Friday, December 1, 2017

From This Day Forward: a Bethany House review

From This Day Forward by Lauraine Snelling is the fourth book in the Song of Blessing series.  I have previously reviewed A Harvest of Hope (book 2) and Streams of Mercy (book 3).

This book does stand alone, however, I do think it would be better if you have some experience with the characters and how they relate to one another.  Picking this series up from the start would be my preference.

One of the things I've loved about visiting the fictional town of Blessing, ND is that it reminds me of home.  Some of the crazy and very Scandinavian names are familiar to me from the older generation living on my newspaper route, for instance.  The characters seemed like younger versions of people I knew growing up.

I love that.

From the publisher:
Deborah MacCallister, head nurse at the Blessing hospital, has loved Toby Valders since her school days, but she's had enough of their on-again, off-again relationship. With the help of the young women of Blessing, Deborah decides that by the end of the summer she will either have won Toby's heart--or she'll give up on him forever.

Toby truly cares for Deborah, but he's never felt like he could commit to marriage or a family. When Anton Gendarme, the new schoolteacher, comes to town, sparks fly between Deborah and Anton. The sudden competition makes Toby do some serious soul-searching, but is it too late?

As the town of Blessing prepares for harvest, Deborah faces the most important decision of her life. But where does her heart truly belong?
That description is pretty spot-on, which is always nice.  The characters in the Song of Blessing series struggle with very real issues and very real decisions, and they are written in a way that you can truly believe they are actual people with real lives.

Everyone doesn't live happily ever after.  Not every conflict is neatly wrapped up by the time the final credits roll.  Life is a bit messy and complicated.  Messy and complicated does not necessarily mean dark or depressing though.  Overall, the characters are seeing the beauty of their lives and are working for better for themselves and their community.

This is what keeps drawing me back to Blessing. 

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Other Side of Infamy: a Tyndale House Blog Network review

A year or so ago, I had the opportunity to hear a speaker talk about his experiences at Pearl Harbor and World War II in general.  He was absolutely fascinating to listen to.  Not terribly long after that, I had a chance to review his book.  The Other Side of Infamy: My Journey through Pearl Harbor and the World of War by Jim Downing and James Lund is absolutely terrific, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Once I got a couple of chapters into the book, I had a tough time putting it down.  Jim's life is fascinating, and the book is well written, so you really feel drawn in.

My high school senior is studying 20th Century for history this year, and we have just gotten through World War I.  I plan that once we hit World War II, he will be reading this book.

It is far more than just a war memoir.  Jim was constantly doing things to be reaching others for Jesus, including the weekend of Pearl Harbor.  Reading about all these major events from the point of view of one very small player in the whole drama was interesting enough, but reading how he was trying to act as Christ's representative in the midst of all of this drama made it so much more fascinating.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

These are a few of our favorite things!

It has been another great year on the Crew, and we've reviewed some amazing products in 2017!

Some of the best, according to voting by the Crew, are listed here.  I'm linking to the Crew post for each, where you can go to check out all of the reviews. 

Homeschool Review Crew Favorite Products for 2017

My kids are all getting older, so many of these categories no longer apply.  Some of our favorites this year, though, included Doctor Aviation, which has resulted in high school credit for my two oldest, the aviation badge for AHG for my youngest, and a whole lot of excitement on the part of Richard.

Another favorite was Drive Thru History, which I thought was going to walk away with about a quarter of the awards below.  They were very close in a few other categories, besides the four Blue Ribbons they won.  I didn't write up a review, but I tell you, this was my choice for all-around favorite -- and two of my teens voted for it for Teens' Choice.

Creating a Masterpiece is another I didn't write a review for, but it has changed lives in this house.  I am going to be posting about some things we have done with that program.  I was excited to see it win Favorite Fine Arts Curriculum!

Innovators Tribe was another fabulous product this year, and we reviewed Thinking Like an Architect.  This has been another great way to get some science credits on my teens' transcripts.

