What I read in February 2020

February was sort of a wonky month. A leap year, traveling all at the last minute, the start of our school year. It was just a lot to fit in! I only got in a few books for the month, but I think I will be back on track come March. I am still doing well for my Goodreads challenge though! Here is what I read in February 2020!
What I read in February 2020 1
The Box by Craig Biehl – Mr. C’s little antique box is giving Mr. A fits. How could such a simple idea ruin his sleep and push him to abandon his atheism to become an agnostic? And why does he doubt his former confidence to deny the possibility of miracles and the existence of the God of Scripture? It seems the little brown box had shaken him to the core. Was he really a man of faith, and blind faith at that? Must an atheist really know everything about the universe and beyond to know that God does not exist? Was his atheism irrational? Atheists and agnostics pride themselves on being reasonable and scientific while viewing Christian faith as blind and unreasonable. But the opposite is true. Christian faith is neither blind nor unreasonable while the best arguments of atheism and agnosticism rest on false assumptions of faith. Moreover, the toughest arguments against Christianity and the truth of Scripture can become the means of stronger joy and faith in Christ when we see the unreasonable and unscientific nature of unbelief in the best of its proponents. All arguments against the existence and nature of God can easily be exposed as resting on unreasonable assumptions of blind faith. When Christians learn to see and understand these assumptions, they are not only equipped to refute the most difficult claims of unbelief, they will be encouraged in their faith in Christ and inoculated against intimidating arguments that would steal their joy and assurance.

What I thought: This book was part of a review that I did for The Unbreakable Faith Course and you can read that blog post to check it out more. But I did enjoy this book and the banter back and forth between the two characters.
What I read in February 2020 2Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick – In this landmark addition to the literature of totalitarianism, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years–a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il (the father of Kim Jong-un), and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population.

Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive regime today–an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. She takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and through meticulous and sensitive reporting we see her subjects fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we witness their profound, life-altering disillusionment with the government and their realization that, rather than providing them with lives of abundance, their country has betrayed them.

What I thought: Wow.. I finished a couple books about this and my mind is still boggled by the things written about. The circumstances that people are living through to this day! Just wow…
What I read in February 2020 3
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami – In these pages, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America: Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico. The slave of a Spanish conquistador, Estebanico sails for the Americas with his master, Dorantes, as part of a danger-laden expedition to Florida. Within a year, Estebanico is one of only four crew members to survive.

As he journeys across America with his Spanish companions, the Old World roles of slave and master fall away, and Estebanico remakes himself as an equal, a healer, and a remarkable storyteller. His tale illuminates the ways in which our narratives can transmigrate into history—and how storytelling can offer a chance at redemption and survival.

What I thought: This book was fascinating. I quite enjoyed the storyline. What made it better was the fact that we are studying this time period in our homeschool and the names and events matched up so it was an added bonus.

And that is what I read in February 2020! March is longer but is going to be busier, so we will see what I can get read! Let me know if you have any favorite books!

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The Unbreakable Faith Course {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW inexchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

With different things going on in my life, and even the world as a whole, I have been looking for more solid teaching about God and faith in general. I was excited to work through The Unbreakable Faith Course from Pilgrim’s Rock, LLC.
Pilgrims RockThis course is definitely something I was looking for! What is included in the set that I received were two books and then access to the online course.
The Unbreakable Faith Course booksSince I love reading, I was happy to find out that it included books. I am the type of person that prefers physical books rather than online. There is the option to get ebooks though, if you prefer that.
The Unbreakable Faith Course Box
The Box is the first book I read and was a pretty easy read. It is based on the conversations of Mr. A and Mr. C, which is basically Atheist and Christian. I enjoyed the banter between them.

Even though this book is an easier read, there is a lot of information tucked into its 150 pages. Once Mr. A and Mr. C are introduced, the author brings them into the story more often using them as examples. It really helps understand where he is going with certain points.

I also appreciate the end notes at the end of each chapter. Those are usually things I tend to skip, but these had quite a bit of interesting information. I would highly suggest reading them!

The book did not end as I thought it would, which I appreciated. It made it more real, if that made sense. I could see passing it out to friends and family that you know may be interested in learning more and are questioning certain things.
The Unbreakable Faith Course Book
God the Reason is the next book. And wow…it is pretty much the opposite of the first book. That isn’t bad! Just mentioning it is different.

