Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review: Creation and the Second Coming

I've had the chance to read Creation and the Second Coming by Henry Morris here recently, and this is a unique book.  End Times prophecy, of course, you can find all over the place.  Creation resources are pretty common now too.  But combining the two?  End Times prophecy in light of the Creation account?  I'm sure I've not seen that before.

This book was a nice change of pace for me aesthetically -- a normal-sized font with some actual white space on the page.  That made for a pleasant reading experience.

From the back cover:
To understand the end, you must understand the beginning. Dr. Morris shows how Creation is tied to the Second Coming.
The Bible's prophetic writers give key "signs" of the return of Christ.  The author shows how each "sign" is an outgrowth of evolutionary humanism or pantheism.
God's plan for the Second Coming of Jeus Christ began in the book of Genesis.  The political upheavel [sic] in the Middle East, the New-Age movement, and the call for a one-world government were all foretold in God's Word.
I'll start off with my biggest "issue" with the book... that being that it was written in 1991, which was a bit jarring in all the talk about "current events" in the Middle East.  Had I realized what "current" meant before I started reading, things would have gone a lot more smoothly. 

One thing I really appreciated about this book was that I never really felt that Dr. Morris was telling me that he had it all figured out and this is exactly the way it is.  The tone was more of a friendly (yet serious) chat where Dr. Morris is laying out his studied and educated guess as to how various prophecies are being fulfilled (or are going to be fulfilled), along with carefully explaining why he believes that.

On many of the issues (like who is the Antichrist) he talks about what the church has believed over the centuries, without belittling those beliefs.  In fact, when speaking of Nero being thought to be the Antichrist, his parenthetical statement is "naturally enough."  I don't know, it just felt like he respected the early church, even though their interpretation of that particular prophecy has clearly been demonstrated to have been erroneous.

Respectful.  And open to the idea that later on, biblical scholars could be pointing out where he missed the mark.  That sums up the overall tone of this work.

I'm glad I've had the opportunity to read this book.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reading Aloud Challenge: July 28

It's been a good week with reading aloud... mostly not because we are actually doing much, but because I've run across so many great things about the value of doing it, and I am just encouraged.  Even in my bad weeks, we are still reading aloud some.  And that means that my kids are benefiting.  And we just love it. 

And then there is the chance to go visit the people who link here.  Wow, some amazing people, reading great stuff.  Thanks for sharing it with me!

So this week...

Evolution: The Grand 
Experiment: Vol. 2 - Living FossilsWe continued working through our summer science.  Living Fossils.  The review on this IS happening in the next week.
Augustine Came to Kent 
(Living History Library)

An Inter-Library Loan came in -- Augusting Came to Kent.  We've barely moved past starting it.  It is a long ILL, so we don't have to rush, but we do need to make more progress.

If Animals Could Talk: 
Creation Speaks for ItselfWe are continuing to read If Animals Could Talk.  This turned into a read it to everyone book, and it is fun. We're getting close to the end, and should have finished it this past week.  I am finishing today, I am, I am, I am.

Passport to the World: 
Your A to Z Guided Language TourPassport to the World. Thomas is doing this for the Master Books program, and he is enjoying it.  What a cool book -- and it includes countries/languages that just don't make the list in most books of this sort.  Lithuania is my personal favorite. We'll be finishing this up really soon too.

Exploring the World Around You: A Look at Nature from Tropics to TundraExploring the World Around You is another one I've been reading with William for the Master Books program, and I've totally forgotten to mention it.  This one is going to need some concerted effort though... we are not very far into it, and the program ends Sunday.  If we can do a couple chapters a day for the rest of this month, we will get through it.  Wish us luck.

Plans for this coming week? Finishing up all of the above.  More Red Rock Mysteries -- we did check three out from the library, but they are still in the bag!

How did your week go?  Sign the linky to link up your reading aloud post and I'll definitely come visit your post.   Love having you here...  There are a few of you who I'm missing though...  Come back!  Come back!!  I miss you!!

