Wednesday, August 26, 2015

But HOW will you teach Chemistry?

I remember one day like it was yesterday.  Connor was four, William was two and a half, and Thomas was a few months old.  We had decided to homeschool quite a while before that, but hadn't really publicized it until now.

Practically everyone who heard was appalled.  This just wasn't right.  But one lady, she looked at me with an incredibly concerned expression, and she said, "But HOW will you teach him chemistry???"  I must have looked confused, as she went on, "You know, in high school.  You can't do chemistry labs at home, and that's all so, so HARD!  How will you do it?"

I stared at her, mumbling something like, "I'm sure I'll figure it out when I get there."  Inside, though, I was thinking, "I'll consider myself a success if he learns to speak so other people can understand him."

Looking back, I can come up with witty retorts.  Or polite answers.  Or eye rolls.  Things I could've said, responses I should've made.

But now that I have three boys in high school, her question really hits me sometimes too.  I mean, she was totally out of line.  Seriously, what mom of preschoolers needs to be considering high school chemistry?  Especially given that at that time, I was lucky to sleep for an hour at a time. 
  • There are scary subjects though.  
  • Really scary ones.
  • Though, I never thought chemistry was one of them.

This shot makes me want to go back to high school.

 Before I go being all practical and talk about what we have done, or are doing, or what I plan to do, to teach chemistry, let me throw a couple other things out there.  And from here on out, just consider "chemistry" to be a code word for whatever class intimidates you.
  1. If you didn't learn enough chemistry when you were in school, so that you can come alongside your child and help him learn in the process -- well, I hate to say it, but in that case, you can't do any worse for him than your teachers did for you.
  2. If chemistry isn't a course they need in the next few months, it is too early to be worrying about it.
  3. You don't need to get freaked out over other people's hang-ups.  Maybe that should have been first.

How do you teach Chemistry, though?  Let me count the ways.  And let me point out that not a single one of these resources existed when I was asked this question.
  • There are reasonably typical textbooks, from all kinds of different organizations.  The one that appeals to me is brand new, by Dr. Jay Wile.  Discovering Design with Chemistry.  This would have been great for Connor, but it didn't exist when he needed it.  I expect to use it eventually though.
  • There are DVD-based approaches such as Chemistry 101.  This is a perfect approach for William, who learns best from video and audio.
  • In many places, you can find co-ops, or community college courses, or something where you can hire some expertise and not have to worry about it yourself.
  • Or -- and this is one I highly recommend -- you can go really, really hands-on and get an amazing kit from The Home Scientist, LLC.  Oh, yeah, this is definitely my favorite way to go.  A slightly smaller version is also available, which is certainly a more cost-effective option.

I personally think getting hands-on and doing real labs is the perfect answer to how to teach high school chemistry.  Your mileage may vary.  

Homeschooling High School Blog Hop 2015

  Go.  Check out what my Crew Mates have to say about Math, Science and History this month!

Home School High School Hosts Share this Month:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Oswald: Return of the King {a Kregel Blog Tour review}

Last summer, I reviewed the book Edwin: High King of Britain
Oswald: Return of the King by Edoardo Albert is the second book in The Northumbrian Thrones series.  A point I made in the review of the first book that is relevant again is that Edoardo Albert is a historian and a journalist, and this series does reflect both of those careers.

From the publisher:
The second book in The Northumbrian Thrones series follows the young prince Oswald as he seeks to regain the throne taken from his family by Edwin.

The exiled family of King Æthelfrith of Northumbria arrive, after much hardship, on the island of Iona, where the monastery founded by St Columba has become a center of worship and learning. Amid the violence and turbulence of Dark-Ages Britain, the island appears a sanctuary to the hunted princes and Oswald, having become firm friends with a novice named Aidan, enters the church along with his younger brother, Oswiu.

As befits a young prince, Oswald learns to fight and soon becomes renowned for his courage, earning the title Lamnguin, the Whiteblade. However, the peace of Iona leaves Oswald torn between becoming a monk or returning to Northumbria to reclaim the kingdom that is rightfully his. When news reaches Iona that his half-brother, Eanfrith, has been killed by Cadwallon, the king who defeated Edwin, Oswald sails back to Northumbria and meets Cadwallon in battle, defeating and killing him.

Oswald, now the undisputed king of Northumbria, gives Aidan the island of Lindisfarne as a base from which to take the faith to the English. But Penda, the last great pagan king in England, is raising troops against him...
For school for my kids, we are just starting to learn about the Middle Ages.  This is still a time period I don't know much about, so I can't really comment on the historic accuracy of the book, but wow, it sure feels like it is incredibly well researched, and like the details are realistically fleshed out.

The toughest part of this book, which is obvious in the description above, is that the names are really challenging for normal, everyday Americans.  In the very necessary Dramatis Personae at the beginning of the book, in addition to the crazy names above, you have names like Rhieienmelth, Ecgric, Cyniburh, and Hwyel.

Even with a little pronunciation guide, I just cannot get these names in my head.

