Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Is your high schooler taking the "right" electives?

Electives are supposed to be the fun part of homeschooling high school.  They sound great.  Undoubtedly, you've seen or heard at least some of the following:
  • Electives give you an opportunity to follow your child's interests passions.  
  • Electives are a way to make a transcript really stand out.
  • Electives give your child the chance to explore something new.
  • Electives are a chance to think outside the box!
  • College recruiters love seeing unusual electives!!
  • You are going to fail your student forever if you don't pick electives wisely!!!!
Okay, I haven't actually SEEN that last one.  But I've felt it.

(Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?  Why?!?)

On a relatively sane day, where I'm not beating myself up for every stupid little thing, the whole idea of electives is fun.  On my "I'm screwing up my kids" days, well, electives are just one more enormous stress.

Do you do that too?

Stop it.  Just stop.

Think back to high school.  I've been doing that a lot lately, as I have a big class reunion happening this weekend.  I won't be there, unfortunately.  But regardless, it has me thinking back to my high school.

You know what?  I'm hard pressed to remember what electives I even took.  Okay, I had orchestra for a couple of years.  And, umm.  Oh, I took an office machines class.  You know, where we learned how to turn a computer on and off.  And where we learned how to operate a card reader machine.  A skill I've never once needed in my entire life, outside of that class.  Ever.
I learned to process cards like these.

(To be fair, though, that class did qualify me for a summer job at the school district, which was a fabulous job, and that job did have a big impact on the rest of my life.  It was just the punchcard part that was totally worthless.)

I think my typing class counted as an elective.  And Accounting definitely did, which is what I ended up majoring in at the University of Minnesota.  But I think I would have majored in accounting with or without the class.

My electives were ways for me to expand my horizons a bit and to do some things I enjoyed.  And I'm positive my parents never even once judged their parenting skills by what electives I did or didn't take.

So I need to not beat myself up about what my kids are (or aren't) doing either.

What are the "right" electives?

It is the course that your child is interested in taking, or the one they have a perfect opportunity to take.  It doesn't have to be exciting to anyone else, or eye-popping on a transcript.  It might be something you think they really need to take, which 'kinda sorta' makes it a required course, not exactly an elective.  Like I'm requiring my kids to all take economics.  That probably will be labeled as a social sciences course, but in a sense, it is an elective.

Connor has 1/2 credit of Alternative Energy, and all three of my high schoolers are working on a credit in Astronomy.  Those will be listed as in "science," but since my requirements are 1 credit each of biology, chemistry and physics, they are still electives.  Connor also is likely to end up with at least a half credit for some sort of computer course, where the final project involves assembling various parts into a functioning (hopefully) computer.

William wants to do lots of history, so he is going to have a lot listed in that category.  Which is completely okay.

Thomas wants to take art classes, and still has interest in a Biblical Archaeology class.

So what if none of their electives scream out and holler for attention from anyone looking at their transcripts.  That's not what this is all about. 

Homeschooling High School Blog Hop 2015

Fortunately for you, my Crewmates on this blog hop are far more creative than I am, so you can probably actually learn something by reading their posts.  Go.  Check them out!

Read More on Electives in the High School Years

Newton on the Christian Life {a Family Christian review and giveaway}

I try to always, always actually READ the books I'm reviewing.  Sometimes, reviewing something like, say, a Bible, or a 365 day devotional, or similar items, I go for reading a solid sample.

So I have to confess up front that I have not finished reading Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke.

This review is over a week late, so I could have more time to get through it.  Family Christian ought to fire me from their review team, methinks.  Because not only am I late, but I still haven't finished reading the book.

It isn't a long book -- fourteen chapters, totaling around 270 pages.

It is deep though.  And when I try to just sit down and plow through it, I find that I have to go back and re-read it.  So I've taken to reading a page or two at a time.

I'll confess that I didn't expect this kind of depth.  What I knew about John Newton prior to beginning this book doesn't take long to explain.  He was a slave trader, living a completely unchristian life.  He experienced God very up close and personal in a horrid storm, and that completely turned his life around.  He wrote Amazing Grace.  He was a preacher.  He influenced William Wilberforce, working closely with him to end the slave trade.  Important guy.