To see my first post when this turned into a linky thing, check here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review: Thunder Dog

On a whim, I requested Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog & the Triumphs of Trust at Ground Zero by Michael Hingson to review a week or so ago.  It looked like it would be a fairly easy read, and that is what I was in the mood for.

It turned out that it was gripping, compelling -- a real page-turner.  Once I started it, I had a very hard time putting it down.

The basic story -- Michael and his guide dog, Roselle, are at work one day nearly a decade ago, preparing for a sales presentation.  Michael works on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center, and obviously (given the title) this day is going to be far from normal, as it is 9/11. 

An explosion rocks the building, and Michael and his co-worker get their clients to evacuate, while they shut some things down and finally head out themselves.

The main narrative of Thunder Dog relates Michael and Roselle working together to get down 78 flights of stairs and away from the tower, which collapses shortly after they get out.  Obviously, since Michael is the author, we know he is going to make it out.  Still, I kept flipping page after page as I really wanted to find out more.

Michael recalls earlier scenes in his life, so we learn about his childhood.  He was born on my birthday (or rather, *I* was born on his 17th birthday!) -- a couple of months early.  That means he was treated like virtually every other preemie in that generation -- given excessive oxygen, causing his blindness.  Michael tells about his childhood, his first guide dog, attending college, driving a car, flying a plane... and escaping Ground Zero.

The book made me laugh.  A lot.  It made me cry.  Towards the middle of the book, there were a couple sections told from the point of view of Michael's wife that I really appreciated.

I will have my children read this when we get to really recent history.  Because this story is incredibly inspiring, and it definitely brings an interesting point of view to 9/11. 

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this as an ePub book from Thomas Nelson. No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Guest Blogging: When I Grow Up I Want to Be a Biblical Archaeologist

So, eeek, I'm a guest blogger today.

New Leaf Publishing Group announced a new title, Unveiling the Kings of Israel, a couple of weeks ago. I cried.  This is SO perfect for Thomas.  I not only cried, I emailed New Leaf and told them how excited we were.

And that ended up turning into this guest post.  It even has a photo of Thomas for all of you who tell me I don't put up enough pictures of him...

You have to visit their blog if you want to read what I had to say... but here is a preview of the book that inspired the words.  And yes, I'll be reviewing it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review: The Family Illustrated Bible

One thing I have done for a lot of years (at least a dozen now) is to read aloud through a Bible of some sort pretty consistently.  I have read through numerous children's Bible story-books, children's Bibles, we podcasted through the entire Bible, read a chronological Bible, etc.

I have found value in all of them.

So next on my list of resources is The Family Illustrated Bible by Sally Tagholm.  I've been reading through this myself, but haven't yet read to the kids.  However, I've seen enough to write up a review!

First, what is this book?  It is a big (8.5X11) thick (356 pages) hardcover book that is a lot like a children's Bible storybook... the bulk of the book is 1-3 page spreads, each doing one 'story' from the Bible.  In just looking through the table of contents, I am pleased.  Of course, a big chunk of the book is devoted to the big stories, but there are some of the more obscure ones too.  The stories are accompanied by drawings that do a really good job of being realistic, yet appealing to the younger set.

Interspersed with the stories, though, is what gets me really excited about using this particular book.  Periodically, there are pages with archaeological evidence of the time, or other fascinating "stuff" to go along with what we are reading.  Let me list a few examples:
  • Mesopotamia: this spread shows a map, mosaics, carvings, photos, a timeline, and lots of text. Stuff from Ur, info about the Code of Hammurabi, etc.  This comes right after the Tower of Babel.
  • Egypt:  photos of the Nile and the Temple of Amun, a map and timeline, a statue of Pharaoh Menkaure, the Stele of Merneptah (with the earliest known extra-Biblical mention of Israel), and a painting showing both Egyptians and Asiatic foreigners.  This comes right after "Joseph the Slave."
  • Canaanites: this shows a photo of the Mound of Megiddo, a plaque, a flask, a statue of a goddess ("perhaps Asherah"), some bronze, a map, and a listing of the gods of Canaan.  This comes right after "The Promised Land."
  • The Philistines:  another map and timeline, a coffin, some pottery, some weapons, a carving of Philistine prisonors.  This comes right after "Japhthah's Daughter." 
And so on. Each of these sections contains a fair amount of explanatory text.

