Saturday, May 31, 2014

Daisies are Forever {a LitFuse Book Tour review}

It's time for another LitFuse Book Tour!  This time, I was hanging out at the end of World War II in Eastern Germany.  Daisies are Forever, by Liz Tolsma, was well worth reading.

I've read a fair amount of historical fiction set during WWII, but not much has dealt with ordinary German people, nor does the Russian Army tend to be a big part of it.

From the publisher:
Gisela must hold on to hope and love despite all odds in the midst of a war-torn country.

Gisela Cramer is an American living in eastern Germany with her cousin Ella Reinhardt. When the Red Army invades, they must leave their home to escape to safety in Berlin.

However, Ella is a nurse and refuses to leave, sending her young daughters with Gisela. During their journey, Gisela meets Mitch Edwards, an escaped British POW. She pretends she is his wife in order to preserve his safety among other Germans, especially one wounded German soldier, Kurt, who has suspicions about Mitch's identity. Kurt also has feelings for Gisela and tries to uncover the truth about her "marriage."

Their journey to Gisela's mother in Berlin is riddled with tragedy and hardship, but they strive to keep Ella's daughters safe so they can reunite with their mother. During the journey Gisela and Mitch begin to develop feelings for one another beyond friendship. They reach Berlin, but their struggles are far from over. Gisela and Mitch must learn to live for the day and find hope in the darkest of circumstances.

In this moving, historically accurate portrayal of WWII Germany, the characters learn that, even with destruction all around them, some things last forever.
What did I think?  Well, first off, I finished reading this book over a week ago.  I usually write my reviews within about 24 hours of my reading.  This one, though, I just couldn't start writing.  Sure, I put in the cover, and linked up where you can buy the book.  Inserted the code for the contest below, added a disclaimer.  This is the part I couldn't get started on.

Not because I didn't like the book.  I loved the story, loved the writing, and loved the characters.  It felt realistic and historically accurate, though I'm not an expert in that (or any!) time period so I don't know.  I knew my review was going to say that I highly recommended the book.

I needed some time to process it all though, before I could write.

There were just so many hard decisions being made throughout the story.  Very early on, you have Ella making the decision to stay while the Red Army comes in, so she can care for her ailing father, and sending her little girls west with her cousin.  The book focuses on Gisela's decision to accept Ella's decision, but as a mom, my eyes were on Ella and her resolve.

I also have to admit that I did not yet like Gisela as a character at that point.  Your cousin tells you that the only chance her children have is if you take them west.  You cry, sure.  But you save her babies.  As they travel -- which is agonizing and difficult -- there are so many other decisions to be made, and you watch Gisela mature before your eyes. 

Without giving too much away, it does need to be noted that characters die, and there are several fairly traumatic events that definitely fit in with what I have read about the advance of the Russian Army through Eastern Germany.  This is not an upbeat, uplifting book in that sense.  It is a reminder of some of the horrors of war, and the resilience of ordinary people.

I do recommend this book.


Liz Tolsma's latest WWII historical fiction novel, Daisies are Forever, is getting rave reviews. 

". . . compelling and fast-paced tale about the atrocities and tremendous losses. . . ." —Library Journal

"Excellent storytelling, accurate historical reporting and gritty, persevering characters make this WWII-era novel a must-read." —CBA Retailers + Resources

Liz celebrating the release with a Kindle HDX giveaway!

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • Daisies are Forever by Liz Tolsma
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 31st. Winner will be announced June 2nd on Liz's website.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Liz's website on June 2nd to see if you won.

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

Friday, May 30, 2014

E is for Entering the High School Years along in Blogging through the Alphabet, and this time I've started over and am completely reworking my plans. 

E is for Entering the High School Years.

Just when do you start planning high school?  I know folks who have it all mapped out long before the kid enters teenhood.  I know folks who start trying to get it together somewhere around their high schooler's 18th birthday.

Personally, I think either of those extremes are probably, well, not ideal.

Somewhere around the point that your precious little firstborn child hits 7th grade though, I think it is a good idea to at least start paying attention.  Not necessarily planning each and every elective for the next six years.  But paying attention.  (You might be able to procrastinate a bit more with later kiddos, since you've already gone through some of it!)

Around 7th grade, you might have an idea as to what your child is interested in.  At least vaguely.  You know, do they love math and science, but cry when you ask them to write more than a sentence?  (Please. Tell me I'm not the only one with kids like that!)  You might not know exactly what they are likely to do or need in the future, but it is probably a good bet that taking math and science courses all through high school is a good idea.

