Monday, July 28, 2014

The Eternal Argument {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Pretty early in my homeschool career, I heard people mentioning Analytical Grammar.  Middle school grammar seemed like forever away, so I mentally filed away the idea that they had a great product.

Fast forward a lot of years, and I found out they'd be a Crew vendor.  I was interested in getting a good look at their material, especially now that they've expanded their line to include Junior Analytical Grammar and Beyond the Book Report.  Plus there was some book or another, but reading the website didn't pique my interest in that at all.

Analytical Grammar Review

Imagine my shock when I received that book, The Eternal Argument, and determined this was something I definitely had to start reading and discussing with my kids.

I don't know how to explain this book in a way that will explain it any better than the website does.  But I have to try.  The idea behind this book is to give you a "lens" through which you and your students can view literature. 

Robin Finley taught 8th grade English for a lot of years, and one of the statements she makes in the introductory materials is that she feels that she is pretty good at explaining "stuff" in a way that even a roomful of 13 year olds can grasp.  I think that comes through in her writing, as she is good at putting abstract concepts into language that makes sense.  She uses fairly informal language, tells stories, and throws in some jokes as well.

Her recommendation is that you read this book aloud with your teens and discuss it.  My recommendation is the same.  This is not a book to hand off to a teen and tell them to read.  This is a book to read aloud, with plenty of time to pause mid-paragraph and go off in a discussion.

We set off with the idea of reading a chapter a day, a couple days each week.  We ended up sometimes reading a few paragraphs and discussing the material for another 45 minutes.  Some days, we would actually complete an entire chapter, and talk over the discussion questions at the end.

None of this tells you what this book is about, though.  This book basically traces "the great conversation" or "the eternal argument" or whatever phrasing you prefer in talking about great books from ancient times to today.  Many of the chapters are focused on various time periods, what was going on in that time, and how that was reflected in the literature.

Since completing this book with my kids (the 13, 15 and 17 year olds anyway, plus the 10 year old occasionally sat in), the concepts she brought up are coloring our discussions, not only in literature classes, but also in history, and to some extent in our science discussions as well.  We also refer to this book when discussing the sermon on Sunday, or in discussing the Dr. Who episode we just watched.  It comes up nearly every day.

The reason I think this book is something every teen family ought to read is that it gives a framework, some common language, that makes it easier to discuss some pretty big ideas.  The book is recommended for 8th grade and up, but I think a younger sibling or two can tag along and get a lot from the discussion as well.  And it is only $24.95, so not something that will break the bank.

Other people on the Crew reviewed either this book, the Analytical Grammar program, the Junior Analytical Grammar program, or the new Beyond the Book Report materials. I'd definitely recommend that you go check out some of their reviews.

Click to read Crew Reviews

I'm not actually required to write a review, as I get these materials as part of my job.  When I love a product and have some time, I do write up a review because I want to.  I'm including the below disclaimer just because.

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Me-Time Week

I know the whole idea of "me-time" is pretty controversial in certain circles.

Personally, I think extremes are bad.  People -- okay, let's be honest, Moms is who we are talking about here -- who are constantly doing whatever because they "need time alone" and they are never spending real time with their kids?  Not so good.

People -- I mean, Moms -- who never do anything by themselves at all?  Not so good either.

I'm far more of a middle-of-the-road person.  I spend lots of time with my kids.  I love 'em.  Really.  Most of the time I like them too. 

This past week, though, I had the chance to have this for a view:

And I took it. 

Dale had meetings for most of the day and evening, and I sat in a nice, air-conditioned hotel room with *that* as my view.  By myself.  With a stack of books, some stuff I could soak my feet with, a whole bag of cherries and a container of blueberries.

And no children. 

It was heavenly.  I could soak my feet and not worry about anyone else.  I could grab 4-5 cherries and not have anyone ask if they could have some too.  I could read my book and not think about making lunch, checking the mail, or brushing someone's hair.

I was away for three days.  I came home with a much better attitude about everything.

Sometimes, you need to take advantage of opportunities like that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Flood of Noah {a Moms of Master Books review}

It is time for another Moms of Master Books review -- this time, a fabulous book called The Flood of Noah: Legends & Lore of Survival.