My absolute favorite part, though, was the historical note at the end.  I was laughing out loud at parts of it, and nodding my head with a "that makes sense!" at other parts.  And his discussion of J. R. R. Tolkien's influence on Anglo-Saxon studies was particularly fascinating.  Tolkien wrote about Oswald, and the similarities between Aragorn and Oswald are clear, and are the reason Albert chose the title he did for this book.

Oswiu: King of Kings will be the third in this trilogy.

This is a great series.

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

When God Shows Up in the Cereal Aisle

My younger kids have been asking for cold cereal.  They like that for breakfast, and it is something I rarely buy.  Filling up five kids -- three of them teen boys -- on Cheerios is just not cost-effective. 

So this week, for various reasons, I had $10 to do the family grocery shopping with.  I really wasn't too worried about it, as there just wasn't a lot we needed.  I planned to sit down and look at ads on Tuesday before heading to town, but that just didn't happen.  On my way out the door, however, I noticed a stack of coupons and stuffed it into my purse.  Thinking at the time, "Seriously, like you are going to be buying anything not on the list."

At the grocery store, I went through, grabbed the couple things we needed, and spent six bucks and change.  I headed out... and saw a display of cereal at the front of the store.  I paused to look at it, and noticed the deal was that if you buy 4 boxes, they are $.99 each. 

I stared at the cereal displayed, then reached into my purse to look at the coupons I had nabbed.  Sure enough, I had a coupon good for one box of Trix, and one for a box of Cocoa Puffs. Our stores double coupons up to $1 off total, so I grabbed my $3 something in change and the above four boxes of cereal and headed back to the register.

$1.96 was my total.

And those are coupons I printed using Swagbucks, so at some point down the road, I'll get $.10 each for using those coupons.  But I don't really count that when calculating my costs.

If I was a super-mega-couponer, that deal would be nothing.  You know, I'd have had two more coupons with me, so they'd have been paying me four cents to take that cereal home with me.  And since the deal could be done twice on one transaction, I'd have had four more, so I'd have gotten eight boxes instead.

But that's the thing.  I didn't plan this.  I just happened to choose Safeway, who happened to have a deal going on cereal.  I just happened to print coupons for cereal I *NEVER* buy (I think I printed these before a trip... and I do sometimes get "junk" cereal to take on road trips).  I just happened to pick them up off the desk and bring them along.  I just happened to notice the display on my way out, after just happening to NOT spend all $10.  And I just happened to remember I had coupons with me that maybe I ought to look at.

I'm not going to over-spiritualize this.  This is so much of a 'no big deal' in the big scheme of things.  But what a blessing to be able to provide my kids with a couple mornings of cereal, and still stay significantly under my miniscule grocery budget.

Disclaimer:  The above Swagbucks links is a referral link.  If you sign up for Swagbucks using it, I'll get some percentage of some of what you earn.  My Swagbucks earnings go towards paying our electric bill and buying groceries -- and half of it is donated to the building fund for a new community center that will serve as a food pantry out here, among other things.  Feel free to find Swagbucks through another link if you wish.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Submarines, Secrets & a Daring Rescue {a BookLook review}

A few months ago, I reviewed an absolutely wonderful book, Patriots, Redcoats & Spies.  That was a great adventure about 14-year-old twins, set during the Revolutionary War, and I was positive my kids would love it as much as I did.

Unfortunately, in the mess of the weeks after Mom's death, I misplaced the book and never did get it to my kids.  When I saw that Submarines, Secrets & a Daring Rescue was out, though, I knew I wanted the chance to review it.

Robert A. and Robert J. Skead, a father-son team, wrote these books after doing some genealogical research and discovering an ancestor of theirs, Lamberton Clark, who was involved in the Culper Spy Ring.

So, first, what the publisher had to say about this book:
A Revolutionary War action-thriller filled with spies and heroes, targeted to boys and girls 8-12. In this second book in the American Revolutionary War Adventure series, twins Ambrose and John Clark find themselves volunteering for another mission to help the newly forming United States of America. Inspired by their success in delivering a secret message to General George Washington himself, the boys step up to help transport much-needed gunpowder to the patriots and end up in an even more dangerous situation, manning one of the first submarines and then, later, attempting a prison break to rescue their older brother, Berty

Written by Robert Skead with the help of his father, the main character is based on their ancestor who fought in the American Revolution as part of the Connecticut militia. Though historical fiction, the events that occurred with George Washington in New Jersey regarding the war effort are true.

Our thoughts:

I had read the first book, but my kids had not.  I ended up doing this as a read-aloud, so I could really judge their responses to the book.  The kids involved are right in the ages 8-12 intended age range, with Trina being 9 and Richard being 11.

It took them a lot longer than I expected for them to start caring a whole lot about the characters and the story line.  I thought it was exciting and suspenseful from the start, so maybe that had to do with me already "knowing" these characters from reading the first book.

By the time we had hit the halfway mark, though, they -- or Richard at least -- were begging for another chapter.  "Come on, Mom, let's just finish it!"  was said pretty much every time I suggested we had read enough for the day.