There are also big two page spreads that consist of a photograph (like one of the city of Jerusalem, or one of the Garden of Gethsemane).  These pages usually contain a box with a direct scripture quote (the page picturing Ephesus quotes Acts 19: 29-31) and a little box describing the photo (the photo of the Ishtar gate has explanatory text about when the gate was built and how it was discovered and reassembled).

I thought about taking some pictures, but this video shows what I'm talking about, at least the story pages and the "stuff" pages (no photo pages, unfortunately):

So now that I've raved about what I love, let me discuss some things I don't like.

Like most story Bibles, this doesn't directly quote scripture all the time.  So you end up with little things like statements that God was worried.  Overall, I didn't see anything really awful in those types of little comments, and we will discuss them as we go along.  I think this will be a great thing for my older kids especially.

In addition, on some of the "stuff" pages, some of the text is phrased, well, oddly.  "The Christians" is probably the most troublesome.  Under the "Gospel of Thomas" it says "Early Christians had many gospels alongside the four later included in the Bible.  The Gospel of Thomas, named after Jesus' disciple, taught that believers would be saved through self-knowledge, for 'the Kingdom of God is inside you.'"  The timeline (listing when the four gospels were written, but notably not saying anything about when the "Gospel of Thomas" is thought to have been written) doesn't mesh with most of the recent dating evidences I've seen.  And the section on Mithras, which I do think is a good thing to include, leaves me thinking that the author sees Mithras worship on the same level as Christianity.

Mostly, though, I think the addition of the photos and artifacts interspersed in this story Bible are going to be a really good thing.  So often, story Bibles leave me worried that all the fantastical stories of floods, giants, whales, etc. seem just that -- fantastic.  Having the "stuff" pages helps bring a lot of that back to reality.  This isn't just a story.  It happened.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

One family’s stand for Justice – catch the story on PBS 7/26!

I'll be blogging about the book Mugabe and the White African next month, but I wanted to let you know that Point of View will air the documentary Mugabe and the White African on Tuesday, July 26th. The film tells the story of Mike Campbell and his family of three generations of Zimbabwean farmers as they attempt to keep their farm under Mugabe's "land reform." Watch the trailer for the documentary below and visit the PBS Point of View website for your local listing.

The book Mugabe and the White African (Lion Books, distributed by Kregel Publications, July 15, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-7459-5546-9, $14.95) written by Mike Campbell's son-in-law Ben Freeth provides more detail regarding the family's struggles and court battles.The book chronicles the deeply moving and life-threatening struggle of a Christian family from Zimbabwe to protect their legally owned farmland, to protect the lives and livelihoods of all those working on the farm, and to live to see justice.

Freeth lays bare a beautiful but lawless land fouled by fear. A 'Clockwork Orange' state where racism, greed, and violence are ultimately humbled by almost unimaginable courage. Richly described, bravely chronicled, and utterly compelling. 
-Mike Thomson, Radio Foreign Affairs Correspondent, BBC

Ben Freeth has an extraordinary story to tell. Like that of many white farmers, his family's land was "reclaimed" for redistribution by Mugabe's government. But Ben's family fought back. Appealing to international law, they instigated a suit against Mugabe's government in the SADC, the Southern African equivalent of NATO. The case was deferred time and again while Mugabe's men pulled strings. But after Freeth and his parents-in-law were abducted and beaten within inches of death in 2008, the SADC deemed any further delay to be an obstruction of justice. The case was heard, and was successful on all counts. But the story doesn't end there. In 2009 the family farm was burned to the ground. The fight for justice in Zimbabwe is far from over--this book is for anyone who wants to see into the heart of one of today's hardest places and how human dignity flourishes even in the most adverse circumstances. Read an Excerpt (PDF) Read the Press Release

Book Review: Life of Andrew Jackson

 Life of Andrew Jackson edited by John Jenkins is another in a "new" series of books put out by Attic Books.  This "Life of" series currently consists of five titles, and I own all but Life of Luther.  I reviewed Life of John Knox awhile back, and will be reviewing Life of John Newton sometime soon.