Initially, I wasn't all that excited about this month's title.  We have lots of flood stuff already, most of it quite good, and I really didn't want yet another resource.  Then I realized this is in the same format as Dragons: Legends & Lore of Dinosaurs.  That was a truly wonderful book, and I couldn't wait to see this one.

Well worth it.

Here is what I love:  Not only do you get a cool book with lots of great illustrations and great text.  You also get to pull out little booklets, open up little flaps, and otherwise interact with the book to get more information.  Let me show you a bit:

Sometimes, like here, there is a little book within the book.  In this case, the "big book" is talking about ancient kings, and the little book is filled with amazing ancient maps.

Sometimes, you get to lift a flap to read more.  This page is talking about legends in Europe and North America, and when you life the pottery flap, you can read the legend of The Great Earthen Pot.

Sometimes, you get to fold something out that makes the page bigger and filled with more information.  The most impressive is this one:
Not that this is a fabulous photo... but this is three panels showing Noah's Ark. There is a fourth panel, off to the right, that includes text about the "survival vessel" plus another little book within a book.

The information included in the book is great, also, though with all the reading my family has done about the flood, I can't say there was anything truly new.  It is, however, in a fun and accessible format.

You can check out the book trailer here:

And go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about The Flood of Noah.

There is a Book and a Treat Facebook party coming up tonight, July 22 at 7 pm Central Time, where you could win cool prizes -- and discuss the series too. 

Disclaimer:   I received this book 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.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Get to Know King David {a BookLook review}

Not too long ago, I reviewed another book in the Get to Know series, that one on the Apostle Paul.  I was so impressed that I immediately requested this title, Get to Know King David by Nancy I. Sanders.

This title is every bit as wonderful as the first one was.

From the publisher:
A shepherd and a king, David lived an adventurous life. He protected his family’s sheep from lions and bears. He fought a giant with just a sling and stone. He even spent years hiding from men who were trying to kill him. And eventually, David became a great king. But David was also a man of God. Learn more about this hero from the Bible and his exciting place in history. Discover what it was like to grow up in ancient Israel and then be a king of God’s people. King David - part of the Get to Know series - will teach you everything you need to know about an imperfect young man whom God used to do great things!

My thoughts:

I love how the book is laid out.  Twelve chapters, each in the 6-10 page range, which is a great length for early readers.  The book has great features, like definitions for the trickier words.  My kids tend to roll their eyes a bit because they know many of the words, but with the font color (green) being fairly close to the regular black color, it is also pretty easy to just skip over the words you know.  Words like grief, destroy, and grave are the ones that caused the eye-rolling.  On the other hand, there are words like lamentations or showbread, where they definitely appreciate a bit of an explanation.

The illustrations are phenomenal.  There are photos of places today (Hebron, for instance), photos of items like a shofar, maps and more.

The text covers all of David's life. One thing I wondered was how it would handle Bathsheba.  Let me quote:
But King David had a lot of wives and he wanted more.  One day he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba.  He wanted her as a wife but she was married to Uriah the Hittite.  So King David had Uriah killed in battle.  Then he married Bathsheba.  They eventually had a son named Solomon.
That totally works for me for the younger kids.  This book isn't only speaking of David's triumphs and the great "hero" qualities.  It addresses that he screwed up, without getting into a lot of detail that little ones don't need to know at this time.

Great series.  I'm getting Mary next.  Watch for a review in another couple of weeks.

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.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Captured on the High Seas {a Tyndale House review}

I love the Imagination Station series.

I simply love it.

I've reviewed most of the books in this series, and I'm not going to link back to all of those reviews.  However, Captured on the High Seas by Marianne Hering (Book #14) is the second in a Revolutionary War trilogy, a follow-up to The Redcoats are Coming.  You can certainly read this without having read the rest of the series, though.

The entire series is great.  These books are high action, with both a male and female main character (cousins Patrick and Beth) and they are written around a 2nd-3rd grade reading level.  These have been great for my older dyslexic children, and it is also great for my 2nd and 4th graders.

This story picks up where #13 left off... Beth and Patrick were leaving, and something happened to the Imagination Station.  They found themselves on a ship, about to be captured by the British.  Immediately befriended by James, a free black teen.  As we find out at the end of the book, the actions James took in this story are historical.  Well, not the part where he meets Patrick and Beth and refuses to escape in the Imagination Station.  But the rest of the story is based in reality.

