Monday, December 31, 2012

100 Bible Verses in 2013: Week 1

This may be a bit of a New Year's Resolution, but starting today the kids and I (along with 220ish friends in a Facebook group) are working through the verses in the book 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart by Robert Morgan.

100 Bible Verses in 2013You don't need the book to participate, however it is only $2.99 for the Kindle edition and it is a great little book.  Check out Shanna's post about how this will work.  If you are interested in joining, I can add you to the Facebook group too.

I hope to post every Monday.  And I hope we can keep up.

The idea is to work on two verses a week for the first 50 weeks of the year.  For this week, we are working on verses I already know, but I don't think all the kids know the second one.

Genesis 1:1 -- In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  (ESV)

John 1:1 -- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (ESV)

What I love about the book is that it isn't just a list of verses.  First, there is a whole lot of great stuff on why you should be doing Bible memory work.  But then when you get to the verses, it isn't just a list.  There is a couple pages on each one.  I'll be reading that aloud, we'll work on memorizing the verse, and we'll read the verse in context.  We'll also pull out some resources for each verse to get some background.

Then we'll move on to read the next one and repeat the process. 

I'm planning to take Andrew Pudewa's idea about the "Suzuki method of poetry memorization" from Developing Linguistic Patterns through Poetry Memorization, and we will apply that here too.

So that means we will be reciting every verse we've learned so far every day... for now.  In March, these January verses will start moving to an "every other day" schedule.  I'll work those logistics out then. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: Guidepost's Spirit Lifters

I've been reading a couple of brand-new devotionals from Guideposts this month on my Kindle.  Having them there has worked out rather well, as I've been reading a selection at night while waiting for my bed to warm up, and I've been reading from the other one first thing in the morning, before I get out of my nice, cozy bed.

The publisher describes this series like this:
The Guideposts Spirit Lifters series is an all-new eBook series from Guideposts featuring devotionals and story collections. The Spirit Lifters series demonstrates the powerful connection between faith and daily living, and offer readers hope to overcome life's challenges and to celebrate God's hand in our lives.
The two titles I've been reading include 101 Moments of Prayer and 101 Moments of Trust

Let's start with 101 Moments of Prayer. From the publisher:
Join Elizabeth Sherrill, longtime writer for the bestselling devotional, Daily Guideposts, as she takes you on a journey that will help you appreciate life's little moments where you allow yourself to truly listen to how God is speaking to you. With carefully chosen Scripture passages for each day and thoughtful devotional entries, 101 Moments of Prayer will be a refreshing addition to your quiet time. If you're looking to grow in your faith while enhancing your daily practice of prayer and reflection, you'll find a wonderful companion in 101 Moments of Prayer, part of the Guideposts Spirit Lifters series.
Each devotion starts off with a "traveling companion" -- someone from Scripture who exemplified the point being made for that day.  I haven't been through the entire book, but this does appear to move chronologically through the Bible, or at least it starts that way.

I love that.  Having a person and their story in mind just adds so much more to the devotional.  After the companion is introduced, there is a page or two of reading, telling about that person's story and how that relates to life today.  Each devotion ends with a one sentence prayer.

Then there is 101 Moments of Trust.  Here, the publisher says:
Join Marion Bond West, longtime writer for the bestselling devotional, Daily Guideposts, as she takes you on a journey that will help you trust in God's abiding strength and love no matter what challenges life brings. With carefully chosen Scripture passages for each day and thoughtful devotional entries sharing real-life experiences, 101 Moments of Trust will be a refreshing addition to your quiet time. If you're looking to grow in your faith while enhancing your daily practice of prayer and reflection, you'll find a wonderful companion in 101 Moments of Trust, part of the Guideposts Spirit Lifters series.
This devotional starts off with a short Bible verse, then roughly a page of devotional, followed by a one-sentence prayer.  Obviously, all of these relate to trusting God with everything.  This one is shorter daily readings, so I've tended to read this first thing in the morning.

You can see what other bloggers have to say about this series at the LitFuse website.

Disclaimer:  I received these ebook through LitFuse.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bountiful Baskets: December 22

It was so nice to be back doing Bountiful Baskets again today.  I missed everyone these past couple of weeks!  And I missed the produce too!

Today, I got two baskets, and they were really quite nice.  Here's a photo of one of them:

So what did we get in our two baskets, combined?
  • Four 3-lb bags of potatoes
  • Three heads of lettuce
  • Four yellow squash
  • Three eggplant
  • Thirteen onions
  • Eight avocadoes
  • Three bags green grapes
  • Four pomegranates
  • Six Asian pears
  • Twelve red pears

What will we do with all of this stuff?

Potatoes, onions, and lettuce just get used, I don't really make plans for them.  I'm on potato and onion overload again though, so I may have to get a bit more intentional.  However, if I just work a bit at making an extra-big batch of mashed potatoes for Christmas... well, I might be able to deal with some of that "too much" right now.

The grapes and both types of pears will just be eaten.  Pomegranates will undoubtedly be turned into Pomegranate-Apple Crisp, based roughly on the linked recipe.  One of these times, I need to keep track of what I do instead and blog it.

Avocadoes need to be used pretty immediately.  I'm probably going to freeze them, though I am seriously lacking freezer space at the moment.  I either make guacamole out of the frozen stuff (though I'm the only one who will eat it) or I sneak it into things.  I may need to look into new ideas for avocado. 

Yellow Squash will be a side dish or two, probably.  I haven't found anything I truly love, so I may try this Paula Deen Cheesy Squash Casserole.

Eggplant?  I begged on Facebook for some ideas, and got quite a few.  So I'm going to look around my cupboards and try something.  Moussaka?  Eggplant Parmigiana?  Golden Eggplant Casserole?  Beef and Eggplant Pie?  I have no idea yet...

Great basket... 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Review: Twice a Bride

Twice a Bride cover
I'm basically a sucker for historical fiction that takes place near me -- either near where I live now, or near where I lived in the past.  Twice a Bride, by Mona Hodgson, is the fourth book in The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek series.  I hadn't caught that it was book 4, or I probably wouldn't have gone for it.  But I was interested in some local material, and while the synopsis made the book sound more "fluffy" than I generally go for, a light read sounded like just the thing.

That synopsis:
Full of resolve, young widow Willow Peterson decides to pursue her dreams to be an artist as she settles into a new life in the growing mountain town of Cripple Creek.  When she lands a job working as a portrait painter with handsome entrepreneur and photographer Trenton Van Der Veer, the road before Willow seems to be taking a better-than-anticipated turn. 

