journey Father's Starter Kit from Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio together.

The Manhood Journey Father’s Starter Kit comes with everything you need to start creating intentional father/son time and discussions.  It is recommended for ages 8-17 and includes:
  •  1 on 1 Guide 
  •  Group Guide 
  • 10 Maprochures
  • DVD
  • Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You written by Kent Evans with Rob Suggs

This kit is designed to be used by fathers and sons or small groups of committed male role models.  My testers were my husband and his four sons... ages 11-17 (a small group!)  

The Embarking program is the first of 6 modules. The 1 on 1 Guide is a notebook style guide for dad to use to facilitate the discussion.  It includes instructions for dad,  reviews, discussion questions, scripture and helpful tips. It is  divided into six sessions:

Week 1: Preparing for the Journey
Week 2: Setting Out on the Journey
Week 3: Relying on the Compass
Week 4: Seeking Guidance Along the Way
Week 5: Encountering Others Along the Journey
Week 6: We Have Embarked – Where to Next?

The Group Guide gives a plan to use this study in a group, along with demonstrations, activities and discussion questions.  In this module - the "Five Rocks of a Godly Man" are introduced and used to provide valuable lessons and discussion times for fathers and sons.  The Five Rocks are:

  • Trusts God
  • Knows His Word
  • Prays Fervently
  • Builds Relationships
  • Serves Others

The DVD features introductory videos for each of the other modules:  
  • Clean Hearts
  • Working Well
  • Standing Strong
  • Manhood Myths
  • Leading Lessons

The Maprochure is used as a visual of your journey, a way to "chart your course".

This was exactly the tool my husband needed to get them started with some Father/Son time.  Having it all together in one place, made it easy for them to jump in.

Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You is included in this module as well.  It's a 17 chapter softcover book.  The chapters are short and focus on lessons the author has learned from the men in his life.  It's a very easy to pick up book, and each chapter includes questions that can be used for group discussion.  My husband and older sons are planning to read it together.

My testers really enjoyed the intentional and directed conversations they were having as they worked through this module.  They sometimes found the structure a bit confusing...and they didn't do some of the activities, like painting the names of the five rocks out in the yard (one teenage son asked me if this was "written by a girl" because of that..)  However, once they started talking, it was all good, and that is the main point!

Find Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio  on Social Media:

Manhood Journey
Twitter:  @manhoodjourney

City on a Hill

Hashtags: #hsreviews #mentoringsons #manhoodjourney #biblestudyforboys

Manhood Journey Father's Starter Kit {Manhood Journey & City on a Hill Studio Reviews}
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bessie's Pillow from Strong Learning, Inc.: A TOS Crew Review

Strong Learning, Inc.

Bessie's Pillow

Bessie's Pillow from Strong Learning, Inc.

We have been enjoying a glimpse into real-life history with Bessie's Pillow from Strong Learning, Inc..  This excellent book is based on the true story of immigrant, Boshka  "Bessie" Markman.  Set in 1906, Bessie comes to America from Vilna, Lithuania to escape persecution.  The author, Linda Bress Silbert is her granddaughter.

My tester for this book is my 13 year old daughter.  She was hooked from page one!   The story follows young Bessie's journey to America.  Her experiences during immigrant inspections immediately brought history to life for my daughter.  I love to learn history by reading about REAL people's experiences.  Bessie's introduction to Ellis Island is much more impacting than reading a dusty textbook account!

Through each obstacle Bessie faces, we get to see her grow and persevere.  Great character lessons are woven throughout this story.  Her life isn't glamorous, in fact, at times it's depressing. 
The pillow is a gift sent to America with Bessie to deliver.  Ultimately, the pillow leads her to her future husband.  Their story is filled with joy and tragedy.  We get to share her story.  It is an unforgettable story of overcoming and survival.  My tester shed tears during several parts.  But, it gives you a very realistic account of what life was like during this time and Bessie becomes a friend.

The afterword in the book is filled with photographs of the characters from the book. Seeing these pictures really made the story real.  My tester was amazed that this was a true story.  She has been inspired to learn more about her OWN story by talking with her grandparents about their early lives and creating a journal.  
In addition to the book, readers can explore more online at  The site includes many multimedia extras that you can use to really understand the time period.  Topics include: 
  •  European Immigration
  • Famous People
  • Foods & Recipes
  • Health
  • Housework
  • Movies, Music & Dancing
  • News
  • US Presidents
  • Radio
 The site is fascinating to explore!  It's a peek into live in the early 1900s.  
Bessie's Pillow Teacher Guide is a downloadable, 16 page PDF that you can access to create a full literature study to go with the book.  It includes discussion questions, timelines, vocabulary, research topics and additional reading suggestions.