Like other books in this series, the chapters are short, and almost all end with some sort of cliff-hanger to draw you into the next chapter.  That is so important with the kids who struggle especially.

I'm pretty sure this was my favorite yet, though Surprise at York Town (the final title in the Revolutionary War trilogy) might top it.

Great book. 

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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Family, Community, and a Free Episode of Adventures in Odyssey

We are loving our subscription to the Odyssey Adventures Club.  This month, we're talking about communities, and about serving your community.  I wrote a bit about what my family does with our church's Food Pantry, and that is included below.

That isn't all we do, of course.  We've gone over and mowed and picked up trash at the cemetery, we've packed boxes for Operation Christmas Child, we've landscaped, built tables, done food drives, and way more.

The question at the end of this post is... what other ideas do you have?

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.54.28 PM 

For a limited time, you can listen to a new episode of Adventures in Odyssey for FREE! Album 58, The Ties that Bind, will be available this fall for digital download and CD purchase, but if you join the Odyssey Adventures Club, you can listen to the full album now! Guess what? The $5 special held last month was extended through the end of July, too, so you can join in the fun for only $5!
Here's what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):
It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.
Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive.

One way families can carry out God's design for families is by serving their community—right where God has planted them, being His hands and feet together. Want to serve your community with your family, maybe make a day of out it? Here are some fantastic ideas from some Adventures in Odyssey bloggers and club members:
  • Make scarves through the year and deliver them to your local homeless shelter at the start of winter, or regularly donate food to your local food bank. —Shirley 
  • Our family likes to help with Meals on Wheels. We also do reenactments of the Civil War and WWII to help educate people on history. I like to show my kids that we should be servers and givers by taking meals to people who need them (i.e. baby just born, someone died, someone had surgery, etc.). —Erin 
  • We have been visiting a nursing home with friends once a month. The kids just sing and then we fellowship, but the ladies love it! —Lisa 
  • We make lap blankets for nursing home residents and take the time to visit with them. We also collect food for the local food pantry. —Donna 
  • We make blessing bags to give to the homeless when we encounter them. We also donate clothes and food to a local shelter. —Amy 
  • Our MOPs (Mothers of Prechoolers) group supports our local Pregnancy Support Services with donations, gifts, and notes. We also supports the Durham Rescue Mission, which helps people break free from addictions and restore families. —Melissa 
  • We live in a very rural area. Our church serves two of the poorest zip codes in the state, and about a decade ago, they started operating a food pantry out of a closet. It has expanded since then, so we now use the closet for storage, but the pantry is basically a classroom. The kids and I serve over there a lot. My 17-year-old and I go to Care & Share (50 miles away) to get food to bring back to the pantry. All of us help unload and stock shelves. On pantry days, everyone can get involved with helping people go through the line, playing with the kids, carrying boxes out to cars, etc. There are so many hungry folks, especially in the summer when school breakfasts and lunches aren't available, and helping a bit to put food on some tables is such a blessing for us all. —Debra 
  • We pack food bags each month for the homeless and needy through a thrift store that offers an outreach to the community. We also help clean our church and our Sunday school. —Michele 
  • We work through our AHG troop to do several service activities a year. My girls just recently made bracelets they are selling, which 100% of the profits goes to Hope House in Africa to help young girls. —Sarah 
  • Our church works with a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We cook food ahead of time, and when our schedules allow we ride down with the group to serve the food. My son always reminds me when we haven't been for awhile, so it's something he looks forward to. —Maria 
  • We do lots of random acts of kindnesses within our community: pay for others' meals, leave change at a vending machine, hand out Gatorade/granola bars to people on the side of the road asking for food. We also love to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes. —Kathryn
Did that provide some ideas to give your family service activity the kick-start it needs? What other ideas do you have for serving your community? Share in the comments!


Disclaimer: As part of the Odyssey Club Blogger program, I receive access to the Odyssey Adventure Club and some other resources in exchange for posting about the Club. I am not required to give positive opinions.

Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook {a BookLook review}

I've been on a bit of a cookbook kick lately.

So the opportunity to review Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook by Nancy Vienneau was one I had to take.  And it seemed I needed to post the review on a third Thursday too.

Intriguing idea, and a person can always use more recipes for a potluck, right?  The basic idea is on the third Thursday of the month, a bunch of folks get together, bringing something seasonal and fresh to share.  A couple ladies hosted this, inviting a diverse group of folks.