With questions tugging at several hearts in town, including the Sinclair Sisters’ beloved Miss Hattie, change is traveling down the tracks as several unexpected visitors make their way out West.  Will the new arrivals threaten the deep family bonds of the Sinclair sisters and the roots of love that are just taking hold for Willow?    

Filled with the resonating questions that all women face, this romance awakens hope against grief, love against loss, and dreams against life’s unexpected turns.
My take:

Definitely a historical romance as opposed to historical fiction, so this certainly was "fluffier" than I usually go for.  I had not read any of the other books in this series, and there were certainly moments where I knew I was missing something because I wasn't familiar with the characters from the other books.  However, I do believe this stood on its own.

The plot was fairly predictable.  There were a couple of details that caught me off guard, but the overall story panned out pretty much as expected.  That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the story.  I certainly did.  One thing I loved was a certain realism from a relationship point of view.  Most relationships I see involve people assuming things about the other person, but eventually talking it over and realizing they were reacting on assumptions.  The characters in this story tended to do that as well.  It was refreshing to have characters behave like adults at points where I expected there to be some huge, drawn-out blow-up over something that had been misunderstood.

A main theme had to do with loss -- widows missing their husbands, daughters missing their parents, mothers missing their babies, people coming to terms with the loss of a dream. 

The historical touches were nice too.  I don't know a lot about Cripple Creek, though I did work up there once upon a time.  Certain aspects really rang true, though, and my favorite part was reading the far-too-brief historical notes that came after the story.

I probably will look for the other Sinclair Sisters novels, primarily because of the "home" connection.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reading Aloud Challenge -- Part 2 of the Listening Aloud Edition

This is part 2 of the Listening Aloud Edition.  We've been traveling, so I have read almost nothing out loud, but we did a lot of audiobook listening.  And no photo.

So what have we been reading aloud this past week?

Made in Heaven by Ray Comfort and Jeffrey Seto.  We are continuing to (allegedly) read a two-page spread daily.  Um, or not.  We only did one this week.  This book is great.

The American Patriot's Almanac by William Bennett.  We're reading from this one daily too. Supposedly.  We only did it once this week.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.  Which was great, of course.  My kids kept pausing it to compare the accuracy of the Muppets movie version. 

Goals for next week: We are home, so we will be back to reading aloud.  Finally.  I've missed it, but it has been nice to have a couple of weeks basically off.

Rules for this linkup - if you are blogging about things you are reading aloud to your children, or just blogging about reading aloud in general, feel free to link up.  Audiobooks count too.  I would very much appreciate if you link back to this post.  I'll leave the linky open through Monday at midnight.

How about you? 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book Review: Evolution Impossible

I had the chance to review the ebook version of Evolution Impossible by John Ashton.  This book is published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group.

Fantastic book.

Basically, this is a book detailing a dozen areas where the theory of evolution falls short.  I've read a lot of books that do similar things, but I really did like this one.

  • The writing is not overly technical, so it is fairly easy to comprehend.
  • The writing is not overly simplistic.  The reader is treated like someone intelligent enough to form their own conclusion, and like someone capable of being given a fair amount of information.
  • The chapters don't get into a lot of circular reasoning.
  • This book covers a lot of ground as far as science.  Earth science, biology, biochemistry, etc.
The publisher had this to say:
There is scientific evidence proving evolution cannot be responsible for life on Earth.
It is time to question what biology text books and nature documentaries claim about our origins. Even Darwin admitted, “I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything; and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them.”
Dr. John Ashton has dedicated 40+ years to teaching and researching science, and exposing the lack of proven evidence for Darwin’s theories. In Evolution Impossible, he uses discoveries in genetics, biochemistry, geology, radiometric dating, and other scientific disciplines to explain why the theory of evolution is a myth.
Discover for yourself:
  • Why the fossil record is evidence of extinction, not evolution
  • How erosion and sedimentation dates conflict with radiometric dating
  • How the lack of transitional fossils undermines evolutionary notions
  • Why living cells and new organisms do not rise by chance or random mutations
Regardless of your level of scientific education, you will finish this book able to cite 12 reasons why evolution cannot explain the origin of life.
I wish this book had come into my life earlier.  I was first exposed to the idea of a literal 6 day Creation roughly 6000 years ago in far more off-putting language.  A concise and well-articulated book like this would have given me a better introduction.

You can watch the book trailer here:

Disclaimer:   I received this ebook for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reading Aloud - or rather, Listening Aloud - December 11

This is part 1 of the Listening Aloud Edition.  We've been traveling, so I have read almost nothing out loud, but we did a lot of audiobook listening.  And no photo.

So what have we been reading aloud this past week?

Made in Heaven by Ray Comfort and Jeffrey Seto.  We are continuing to (allegedly) read a two-page spread daily.  Um, or not.  We only did one this week.  This book is great.

The American Patriot's Almanac by William Bennett.  We're reading from this one daily too. Supposedly.  We didn't actually open this at all this week, but I'm leaving it here to remind me to do it.

Anne's House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery.  We listened to about 3/4 of this book. It was hard to drive while listening to the part about Anne's first baby.  The kids weren't hounding me to be sure to put the next one on hold, but I expect that is mostly because we aren't home.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Focus on the Family Radio Theater.  I reviewed this one, but for here I'll say it was totally fabulous and I'm glad we had the opportunity.

Goals for next week: I don't plan to do a lot of reading aloud.  We'll be listening to some things when we head home.  A Christmas Carol for one, but I don't remember what else.  When we get home, we have a lot of Christmas stories planned for the next week, or maybe two.

Rules for this linkup - if you are blogging about things you are reading aloud to your children, or just blogging about reading aloud in general, feel free to link up.  Audiobooks count too.  I would very much appreciate if you link back to this post.  I'll leave the linky open through Monday at midnight.

How about you? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Here are five of my favorite books

PhotobucketAs part of the Moms of Master Books, I've been asked to post this month about my favorite 5 titles from those we reviewed this year.  Since I've only just started with this amazing group, I don't have as many to choose from!  Fortunately, though, I had reviewed some of the titles the Moms did throughout the year, so I do have enough to have five favorites.

In no particular order, my Top 5 for 2012 are:

Made in Heaven by Ray Comfort and Jeffrey Seto.  This has been a family read-aloud.  We're reading a two-page spread every day, and wow, are there some great sections on the incredible technology inspired by Creation. 