Are they constantly writing stories?  They'll still need math and science, but you may not care about them doing a full four years' worth.

You get the idea.

There are great resources out there.  I like the High School Planner from The Old Schoolhouse, personally, but just a notebook page can work really well too.  For my 7th grader, I'm mocking up some basic plans.  Oops.  He's an 8th grader now.  I keep forgetting.  Anyway, his rough sketch looks something like this:
English/History -- Old Western Cultures: Greeks (won't count for credit, as I'm not making him do it all)
English -- IEW's Student Writing Intensive B, Analytical Grammar
Math - Pre-Algebra
Science - Physical Science
Other - Artistic Pursuits Sculpture

English/History -- Old Western Cultures: Romans
English -- something else to specifically teach composition.  SWI C?
Speech -- IEW Speech Boot Camp (1/2 credit, probably over the summer before, with his brothers)
Math - Algebra I
Science - Science Shepherd Biology
Other: Artistic Pursuits: Sculpture

English/History -- Old Western Cultures:  Christendom
Math - Geometry
Science - Chemistry
Other - Artistic Pursuits High School 1

English/History -- Old Western Cultures: The Moderns
Math - Algebra II
Science - Physics
Other - Artistic Pursuits High School 2

English ?? -- probably something focused on college-level writing
Math -- PreCalculus
History -- Archaeology; 1/2 credit US Government (with Richard?)
Science ?? Maybe a combined Archaeology Science/History.  Or Adv. Bio, Chem or Physics. 
Other - art??  a class in town??

You'll notice a couple of things here. 
  • First, some stuff has actual product names.  Some doesn't.  I don't care.  I've put in what is working and what I think will happen.  But I'm not worried about those details that I don't already think I know.
  • There are some big question marks, especially towards his senior year.
  • He's getting a LOT of English "stuff" early on.  Because he needs it.  That may continue.
  • This child is also very interested in Art.  And at some point, I may pull some science-y stuff out of there, and find more art-related things for him to do.  Or I may do a full-blown Art History course his senior year instead of Archaeology. We'll see where he goes and what he wants.
  • The other thing you cannot tell here is that this is all written in pencil.  Well, not literally.  But figuratively.  You can write in pen (that is the actual format of the above stuff... a bic pen on a notebook page) in reality, but it is the plan in your head that needs to be written in an erasable form.  You have to know that, most likely, it will change.  If you have a tough time changing a plan, don't go further than what you are doing right now.
  • If you go back and look at my C is for Credits post, you'll see I've mostly covered what I said were minimums.  But not everything.  Like a foreign language is a glaring omission.  (You have NO IDEA how tempted I was to fill that in and make it look like I'm consistent and prepared!)  In my defense, PE is not something I "schedule" as such, and it will just happen.  But Health is missing too.  <sigh>

Here's the thing.  He's 13, and it is a mere five years before he graduates.  While that is a long time, I also know from personal experience that it will go fast.  (Very fast.  Every time I look at his big brothers, I realize that.)  And the reason I throw out this much detail in this blog post is that if you are just getting to the point of thinking you need to plan high school, you need to know that you don't have to be able to fill everything in.

What do you know?  Are you using a program that is working and you know you'll continue it?  Mark it in.  I did that with Sonlight back on Connor's mock-up plan.  Is Connor using Sonlight in high school?  Nope.  Pencil, remember?  It was planned in pencil. (Have I made that point enough yet?)

The value of plotting things out around 7th grade is that if something is important to you -- or your student -- you still have time to try to figure it out.  A child wants to take Calculus in high school?  If you are starting pre-algebra in 8th grade, you are going to have to get creative to get there.  And the sooner you start, the better.  I blew that with Thomas.

Seventh grade is also a good time to realize you need to start working more on writing.  <ahem>

Seventh grade is WAY too early to start panicking about high school though.  To some extent, high school is just a continuation of what you've done before.  But it feels more like that, to me anyway, if I have a rough idea as to what to expect.

Ben and Me
My next post, next week, is still a bit up in the air.  I'm considering F is for Failure, because that is what I'm feeling...

Marcy is posting a word study, and this week is E is for Education.  There are a few dozen other amazing E posts linked up too.  Go check some out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Loving Kitchen {a BookLook Blogger Review}

It's hard to believe sometimes, by watching my behavior, but I really do love to cook.  I especially love to try new recipes, and I really enjoy the chance to figure out new ways of using produce.

The Loving Kitchen, by LeAnn Rice, has been a fantastic book for me.  Subtitled Downright Delicious Southern Recipes to Share with Family, Friends, and Neighbors, this is a book that lives up to its subtitle!