Let's read what the publisher says to describe this book:
This is not your grandma’s potluck.
The cliché is unavoidable. At the third Thursday potluck, you won’t find canned soup casseroles or whipped delite, as much as you may love them. What you will find instead is an array of dishes in sync with the season.
Each month offers up an appropriate menu. July is for tomatoes; August for figs; December for gifts from the kitchen; February for staying warm. Gouda Risotto with Fresh Peas, Cider-Braised Pork with Pears, Crab Mac-and-Cheese, or Brown Butter Honey Cake, they each appear in their seasons at this lively community potluck.
Hosted by a group of goodwill-wielding friends and strangers, the potluck’s beneficiaries have one thing in common: a love of good food. The premise is simple; on the third Thursday of every month bring a seasonal fresh dish for sharing. The result is gloriously rich: new friends, fun, and good eats.
Whether you’re looking for instructions on assembling your own potluck (the first clue: no rules), or recipes for imaginative, honest dishes, whether it’s for a group of six or thirty, the inspiration in this book will suit anyone who wants to celebrate good food and good neighbors.
What did I think?  Well, what was really fun about this book was to read the introduction, and the intros to each "month" of recipes.  Seeing how this potluck started and developed was a lot of fun.  Each month introduction talks a bit about the fresh food recipes featured in that chapter too.

The recipes themselves tend to be a bit fancier than anything I'd normally prepare.  I'm probably more comfortable with my grandma's potluck, though I can do without canned soup casseroles.  Most of the recipes sound amazing though, and I enjoyed reading through those as well.

I have not made anything in here, I'll confess.  But there are a few recipes I plan to try when I do have the ingredients on hand.  For instance, there is a ketchup recipe I plan to make the next time I get a box of Roma tomatoes (Ketchup for Real).  And when the zucchini comes in, I am most definitely making Maggie's Refrigerator Zucchini Pickles.

That is one thing I love about the book -- lots of produce ideas.

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.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Great American Slow Cooker Book {a Blogging for Books review}

It's summer, and I truly hate to heat up my kitchen just to make a meal.  The slow cooker is my friend, truly, but I have a pretty limited repertoire.  The idea of 500 easy recipes appealed to me.

So I put in to review The Great American Slow Cooker Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.

When the book arrived, I was immediately impressed.  Let me list off a couple of reasons for that:
  • Each recipe includes the quantities to prepare it for three different sized slow cookers.  With seven in my family, I'm sure I will nearly always use the largest size.  But I like that I can still use this cookbook when my three teens are at camp.
  • The majority of the recipes use normal ingredients.  Not all are "normal" in my household, but I don't recall seeing a single ingredient where I thought "Where in the world would I find that?"  Some ingredients are not things I'd have on hand (chickpeas, for Chicken and Chickpea Stew, for example) but I did recognize everything.
  • Each recipe is rated for how much effort it takes, with common sense labels.  Not much -- for a recipe like sweet and Sticky Country-style Ribs, where you are putting ribs in the cooker, whisking 7 ingredients together, and dumping them over the ribs.  A little -- for a recipe like Spicy Country-style Ribs with Fried Garlic, where you put 10 ingredients together in the cooker, add the ribs, coat them; and then saute garlic and add it to the cooker.  A lot -- for a recipe like Pork Shoulder in Creamy Mushroom Sauce, where you brown the meat in a skillet, saute onions, add broth, scraping the crusty bits from the skillet, put most stuff in the cooker; and finally pull the cooked meat out, put the sauce into a saucepan, and add cream and chives. 
  • Each recipe also gives you three times -- prep time, cook time, and how long it will keep on warm.
  • Each recipe has "Tester's Notes" where comments like "Make sure the flour has truly dissolved in the milk and wine..." on the Vegetable Pot Pie recipe.
  • Some recipes include "Ingredients Explained" where things like the difference between light corn syrup, dark corn syrup, and reduced-calorie corn syrup are explained (in the recipe for Dulce de Leche).
There are recipes for all kinds of things in here, from breakfasts, to side dishes, to main dishes of all sorts, to desserts, to drinks.

I've tried a few recipes, with varying results.  Some, I need to tweak a bit to change the spices.  Some were just super-simple and perfect as written.