Genius of Ancient Man by Don Landis.  I've been reading this book aloud to Thomas, my 12 year old, and when simply love it.  So much fascinating information about the amazing achievements of ancient peoples.  Since Thomas is so interested in archaeology, this is a perfect book for him. 
Great for God by David Shibley.  I reviewed Great for God
a few months ago.  At that point, I had been reading a couple sections each week as a devotional for me.  I stopped doing that, and started the book over.  Now I'm reading a section a week aloud to the kids.  Each section takes 10-15 minutes to read out loud, so this will be about five months of weekly reading for us.  What I love is that this covers so many people I wasn't familiar with.
Awesome Science by Kyle Justice.  This DVD series is fabulous.  I reviewed The Grand Canyon
and purchased Explore Yellowstone with Noah Justice.  We liked the Grand Canyon video, as you can read about in my review, but we really loved Yellowstone.  I'm far more familiar with Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, and I truly enjoyed seeing the sites through a Creation point of view.  It has been years since I've been there, and the standard evolutionary perspective is all I've ever had presented to me.  There are now four more titles in this series, and I'm hoping to get them all eventually.  This is simply a fantastic resource.

Big Book of History by Laura Welch.  I reviewed this resource -- and there are some great photos there.  Oh, I simply have to include one.

This is a timeline, a history book, and just an amazing resource. I love it.


So that is my Top 5...  go check to see what everyone else loved this year!


Disclaimer: I have received titles as indicated in exchange for my honest review.  Opinions expressed are those of either my family or myself.  No other compensation was received.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: Oliver Twist

We listen to a lot of audiobooks.  Mostly in the car.  Besides church (a three minute drive) and the bookmobile (a fifteen minute drive) everything we go and do is roughly an hour, one-way.  Audiobooks fill a need for us to redeem that drive-time, and oftentimes to get some schooling done besides.

When I had the opportunity to review Oliver Twist, the latest Focus on the Family Radio Theater production, I simply had to do it.  Especially since we were planning a trip "home," which is roughly 2400 miles round-trip, during the Blog Tour time period.

So yesterday, while driving from Nebraska to Minnesota, we were absorbed by this 5-disk production of Oliver Twist.  At least, everyone over the age of 8 was.  The youngest two zoned in and out quite a bit.

Focus on the Family Radio Theater does a fabulous job.  As always.

If you haven't read Oliver Twist (I hadn't) there is a basic synopsis of the plot in this description from Tyndale:
An audio drama of the highest quality, Oliver Twist was recorded on location in London with an award-winning cast. This classic story will steal your heart as the timeless characters are brought to life in Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s edition of Charles Dickens’ beloved tale. This amazing audio production comes on five CDs, with a bonus DVD that includes behind-the-scenes production footage and the documentary Modern Day Oliver. Purchase of the product also benefits Focus’s “Wait No More” adoption initiative.

With cinema-quality sound and an original soundtrack, this audio drama tells the story of a young orphan sent from a child farm to begin life in a workhouse. After committing the unpardonable offense of asking for more food, Oliver is sent off to apprentice with a coffin-maker whose wife mistreats him. He runs away to London, where he meets the Artful Dodger and Fagin, who trains kids to be pickpockets. Despite his many trials and hardships, he finally gets his happy ending, bringing hope for redemption to all around him.
I was familiar with the story, and it sure seemed that this production stayed fairly true to how Charles Dickens wrote it.  From reading a reasonably detailed plot synopsis, I noticed only a couple fairly minor differences between this production and the original story.  One was that 'implied prostitution' was not really implied, or at least was far more subtly implied.

Oliver Twist can be a rather dark and depressing tale in spots.  It is dealing with some pretty harsh realities of that time, and it does not shy away from the beatings and the hunger.  But this story is so much more.  This is truly a tale of good vs. evil -- virtually all the characters are clearly one or the other.  This is clearly a tale with messages that still needs to be told today. Unfortunately.

The cast is fabulous (and all are British!) and the music and sound effects enhance the story.  This production convinced Connor that he definitely wants to read more Dickens.

There is a DVD included with special features -- a "making of" segment was totally fun.  It's great to see the actors behind the voices!  There is also a segment on modern-day Olivers.  You can view a part of that here:

The one complaint we had about the production is that, being radio theater, they rely on sound cues to help us to know where things are taking place and to move the story along.  Those aren't always easy to catch when listening in the car.  You can listen to a sample, or watch a bit of the making of documentary, at the Focus on Family Radio Theater website.

Everyone, however, thought it was a fabulous way to pass through Iowa.

I highly, highly recommend this production.  You can purchase it either as a download or as CDs.

Disclaimer:   I received this production 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.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Reading Aloud: December 4

Ack!  When our dryer stopped working last night, messing up our travel plans, I totally forgot to do this.  Please, if you are new to this, click the Reading Aloud label to see other posts I've done just so you know I'm usually not quite this much of a slug.

Suffice it to say, our reading aloud has been pretty minimal as we work on getting ready to leave town.

I'm continuing to read from The Genius of Ancient Man, and from Made in Heaven.  We listened to a bit more Anne's House of Dreams.

We'll be doing a lot of listening to audiobooks in the next week.

I would love, love, love to know what others are reading though, so in spite of my pathetic report above, I'm taking the time to do a linky!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: Spanish for You! ~ Fiestas

Recently, I've had the chance to use Spanish for You! in my homeschool.  Specifically, I've been working with their Fiestas set.

This is such a neat program, though it took me a bit of time to wrap my brain around it.

What you get as part of the full set:
  • A print book, which is essentially the textbook for the program.  This is a non-consumable softcover book, and is used for all grade levels.
  • Three separate files with lesson plans.  One is for grades 3-4, and contains 30 weeks of lessons. The other two, with 24 weeks of lessons, are for grades 5-6 and 7-8. 
  • Self-checking worksheets for each of the three grade levels. You can print as many as you need, at whichever grade level you need.  There are something like 200 worksheets here.  Wow, just wow.
  • mp3 files of the entire book.  The entire book is available not once, but twice.  So you have two versions -- one being a native speaker, the other by the author of the program.  I love that we can hear things slightly differently.
  • Printable flashcard pictures, which, again, you can print in whatever quantity you need.
What I love about Spanish for You! is that you can easily work with kids in grades 5-6 and grades 7-8 at the same time.  The lesson plans are very similar, with the older kids doing a little bit more on some things.  The worksheets are also incredibly similar, though the older kids do quickly move into more grammatically complex sentences, and sometimes just longer sentences.

I ended up using this with William (8th grade) and Thomas (6th grade), but opted not to try it with Richard and Trina (3rd and 1st) just yet.  I determined that since I don't know much Spanish, it was just a bit much for ME to try to work at two different paces.  I'm planning to have the two of them start, though, once we get back from our trip to the grandparents.

