Sunday, March 31, 2013

B is for Books

Blogging Through the Alphabet
There are just so many great B things to blog about, but this week has nearly slipped away without me doing any of them.

B is for Boy Scouts -- as Thomas made First Class this week.

B is for Bountiful Baskets -- which has changed our eating habits so greatly.  But I wasn't able to participate this week.

B is for Boxes -- as I'm trying to sort through a lot of them and get stuff out of my house.

But for this post, I have to say that B is for Books.

Because any week of my life, probably, I could come up with something to write about books.

This week, B is for Books for a couple of reasons.  One is that I reactivated my PaperBackSwap account (if you want to sign up, use Footprints as your referrer, and I get a credit or something after you've posted a bunch of books!). 

Why did I reactivate my PBS account?  Because... drum roll please...

We are back to using Sonlight.  I'm updating the Instructor Guides for three Cores I've purchased in the past, which means that there are at least a couple new books for each of the levels.  I don't want to purchase all of that, and I really don't want to have to rely on the library (seeing as I can't get to the bookmobile often anymore).

So, I listed a whole bunch of books, and I've been mailing out 3-4 every day for a week. And the new books are starting to roll in.

What are we doing for school now?

Connor started Sonlight Core 200 -- History of God's Kingdom.  I didn't own this one completely.  I owned the IG, almost all the history and Bible books, and a couple literature ones.  I really wish I had the time to use this Core for real, but at least I'll have Connor telling me about it.

William and Thomas will be starting Core G -- World History I -- in a couple of weeks.  We expect to move through this at a faster pace than scheduled, with the idea of finishing Core H -- World History II -- by next spring.  We decided we'd rather compress G + H than do the combined one-year one.

Richard and Trina are starting Core B tomorrow.  I suspect we'll also be going at a faster pace than scheduled, especially since we have recently done a few of the Read-Aloud titles.  We start off with Charlotte's Web, which I will be re-reading.  I was really bummed that I cannot locate our copy of Missionary Stories with the Millers, but we are going to read through the Heroes from Young Readers series by Renee Meloche instead.

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to be back to Sonlight.  We used Sonlight as the basis of our homeschooling from the time we started up through a couple of years ago, when things fell apart a bit and I just couldn't keep up.  I was spending a lot of time with William and Thomas on their reading, and with the age span, it no longer worked to do just one Core.

We've had a good couple of years, but I need to get back to feeling a bit more grounded.  I need to be back to simply knowing that I've done enough with the read-alouds especially.

Of course, I'm also giving away a great book this week.  And I'm always posting on Tuesday about books we are reading.  Here's last week's post.

So, this week, B is for Books... and if you check out Marcy's blog, you can see where B is for all kinds of other great things like Blocks, Beans, and Blessings.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Home Run

I've recently had the chance to review a new book by Travis Thrasher, Home Run.  This is the novelization of a movie that is coming out in April.  April 19, to be precise.

Confession time.  This book arrived and I stared at it, wondering what in the world I was thinking.  I mean, I enjoy a good sports movie and all, especially one that has a theme of healing and redemption.  But a book?  Why do I do this to myself?

Last night, I grabbed the book off the shelf, as I promised a review by today.  I figured I better at least start reading, and I hoped I'd get hooked.

The opening scene has two little boys playing with baseball cards in the barn.  Enter an abusive dad, and the big brother trying to protect his little brother... and, well, I wasn't hooked.  But I did care about these hurting baby boys (ages 8 and 4). 

I read two or three chapters last night, and headed to bed. Woke up this morning, saw the book, and took it back to bed with me.  At that point, I didn't get up until I had read it all.  So for me, the "I'm hooked" point hit somewhere around chapter 4...

From the publisher:
Baseball star Cory Brand knows how to win. But off the field, he's spiraling out of control. Haunted by old wounds and regrets, his future seems as hopeless as his past. 

Until one moment-one mistake-changes everything. To save his career, Cory must go back to the town where it all began. His plan is simple: coach the local baseball team, complete a recovery program, and get out as fast as possible. Instead, he runs headfirst into memories he can't escape ... and the love he left behind. 
Faced with a second chance he never expected, Cory embarks on a journey of faith, transformation and redemption. And along the way, he discovers a powerful truth: no one is beyond the healing of God. A novel based on the major motion picture starring Vivica A. Fox and Scott Elrod, Home Run is an inspirational story of the hope and freedom God offers each of us.
Cory may be the protagonist, and he may have had some admirable qualities as an 8 year old, but his grown-up self is arrogant and totally self-absorbed.  He's quite the victim.  A very believable victim.  And wow, you do feel for him, and for those around him as well.

Having read the publisher's blurb, I had a pretty good idea as to how things would turn out, but the characters made it so that I wanted to know the details, and there were certainly a few twists that I hadn't quite foreseen.

I will see this movie.

I loved this book... and you could have one too, as I have a copy to give away!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reading Aloud Challenge: Just Do It


I just can't seem to get this post written today.  I'm having a very crazy, mixed-up week.  Just do it.

We are almost caught up in The American Patriot's Almanac by William Bennett. Essentially, we read about 1.5 weeks worth, so we are behind a bit.  Lots of great stuff in there, and we still love the book.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien.  We finished chapter 2.  And had to return it. 

I am reading Albert Einstein by Kathleen Krull and Investigating Rocks by Will Hurd, as part of the Moving Beyond the Page units that I am doing with William and Thomas. 

I am reading Poppy by Avi to Richard and Trina.  Also part of a Moving Beyond the Page study.  We'll be reading some other books too, but haven't started them yet.

We started Tower of Babel by Bodie Hodge as a family read-aloud.  Review coming soon.  Amazing book.  We're barely into it, but I've scanned ahead.

I have some other things planned, but nothing started.  And no photo.  I'm going to try to get a photo up later.

How about you?  What are you reading out loud?  I am desperate for some inspiration, so feel free to link up your posts about reading aloud, or leave me a comment and tell me I can do it... This week, I am going to visit and comment on everyone who links up.  I usually do that, but messed up this past week.  I did visit everyone though.

Monday, March 25, 2013

FIRST Wild Card Tour: So Shines the Night

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Thomas Nelson (March 12, 2013)

***Special thanks to Tracy L. Higley for sending me a review copy.***


Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. She has authored nine novels, including Garden of Madness and Isle of Shadows. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures. See her travel journals and more at


On an island teetering at the brink of anarchy, Daria finds hope among people of The Way.

She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.

But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.

The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.

When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything—Lucas’s fate, her position in his household, and the outcome of the tension between pagans and Christians. But only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.

“Meticulously-researched, spellbindingly written with luscious prose and compelling and complex characters.” —Tosca Lee, New York Times best-selling author of Havah: The Story of Eve

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99

Paperback: 416 pages

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 12, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1401686826

ISBN-13: 978-1401686826



I am an old man, and I have seen too much.

Too much of this world to endure any more. Too much of the next to want to linger.

And though I have nearly drowned in the glorious visions of those last days, yet I know not when it shall come, nor how many years I must tread this barren earth before all is made new.

There is a Story, you see. And we are still in the midst of it, ever striving to play our roles, battling on for the freedom of hearts and souls and minds yet enslaved by darkness.

But I have seen a great light. Oh yes, I have seen it. Even now it is breaking through, as it did on that grassy hillside so many cool spring mornings ago, when Moses and Elijah walked among us and my Brother shone with the glory He had been given from the beginning and will rise up to claim again at the end.