Other fantastic products were part of this year too, such as the newest Illuminating Literature program from Writing with Sharon Watson.  We're still using the first volume, and my senior didn't want to change gears.  I read through a lot of the material though, and Characters in Crisis is every bit as wonderful as When Worlds Collide.

I could go on and talk about Let's Go Geography, High School Essay Intensive, Rush Revere, Bessie's Pillow, Memoria Press, and on and on.  Instead, I'll just give you a list of all of the winners, with links to the Crew post (go read reviews there!!) and to my reviews if I didn't link them above!


Favorite Reading Curriculum - Reading Eggs
Favorite Writing Curriculum - Writing with Sharon Watson
Favorite Grammar Program - Eclectic Foundations - my review of Level B
Favorite Penmanship Program - Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math Worksheets
Favorite Literature Curriculum - Hewitt Homeschooling - my review of Lightning Literature Grade 7

Favorite Social Studies Curriculum - Let's Go Geography
Favorite History Supplement - Rush Revere
Favorite Science Curriculum - Innovators Tribe
Favorite Math Curriculum - CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement - Times Tables the Fun Way

Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum - Memoria Press (Latin)
Favorite Fine Arts Curriculum - Creating a Masterpiece
Favorite Elective Curriculum - Doctor Aviation
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum - Drive Thru History
Favorite Christian Education Supplement - Brinkman Adventures

Favorite Preschool Product - Reading Eggs
Favorite Elementary Product - Susan K. Marlow
Favorite Middle School Product - Innovators Tribe
Favorite High School Product - Doctor Aviation 
Favorite College or College-Prep Product - Institute for Excellence in Writing: High School Essay Intensive
Favorite Parent Product - Everyday Homemaking

The Resource I Didn't Know I Needed -  Innovators Tribe
Favorite Planning Product - Only Passionate Curiosity
Best Online Resource - Reading Eggs
Best e-Product - Home School in the Woods
Favorite Book or Novel - Rush Revere
Favorite Audiobook or Audio Drama - Heirloom Audio Productions: Captain Bayley's Heir
Best Product Just for Fun! - Drive Thru History

Kids' Choice - The Pencil Grip: Thin Stix
Teens' Choice - Drive Thru History
All Around Crew Favorite - Drive Thru History

It's been an honor to work with all of the great 2017 vendors, and I am looking forward to another fantastic Crew Year!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Joining 4-H

I am shocked to find myself posting this, but we ended up adding something else to our schedule this year.  We've looked at 4-H a few times over the years, but I always had such a tough time figuring out things like when and where clubs near us met, or just what exactly we would be doing if we joined.

Well, this year is the year for it.

I now only have three kids who are eligible.  All three are participating in Shooting Sports.  Dale took them to their first shooting opportunity.  Richard fell in love with the muzzleloading portion.  Thomas and Trina had a great time as well.

Thomas is going to be working on filmmaking as his second project.  Trina is going to be doing clothing construction.  Richard?  Still not sure.  I don't want to take on any livestock projects this year, but otherwise, pretty much anything is a possibility.

Tell me I'm crazy, or make a suggestion as to what Richard ought to do.

I think it is going to be a great year.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thinking Like an Architect

Thinking Like an Architect

One of the greatest parts of being on the Homeschool Review Crew is the opportunity to add some amazing variety to my high school kids' transcripts.  Thinking Like an Architect was one of those amazing moments.

Innovators Tribe has two fantastic STEM programs available right now, with a third coming soon.  The Crew also had a chance to review Thinking Like an Engineer, so definitely hit the banner down below to see what people thought of that one.  Thinking Like a Carpenter is the "coming soon" one, and it looks really neat.