If you have younger kids, you might want to pre-read a bit to be sure you are comfortable with the situations presented.  Their older brother, Berty, is captured and beaten and is to be hung as a spy.  I thought the Skead's did a good job of conveying how truly awful it was, without being too graphic.  However, my definition of too graphic may not line up with yours.  The beating-up chapter is rather short, and if your child is younger, reading this aloud would allow you to just summarize that bit (and maybe edit on the fly for a couple of other scenes) and still enjoy the adventure and action.

My favorite part is at the end, where there are fairly extensive notes about what really happened, which characters were real people, etc.

And of course, the ending is left wide open for the next book in the series.  I sure hope it happens, as I highly recommend both of these books!

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.”

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Illuminating Literature iPad Giveaway from Writing with Sharon Watson!

I cannot even begin to express how excited I am about a brand-spankin' new literature program for high school from Sharon Watson.  Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide came out just a month or so ago, and it is absolutely wonderful.

So many literature programs out there just aren't terribly boy-friendly, and this one most certainly is.  That doesn't mean that the literature chosen is all "boy books" and not girl-friendly.  It does mean that my three high school sons didn't roll their eyes at any of the titles, and sigh, "I suppose, if we have to."

That is high praise indeed.

Not only that, but to celebrate the release -- and the upcoming Crew reviews -- there is a fabulous giveaway going on, and a Facebook party too.  The only downside?  I can't enter.   But you can!

Writing with Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature iPad Mini Giveaway
To celebrate the release of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, we are joining with Writing with Sharon Watson to bring you an incredible giveaway!

One of you may win ALL of the following prizes, a value of nearly $450:

Apple iPad Mini 16GB, WiFi Only ($329 value)

  • 7.9-inch LED-backlit Multi-Touch Display; 1024-by-768 Resolution
  • Apple iOS 6; Dual-Core A5 Chip 1GHZ
  • 5 MP iSight Camera; 1080p HD Video Recording
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n); 16 GB Capacity
  • Up to 10 Hours of Battery Life; 0.68 lbs

Illuminating Literature Curriculum Set ($64.47 value)

Literature in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere . . .

Your teens will appreciate the unstuffy way Sharon Watson teaches literature. They’ll read some great novels, encounter the hero’s journey, learn literary terms and elements, and gain an appreciation for fine literature.

More important, eager and reluctant readers will become more discerning as they learn the secret craft of the writer.

Prepare your teens for college literature courses and for the rest of their reading life.
  • Written for Christian high schools, homeschools, and co-ops.
  • Two-semester course earning one credit for language arts or English.
  • 70 lessons.
  • Student-directed, with clear lessons and reading schedules.

Illuminating Literature 8-Book Bundle ($52.84 value)

This book bundle includes the following books used in Illuminating Literature:
  • Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
  • Peter Pan by Sir James Barrie
  • Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Writing with Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature Facebook Party

To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below, then  join us for a Facebook Release Party on Thursday, August 27 at 9pm ET when the winner will be announced.

RSVP for the Facebook Party

Enter the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions:

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn. Entry into this giveaway will subscribe you to the Writing with Sharon Watson email list.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Heart's Home {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 finishing this series up with A Heart's Home.

Now that I've gotten through the entire series of six very short novels, I have to say that I enjoyed the set.

I especially loved Emmie, and she is the focus in this particular book.

From the publisher:
Emmie's hope for a life with Isaac is overshadowed by a tragic loss at Fort Phil Kearny.

Isaac Liddle is keen to marry Emmie, and she knows she shouldn't hide her pregnancy from him any longer. But before she can tell him her secret, a widower friend asks the impossible of Emmie: Will she honor her promise to his dead wife by marrying him to care for the orphaned baby?

With the Sioux Wars threatening outside the fort, Emmie's solemn vow threatens her happiness from within. Will she honor a promise sure to break her heart---and Isaac's? Or is there another way to find a home for her heart?
Most of the threads of this series did wrap up in A Heart's Home, but I was actually happy to see a few that didn't have nice, satisfactory endings.

This book was really quick to read -- I read the entire thing while at the dentist!  Of course, I read fast.


A hidden pregnancy, a promise sure to break hearts, and a tragic loss at Fort Phil Kearny: Don't miss the gripping conclusion in book six, A Heart's Home, of Colleen Coble's A Journey of the Heart series. With the Sioux Wars threatening outside the fort, Emmie’s solemn vow threatens her happiness from within. Will she honor a promise sure to break her heart—and Isaac’s? Or is there another way to find a home for her heart?

Colleen is celebrating the final book release of her A Journey of the Heart series by giving away the entire series and the chance to host Colleen virtually at your book club, local library, or women's group to talk about the series.


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • Books 1–6 of A Journey of the Heart series
  • A chat with Colleen via Skype or Google Hangout
  • A custom book-club kit PDF, featuring Colleen's favorite recipes and group discussion questions
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 31st. Winner will be announced September 1st 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.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Apologetics Study Bible for Students {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

As a mom of three teens, I am always, always interested in resources that will help them approach Scripture in a fresh way.  Especially when it involves really digging into the Bible itself, and looking at the issues and thoughts that tend to trip up teens and young adults.