My tester really enjoyed this book.  We plan to enjoy it as a family read aloud as well.  (Did I mention,our oldest son is traveling to Lithuania in May... perfect timing!)

Find Strong Learning, Inc. on Social Media:

Twitter:  @BessiesPillow

Hashtags: #hsreviews #historicalfiction #BessiesPillow

See what other members of the Crew thought here

Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews}

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Historical Conquests: A PERSONAL Review

Welcome - Noah Bentz!  Today, I have a Guest Reviewer to my blog, my 15 year old son, Noah.  He has discovered a new game he loves, and in true Bentz fashion...can't wait to share it with you!  All comments are his own, he did not receive any merchandise for this review.  He purchased the game on his own, and purely wants to share his experience.  Thanks for reading! 

   Historical Conquest  is a unique and educational, strategy-based card game where multiple players construct teams of famous historical heroes villains, armies, events and more and battle each other.

In each Starter Deck there are 50 cards each card is wonderfully illustrated, and has a historical background biography. There are six starter decks to pick from and each player will need one. Each starter deck has a wide variety of cards throughout history so you may be battling with Black Beard and Abraham Lincoln on the same team.

There are also Booster Packs that come with 20 cards from a specific time period such as World War I, The Roman Era, World War II, The American Revolution, American Civil War, The Crusades, and the Wild West. The game is for all ages and can have pretty much as many players as you want, although it is best with 2-4 players.

Play Mats are available in different designs.  While not essential, they are very useful in keeping score and organizing/protecting your cards during play.  Plus, they're fun.  Here's a couple of examples: D-Day and the American Revolution.  They have a variety of designs to choose from.

 If you can read you can play. You can pick your favorite cards from each deck to make a custom deck and the game is never the same because of the variety of cards that you can customize your decks with. 

The actual game play is similar to a mix of the popular card trading games.  Best of all,  Historical Conquest has no magic which makes it much more family friendly! While your kids (or you) are engaging in mortal combat,  you are also learning history from the biography on each card. 

 Historical Conquest has a wonderful website where you can order their products, and they will answer any questions you have. The staff is amazing and they were wonderfully capable and willing to answer my many questions. 

Zack Edwards (the founder/maker of the game) made the game in college and has worked on perfecting it for ten years just to get everything right and was more than helpful answering my questions personally. Not to mention, Historical Conquest offers free contests for fans to create their own cards and submit them and winner's cards are made into rare cards that people may acquire. 

They offer writing projects that customers may participate in order to acquire the Rare Card of the month by writing a short essay about the subject of the card. This encourages kids (and adults) to not just read about history but to actively think and write about it as well. 

      How to play: 
  • Each player is trying to win buying taking all their opponents land or gaining 3000 morale points. They do this buy playing character down on each of their lands to protect it or playing cards to boost their morale. 
  • There are six land cards in each deck one for each continent (not including Antarctica) that the player will use to build their own unique historical civilization. 
  • The game itself can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes usually. 
  • There are also tournaments held locally in some places where you can go test your skills with other people who play in your area. Not to mention win prizes and see your rankings go up on their national bracketing system. 

     My personal experience with Historical Conquest has been AMAZING! I have had it since February and have played it over twenty times!  New favorite game! And trust me I have a lot of games.  From my 9 year-old sister to my 19 year old brother everybody loves to play. It is not difficult to learn especially with all their YouTube tutorials, so it's something everybody can and will enjoy playing. 

     This is a very well done game, it's not hard to play, every age enjoys it, and it really makes learning history much more fun and entertaining. Historical Conquest is definitely something that you should buy! 

Thanks for reading,   


PS - Check out this video to learn more...

Circle C Stepping Stones from Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow: A TOS Crew Review

Kregel Publications

Andi Saddles UpAndi Under the Big Top

Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow have wowed us again with the NEW Circle C Stepping StonesSeries.

This series, designed for ages 7-10,  kicks off with two new adventures - Andi Saddles Up  and Andi Under the Big Top.  These are the first of six stories in this new series.

The stories follow  9 year old Andi and her horse named Taffy as they meet new friends, learn important lessons, and even join the circus!  These stories appeal to both boys and girls are are filled with wonderful character lessons along the way. They are perfect for your readers ready to move up from Circle C Beginnings and onto longer chapter books, but not quite ready for the Circle C Adventures.

My testers are 7 and 9.  They enjoyed the Circle C Beginnings series, and were excited to hear that there was a new way to hear more about Andi.  Thankfully, we got a chance to read both books - so they each could have one!  The olders sisters have been long time Circle C fans as well.