When I received the book, I basically opened it up at random, just to see what I would find.  Initially, I was a bit put off and worried that I'd have a tough time writing this review.  The first page I opened (pretty much smack-dab in the middle) had a recipe for Pistachio-Crusted Salmon with Cream Dijon Sauce on one side, and Tequila Shrimp Skewers on the other.  Ummm, yeah.  The last time we've sprung for either salmon or shrimp is, well, ummmm...  hmmm....

Neither recipe is likely.

So I flipped open randomly further back.  Tiramisu Parfaits and Rice Pudding greeted me on that page, two more recipes I cannot image making.

So I flipped to the front of the book, and saw Baked Crab Dip.  Again, crab is not something I usually obtain.

I set the book down.

Mostly, because I really didn't have time, but partially because I thought this was full of frou-frou ingredients and I was just NEVER going to figure anything out to actually make from this book, and WHY did I agree to review it.

Dumb.  I should've known better.  That evening, when I had more than three minutes, I sat down and started at the front, with some post-it flags so I could mark any recipes I found that I *could* make.

I gave up on that idea.  Seriously, other than the five I saw in my first glance, I pretty much want to make them all.  The abundance of gorgeous photos helped with that desire.

One thing I love about this cookbook is that there are recipes for a whole lot of different things.  Very few are too "out there" for my rice and beans budget.

We had just gotten a bunch of corn on the cob, so I tried a suggested variation of the Sweet Oven-Roasted Corn on the Cob right away, and oh, that is so much easier when cooking (and serving) a bunch of people.

Next, I tried the Roasted Potatoes with Bacon and Cheese.  Yummm.  And so easy.

And then I made Sloppy Joes.  And my family requested I make them again a mere three hours later.  I didn't.  I waited until the next day.

It isn't just that there are a whole lot of really great recipes in here, using a pretty wide variety of ingredients.  But at points, reading the recipes is just a lot of fun.  Like a recipe for Whole Wheat Baked Penne with Vegetables.  It ends with:
Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.  Remove from the oven and let site for 10 minutes.  Go ahead.  Sneak some of the crispy cheesy edges.  You know you want to.  Before serving, garnish with torn basil leaves.  (They'll hide the missing edges so no one will be the wiser.)
I mean really?  Has she been watching me cook?

It isn't every recipe that includes a comment like that, but enough of them do that it just makes me giggle.

Not only that, but there is so much seriously wonderful wisdom in the pages too.  Admonitions to go ahead and just create and not to worry about perfection.   To love on the people you can love on, to feed more than just their bodies.

A great cookbook.  And now I'm going to go make some Apple Cider-Pumpkin Bread.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Universe {a Moms of Master Books review}

It's time for another Moms of Master Books review, and a Facebook party is coming up tomorrow evening!  I should even be there, for a change!

This month's selection is The Universe: From Comets to Constellations.  I am SO excited to tell you that this around, we got the set of three books to review.  This newest entry in the Investigate to Possibilities series by Tom DeRosa and Carolyn Reeves is definitely my favorite so far, and having the whole thing makes this mama very happy.

Of course, now is where I confess that my kids have done nothing with this book.  This review is totally based on my reading, not on my actual use.  It has been an insanely crazy month, and then last week we took turns being violently ill.  So rather than trying to cram something in and give a superficial review based on the first activity, I sat down and read a huge chunk of the material myself.

I am so glad I did that, as I'm far more impressed with these materials than I would have been from just barely getting started.  I think I own all of the main books in this series, so I thought I knew what to expect.  I just recently reviewed Water & Weather, in fact.

But as soon as I got a couple of pages in, I started noticing that this book is different.  Oh, it still has the same basic layout and the same philosophy of teaching -- Engage the students, Investigate (do hands-on activities), then Explain (that's the academic teaching part), Apply (to other situations), Expand (if desired) and Assess.

What struck me immediately, though, was how much information there is on scientists, and the detail on some fairly complex theories and ideas.  Like Relativity.

That got me looking into it a bit more, and while all the other titles in the series seem to be intended for grades 3-6 (and some of them, I think, are a bit light for those 6th graders!), this one is listed as being for grades 3-8.  I have a 3rd grader now (eeek!  I am NOT ready to call her a 3rd grader), and I think she's ready for the concepts in this book.  But... well, she's grown up listening to her big brothers casually discuss Doppler effect, inertia, gravity, red shift, Newton's Laws of Motion, etc.  While there is plenty of new information in this book for her, and she is going to love it, very few concepts presented are totally new.