Why do we believe what we believe?

Why doesn't everyone?

Earlier this summer, we had the chance to listen to Josh McDowell speak at Summit Ministries.  In that talk, he mentioned his son, Sean, and his work talking with students.

So an apologetics Bible that Sean McDowell played a part with?  Oh, pick us please!   

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students is simply fabulous.

From the publisher:
Multiple research studies have shown that spiritual focus often weakens among teenagers as they head into the attention-dividing realm of young adulthood. Up to 66 percent of them leave church altogether. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students works against that trend by helping anchor younger Christians in the truths of Scripture, equipping them with thoughtful and practical responses for whenever the core issues of their faith and life are challenged, while helping them better articulate their beliefs with non-believers.
In addition to some amazing features (more on those below), there is also a set of sixteen teaching videos featuring Sean McDowell.  Confident Faith is the title of this series, and they are also having an incredible giveaway.

These Confident Faith videos are wonderful.  Under four minutes, which is easy to find time for!  Sean is energetic and talks in a way that doesn't patronize the students, yet still does appeal to them.  So many times it is one or the other -- patronizing or boring.  These keep the attention of my teens, and lead to some interesting conversations.

Back to the Bible though.

Obviously, this includes the text of the Bible.  Each book has an introduction written by one of the contributors, and each book also has study notes.

Some of these features include:
  • Twisted Scriptures, a section Connor appreciated, goes through sixty passages that are commonly distorted by cults or others wanting to put forth a non-biblical worldview.
  • Notable Quotes, includes things said by apologists through the years.
  • Personal Stories, includes stories of both great people and fairly ordinary, everyday folks too.

Articles, such as "If God Already Knows What We Need, Then Why Pray?" that I saw during the sermon in church this past weekend, appear throughout.  There are 120 of these, addressing commonly asked questions regarding Christianity.

Bones & Dirt is one of our favorite sections, talking about archaeological finds.

This page has two different features.  Fast Facts addresses twenty important apologetics topics.  Challenges & Tactics helps you to be prepared for common objections to Christianity.

We all love this Bible!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I have a copy to give away!  US and Canada only, please.

"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 a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Leaving Gaps: Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Although I hoped to actually post every day of this Back to Homeschool Blog Hop, I am counting it a victory that I did end up with three days of posts up.

Today's post is the one I wanted to be sure to cover.  What about gaps?  That was one of the things people threw at me so much when I first started homeschooling, and not just non-homeschoolers.  This concern came from fellow homeschoolers as well.

"How do you avoid leaving gaps in their education?" was the common question.

And my answer?

So does that mean we should just all pack them off to the local public school?
Absolutely not.  The public school is going to leave gaps too.

Gaps are inevitable.  There are a few thousand years of recorded human history -- how in the world do you think that anyone is going to learn all they need to know about history, science, mathematics -- just to name a couple of subjects?

Realistically, we all know you can't learn everything.

I think we're more afraid of our kids looking like perfect candidates for Jay Walking.

To be fair, there were at least a couple of questions in there that I probably would have gotten wrong if I had Jay Leno asking me, with a microphone in my face and a camera nearby.  Like the one about who becomes president if the president and vice president both die.  I know the right answer, but my gut response would be the same answer given in the video.

I just quizzed my 11-year old.  He definitely did not know all of the answer, but he knew many of them.  Especially considering that he is studying US History for the very first time, and are only in the early 1800s at the moment.

For the record, my 18-year-old got all but one right.  

Still, looking good for a Jay Walking segment isn't on my list of goals for my kids.  Being a master at Trivial Pursuit doesn't make for well-rounded kids either.

You don't have to teach your kids everything there is to know.  They have the rest of their lives to learn -- or re-learn.

Gaps happen.  That is okay.

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Here are some blogs to check out for this Blog Hop, sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew and Homeschool Blogging Connection.:

Aurie @ Our Good Life
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Katie @ DailyLife
Melissa @ Mom's Plans
Annette @ A Net In Time

Crystal @ Crystal Starr
Shawna @ Tenacity Divine
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning 
Leah Courtney @ As We Walk Along the Road

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Through Waters Deep {a Litfuse Book Tour review}

I seem to be saying this a lot lately, about different people, but it is true.

Sarah Sundin is one of my favorite authors.

I think I've read every book she's published.  At least I've read every book that comes up on her "author page" on Amazon.

Obviously, I didn't have to even think about whether or not I wanted to review Through Waters Deep, the first book in her new Waves of Freedom series.

Of course I do.

Sundin is absolutely the best author I've read when it comes to World War II era historical fiction.  Dale's grandfather (who I never met) served in the Navy in WWII, so that makes me even more interested in this particular series.

From the publisher:
It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war.
Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges---and dangers---await them.