The end.

Obviously, there has to be more to this guy than that.  Or they'd never by writing a Theologians on the Christian Life series book about him.

From the Family Christian website:
John Newton is best known as the slave trader turned hymn writer who penned the most popular English hymn in history: "Amazing Grace." However, many Christians are less familiar with the decades he spent in relative obscurity, laboring as a "spiritual doctor" while pastoring small parishes in England. In the latest addition to Crossway's growing Theologians on the Christian Life series, Tony Reinke introduces modern readers to Newton's pastoral wisdom by leading them through the many sermons, hymns, and--most importantly--letters that he wrote over the course of his life. Considered by many to be one of the greatest letter writers of all time, Newton has valuable insights to offer modern Christians, especially when it comes to fusing together sound doctrine, lived experience, and godly practice.
Letters.  He wrote oh-so-many letters.  This book isn't a biography of Newton, which I'm sure would be totally fascinating.  But it is a way to access his doctrine, his theology, without going through those letters ourselves.

Early in the book, there is talk about Newton being most famous for the phrase amazing grace, however he preferred the phrase sufficient grace.  Reinke refers to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, and particularly the part where it is said, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"

Newton wrote Amazing Grace, of course, which Reinke refers to as "a macro-look at grace and the Christian life."  But he also wrote "My Grace Is Sufficient for Thee."  This "micro-look" at the application of grace in our lives tells us that we aren't promised a comfortable life, free of suffering and pain.

The promise made is sufficient grace.

And that is just page 43.  It gets deeper as I keep reading.

All sorts of things to make me think.

My bottom line is:  This is a fantastic book.  Just don't try to read it quickly.

I have a copy of this amazing book to give away!  US only please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book and an additional copy for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program.  This post does contain affiliate links.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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 28, 2015

A Heart's Promise {a Litfuse Book Tour review}

Every month, I've been posting about Colleen Coble's A Journey of the Heart series.  This month, we're up to book five, A Heart's Promise.

Book four turned a corner for me.  I started to really care about the characters and was looking forward to this installment.  Some great characters from previous books show up.  One is a welcome addition, another is clearly going to wreak havoc at Fort Kearney, just like she did at Fort Laramie.  You know, the character you love to hate.

This is also a book where you want to take the main character and slap some sense into her.  "Tell him!" you want to scream.  Of course, this book ends with her not having confessed her deep, dark secret.  So you know that is going to be a problem in the final book in the series.

I do have book six, A Heart's Home, on hand, and I'll be reading that soon.  You won't get to hear my take on it for another couple weeks though.


Will the promise Emmie makes to her friend mean the end to her dreams of a future with Isaac? Find out in book five, A Heart’s Promise, of Colleen Coble’s A Journey of the Heart series. Emmie Croftner let Isaac Liddle go to avoid telling him about her past. But Isaac remains determined to win Emmie’s heart and hand. Can she live happily without Isaac?

Take a day off and head to the beach with a new giveaway from Colleen: five books (books one–five in Colleen’s A Journey of the Heart series) and a beach bag to tote your new books in!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Heart’s Promise
  • A Lands’ End beach tote
  • A copy of A Heart’s Betrayal
  • A copy of A Heart’s Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart’s Obsession
  • A copy of A Heart’s Danger
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 31st. Winner will be announced August 3rd on Colleen’s website.


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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Day of Atonement {a Kregel Book Tour review}

I'm always interested in biblical novels.  There is something about putting normal, everyday people into the context of some of the great events of the Bible that help to make it all seem more real.

Day of Atonement by David A deSilva, is the story of the Maccabean Revolt.  That isn't a time period I know much about.  At all.

This book starts in 175 BC, and you quickly find yourself jumping between the stories of a few key players, with lots of characters to try to keep straight.  I didn't succeed, really, with keeping track of everyone, and wished I had started a cheat sheet to have any sort of a clue as to the significance of what was happening.