You will wonder, perhaps, at my calling Him brother. And yet that is what He was to me. Brother and friend, before Savior, before Lord. In those days when we wandered the land, going up and down from the Holy City, we shared our hearts, our lives, our laughter. Oh, how we laughed, He and I! He had the irrepressible joy of one who sees beyond the brokenness, to the restoration of all.

I loved him. And He loved me.

But I speak of beginnings and of endings, and these are words that have no meaning, for the day of His birth was both the beginning of the Kingdom and the end of tyranny, and that magnificent Day yet to come—it is the end-which-is-a-beginning, and my eyes have seen such glory in that New Jerusalem, my very heart breaks to tell of it.

And yet they come, young and old, to this tiny home in Ephesus that is to be my last dwelling outside that New City, and they beg me to tell the Story again and again.

And I do.

I tell of seals and scrolls, of a dragon and a beast and a Lamb. Of music that makes you weep to hear it and streets that blind the mortal eye. Of a Rider on a White Horse with eyes of blazing fire, whose name is Faithful and True. It is a great Story, and greater still to hear the final consummation of it, for how often we forget that we are living it still.

But I have another tale to tell. A smaller story within the One True Story that began before the creation of this world and is echoed at its end, as all our stories are. It happens here, in this port city of Ephesus but many years ago, when the darkness lay even heavier than it now does upon the people, and their souls cried out for relief from anyone who could give it.

This smaller story does not begin here in Ephesus, however. It begins a day’s sail away, on the sun-kissed shores of the Isle of Rhodes, where the light first began to break upon one woman and one man, even as they walked in darkness . . .

Chapter 1

Rhodes, AD 57

In the glare of the island morning sun, the sea blazed diamond-bright and hard as crystal, erratic flashes spattering light across Daria’s swift departure from the house of her angry employer.

She carried all she owned in one oversized leather pouch, slung over her shoulder. The pouch was not heavy. A few worn tunics and robes, her precious copy of Thucydides. She clutched it to her side and put her other hand to the gold comb pinning the dark waves of her hair, her one remaining luxury.

The bitter and familiar taste of regret chased her from the whitewashed hillside estate, down into the squalid harbor district. Why had she not kept silent?

Along the docks hungry gulls shrieked over fishy finds and work-worn sailors traded shrill insults. The restless slap of the sea against the hulls of boats kept time with the anxious rhythm of her steps against the cracked gray stones of the quay.

She had run once, haunted and guilty to a fresh start in Rhodes. Could she do it again? Find a way to take care of herself, to survive?

“Mistress Daria!”

The voice at her back was young and demanding, the tenor of a girl accustomed to a world arranged to her liking. And yet still precious, still malleable.

“Mistress! Where are you going?”

Daria slowed, eyes closed against the pain, and inhaled. She turned on the sun-warmed dock with a heaviness that pulled at her limbs like a retreating tide.

Corinna’s breath came quick with exertion and the white linen of her morning robe clung to her body. The sweet girl must have run all the way.

“To the School of Adelphos, Corinna. I will seek a position there.”

Corinna closed the distance between them and caught Daria’s hand in her own. Her wide eyes and full lips bespoke innocence. “But you cannot! Surely, Father did not mean what he said—”

Daria squeezed the girl’s eager fingers. “It is time. Besides”—she tipped Corinna’s chin back—“you have learned your lessons so well, perhaps you no longer need the services of a tutor.”

Corinna pulled away, dark eyes flashing and voice raised. “You do not believe that, mistress. It is you who says there is always more to learn.”

They drew the attention of several young dockworkers hauling cargo from ship to shore. Daria stared them down until they turned away, then circled the girl’s shoulders, pulled her close, and put her lips to Corinna’s ear. “Yes, you must never stop learning, dear girl. But it must be someone else who teaches you—”

“But why? What did you say to anger Father so greatly?”

Only what she thought was right. What must be said. A few strong phrases meant to rescue Corinna from a future under the thumb of a husband who would surely abuse her.

Daria smiled, fighting the sadness welling in her chest, and continued her trudge along the dock toward the school. “I am afraid discretion is one of the things I have not yet learned, Corinna. Your father is a proud man. He will not brook a mere servant giving him direction in the running of his household.”

Corinna stopped abruptly at the water’s edge, her pretty face turned to a scowl. “You are no mere servant! You are the most learned tutor I have ever had!”

Daria laughed and looked over the sea as she walked, at the skiffs and sails tied to iron cleats along the stone, easy transportation to the massive barges that floated in the blue harbor, awaiting trade. Papyrus and wool from Egypt, green jade and aromatic spices from far eastern shores, nuts and fruits and oils from Arabia. Her eyes strayed beyond the ships, followed northward along the rocky Anatolian coast to cities unknown, riddles to be unraveled, secrets and knowledge to be unlocked. More to learn, always. And somewhere perhaps, the key to redeeming the past.

They approached and skirted the strange symbol of the isle of Rhodes, the toppled Helios that once stood so proud and aloof along the harbor and now lay humbled, its bronze shell speckled to an aged green, reflecting the impenetrable turquoise sky. The massive statue had lain at the quay for gulls to peck and children to climb for nearly three hundred years since the quake brought it down. Daria found it disturbing.

“May I still visit you at the school, Mistress Daria?”

She smiled. “One challenge at a time. First I must convince Adelphos that he should hire me.”

Corinna’s tiny sandals scurried to keep pace. “Why would he not?”

“It is not easy to be an educated woman in a man’s world of philosophy and rhetoric. There are few men who appreciate such a woman.”

“How could anyone not appreciate someone as good, as brave, as you?”

The child gave her too much credit. She was neither good, nor brave. She would not be here in Rhodes if she were. Though she was trying. The gods knew, she had been trying.

Corinna lifted her chin with a frown in the direction of the school. “I shall simply explain to Adelphos how very valuable you are.”

And how outspoken? Interfering? But perhaps the girl could help in some way.

“Will you demonstrate some of what I have taught you, Corinna?”

The girl’s eyes lit up. “Just wait, mistress. I shall amaze and delight that crusty old Adelphos.”

Daria studied the impetuous girl and bit her lip. But it was a chance she must take.

The School of Adelphos lay at the end of the docks, its modest door deceptive. Daria paused outside, her hand skimming the rough wood, and inhaled determination in the sharp tang of salt and fish on the breeze. Who would believe that such distinguished men as the poet Apollonius and Attalus the astronomer had studied and written and debated behind this door? Sea trade had kept Rhodes prosperous for centuries, but in the two hundred years under Roman control, the Greek island had grown only more beautiful, a stronghold of learning, of arts and sciences and philosophy.

Inside its most famous school, she blinked twice and waited for her sun-blind eyes to adjust.

“Daria!” Adelphos emerged from the shadows of the antechamber with a cool smile and tilt of his head. Tall and broad-shouldered, he was several years her senior, with the confident ease of an athlete, a man aware of his own attractiveness.

She returned the smile and straightened her back. “Adelphos. Looking well, I am pleased to see.”

He ran a gaze down the length of her, taking in her thin white tunic and the pale blue mantle that was the best of her lot. “As are you.”

“I have come to make you an offer.”

At this, his eyebrows and the corner of his mouth lifted in amusement and he gave a glance to Corinna, still at the door. “Shouldn’t we send your young charge home first?”

