One of the hardest things for me to find are good books for grade school boys. It seems like things are either too babyish or too violent. For Matthew, he is looking for boys that aren't too "good" (if you know what I mean), but he isn't interested in violence and fighting for its own sake. Most of the books that we have found to fit him best come from another era where boys are simply boys, without any social agenda or fear of political correctness. I hope that if you feel the same way, this review will help point you to another resource for your sons.
Company Information: Beloved Books is a company that specializes in providing Christian audios for children. Whether you homeschool or not, training your children to listen to quality books and literature is a great skill to develop in your children. Beloved Books offers audio versions of many stories, such as the Little Britches series, G. H. Henty historical fiction, missionary stories, and other children's classics. These stories come in a variety of formats: cassette, audio CD or mp3.
Product Reviewed: For this review, we were provided with volume 1 (out of six) of the Sugar Creek Gang series. This 36-book series by Paul Hutchens were originally "Adventure Time" broadcasts narrated and recorded by Paul Ramseyer. Each volume contains six of the stories. Each story is recorded in 2 CDs (12 total per volume) and lasts about 2 hours each. If you are new to the Sugar Creek Gang as we were, Beloved Books provides a page on their site that provides more detail on the series.
Price: $54.95 per volume or all six volumes (36 stories) for $279.70.
Age Range: 6-12 years old. The stories are about a group of boys, but I think girls will enjoy it too.
Parental Preparation: Nothing! Just insert into your CD player and enjoy. Listening to them in order is best as they do refer to incidences in past stories.
Note: If you would like to preview the series before offering it to your children, Beloved Books has provided a special link where you can listen to the first complete story, The Swamp Robber, online for free. If you'd prefer a CD version, they also offer the first story for $4.95 so you can try it out.
How We Used It: These CDs came at a great time for our family. We had just brought our daughter home from China and were slowly getting back into the routine of life. I wasn't quite ready to get back to full-time school yet, but I didn't want Matthew to wile away his time while I was getting back on my feet. Every day, along with a page of his math lesson, I had him spend some time listening to the stories as part of his school day. While he was listening, he would work on his stamp collection or play with Legos. It didn't take him long to get hooked! Soon, he was listening to them whenever he could and would easily finish a story in the course of the morning. We listened to all six of the stories within a few weeks.
A few other thoughts:
- I didn't do this but these stories can easily be extended with extra side studies. For example, with The Killer Bear, you can do a study of bears alongside the book or study 1940's American life. You can take them as far as you would like. We didn't have the time to do this in this season of our lives.
- You may wish to discuss the difference between being religious and being a true believer. I believe the boys earnestly do want to follow Jesus but I didn't want Matthew to think that following Jesus is just a list of rules. We talked also about the heart of love for Christ that prompts us to pray, share the Gospel with others, and obey our parents.
What We Liked:
- I knew that he was profitably employed while I was busy elsewhere.
- As an auditory learner, Matthew greatly benefited from listening to the stories. Reading has always been a struggle for him so whenever he can just listen, he does so much better.
- The stories themselves were about boys who were truly boys but had a heart for God and seeing others come to know Him (even the bullies). It is refreshing to see the boys have a concern for the spiritual condition of others and to make efforts to share the Gospel with them.
- There is an innocence of an era gone by that I appreciate. Some may think it old-fashioned, but I miss it in our world today.
- The narrator uses different "voices" so it is not a straight reading of the text. This helps to make the story come alive. However, it is not a dramatized reading with sound effects and different actors.
- The CDs come in a sturdy CD binder that keeps them organized, with the titles of the volumes included on the back.
What We Didn't Like:
- The narrator seemed to stutter, but I am wondering if he is trying to tell the story as a boy would---so excited that he stumbles over his words.
- Those of you who do not want your kids exposed to fist fighting may not appreciate this series. (We didn't find it to be a big issue, but just thought I'd mention it if you find that offensive.)
- While this is not an issue for us, others may find the stories a little old-fashioned or too religious.
- The price tag can be a bit steep for one volume of CDs. If this is an issue for you, Beloved Books has provided a coupon code for 20% off your order. Just type in MOM-U-20 in the promotion code box at checkout.
Matthew really enjoyed these stories and I do plan to add the rest of the series to our collection. Again, I encourage you to take advantage of the promotion code and give the series a try. As I mentioned, I have a hard time finding stories for my boys that encourage them to do good without being a goody-goody. Though the stories chronicle the adventures of a pack of boys, girls will enjoy the series as well. They are great to take on the road with you and can provide a little educational downtime during your school day if you need it. Homeschooler or not, check them out!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. If you'd like to read more reviews on this product, click the banner below!