This series is reprinting old biographies of some pretty fascinating people.  I remarked in my review of John Knox that the language was challenging and you really needed to be paying attention.  With that in mind, I was really leery of Jackson, as this book is almost three times as long as Knox.

I didn't need to worry.  The language, while sometimes sounding a bit outdated, is easy to understand.  Some of the quotes take a second reading, but not many.

As for the narrative, well, I was eagerly turning pages.  I knew a bit about Andrew Jackson.  A bit.  You know, he was president number 7, he was from "the west" and he was a big name at the Battle of New Orleans.  Maybe I knew a bit more...  but not a whole lot.

This book started me off saying, "I didn't know that" from the very start.  Like the fact that Jackson fought in the Revolutionary War -- and was a POW besides.  He lost his entire family to that war (his father had died before Jackson was born).

I was fascinated by the chapters on the War of 1812 -- a war I really know very little about.  Maybe my boys are rubbing off on me, but the discussion of his battle strategies were well told and really, that was the point where I did not want to put the book down.

This is a title I am going to have Connor read while studying American history in the coming year.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book Review: Prayerwalk

I have been reading through the book PrayerWalk by Janet Holm McHenry recently... and while it has not gotten me to lace up my tennies and head out walking, it has convinced me I need to do so.

My hang-up is that we've had temperatures nearing 100 degrees most of the past month or so, and I just cannot bring myself to get started...  in looking at the weather forecast though, starting Wednesday, we're only supposed to be in the 80s.  So I'm convinced that is when I will be starting.

This isn't a new idea -- I've read about combining prayer for your family and your community with walking, and it always sounded intriguing to me.  What McHenry has brought to the table with this book is the perspective of a real woman who has done it.  Even when she didn't want to.  Even when it was cold or hot.  Even while holding down a full-time job as an English teacher and taking care of her family.

McHenry didn't ever strike me as a perfect person.  The tone of the entire book is very real... and while I don't remember hearing her say, "If I can do it, you can do it" (I tend to react to that statement!) she actually left me feeling that way.  I could relate to her, she seems so normal.

The book is a combination of what, why, and how.  Lots of great suggestions.   I definitely recommend the book.  And hopefully some of you will get after me if I don't start blogging about how I'm actually implementing her suggestions.

I would truly appreciate you for "ranking" my review with the link above as that helps me to get access to more popular titles.  Thank you!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bountiful Baskets -- July 23

Okay, so here is a photo of the produce in my basic basket from Bountiful Baskets today.  Thomas picked the background... I think this would have looked better with fewer bright colors behind it!

Anyway, my basket had:
  • one bunch celery
  • 2 English cucumbers (I'm pretty sure I've never had any of these!)
  • 1 head of some type of lettuce
  • about 3/4 pound of green beans
  • 10 oz. package of little tomatoes
  • Over a pound of white sweet potatoes
  • 7 peaches
  • 3 mongo mangoes  (they are HUGE)
  • 8 plums
  • 1 organic cantaloupe
  • 6 bananas
  • a pound of strawberries
I also got the Mexican package, but didn't get a picture.  I have no idea what was in that... okay, maybe I sort of do:
  • 2 big yellow onions
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 2 bunches green onions
  • 2 avocadoes
  • 5 limes
  • 10 tomatillos
  • 4 (jalepeno?) peppers
  • 8 other peppers  (okay, so I could identify all but this)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
In addition, I purchased a 20 pound box of peaches, and I purchased a tortilla pack.

I have sat down with my list of produce in the last couple weeks, and I'm telling you, this really is a great value.  Maybe not for everyone... but I really don't have time to do a ton of running around to find quality produce at the best possible prices.  And I really think that even in my super-shopper hey-dey I would have been hard pressed to actually *beat* these prices.