She ignored the innuendo. “My employ as Corinna’s tutor will soon come to an end, and I desire to find a place here, in your school. As a teacher.” She swallowed against the nervous clutch of her throat.

Again the lifted eyebrows, but Adelphos said nothing, only strolled into the lofty main hall of the school, a cavernous marble room already scattered with scholars and philosophers, hushed with the echoes of great minds.

She gritted her teeth against the condescension and beckoned Corinna to follow, with a warning glance to keep the girl quiet, but the child’s sudden intake of breath at the fluted columns and curvilinear architraves snapped unwanted attention in their direction, the frowns of men annoyed by disruptive women.

Adelphos disappeared into the alcove that housed the school’s precious stock of scrolls—scrolls Daria had often perused at her leisure and his generosity.

Daria spoke to his back. “Do you doubt my abilities—”

“What I doubt, my lady, is a rich man’s willingness to pay a woman to teach his sons.”

Daria waved a hand. “Bah! What difference does it make? I can do a man’s work just as well. And if they learn, they learn!” But a cold fear knotted in her belly.

Adelphos traced his fingertips over the countless nooks of scrolls, as if he could find the one he sought simply by touching its ragged edge. “And you, Daria? Do you want to live a man’s life as well as do a man’s work? What woman does not long for love and family and hearth?”

Her throat tightened at his words, too close to the secrets of her heart. Yes, she longed for those comforts. For a love that would accept her abilities, complement rather than suppress. But for now, for now she had no one and she must assure her own welfare.

She coughed to clear the dryness of her throat and stepped beside him, examined the great works of philosophy and literature, their tan Egyptian papyri wrapped in brown twine, sealed in waxy red.

Adelphos reached past her to a nook above her head, and his muscled arm brushed her shoulder.

The touch was intentional, clearly. Manipulative. Even so, his nearness left her breathless and her usual sharp-tongued wit failed. When she spoke, it was a harsh whisper, too raw with emotion, though the words emerged falsely casual. “And why should I not have both?”

At this, Adelphos huffed, a derisive little laugh, and turned to lean his back against the shelves and unroll the scroll he had retrieved.

“A woman of ambition. Does such a breed truly exist?” His gaze darted to hers. “But what am I saying? You have already wedded a husband, have you not?”

Daria pulled a scroll from its recess and pretended to study it.

“You are interested in the work of Pythagoras? That one is newly arrived from Samos.”

Daria shrugged. “I find his work repetitive. What new has he added to Euclid’s previous efforts?”

“Indeed.” Adelphos pulled the scroll from her hands and replaced it in its nook. “But you have not answered my question.”

“I am a widow, yes.”

“A widow with no sons. No dowry.” He glanced at Corinna, clutching the doorway. “And no employment. Is there anything more desperate?”

Daria lifted her chin and met his gaze. “It seems you are in an enviable position, then, Adelphos. You have found a skilled teacher, available for a bargain.”

Adelphos circled to Corinna, an appreciative gaze lingering on her youth and beauty. “And this is your prize specimen? The pupil of whom I have heard such wonders?”

The girl straightened and faced Adelphos with a confidence borne of knowledge. “Shall I demonstrate the superior skill Mistress Daria has given me with languages?”

Daria silently cheered and blessed the girl. “Corinna has been working hard to master the tongues of Rome’s far-flung empire.”

Adelphos’s brow creased and he opened his lips as if to speak, then sealed them and nodded once. No doubt he wanted to ask what use there might be for a girl who could speak anything but common Greek. As Daria herself was such a girl, the implicit question struck a nerve. She turned a shoulder to Adelphos and nodded encouragement to Corinna. “Let us hear Herodotus in the Classical first, then.”

The girl grinned, then gushed a passage of Herodotus in the proud language of her Greek forebears, the language of literature and poetry, before Alexander had rampaged the world and equalized them all with his common koine.

“And now in Latin, Corinna.”

The girl repeated the passage, this time in the tongue of the Romans, the new conquerors.

Adelphos tilted his head to study the girl, then spoke to her in Latin. “Anyone can memorize a famous passage in a foreign tongue. Few can converse in it.”

Corinna’s eyelashes fluttered and she glanced at her hands, twisted at her waist. When she answered, it was not in Latin, but in Persian. “Fewer still can converse in multiple languages at once, my lord.”

Adelphos chuckled, then glanced at Daria. “She does you proud, lady.”

A glow of pride, almost motherly, warmed Daria’s chest. “Indeed.”

Corinna reached out and gripped Adelphos’s arm, bare beneath his gleaming white tunic. “Oh, it is all Mistress Daria’s fine teaching, I assure you, my lord. I wish to be an independent woman such as she someday. There is nothing she cannot do.”

“Corinna.” Daria smiled at the girl but gave a tiny shake of her head.

Corinna withdrew her hand and lowered her eyes once more. “I have told my father this, but he does not understand—”

“Her father has been most pleased with her progress.” Daria tried to draw Adelphos’s attention. “He saw a superior mind there from an early age and was eager to see it developed.”

He waved a hand in the air. “I have seen enough. You may go.”

Crew Review: Math U See Epsilon

 photo MathUSeelogo3_zps75a0efc5.gif

My kids seem to grasp math fairly intuitively, but I have a couple who struggle with reading.  That can make teaching math rather trying, as most math programs assume the child is reading at a much higher level than they are operating at mathematically.

A bit over a year ago, I finally looked seriously at Math U See.  I should have done that a long time ago.  The elementary levels of Math U See (Primer through Zeta) can be done by watching the video, working with Mom a bit, and then having only a very limited amount of reading to do in order to work the problems.

That's a perfect solution for my students.

 photo epsilon-Book-and-DVD_zps6676f688.gifPrior to this review, I had worked with levels Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Geometry and Algebra 2.  Being able to start Epsilon: Fractions and Other Topics was absolutely perfect timing.  And what is really exciting?  Math U See has just finished revising the elementary levels, so I got to try out the new and improved version.  Since we already had the workbook purchased (and I was borrowing a DVD and Teacher book), that meant I got a really good look at the new features.

I am impressed.

How we are using it:

Basically, my son watches the DVD lesson, and then works the first worksheet (A) for the lesson.  He's in 6th grade, and a lot of this material is review for him.  If he completes it quickly and accurately, he skips ahead and goes straight to the first one that includes review (D).  If he completes that quickly and accurately, he moves to the Application & Enrichment page (G), and then the test.  If he works quickly and accurately, he is ready to move to the next lesson.

If he doesn't complete the work quickly and accurately (so far he has), there are additional worksheets.  Worksheets A, B and C in each lesson work specifically with that lesson's concepts.  Worksheets D, E and F cover that lesson's material PLUS some review of previous concepts.  The biggest new feature is the Application & Enrichment (Worksheet G).  More on that later.

What Epsilon Covers:

Epsilon focuses on Fractions.  During the review period, we got through the first eight lessons.  The package includes the Student Workbook and the Tests ($30); Instruction Manual and DVD ($45); and the fraction overlays ($33).  The Math U See blocks are not required in Epsilon.

Here is a bit from lesson 6, where he is learning about combining fractions with different denominators.  In the photos below, Thomas was asked to add 1/2 and 2/5, and then asked to subtract 2/5 from 1/2 as well.

First, he created 1/2 (the red one) and 2/5 (blue).  He can't combine them though, because they aren't the same kind.  He needed to change them so they'd be the same kind, so he grabbed another halves overlay to put on the blue 2/5... clearly showing that 2/5 is the same as 4/10.  He is in the process of putting the fifths overlay on the 1/2 in the top right photo.