I personally would not use this book with a more typical 3rd grader.  Use some of the others, and come back to this one when they are a bit older.  Unless, of course, the only thing that student wants to learn about science-wise is the stars and planets, and you are trying to go with their interests.

This three-book set consists of the following:
  • The main book, which is all you truly need to use the material.  This includes the text for the children to read (or you to read to them, as I tend to do), the activities, the digging deeper suggestions, etc.  It is all in here.
  • The Teacher's Guide, which I would highly recommend, especially if you feel a bit shaky about your knowledge of things like the Theory of Relativity.  This guide has miniature student pages in it, along with some notes and THE ANSWERS to the What Did You Learn? sections.  Just so you feel a bit more confident that you did grasp the concept yourself.  Occasionally, there are also some comments about ways to extend some of the activities further.
  • The Student Journal, which is nice for older students especially.  I will have my 5th grader use this, but I have no plans to get another one for my 3rd grader.  This includes places to document observations during the activity, and it also includes the What Did You Learn? questions, with blank lines for the student to answer.

You can go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about The Universe set.

There is a Book and a Treat Facebook party coming up tomorrow, May 27 at 7 pm Central Time, where you could win cool prizes -- and discuss the series too. 

Disclaimer:   I received these books for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Moms of Master Books program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Friday, May 23, 2014

D is for Discussion {Homeschooling High School ABCs} along in Blogging through the Alphabet, and this time I'm talking about one of my favorite parts of homeschooling my teens.

D is for Discussion.

We have lots of those.

Sometimes, those "discussions" are really lectures from Mama.  Those aren't my favorites.

Mostly, they really are discussions.  In our homeschool life, I have tended towards resources that give us a lot to talk about.  I started off high school with Connor by switching that approach.  You know, making him write out answers and do more textbooky things. 

That wasn't fun.  For any of us.

So we are back to a lot more discussion-oriented resources in our schooling.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure -- one of my biggest failings as a homeschooling mom is that my children are going to struggle with college writing.  So you might want to be a more responsible person and make your children write more.  I am forcing myself to do that here this coming year.  But that doesn't mean we'll slow down on the discussions.

I mentioned in last week's post that I track time for English a bit differently from other things.  I expect that my kids are doing their reading outside of "class time" and then we can use our "class" for discussions or for working on writing.

That means that right now, my guys are reading The Two Towers on their own, and we are talking about the book using Literary Lessons from The Lord of the Rings.  And that means, instead of them writing out answers to questions, we get to chat.  Which leads to fascinating conversations about all kinds of things that matter.

A recent question in the guide was "What is Merry's opinion of Saruman's courage? Why does he think Gandalf has more courage?"  In our, oh, at least half hour discussion of this single question, we not only answered it (Saruman hides behind others, protecting himself and not caring about who else is hurt; Gandalf stands alone to protect those who are weaker) but we got into a huge discussion about where we see which type of courage today, or in history.  That involved a discussion of Hitler, Washington, Stalin, Caesar, Obama, Napoleon, and on and on.

We recently finished a course called Simply Put: A Study in Economics.  This was an absolutely incredible resource for fantastic discussions.  We've completed the course, and it is amazing how often the concepts we discussed in there are coming up in other subjects.  In reading about the French Revolution, for instance, there was a comment about price controls.  Because of the economics discussion a few months ago, we were able to get a bit deeper.

It isn't really important what it is that we are talking about, just that we are discussing things.  Having these deep conversations about history, science, literature, current events, or whatever -- these give me the opportunity to find out more about what makes them tick, what they value, and what they worry about.  And it gives me a chance to talk about what I value, what I hope for them, and more.

Discussion.  My favorite part of homeschooling my teens.

Ben and Me
My next post, next week, is still a bit up in the air.  I'm considering E is for Entomology, where I'll talk about trying to follow the interests of your kids.

Marcy is posting a word study, and this week is D is for Delight.  There are a few dozen other amazing D posts linked up too.  Go check some out!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

First Fish

Thomas actually caught a fish this weekend.  Or five, actually.

And our amazing scoutmaster was on top of things enough to take a photo of the itty bitty thing.

They had a great time camping over the weekend.  A small group of boys, without a huge itinerary, so it was a relaxing time.

Fishing in a bitty little pond is a good thing.  Catch and Release is even better, as I'd hate to think about trying to fry up that mouthful.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Candle Bible Handbook {a Kregel Book Tour review}

I love having new Bible resources.  Especially ones that grab the attention of my youngest kids, and still manage to help me feel like I'm learning something.

