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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Kissing Bridge

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The Kissing Bridge is the third book in Tricia Goyer's Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series, and since I have not read the first two books, I can attest that this is a stand-alone book. Just enough background information is given so that readers get to know the characters and the prior events that impact the story, but not so much of a recap that the pacing of the book is disrupted. 

The main character of The Kissing Bridge is Rebecca, who suffered a tragic loss that causes her to make some major decisions that change her life. Her Amish lifestyle does change somewhat, but her faith remains strong, and she is determined to pursue a career that will help her community. Of course a handsome man enters the story, thus the "bachelor" in the series title! But, Tricia Goyer masterfully handles the romantic elements in a God-honoring way.

My favorite things about The Kissing Bridge are the well-developed, believable characters and the beautiful way Tricia writes. It is easy to get immersed in the story through the characters thoughts and the vivid descriptions of the setting. As this genre of fiction goes, The Kissing Bridge is not only a good story, but also really nicely crafted.

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Catch the Wind Harness the Sun

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Chock full of fun hands-on activities for kids, Catch the Wind Harness the Sun by Michael J. Caduto is a wonderful supplement to our science studies. My kids enjoy science and nature study, and their favorite parts are getting to do experiments and project themselves, as well as being outside. 

This book combines both with twenty-two projects, complete with step-by-step photos, complete supplies lists, and easy to follow instructions. Plus, there are extras like background history, stories, fill-out notebook pages, and follow-up points.

There are plenty of activities in Catch the Wind Harness the Sun to  do both indoors and outside, so we are able to find something we can do no matter the weather. In fact, some of the activities are geared toward certain types of weather so you can take advantage of sunny, windy, or even chilly days.

Different sections include:
  • Heating Up -- energy and power
  • Chilling Out -- carbon footprint and "green" living
  • Harness the Sun -- solar energy, electricity, and renewable energy
  • Catch the Wind -- wind power
  • Crank Up the Power -- magnetic attraction, generators, light
All of the activities in Catch the Wind Harness the Sun are designed to complement and build on each other to prompt kids to become better stewards of our planet. The kid-friendly design of this book, plus the wealth of information it contains make it a valuable resource that builds enthusiasm for learning.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What's That Bird?

We have a hanging bird feeder on our back porch, and it has been delightful to watch the different birds come and go now that spring is here. We always see traffic at that feeder, but this time of year is especially busy. We know certain birds on sight, but we’ve seen quite a few newcomers that we weren’t able to identify initially. 

My youngest son particularly likes to bird watch, and What’s That Bird? by Joseph Choiniere and Claire Mowbray Golding has been a great resource for introducing him to the world of birds. This book is a wonderful guide for beginners, and it is especially appealing to kids with its gorgeous photos and drawings, as well as its clear explanations. 

What’s That Bird? has a grid of little photos in the inside covers for quick identification, with page references to learn more about each type of bird. The book begins by teaching readers about bird anatomy: feathers, beak type, foot type, etc. Other chapters include diet, habitat, nests, babies, and more. Thirty common birds are featured in detail in a section of field guide-style pages. Plus, there are activity ideas, information on bird habits, and lessons on conservation.

I am using this book as a supplement to my son’s science lessons, and there is really enough material in it to turn it into a unit study on its own. What’s That Bird? is magazine-sized, so it fits nicely in our nature bag for on-the-go bird study.

What we’ve learned:

We have a Northern Mockingbird nesting in our holly tree.
The bird that sits on our van and gazes in the mirror all the time is an Eastern Bluebird. 
Some of the birds we’ve seen at our feeder are Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, and House Wren. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

World History Detective Book One

If you're looking for a history curriculum for next year, check out my review of World History Detective over at Home Educating Family Reviews:
World History Detective Book One: Ancient and Medieval Civilizations is an all-in-one teacher and student guide to ancient and medieval history. The book contains readings with maps and graphics, reproducible worksheets, writing assignments, and answer keys. There is a nice variety of graphic organizers, multiple choice, and written response questions. Each lesson follows the same pattern with a combination of written work after the reading selection. World History Detective can be used with Classical Historian’s Take a Stand! Medieval Civilizations.
I will preface this review by saying that I have mixed feelings about this curriculum. There is a lot to like about it, but I have some misgivings as a Christian parent about some of the content, so I’ll address that first.
{Click here to read the rest}

101 Color & Sing Bible Stories

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101 Color & Sing Bible Stories combines reading, coloring, and singing to introduce young children to the Bible. I think in is an ingenious way to present the stories of the Bible to children in a way that engages them and appeals to many different learning styles: visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners are all given a medium.

The resources for this book include two CDs containing songs that accompany the Bible stories in the book, along with a printable coloring page for each story. A guide note is included on each story page showing parents with coloring page to print out, which disc it can be found on, and a "Fun Fact" to share with kids. 

The songs are simple, with children's voices and an upbeat, modern tempo. The lyrics are repetitive so that even very young children can catch on quickly and join in singing. I find the CDs to be a bit glitchy on my computer, however, and had a few issues figuring out how to pull up the coloring pages. I might be doing something wrong, but I am also finding it difficult to start and stop the songs as I choose and not have them play on auto. Otherwise, I think 101 Color & Sing Bible Stories is a fun way to teach children God's Word in a manner that will generate enthusiasm.