Sarah Sundin takes readers to the tense months before the US entered WWII. Readers will encounter German U-boats and torpedoes, along with the explosive power of true love, in this hopeful and romantic story.
My thoughts:

If it wasn't obvious from the introduction to this post, I loved the book.  Sundin always seems to take some little known aspect of life in the 1940s, or World War II in general, and bring it out in a compelling way.

In this book, a main focus is on the controversy swirling in the US about this European War and how we should -- or shouldn't -- get involved.  I know that I did learn a little bit about that in studying history, but when you think about WWII and the mood in the US, it is things like Victory Gardens, Rosie the Riveter, men lined up to enlist, and people sacrificing for "our boys" that come to mind.  Everyone pitching in to rid the world of evil, once and for all.

This book, set in 1941, all takes place before that "rah rah" spirit became nearly universal.

As always, it is obvious that Sundin has done her research.

She has also set it up so I'm looking forward to the next two books in the series, which will focus on characters in Jim and Mary's circle of friends. 

Dive into Sarah Sundin's explosive new series, Waves of Freedom, with book one, Through Waters DeepWhen evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges–and dangers–await them in the midst of their budding romance.

Join Sarah in celebrating the release of Through Waters Deep by entering to win an Anchors Aweigh prize pack!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Through Waters Deep
  • A nautical tote bag
  • A set of compass rose notecards
  • A "Hope Anchors the Soul" journal
  • A Boston Tea Party earl grey tea set
  • Through Waters Deep apron
  • A set of nautical tea towels

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 24th. The winner will be announced August 25th on Sarah's blog.


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

Making Decisions: Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

I had a post in mind for today, for this Back to Homeschool Blog Hop.  And then I got up this morning, checked Facebook, and had them tell me about this "memory" of a status I posted four years ago today.

Four years ago, Connor and I made yet another one of a thousand minor little decisions that we all make every day.

You make those decisions in your homeschool too.  Do I let the kids sleep in?  How fast should we work through this math program?  With as crazy as life is today, do we skip science?  Do I want to review this program?  Does it really matter if they use a pen or a pencil?

You make a lot of decisions that feel like huge decisions too.  Which curriculum do I get for math?  Do I want to follow a neo-classical 4-year chronological history cycle?  Do we join this co-op?  Do we enroll at the community college?  Is it okay to take a month off when Grandma dies?

And what about Naomi?  (Sorry.  The kids were watching Electric Company again recently.)

Sometimes, for me, in the midst of those big decisions, I get a little bit a lot stressed out, thinking about how I could be screwing up the rest of my kids' lives if I choose wrong.

Do you ever do that?

Why do we do that?

Do we really believe that our decision about whether to use Singapore or Math-U-See or Saxon for math is going to cause irreparable damage?

I don't think so.  I think with those types of things that you find a few solid math programs, look them over, figure out which appeal to you, figure out which appeal to your child, and you go for it.  There are a lot of right choices with so many of these allegedly "big" decisions.

And this isn't to cause you more stress, but I think it is those little decisions that matter more.  Not necessarily one decision.  But sometimes it is one little decision.

That Facebook status above?  We went over and volunteered at (and became clients of) the food pantry at a little church near us.  We continued to go and do that.  Got to know some amazing people.  We (Connor and I) then decided to try attending that church again.  We enjoyed the church, and the rest of my kids started attending with us.  Connor was asked if he could help do the tech stuff, which led to William doing some as well.  And that led to Dale having to bring the boys over to run the media on Sunday when I was gone.

That led to Dale getting to know some folks at church, which led to him attending services regularly for the first time in his life.  Which led to him being asked to head up (create?) the tech department there.  Four years after that little decision to go check out this mobile food pantry, and we are incredibly active in a wonderful (and sometimes exasperating) little church, and also active at another local church where the kids do AWANA and youth group.

All because of one minor little decision.

That sounds like a lot of pressure, and I'm sorry for that.  Moms in general feel too much pressure already.

The point I'm trying to make though, is that agonizing over a history program probably isn't worth the emotional energy.  Living out your life as best you can day by day, being at least somewhat consistent in your actions, modeling mostly good stuff to your kids as you go through these homeschool days... those are things that probably matter more.

It isn't about which program you use for science so much as it is about exploring science in your lives on a reasonable regular basis.   It isn't about which history philosophy you adhere to, as it is about learning about some of the great -- and not-so-great -- people and civilizations that came before.

You don't have to find the perfect program.  Find something good, that appeals to you and your kids, that you can afford, and just do it.

All things work together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose.

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Here are some blogs to check out for this Blog Hop, sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew and Homeschool Blogging Connection.:

Rebecca @ Raventhreads
Annette @ In All You Do

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Heartbreak Trail {a Kregel Blog Tour review}

I love Susan K. Marlow and her Circle C books.

Every book makes me enjoy Andi more.  Heartbreak Trail is the second title in the Circle C Milestones series.  This series features a teenaged Andi, and having read so many of the Beginnings books (where Andi was six) and the Adventures books (where Andi was twelve), it is just a delight to see what a wonderful young woman she is becoming.

From the publisher:
Andrea Carter can ride, rope, and cut out cattle with the best of her brothers' ranch hands. Yet, her mother has always held the family's youngest daughter back from fully participating in ranch activities.

