Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Printer and the Preacher {a BookLook review and giveaway}

We've been studying US History this year, and I really wanted to have some extra biography read-alouds to throw into the mix.  I love biography.

The Printer and the Preacher by Randy Petersen is a biographical tale of Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield.   My US History courses never even mentioned Whitefield, so I certainly didn't know they were friends.  Even the homeschool programs I've used with my kids (both explicitly Christian, and at least not antagonistic towards Christianity) have never mentioned it.

So reading through this book has been fun.

From the publisher:
A groundbreaking look at the strange friendship between George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin, who together defined what it means to be an American.

They were the most famous men in America. They came from separate countries, followed different philosophies, and led dissimilar lives. But they were fast friends. No two people did more to shape America in the mid-1700s.

Benjamin Franklin was the American prototype: hard-working, inventive, practical, funny, with humble manners and lofty dreams. George Whitefield was the most popular preacher in an era of great piety, whose outdoor preaching across the colonies was heard by thousands, all of whom were told, "You must be born again." People became excited about God. They began reading the Bible and supporting charities. When Whitefield died in 1770, on a preaching tour in New Hampshire, he had built a spiritual foundation for a new nation-just as his surviving friend, Ben Franklin, had built its social foundation. Together these two men helped establish a new nation founded on liberty. This is the story of their amazing friendship.

Our thoughts:

We were attempting to read through this book at a pace of a chapter a day, which would have taken us five weeks.  My teens would have been okay with that speed, but the younger two (ages 9 and 11) struggled a bit to stay focused.  So we slowed that down.

With other summer stuff happening, it has taken a long time to get through the book!

I've been really impressed with both the information and the fairly casual style of writing.  Petersen uses letters and journals to show what each of these men was thinking.  We've learned a whole lot about Whitefield, and some about Franklin... and certainly everything about the two of them interacting is material we didn't know.

Fascinating stuff.

I received two copies of this title accidentally, so BookLook Bloggers graciously allowed me to give one away.  US and Canada only please!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.”

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.