What I love more than anything about doing Bountiful Baskets is that my kids are actually eating FRUIT on a consistent basis now.

So, for dinner, we had burritos.  And I browned up some ground beef and froze it.  I used an onion with that.  I also used half a jalepeno, some of the lettuce, some garlic, and a lime, and a bunch of the tortillas.  The kids had a plum each as a snack.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to make this guacamole.  I'm also planning to make up some chili to freeze, so that will probably take care of the other onion, and maybe some mystery pepper too.

I'm going to have to work on figuring out something to do with all the peaches, as I'm not wanting to use my oven, nor are we likely to get through them all before they start going bad.

I do need to start figuring out ways to bury celery in other cooking... I probably should have fried some up with the hamburger earlier.

You really should check out the website, and if there is a location near you, you ought to check it out.  If you live in Colorado, I'd really love for you to check it out. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reading Aloud Challenge: July 21

Okay, so the first thing I have to do is to apologize.  My internet has been flakey all week.  It will work for a minute or three at a time, then I have to unplug stuff and restart everything... and maybe this time the internet will stay up just long enough for me to think I can actually DO something, only to go away while I'm in the middle of commenting on someone's blog.

I gave up.  So if you want to go check out the links from last week and comment, here is last week's post.

I will be out and about tomorrow, with internet, so if you link up by tomorrow, I promise to visit your blog.  After that?  Well, it depends on my connection...

But I am happy to report we have done some reading this week...

Evolution: The Grand 
Experiment: Vol. 2 - Living FossilsWe continued working through our summer science.  Living Fossils.  This is a review book, so I'll have more about it soon, I had hoped to review it this week.  But, um, the internet keeps going out and it didn't happen.  I keep losing my post.  I need to find a way to write offline besides using Word.  <sigh>  Anyway,  we are still really enjoying it.  
Augustine Came to Kent (Living History Library)

An Inter-Library Loan came in -- Augusting Came to Kent.  We've barely started it.  This is going to be a focus today.

If Animals Could Talk: 
Creation Speaks for ItselfWe are continuing to read If Animals Could Talk.  This turned into a read it to everyone book, and it is fun. We're getting close to the end.

Missing Pieces (Red Rock Mysteries, Book 3)We finished Stolen Secrets, the second Red Rock Mystery.  Can't find a cover of it, but we also completed book #3 - Missing Pieces.  These are fun, and there is just enough local landmarks to keep it really interesting for us in a different way. 

The Big WaveThe Big Wave.  Yes, an actual school book slipped in here again this week, and we finished it.  YAY.  The kids pretty much all remembered it, as we read it a couple years ago.  But I think they enjoyed it more since they are older, and the idea of your whole family dying in a giant wave just seems a bit more real with actual world events since last time.

Passport to the World: 
Your A to Z Guided Language TourPassport to the World. Thomas is doing this for the Master Books program, and he is enjoying it.  What a cool book -- and it includes countries/languages that just don't make the list in most books of this sort.  Lithuania is my personal favorite.

Plans for this coming week? Finishing up some of the above.  More Red Rock Mysteries (assuming we check some out from the library tomorrow).  Finish Augustine so I can return it on Saturday at the bookmobile.

How did your week go?  Sign the linky to link up your reading aloud post and I'll definitely come visit your post.   Love having you here...  There are a few of you who I'm missing though...  Come back!  Come back!!  I miss you!!

To see my first post when this turned into a linky thing, check here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: God and Stephen Hawking

Okay, when I do a book review, I typically quote the publisher's information and give my own opinion.  This time, I'm pulling a lot more from the press release for the book God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway by John C. Lennox.  Because this press release sums up so much of what I want to say anyway.

SEATTLE - Eminent scientist Stephen Hawking's latest contribution to the so-called New Atheist debate The Grand Design claims that the laws of physics themselves brought the universe into being, rather than God. In this swift and forthright reply, John C. Lennox, Oxford mathematician and author of God's Undertaker, exposes the flaws in Hawking's logic in his latest book, God and Stephen Hawking (Kregel Publishers, September 2011,ISBN: 9780745955490, $5.99).