The first book reads more like a novel and this book reads more like a textbook. Just as an example.

Some chapter titles, for example, include: God Is Eternal, God Needs Nothing, and God Cannot Be Known Unless He Reveals Himself.

I was thinking that I was going to read it quickly like the first one and that definitely isn’t the case. I find myself reading and rereading so many sentences and phrases.

Each chapter is like a book in itself, there is just so much information. It even brings up the age old question, which came first the chicken or the egg. I remember being asked that when I was little and always had a definitive answer….and then it changed. And changed again..

This book is definitely going to take a while to finish, I am almost done with chapter four currently. When I am done I will definitely keep it on my bookshelf to refer back to.
Unbreakable Faith Course screen
Lastly is the course itself. There is so much I could say about what I have seen so far! The dashboard is where you can access all sorts of information. Quite a few extras are there that are handy to have for life in general, like a calendar and such.

I recommend looking at the syllabus, which is provided. Among other things, it provides a sort of schedule. That really helps so you don’t feel overwhelmed. The course itself is not overwhelming but for people like me that like a little order, it is nice to have it included.

You have approximately 36 weeks to take the course. You can do it in your own time, which for this course, I would say is a must!

The syllabus breaks the course down into six parts. Well, basically five parts and then a final exam. Each part is then broken down and lets you know what to read and what videos to watch. There are quizzes after each part.

The quizzes are mainly about each part, but will include bits from previous parts as well. As with most quizzes, they are supposed to be closed book and with no distractions…and obviously no cheating!

Unbreakable Faith Course video
The videos in the course are an average of 10 minutes long. They are full of Bible verses as well as discussions that coincide with the reading. The narrator explains things in such an easy to understand way. You can follow along with his speaking through the use of bullet points when there aren’t verses on the screen. That makes it nice.

As a side note, I enjoy the songs that play before and after each video. They are very easy to listen to, and familiar to me as they remind me of a church I went to when I lived in Arizona.

I can understand why the site gives you 36 weeks to take it. This is a course that I want to take my time with and really absorb it and not just take it for the sake of taking it.

It is suggested that the age for The Unbreakable Faith Course is 15 and older. I agree with that! What is neat though is if your student does everything according to the syllabus, they could get a high school credit for the course!

I would definitely recommend this course if you are at all interested in learning more about faith and maybe the lack thereof. You will learn even more in the process!

Some of the other people reviewing this course had their children take it.. If you would like to read theirs, or many of the others, feel free to click the banner below!
The Unbreakable Faith Course

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SchoolhouseTeachers.com {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW inexchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

A few years ago I tried out SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I remember they had violin lessons which was perfect timing since Lauren had just received a violin as a gift! We have the Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership now and the site has changed so much! For the better!
The kids were just finishing up the 11th grade when we logged on this time. I was curious how many different things they had for the high school range. It’s usually harder to find than for the younger crowd.
Look at all of these subjects! I didn’t need to worry about selection, that’s for sure! Since we had just finished a rough school year, I thought we would focus on electives for a bit. But I am definitely having ideas for their next school year!

When you look at the Electives choices, they have such variety.. From Accounting to Bread Making…from Photography to Logic. There is definitely something for everyone.

I decided to look at things in the 12th grade since that is what they will be starting soon. Kyle has been talking about getting a job, and while he won’t be able to jump into what he wants to do right away, I thought that taking the Career Exploration first would be a great idea!
Schoolhouse Teachers CareerThe course is 8 weeks long, a lesson a week. You can do the lessons whenever you want though, so if you had a real go-getter, they could finish it pretty quickly.

What I liked about this Career Exploration course is that it isn’t just a personality test. There are so many of those online that the kids have taken and the results were quite random and unbelievable.

This course has you doing research and thinking hard about different careers. I think a lot of kids might know what they want to do and not want to think about anything else, but this really helps in the why you might want to at least look into other thing conversation.
SchoolhouseTeachers GraphicAs we looked at the rest of the elective choices, we saw quite a few that we wanted to do. But seeing as we just recently moved and not everything was unpacked, we couldn’t do all of them. The kids decided to get a head start on Introduction to Graphic Design.

One thing that I noticed and loved right away about this course is the section on legality. Being in the creative field in the past, it’s hard to get people to understand about copyright. I love that this course touches on that.