In the bottom photo, you can see that 1/2 = 5/10 and 2/5 = 4/10.  So 1/2 + 2/5 = 9/10.  And 1/2 - 2/5 = 1/10.

Not only is it easy, but it makes sense, and even the 3rd and 1st grader were grasping the concept.

New and Improved

It has been fairly public in the online homeschooling community that Math U See has revised their elementary programs.  Since I had borrowed Epsilon from a friend, and bought a workbook, this was my chance to see the changes side by side.  First, what hasn't changed:
  • The DVDs haven't changed at all.
  • The scope and sequence of the overall program is the same.
  • It is still a mastery program.
  • The methods and techniques that make Math U See such a great program are still there.
What is new:
  • There are slight modifications in the teaching in a handful of lessons (lessons 1, 3, 9, 10, 15, 17, and 29)
  • An "application and enrichment" page is added to each lesson.  The main idea is these pages is to work on word problems, but there is also a bit of new teaching and some stuff that is just fun.
  • The Instruction Manual has a lot more help for the parent in teaching the concepts.  But... this is something I rarely use myself. Like my kids, I've always found math fairly intuitive, so watching Mr. Demme on the video is enough for me.  However, the changes in the Instruction Manual could be really helpful, especially if you are a bit anxious when it comes to math.

Specifically, looking at the lesson Thomas just finished (#8) which has the students working on adding three fractions with different denominators --

  • 8A is identical in content.  The new version includes more space for working out the problems.
  • 8B is identical.
  • 8C is identical except for spacing on the word problems.
  • 8D is identical in content, but the problems are spaced out a bit more.  The review (in both old and new) has them doing double digit multiplication, and also long division, including writing remainders as fractions.
  • 8E is identical except for spacing on the problems.
  • 8F is identical except for spacing on the problems
  • 8G -- the Application & Enrichment page, features problems relating to music (whole note, quarter note, half note) and has them adding up notes to equal full measures.  Very, very cool application page.

What about the lesson he'll start today, since that is one with changes in the teaching?

Lesson 9 introduces the idea of multiplying fractions, or taking a fraction of a fraction.  The worksheets (A-F) are very similar in the two versions.  There are a couple wording changes in the directions that are totally immaterial ("Not all of these can be built with the overlays." vs. "There are no overlays for some of these.") and some equally immaterial wording changes in a couple of the word problems.

The difference in the teaching is all in the Application & Enrichment page (9G).  This application page emphasizes that multiplying by a fraction is going to give an answer smaller than the original amount.  Worksheet 9G also has the student taking a fraction of a whole number.  There are three word problems on this sheet that involve problems like 3/4 x 9 = ___.  Neither of these concepts is stated outright in the old materials.  Rather, it is assumed that the student will intuitively grasp both ideas.

The test now includes a couple of problems dealing with taking a fraction of a whole number.

The other difference is in the Instruction Manual, where there is a bit (a few sentences) of extra explanation about fractions of fractions resulting in answers that are smaller, and about fractions of a whole number.

My Bottom Line:

I love the new Math U See materials.  I already loved Math U See, I will confess.  But the Application & Enrichment pages make it so that I am comfortable with my kids doing just Math U See.  Because before, it seemed like there were some little pieces here and there that were missing.  Conceptually, my kids have been grasping math incredibly well since changing to Math U See last summer.  These extra pages, though, make me feel even better about the program.

What I absolutely love is that I don't have to purchase all the new stuff for the levels I already have.  I can use the teaching materials I already own and just buy new workbook/test book sets.  Because I am competent with elementary math, I won't need the answer keys or additional instruction information from the Instruction Manual as the changes are pretty minor and I know I can do it from the information directly in the student workbook.  However, Math U See is providing answers for the Application & Enrichment pages on their website, so that could save me a bit of thinking.

I am thrilled that I can get the benefits of the new program for my younger children!

Note that Math U See does not follow a traditional scope and sequence, so if you are jumping into it with an older child, you may find yourself starting your 5th grader with Gamma (as I did).  Be sure to take the placement tests!  However, if used sequentially starting with Primer for Kindergarten, and completing roughly one book per year, Epsilon would be happening in 5th grade.

Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed levels ranging from Primer through Calculus, plus the Stewardship program.  You can check out their reviews by clicking on the banner here:


And in spite of the verbiage used in the banner below, I want to make it clear that I received Epsilon as part of my job duties for the Schoolhouse Review Crew and I was not under any obligation to write a review at all.  I will occasionally choose to write a review of Crew Product when I am actually using it with my family, we love it, and I make the time to write a review.  I have not researched FTC rules enough to know if the below text is actually something I need to include, so I am just putting it in there.

 photo Disclaimer2_zpsff718028.gif

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bountiful Baskets: March 23

I didn't get my Bountiful Baskets stuff picked up yesterday... because the snowstorm made our driveway horrid, and we were expecting that the highway would be closed at any time and we might not be able to get home.

A lady I met at Bountiful Baskets, though, was able to get there today once the highway reopened, and she brought my two baskets as far as the post office.  YAY!

She also can pick my stuff up next week, since I won't be able to get there.  So I can contribute tomorrow!

Anyway, here is one basket, except that I put one too many grapefruit in here, but I probably should have added another banana or onion or something. 

What we got in the two baskets:
  • 3 bunches of asparagus
  • 3 English cucumbers
  • 2 packages living lettuce
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 3 groups of broccoli
  • 9 potatoes
  • 8 onions
  • 2 pineapple
  • 4 grapefruit
  • 6 minneolas
  • 7 bananas
What will I do with everything?  Well...
  • all the fruit will just be eaten.  No planning necessary.
  • Potatoes, lettuce, and onions just get eaten.  No planning necessary.
  • Asparagus will be roasted, and this stuff is fabulous.
  • Broccoli -- we'll be cutting some up to have with dip, we'll do broccoli in some type of casserole-y thing for lunch a couple days this week, we'll do stir-fry for dinner one night, and we'll freeze some.
  • Cauliflower -- one head will be cut up to have with dip, the other will probably be in the stir-fry.
  • Cucumbers -- oy, this is the one thing I just never seem to make use of.  I'll slice one up to do with dip, and hopefully we'll manage to use the other two somehow.

Friday, March 22, 2013

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Rhonda Stoppe is a popular speaker who fervently imparts the truth of God’s Word to her audience. She is an enthusiastic communicator who unfolds Scripture with a contagious passion for truth as she teaches women to connect with God in an intimate “love walk” of obedience and to live deliberately in their purpose. She and her pastor husband, Steve, are the grateful parents of four grown kids.

Visit the author's website.


Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman's life. Drawing from years of ministering to youth and to women and from her own parenting experience, Rhonda provides refreshingly relevant guidance, biblical and contemporary examples, and humorous insights to help each reader discover

  • how to guide a son without hovering and smothering
  • how every action and choice can serve a godly goal
  • ways to communicate so a boy will listen and be heard
  • God's power and grace to become--and give--her best

Packed with practical help from parenting experts and other moms, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

I'll confess that I have not yet read this entire book. I'm sure I will eventually. What I'm finding is that although it is very readable (which you can see for yourself below), I just can only read so much at a time.