Candle Bible Handbook is a fantastic addition to my library.

This reference is intended for ages 7 and up.  I used it primarily with my 8- and 10-year-olds.  We are working through the Old Testament this year, so I'm pulling this out to cover the various books of the Bible as we go. 

With Bibles, I usually end up reading through the book of Ruth, Esther, or Jonah, and checking out all of the features and notes.  That way I've seen an entire book of the Bible, and it is something I'm already familiar with.

The set-up of this reference though means that even the longer books of the Bible only have a few pages of notes.  So I'm going to look at something a bit more unusual for purposes of this review.  Let's try 2 Chronicles.

A few features of this resource:
  • Each book starts out with an outline, in a little yellow box, and these are simple and straightforward.  Perfect for kids, without a lot of extraneous stuff.  For 2 Chronicles, it breaks it down into Solomon's reign (chapters 1-9) and the Kings of Judah (chapters 10-36).  There are a couple sentences describing both sections.
  • Each book includes some text describing the book.  Why it was written, who wrote it, who was intended to be reading it, or other such stuff.  For 2 Chronicles, there are three paragraphs describing the intent (to show the importance of worship) and a basic overview.
  • Each book includes illustrations.  2 Chronicles has quite a few of those.  There is a drawing of Solomon, a two-page spread of Jerusalem in Solomon's time, and a two-page spread of Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah's time.
  • Often, there is a box of Key Events.  For 2 Chronicles, that includes a map (most books have a map included somewhere) and talks about the exile.
  • Many books include a box with explanation of something cultural or historical.  2 Chronicles has a box talking about Asherah (a goddess of the Phoenicians and Syrians), which helps to explain the discussion of Asherah poles.
  • Each book has a section titled "Look out for..." that gives you ideas about things to watch for as you read the actual text in the Bible.  This may be about my favorite section.  We can read through the couple of pages in Candle Bible Handbook, and the kids are then actually listening for something specific when we read.
  • Each book also has a FAQ section, in this case, with questions like "Just how rich was Solomon?"  My kids like this section.
  • Each book also has a Study Questions section, which I try to look over before we do the Bible reading.  Then I can stop when we finish 2 Chron 6, and I can ask "How did God keep his promise to David?"
I am totally loving this resource.

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

C is for Credits {Homeschooling High School ABCs}
I started (late) blogging through the Alphabet, and I'm continuing to be late.  Because this was an insane week.  Insane.

So, "last week's topic" (since I'm late) is C is for Credits.  I had more in mind for this than what you are going to get.  And I'll tell you straight away, you are getting MY opinions here, as a lot of this stuff is murky.

First things first -- just what IS a credit anyway?

I know this is different in some parts of the country, but for the most part, 1 credit = 1 schoolyear's worth of work in a single subject.  The general expectation is that you do 30-however-many weeks (my state's homeschooling rules say basically that we are to do 34 weeks of school for a schoolyear) of a class -- like geometry, English, or history -- and that class is meeting essentially every day, for roughly an hour.  At the end of that time, you've earned one credit.

A 1/2 credit class might meet for a semester (half a year), or it might meet every other day for a year, or some variation.

A 1/4 credit class might meet for a quarter of the year, every other day for a semester, or roughly once a week (plus a little) for an entire year.  Or, in my family, it is a course that they do for a fairly short time period, but pretty intensely during that month or so.

Basically, for my purposes, I consider a full credit course to be roughly 140 hours of work (34 weeks x 5 classes per week x 50 minutes per class).  I consider a half credit to be roughly 70 hours of work (half of the above).  And I consider a quarter credit to be roughly 40 hours of work, because I think 35 hours is just not enough.  (Told you that you'd be getting my opinions here.)

What is important is that YOU come up with something reasonable and work with that.

Keeping track of time

I don't sit down and keep timesheets, nor do I make my kids track all of their hours.  Some of them, yes.  But not all.

For most subjects though, I am going more by a "work completed" method.  They finish the Algebra I book, they get an Algebra I credit.  Whether it takes them a couple of months, or a calendar year. Same goes for anything else where I am getting some type of already planned curriculum (complete the Apologia Chemistry book, get a credit of chemistry).

For some subjects (English), I have an expectation that they are spending 45-50 minutes a day on "English class" and when we have done that for a year (34ish weeks), they've earned a credit.  Now this is one area where I know I don't have the same standards as other homeschoolers -- but I consider "English class" to consist mostly of discussions with me about literature read, time spent on grammar worksheets, time spent in "lectures" (whether by DVD or by me), time spent with me going over writing assignments, etc.  I expect that they are reading literature outside of class time, and I expect that most of their "writing papers" time is outside of class time as well.