Another thing that is nice is that it doesn’t require any special software. I already have Photoshop and such, but not everyone does. It’s nice that they are doing this course with a free software.

We haven’t gotten too far into this course, but I  am loving it so far.
Schoolhouse Teachers KyleOnce we start our last year in high school, you can bet that I will be looking into the other sections besides the electives. They have every subject that you need!

This last year we are working on American History, and they have plenty to choose from for that…I was happy to see that they had Drive Thru History American History for a little bit longer. We have used that in the past and we all loved it!

We are also doing Art this next school year and I am really intrigued about the different things that are offered. I know we are doing Photography, but they even have a course for that! I have to admit I am curious about the drawing classes that are offered…for myself!

I really believe that the Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership is the way to go with SchoolhouseTeachers.com.  There are so many different courses to choose from for your school year.

And since we start our school year in the winter, it is nice to know that we can just start them whenever we like and aren’t tied into a certain start/finish time. You can mix things on the site with curriculum you already have, or, what is super cool, at least with the courses we have done, it tells you all about the transcript information so that you can put together your own year just from the courses on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. That is always helpful with high school courses because homeschooling high school can be stressful!

The courses are all planned with a Christian worldview, which is reassuring. In the past we have used a secular curriculum and have been somewhat shocked at the things included in there.

One other thing that I noticed as we were perusing the site was a section devoted to holiday and seasonal resources. I think this is fantastic, especially for the younger kiddos.

I really do think that you can get so much done with just this site for your school year! If you want to read what others think about their time so far using the Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership, feel free to click the banner below!

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What I read in January 2020

I had a great reading month in January! I wasn’t sure how it was going to go with everything we had going on, but I was able to finish a lot that I thought were going to work their way into February. I am doing well on my Goodread’s challenge, which helps since I am not sure what 2020 looks like for us. Here is what I read in January 2020!

What I read in January 2020
Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose – It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.

Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.

A beautiful, tender story of friendship and the meaning of family, Caroline Starr Rose delivers another historical gem.

Quick thought: I thought this was told really well! I liked the characters and enjoyed the story line!
What I read in January 2020
Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine – Nine-year-old Ling has a very happy life. Her parents are both dedicated surgeons at the best hospital in Wuhan, and her father teaches her English as they listen to Voice of America every evening on the radio. But when one of Mao’s political officers moves into a room in their apartment, Ling begins to witness the gradual disintegration of her world. In an atmosphere of increasing mistrust and hatred, Ling fears for the safety of her neighbors, and soon, for herself and her family. For the next four years, Ling will suffer more horrors than many people face in a lifetime. Will she be able to grow and blossom under the oppressive rule of Chairman Mao? Or will fighting to survive destroy her spirit–and end her life?

Quick thought: This was a short read, but I enjoyed how it was done. The characters were developed nicely.
What I read in January 2020 2
Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams – In the spirit of A Short History of Nearly Everything comes Periodic Tales. Award-winning science writer Hugh Andersey-Williams offers readers a captivating look at the elements—and the amazing, little-known stories behind their discoveries. Periodic Tales is an energetic and wide-ranging book of innovations and innovators, of superstition and science and the myriad ways the chemical elements are woven into our culture, history, and language. It will delight readers of Genome, Einstein’s Dreams, Longitude, and The Age of Wonder.

Quick thought:I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. I normally don’t get into science type books, but this one was pretty informative!
What I read in January 2020 3
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao – Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Quick thought: This started out with such promise… And then it got a little weird..and then the ending was just a little meh for me. I finished it though, and I am glad that I did.
What I read in January 2020 4
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Quick thought: I really got into this book for a while…and then it just petered out for me. I finished it, but it really was just a meh book.
What I read in January 2020 5
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be sceptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. But what if, for once, the predictions are right, and the apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea?

You could spend the time left drowning your sorrows, giving away all your possessions in preparation for the rapture, or laughing it off as (hopefully) just another hoax. Or you could just try to do something about it.

It’s a predicament that Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon now finds themselves in. They’ve been living amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and, truth be told, have grown rather fond of the lifestyle and, in all honesty, are not actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse.