Technology and Engineering Education, the T and E of STEM Education, is what Innovators Tribe is all about.  They want to make TEE courses available to middle and high school students everywhere.  This isn't just for engineers, everyone needs to be technologically literate these days.  That means more than just being knowledgeable about computers.  Homeschoolers seem pretty on top of the computer technology aspect, but the rest of TEE has been a lot harder to teach. 

Mr. Kroeplin (aka Mr. K) is trying to change that, and these courses are a great way to make technology happen. 

Thinking Like an Architect is for 6th-12th grades, and I happen to have four students in that range (6th, 8th, 10th and 12th).  I decided that all four would do the course, and the older two will get high school credit for it.  One awesome aspect of this course is that the subscription can be used for an entire household. 

Since my kids started getting older, it has been harder to do school the way we used to.  I loved the days of sitting everyone down and reading aloud from various literature, biography, science, and history books.  Everyone was learning at their own level.  Those were some of my favorite homeschool days.

This course has given us a bit of that back, since I can use it with everyone.  Trina is learning a lot, but pretty much glazed over when math was seriously involved (one project involves estimating the height of your house, and that was reasonably challenging math).  That's okay with me.  I expect she is going to go absolutely crazy in the final section where you design your dream house.  Her having fun is far more important to me than whether she grasps the geometry involved in some of the details.

My high school students can get a little deeper, still doing this at their level.  Each course is around 30 hours of work, between the video and power point presentations and the activities assigned.  That translates to 1/4 credit.  I'm hoping that Innovators Tribe is planning a fourth course, so that in working through all of them, I'd have a pretty easy full credit in TEE.  Easy for me, not necessarily easy for them.

I like courses that are easy for me.

You need very few supplies, which is fantastic.  The lessons are very easy to work through, and the projects definitely get you thinking.  It is important to actually pay attention to what he tells you to do and to actually read instructions.  As you go through the course, you have opportunities to do a variety of activities, from researching an architect, to building an architect scale, to creating a blueprint of your house (see image below), to working with software to design and build a model of your dream house.

You can see a bit about how the course interface works in the image above.  The green checkmarks show lessons we have completed, and the green circle is the lesson we are currently on.  We can look ahead to see how long the various upcoming lessons will take, which is handy.  As you work through the course, you click the green arrows in the bottom right to advance through.  On that main screen, there is a "Resources" link that I had completely missed initially.  That gives you links to all kinds of fantastic information, sorted by lesson.  We just had to go back and watch a National Geographic video from lesson two, as "Great Cathedral Mystery" sounded too good to skip!

In the lesson pictured above, the kids have just learned a whole lot about blueprints and the symbols on them, and they are working on figuring out lengths of some of the rooms and other such things, using a REAL blueprint (okay, a pdf of a real blueprint).  We put it up on the screen so that everyone could work on it together, and that worked out pretty well.  Thomas is looking at the worksheet, and he and Richard are pointing to the sections they need to add up, I believe.  If I snapped the photo ten seconds later, Thomas would be pointing to the other part, anyway.  He had glanced back at the page and his hand moved.

The next lesson had them drawing a simple blueprint, of a chicken house.  They were to use the architect scale they had assembled in a previous lesson.  This lesson took a fair amount of time, more for some of my more detail-oriented children. 

The best part of this class, though, is the software that we get to use in designing our dream houses.  That part happens in the final section of the course, and we are just now getting to it.

Home Designer looks pretty incredible.  I've looked ahead and watched some of the tutorial videos, and this is going to be a very interesting set of lessons.

One really fun thing is that there is now an Architecture badge in American Heritage Girls.  Trina probably won't earn the badge this year, but one of the optional requirements is to design her dream home, another is to design the craziest house idea she can, and yet another is to design a house for a pet or other animal.  She can easily do the optional requirements (she needs to do two optionals) for this badge once we are through the course.