The first couple of times they are writing something -- a persuasive essay, for instance -- we'll spend "class time" talking about the style of writing, reading some essays, practicing some things with it.  But once they have learned the basics, most of the actual writing time is NOT "in class" time.  That means a ninth grader in my house spends more time actually writing IN their English class that a senior does.

There are other subjects where we do track time.  Art history/art appreciation is one, as we will hit on things as we work through history, or as we work through literature that really fall into an art history course.  We keep track of that time as we go, and my goal is to get 1/4 credit each year.  We track hours for PE class.

So how many credits do we need?

I'm going for a basic college-prep type of high school, here.  Not that I necessarily expect all my kids to end up in college.  I just think that planning a college-prep high school degree makes them well-rounded, and prepared for various options once they graduate.  This could change depending on interests my kids show.

My basic rule of thumb for credit requirements:

  • 4.5 credits of English (which includes literature and writing, plus whatever grammar, spelling, vocabulary study is appropriate for that child, for a credit a year; plus a 1/2 credit in Speech)
  • 4 credits of Math (that goes at least up through Algebra II) (for a non-mathy kid, I'd go with Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and some type of Consumer Math)
  • 4 credits of Science (that includes biology, chemistry, and physics).  For a non-science-y kid, I'd consider only 3 credits, but I don't have any children like that.
  • 4 credits of Social Studies (that includes Government, Economics, and at least 2 credits of history).  I'm pretty non-negotiable here.  I'll look at Psychology, Archaeology, Humanities types of coursework, or something.  There is enough variety that they can earn four credits.
  • 2 credits of a foreign language (in the same language)
  • Another 7-8 or so credits in other "stuff" -- I hesitate to call them electives, as they aren't all elective!  But at least a credit of PE, a half-credit of health, a credit of something fine arts related, and the rest can be things the student wants.

Essentially, what that means for each year of high school:
  • English
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • 1/2 credit PE or health (at least 3 years)
  • Foreign Language (at least 2 years)
  • 1/4 credit fine arts
  • Another credit or two of actual electives

Your mileage may vary.

Oh, and my kids are also doing Bible or Worldview work, but unless they are applying to a Christian college, I don't plan to put those on the transcript. 

Ben and Me
My "next week" post will happen in the next couple days.  The working title for that one is D is for Discussion, which is my favorite part of having and homeschooling teens.

Marcy is posting a word study, and this week is C is for CLEAN, which is TOTALLY worth reading, though a break from her word study format.  There are a few dozen other amazing C posts linked up too.  Go check some out!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Life Behind the Wall {a BookLook Bloggers review}

When I saw that Life Behind the Wall, by Robert Elmer, was going to be available to review, I made sure I'd be able to request it.  This is a bind-up of three titles -- Candy Bombers, Beetle Bunker, and Smuggler's Treasure.  All three take place near the Berlin Wall, featuring a 13 year old -- as the war is ending, as the wall is going up, and then as the wall is coming down.

A few years ago, Connor had read Candy Bombers in a summer reading program and he really enjoyed it.  I did not get the chance to read it myself, but I remembered how much he enjoyed it.

Now I've read it too, plus the next two titles.

From the publisher:
Cut off by the Iron Curtain This epic tale extends across generations and unfolds against the backdrop of a dangerous Cold War Berlin. This historically accurate, action-packed, three-books-in-one edition features three generations of resourceful teens living in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. Titles include: Candy Bombers: In spring 1948, teenage cousins Erich and Katarina are simply trying to survive in war-ravaged Berlin when the Soviets blockade the east side of the city, isolating its citizens---and starving them---behind the Iron Curtain. Beetle Bunker: In August 1961, Sabine discovers a forgotten underground bunker. Though she first uses it to escape her crowded home, she soon realizes her hideout could possibly take her family under the wall to West Berlin and freedom! Smuggler's Treasure: In spring 1989, life is good in West Germany, and even the Cold War seems to be thawing in the warmer weather. But as Liesl works on a class project about the history of the wall, she stumbles onto a startling secret no one will talk about.
What did I think?  Awesome book.  Or books, I guess.  The first title, Candy Bombers, introduces you to Erich, and is the only book with a male lead character.  He is in all three titles though.  Beetle Bunker and Smuggler's Treasure feature teen girls in later generations of his family.