And then there’s the small matter that someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist…

Quick thought: I didn’t know what to think about this book before I started reading it. But it got funnier as it went and I enjoyed it! I am kind of curious about the tv series, I remember seeing something about it a while back but never watched it…
What I read in January 2020 6
The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part 2 by Larry Gonick – “From the Bastille to Baghdad,” The Cartoon History of the World Part 2 is the conclusion (for the moment) of Larry Gonick’s award-winning and bestselling annals of humankind presented in graphic novel form. Picking up after the American Revolution, where Part 1 left off, Part 2 opens with the Enlightenment and rolls across Napoleon, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, World War I and II, and all the way to our recent imbroglios in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part 2 is a monumental, one might say “historic” achievement, at once edifying, irreverent, and wildly entertaining. Terry Jones of Monty Python said of the first volume of this series, Obviously one of the great books of all time.” And modern civilization’s most recent act is no less enthralling.

Quick thought: This is a good read to refresh things from history that you thought you remembered but may not have… I like the cartoon format, some of them are pretty funny… But it is a pretty easy read, and informative!
What I read in January 2020 7
Word By Word by Kory Stamper – With wit and irreverence, lexicographer Kory Stamper cracks open the obsessive world of dictionary writing, from the agonizing decisions about what to define and how to do it to the knotty questions of ever-changing word usage.

Filled with fun facts–for example, the first documented usage of “OMG” was in a letter to Winston Churchill–and Stamper’s own stories from the linguistic front lines (including how she became America’s foremost “irregardless” apologist, despite loathing the word), Word by Word is an endlessly entertaining look at the wonderful complexities and eccentricities of the English language.

Quick thought: I found a lot of this book fascinating, but it did seem a bit repetitive and uninteresting in places. I guess if you were totally interested in words and such it would be a wonderful read. I did enjoy some of the things I learned though!
What I read in January 2020 8
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler – The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given…

Quick thought: I enjoyed this book! At times I wondered where it was going to go… I found out at the end, quite suddenly. I do wish the ending was a bit longer. I did like the main character!

That is what I read in January 2020! I did get a large delivery of books lately, so I will have to go through them to see what is good to read next!

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Flying at sunset

It’s not very often that we fly at sunset, but we just happened to do that on a recent trip.

airplane travel
It was such a nice view that I couldn’t help to take a bunch of pictures.

So often we fly to places early in the morning that we miss out on these beautiful moments.

Granted, flying during the morning and afternoon has it’s own beauty, but that is usually just the clouds in the sky or something similar.

I just have a weakness for sunsets. And when you add in water, it is even better.

This day….flying at sunset made me very happy…

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Old pictures..

old pictures
I have this thing for old pictures.

When I stop in antique stores or something similar I always look and see if they have a stack of them. Then I just take some time and see if any of them speak to me.

Sometimes I find some that are of a baby or child…sometimes it is an old man. I never know what will grab me at that particular moment.

Most of the time pictures don’t sell for too much money, a dollar or two. Sometimes there are really great ones that are about $8 and I look at the picture a little longer to decide if I want it or not.

I can’t imagine that people 100 years from now will have old pictures in antique stores. Most everyone keeps their pictures on their phones or computers.

And even still, how many of those are filtered pics with dog faces or what not.

I try and print more. I try and take more. I try and be in more.

Just having them in your hands and feeling them…looking at them and not a screen.

There’s just something about that..

I don’t even mind looking at these pictures that I get of people that I don’t know. At one point in their life, something was happening that someone else thought was important enough to take a picture at that moment.

I love old pictures…

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Have you taken the enneagram test, or read any books about it?

I know a lot of people say that a test may not be your *true number. That you need to read a book and just pick what feels right.

In my opinion, I think that a lot of people would be overwhelmed at that!

A quick test would give the person a place to start. That way, they could then pick maybe three of the numbers instead of just randomly reading all nine and getting frustrated.

It was quite obvious what I was right from the beginning. I had it quite easy. Some of my friends are still having a hard time figuring out what they are.
enneagramTurns out that I am a Type Nine, with a 1 wing. I am a 3 for growth and a 6 for stress.

As I read all about these things it is pretty spot on.

What I like about some of the websites is that it tells you how to get along with other numbers, or how to avoid certain things with them.

Do you know your number? Are there things that you agree about that number, or not really?

The good thing about 9s is that they are a little bit of all the numbers. I think that is kinda cool…

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What I read in December

It’s been a bit since I have updated on my reading! Unfortunately I just didn’t meet my Goodread’s goal this year. With moving and everything else, I just didn’t have enough time. Did you make your goal? Here is what I read in December.