There is a list of characters in the back of the book, with the ones in bold those who were real historical people.  With the descriptions of who those people (real and fictional) are, you wouldn't want to see that list before reading the story, so I certainly can understand why it is at the end.

So what is the book about?  Here is what the publisher has to say:
The Greeks have taken over the world, but Jerusalem is still the same backwater city Jason has always known. He wants to help his hometown rise to a new age of prosperity and influence. If that means stretching the terms of the city's divine covenant, so be it. But how far is he willing to go to achieve Greek greatness for this Jewish city? It will take the willingness of a handful of Jews to die rather than violate the covenant in order to turn the tide back to God.

Written by an internationally recognized expert in the period between the Testaments, Day of Atonement invites readers into Judea during the tumultuous years leading up to the Maccabean Revolt. It was this pivotal decade that reminded Jews of the centrality of the covenant to their national security and taught them that the covenant was worth dying for. The story is so foundational, it is still told every year at Hanukkah. The lessons learned during this turbulent time also shed light on just what was at stake in the ministry of Jesus, whose radical message seemed to threaten the covenant once again.

Day of Atonement joins the perennially successful novels Pontius Pilate and The Flames of Rome by renowned historian Paul Maier on Kregel's premier list of captivating and historically accurate biblical novels.
This book totally has me wanting to learn more about the Maccabean Revolt. 

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

Posting photos: a Crew Instagram Challenge

Okay, so I can NEVER find this list when I need it.  Which means I'm just posting it to my blog so I know where to look.

The Crew has been doing these Instagram Challenges for a couple of months now.  The idea is that you post a photo that has something to do with the day's word or phrase. 

I love doing this, but I can never seem to remember what the word of the day is.  So I'm putting it on my blog.

Today's word is "pet" and I'll be posting a photo a little visitor we had today. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

You'll Get Through This {a Family Christian review and giveaway}

The book, prayer shawl, and my mom's Mother's Ring
Usually, when I sign on to review a book, I have a good idea as to what it is about.  But not always.  Sometimes, God just wants me to read something.

What I saw for this particular review was the author.  Max Lucado.  And I thought, "It might be really nice to read something of his right now."  I didn't really look at the subject matter.  I just signed up, and was surprised to be accepted.

Here is what the publisher's description says about You'll Get Through This:
You fear you won't make it through. We all do. We fear that the depression will never lift, the yelling will never stop, the pain will never leave. In the pits, surrounded by steep walls and aching reminders, we wonder: Will this gray sky ever brighten? This load ever lighten?

In You'll Get Through This, pastor and New York Times best-selling author, Max Lucado offers sweet assurance: "Deliverance is to the Bible what jazz music is to Mardi Gras: bold, brassy, and everywhere." Throughout readers will explore the story of Joseph and the truth of Genesis 50:20 - what Satan intends for evil, God redeems for good, even if it isn't quick and painless for us.
Can I be honest here?  (Well, duh, of course I can!  This is my blog after all!)

If I had actually read that description, I probably wouldn't have put in for this review.

I'm grateful to Family Christian and God for choosing me for it anyway.  Because I needed to read it.

I've been feeling quite overwhelmed, like I'll never get through it all.  And feeling guilty about it besides.  You know, we're not in a bad place.  This isn't like when we were facing foreclosure because of unpaid medical bills.  We're not trying to survive on a $15 a week grocery budget.  Things are basically going okay, but I'm still emotionally overwrought.  I think it is mostly the emotional drama of going through Mom's stuff in the past month.

But the last thing I want to do is read how about how if I just had more faith or something, then I'd find peace and joy and we would all sing Kum-ba-yah.

Even if I do happen to generally enjoy reading what Max Lucado has to say.

I committed to review this, though.  So once I finished chastising myself for not paying more attention, I did settle in to read.  And I knew almost immediately that I need this book.

Lucado isn't telling me to just believe harder.  He isn't telling me to think positive and everything will be roses.  He isn't telling me to fake it until I feel it.  He isn't telling me that good Christians don't experience rotten days, months or years.

What he is telling me is that, like Joseph, I can be in some pretty horrible places that seem to stretch on forever, but that doesn't mean that God isn't there. 