These stories follow the adventures of young Andi and her beloved horse, Taffy.  They are set in the old West, historic gold rush era.  The softcover, chapter books have 12 short chapters.  This is the perfect amount for your young readers to gain confidence in reading.

 Andi Saddles Up - Andi makes a new friend and learns to trick ride.  Important life lessons abound in these stories.

Andi Under the Big Top has Andi and Taffy off on adventures with the travelling circus.  History comes alive with each story as well.

I love that these stories are FILLED with great character lessons, without being "preachy".  My girls have enjoyed reading them over and over, and the next release is always at the top of their book wish list.

In addition to great stories, which are filled with history, geography and character lessons, Susan K Marlow has created free Study Guides for both books.

These downloadable PDF books are around 26-27 pages of additional learning fun you can add to the reading to create a unit study.  She has packed these full for you.

Language arts, math, history, geography, hands on fun and even a handy printable reading schedule! Free coloring pages are also available online.

 These are some of our all-time favorite books (and it takes alot to get put on that list at Bentz Test Laboratory).    Be sure to check them out!

Find Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow on Social Media:

Twitter (Kregel Books): 
Twitter (Susan K Marlow):
Facebook (Kregel Books):
Facebook (Susan K Marlow):

Hashtags: #hsreviews #oldwest #horsegirls #fictionforgirls

Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mona Lisa - in a New Way!

We had a blast learning about the infamous Mona Lisa!

Instead of a boring old coloring page... we made tye-dye Mona Lisa on a coffee filter.

First - use a sharpie to trace an outline of her onto the filter.

Then, use washable markers to make some lines... add water

and you have your own masterpiece!

Walking with the Waodani from Home School Adventure Co.: A TOS CREW REVIEW

Home School Adventure Company
Walking with the Waodani

Walking with the Waodani from Home School Adventure Co.

Who do your children consider heroes?  In my family, missionaries are our true heroes!  At the top of the list... the inspiring stories of Nate Saint and Jim Elliot.  We are loving the opportunity to get to learn more with Walking with the Waodani from Home School Adventure Co.

This is a four lesson, downloadable unit study that introduces the wonders of  Ecuador and the travels of 18 year old - Russell Winter as he spends seven weeks in with ITEC - WAO Vision Trips, founded by Steven Saint.   Take a peek at this to see how it all began...

My testers are familiar with the stories of the five brave missionaries in "Operation Auca".  They have read their biographies, and my older teens have watched "At the End of the Spear" - the movie made about their lives.  We could not wait to dig into this study!

The study's four units, with geographical locations as names are:

  • Lesson 1 - Shell Mera (Then) (Shell Mera is the beach the missionaries lost their lives on)
  • Lesson 2 - Shell Mera (Now)
  • Lesson 3 - Ecuador
  • Lesson 4 - Quito
Each lesson features several key components:
  • Introduction
  • People and Places 
  • Meals and Markets 
  • Animals and Agriculture 
  • Worlds and Worldview
The lessons include a few pages of reading, all with beautifully done photography to introduce the topic.  These readings not only present the facts, they introduce you to real people and their stories as well.

Meals and Animals will introduces a whole, new world!  From the giant anacondas to eating grubs - these sections captivated my testers.

Worldview gives you an opportunity to discuss beliefs with your child, and educates them about the need for missions.

Simple exercises are included after each lesson's reading called the "Travel Journal" to round out the learning experience.  Mapping, drawing amazing animals, rating recipes (Grubs and piranha, anyone?) and some excellent creative writing assignments (one of our favorites).

We would read the Lesson together, and then complete the Travel Journal pages.  I have multiple children, so I really liked being able to give them the option to pick the one that they wanted to do... some are artistic, some prefer to complete the map.  There is something to appeal to everyone.

Each lesson also include a recommended resource list with links, books and videos to explore further.

I love that the point of this study is to INSPIRE your children, to open them to new possibilities that God has in store for them, and to give them a heart for missions!  This isn't a "master the facts" and move on type of learning - this is truly an adventure to share with them.

Learn more about ITEC here:

We reviewed a preview, the study will be released soon.  Be sure to  click here to be notified when Walking with the Waodani is available! 

  Other Reviewers had a chance to explore several other studies from Home School Adventure Co. :

Find Home School Adventure Co. on Social Media:

Twitter:  @HomeSchoolAdven

Hashtags: #hsreviews #celebratingmanhood #waodani #CreativeFreewriting

Resources with a Biblical Worldview{Home School Adventure Co. Reviews}

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Happy Spring Break!