These books are filled with action, and are realistic in terms of historical details.  The final book, in 1989, brought back all kinds of memories of Reagan's speech in Berlin, and then the eventual fall of the wall.

I found myself caring about the characters, and it was always fun to see them pop back up in later years.

I handed the book over to my 17-year-old, as he definitely wants to read the sequels (and re-read the first one), and then it is going to make the rounds of my other teens.

I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, May 10, 2014

B is for "But I..." {Homeschooling High School ABCs}
I started (late) blogging through the Alphabet, talking about Homeschooling High School.  I started with A is for All the Way, mostly trying to say, yes, it is possible to homeschool all the way through high school.

Now it's time for B, and I immediately thought about my feelings of inadequacy, and all the reasons to not do this.  B is for "But..."

"But I'm not..." smart enough, organized enough, confident enough, whatever-enough.

"But I can't teach..." chemistry, algebra, writing, underwater basket-weaving.

"But I don't have..." musical instruments, lab equipment, any clue what I'm doing.

"But I am just not good enough."

That fear was present, for me, anyway, back in the early days too.  Especially with a child who just couldn't learn to read, or a kid who couldn't seem to learn the difference between a triangle and a rectangle.  Back then, though, I just knew eventually they'd grasp it.

It's scarier with Calculus.

A lot scarier.

Seriously, I didn't understand calculus when I took it.  At all.  Yet I have a son who is excelling in Calculus.  How?  Beats me.  Well, okay, maybe not.  What he has is something I certainly never had.  He has a teacher (or two) who knows and loves calculus, who sees its value, and who is enthusiastic and capable of teaching.

That's because I hire out calculus instruction.   He has a primary calculus course (Thinkwell).  He also has some supplementary materials (MathTutorDVD).  Both have young, energetic, engaging teachers who actually make me think that even I could learn calculus.  (Then reality hits... what makes me think I have time right now to do that?  I don't.  Maybe when the little two are in high school...)

So that covers the "But I can't teach..." objection.  "But I don't have..." isn't terribly hard either.  You can get through without huge purchases.  There are ways to do science labs without thousands of dollars of equipment.  If playing an instrument is important, you'd have to figure that out in public school too.

And figuring out just how to do it?  There are lots of resources out there, believe me, and you'll figure this out too.  Your home high school will be different from mine, and both will be different from the high school at home experts too. 

The thing is, I'm not in this High School thing alone, and you won't be either.  There's a plethora of high school material out there, and you definitely can find something to use to shore up your weaknesses, or to let your child soar in an area that intrigues them but not you.

There are legitimate reasons to not homeschool high school.  However, the vast majority of the "But I..." excuses that I've heard are easily overcome, if you ask around.

Ben and Me
My "next week" post will happen in the next couple days.  The working title for that one is C is for Credits where I'll talk about all that scary planning types of stuff, like how many credits of science, or how do I know just what is a credit.

Marcy is posting a word study, and this week is B is for Bold.  There are a few dozen other amazing B posts linked up too.  Go check some out!

A is for All the Way {Homeschooling High School ABCs)
A million years ago (or maybe it was only a dozen) one of the most common questions I got when I said that we were homeschooling was some variation of, "Are you going to homeschool them all the way through high school?"  That was always said with wide eyes and in an incredulous tone of voice.


As I stared at my adorable 5-, 3- and 1-year-old sons, I certainly didn't have a real answer.  Had The Incredibles been out at that point, I'd probably have said (in my best Mr. Incredible voice), "We'll get there when we get there!"  Instead, my answer was more of a mumbled, "We'll take it one year at a time."
So they're a bit more like 6, 4 and 2 in this photo...
 High school seemed terribly intimidating then.  And it was hard to picture my wee little cherubs as teens who would need to shave, would be taller than me, and <gasp> would have completely different opinions than their mama.

Well, fast forward to 2014, and yes, I have two teens who need to shave, three teens who are taller than me, and five kiddos (the three teens, and two future teens) with minds of their own.

Ben and Me
My friend, Marcy, has been blogging through the alphabet a few times now.  I've participated before, but not recently.  She just started over, and is graciously linking me up even though I'm late!  I decided that I need to participate this time, only my ABCs are going to follow a theme... homeschooling high school.

I'm not an expert.  Which means the thought of writing this series terrifies me.  But I do have a couple years of being a home high school teacher under my belt, so I can share a bit of the view from inside this particular home high school trench.