I quoted this to a friend the other day:

God is not sometimes sovereign.  He is not occasionally victorious.  He does not occupy the throne one day and vacate it the next.  ~Max Lucado, You'll Get Through This

The book goes through the life of Joseph, and really makes you think about it.  It is far too easy to gloss over what Joseph went through, as a mere sentence or two is devoted to some of his suffering.  Like Joseph asking the butler to tell Pharaoh of his plight.  And two years passed.  Two years, in one little verse.  Two years that Joseph spent in jail.

God has a completely different timetable than we do, that is for sure.

"Waiting is easier read than done," is what Lucado writes.

I think the best part of this book is all of the examples from messy, real lives.  And Lucado's wonderful way of putting things into perspective.

Gratitude doesn't come naturally.  Self-pity does.  Belyaches do.  Grumbles and mumbles -- no one has to remind us to offer them.  Yet they don't mix well with the kindness we have been given.  A spoonful of gratitude is all we need.  ~Max Lucado, You'll Get Through This

I have a $25 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate  to give away! You can use that to purchase You'll Get Through This, or anything else you wish.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book and an appreciation certificate for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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 9, 2015

CursiveLogic {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Confession time:  I've been horrible about teaching cursive.

There.  I said it.

It isn't that I don't think cursive is important.  {I do.}  It is more that I was so totally overwhelmed, back in the time period where my teens should have been learning cursive, that I didn't do it then.  And when I have tried to work with them later, they don't like how slow the programs move, or how babyish they seem to be.

So I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to receive the CursiveLogic Workbook.  Especially when I read about how CursiveLogic got started.  Linda was a reading tutor, working with a 23-year-old student with learning disabilities, who told her he wanted to learn to sign his name.  She tried to figure out a way to get him up to speed quickly, and this handwriting program was born.

I've been having my 18-year-old student use this, and we are liking the results.  We've tried some other things in the past, but it is just so hard to try to make it work when the program is intended to be used with 6-year-olds.

CursiveLogic is written especially for older students, though I'm not sure I agree with their definition of that.   The primary market is for ages 8-12, but I think that this is best for more like ages 10+.  

The focus is on groups of letters that have the same basic shape, and you learn them all at once.  That means you are connecting letters together from the very beginning as well.  We both love that.

That also means you can write actual words in the very first lesson.  Other really excellent programs we have looked at in the past don't get you to that point until you've been at it for at least a few weeks, which is totally fine for elementary ages.  My adult son, however, doesn't have the patience to practice a single letter for days on end.  Let's get on with it, is his usual eye-rolling response.

The teaching is IN the workbook itself, so if your student is capable of working independently, this is a program where they definitely can do that.  I do not have to teach it.

My son's first comment when he started using this program was, "Oh, I like this!  Go in, get it done.  No tracing letters in the air and making me feel like I'm six.  They aren't wasting my time or patronizing me.  You need to get workbooks for my brothers too."

After you work through all of the lowercase letters, you get to my absolute favorite page in the entire workbook:

Instead of going through and systematically learning all of the upper case letters, you start practicing your initials, and your signature.

Love it.

Because really, while I do want my teens to be at least competent in writing cursive, I really truly want them to be able to sign their names without thinking about it.  A bit like that tutoring student I mentioned at the beginning.

And yes, at that point, you do go through and learn all of the capital letters.  And that part is great too.

There isn't a ton of practice in the workbook itself, but there are other resources available, like the Practice Pages available for free on their homepage.  If you need more practice, you can get it.

Bottom line:  If you have a child in middle school and up who hasn't really learned cursive, I think CursiveLogic is a no-nonsense approach that could be exactly what you need. 

CursiveLogic Review

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Beyond the Ashes {a Lifuse Book Tour review}

I read the first book in The Golden Gate Chronicles a few months ago, and really enjoyed it.  So I was looking forward to reading Karen Barnett's Beyond the Ashes as well.

The first book in the series, Out of the Ruins, involves a young woman in San Francisco to help get some risky, experimental treatment for her dying sister.  In the midst of everything, the big earthquake occurs.