It's Spring Break - we made it....

You may find us blowing bubbles, swinging in the hammock and the relaxing in the "Happy Spot"

See you next week!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Trip Around the World - Europe & The Americas

Our first continent - Europe.
Country: Germany
Missionary: George Mueller

We had a story time, and I shared about George Mueller's life with George Mueller: Faith to Feed Ten Thousand (Heroes for Young Readers) They all listened intently!  So inspiring!

We also ate gummy bears (made in Germany) and Pretzels.  But,  I forgot to take pictures!

So - Here's our next stop:
The Americas
Country: Canada
Missionary: Cameron Townsend

This was a fun week!  We explored Canada with edible Inukshuks and Curling.  Two things my south Texas students had NEVER heard about.

Thanks to Pinterest... I found a great activity that was also tasty.  Candy Inukshuks!  

I showed them several videos during class as well.  Back to Pinterest,  I found a great printable Curling game.  My students had a blast using dimes as stones.

This is so much fun to teach...

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level C from Eclectic Foundations: A TOS Crew Review

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations }

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level C from Eclectic Foundations

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations }

Language many books and programs do you need?  We have found our new FAVORITE curriculum, and it's all in one place! Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level C from Eclectic Foundations is covering reading, handwriting, grammar, spelling, vocabulary and even poetry study. This level is intended 2nd-3rd graders who already know cursive and can read. 

This is a one year curriculum designed with 36 weeks of 4 lessons each.  It's written from a Biblical worldview and uses the historic (and effective) McGuffey's Reader. Best of children LOVE it!

My tester is in 3rd grade.  She has always struggled with language arts. This program doesn't "look" impressive at first glance, it's all black and white, the font is big and "seems" simplistic.  However, once we started - I realized it's ANYTHING BUT SIMPLISTIC!

Each daily lesson is short and directed.  The Teacher Guide is a must have, and tells you everything you need to know.  Your student works in the Student Workbook.  You do need a copy of the McGuffey's Second Reader (which is available free online)  The program includes a Phonics Practice laminated sheet and cardstock Word Cards.

Are you familiar with McGuffey's?  Check this out from the Eclectic Foundations website:
  • The McGuffey Readers were part of the Eclectic Education Series and were widely used from 1836 until the 1960’s.  The Eclectic Education Series was the most popular collection of textbooks before educators secularized the public school system.
  • During this shift in education, the Biblical teachings of these textbooks were no longer allowed in the public school system.  Authors of the Eclectic Education Series knew that it was impossible to teach morality apart from Christ. 
  • Educators of that time also had their pupils ready for college after completing the 8th grade.  William Holmes McGuffey began teaching public school at age 14.  The McGuffey’s Revised 6th Reader, however, is considered to be a college senior reading level by today’s standards. 
  • Teachers of that time had the freedom to teach without government bureaucracy. Shouldn’t we raise our standards again?
  • We haven't written an entirely new curriculum.  We've simply enhanced these old textbooks, modernized some of the language, and made them "teacher friendly".

Each Lesson introduces a list of words for us to read together.  This is where we spend time focusing on phonics and mastering the reading.  Then, using our laminated Phonic practice sheet - we get to have a spelling test with those same words.  My tester loved the opportunity to do her spelling words with a dry erase marker.  Who knew? The secret to no-tears spelling test is a dry erase marker??

 The Word Cards are the true treasure of this program!  Lessons include pre-printed word cards on heavy card stock.  This is where the hands-on grammar teaching takes place.  The words for the lesson correspond with words from the reading from the McGuffey's Reader.  Lessons alternate between working with the words, and reading sections in the Reader.

I lay out all the cards and have my tester look and find all the nouns (then color them red) as we review the definition of a noun. Then we look for verbs, adjectives, etc.  I am AMAZED by how this activity had increased my tester's grammar knowledge!

Every now and then, the lessons use the Word Cards in different way- like alphabetizing all her nouns (and she begged to do the verbs too...score one for mom!).  We keep them in plasic baggies by type of word.  She also uses them to build sentences.

In addition, each lesson has a handwriting/memory section.  My tester does know cursive (making her extra special) and loves to get to write in it.  These are short selections of scripture or an inspirational quote. Poetry is introduced and included with copywork too. The skills build steadily throughout the program.

This is such an affordable and EFFECTIVE program that my 2nd grader begged me to get her one!  Let me say... Level B is equally as great!

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level A - Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level B -
Eclectic Foundations Language Arts Level C

Find Eclectic Foundations on Social Media:

Hashtags:  #hsreviews #languagearts #mcguffeyreaders #eclecticeducation

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}

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