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.”