Science has immense cultural and intellectual authority in our sophisticated modern world. With this kind of cache, it must nevertheless be pointed out that not all statements by scientists are statements of science. Therefore such statements do not carry the authority of authentic science, even though it is often erroneously ascribed to them.

Commonly written off as the inevitable clash between science and religion, the God debate is actually one between theism and atheism, where there are scientists on both sides. With a remarkable surge of interest in God that defies the so-called secularization hypothesis, it could well be that it is precisely the perceived failure of secularization that is driving the God question ever higher on the agenda. Book after book is being published on the subject by prominent scientists, as Francis Collins, Richard Dawkins, Robert Winston, etc. But were Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Maxwell, to name a few, really all wrong on the God question?

With such a lot at stake we surely need to ask Hawking to produce evidence to establish his claim. Do his arguments really stand up to close scrutiny? Has the Grand Master of Physics checkmated the Grand Designer of the Universe?

In lively, layman's terms, Lennox guides us through the key points in Hawking's arguments-with clear explanations of the latest scientific and philosophical methods and theories-and demonstrates that, far from disproving a Creator God, they make His existence seem all the more probable. Lennox's book is a great resource for Christians, churches and those in ministry who seek to educate themselves and open authentic dialog with those who question.
This is a short book, and despite being written by a mathematician and philosopher, it is incredibly easy to read.  Lennox makes sense, he makes his points clearly, and this was a great read.

If you have ever done anything like read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, and particularly if that book left you convinced of only two things -- Hawking is a genius and I am not, then God and Stephen Hawking is for you.

What I love is that Lennox doesn't dispute that Hawking is a genius -- but he still can go through and deconstruct Hawking's arguments in The Grand Design (where Hawking claims that philosophy is dead, as is God). 

I enjoyed reading this book, because although Lennox is clearly brilliant also, he writes in a style that mere mortals can actually comprehend.

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: Visual Latin

Two boys, ages 10 and 12, huddled on the couch, watching a video on the iPad and laughing.

Should I be concerned?  Well, maybe.  But not when they are busy watching Dwayne Thomas and learning Latin.  Laughter.  I never imagined my boys would have this much fun while learning Latin.  And they hadn't, until we found Visual Latin.  (And YES, that is a real picture taken while they were REALLY watching Visual Latin, and after they had basically forgotten I was there with a camera!)

I'll start with what my kids say.  "I think it is FUN!" says Thomas (age 10, in the blue t-shirt).  "This is definitely my favorite way to learn Latin," adds William.  "He is funny, which makes it interesting to watch instead of something you just want to tune out."  When I asked if he feels like he is learning Latin, William stated, "YES.  I don't know how to put it for your review though.  But I am absolutely learning Latin this way."

I haven't blogged a whole lot about Latin in our homeschool, but people who have known me since my yahoogroups days definitely know that it is important to me.  Connor has been plugging away on Latin, but in spite of owning a bazillion Latin programs, I simply have not figured out anything that I like for my next two.  Until now.

We've tried some things with William (12) mostly.  Thomas has come along for the ride some of that time.  I had done enough to determine that the perfect program for these guys would include most of the following:
  • Video.  That is a definite must-have.  My boys learn so much from watching a video.  This one is non-negotiable.  Obviously, Visual Latin meets that requirement.
  • A male instructor would be a huge plus, or at least an instructor that "gets" boys.  Without even watching the video clip, you can see that Visual Latin does have a male instructor.  I like that his voice is clear and easy to understand.  Sometimes it is tough with a female instructor... too soft-spoken.  Not the case here.