I really tried to fit a lot in throughout the month. We finished some for school and then I finished a very short book right on New Year’s Eve!

What I read in December
The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman – The Rise & Fall of Great Powers begins in a dusty bookshop. What follows is an abduction, heated political debate, glimpses into strangers’ homes, and travel around the globe. It’s a novel of curious personalities, mystery, and lots of books: volumes that the characters collect, covet, steal.

Tooly Zylberberg, owner of a bookshop in the Welsh countryside, spends most of her life reading. Yet there’s one tale that never made sense: her own life. In childhood, she was spirited away from home, then raised around Asia, Europe and the United States. But who were the people who brought her up? And what ever happened to them?

There was Humphrey, a curmudgeon from Russia; there was the charming but tempestuous Sarah, who hailed from Kenya; and there was Venn, the charismatic leader who transformed Tooly forever. Until, quite suddenly, he vanished.

Years later, she has lost hope of ever knowing what took place. Then, the old mysteries stir again, sending her – and the reader – on a hunt through place and time, from Wales to Bangkok to New York to Italy, from the 1980’s to the Year 2000 to the present, from the end of the Cold War, to the rise and wobbles of U.S. power, to the digital revolution of today.

Gradually, all secrets are revealed…

What I thought: I had a hard time following the story, it jumped all over. I know there are people that like that style, but it just hurts my head. I just never got into it and I put off reading because of it.
What I read in DecemberThe Librarian of Aushwitz by Antonio Iturbe – Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.

Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.

What I thought: This was fantastic. You got involved with more than just the main character. It really was a great story. I found it interesting that it was based on a real story.
What I read in December
The War to End All Wars WWI by Russell Freedman – The nonfiction master Russell Freedman illuminates for young readers the complex and rarely discussed subject of World War I. In this clear and authoritative account, the author shows the ways in which the seeds of a second world war were sown in the first. Numerous archival photographs give the often disturbing subject matter a moving visual counterpart.

What I thought: I thought this was told very well. There were quite a few things that I didn’t know and this book told the story as well as showed photographs that I had never seen before.
What I read in December
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque – One by one the boys begin to fall…

In 1914 a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their schoolmaster to troop off to the ‘glorious war’. With the fire and patriotism of youth they sign up. What follows is the moving story of a young ‘unknown soldier’ experiencing the horror and disillusionment of life in the trenches.

What I thought: Again, this was another book about the war…but told differently. Definitely a side that you didn’t hear much about. All those young boys. It wasn’t a fantastic book, but I am glad that I read it, if that makes sense.
What I read in December
Night by Elie Wiesel – Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel’s memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. This new translation by his wife and most frequent translator, Marion Wiesel, corrects important details and presents the most accurate rendering in English of Elie Wiesel’s testimony to what happened in the camps and of his unforgettable message that this horror must simply never be allowed to happen again.

What I thought: It was hard reading these stories of this time so close together. Such a sad time. This book was a great book though, coming from someone who experienced it is mind boggling. I can’t even imagine.
What I read in December
Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa – This harrowing story of Hiroshima was one of the original Japanese manga series. New and unabridged, this is an all-new translation of the author’s first-person experiences of Hiroshima and its aftermath, is a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people. Its emotions and experiences speak to children and adults everywhere. Volume one of this ten-part series details the events leading up to and immediately following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

What I thought: I was intrigued at how they were going to tell this story in a cartoon form. They did really well! You got to know the characters. And again, told from a survivor of such an awful occurrence.. Just wow.
What I read in December
The Making of  Poem by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland – Explaining beauty is hard work. But distinguished poets Mark Strand and Eavan Boland have produced a clear, super-helpful book that unravels part of the mystery of great poems through an engaging exploration of poetic structure. Strand and Boland begin by promising to “look squarely at some of the headaches” of poetic form: the building blocks of poetry. The Making of a Poem gradually cures many of those headaches.

What I thought: I really enjoyed the different poems. There are little bits about each style of poem, what makes them that style.. Then there are quite a few examples. Some made us laugh, some made us shake our heads.. I am glad that I read this book!
What I read in December
Hiroshima by John Hersey – On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city. This book, John Hersey’s journalistic masterpiece, tells what happened on that day. Told through the memories of survivors, this timeless, powerful and compassionate document has become a classic “that stirs the conscience of humanity” (The New York Times).