Now, I mentioned that I had a hard time wrapping my brain around what I was supposed to do.  There were two reasons for this.  One was that I downloaded all of the material into a single folder on my computer.  That was a mistake.  A big one.  I open that folder and am totally overwhelmed.  There are many, many files for grades 3-4 all mixed in with the files for grades 5-6 and the files for grades 7-8. I take one look, and I close it.

So then I take a look at the book.  That starts off with a lot of general information -- like amazing background history on the various Fiestas that are studied in this particular unit.  Quite a few pages into it, you get to the lessons, but I'm not exactly sure what to DO with those lessons.

It wasn't until I finally took a really deep breath and opened up the lesson plans file for grades 5-6, printed off the ONE page lesson plan for week 1, and then stared at it alongside the book that things started to fall into place.  It was easy to find the specific worksheets I needed, and once I had those printed out and in front of me, it really made sense.  And -- duh -- each "lesson" in the book is completed over a few weeks.  I didn't grasp that from the book (though I should have) and I was feeling completely overwhelmed by the quantity of information.

So my two pieces of advice are -- use folders so that you only have to look at one level at a time on your computer, and start with the lesson plans.

For William and Thomas, after I finally had just sat down with the material, I was able to easily (well, mostly) get started with that first lesson.  A week in the life, so to speak, from week 6:
  • Day 1:  Review flashcards from lessons 1 and 2.  Work on a vocabulary worksheet.  Work on learning two new verbs.  And then there was a buyer/seller game.  We love games and hands-on types of things here!
  • Day 2: Review lesson 1 flashcards.  Work on a couple of verb worksheets.  Play Simon Says.
  • Day 3: Essentially, a spelling test on the lesson 1 material.  My kids hated it, but they did pretty well.  There is a game today too.
  • Day 4: You are given eight sentences, and the task is to write a question where that sentence could be the answer.  That was fun.
You can probably tell that there is plenty of review built into this program, but for the most part it doesn't feel like review.  And unlike some other Spanish programs I have looked at, this isn't just about learning vocabulary.  There are grammatical concepts woven in throughout, and they are completely non-intimidating.

Quite often, the students are practicing asking and answering questions, which I am certain is going to lead to an ability to truly converse.

Most weeks involve listening to the audio, and many involve learning about the various Fiestas.  The audio goes at a "too fast" clip at first.  We struggled to repeat the word, and pausing after each word or phrase was a lot of work!  I have to say that the lesson 2 audio wasn't as "rushed" as the lesson 1... which probably was more that WE had already learned enough to deal with it, not that the audio is really of a different quality.

The cultural part is the favorite here!  You generally read/research the holiday during the first week of each lesson, and in the final week you get more of a chance to make decorations and FOOD.  Food is a huge motivator for my boys.

The 7th/8th grade lesson plan is quite similar.  The worksheets are a bit more complex.  And in addition to what is mentioned above, you also have an optional activity on Day Two that involves translating from Spanish to English.

The 3rd/4th grade level moves at a slower pace, and has less complex worksheets.  Looking it over, I feel confident that I can have both my 3rd and 1st graders work on this, though Trina may do less of the paperwork parts of it.  Now, I do agree with their recommendation for starting this with 3rd grade or older.  But around this house, we almost always fold in younger kids with what their older brothers are learning. 

I like that this is fairly low-key and easy on me (once I figured it out).  I love that it is possible to combine kids.  If I didn't have an 8th grader in the mix, I probably would have followed the pacing of the 3rd/4th grade program and had Thomas do the 5th/6th grade worksheets and assignments, making that a 30 week course for him.  But I thought it was important to maintain a bit faster pace for my near-high-school student.

The complete set is $64.95, but this week, if you enter the code holidaysale you get 25% off all packages, which would bring this down to less than $49.  You also can purchase a single level (grades 5-6, for instance) for $39.95.  

I like this program.  There are other themes available, and you can start with any of them.  Going through 2-3 of these really looks like it would be excellent preparation for a high school level Spanish Course.  I love programs that let me purchase once and use it for everyone, plus I can use using this with Richard and Trina again in four or five years, when they can use the 5th/6th and 7th/8th grade plans.

Disclaimer:  I received this package  in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: The Respect Dare

One thing that I think is sorely lacking today is the willingness of women to show respect to their husbands in particular, and men as a whole in general.  Whether it be the constant putting men down banter that seems to be expected any time two women talk for longer than five seconds, or the attitudes displayed in media, the one group we are used to belittling is men.

I am a product of my times.  I know God commands me to show my husband respect.  But too often, I don't do a good job of it.  So the chance to read The Respect Dare, by Nina Roesner, definitely appealed to me.  Having to review it, well, not so much.  I hate confessing things I'm lousy at.

From the publisher:
“A long and happy marriage.” It sounds like the end of a fairy tale—an illusion that modern times have exposed.
And it is, if marriage depends on a constant stream of romantic emotion, or even on copious amounts of time or money. Thank the Lord, none of those are necessary. Two thousand years ago, Paul gave women the key to a successful marriage, and it can be summed up in two words: unconditional respect. It’s not popular. It doesn’t sound fair. It can be hard to imagine.
But it works.
Nina Roesner has led countless women through this practical and life-changing journey, and in The Respect Dare she offers you the hope that so many others have found. Day by day, true stories and thought-provoking questions will help you apply biblical wisdom to the most important relationship in your life.
Give it forty days. Experience the intimacy God intended and discover what he can do in your heart and in your marriage when you choose to show respect his way.
What did I think?

Well, it was not what I expected.  The marketing I read talked about The Love Dare, and I confess I was expecting things like that.  Daily challenges that would make me think, that would make me reach out to my husband.  This didn't read that way at all.  Instead, I'm supposed to be spending all kinds of time focusing on my preconceptions about marriage or otherwise analyzing my thoughts, my feelings, my expectations, my needs.  Not that this self-help thinking isn't valuable, but it isn't what I expected.

The book is full of examples of situations and events in the lives of real women. Unfortunately, I didn't find myself connecting with any of them. They didn't resonate with me.  They didn't sound like other women I know. 

Maybe if I was taking their e-course, which they advertise too frequently, I'd get more out of this.  Maybe if I was doing this with a group of women who are wanting to grow in this area and who are willing to hold me accountable, then I'd probably get more out of it too.

But for me, working through this on my own, it just reminds me why I don't read -- and hate reviewing -- self-help books.