Visual Latin | A Quick Explanation from Compass Cinema on Vimeo.
  • Something to truly grab their attention and make it fun.  So many programs have some really cool things included to make the program fun -- games, puzzles, stories.  While a lot of that worked fairly well for Connor, my next two, well, not so much.  They don't want a lot of words on a page, and they definitely don't want Latin crossword puzzles.  Dwayne Thomas is FUNNY.  He connects with them.  He engages them.  And it doesn't require them to read much of anything (occasionally there will be something like a sentence or phrase on screen, usually something amusing).
  • It needs to not involve a ton of pencil work.  Visual Latin has three pages of worksheets per lesson, that is it.  The writing level is phenomenal for my pencil-phobic boys.
  • It needs to be something that doesn't require a lot of effort from me.  Because, frankly, I don't have time.  Visual Latin fits this too.  I make sure the videos are loaded on the iPad, and I make sure I've printed the worksheets for them both.  The boys usually do the first viewing and the worksheets (giving me the worksheets to look over).  I usually sit with them to watch them through the second time.  More on that below.  
  • Something that doesn't cost a fortune is a plus.  And Visual Latin -- especially considering I buy it once and can use it for all my children just for the cost of printing out three pages per lesson -- is not expensive.  It isn't cheap, but it is a great value.  And if you act fast, there is a coupon code good for 30% off through tomorrow!  HEFM30 is the code for that... it is a deal through the Home Educating Family Magazine that was set to expire today.  Thomas said he'd extend it through tomorrow for my blog readers!
  • Something that incorporates Roman history, because my boys love Roman history, and that carrot keeps them coming back for more Latin.  Okay, so here is one area that Visual Latin really doesn't do.  But since Dwayne is so funny, that "hook" really isn't necessary.  And I am now feeling confident enough about the topic myself, so I can add that aspect in easily.  (We're reading through Famous Men of Rome now.)
  • It can't be something that takes a ton of time.  This doesn't.  Short videos -- three per lesson, totaling roughly 20 minutes. One worksheet per video segment.
What does a lesson look like?  Let's take Lesson 5, on Declensions. (The photos are from other lessons, not the one I'm writing about.)

5A: the A lessons are grammar lessons, mostly using English.  This video is 8 minutes of talk about nouns, the five declensions and the six cases (nominative, genitive, etc.)  The worksheet involves English examples, labeling those six cases.

5B: The B lessons are "sentences" lessons.  This part is taught in English but uses a lot of Latin.  9.5 minutes, and 5B is the lesson where you start seeing charts, and you are supposed to start memorizing endings.  The worksheet includes the charts, and 16 words where the kids identify the case and whether it is singular or plural.

5C: The C lessons are the reading lessons.  This 3 minute video is almost entirely in Latin.  He reads a Latin story (from the Latin Vulgate; printed on the worksheet and on the video) at a normal speed, then he reads it one sentence at a time, pausing so the students can repeat.  The worksheet consists of translating the story into English.  This lesson includes sentences like:  "Deus dicit 'Divide aquas!'"

In a home setting, the advice is to do all three parts of the lesson (video, worksheet, video, worksheet, video, worksheet) one day.  The next day, the student would watch all three videos again, back to back.  Then move on to the next lesson, and watch it all... so you'd be doing two lessons per week. 

With my rising 5th and 7th graders, we are moving at about that pace, though it's been tough over the summer with camp, volunteering at the bookmobile, summer reading programs, etc.

We are doing it slightly differently -- let's take the week we did lessons 5 and 6:

Monday: do 5A and 5B completely, and watch 5C without doing the worksheet.
Tuesday: watch 5C again and do the worksheet, then watch 5A-C back to back.
Wednesday: do 6A and 6B completely.
Thursday: do 6C completely.
Friday: watch 6A-C back to back. 

My struggling readers just love the fact that they can read these stories in Latin and understand them.  They complain a bit about writing out the translation (they are pencil-phobic) but they really do not grouse about the other worksheets.

I love that these lessons are not highly edited.  Dwayne talks right at my students, and he makes mistakes sometimes.  Sometimes he catches it and corrects them himself.  Sometimes the correction shows up written on the page with arrows.  I cannot even begin to express how amazing it is that my kids see an adult not being perfect... especially since he would have the ability to do another take and get it right.

I love that it is relaxing.  Can you even believe that?  "Learning Latin" and "relaxing" shouldn't be in the same sentence, unless they are in opposition... like, "I wanted to spend the day relaxing, but my mother insisted I should instead be learning Latin." 

