Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Radical Book for Kids {a Litfuse Blogger review}

We've been working our way through a new book, The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton.  I was a bit put off by the title ("radical" just doesn't make me think, "oh, sounds like a great theology and church history book, let's get that!")  I'm glad I read more and tried it out.

From the publisher:

A kid-sized explorer's guide to faith and life

The Radical Book for Kids is a fun-filled explorer's guide to the Bible, church history, and life for boys and girls age 8 and up. Along with examining some of the most exciting realities in the universe, the handbook is vibrantly illustrated and chock-full of fun facts and ideas. Deep truths are communicated to elementary and middle-school aged kids while stimulating their curiosity and sense of adventure within a gospel-centered framework.

This power-packed book is "radical" in more ways than you might think! It is "radical" in the sense of the original meaning of the word, "going to the root or origin." The Radical Book for Kids will take children on a fascinating journey into the ancient roots of the Christian faith. But it's also "radical" in the more modern sense of being revolutionary. Kids read about men and women who learned to trust Jesus and stand for him---displaying radical faith---even when everything seemed against them.

But The Radical Book for Kids is also "radical"---meaning fun or cool---in the eyes of a child. Kids read about ancient weapons (and how to make one), learn about jewels, create pottery, discover ancient languages, use secret codes, locate stars, tell time using the sun, play a board game that's 3,000 years old---and more.

Check out the table of contents, skip around, or read straight through. However a child chooses to explore it, The Radical Book for Kids will open new vistas for their imagination and help to make straight paths for their feet.

Our thoughts:

We are really enjoying this book!  We sit down and go through one chapter in a sitting.  I have all my at-home kids involved.  Two (ages 10 and 12) are in the intended age range for the product, which is recommended for ages 8-14.  My 16- and 17-year-olds are sitting in on it too. 

The book covers a lot of different topics, most of which are familiar to us.  We've covered a lot of apologetics and the like over the years, though.  One thing we really love about this particular book, though, is that the information is presented in a way that makes sense for younger kids, and we are free to pull out some of our other resources to dig in a bit deeper.  The 67 chapters in this book give us a good outline to cover many important topics.

One topic coming up has to do with time in the Bible.  They talk about a couple of scripture references such as, "about the third hour" from Matthew 20:3, or "in the second watch" from Luke 12:38.  What do those actually mean?  I knew that the hours started counting at sunrise, so "about the third hour" would be about three hours after the sun came up.  But the details of all of that?  I certainly did not grasp that an hour did not necessarily mean 60 minutes in the same way our time does.  And I never quite grasped the whole "watch" thing.  Like -- did you know that the Jewish people divided the night hours into three watches, while the Romans had four?  So what time the second watch is would depend on whether it was a Jewish watch or a Roman one.

If you have not done much in terms of the roots of our faith, you really should look into this book.  And if these are topics you have covered, I think you'll still find information in here that is new.  Or you can use it like we are, as a roughly four month outline of study.  We're averaging four chapters a week, so that gives us about seventeen weeks of material.

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fallacy Detective

One of the things I think is absolutely critical in my homeschool is to teach my kids how to think. I want them to be able to take a look at all the “stuff” of life and actually be able to analyze what they are being told and decide if it makes any sense at all.

In a year like this, with a presidential election going on, there is a perfect opportunity to work with informal logic and specifically with logical fallacies. This is a great skill for wading through political rhetoric, but it is also important when listening to advertising, or when discussing theological issues.

I have two teens in high school, and they were not enthusiastic about studying fallacies.

When I told them I was reviewing The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn, they sighed and knew they were stuck.

The book consists of 36 chapters split into the following sections:

· The Inquiring Mind
· Avoiding the Question
· Making Assumptions
· Statistical Fallacies
· Propaganda

One way you could easily incorporate this into your schedule is to simply do a chapter a week for an entire year. Two chapters a week would take you a semester. We opted to try for four chapters a week, and finish it over the course of a couple of months.

The book is easy reading for a high school student, so you could easily hand this to your student and tell them to go for it. That isn’t the approach I’d recommend though.

I opted to read each (short) chapter out loud to my two teens, with lots of breaks to discuss the often silly examples. They’d take a look at the comic strips, which include all kinds of recognizable characters such as Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, and Peanuts.

And then we’d do the exercises together. And debate the answers. And argue back at the authors when we disagreed.

Those are the moments when I truly realize how much I love homeschooling my big guys.

We did not maintain our four chapter a week pace, but we are down to the final four chapters of the book. We seem to have a very hard time picking it up at this point, mostly because we don’t want this to end.

What has been truly exciting though is to be taking a look at all the people trying to sell us something and to have the words to explain what is wrong with their arguments. For example, one of the amendments on our local ballot earlier this month had to do with allowing the county government to sell internet services, or something like that.

We were reading some of the materials put out about why to vote for this measure, and one of the first reasons given was that many other counties do it, so we should too. Prior to Fallacy Detective, we would have laughed about whether or not you would jump off a cliff if your friends were doing it. So we recognized there was something wrong with the logic being used to convince us to vote yes.

