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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

In the Reign of Terror, Christian Drama by Heirloom Audio (a review)

My three of my younger children (ages 8, 11, and 13) have been on the edge of their seats while listening to G. A. Henty’s In the Reign of Terror from Heirloom Audio Productions. This 2-1/2 hour audio drama follows young Englishman Harry Sandwith on his heart racing adventure across France during the French Revolution. You’ll be tempted to listen to it all in one sitting, but then you might miss out on using the wonderful resources available at the Live the Adventure Club, including a study guide, online quiz, read along script, and more.

In the Reign of Terror Cover Image review

The Story

In the Reign of Terror is narrated by Brian Blessed who plays G.A. Henty, author of the original story.  Mr. Henty meets a young American named Harry as he is visiting Arlington National Cemetery. There he tells him the story of Harry Sandwith (Hugo Docking) and his unexpectedly harrowing experiences in France.

Harry Sandwith goes to Paris on a grand adventure, little knowing how close he may come to losing his life. He arrives at the home of his benefactor, French nobleman the Marquis de St Caux (John Rhy-Davies), at a time when the city is in a state of deep unrest. Harry soon proves his bravery and earns the whole household’s respect and gratitude by risking his own life to protect the Marquis’ two young daughters from a rabid dog and helping his benefactor’s son to dispatch the local “demon” wolf.

But as political unrest builds, the Marquis’ family soon finds itself in danger of being arrested. Plans are made to protect the children and to smuggle the sons out of the country. Harry finds himself protecting the Marquis’ daughters who are staying with a woman in Paris, while the Marquis and his mother, the Dowager Marquise, are arrested and taken to prison.

Over the course of the story, the Marquis and his mother are executed, his sons and their companion are also captured and executed, Harry goes into service for the infamous Robespierre himself, two of the daughters are eventually smuggled out of Paris, only to face almost certain execution when they are caught in a small village…

Does it end happily? Does anyone get away?

Well, yes and no (spoiler alert?): The three daughters all survive as does Harry, but I wouldn’t want to spoil all the twists and turns for you by telling the whole plot. Smile

The Production

Like all of the Heirloom Audio plays we have heard, the production values are exceptional. Top-notch actors voice all the characters. The original score was composed by John Campbell.  It is a treat to listen to.

The Audience

The topic of this story is the French Revolution and it is a grim topic indeed. Many sympathetic characters die (though they die “off screen”) due to being brutally executed. If your children are particularly sensitive, you may want to wait until they are a bit older. My 8-year-old was ok with it, but she did cover her ears during a couple of scenes. Again, nobody dies in front of you, it’s more like you are told that they are going to be killed or have been killed, but the characters do talk in detail about a couple of the methods (one instance is where prisoners are loaded onto and tied down to a boat punched with holes and put out to sea where they drown).

The Point-of-View

This story is told from a Christian worldview. Often the protagonists call upon God and make it clear that there are certain things they will or will not do because they are or are not in keeping with the Lord’s commandments. Additionally, there are strong elements of English pride and American Nationalism. The Marquis, for instance, wants Harry to teach his son, Ernest, to be like a brave and bold English boy. The protagonists frequently talk about the American Revolution as a good and just thing and contrast it to the French Revolution which they obviously feel is morally wrong due to the brutality and the harm done to innocents. They do concede that the French rebels have a valid beef with the way the lower classes have been treated in French society. 

Overall, we really loved In the Reign of Terror.

The story is a bit depressing, but it also ends with a ray of hope.

The audio play can be purchased as a 2-CD set or an audio download.  Please visit the product page to see a trailer of this great drama.

When you purchase In the Reign of Terror, you’ll have the option of adding a 3-month trial to  Heirloom Audio’s Live the Adventure Club, a membership site where you can not only access a stream-able version of your adventure, but also some great extras. NOTE: This offer was available at the time this review was written, but, as with all deals, it may only be for a limited time.

If you choose to continue your membership, you’ll pay a fee every 3 months and they’ll mail you the physical CDs for their newest Audio Adventures three times a year at no additional charge. That means you’ll get the new audios before anyone else. Winking smile

As a part of this review, we received temporary access to the Adventure site so we could check out the extras for In the Reign of Terror. When you access your “library” on the club site, you have the option of directly streaming the audio. I like how this is set up. For each “chapter” (track on the cd), you can listen and then discuss the provided questions. While there are comprehension questions, there are also some that you have to think about and others that require doing some research.

Download the official script for the audio to follow along as your listen, or click a button while you are streaming and it will pop up on the side of your computer screen so you can follow along.

in the reign of terror script 

in the reign of terror read along scriptAt the bottom of the page, there are vocabulary words that when hovered over reveal their meanings. Each chapter also has an interactive quiz you can take to test your memory and knowledge. 

in the reign of terror vocabheirloom audio quiz 2

We tried a few of the quizzes. Make sure you choose your answers wisely (it automatically corrects you if you click the wrong answer, so you can’t change your answer). We did find an error in one of the quiz questions (we read the script to verify that it was in fact an error).