Rhonda has some great insights, and I can't say that I disagree with much that she has to say. It's just that I come from a completely different perspective. You know, nearly the opening sentences (there is one before these), say "I remember when my son Brandon was born. Looking into his little face, the feelings within me were somehow different from four years earlier when I had given birth to my daughter. I felt so inadequate as I weighed the responsibility of molding this baby into a man."

My perspective is exactly the opposite. I could change this to say, "I remember when my daughter Katrina was born. Looking into her little face, the feelings within me were somehow different from each time I had given birth to a son. I felt so inadequate as I weighed the responsibility of molding this baby into a woman."

And so on.

I've determined I'm just weird. Clearly, I am supposed to be intimidated about the idea of raising men and comfortable with raising a young lady. But I'm not. Well, yes, of course the responsibility of bringing up four males in today's culture stresses me out. And it isn't that I don't feel inadequate, especially when in one of my more contemplative moods. But my feelings of inadequacy are so much greater when it comes to that little female person. I feel so inadequate when it comes to her.

So I started from the first paragraph feeling like I can't relate. But the book does get into some really great stuff, and is quite down-to-earth.

Bottom line: If you are raising sons, this book is undoubtedly worth reading.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736949771

ISBN-13: 978-0736949774


You Are Not Alone

On Mission with God

To be the mother of a son is not for the faint of heart. I remember when my son Brandon was born. Looking into his little face, the feelings within me were somehow different from four years earlier when I had given birth to my daughter. I felt so inadequate as I weighed the responsibility of molding this baby into a man. Up to this point, raising a girl had not been a difficult challenge. It was clear that she was like me, with all the love for being a girl that she could express. She loved shoes and colorful bows for her hair. She was extremely social and adored her friends. And her daddy? Oh, she loved her daddy. Yes, relating to her had been no problem at all.

Yet now in my arms I was holding a helpless baby boy who would grow into a man. Even the mere task of changing his diaper was intimidating with his recently circumcised appendage. I remember thinking, I cannot imagine that soft little face one day having whiskers. As I studied his hands so tiny and fragile, I thought of how they may one day be rough and calloused like his father’s.

When you gave birth to your son, did you find yourself imagining what kind of man he might become? When it came to my son, I did not want to raise a momma’s boy, yet I wanted to be his protector. I did not want him to be rough and reckless, but I did want him to be strong. I wanted him to become a wonderful, godly man like his father. After I took the little guy home and began to raise him, I found my parenting overshadowed with a fear of doing it wrong. I gradually developed a sort of reactionary mode—he acted and I reacted. Rather than following a clear path toward shaping his life, the fear of what I did not want my son to be became my standard. I was merely putting out fires rather than kindling the flames of my son’s character.

My husband and I had always wanted our home to be a place of peace, and yet I found in reality it had become a chaotic environment ruled by my emotions. Because I did not want to disappoint my husband, I did not let him know how much I was struggling. The day my daughter said to me, “I know you can’t wait until we are grown up so that you can do whatever you want” was the day that I knew I needed to get some help. It broke my heart that I had given her that notion. I loved being a mother; it was what I wanted to do. Yet in my harried frustration, that was not at all the impression I had given my sweet little girl.

Feeling even more inadequate and alone, I began to read books about parenting, from which I compiled a sort of how-to list. I soon discovered that the list did not have the power to change me. It became a burdensome reminder of the standard I was unable to measure up to. I lacked fortitude for this new adventure. I knew that I needed to become a kind, courageous, and confident mother if I was ever going to raise kind, courageous, confident children. I desired to be a godly mother who raised godly children. But where would I find the direction I so desperately longed for?

I Need Help, Lord!

Reading books had given me some basic ground rules for this new playing field, but I also wanted to learn from real-life examples. My mother-in-law, who had raised two wonderful sons, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and was no longer the vibrant help she had been when my daughter was born. The young mothers I knew seemed no more prepared for raising a son than I was. I had no idea how to ask God for what I needed. I felt alone and desperate for answers. I’ve since learned that one of God’s favorite prayers is that of a simple cry for help flowing from a humble and desperate heart. I was both humbled and desperate as I uttered the plea, “I need help, Lord.” God graciously answered my prayer by bringing several older, godly women into my life. I am now 50, and I have to laugh at how old they seemed to me when I was in my twenties. These women were not scholars or trained in child development. As mothers of sons, they had traveled down this path ahead of me. They had insights and understanding into what I was experiencing. Their lives had not been perfect or free from trials. They were genuine, precious, and vulnerable as they taught me what God had taught them. When I shared my struggles I did not feel judged; rather, I felt loved.

Titus 2:4 instructs older women to admonish younger women how to love their husbands and their children, and this group of women wholeheartedly obeyed that command. Of all the friendships I have had, the relationships that developed with these women have by far been the most pivotal in my life. They taught me not only how to parent, but how to become the mother God wanted me to become. In writing this book, my heart’s desire is to be an older woman God can use to pour courage and confidence into you, just as those women did for me.

The Mission of Motherhood

One life-changing insight I received from these wonderful women was that I had been called by God to the mission of motherhood. And so have you. God has called you to join Him in the work He plans to do in your children. To become the instrument God will use to train your son somehow sheds glorious light on the unique ministry of motherhood, doesn’t it? The Bible instructs God’s servants to “take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it” (Colossians 4:17). There is no pass. No get-out-of-jail free card. Your ministry came in the form of your son. How will you prepare yourself for that ministry? God never intended mothers to go it alone. Through His Word, He wants to equip you to train your children to love and trust Him.

As you follow God in molding the character of your son, you will undoubtedly face situations that are out of your control. It should come as no surprise that life is unpredictable. The Bible warns, “Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 3:12). When you face struggles, yielding your emotions to the roller coaster of circumstances will only add to the stress and result in chaos.

As you parent your children, if your focus is on every turn of events, you will certainly be overwhelmed and afraid. Fear and confusion will rob you of courage. By contrast, focusing on God and resting in His character will bring peace. Rather than subjecting your family to the gyrations of your emotional reactions, you can develop the habit of responding with an unwavering confidence in who God is. Knowing God intimately is a vital attribute of being a godly mother. How does one develop that kind of confidence in God? I looked to these older women for answers, and they directed me to the Bible.

When I spent time with these women, I observed their peaceful responses to the chaos of life. They displayed a resolve to seek after the Lord in every situation. They were not just church ladies who did good things for God; their hearts reflected His heart. They were by no means perfect, but they were genuine. Their lives had not been without trials and heartache; each had their own story of the struggles they had faithfully endured. In my estimation, the greatest measure of their parenting success was their sons’ genuine love for them and for the Lord.

The Crossroad

I found myself at a crossroad when the women encouraged me to attend their ladies’ Bible study. Honestly, my motivation was, “Free babysitting and two hours with grown-ups? I’m in!” Totally spiritual, right? During the first class session I was given a homework book. I thought, Homework? No problem. I had gone to Christian schools; I can fill in the blanks without even having to look up the verses. I know, my response was arrogant. I was arrogant! (God would reveal that to me later, but that is a topic for another chapter.)

When I got home and opened the book, I was blown away by how much work I had to do. This was not the typical fill-in-the-blank book. This was a Precept Ministries International Bible study that assigned five hours of homework each week. Evidently my new friends were under the impression that I had time on my hands. There was no way I could do that much homework! I concluded that these women had their children so long ago they had forgotten how much was needed to care for a baby. When I called my friend Gayle to explain I couldn’t possibly keep up with the class, she kindly encouraged me to hang in there for just one semester. She offered to help me by babysitting, and promised that I would be forever changed by the experience. I reluctantly agreed to her offer because I did not want her to think I was not spiritual.