Bottom line:  This is a fabulous resource.  Well worth the purchase.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Get to Know Apostle Paul {a BookLook review}

I posted earlier this week about how much I love a good biography.  I really love a good biography that I can use with my younger children.

The Get to Know series appears to be just that.  Fabulous biographies for kids.  I chose to review Get to Know Apostle Paul by Nancy I. Sanders, and I am very impressed.

From the publisher:
Apostle Paul - part of the Get to Know series - is a unique biography about Paul. Focusing on the life and character of this Biblical hero, using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story, young biography fans will come to learn more about this man of the God, his writings, his impact on the early church, and the role he plays in history. Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is sure to become a favorite for young readers and for first book reports.

What did I think?

My first response was that I was totally impressed.  I mean, I read the above description, but what I wasn't expecting was so much visual detail (maps, photos of places today, drawings, art) and such an appealing format.

The book is split into a dozen chapters, each around eight pages in length.  Perfect length for my 2nd and 4th graders.  There are lots of images, which were clearly thought about, not just inserted willy-nilly.

As you go through the chapter, there are words in a green font, such as persecution, and at the bottom of the page there are boxes to define any green words from that page.  I love that the colors are fairly subtle, if you are reading quickly (like I did when reading for myself), you don't really notice the color difference.  But if you are reading more slowly (my kids) because you are struggling with some of the words, the green is clearly a bit more obvious, and they could go down to the bottom and figure out what the word means.

At bottoms of pages, there are also blue boxes that tell a bit more about various events from that chapter.  You know, those little trivia facts that kids seem to love.  There are orange boxes that give a brief bio of other major characters mentioned (Lydia, Amos, John the Baptist).  And there are red boxes that give "Eyewitness Accounts" pointing out when someone was a witness to the events discussed.

I will be looking for more titles in this series, as this one was so well received by my kids.  There is one on Mary, one on David, and one on Jesus.  Which to choose, which to choose?

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.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ragamuffin {a FlyBy Review and Giveaway}

I have to start this review by saying that Rich Mullins was the very first Christian artist I ever went out of my way to hear.  I had been forced to listen to various 80s artists, and while there was a song or two here and there that I enjoyed, mostly, I'd rather be playing Van Halen, Boston, Cheap Trick, or the Rolling Stones.  Yeah, fairly weird mix there, but hey.  It is what it is.  One of the songs I remember actually liking was by Amy Grant.  Sing Your Praise to the Lord.  More about that below.

Rich Mullins was different.  I really didn't know why, but his music always spoke to me.

In September, 1997, we had just moved into our first house.  I had a four month old baby who was finally wearing newborn clothes.  I was listening to Christian radio, unpacking, caring for the baby... and the news came on that Rich Mullins had died in a car accident.  I sat down on the floor and sobbed.  I've never reacted that way to any other celebrity death.

Fast forward to 2014, and a movie about the life of Rich Mullins was coming out.  I knew I had to see it.  My family bought the Ragamuffin DVD the day it was released to Walmart, and gave it to me for Mother's Day.

We watched it, or at least the teens and adults did.  I would not recommend this for younger kids (even young teens) until after you have watched it yourself.

I have no idea just how accurate the movie is, but it does deal with an abusive father, alcohol issues, and a lot of self-doubt and insecurity.  And, of course, Rich dies at the end.  This isn't a feel-good, happily ever after flick.  This is raw, messed-up, screwed-up life.

The message I got from it was that we certainly don't have to have it all together to serve God in some huge and amazing ways.  Real people can do so very much.

Of course, the fun highlight of the movie for me was when Rich sold a song to Amy Grant.  Sing Your Praise to the Lord.  I had no idea that song was his.

Check out the official trailer:

I gave my copy to my church, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review this.  And I also have the chance to give a copy to one of you. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Monday, July 7, 2014

Beautiful on the Mountain {a Tyndale House review}

As much as I love historical fiction, there is something I enjoy even more.  A well-written biography.  Or, in the case of Beautiful on the Mountain by Jeannie Light, an autobiography.

From the publisher:
If you enjoyed the classic novel Christy and the bestselling Mitford series, then you’ll love Beautiful on the Mountain, a real-life tale about serving God in unlikely circumstances. In 1977, Jeannie Light left her fine plantation home amid heartbreak and came to Graves Mill, a tiny hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Alone in an utterly new kind of life, Jeannie was determined to find the courage to make a fresh start.