With the approach of her fifteenth birthday, even the ranch boss, big brother Chad, can't deny that his baby sister is better at ranch skills than some of his cowhands. When Andi announces that her quinceañera birthday wish is to join the upcoming cattle drive, her family is stunned. But after further discussion and multiple newspaper clippings about spirited women who balked at society's expectations, even Mother agrees that the only way to get this cattle-drive notion out of Andi's head is by letting her and her cousin Levi go along as Cook's helpers. Andi is elated. What can go wrong on a two-week drive to Los Angeles?

Andi quickly discovers that a cattle drive is a dirty, dangerous business with little sleep and the same food day after day. Between late nights, dust, mosquitos, and an abrasive cowhand trying to win Andi's attention, it is definitely not a holiday. Andi grimly determines she will stick it out. When a river crossing goes wrong and Chad is shot in a gunfight with suspicious men who have been shadowing the herd, Mitch the trail boss finds himself dangerously shorthanded. Andi and Levi can no longer just give Cook a hand. It's time to pitch in and help Mitch get their cattle to market--any way they can.

My thoughts:

Andi is always getting into crazy situations, and this book is certainly no different.  She's dreamed of going on a cattle drive forever, and in this book she gets the chance.  It is fabulous to see her buck up and keep going, even when things are monotonous, and then when it gets dangerous she has to see if she really does have what it takes.

Trina (age 9) isn't quite old enough for this series, but I love that these are books I'll be able to hand off to her in another couple of years.  Andi is impulsive, she gets into scrapes because she just doesn't think.  In this book especially, she grows from the experiences.

Susan Marlow keeps the action going, and she really draws you into the story.

I can't wait for the next book!

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

Monday, August 10, 2015

One Piece of Advice: Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Day one of the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop, sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew and Homeschool Blogging Connection.

I frequently see the question:
If you could give just one piece of advice to a new homeschool mom, what would it be?

And while I have given many different answers to that question, I think there is one response that I tend to use more than any others.  I phrase it differently each time.

But it boils down to ~~

Opinions are all around, but when you start homeschooling it sure seems that absolutely everyone feels like you desperately need to hear what they think.  And you get such lovely advice:
  • Go buy a bunch of workbooks at the dollar store.
  • Homeschooling shouldn't look like a school at home.
  • What? Are you c-r-a-z-y???
  • Kids don't need workbooks.
  • You need to make sure your kids are doing everything earlier than the public schools or you'll let down the homeschool movement.
  • What about socialization?
  • The only textbook you need is the Bible.
  • Relax, don't overthink it.   
  • Oh, you have to have detailed plans!
  • You should have your kids learning the same basic stuff that they'd learn if they were in a real school.  Just in case.
  • Whatever else you do, avoid common core.
When I started, I heard all of the above.  Well, the last one was different, as common core didn't exist, but the sentiment was the same.

You can't please everyone.  Nor are you supposed to.  These are the children God gave to YOU.


The lady behind you at the grocery store, giving out all kinds of advice?  Smile, nod, and if she makes sense, listen.  If she doesn't, just thank her and move along.

The homeschool mom you know -- in real life or via her online presence?  Smile, nod, and if she makes sense, feel free to listen.  But she is just another mom, doing what she thinks is best for her particular kids, in the situation she is in.  She isn't the mom of your kids.

Her advice may be perfect for you.  Or maybe some of it applies to your life if you tweak it a bit.  Or maybe what she's doing is completely wrong for you.

That is okay.

Starting out, I know I wanted advice.  Okay, I still want advice.   Talking with other homeschool moms is great, especially with moms who have been at this homeschooling gig for awhile.  But don't try to be them.  Be you.

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Here are some blogs to check out for this Blog Hop:

Marcy @ Ben and Me

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop Begins Tomorrow!

Two groups I'm a part of -- The Schoolhouse Review Crew and Homeschool Blogging Connection are teaming up for a Blog Hop starting tomorrow.  There is even an incredibly amazing giveaway coming to celebrate!

As usual, I'm nowhere near ready for this.  But I am very, very ready for some homeschool encouragement.

Check this out, starting tomorrow.  And if you have some bright ideas as to what I ought to be writing about, I'm all ears.

Back to Homeschool Blog Hop

Mark your calendars - 10 to 14 August - it's time for this years Homeschool Blog Hop.  The Schoolhouse Review Crew will be joining forces with Homeschool Blogging Connection to bring you a week full of back to school encouragement.

We have 56 homeschool Mom's sharing their combined wisdom and insights covering everything Homeschool related. That's 280 posts of encouragement and information just for you!

Meet Your Back to Homeschool Blog Hop Hosts

Marcy @ Ben and Me

Rebecca @ Raventhreads
Annette @ In All You Do

Aurie @ Our Good Life
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Katie @ DailyLife
Melissa @ Mom's Plans
Annette @ A Net In Time

Crystal @ Crystal Starr
Shawna @ Tenacity Divine
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning 
Leah Courtney @ As We Walk Along the Road

Friday, August 7, 2015

Drawing Fire {a Tyndale House Blog Network review}

Janice Cantore is on my list of favorite authors.  She used to be a police officer in Long Beach, and that lends a certain realism to her work that I find fascinating.