I kept the study book open on my kitchen table and worked on the assignments a little bit at a time. I studied while nursing, and in between changing diapers and folding laundry. Do you know what I found? For the first time in my life, I began to crave the Word of God. I looked forward to my few minutes of open time here and there to learn from Him. I began to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). My thinking was different. My parenting was different. Life’s experiences were being filtered through God’s truth, and that truth was changing who I was.

Even my husband, Steve, noticed the change. Fear was replaced with peace, anxiety with confidence. My propensity to people pleasing was overshadowed by a genuine desire to please God. I had given my heart to Christ when I was young, but had never before experienced this kind of longing to know Him. Up till now I had always viewed reading the Bible as a religious duty. But this was very different from duty. I was hungry for God and His Word. I was developing an unwavering resolve to seek God.

What about you—do you long to seek after God? Are you hungering after His Word, and eager to cultivate a deeper personal relationship with the One who created you, knows your heart better than anyone else, and provides for your every need?

Or perhaps as you’re reading this you realize you’ve never taken that step to receive Christ as your Savior and Lord. Or maybe you’re uncertain as to whether you are a Christian. If you would like to know more about how to give your heart to Christ and have an intimate relationship with Him, please see the appendix, “How to Have a Relationship with Jesus.”

Resolve to Seek God

So what does this resolve look like—this hungering and thirsting after God? In the Bible I read a passage that spoke what my heart longed to express: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast” (Psalm 57:7). When I read that, I felt I had to know more about the person who penned that phrase! Those words were written by David amidst one of the greatest trials of his young life. Oh yes, I wanted to know more about this man David. What kind of woman had raised a son like this? I wanted to live how he lived, and even more, I wanted to raise my son to be like him.

David, while not without his faults, was devoted to seeking God. In Psalm 89:20, God proclaimed, “I have found My servant David...” Note that God said He found David. Elsewhere in Scripture we read that “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). Can you picture that? The eyes of God moving all across the earth in search of individuals whose hearts are loyal to Him. Why? So that He can show Himself mighty on their behalf. Isn’t that exciting? You don’t have to do this mother thing alone. God stands ready to offer you His strength. He is more concerned about the man your son becomes than you are!

Learning to love God will make your heart loyal to Him. When I say this, I’m not talking about being a religious woman—that is, someone who merely goes through the motions of religious duty and rituals in the hopes that you can somehow earn God’s favor. No, I’m talking about genuine change that starts in the heart and draws upon God’s power and wisdom. I’m talking about a true inner love and passion for God and not mere external behavior that might look good to others but amounts to nothing more than hollow actions. The loyalty God seeks comes from the heart.

The Holy Spirit can use your loyal heart to draw your son to know and obey God. If your faith isn’t authentic, your son will know it, and that will likely turn him away from the things of God. It is only as you truly love God and surrender to His perfect will that you are enabled to live as an example to your son and make God attractive to him.

I Surrender All?

David was willing to do anything God asked of him. God said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). As David was growing up, he expressed his love for God in his psalms of worship. Out of that love grew trust. When David was just a young shepherd boy God allowed him to experience circumstances that would help to build that trust and to give him courage for the trials that he would face in the future. In the course of guarding the family sheep,

Run away in fear

Question God’s goodness, and become bitter or angry

Rely on the power of God to persevere and know victory

Relying on God’s strength, David chose to stay and fight. His conquest over the lion and the bear prepared him to later fight a God-blaspheming giant who had taunted the Israelite army (1 Samuel 17:36-37). Does David’s kind of surrender of his life to God scare you? You can be honest with God; He already knows your thoughts. As a young mother, I had a deep-seated fear that if I surrendered my children to the Lord, He would test my loyalty by taking them from me. Have you ever struggled with such fears? The Bible can calm your heart as you learn that God is a loving and merciful Father. There is no reason to fear what God might do, for His love for your son is greater than any love you have. And His plans for your son are greater than your plans. What’s more, God has the power to accomplish those plans.

Practical Applications from David’s Mother

Have you ever asked yourself where David’s momma was while he was out there camping with the sheep and wrestling wild animals? Well, she wasn’t there fighting his battles for him. We can learn a lot from David’s mom.

She allowed her boy to become a man while he was still living at home. David was her youngest son, yet she allowed him to leave the safety of home to do the dangerous work of a shepherd. She recognized David would find a sense of accomplishment in contributing to the family business. What kind of man might he have been if his mother’s fears kept him tied to her apron strings? She seemed to know when to step back and allow him to face challenges without micromanaging his choices.

It can be frightening to loosen your grip on your son as he matures. All too often mothers coddle their sons in an attempt to protect them or make life easier for them, only to cripple their ability to manage themselves when they leave the safety of their homes. Making a conscious effort to allow and even orchestrate opportunities for your son to accomplish tasks away from your watchful eye will allow him to develop his courage and his ability to make decisions.

She had the courage to leave his safety in the hands of God. In those lonely hours spent on the hillsides, David learned how to be a man. God had used trials to develop his loyal heart. David’s mother seemed to have resisted the temptation to rescue him at every turn. The Bible says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). The Lord wants to be involved in your parenting decisions moment by moment. As you trust and acknowledge Him at each turn, He will make your path straight. If you rely on your own understanding and fight every battle for your son, how will he learn to rely on God’s strength? Sometimes God will ask you to let your little boy battle that bear. Are you willing?

She respected her husband’s wisdom. When David was a teenager His father, Jesse, sent him to the battlefront with food for his older brothers. You don’t hear David’s mother protesting, “Not my baby! He is too young to go.”

Over the years there have been many times that my husband has given one of our boys a responsibility that I thought was too much for him. My initial instinct was to come to the boy’s defense and explain why my husband was making a wrong decision. More often than not, I was the one in the wrong. I had to learn that my husband, who was a man, had more discernment with regard to what our sons could and couldn’t handle. (By the way, if your son does not have a father, do not despair; we will discuss that later in this book.)

David’s mother raised a man after God’s heart. Do you want to do the same with your son? What kind of mother might you be if you resolved to seek after God more diligently? How would your surrendered life affect your son’s character development?

A Courageous Mother

Moses is another man who was used greatly by God. Who was his mother? Jochebed found herself in a troubled time in Israel’s history. The descendants of Jacob had become slaves in Egypt. The slaves grew so great in number that the Egyptians became fearful. So Pharaoh sent out a proclamation that the Hebrew midwives should kill every baby boy born to the Hebrew women.

At the risk of losing their own lives, two courageous midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, refused to murder the babies. Eventually the frustrated Pharaoh decreed that all the Egyptians throw newborn Hebrew boys into the river, but keep the daughters alive (Exodus 1:15-17).

A Difficult Dilemma

When Jochebed and her husband, Amram, gave birth to Moses, they did their best to hide their lovely son for as long as they could. By the time Moses was three months old, however, it would have been a matter of time before someone found and killed him. Something had to be done, or surely he would end up dying (Exodus 1:15–2:10; Hebrews 11:23).

I can only imagine the ache in Jochebed’s heart as she carefully wrapped her precious baby boy in her favorite blanket. As tears streamed down her face, would she have attempted a brave smile into his little face? As if to somehow give him the courage she may desperately have needed for herself ?