From glancing at other reviews, clearly this was a great thing for lots of women.  Not so much for me. 

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this ebook for free from Thomas Nelson. All opinions are my own.  No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book Review: Resurrect

I sat down the other night to start reading Resurrect, by David Stevens.  This is Book #1 in the Resurrect Trilogy.

I thought I'd read a couple hours and head to bed, foolish person that I am.  It didn't happen.  Instead, I did not MOVE until I finished the book about 3:30 a.m.  I couldn't even get myself to put the book aside long enough to reach for the blanket near my chair.

It has been awhile since I've done that. 

So, let's start with the publisher's blurb:
Preventing his burning fighter from crashing into a neighborhood, Navy Commander Josh Logan ejects ... too late.

Critically injured, he's offered a new life and mission exploit highly classified military technology to stop a global cataclysm. The price? He'll be dead to everyone he knows.

He wakes in a city hospital with a genetically enhanced body and no identity. With the help of his brilliant, Neuro ICU nurse, and guided by nothing but a voice, he must infiltrate the military-industrial complex to develop the world's most powerful weapon ... to protect humanity?
My take?  Part apocalyptic thriller, part mystery, part sci-fi, part philosophical discussion, part military action-movie, lots of science...  with a bit of romance tucked in there somewhere.  The action just kept going, along with the tension, and while there were one or two things I figured out before they happened, I kept being surprised at the twists and turns in the plot.

I immediately told my husband he absolutely has to read this.  And I'll hand it off to my fifteen-year-old son as well.  A caveat on that... there is a bit (only a very little bit) of "adult" situations... nothing described in great detail, and no actual sexual activity on the part of any main characters.  There are certainly a few compromising circumstances.

One recommendation I made to my family though... read the book.  To the end.  Do NOT read the teaser for Book #2 in the trilogy.  Trust me.

About the author:
A Navy fighter pilot with hundreds of aircraft carrier landings, Commander David E Stevens holds degrees from Cornell and the University of Michigan with graduate work in astrophysics. He test piloted new fighters and received an aviation patent. With a Top Secret clearance, Dave served as Strike Operations Officer for the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm and led classified defense programs. He's traveled to over two dozen countries.
I'd highly recommend it.  But you can read other reviews at the LitFuse website.

To celebrate the release of Resurrect, David E. Stevens has teamed up with his publisher, Kregel Publications, for a Kindle Fire Giveaway and Facebook Author Chat Party {12/4}.

One "thrilling" winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Resurrect by David E. Stevens
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 3rd. Winner will be announced at the "Resurrect" Author Chat Facebook Party on 12/4. Connect with David, get a sneak peek of the next book in the Resurrect Trilogy, try your hand at the trivia contest, and win some great prizes—gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of Resurrect and join David on the evening of December 4th for a chance to connect with David and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Bountiful Baskets: December 1

I only have a minute... but here is one of my two Bountiful Baskets today:


Between my two baskets, we got:
  • 1 HUGE papaya.  
  • 6 persimmons
  • 3 cantaloupe
  • 2 mini Watermelons
  • 12 Fuji apples
  • 16 rainbow carrots
  • 3 heads lettuce
  • 2 containers of mushrooms
  • basically 3 rubber-banded sets of broccoli.  6 1/2 heads of it?
Persimmons are being dried to go on our trip.  May be drying the papaya too.  Melons and apples go with us.  Mushrooms are going to be done with eggs for breakfast.  Broccoli needs to be frozen before we go.  Carrots are probably going into the fridge, and probably won't be touched until we get home.  Here's hoping they keep well.

Maybe I'll have time to can the carrots...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Here's Looking at Euclid...

I've vaguely heard of Zometool before. I think I had even looked at their website briefly at one point, years ago. When the opportunity to review a product of theirs came along, I knew enough to know I was interested.

Then I started looking at the choices in detail.

At that point, I was completely, totally, utterly excited.  I didn't dare to tell my kids it was a possibility.  In fact, I didn't dare to tell them once I knew it was happening either.  Just in case it never actually showed up.

It did.  We received a Bubble Bundle, which consists of a basic starter kit, the Creator 1 plus a Bubble-ology lesson plan book, which is suggested for grades 5-9. We also received a discount code which you can use to purchase your own sets. That's down at the bottom of this review!
My kids got a look at the set and "interesting" was as excited as they got.  I was quite disappointed.  The 12 year old started playing with it.  His results looked something like this:

He had fun building it, but I didn't get the feeling he was learning much of anything from it.  Expensive tinker-toys, was my reaction, but I remained hopeful.

While we are on this photo, let's talk a bit about what Zometools are.  Those little white balls (nodes) have a whole lot of little holes where you can put the colored sticks (struts).  Sounds pretty simple, right?

Well, each of the colors is different.  Blue struts have rectangular shaped ends, and they fit into the rectangular holes on the node.  Blue in the Zome world, represents 2s -- rectangles (4), octagons (8)...

Yellow struts have triangular ends which fit into the triangular holes on the node.  Yellow shapes usually involve 3s or 6s.

Red struts have pentagonal ends which fit into the 5-sided holes on the nodes. You've caught on by now... reds involve pentagons and decagons (a term we actually hear in this house frequently now).

That's the basics.

Eventually, my 15 year old science geek caught on to the fact that these were more complicated than they appeared.  This was the result of his playing around (did I mention this is Art as well as math and science?):
Once Connor pulled out the Manual 2.3 that comes with the kit, he started getting really excited.  All of a sudden, he was talking about perspective cubes, 4th dimension cube shadows, and rhombic dodecahedrons. 

He lost me.  He has been able to explain what he is building in terms that the 12 and 14 year old grasp.  So far, I've refrained from telling him that his creations are pretty (they are!)

Since we're talking about the manual, let me point something out to you.  Go visit the Creator 1 webpage again.  Scroll down.  You can download this manual for free.  You can download most of the instructional materials for free.  How amazing is that?  So if you already have all the parts for one of their kits, you don't have to purchase the kit just to get the instructions/information.  You can just go and learn some incredibly neat concept using the parts you have.  That impresses me.

Here he is with one of the things he put together after reading about it in the manual.  A 4-D Perspective Cube Shadow.

And here is a really rough video we did at the spur of the moment, of him attempting to explain 4th dimension shadows to me.  Other than an inability to remember the name of the shape and a bit of stammering while he was trying to get the thing oriented correctly, I thought he did well.  Especially since it was midnight when we filmed this.  We're night owls.  I confess.

Richard, the 8 year old, has been limited to only using blue struts.  More on that below.  But by downloading the instructions for the Ice Crystals and Stars project kit he has been able to do more than just make cubes.