My recommendations?  I think this program is phenomenal.  I'm going to have William and Thomas continue using it, probably for as long as there are more lessons.  Dwayne clearly loves language, loves Latin, and that just flows across the screen.

Currently, there are 30 lessons, which you can purchase in 10 lesson sections.  The first 30 lessons would prepare a high school student to use the first 17 lessons of Lingua Latina by Hans Orberg, which would combine for a solid first year credit in high school Latin.  Lessons 31-40 are supposed to be coming out next month, with Lessons 41-50 scheduled for January, and 51-60 in the spring.

Connor and I are having a serious conversation about whether he wants to watch through the first 30 lessons of Visual Latin, and then jumping in "for real" with lesson 31.  (He has already worked through the first half of Lingua Latina a couple of times.)  From looking over the materials and the scope and sequence (and sneaking the iPad to watch on his own), Connor feels that this covers the same material (but in a different order) as other first year Latin programs.  "I have never heard the case made about how languages devolve, and that was really great.  And the fact that Mr. Thomas is so funny is a definite plus.  He makes you want to watch, and then you can't help but learn."

You can see the introductory material for yourself, plus the first two lessons right here.  Go.  Watch it.  Make some decisions.  Because through tomorrow, HEFM30 means you could buy the first ten lessons for $17.50 (download version, single family use).

I'm rushing over to get the next two sets.  And I'll be purchasing more lessons in August.

Disclaimer:  I received the download version of Visual Latin lesson 1-10 in exchange for writing a review.  I was not required to be positive, and all opinions expressed are mine or those of my kids.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review: It Couldn't Just Happen

I think that when I requested It Couldn't Just Happen by Lawrence Richards I was expecting a different book.  Marketed as being for 9-12 year olds, and with the fun, colorful cover,  I was expecting something with a lot more visual appeal and photos on every page.

I was wrong. 

That's not a bad thing.  I just had different expectations.

From the publisher:
This four-color, Gold Medallion Book Award winner is a perfect tool that offers solid, biblical answers to some of the tough questions kids ask about evolution and our world.
 “Did Earth begin with a ‘Big Bang’ cosmic explosion?
Does science contradict the Bible?
What happened to dinosaurs?
Is there life on other planets?
Did we evolve from apes?
What makes my body work on its own?
Kids are daily exposed to the theory of evolution by the media and public schools. It’s not safe to assume that your kids will reject that theory. It’s up to us as parents and Christian leaders to make sure our children know the truth about the creation of the world. With thousands of evidences to prove He created and sustains the universe, It Couldn’t Just Happen will fascinate kids with fun activities and examples of God’s marvelous works.
The book is more like a textbook than what I expected.  Twenty chapters, split into five parts.  Each part contains 3-5 chapters.  At roughly a dozen pages each, the chapters are fairly easy for an adult to read in one sitting, but maybe a little long for your average 4th grader.  Each chapter ends with five "Just for Fun" suggestions.  Some of these are really intriguing, and possibly fun.  Many are more of "Digging Deeper" suggestions.

This is a fascinating overview of a lot of areas of science.  I particularly appreciated that scientific terminology is used and the author doesn't shy away from reasonably sophisticated vocabulary.  In reading this, I didn't feel particularly talked down to, although it is clearly written for an audience younger than myself.  More importantly, I don't think my older boys are going to feel patronized -- and they are 10, 12 and 14.

In a homeschool setting, I could see doing this as a family read-aloud over a quarter, and taking some time to discuss the "Just for Fun" suggestions.

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson. No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Adventures in Odyssey Winner!

I'm so excited to announce my winner of the Adventures in Odyssey books!  I reviewed these a week or so ago, and I get to give a pair of books away.

Off to, where they gave me this result:

Which made it time to count.  I counted forward, I counted backwards, and each time I came up with:
Debbie C. said...
I think my boys (12, 9, and 7) would enjoy these books.
Congratulations, Debbie!  I'll be emailing you shortly!!  Or email ME first, that would be great too!