Almost four decades after the original publication of this celebrated book, John Hersey went back to Hiroshima in search of the people whose stories he had told.  His account of what he discovered about them is now the eloquent and moving final chapter of Hiroshima .

What I thought: I enjoyed that this book was told from different peoples perspective. What they were doing at the time and how they survived.
What I read in December
Radium Girls by Kate Moore – The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

What I thought: Wow.. I mean, I had no idea this happened. Kids are missing out on so much in school. Memorizing dates of wars and such. And then you never know that so many things happened. This story got a bit drawn out, but I liked reading it. There were pictures in it too that made it even that more real.
What I read in December
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester – The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary — and literary history. The compilation of the OED, begun in 1857, was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.

What I thought: Ok, who knew that this man helped in such a huge way to write this dictionary? There were bits that I wish they didn’t go on about as long, and other bits that I wish were written more on, but all in all, it was pretty interesting!
What I read in December
Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate – From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents–hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.

The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.

Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.

What I thought: After reading Before We Were Yours, I thought I must read this book. I was not disappointed. It wasn’t the book that I thought it was, but I still enjoyed reading the stories of everyone involved.
What I read in December
Born Broken by Kristin Berry – There is no need to struggle alone or in isolation. Other families know what you are going through. Find strength in not only your faith, but in the community of others who understand your heartache and disappointment, and the desperate need to help these children have a future.
[[Provides an account of real-life struggles and solutions from early childhood to young adulthood
[[Opens a window into their life and family in hopes of encouraging others
[[Reveals understanding, compassionate support for families facing these heart-wrenching challenges.

What I thought: Wow.. The book alone was exhausting to read, I can’t imagine the daily struggles. This book should be read by anyone going into foster care or that sort of thing.

I think that is all that I read in December. I didn’t know it was so many! Let me know what you read recently and loved!

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Excelerate SPANISH Streaming {Review}

The last few years we have dabbled with a few different foreign languages. Most of them have been in book form. I was intrigued to try out Excelerate SPANISH Streaming from Excelerate SPANISH.
Excelerate SPANISH Streaming is unique because not only is it in video format, but it is interactive!

Each lesson is very involved with hand movements and other gestures that will help you remember each word or phrase. Then, as you move throughout the lesson, each phrase is used so many times that the repetition also helps you remember.

Starting at the very first video, they just jump right in with the learning! The first lesson is about taking the bus. This is something that a lot of kids understand and is relatable!
excelerate spanish video 3This is what the video looks like during each lesson. The instructor and the children are in a classroom.  It seems that the average length for each lesson is less than 45 minutes. The instructor is very engaging and friendly, especially as the lessons continue.
excelerate spanish video 1What I enjoy about each lesson is there is a general theme and then as more vocabulary words are added, more stories are told.This lesson ended up being about someone not having enough money for snacks at a game.

Some of the stories in each lesson are straightforward, and some of them are quite funny! This particular lesson had pumpkin head as one of the words. ha! I think adding in some funny words definitely keeps kids interested.
excelerate spanish videoAs you can see, the kids in the classroom get into all of the gestures. My kids are older and they thought it was silly at first, but did end up realizing that it helped them remember each phrase!

Another part of the lesson is when she has kids up front to do skits and other situations. That adds a little bit more fun and it usually ends up with people laughing.

Sometimes we did find that the lesson moved too quickly for us. I like that we could pause or rewind and watch again, that definitely helped.

Another thing that we noticed was that there really wasn’t any introduction to the language. It almost seemed like you were expected to know some of the very basic beginning of the spanish language before starting. But, with the way it is taught, it almost seems like that really isn’t necessary!

I like that there are so many different things happening in each lesson to make it a possibility that you could be in many different situations and be able to have a conversation!excelerate spanish video 2Oh, and one odd thing, being from Arizona, we always learned that the ‘ll’ is a y sound, whereas in these lessons it is a j sound. I know it is all about where the speaker is from, but that threw us just a little bit at first. Especially when it came to el pollo. Because of the fast food restaurant..ha!

These were just minor things that we noticed, other than that I think that the program is fantastic!

One thing that I wish we had though is the workbook. It would really help with the learners that learn well by reading or following along that way. I think it would also help with doing some of the things in the lesson. The workbook is available, and that might be something that I look into myself!