My hope is just that I can spend twenty-six blog posts talking a bit about our experiences with high school, our plans and dreams, and that it can help a few different groups of people:
  1. My family.  Because I am quite sure I'll manage to remind myself of what we're doing right, and I'll learn from others in the areas where we struggle.  
  2. My peers.  That means other homeschooling mamas of high schoolers.  Sometimes it seems like we're alone in this journey, but we aren't.  
  3. "Younger" homeschooling moms, which usually does mean younger than me, but definitely means moms with kids who aren't yet in high school.  I think you need to see that, yes, it is quite possible to homeschool "all the way."
The truth is that nobody is an expert in homeschooling high school.  There are some amazing folks out there who are incredibly helpful and wonderful.  I'll probably name a few of them before we get through the 26 weeks.  

I'd love to know what high school topics you'd love to hear about.  I've been plotting out some thoughts -- blogging about transcripts, plans, specific subjects, college, dyslexia, honors courses, and so on.  But I can always use other suggestions.

My "next week" post will actually post later tonight, I hope.  The working title for that one is B is for "but..." where I'll talk about at least some of the fears I had have about this high school gig.

Marcy is posting a word study, and her first week is A is for Attentive.  There are a few dozen other amazing A posts linked up too.  Go check some out!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hope Rising {a BookLook Bloggers review}

I have to be honest and tell you that I have NO IDEA why I asked to review the book Hope Rising, by Scott Todd.  Maybe it was the fact that Scott is from Compassion International.  In general, a book about how we should be doing more to help those suffering around the globe is just not the kind of thing I volunteer to read.  "You aren't doing enough," just in general, isn't what I want to be told.

Something in the book's description obviously grabbed me, though, and I did ask to review it.  And I am so glad I did.

The publisher's blurb is pretty lengthy, so I'll save it for the end of the review, if you care to see it.

My thoughts:  This book contains short, easy-to-read chapters, which is a huge plus for a book on a topic such as this.  At the risk of giving too much information, I put this book in the bathroom, and I'd read one chapter pretty much every time I went in there.  I know I'm a fast reader, so the perfect length for me might be a bit long for a lot of people.  But you can read half of a chapter at a time that way!

The chapters are filled with HOPE.  You know, like in the title.  It isn't gloom and doom, woe and despair.  Right from the start, Scott presents you with statistics that you are unlikely to have really heard elsewhere... statistics showing that the number of people living in extreme poverty is declining rapidly, that things we are doing are making a difference now, and that yes, it is possible to make a huge difference.  And that we CAN eradicate extreme poverty.

And he doesn't make me feel guilty in the process.  He makes me feel hopeful.  Like I can make a difference.  And my children can too.  Also, unlike other things I've read about global poverty, global hunger, etc., this book makes me feel like I already AM making a difference.  What I am doing in the food pantry at my church is significant and it is part of this global effort. 

The book is realistic too.  It isn't pie-in-the-sky idealism from a 20-year-old who thinks that everything wrong in the world can be fixed if we just get all the "old folks" to stop messing up the world.  He isn't pushing for everyone to sell all they have and trek across the world to dig wells.  Realistic.  We don't have to go to drastic measures to eradicate extreme poverty, but we do need to believe we can and we need to do something.

From the publisher:
Extreme poverty does not have to exist. When Christians accept that fact and start living accordingly, we will find the solution is already within our reach.
Worldwide, 19,000 children die from preventable deaths every day. If that statistic leaves you feeling powerless, you are not alone-but you are wrong. If a false sense of powerlessness has lulled you into apathy, it's time to shake off the grogginess of low expectations and get to work. We can make this world a place where kids do not die from easily preventable diseases.
In Hope Rising, Scott Todd of Compassion International pens a galvanizing, comprehensive vision of the movement that will eradicate extreme global poverty through transformative Christian generosity-and do it within our lifetime. Todd provides riveting evidence to show that we are much closer to that goal than you might think.
According to Todd, we live in an historic moment, and chances are you are already part of it. The gospel is already reshaping lives from thoughtless consumption to informed concern. Twenty-first-century Christians are generating multi-continent grassroots movements through communications and travel. Public and private sectors are working together. It's a whole new era of philanthropy, compassion, and justice aimed at eradicating the pandemic of extreme global poverty.
This is a future we have the God-given power to create. This is the history we hope to write.
As Todd envisions, "The twenty-first-century Christians embraced the entirety of their gospel-the truths it proclaims and the muscles it demands-with a new integrity. They did not deteriorate into humanist liberalism, as some had feared. Nor did they pile works on top of Grace…They simply determined that their world did not need to have children dying of preventable causes such as dirty water."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”