The "School's Out!" Summer Fun Entertainment Guide

Ok. So maybe school isn't officially out for us, but it is for many families (and we are definitely cutting hours during the hot season.)  Even us homeschoolers need a break from books and gardening, so each evening, we spend a little "down time" enjoying books, movies, and music that everyone can listen to together.  Here are our top new picks for kids of all ages -- and grown-ups, too!

Hullabaloo: Shy Kid Blues

This isn't your average bit of twang.  This rockabilly, blue-grass, and country-inspired album is clearly directed at kids, but my husband and I gave each other playful glances during the initial listening.  Why? The writing is clever, telling a tale of a shy kid who gradually overcame enough of his issues to get a friend and have some adventures.  The songs, well-sung and perfect for dancing to, are connected by narration giving listeners more insight into the tale.  Hullabaloo has done albums before, all with similarly catchy rhymes and rhythms.  Get this album when it's released on May 27th, and get your kids moving; it's perfect for summer-time physical education class or hanging out in the pool!

The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Top Gear Trucks

You don't even want to know how excited my almost-4-year-old got when this DVD arrived in them mail.  (OK, maybe you do.)  He growled in a way that could only say "Trucks and more trucks.  Bring them on."  He loves all things construction, motors, and speed, and The Adventures of Chuck & Friends has always delivered on that promise.  This disc doesn't disappoint, offering 10 episodes and a new bonus "sing-a-long".  My boys love the songs almost more than the stories, and my husband and I like that it teaches good morals without being "preachy."  Get this DVD from Hasbro Studios and Shout Kids from Amazon when it comes out on June 3rd.

The Book Thief

If "based on history" tear jerkers are more your thing, The Book Thief may be your ticket to meaningful movie watching.  Inspired by the book of the same title, this story follows a young girl during the war with the Nazi's, giving viewers a fictional but eye-opening look at what would happen if someone was hiding out in the safety of your home.  How could you hide it?  What friendships could develop?  Bringing yet another lens into the immensely important genre of WWII films, this is a must-see for tweens and up (to watch with their parents, we hope!)  Find it where DVD's and Blu-Rays are sold.  You can also rent it on Amazon for instant viewing.

Pages of History Volume One: Secrets of the Ancients

If getting your kids through the Old Testament of the Bible seems like a fruitless challenge, I totally get your frustration.  Little ones can tune out, and the subject matter can seem overwhelming and evening frightening for some.  What if you could visit the times of the ancients through the eyes of 2 modern-day boys?  Pages of History is a book that aims to do just that, and it does it very well.  Luke and James are two kids from the future who are thrust back into the days of Adam, Noah, Moses, and more... jumping from Bible account to Bible account and experiencing the scenery and culture while having some impromptu lessons from talking animals as they go.  While their trip is a bit jarring (think something from the Quantum Leap series), they carry on, using their many stops as a chance to learn more about God's role in shaping the lives of early humans.  It's important to note that only one of the boys believes in God, giving kids an age-appropriate and respectful look at how we can converse with non-believers in a loving context, as well as give them talking points for starting conversations with those in an interesting and cordial manner.  I can't wait to see what the other books in the series will bring!  Available from Veritas Press.  (Note: One of the authors is a professor with Veritas Press Scholars Academy. To see more about this particular class, see our previous review.)

Jelly Telly

Continuing on with the theme of the Bible, I'd highly recommend checking out Jelly Telly!  It's a subscription based site with hundreds of segments of content for kids and family to learn more about the Bible and God.  The "What's in the Bible" series was our go-to Bible lesson for almost a year, and we learned more from it than I can ever remember getting from even church attendance.  Phil Vischer is passionate, Scripturally-accurate, and entertaining.  You'll find the $5 membership fee a small price for on-demand content, games, and Bloom (the free family devotional).  You can even access it from you mobile device or Roku box!  See the official site for more information; get your first month free with code JELLYTELLY1

The LIT Club

I met the author of the LIT Club book at the first ever Re:Write Conference.  I remember her telling me about her passion for young people to get involved in classic and timeless literature and to love it as much as she did.  When my own daughter became a lit-obsessed teen, I totally got it.  Now that the LIT Club book is released, I have a blueprint for ensuring success with my other 5 kids!  Whether you actually have a book club for teens or not, this guide gives you everything you need to pick "great" books like The Hobbit or the Iliad and present them to your reading group in a fun and exciting way.  You don't need to be a teacher to lead this; vocab lists, games, study guides are all included.  Even if you don't have a reading group to lead, you can use this as a literature unit for your homeschool.  (Note: Ali Dent, the author was a homeschooler.  You can see her years of experience presented in this guide!)  Find it at Amazon!

*Samples of some materials received to review.  Opinions are my own.