Not only can we build more intricate designs, but we read through the material and learned about crystals, snow, hexagons, 2-D, 3-D, and more.

Then there is the Bubble-ology book.  I'll confess that we just have not done much with this yet.  I wanted to be sure to have my 6th and 8th graders use it, as it is for their age range.  But they have not both been healthy on the same day, well, pretty much since this set arrived.  Or on the couple days they were, it was too windy.  And I do a lot of things in the name of science, but messes we can make outside do not get made inside.

I have looked through this Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) manual pretty thoroughly, as has Connor, and we are both quite impressed.  This does not explicitly use Zome Tool products, however many of the activities could be done using what we learned about Zometools and bubbles in the Manual 2.3.

One of Connor's first comments when he started reading through the book, was that "this has you doing actual experiments, not just repeating some pre-planned activity."  He's right.  That was one of the first things I noticed about the book as well.  The second activity, for instance, has you testing three different brands of dishsoap to see which one results in the largest bubbles.  I was totally impressed with the teacher's helps provided in the book, such as:
"You may also notice students who won't record the diameter of smaller bubbles.  Respond by saying that they are the scientists.  It's up to them to decide what is fair.  Whatever they decide to do, they'll need to make sure all three brands are treated in the same way.  Otherwise one brand of soap will be given an unfair advantage."
There are suggestions to make the activity a little easier (if your 5th graders aren't readily able to calculate averages, in this example) and suggestions to kick it up a notch (like expressing the results as the average volume of the bubble dome instead of the diameter).

There are even literature suggestions.  If you read my blog, you know that makes my heart go pitter-patter.  I love when I can incorporate a good story!

All in all, I am incredibly impressed.

So a couple warnings, from our experience.
  • If you aren't careful, it is fairly easy to break the yellow and red struts.  Especially if you are a 6 year old little sister.  They say this is good for ages 6 to adult.  I say a 6 year old needs intensely close supervision. Your mileage may vary, of course, but my 6 year old isn't careful enough.
  • Zometool will replace broken parts.  I haven't tried yet, but we will need to.  And 6 year old little sister is not allowed to touch this anymore.
  • The blue struts seem to be the easiest to work with for little hands.  The 8 year old little brother is allowed to build with blue only at this point, and only when someone older is present.
  • If you have more than a couple of children, the Creator 1 set is going to be outgrown quickly.  I have my eye on this Geometry Bundle.
We are also seriously "needing" to get the Molecular Mania kit.  In fact, using the code Schoolhouse15, I can get that set (or anything else) for 15% off and free shipping, and so can you.  Hurry though, as that is only good for a couple of days (November 30).

This stuff is fabulous, that is my bottom line.   And I know I can't communicate that adequately.  You have to use this to get it, I think.  And with kits available for as little as $10 ($8.50 with the above code!), you really should try it.

I am certain my kids are getting more for Christmas.  These are amazing.

Disclaimer:  I received this product in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review: ACT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student

ACT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student, by James Stobaugh, is a fabulous high school resource.

Earlier this year, I reviewed his SAT Preparation Book, which we liked, but it overwhelmed us.  The ACT title has been far easier to implement in our home, and the ACT is the test Connor is more likely to take anyway (probably in the spring, for the first time).

Stobaugh has experience in grading for various exams, and he has some definite opinions on what types of things should be done to prepare.  This includes spiritual as well as academic preparation, an approach I do appreciate.  So does Connor.

This book, along with many others by Stobaugh,  is published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group.  They have this to say about it:
Your ACT score is key in determining college scholarships and admissions. Prepare to excel with The ACT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student, written by James P. Stobaugh, an experienced ACT/SAT grader, graduate of Harvard and Rutgers, as well as Princeton & Gordon Conwell seminaries. With these 50 devotion-based lessons, Stobaugh expects “Christian students should score 4 – 5 points higher on the exam.”
Whether used over the course of a year or in 50 days, high school teens will:
  • Master stress reduction techniques and test-taking skills
  • Complete exercises designed to hone their English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science skills
  • Improve reading skills, vocabulary development, and comprehension
  • Strengthen essay skills for the optional writing portion of the exam
  • Develop and strengthen their faith in God and the authority of His Word
This book includes a bit of introductory material that includes information about the ACT and how it differs from the SAT.  The bulk of the book consists of 50 lessons -- which can be done daily for about two months, weekly for a calendar year, or you can email the author for his recommendations for completing the course over a semester.

We chose to do a lesson a week here.  We are not doing this quite as Stobaugh recommends (we wouldn't be homeschoolers if we didn't tweak some!), but here is what a week looks like in our house (I chose lesson 13):
  • Monday: Read the devotion -- this one relates to evangelical Christians in secular universities.  Read the scripture for the lesson (Exodus 13:14-16) and start memorizing it.  Read the prayer point with me -- this one relates to integrity.  Complete the math section of the lesson.  This one is a word problem relating to ticket sales.
  • Tuesday:  Continue with the scripture memorization and the prayer point.  Do the vocabulary section.  This one was pretty lengthy, relating to Don Quixote, and suggesting a number of vocabulary words relating to that work.  I didn't know all of the words -- rubicund, obduracy, avidity.  I could guess at the meanings.  
  • Wednesday: Continue with the scripture memorization and the prayer point.  Review vocabulary.  Do the Reading section.  This one involves reading for details and is related to Shakespeare.
  • Thursday: Continue with the scripture memorization and the prayer point.  Review vocabulary. Do the English section.  This one talks of active and passive voice.  He rewrites passive voice sentences to active voice, but also rewrites active voice sentences to passive voice ones.  Do the Science section.  This lesson has photograph of a home and asks questions about how the design would be advantageous to rural northern Wisconsin residents.  The science section is usually fun (for Connor) so we combine it with the English day.
  • Friday: Continue with the scripture memorization and the prayer point.  Review vocabulary. Do the Writing section.  This lesson relates to drawing conclusions and has the student reading a short poem and answering some true/false questions.  More often, this section takes a lot more time for Connor, so we want to have it on its own day.
In addition, he is supposed to be reading around 50 pages a day.  There is a pretty amazing booklist in an appendix, and we went through that, making notes of books he is going to be reading for Stobaugh's literature program.  He has been choosing other titles to work through.  Right now, he is (re)reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Other appendices include suggestions for learning vocabulary, for creating a reading journal, a devotional journal, and Greek and Latin morphemes.