After this book, though, we were discussing whether this is an appeal to the people or not. I grabbed Fallacy Detective, and we jumped ahead to the Bandwagon chapter in the Propaganda section. Basically, the idea in both is that we should do this because everyone else is doing it.

I highly, highly recommend this book. My middle school kids kept “happening” to be present when we were working in this book, and I definitely think this can work with middle or high school ages. I plan to go through it with the two younger ones in another year or so.

Trivium Pursuit has some other fantastic products you ought to check out as well.  Teaching the Trivium is one of my favorites.

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

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Thanksgiving With the Pilgrims {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

One of the greatest aspects of being a part of the Homeschool Review Crew for awhile is that we have the opportunity to revisit some of our favorite vendors.  Homeschool Legacy is one of those companies.  We have reviewed some of their Once-a-Week Unit Studies in the past, which gave us a chance to work on Boy Scout and American Heritage Girls merit badges.

Over four years ago, we worked through We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution.  That gave us a chance to work on the Citizenship in the Nation merit badges.  This time around, we decided to try one of their Once-a-Week Micro-Studies titles, Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

There are a few big differences between the Micro-Studies and the regular Unit Study products.  The biggest two, for me, is that the Micro-Studies do not explicitly fulfill merit badge requirements and there isn't an extensive book list included.

Most of the Micro-Studies are four weeks long (Thanksgiving is six weeks), and they include three 30-minute assignments per week.  These can be done once a week, as the title indicates, or spread out over the week.

Or (and this is what we did) you could make this a one-week study by doing a week's worth of work (about 90 minutes) a day.  In the case of the Thanksgiving study, the sixth week is actually about Christmas, so I think an ideal way to use this study would be to do the first five "weeks" of work in the week and a half leading up to Thanksgiving, and then spread week six out over the week after the holiday.

And then you could start the Once-a-Week Unit Study, Christmas Comes to America.  We did that one three years ago, and in re-reading my review, I am reminded that I wanted to do this again when Trina was an Explorer so she could earn her Music Appreciation badge at this level.

The Micro-Studies are intended for grades 1-8, but I did use it with all of my children (5th to 11th grades).  It has been awhile since we truly studied Thanksgiving as a whole, and there was new information for everyone.

One thing I loved about this study was that we spent a fair amount of time watching historical re-enactments online.  Almost as good as taking an actual field trip!

In addition to great videos and online activities, the study contains great information and gave us plenty to talk about.  Towards the end of the study, there are some cooking activities you can do (Indian Pudding, stringing cranberries, Wassail) but we opted not to do those.

My kids are pretty impressed with the studies as well, and are already in discussion about which we should do next.  One is all for pirates (Pirates or Privateers: You Decide), my Anglophile thinks that Victoria and Her World is the obvious choice, and learning that cherry pie was part of the lesson plans made Cooking up History with the Founding Presidents a top choice as well.  One thing I find really interesting is that most of the other studies have more hands-on activities, with timelines, maps, or doing things like labeling the parts of a ship. 

What I really love about these studies is that they do go into some depth without being overwhelming.  I'm not a big unit study fan, as they always seem to be too much work for not enough benefit.  These, however, are very open-and-go, and they don't suck up a lot of time.  We can take a one-week break from our regular history program and play a bit.

You can read what other Crew Members thought of their studies, as we had a total of six of them being reviewed!  Go.  Check it out!

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Catching Heat {a Tyndale House Blog Network review}

About a month ago, I read Catching Heat by Janice Cantore is the third book in the Cold Case Justice series.  It's taken me forever to write up a review for this because I just don't feel like I have all that much to say that I haven't said before.

Janice Cantore always writes fabulous Crime Fiction.  A former cop, she clearly knows her subject.  With 22 years in the field, she certainly ought to!

The first two books in this series, Drawing Fire and Burning Proof were page-turners.  Catching Heat is as well.

Like all of her books, I foolishly began it thinking I could read for an hour.


More like, I could read it until the book was done.  Bookmarks are also known as "quitter strips."  I certainly didn't need one for this title.

From the publisher:
Twenty-seven years after the deaths of Detective Abby Hart’s parents, she’s desperate to find the proof that will put the mastermind—the governor’s wife—behind bars. When she joins a newly formed task force and teams up with PI Luke Murphy, Abby is sent to San Luis Obispo to work the cold case of a murdered college student. Realizing their investigation will bring them near the town where Alyssa Rollins grew up, Abby decides to do a little digging of her own into the Triple Seven fire.

Luke is eager to help Abby close the books on a case they both have personal stakes in. But as she uncovers long-held secrets, Abby stumbles into an explosive situation, and Luke fears that her obsession may prove deadly.
Don't start here though.  Start with Drawing Fire, but go ahead and get all three.  Because you will want to be able to move on right away and find out what happens next.

Just don't have them all easily accessible immediately, or you'll be up way past 3 a.m.

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