Drawing Fire is the first book in her Cold Case Justice series.  Based on this one, I know I'll be reading the rest of the series as well.

From the publisher:
One case from her past defines homicide detective Abby Hart.

With a possible serial killer stalking elderly women in Long Beach, California, Abby’s best lead is Luke Murphy, an irritating private investigator who saw a suspect flee the scene of the latest homicide. When Abby discovers that the most recent victim is related to the governor, she’s anxious to talk to him about a cold case that’s personal to her—one Luke is interested in as well.

As she learns more about the restaurant fire that took her parents’ lives years ago, Abby discovers why Luke is so invested in finding the ones responsible. The more they uncover, though, the more questions they have. Can Abby find peace without having all the answers?

My thoughts:

Cantore writes in a style that I find hard to put down.  This book is not an exception to that.  I was able to read a couple of chapters and put it down.  Then I picked it up again the next evening, and finished the book around 3 a.m.

Abby is a likeable character, who doesn't have everything all figured out.  She's a homicide detective, and a good one at that, who really wants to be working a cold case, the case that resulted in the death of her parents 27 years ago.  She struggles with this, as most everyone in her life is discouraging her from pursuing the case.  Is this vengeance?  Is it a sign that she doesn't trust God?

Her fiance is away on a missions trip, and they keep arguing on Skype.  He thinks she is obsessed, and he thinks she should join him in work that really matters on the mission field. 

I don't know that this was supposed to be a theme of the book, but it is an idea that I kept coming back to.  Can you serve God as a cop?  Or a bank teller?  Or sitting in a cubicle?  Or do you need to be out there "doing ministry" in a more official way.

I know the answer to that.  Bloom where you are planted, serve where you are. 

This story, though, had me thinking abut whether we truly believe that.  And do we treat people like Abby like they are capable of serving God in their daily lives?

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, August 6, 2015

What in the World? {a Master Books review}

Today, I'm reviewing History Revealed: What in the World? Volume 1-3, by Diana Waring.  I have seen Diana at homeschool conferences a couple of times, and her materials always intrigued me.  I purchased a couple of tapes (does that date me?) of her True Tales and Digger Deeper materials, and we loved listening to those.

I kept wanting to get a good look at all of her history stuff, though, so I could figure out what I thought.  I've never had the chance, until now.  What we received is all three volumes, containing 4 CDs each.  That is approximately twelve hours of listening.  The volumes are:
  1. Ancient Civilizations & the Bible
  2. Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries
  3. World Empires, World Missions, World Wars
Here is how Master Books describes this product:
A multi-CD set that takes you to the heart of history and God’s guiding hand. Meet the rulers and dreamers who changed the course of history. Investigate ideologies that influenced change and tragedy.

Oh, my.  We have been having so much fun with this!  The kids and I are working through Ancient History (Volume 1).  I listened to part of Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries (Volume 2) and will be using this volume with the kids this school year as we study Medieval history.  I have listened all the way through World Empires, World Missions, World Wars (Volume 3).

I have to confess something though.  My teens were pretty skeptical.  I put in the first CD, and they paused it.  "Is she always this, this EXUBERANT?" they wanted to know.  Eye rolling a-plenty.  I told them that a) they really needed to give her a chance, and b) this is a review so they are stuck.

Not exactly how I would prefer things to go, you know?

Before the end of the first CD, however, specifically once we got to more of an archaeological focus, they were grudgingly admitting that this was interesting.  I have to say that part of this attitude is just that they simply do not have any desire to be taught, yet again, about Creation and the Flood.  Had I started with a different volume, I think they would have warmed up faster.

By the time we were to the end, they'd beg for more.  We sat down yesterday to listen to the track on Julius Caesar.  They wouldn't let me stop... and we continued all the way to the end of the last disk.

Our thoughts:

So what did we think?  We are loving this.  But.

Connor (18) complained a bit about how she leaves some important stuff out while giving lots of details that don't really matter.  We talked about that a little, and I made the point that this is 6,000 years of history, being told in about TWELVE hours.  Hello?  Of course she can only touch on stuff and there are going to be important details that are missing. 

Diana is choosing details that strike her, or that she thinks will make things memorable for her students.  Her choices are going to differ from yours, and from mine. 

Connor agreed that she does make the material memorable.

William (16) said, "It's history.  Of course I like it.  I just want to get to Medieval times.  I'll like that even more."

Overall, we are loving this.  Diana makes connections that I simply haven't made myself, and she tells the stories in a way that helps you to really remember the big picture.

Master Books includes these three volumes as part of their 5th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Set.  This curriculum set includes other subjects as well, but one great product is Big Book of History which I reviewed a while back.  I think that is a perfect book to go along with these CDs for elementary ages.