What there is though, to help, is eight pages of flash cards and other practice items on the Quizlet website. I would highly suggest looking into that as they are very helpful!

We haven’t gotten to Spanish 2 yet, but I have skimmed a couple of the lessons. It seems like they are more casual and the class is more involved! It also seems like the instructor is more relaxed and more into the stories. Looking forward to getting to those lessons!

All in all, I would definitely suggest this product for learning spanish! Each lesson has situations that all ages of kids will be able to relate to and therefore they tend to learn it easier and faster. It is also fun! At least in our experience!

This could definitely be used in a co-op setting for sure, if you are looking for something like that. But even with just your own children it would be great as well.

If you want to read what others though about Excelerate SPANISH Streaming, feel free to click the banner below! I always love reading about different ages and how they felt about it!
Excelerate-SPANISH-helps-your-students-to-learn-FAST-naturally-ReviewsExcelerate SPANISH Streaming

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Creating a Masterpiece Drawing Program {Review}

Every year since we have started homeschooling we have placed art as a high priority to study. It could be learning about different artists or different art methods! We have used Creating a Masterpiece before and I was excited to use them again with their Drawing Program!

What I like right away about Creating a Masterpiece is the ease of the website. Right away you know what to do, where to look, and start your lesson!
Beginning DrawingAfter signing in you are brought to your project choices. For the Drawing Program you can scroll down to find different categories. Shown above is the Beginning Drawing section.

I like the fact that there really is something for everyone. Animals and landscapes, and regular pencil and colored.

As you keep scrolling you will find categories for Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. You can definitely tell that the projects in Level 3 have more detail than the earlier ones, but really, they are all fantastic projects!

My two kids and I decided right away which projects we wanted to do. The kids decided on some from the beginning section, while I chose one from Level 2.

I like that you can skip around in the different levels and learn something from each project. Even if you don’t particularly care for the item in the drawing, it is still worth doing the project to learn something from it!
Drawing project 1
Lauren decided to try one of the landscape choices. I thought for sure she would go for the horse since we are all learning about horses since moving into the new house!
Drawing project 2
Kyle chose this drawing. My guess was a wildcard because I really had no idea what he would pick! He does like drawing cartoons, so it wasn’t a surprised that he gravitated towards the cartoon choice.
Drawing project 3
I chose this lantern. Jeffy and I love going to antique stores and finding fun and different things! Plus, the texture of the brick and the wood drew me in.

Once you log into your lesson, you are given a supply list. For the drawing ones, they are pretty simple. Some just require a pencil and paper! I am pretty sure the ones we all chose were like that. And an eraser!

You definitely want to get the best items you can. Target has sketchbooks available that work great for this, and a small set of drawing pencils as well! You can also purchase them with the link provided, through Blick. It is nice that the items needed are already chosen and ready to check out. Makes it so easy to click and be done!

Once you get your needed items, you are good to go, just click on the lesson!

Drawing lesson instructor
The course is all on video. And each step is detailed with things like, what you are looking for, why you are doing things a certain way, that sort of thing. It isn’t just a ‘do what I do’ type lesson.

You learn to look for shapes..in the beginning giraffe lesson as well as the Level 2 lesson I did, she mentions looking at shapes. That’s a big thing with drawing, no matter what level you are!

It’s fun to see those shapes then turn into the project that you are doing. I am sure this is fascinating for younger kids that start out with basic shapes in their projects!

The instructor is very easy to listen too and she encourages you to pause not only throughout the lesson, but just every now and again to rest if you need it. You don’t want to rush!

Included is a close up image of the project so you can keep that open in another tab if you want to. It sometimes help to zoom in on something like that!

At the end she also mentions looking it over and changing anything that you think needs changing. Maybe a little shading, or make something a different shape. It doesn’t have to look exactly like hers! And then, most importantly, to sign your work!

I would definitely recommend the Drawing Program from Creating a Masterpiece to anyone, of any age! We had a blast a few years ago using different projects, you can read my review here of that if you are interested!

If you want to check out what projects others did in the Drawing Program, feel free to click the tab below! I am going to check them out because there will be so many different ages of people doing the projects. I like seeing how everyone does them differently!
Creating-a-Masterpiece-Beginner-to-Level-2-Drawing-Program-ReviewsCreating a Masterpiece Drawing Program


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