I am going to have her go through this course again as a 7th grader, as the badge requirements for 7th-9th grades are really easy to complete with Thinking Like an Architect.  She has to learn about different types of architectural drawings and draw her house with them.  She needs to learn about three American architects, and a female architect, so I'd adapt the research requirement in this course to fit the badge.  Designing a dream house with 3-D modeling software and a problem-solving optional requirement both fit this course well too.  In addition, she'd need to visit a construction site and an architecture firm.  Redoing this next year would mean that Richard could do it for high school credit as well.

I highly recommend Innovators Tribe for middle or high school, and I really look forward to seeing what else they come out with!

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It is autumn, and time for fuzzy socks

This is my favorite time of year.  I love getting up when it is really cool outside.  Cool enough that I put on my bathrobe, and grab a pair of slippers.  Or the fuzzy slipper socks.

Only this time of year is also when I struggle to find a pair of anything.  I already knew I had one gray slipper, and one bright blue slipper, and I have no idea what happened to the other half of either pair.

So this morning I went to grab slipper socks.

And... I'm not making it up... this is what I found:

Okay, so I straightened them out a bit to take the picture.  But those are the slipper socks I found, in the order I found them.

I did finally find two pairs, once I went to the basket of clean clothes that hasn't been sorted.  There was a black one, and a red patterned one in there.  So I am wearing a matching pair right now, and can put one on tomorrow too.

I keep thinking there is probably some sort of message in this.  Like maybe it is time I start actually pairing stuff up when it comes out of the dryer, or that I need to go find a 20-pack of identical slipper socks so I don't have to worry about it.

Or maybe it is that getting a job done is more important than what that all looks like.  Appearances don't matter so much.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Evidence That Demands a Verdict - Coming October 3!

I spent the past couple of days taking my high school senior and sophomore to visit their brother in college.  They do a weekend event, Focus, where high schoolers get a chance to come, attend some classes, hang out, and learn a bit about the school.

I ended up staying in the home of a couple who are on staff at the school.  We stayed up at least as late as the boys did on Friday night.  Both of my sweet hosts work at the school.  She is the registrar.  He (among other things) teaches an apologetics class to seniors.

We were discussing books in general, and she was giving him a bad time about how many books he's purchased in the past month.  He told her that he'll be purchasing a couple more here shortly, as the brand-new, fourth edition Evidence That Demands a Verdict is coming out next week.

As I have been reading a digital version of that updated book, I perked right up.

The original Evidence That Demands a Verdict was one of the very first apologetics books out there that was actually accessible to normal people.  Josh McDowell did a fantastic job of laying out the evidence, the rational reasons, for the Christian faith, and that book (and revisions since then) have been a huge help for so many people in defending their faith.

But this book didn't just need a bit of updating to release a fourth edition.  It needed far more than that.  The tagline attached to a lot of what I've seen about this is "Because the TRUTH of the Bible doesn't change, but its CRITICS do."

Life is a lot different than it was in the early 70s, and the criticism of the Bible and of believers has certainly changed as well.  So Josh -- and his son Sean -- set out to make this classic more relevant for today.

Josh talks about some of the changes in his audience forty years ago vs. today.  I doubt it would surprise too many folks that the idea of whether or not truth even exists is one of the biggest changes. 

That is why my host is interested in this book, and we talked about that.  He is convinced this book is going to help in reaching millennials.  I think he is right.  This book is significantly different -- lots of brand-new content and quite a bit of what was in the book has been significantly updated.

I have really enjoyed reading it, even though I find it challenging to read a pdf book.  I'm really looking forward to receiving the hardback that I bought, which shipped this morning and should arrive tomorrow!

I think this is something I will be going through with my kids.  Even though there are so many choices out there today that can help you to know why you believe and help you defend your faith, this book ranks up there among the very best.  If you are going to have one such book, this is the one to get.

I seriously think this is a book that everyone should have.  You still have a day left to pre-order, and if you do so, there are some bonuses available.  Check out ReadEvidence for more info on that.  And more videos and other information too!

Disclaimer:   I received this ebook for free .  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.