As Jochebed prepared to place Moses in a basket upon the Nile River, her daughter, who was standing nearby, would likely have questioned the rationale of her mother’s plan. “You’re gonna put him in that basket, Mother? Will it float? What if water leaks in? What about the snakes and crocodiles?” Surely Jochebed had already asked herself these questions as well. Could this really be Jehovah’s answer to her prayer to save her son? She must have been confident her idea was from the Lord to even attempt the plan. And yet, would she end up wavering in her conviction as she prepared to send her son afloat on the Nile River? Try to put yourself in Jochebed’s sandals. I don’t know about you, but three months after my son was born I was still a hormonal, emotional mess! Trying to cope with hiding my newborn from people who wanted to kill him—coupled with the anxiety of trying to silence him each time he cried—would have sent me over the edge!

A Complete Trust in God

I am in awe of Jochebed’s composure here. Rather than ranting and raving to Amram about their difficult situation, which I am ashamed to say would have been my default mode, she carefully built a little ark for her son. Instead of running to each of her girlfriends for advice, she quietly acted on the plan that God had put in her heart. Can you just hear how her friends might have responded if she had solicited their advice? First you have the nay-sayers: “Jochebed, that is a crazy plan. The baby will surely drown, and if not drown, he will get eaten by crocodiles. Wouldn’t you prefer to know for certain what happens to him?” Then there would have been the hopeless: “Your plan will never work, Jochebed. Just give up. God doesn’t care about your baby. He didn’t care about mine when the soldiers came and killed him. Why are you any different? If the soldiers catch you with that baby, surely you will be put to death. What will become of your other children? You have a responsibility to them.”

Although advice is often practical, sometimes our friends can practical us right into disobeying the Lord. Have you ever experienced the Lord impressing upon you to do something that others have questioned? I have, and in such times, it can be confusing to discern what the right path is.

How puzzled the people in Jochebed’s generation must have been. God had called Israel His chosen people, yet He allowed them to suffer greatly. How is it possible to place your trust in God when your circumstances appear to be wildly out of His control? But we know there were some people who still trusted God. Among them were the midwives who, at great risk, chose to protect the Hebrew babies. Where did they find the courage to disobey Pharaoh’s decree? And where did Jochebed find the strength to do something about her circumstances?

If you were in this terrible scenario, how do you think you would have responded? My natural tendency would likely have been to pull blankets over my head and wait for things to get better. How could Jochebed ever have brought herself to let go of the little basket? Do you think you could have sent your baby boy down the Nile River? Imagine watching him float out of your secure hands into the unknown. Where would a mother find the courage to do such a thing?

A Miraculous Intervention from God

As Jochebed watched her baby float away, she demonstrated courage that was not found in her ability to preserve the life of her young son. Her decision that day required she follow a plan that had no answers. Yet she sent the baby away from her protection and into the care of her God. That kind of courage comes only in the life of one who has developed a genuine trust in God. Jochebed’s confidence in the Lord was evident in her actions.

If Jochebed had tightened her grip on baby Moses and attempted to continue hiding him, she would not have experienced what happened next. Her trusting obedience was rewarded with nothing short of a miracle. When the daughter of Pharaoh drew the little Hebrew baby from the basket floating on the Nile, the Lord moved her heart to compassion. Not only did the Egyptian princess proclaim she would adopt Moses as her son; she sent his very own sister—who happened to be nearby—to find a nursemaid for the baby. And of course, Moses’ sister pointed Pharaoh’s daughter to Moses’ own mother! God blessed Jochebed’s obedience by making her Moses’ nursemaid.

Making the Most of a Brief Opportunity

During the few years Jochebed was permitted to nurse her son, she would have had a profound influence upon him. Surely Jochebed would have told little Moses stories of the faithfulness of the God of Israel. Knowing their time together would not be long, Jochebed would likely have had a sense of urgency to teach Moses to love her God. We mothers would do well to remind ourselves that the time we have to influence our children is short, and we are to begin developing their love for God in their earliest years.

Never underestimate the amount of influence you can have on your son in his first years of life. In her book Six Ways to Keep the “Good” in Your Boy, Dannah Gresh states, “In 2005, the findings of a new study released in Pediatrics found that parent-infant connection—intentional togetherness—plays a key role in shaping the right side of an infant’s brain during the first year of life.” Noted neuroscientist Allan Schore says, “The brain of an not just shaped by genetics but also by experience in the last trimester of pregnancy through the child’s first year and a half of life...A parent or other caregiver can provide this early attachment, but large day-care situations may be less ideal.”

Do not be naive and assume that dropping your child off at an impersonal day-care facility every day won’t leave an imprint upon him. If you must work, it is essential that the person caring for your child loves your God and will emulate that love to your son. Though Jochebed had a very short time to influence Moses, the impression she made was strong enough that it stayed with him even when he grew older and lived in Pharaoh’s palace. Her teachings were likely the foundation God used to build Moses’ faith. And sure enough, when Moses grew older, he chose to suffer with his people rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season in the palaces of Egypt (Hebrews 11:24-25).

The Bible does not say much about Jochebed and her character qualities. Her name, in Hebrew, means “Jehovah glorified.” Glorified, as used here, means “to make weighty, to make glorious.” Jochebed’s actions certainly lived up to her name. In her decision to trust Jehovah, His name was made glorious.

The Influence of a Few Years

The Lord did not bring our oldest boy, Tony, into our lives until he was 15 years old. For years our family has attempted to find a way to illustrate to people, in a clear way, how Tony became our son. About a year ago Tony, now in his thirties, called me, excited about a movie he had watched. He said, “I know I am not a big black football player like the guy in the movie, but what I saw reminds me so much of our family. And the mom in the movie reminds me of you!” I had seen the very popular movie only days before. I had cried while watching it because it brought back memories of when Tony first came to live with us. He lived in our home for only a short time, but just as the Lord had used Jochebed’s few years with Moses to shape him for life, God gave us a brief window of opportunity to give Tony a strong foundation for life.

Tony had already bonded with Steve even before he had moved in with us. Steve was his youth pastor, and right from the beginning they enjoyed a wonderful relationship. When Tony graduated from high school, he gave “Big Steve,” as he called him, a card saying thank-you for becoming his dad. It was a touching note that Steve still keeps with his most treasured possessions. We kind of look at that card as Tony’s “official adoption papers.”

During Tony’s short time with us, he and I had great talks about his new life as a believer, and about

girls. We talked about his dream to become a fighter pilot, about God’s character, and about girls. We discussed God’s plan for marriage…and did I mention we talked about girls? While Tony and I got along well, he related to me with love and respect, but never as his momma. I wanted to be a mom to him, but I respected that he had a mother whom he loved, and that he didn’t necessarily need another.

Upon graduating from high school, Tony was accepted to Texas A&M University. It was difficult for our family to say good-bye to him, but we were excited about the opportunities before him. I determined that my new role in his life would be as a prayer supporter.

Right away Tony, our overachiever, went out for the drill team, a much-sought-after and competitive position. The requirements were grueling. All the while, he was taking a full load of classes. By September, Tony had been selected for the team and he was thrilled—thrilled and exhausted.

One day Tony called home. In a weak and shaky voice, he said he had a severe case of pneumonia and would need to take a break from all activities. He told me he was not going to tell his drill commander he was sick for fear of losing his place on the drill team. Oh my sweet boy, who had worked so hard to achieve his goals! He had been such a man and accomplished great things. Now all I could hear was a little boy who needed a mother.