To Jeannie’s surprise, she found herself called upon by her new neighbors to open the old, deteriorated country church, a place that had once united the fractured community of mountain folk. With no training, and no small amount of trepidation, she undertook the task. And as she embarked on an unforeseen series of adventures, from heartbreaking to hilarious, Jeannie would learn more than she ever expected about faith, loving your neighbor, and doing the work that God sets in front of you. Because sometimes, God calls us to go where there is no path . . . and leave a trail.
The description grabbed me immediately.  I did really enjoy the novel Christy, and I've always been fascinated by the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Plus, the cover is simply gorgeous.

Once I got the book, however, I started second-guessing myself. The first few chapters tell a bit about how Jeannie came to be living in Graves Mill, and while definitely a necessary part of her story, it did take awhile before I could start to really care.

What struck me about this story, which mostly takes place from about 1977-1979, was the struggle to have a community in this rural area.  The Graves Mill Church was once the center of things, a place where people could come together and love God and each other.  But it has been closed for quite some time, and Jeannie is called on to get it back going.

The story that unfolds is filled with amazing 'coincidences' and fascinating twists along the way.  Like so many rural churches, the odds are against them.  Organized religion tends to be as well, as the late 70s were roughly the start of the move towards mega-churches.  Jeannie runs up against the "let 'em drive into town" attitude that I've seen in my life too.

The world needs rural churches though.  Really.

In the middle of the book, speaking of this push towards city churches, Jeannie writes:
That described Graves Chapel's history, of course.  It was closed because it could no longer pay its way, and without pastoral care, the people scattered.  But there was a problem with the theory.  Some of the local people didn't fit in the town churches and wanted a community.  They remembered the days when people stayed on their home places, when families joined together to plant and harvest, when cider making was a festival time.  A big church may have small home groups or house churches as part of their structure, but they are not like the original interdependent community.  They are not attached to the soil and trees and rivers.  They do not fill that longing to belong somewhere, to some people, to some place where everyone knows your name and even your father's name.
That spoke to me.

This was the chapter where I started to see the folks in Graves Mill as my neighbors, and where I started rooting for the church to not only open, but to thrive.

You see, I'm part of a church that goes back a hundred years plus, to the original homesteaders out here.  A small church, serving a widely scattered population in ranch country.  We're pastor-less at the moment.  But one way or another, we are going to survive and thrive.  Because driving into town isn't an option for many of us either. 

I know most of my readers are not rural, but I think there is still the appeal of rooting for the underdog here.

I'm glad to have read this book.  And as of right now, it is free for Kindle.

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.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

J is for Juggling {Homeschooling High School ABCs} turned into another one of those weeks where I was trying to write one post, and finally at the last minute, another post wrote itself.

J is for Juggling.

I'm not sure if this is going to be one of those posts that is totally not applicable to the majority of my readers, or if it is one that will strike a chord for many.

But this week, we were busy figuring some things out, yet again, as far as which of the amazing, wonderful programs we ought to use, and which of the fantastic outside opportunities we ought to pursue.  In this specific case, we were looking at a chance to work on some Boy Scout merit badges.  I have three Boy Scouts (Life, Star, First Class) in this house, and some things are worth doing because all three can take advantage.  This particular case involves a decision between two merit badges that all three of them are interested in.

We can only do one.

And who knows what kind of opportunities we'll have in the near future.

My oldest will "age out" of Scouting in ten months <choke, gasp, sob> and after a bit of discussion, I told the kids, "Connor makes this decision, and you all will do what he wants."  That was met with not-so-happy looks from all three of them.  I said, "Look.  We can't always juggle things so everyone gets what they want.  Sometimes we simply have to choose.  And you two..." (pointing at the younger teens) "... are likely to get another shot at something similar.  Connor probably won't.  So he chooses."

That got me thinking about all the things we are juggling, and how many balls we do have up in the air.  And that got me thinking more specifically about high school choices, review choices, and trying to balance it all.  Especially with more than one high school student in the house.

This juggling train of thought led me to think a lot more about all the product reviews we do, and how to juggle that while homeschooling.  We've been incredibly successful, I think, with making things work.  But I know so many who love doing product reviews when the kids are younger, but when they hit high school, they think they have to get serious and just can't handle juggle it all.