Our plan is to work through this at a pace of a lesson a week.  Connor will be taking the ACT later in his 10th grade year, and he will not have completed this book at that point.  We think he will benefit more from utilizing this material at a slow and steady pace than by trying to finish it before his first ACT exam.

After completing this book, he feels confident that he will be prepared to attack the SAT book.  He already finds that volume less confusing.  We'll decide what pace to use there, but I think that will be a slow and steady thing too.

Great book.  We love it.

You can watch a video book trailer here:

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Fractiles

When I was given the chance to review an educational toy, of course I said yes.  But really, how exciting could some magnet set really be?  I thought it would be fun, but I didn't expect to absolutely love the product!

Fractiles.  They advertise that they are good for ages 6 to 106, and with some supervision, kids under the age of 6 can use them too.  Red, yellow, and blue parallelograms, magnetic, and they can be used in so many cool ways.

Now, I have to back up and tell you a horrible story.  I've had these forever.  The kids designed with them for a few weeks.  I seriously intended to get a review written last spring, but when I went to sit down with my kids to work through the games and lesson plans (a pdf is available on the website), the kids could not find the set anywhere.  Life was crazy, I kept getting after them to find it...

And then it turned up.  I did work through the lesson plans with them, and had a blast doing so.  I could not believe I was having intelligent conversations with my 6 and 8 year olds involving words like:
  • adjacent, reflection symmetry (game #1)
  • translation, rotational, and reflection symmetry (game #2)
  • rhombus, 360 degrees in a circle, 1/7 fractions (1/7, 2/7, 3/7, etc), 1/14 fractions, repeating decimals (game #4)  (okay, I did pretty much lose the 6 year old in this one!)
  • adjacent corners (game #5)
It was so much fun, and my kids were grasping so much of the mathematical terminology.  But the battery in the camera was dead, and I had no idea where the charger was.

We did a massive cleaning project a couple of days later, and when I remembered to get the camera charged and went to get photos for this blog post... the fractile set was gone.  We searched.  And searched. And searched some more.  I thought about buying a new set.  But things kept coming up.  And we searched some more.

Two weeks ago, I was working with some books we had stored away into bins for school.  And, yeah.  There in a bin full of American history books was the Fractile set.  I don't even know why I opened that bin, but I am glad I did.

Anyway, the Fractiles are back, and everyone (ages 6 to, well, I'm not close to 106 yet) has been playing with them again.

These things are just. so. cool.

Each color is a different angle.  The red ones have angles that are 1/14 and 6/14 of a circle.  The yellow ones have angles that are 2/14 and 5/14.  The blue ones are close to square, with angles of 3/14 and 4/14.  These angles mean that the diamonds fit together in so very many different ways.

These are great for exploring all kinds of geometric mathematical concepts.  These are great for all kinds of visual processing types of things.  They are a lot of fun just for art and creativity.

Here is something Trina put together while I was typing:

She has a whole long story about this image.  Spaceships (the blue & yellow things, with flames coming out) and stars and explosions...  Can you tell she has brothers?

It is fun to give the older guys a challenge... take 7 of each piece and make a circle.  Here is one Thomas came up with after first doing the one in the logo above:

And then William tried to make one.  Amusingly enough, he ended up creating exactly the same circle.  They both employed the same strategy... they created the outer circle with the red pieces, then filled in the middle. 

William had to play with all the other pieces on the board, though, to make a nice pattern to go with his 21 piece circle.

I think my favorite thing about the Fractiles is that once I read through some of the material, I was able to just naturally bring up the geometric aspects, and because the kids were trying to make a picture or design work "just so," my talking didn't seem like yet another math lecture.  They are just absorbing the concepts, and building up those visual-spatial skills.  The ones I need to work on.

This would make a fabulous Christmas gift.  And one of you, my lucky readers, can win a set.  Because I did such a horrible job of getting this review posted, and because this is just such a way cool product, I am going to give away a Fridge-Size Fractile set.  This does not come with a magnetic board -- you can use the fridge, or a cookie sheet, or another magnetic surface.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

These are available at some great places.  I plan to look for more at the Science Museum in St. Paul in a couple of weeks, but there is also a gas station in Vermillion, SD that we go by on most of our trips to and from my parents...

Or you can get them online.

Disclaimer:  I received this product in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: The Purpose Driven Life

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, first published a decade ago, is something I've heard lots about but never checked out myself.

When presented with the chance to review this new 10th Anniversary edition, I wanted to see it for myself.

If you already own the original, there probably isn't a reason to purchase this.  From what I have gathered, the inside content is nearly identical.  This does include a link to get video introductions to each chapter, and also to an audio sermon by Pastor Warren for each chapter.  There are also two new chapters on barriers to living a purpose-driven life.

If you are like me, though, and have never read the original, I think it would make sense to get this one instead.

From the publisher:
Licensed in over 85 languages, The Purpose Driven Life is far more than just a book; it is a guide to a spiritual journey... Once you take this journey, you’ll never be the same again.
On your journey you’ll find the answers to 3 of life’s most important questions:
  • The Question of Existence: Why am I alive?
  • The Question of Significance: Does my life matter?
  • The Question of Purpose: What on earth am I here for?
Living out the purpose you were created for moves you beyond mere survival and success to a life of significance—the life you were meant to live.
Five benefits of knowing your purpose:
  1. It will explain the meaning of your life.
  2. It will simplify your life.
  3. It will focus your life.
  4. It will increase your motivation.
  5. It will prepare you for eternity.
This new, expanded edition has been created for a new generation of reader.
A New Edition for a New Generation! 4 NEW FEATURES
  • Video introductions by Rick Warren to chapters 1-40
  • An audio Bible study at the end of each chapter, with over 30 additional hours of teaching by Rick Warren.
  • Two new bonus chapters on the most common barriers to living a purpose driven life.
  • Access to an online community where you can discuss your journey to purpose, get feedback, and receive support.

What did I think?  Well, I've only had this book for a bit over a week, so I'm not terribly far into it.  Especially since in the intro materials, Warren cautions us to only do one reading a day.

What I've been doing is to watch the couple-minute video intro on my iPod, and then read the chapter.  All total, that is about 15 minutes.  I can see where it would be incredibly wonderful to have someone to discuss the concepts with, but I really don't at this point.

Later in the day, I've tried to listen to the "audio Bible study" but I have found that difficult.  First, I guess, I expected that the talk would relate to the chapter's concepts, but usually it really doesn't.  Second, since it is online, I'm tied to my wi-fi area to listen.  I think if I could take this with me on a walk, I'd get a lot more out of it. Third, at some point, I really felt like I was listening to the same talk over and over.