I really enjoyed Abby, the main character in that story, so I was looking forward to book #2.

From the publisher:
Where better to rebuild and face one’s fears than in 1906 San Francisco, a city rising from the ashes? 

Ruby Marshall, a young widow, is certain she’ll discover new purpose assisting her brother Robert with his cancer research, but she doesn’t anticipate finding new love.

Dr. Gerald Larkspur dreams of filling his empty home with family, but he’d always hoped it would be a wife and children. In the aftermath of the great earthquake, the rooms are overflowing with extended family and friends left homeless by the disaster. When Robert’s widowed sister arrives, the close quarters seem close indeed.

Ruby and Gerald’s fledgling romance is put at risk when Gerald develops symptoms of the very disease they’re striving to cure. Together they must ask—is it worth a second chance at love when time might be short?

My thoughts:

This book was even more fun.  Abby and Robert continue to be a major part of the story.  But Robert's widowed sister, Ruby showing up to help her poor bachelor brother is a great addition.  She's a bit shocked to discover that her brother is engaged, as he hasn't told the family at all.  She's also a bit overwhelmed at just how much damage there still is from the earthquake.

I think what I enjoyed the most about this story was the descriptions of the camps and the ongoing relief efforts.  Everything was told in a way that made it seem fairly accurate, though I have to confess, I know next to nothing about what things were like in San Francisco in 1906.  It just "felt" realistic.

And since I'm in the midst of teaching teens to drive, a highlight for me was Ruby's driving lessons.  How much things have changed! 

The religious aspect of the story is just there, not something that feels forced or pounded into you.  I don't like reading books that preach to me, but I do enjoy stories where flawed people are struggling with real problems, doubts and fears.

You can see what others had to say about the book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page!

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

Saturday, July 4, 2015


I stepped outside, after we got back from our trip to North Dakota, and snapped this photo.  Beautiful double-rainbow in the sky.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:8-16 

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Wonder of You {a Tyndale House Blog Network review}

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know I am a huge fan of Susan May Warren.  I particularly love anything she writes that is set in Deep Haven, MN.  And I have truly loved reading the Christiansen Family Novel series.

So I am thrilled to have the chance to review The Wonder of You, which is the fifth book in this series.

This is totally my favorite of the bunch.

Each of these titles focuses on a different Christiansen sibling.  The Wonder of You is mostly about the baby of the family, Amelia. 

Let's just go for the publisher's description here:
Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?
The last book ended with Roark St. John showing up at the Christiansen's home, and Amelia's siblings ran him off.  Everyone assumes that is the end of it, but Roark didn't see his relationship with Amelia as a fling, and he is determined to win her back.

Meanwhile, Amelia has gone back to dating her high school beau, Seth, the man everyone expects she will marry. 

When Roark makes it clear that he is in Deep Haven for the foreseeable future, things get interesting.  Amelia doesn't know what she wants, with two very good men both quite interested in her.

My thoughts:

What I really love about this particular series is watching Mom and Dad in their responses to their adult children.  Also, what is happening in the lives of the other siblings is always a part of the story here too.  Derek and Ivy (Take a Chance on Me) are expecting a baby.  Eden and Jace (It Had to be You) are married and not a huge part of this story.  Grace and Max (When I Fall in Love) are struggling after having eloped.  Casper and Raina (Always on my Mind) are apart, as Casper is out looking for Owen, who will be the focus of You're the One that I Want.

It isn't just the family, though, as various folks around town were the subject of many of Susie's other Deep Haven novels.  At this point, for me, it is like catching up with old friends.

This book is different though.  Both of Amelia's suitors are upstanding, likeable fellows, and as you go along, it is easy to see her ending up with either of them.  At many points in the book, I could imagine it ending either way, and I knew I could feel satisfied with the outcome whichever way it went.

As always, Susan May Warren weaves some amazing Christian messages into the book, if you take the time to think about them -- or to read the author's note and questions at the back.  A big focus in this book is failure -- failing yourself, failing God.  And dealing with the self-doubt that comes when you can't forgive yourself for not being perfect.

I highly recommend this story, and the entire series.

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.