I guess, for me, the key is to stay flexible.  I know the kids are going to do some things for high school.  I just don't always know what that will be.  Literature, for instance.  We've reviewed a number of different programs, and honestly, I like getting some different approaches.  So we do one Progeny Press guide, we do a book out of Excellence in Literature, we do a book from Lightning Literature, and we end up with a pretty interesting mix.  If I take the time to look through the materials, I can make sure we are covering a good variety of literary elements, and that we cover different styles.  It is just that I never am quite sure when we are actually "done" with literature for the year.

Another subject we've juggled is history.  I still don't know just what I'm going to call some of the history study that Connor has done, but we've used a wider variety of programs and studied a lot of different time periods.  We've determined that he does need to work through something systematic for the 20th century (somehow, history always seems to stop at the Westward Expansion time period in our schooling), but otherwise, he really has learned far more history than I ever did in high school and college.

The juggling part of things may mean that we do something for six weeks, then set it aside to be picked up later.  That happens quite often.  What I love, though, is that we have so many options available when later does come.  So the financial accounting course that we set aside a couple of years ago?  Yeah, we're pulling that out and doing it now.

All the stuff that we only do for a few weeks is part of the juggling act.  I know my kids are getting a pretty broad education, and we choose the stuff that really fascinates us and dig deeper there.

Ben and Me
My next post?  I'm clueless.  K is for Klueless?  Okay, probably not...

Marcy is posting a word study, and this week is a complete MUST READ -- J is for Judgment.  It's a good one.  There are a couple dozen other amazing J posts linked up too.  Including two others who posted about Juggling!

Experience History Through Music {a review}

I'm having such a great time being part of the Diana Waring Launch Team for the Experience History Through Music set.

One reason is that I've always adored Laura Ingalls Wilder, and one of the three books in this set is Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  My dad read aloud from the Little House books on camping trips, and I totally fell in love with Laura.  I ended up reading, and re-reading, and re-re-reading the entire series multiple times as a child.  I had a love/hate relationship with the television series, but at least for the first few seasons, I did enjoy it.

And one of my favorite family vacations ever was to DeSmet, SD.

When I started homeschooling, one thing I heard about early on was the fabulous book and tape about the music in the Little House books.  However, it was out of print... and even though I kept my eyes open, I never did find a used copy.

According to stories I'm seeing now, the originals were lost for the entire series, and there wasn't an option to republish it on CD (or even on tape!) without recreating the whole thing.  After lots of prayer, and a few miracles, the entire series is back.  And I got a chance to review it.

Fabulous.  Simply fabulous.  All three books.

How this is set up:

All three sets are similar.  Each contains over a dozen songs, and each song is professionally recorded on the accompanying CD.   Each song has a couple page story in the book, including wonderful black and white photos, and in the back is the sheet music including all of the lyrics.
You obviously have some options as to how you want to use these.  We started by reading the introduction in Westward Ho! The Heart of the Old West, then reading the information on the first song (Apple Picker's Reel) and then listening to that song.  I didn't allow the kids to listen to more, because I'm mean like that. The next day, we read about the second song (Boll Weevil) and I allowed them to listen to both of the first two songs.

For America, The Heart of a New Nation, however, I let the kids listen to the entire CD, and we are gradually reading through the stories.

About the books:
America: The Heart of a New Nation is chronologically the first in the series.  The songs start with Yankee Doodle, with the story in the book taking place in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.  The book also includes two pieces of artwork: "Yankee Doodle 1776” by A.M. Willard; and “The First Resistance” by E. Percy Moran.  I love the use of art!

Later in the book, they also use photographs, such as some of the Chicago Great Western Limited's lounge car and dining car, for the song, "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain."

This book goes through roughly the 1880's, covering events like the Erie Canal, the Civil War, and the beginnings of westward expansion.

Westward Ho!  The Heart of the Old West doesn't exactly pick up where America leaves off.  The first story takes place in 1824 with Hudson's Bay Company opening a trading post in Oregon Territory.  This book mostly goes up through roughly the 1880s.  For images, this book contains primarily photographs, which is also fascinating.
Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder covers roughly the same time period as Westward Ho!, obviously, since westward expansion is the time period Laura wrote about.