Each story, accompanied by a Scripture reference, is very short (only about a paragraph in length), and features a full page image of cartoonish animated figures and scenes illustrated in and colors. The padded hardback book is visually appealing, and as a bonus, a black line printable drawing is available for each illustration in the book. The stories start with creation and include both New and Old Testament content.

All in all, this book is an excellent way to engage very young children, and I think it is most appropriate for preschool ages.
{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Stillness of Chimes

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With each book she writes, Meg Moseley just gets better and better. A Stillness of Chimes is her latest novel, my favorite one yet, and it is simply beautiful. The author's use of language drew me into the story right from the first haunting paragraph. 

A Stillness of Chimes is full of mystery, family secrets, love, and kudzu. When Laura revisits her Southern home town to handle her mother's estate, many memories from the past emerge, and Meg Moseley brilliantly unfolds the story as the truth is uncovered. The magical setting and memorable characters made me fall in love with this story and eagerly anticipate turning the next page.

I especially like the descriptive language the author uses to immerse you in the setting. Living in the South myself, I could really envision the scenes, but even readers who've never experienced the South's charm will find themselves feeling every bite of a mosquito in the humid, thick air:
"The world was holding its breath. No wind blew, not even enough breeze to move the chimes. She couldn't see them, hidden as they were by shrubs, but she imagined the silvery cylinders hanging motionless among the drenched leaves" (p. 209).
The plot is nicely done, with twists and plenty of questions to uncover, and the characters are realistically portrayed and made me care what happens to them.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Meg Moseley writes next!

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{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Monday, March 31, 2014

Below the Surface

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Below the Surface by Tim Shoemaker is the third book in the Code of Silence series. I have not read the other two books in this series, but my son and I plan to acquire them as soon as possible!

Written for young adults, Below the Surface hits the mark just right. There is suspense, danger, friendship, real-life problems, and adventure. All the things my son looks for in an entertaining read. I like the fact that this book is written from a biblical worldview, and that it is well-written; so, it is just the type of book I want my son to be reading for fun. 

The characters are well-developed, and the descriptive details really pull me and my son into the story:

"Cooper hesitated, listening for Hiro's voice to respond. Nothing. He clawed his way up the final ten feet and stepped onto what was once the bed of the railroad tracks. Now is was a hiking path. No railroad ties. No rails. And not Hiro.
He dashed halfway across the bridge and looked over the crumbling concrete wall to the river fifty feet below. 'Hiro!' Nothing but whitewater -- and dark fears." (p. 185)

We both find ourselves having a hard time putting the book down, wanting to read "just one more page." 

As for the aesthetics of Below the Surface, just take a look at the cover, and you'll see how intriguing it is. Plus, the book is divided into short, manageable chapters, so even reluctant readers can accomplish reading a few chapters each day easily. Seriously, this book is almost four hundred pages long, but there are 100 chapters!

Cooper, Gordy, Hiro, and Lunk are endearing characters who balance each other well. The setting is perfect for a summer read. And, the fast-paced plot and realistic dialogue all combine to create a fun escape for even the most reluctant readers. I think girls would enjoy this book as much as boys, but for this "boy mom," Below the Surface is on my list of good books for boys, which are often hard to find. 

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Monday, March 24, 2014

Giveaway & Review: TruthQuest History

Check out my full review and enter the giveaway at Home Educating Family Reviews!
As a homeschool mom to three children in three vastly spaced grade ranges, simplicity is my first priority in choosing curriculum. History tends to be my first consideration when choosing the rest of our resources, and I gear everything else around the time/cultures we are studying. With TruthQuest History: American History for Young Students III, I find that I can easily adapt it to include language arts, science, and even fine arts. 
TruthQuest History is unique, and you really have to take a closer look at it to understand its format. The author provides some commentary in each section, but the rest is primarily a resource list. Suggestions are given for books, films, and audio recordings that help to immerse students in the period being studied. American History for Young Students III is specially written for grades one through six and covers the history, art, culture, ideas, and spiritual truths of the modern era (1865-2000+). {Read the rest of my review and enter the giveaway here!}

Monday, March 17, 2014

Giveaway & Review: Vowel Owls

My review of Vowel Owls just published at Home Educating Family, and they are featuring a giveaway along with it this week. This toy is a fun way to practice phonics skills and bring a hands-on component to your language arts lessons. 
Making learning fun, especially for reluctant readers, is one of my constant goals in our homeschool. My kinesthetic learners especially benefit from manipulatives and hands-on activities instead of only traditional paper and pencil work. When a product is visually appealing to boot, it is a hit with my active boys. Vowel Owls has both characteristics with colorful owls, clear photographic picture cards, and hands-on components. 
“Who, who” can use Vowel Owls? 
Vowel Owls is a fun phonics/reading/vocabulary learning toy, which grabbed my son’s attention before I could get it out of the box! Consisting of six vibrantly-colored plastic owl cups (one blank and one for each of the vowels) and one hundred picture cards, this simple learning toy is full of possibilities.
- Click here to visit the HEDUA site and enter the giveaway for a chance to win Vowel Owls for your classroom!