Alternatively, you can download a full-color discussion and study guide that contains not only questions for discussion, but also lots of other interesting information about the time period and the historical figures who appear in the audio play. This is a beautiful guide and would provide plenty of material for building a study on the French Revolution. It includes a bibliography for further research, a Bible study, and even a couple of recipes. You can easily view the downloadable script or the study guide on your mobile device or your laptop. No suggested answers are provided for the questions, so you will need to listen to the audio and possibly research some of these questions yourself in order to check your child’s answers.

in the reign of terror study guide

in the reign of terror guide recipeThe formatting of the pages would make it impractical to print either the study guide or the script, however. While the provided pdfs are very professional looking, I would love it if “plain Jane” versions were also provided that could be added to a teen’s binder for independent study.

Overall, the site seems like a good value. Not only can you access some great extras for the audio play (and I didn’t even mention the downloadable soundtrack, downloadable poster…), but there are also some other fun extras including the “Old Time Radio Vault” (full of old radio plays), suggested kids activities, and articles.

Visit the In the Reign of Terror site for more information about this wonderful production or the Live the Adventure Club to learn about the membership.

In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
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Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Simple Tool You NEED in Your Homeschool!

Frixion Pens a tool you need in your homeschool! Video demonstration.How many times have you plunked down your hard earned homeschool funds on a brand new curriculum or product…only to discover a few weeks in that it’s a poor fit for the child you bought it for? But that it might be perfect for a younger sibling in a couple of years…

Except now it’s been written in.  It’s got lots of life back in it, but the first bit is not usable anymore.  I don’t know about you---but I loathe throwing away books that only have a small bit used in them. It simply isn’t good stewardship, especially if the book could still be useful. It’s bad for the environment and it’s bad for my finances.

Now, if your child wrote lightly in pencil, you might be able to erase it. Or white out a few lines that are written in ink. What if there was a simpler way?

There is!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sculpture for Kids, a review of ACTÍVA’s Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit

My kids love art!  We don’t often do three-dimensional projects, but any time we’ve worked with clay or similar materials they have loved the sensory experience. There’s something so satisfying about building things up from raw materials. So, when the opportunity came up to try out the Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit from ACTÍVA Products and review it, I was all over that.

 Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit from ACTÍVA Products review

Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit from ACTÍVA Products

contains: 2-4” wide rolls of plaster embedded Rigid Wrap,

8 oz of CelluClay (a paper mache medium),

and instructions for 12 different projects

Download the free, full-color ACTÍVA Products' Favorite Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS project booklet here.

(note: email sign-up required)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Are We Destroying Our Kids’ Privacy on Social Media?

The other day, my 17-year-old son took my breath away. He said that he was glad that he was little back before it was the norm to post about all the cute things that kids do on Facebook. 


Now, I take what my kids say to me seriously and this is a serious kid. He went on to say that he felt like there was no privacy anymore. Everyone was posting on the internet what they had for dinner or what cute thing their kid did or what dumb thing their kid did…

kids privacy-001

Let me pause here for a moment to say that the irony that the fact that I am sharing a summary of this conversation on my blog is not lost on me, but bear with me here. Because that’s immediately what I thought of first…not the cute pictures of messy faces on Facebook…the blog posts.

A number of years ago, someone posted on a homeschool forum this sentiment: those who blog about their homeschool and their kids are violating their children’s trust and privacy. At the time I didn’t think too much about it, because I try really hard to write my story on this blog, not my children’s stories. I figure that their stories are theirs to tell. And while I do sometimes share something that they wrote or drew or whatever, I generally ask permission before I do that, because I know that I am sharing someone else’s property and I need their permission to do that.

Generally the kids are all like “yes, please!” and when they say, “please don’t” I respect that. What is the point of asking for permission if you are going to ignore a “no” answer? Generally speaking, my kids were happy that I talked about our homeschooling on the blog.

But Facebook tends to be a different kettle of worms. I think that’s because typically when I post to Facebook, I’m only posting to my friends, whereas if I post to my blog, I’m conceivably posting to the whole world (not that I have any illusions that the whole world will see it).  When I post to Facebook, I think of it as posting to close friends and family, kind of like how I might talk to close friends and family when we get together anyway. And I don’t ask first.

The thing is…when you have almost 300 Facebook friends, it isn’t just close friends and family. It’s a whole bunch of other people, too.

Of course, you can break up your Facebook list and just post to segments of it. How many of us do that unless we have a pressing need to do so?

The truth is that I feel guilty. I think I may have overstepped some boundaries.

My intentions were good, but I wonder if sharing things about my kids both here and elsewhere has just been a bad thing to do. There are a lot of reasons I do share:

  1. To remember!  I cannot tell you the number of things that I have forgotten that I thought I could not forget. And then Facebook reminds me of a picture I posted 5 years ago or a cute kid event. And I remember it as though it were yesterday.
  2. To encourage and share with other parents who are going through the same challenges I am.
  3. Because my kids did something funny, clever, and bone-headed and I want to share it with my friends who will appreciate it. And will pat me on the head and let me know that their kids do that stuff, too.

When we share things online, it’s different from talking to your Mom or your best girlfriend about it. It might be seen by anybody.  It’s also different from keeping a private journal or scrapbook, even though many of us treat blogs and social media pages like personal journals or scrapbooks.

And while my little kids want me to share stuff online (I guess they are little performers), it’s clear to me now that my almost adult kid has changed his mind about that. His perspective has changed, which makes perfect sense, because he’s grown up. He knows more now than he knew ten years ago or even 2 or 3 years ago.

Have we destroyed our kids privacy with social media?

Have we destroyed our own privacy as well? And if so, how has this changed the way we live? And what should we do about it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.