I asked the Lord for discernment. As I said earlier, we as mothers need to learn when God wants us to step back and allow our young men to battle their trials alone. But somehow I sensed this was different. Tony had worked so hard to land a spot on the team, and now he was terribly sick. I felt that the least I could do was ask Tony if I could make a phone call on his behalf. Reluctantly, he agreed.

I called a friend of Tony’s who was an alumnus of the school. He promised to make some calls. Soon I heard back from the drill team’s commandant, who called to assure me that Tony’s place on the team was secure. With that taken care of, we brought our very sick boy home and I took care of him until he got better. Through that experience, God knit our hearts together, and I became a momma to Tony.

Tony went on to graduate from college and became a fighter pilot. While he has achieved many amazing goals, I was never more proud of him than on the day he called to say, “You know, I am living my dream, and I now realize that it is not enough. My Sunday school teacher, a retired fighter pilot, told me that if I am doing all of this but I’m not surrendered to Christ, my life will be wasted.”

When asked how being a part of our family influenced him, Tony said, “The family was, and continues to be, my living definition of both what God expects from me, and what He wants for me. I am thankful for this example, and I have no doubt that it was God’s plan for our lives to connect.”

Only God Knows

Jochebed had no idea she was being used by the Lord to train a child who would one day become the deliverer of Israel. When David’s mother sent her young son to the battlefront, how could she have known God had been preparing him to slay a giant? And would she have ever dreamed that her gentle warrior would one day be the king of Israel, as well as a man after God’s own heart?

I say all that to bring up this very important point: The first teachers of these godly leaders were not theologians; they were mothers. And you are your son’s first teacher about God as well. You share the same role God entrusted to Moses’ and David’s mothers.

Generation after generation, the mission of motherhood has been the same. God invites mothers to join Him in molding the character of their sons. Will you partner with God in teaching your son how to love Him? The Word of God is your textbook. Will you determine to prepare yourself for this ministry? The Lord is searching for hearts that are loyal to Him. The same One who called the mothers of Jochebed and David is calling you. Only God knows the future that awaits your son. What an amazing honor He has given you. You are the vessel that the Lord will use to prepare your son for a lifetime of use by Him.

Review: The Ecology Book

The Wonders of Creation series, put out by Master Books (a division of New Leaf Publishing Group) is a series I've been aware of for quite some time.  However, it is only recently that we actually used any of the titles.  The Archaeology Book by David Down, was well, well-loved by my middle child.  I really appreciated that it was a book that could be used for a wide range of kids.  The background in color-coded, so the pale background is a "level 1" (roughly 5th-6th grade), and you have colors for level 2 (7th-8th grade) and level 3 (9th-11th grade) as well.

When I had the opportunity to take a brand-new title, The Ecology Book, for a test-drive even before it was published, you better believe I jumped at it.  This book comes out in April, and I cannot wait to get my hands on a physical copy of this title.

Written by Tom Hennigan & Jean Lightner, this has the same basic format as the other titles (yes, that is plural now) I have used in this series.  The material is split into the levels, the photos are stunning and gorgeous, and well, the information is solid and engaging. 

From the publisher:
Study the relationship between living organisms and our place in God's wondrous creation!
  • Learn important words and concepts from different habitats around the world to mutual symbiosis as a product of the relational character of God.
  • Designed with a multi-age level format especially for homeschool educational programs.
  • Examine influential Scientists and their work, more fully understand practical aspects of stewardship, and investigate ecological connections in creation!
The best-selling Wonders of Creation series adds a new biology-focused title that unveils the intricate nature of God's world and the harmony that was broken by sin. This educational resource is color-coded with three educational levels in mind: 5th to 6th grades, 7th to 8th grades, and 9th through 11th grades, which can be utilized for the classroom, independent study, or homeschool setting.
Whether used as part of our newly developed science curriculum or simply as a unique unit study, the book includes full-color photos, informative illustrations, and meaningful descriptions. The text encourages an understanding of a world designed, not as a series of random evolutionary accidents, but instead as a wondrous, well-designed system of life around the globe created to enrich and support one another.
How did we use it?  Well, we are not anywhere near as far into this book as I hoped to be by the time this review needs to be up.  Partially, that is because this is an awkward book to read aloud from a digital copy.  And of course, we chose to read aloud because that is just who we are.

The photos, graphs, charts, diagrams, etc. are integral,  as you can see from this page.  You need to see the "stuff" as you are reading/hearing about it.  With all five kids listening in, that means a whole lot of stopping and flipping my laptop around so everyone can get a look at the images.  A real book would be so much easier.  On the iPad, it may have worked; but on the Kindle, it was just too small.  So the laptop it was.

Don't get this one in a digital format, even if it is offered that way.  This title demands a real book.

What do we think?  This book is fabulous.  We all felt the grade designations were a bit off, but that may just be because we do so much science around here.  I'd label Level 1 as 3rd-6th grade, Level 2 as 5th-8th grade, and Level 3 as 8th-11th.  Roughly.  Even my first grader was grasping the Level 1 material though, and she got a fair amount of the Level 2 stuff too.

The content is great, and I really think that this book, coupled with some hands-on projects (some of which are a natural extension of the book) could easily be the spine for a 1/2 credit high school course.  Have the student do some observations and record some findings, have them work to demonstrate mastery of the vocabulary, and have them do a bit of research into one or more of the areas covered in the text, and you are probably there.  I'd throw in a biography or two of some of the ecologists featured in the text as well, but we love biographies.  Of course, there will also be a study guide available for this book, and based on the one for The Archaeology Book, that guide will help in making this high school credit-worthy.  But I have not seen that guide.

My boys (10th, 8th, 6th and 3rd grades) weren't too excited in the introductory chapters of the book.  In chapter two, it starts out with some teens "huddled together for protection" because they are in the woods at night.  My bigger boys thought that was pretty sad, actually, and were just a little annoyed at the whole thought that teens wouldn't have spent time in the woods at night before this.  "And we don't even have TREES anywhere nearby!" exclaimed one of my teens.

Later chapters though, did engage them.  Especially once we got up to Chapter 5: Taking a Liking to Lichens.  Once we were getting into specific kinds (or species) there was a definite uptick in the interest level.  They felt it was more like real science.

This is a fantastic book, but you don't have to take my word for it.  There are a few of us blogging about The Ecology Book right now.  Go see what some of the other bloggers have to say.

I received this ebook for free from New Leaf Publishing GroupIn exchange for this review, I will receive the physical book when it comes out, along with some other electronic product.  Regardless, the fact that I received complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reading Aloud Challenge. Or Failure.

I am having another week of "I committed to posting about this weekly, and I'm simply going to do it."

We are no longer caught up in The American Patriot's Almanac by William Bennett. I think we read a total of one day worth. 

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien.  We're in chapter 2.  Not going to finish before it is due, but we are making progress.  I may need to buy this one.

I am reading Albert Einstein by Kathleen Krull and Investigating Rocks by Will Hurd, as part of the Moving Beyond the Page units that I am doing with William and Thomas.  These units are actually meant for ages 10-12, so we'll be beefing it up a little bit for William, however (one day into it) I am impressed.

I have some other things planned, but nothing started.  And no photo.

How about you?  What are you reading out loud?  I am desperate for some inspiration, so feel free to link up your posts about reading aloud, or leave me a comment and tell me I can do it...