I do like the video and the readings.  Though I wish he didn't jump around from one Bible paraphrase version to another.  I find myself needing to go look up so many of the verses, just to see if the meaning is the same in a more reliable translation.  I haven't really had any issues, per se, with what I've found, but the jumping around does bother me.  In the first three days, the versions include MSG, CEV, NIV, LB, TEV, NCV, GWT, and NLT. 

In spite of feeling a bit of a "if you don't do things my way you aren't a real Christian" attitude, there is a lot in here that does make me think.  Day 10, for instance, and its talk about surrender, really did make me consider the attitudes I have towards concepts like surrender and submission, my thoughts about limitations, etc.

Overall, I'm glad I have this.

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson. All opinions are my own.  No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Reading Aloud Challenge: November 20

Uff-dah.  Well, I committed to posting every week, so post I will.  I have almost nothing to write about though.  Kids have been feeling off a bunch, and we've had a lot more running around than usual.  Plus most of the running around did not involve everyone... which means no audiobooks going.

So what have we been reading aloud this past week?

Made in Heaven by Ray Comfort and Jeffrey Seto.  We are continuing to (allegedly) read a two-page spread daily.  Um, or not.  We only did one this week.  This book is great.

The American Patriot's Almanac by William Bennett.  We're reading from this one daily too.  Short little reading relating to something that happened on this day in American history, along with a listing of things that happened.  We're loving it.  I have this on my Kindle.

Various books about the exploration of America with Richard and Trina.  I probably should keep track of these, but they are just short one-sitting books, and when I think in terms of read-alouds, I really have in mind the longer-term materials.

Goals for next week:  I don't know.  It is Thanksgiving, and we have no major plans for anything.  I think we'll try to get through Anne's House of Dreams (which we never even touched last week), and I still want to figure out a big read-aloud for William and Thomas, and one for Richard and Trina.  But honestly, that may wait for next week.  This coming week may be pretty light on the reading too.

Rules for this linkup - if you are blogging about things you are reading aloud to your children, or just blogging about reading aloud in general, feel free to link up.  Audiobooks count too.  I would very much appreciate if you link back to this post.  I'll leave the linky open through Monday at midnight.

How about you? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: British History

A while back, I posted a review of World History and a review of American History by James Stobaugh.  Those books were the first and second years in a three-year high school history curriculum.

British History is the final year of that set.  It comes as a student book ($24.99, 272 page paperback) and a teacher book ($14.99, 144 page paperback).  The book is nonconsumable so you can use it with each of your children, a feature I really love.

Doesn't that cover make you want to jump right in?  Or maybe that question just proves I'm a total geek.  Hmmm.

From the publisher:
Respected Christian educator, Dr. James Stobaugh, offers an entire year of high school British history curriculum in an easy to teach and comprehensive volume. British History: Observations & Assessments from Early Cultures to Today employs clear objectives and challenging assignments for the eleventh grade student without revisionist or anti-Christian perspectives. From before the Anglo-Saxon invasions to the end of an empire, British history trends, philosophies, and events are thoroughly explored. The following components are covered for the student:
  • Critical thinking
  • Examinations of historical theories, terms, and concepts
  • History makers who changed the course of Britain’s history
  • Overviews and insights into world views.
Students will complete this course knowing the rise of the British empire that influenced nearly every corner of the earth!
The book, like others in the series, consists of 34 chapters, with daily lessons for days one to four, and a test/assessment for the fifth day.  The lessons start off in pre-Roman England, and quickly (chapter 4) moves up to the Norman Invasion (1066).  From there, it goes through various monarchies and eras, hitting World War I in chapters 29-31. The final three chapters cover British History since  the end of World War I.

Unlike my previous reviews, I don't really have a hang-up about the scope and sequence.  Maybe that is partially because I'm not as familiar with British History, I don't know.  But as I worked through the first third (or so) of the book, and as I skimmed ahead through the remainder, I don't feel like there are huge gaps.  I would prefer to see a bit more coverage of World War II, but really, this seems at least good.  There is a chapter (that is one week) on totalitarianism leading up to WWII, and another chapter that covers the Great Slump, Queen Elizabeth II, appeasement, and finally World War II itself.  The final chapter covers post-WWII, the Cold War, the end of the empire, and the 1970s and beyond.  So, basically, the past 75ish years are covered in three weeks.

I will choose to beef up the World War II time period a bit.  I'll have Connor read a biography of Churchill, for instance.  As long as you don't expect much in recent history, I think the choices made for this title are quite good.

So what does a "typical week" look like?  Well, I'll pick one to talk about here, though I'm not entirely certain there is such a thing as a "typical week."  Let's look at Chapter 12, "The Restoration."
  1. The first lesson is also titled "The Restoration" and it is a page of text by Stobaugh talking about Charles II and all kinds of things happening from roughly 1659-1685.  The assignment involves various interpretations of Charles II's reign. 
  2. The second lesson is "Great Fire of London" and it includes a page of text, including a diary entry, about the fire and its impact on London.  The assignment has them discussing how the fire was a mixed blessing.
  3. The next lesson is about Ireland and is a single page, all text by Stobaugh.  It covers Ireland from the 13th century up through the reign of Charles II.  The assignment was a little frustrating, as it is talking about English domination of Irish politics until the 20th century.  That required me to do additional research.
  4. The final lesson is on philosophers and world views, and covers Spinoza and John Locke, including excerpts from their writings.   The assignment has two questions, one for each philosopher, asking how Christians would agree with him, and how they would disagree.
  5. The assessment includes three questions covering the first three lessons.
The student book contains the text and daily assignments.  The teacher's book contains the daily questions and answers (or possible answers).  It also contains the weekly assessments and the answers to those. 

Like I have mentioned in the previous two reviews, if you were to spend 30 minutes a day for 34 weeks, you are only talking 85 hours of work, which is simply not enough "quality time" in my opinion for a full high school credit.  This means we will be adding in additional work, which I am finding nice, actually.  One thing I plan for all the kids is to find a bit more on the history of Wales (the only "British Empire" in our heritage.)  For Connor, we can focus a bit more on the Industrial Revolution, for instance.  With Thomas (now 12), we'll probably spend a bit more time in the early chapters talking about archaeological digs in England.

I'm really liking that I have a program that gives a solid overview without taking up hours of time each day.  It is so incredibly easy to add a couple of things here and there.

Another thing to note is that everything is in black and white.  I appreciate that this helps keep the costs down, and when there is something we think we need in color, it is a quick search to find an appropriate image online.

You can watch this promo clip about the history series:

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.