This book is similar -- yet not -- to the other two.  The music all comes from tunes featured in the Little House books.  The stories talk about how the song fit into the book, but also give historical context to either the events or the song itself, often to both.  The images included in this book are really special.  There are historic photos, photos of places today, and some artwork.  One of my favorite photos is of Laura and the "Wilder Chrysler" at the Badlands in 1938.  Another favorite photo is taken at the Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in De Smet.


These sets of books and CDs are wonderful, and would add a lot to any study of American history through the 19th century.  What I'd like to do with this, now that the review is over, is to plan to do it alongside a history course, going through one or two songs a week.  These are good for any age, and right now, you can purchase the set at a special re-introduction price of $50, or individual titles are available for $18.99 per set. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Odyssey Adventure Club Activities {an Odyssey Club Blogger post}

As part of the Odyssey Club Bloggers, I was supposed to be blogging about one of the fun activities we did for June.

Unfortunately, first I was out of yellow ink on the printer, and more recently I've been having camera trouble, so I kept putting it off, hoping to get a picture or two.  No dice.  So I'm posting today, sans personal photos.  I'm sorry.

My 8 and 10 year olds loved putting this together, though.  It was pretty straight-forward, and that is always a good thing for Mom!

The Odyssey Adventure Club has some amazing activities and of course, all the fabulous listening opportunities!  We are SO doing the Summer Reading Challenge!


Summer is officially here! Don't let your kids' boredom run rampant. Adventures in Odyssey is here to save the day. Below are some must-try ideas for summer fun! Want even more summer fun? For the month of July, you can join the Odyssey Adventure Club for only $5!

Summer Activities

As a parent you are probably a big proponent of reading. Encourage your kids to dig into a book or two this summer with Adventures in Odyssey's On Your Marks Summer Reading Challenge. Bonus points if YOU create a reading challenge for yourself as you read along with your kids!

Looking for something hands-on? Create Matthew in 3-D! Invite a few of your kids' friends over for a play date, print off the activity sheet, and let them have at it for the afternoon (with the promise of cookies and lemonade once they've finished constructing Matthew).

Maybe your kids aren't into reading, but they love math. If that's the case, have them solve Eugene's Sudoku!

The laundry needs to be done; the dishes need to be put away. But your kids are begging you to take them out to the zoo. Let them take a whack at Matthew's Decoder in the morning, then make an agreement that if they figure out how to use the decoder, you'll take them on an afternoon adventure. That'll give you the morning to finish up your to-do list!


Disclaimer: As part of the Odyssey Club Blogger program, I receive access to the Odyssey Adventure Club and some other resources in exchange for posting about the Club. I am not required to give positive opinions.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My cupboards are out of control

I have some meat I need to use in the fridge.  Decided to make some chili, using a recipe from a cookbook I'm supposed to be reviewing.

But I cannot find diced tomatoes.  Because my cupboards are a complete mess, and I have way too stinkin' much of some things.

Like canned pumpkin.  I have to find a good way of using pumpkin.

So my 8 and 10 year olds are completely emptying out the cans, and we will be sorting and reorganizing.  And I am going to start making a list of things I have to use every single week.

Starting with at least one can of pumpkin.

And probably a can of sweet potatoes.

And I'm betting a can of corn.

And a can of either sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk.

Two-three hours later, and we have sorted and inventoried cans.  We threw away two cans, which I think is pretty impressive considering how bad things were.

I started a donation box too, but it has a single can of peas in it.  I detest canned peas.  I know people at pantry like it, so I don't feel like a horrid person for giving away what I hate.  I just have no idea how it got in my house.  Dale must have picked it up.  Gotta have a talk with him. 

So... my excess ingredients, now that we've sorted cans.
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Corn (mostly whole corn, some creamed)
  • Sliced potatoes
  • Pumpkin (various sorts -- pumpkin pie filling, 100% pumpkin, etc.)
  • Black Eyed Peas
Of those five items, I have a grand total of 91 cans.  HOW is that even possible?

So, adding sliced carrots and apricot preserves into the mix, I'm thinking I need to start making a point of using at least five cans of these seven items every week.

Any ideas for me?

I'm going to be using some cream-style corn in some cornbread for dinner tonight.  I'm thinking these pumpkin pie bars sound like they'd be worth trying.

But I need more ideas!!