For my family, we are using the CDs as a fun 'big picture' approach to our history, and/or just as an audiobook to listen to when we are driving.  I can already see how listening to this multiple times will really work to put these events in context.

Disclaimer:   I received this set for free from Master Books.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Patterns of Evidence {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

Oh, my.  I don't even know where to start with describing this DVD that releases today.

I told a good friend that I could write this review in about sixty words.
If you trust me at all, you just need to go out and GET this DVD. We loved it. The end.
She told me that's only twenty-one words.

So I suppose that means I have another forty words available to describe just why I think Patterns of Evidence: Exodus is well worth owning.

This DVD explores whether or not there is any archaeological evidence to support the story of the Exodus, starting with Genesis actually.  They are looking for evidence of Joseph and his family arriving in Egypt all the way up through the sudden departure of a whole lot of slaves.

I have to show you the trailer.  I don't always embed these things, but I think this gives you a flavor of this 2-hour documentary.

This documentary features a dozen or so experts, and experts who totally don't agree with each other and who come at the issues of the Exodus from all kinds of different angles.  My kids were arguing back at the screen with some of them, and we had to keep pausing to engage in fairly lengthy conversations.

Let me tell you how the publisher described it:
For more than 50 years, the vast majority of the world's most prominent archaeologists and historians have proclaimed that there is no hard evidence to support the Exodus story found in the Bible.  In fact, they say that the archaeological record is completely opposed to the Bible's account.  This view of extreme skepticism has spread from academia to the world.  The case against the Exodus appears to be so strong that even some religious leaders are labeling this ancient account as historical fiction.  Filmmaker  Timothy Mahoney begins with the questions, "Is the Bible just a myth, or did the archaeologists get it wrong?"  He decides to tackle this issue with a deliberate scientific approach.   After examining the details in the biblical text, he journeys across the globe to search for patterns of evidence firsthand.  The result is the most in-depth archaeological investigation into the Exodus from Egypt ever captured on film.   This scientific documentary's goal is to communicate the TRUTH of the Bible and help equip believers with defending their faith and the Bible. 

The DVD features stunning animations and a cast including narrator Kevin Sorbo (God's Not Dead, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), interviews with leading archaeologists including Israel Finkelstein, Kent Weeks, and David Rohl, and guest appearances by Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres.
My teens loved this documentary.  The younger two (ages 9 and 11) weren't entranced, and I did not make them watch it.  I think in shorter sections, they would really enjoy it too, but it was simply too much information.

Some of the comments I heard included:
  • The animations were pretty incredible.
  • That definitely looks like Minnesota! (a scene where Mahoney is shoveling snow at his home)
  • I love all the different perspectives!
  • That one Muslim archaeologist guy was really neat.
We ended up having some pretty lengthy discussions about about archaeology in general, ancient dating, whether or not the Bible is trustworthy -- along with discussions about many of the specific points being brought up in the film.

This releases TODAY, and I highly recommend purchasing it and the Patterns of Exodus store.  I am seriously contemplating the purchase of the books that go along with the DVD.

I have a copy to give away!  US and Canada only, please.

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 a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Exploring Christian Theology: Volume Two {a Bethany House review}

At the end of 2014, I had the chance to review an absolutely fabulous book, Exploring Christian Theology: Volume 1.

So when I was offered Exploring Christian Theology: Volume Two by Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel, you better believe I jumped at the chance.

The first volume focused on "Revelation, Scripture, and Truth" in part one, and "God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" in part two.

Volume Two also has two sections.  The first is "Creation, Humanity, and the Fall."  Part two is "Gospel, Atonement, and Saving Grace."

This volume is absolutely as fantastic as the first.

I'm copying the description of the format of these books from my previous review.  Each part includes:
  • High Altitude Survey, a big-picture overview of the topic
  • Passages to Master, a list of key Bible verses on the topic, along with commentary on why they are important
  • An "in Retrospect" section, that goes over the topic through history (Patristic Period, Medieval Period, Protestant Period, Modern Period)
  • Facts to Never Forget, a section with key points to remember
  • Dangers to Avoid, or some heretical types of thinking on the topic
  • Principles to Put Into Practice, or a 'how to actually apply this to your life' section
  • Voices from the Past and Present, that talks about what others have written on the topic in various periods (listed above)
  • Shelf Space, which recommends titles for additional reading
Now that I have two of the three volumes, it is a bit easier to talk about what I like with this series. 

I love the "in Retrospect" sections.  Tracing what was generally believed in various time periods is just fascinating to me.  Similarly, the Voice from the Past and Present section, also split into the various periods, gives real words from real people.  I enjoy that.  I'm a bit of a history geek, so that is likely a big part of it.

The Dangers to Avoid is probably my favorite though.  This seems really practical to me.  I described it above as talking about heretical types of thinking, but that just sounds so formal and old.  It isn't.  It's talking about what society today has to say about these issues, and why that is wrong.  And it does so in a way that grabs my attention, referencing books, advertising jingles, and even using The Lord of the Rings as an example of what we ought to be doing.

I will be buying Volume Three (which is already available, as Volume Two is the final one to be published.)

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.