Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Homeschool Review: Genesis 1

Genesis 1: House of the Covenant by Mary Daly

This book is recommended for grammar level students (4th - 6th grades) in Volume 1 (Ancient History). Connecting with History is the study of salvation history and therefore begins with Creation. It explores the meaning of the creation story in Genesis and how it can be reconciled with current scientific theories.

Beautifully printed text appears on the left hand page. The right hand page is a black and white illustration with Biblical verses. It is a coloring book, with nice thick pages appropriate for colored pencils or crayons. First Son is not much interested in coloring, but a student could color the picture while listening to the text. Each day, I read one or two pages and asked First Son (who was ten) to narrate, though mostly we just talked through the thought-provoking ideas. I think it might have been difficult for him to read through the ideas on his own slowly enough for him to concentrate on them, but he was capable of discussing them with me.

The Catholic Church asserts God created the world, but we are free to assess the scientific evidence when considering the length of time in which He did so. (Read more in the Catechism.) This book reveals the truth and beauty of the creation account in Scripture as a complement to our reason and study of the natural world.
He has the power to make things quickly instead of slowly; He can do anything. But He could not mean for us to study the world, if He made it falsely, since we would never know when we were finding the truth and when we were finding falsehood.
Our faith teaches us that God He can neither deceive nor be deceived. He is our loving Father.
If you believe in a more literal reading of Genesis, you may not want to read this book with your child. I still recommend you find a copy for yourself to better understand the beliefs of those who believe in the truth of the Genesis account of creation in a less literal way.


All of the links above are affiliate links to RC History. I purchased Genesis 1 from RC History and have received nothing in exchange for this review. I do receive a small commission if you make any purchases at RC History. If you would like to visit the store without going through an affiliate link, you may do so by clicking here.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Demonstration of Cognitive Development (and the Lack of It)

On a rare trip to the big library with my children, I discovered The Bear Ate Your Sandwich in the new books section. As I started reading it to Second Son (who is four), Second Daughter (who is six) wandered over. In the book, a bear falls asleep in a truck and is transported to the city. He cavorts through the cityscape and plays at the park before discovering a sandwich left on a bench. On the final spread we discover the narrator, a sprightly little dog. Second Daughter laughed while Second Son waited patiently for the rest of the book.

I asked, "Do you think a bear really ate the sandwich?"

Second Son responds, "Well, yeah, because the whole book is about a bear."

Second Daughter, recognizing the joke, says, "No! The dog ate the sandwich!"

Second Son is still not quite sure...It might be a few years yet before he is.

Friday, May 22, 2015

An Allegory of the King

The King of the Golden City: An Allegory for Children by Mother Mary Loyola, illustrated by John Watson Davis

There is a new study guide version available from Amazon, but we have the illustrated version I linked above. My children appreciated the illustrations by Davis. You can find our edition new at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts.

This book is an extended allegory of Dilecta's life, how the King seeks her and her love, how the Prince Guardian protects and guides her, and how she forms herself to serve the King in this life and prepare herself for life in the Golden City in the next. Inexpert at deciphering allegories, I still neglected to find or use a study guide for this book. Years ago, Catholic Heritage Curricula provided a free study guide you could download from their website, but instead they now offer one you can purchase. I remember looking at the free one years ago and decided against using it with my children, back when my oldest was in second grade. I tell myself the lack of a study guide allows us to discover the allegorical layers on our own, perhaps uncovering more each time we read it.

I vaguely remember reading this book when First Son was in second grade, preparing for his First Communion, three years ago. Mainly, I remember neither of us enjoyed it particularly and I was relieved when we finished it. I was therefore a little reluctant to read it this year as First Daughter prepared for her First Communion. It was only an adoration hour with my children that prompted me to begin it with them. Surprisingly, I found the children and I both enjoyed it more the second time we heard it. I discovered the chapters were much shorter than I remembered. We often read two or three at a time. First Son (at 11) listened without complaint. First Daughter (at 8) delighted in delving into the allegory. Even Second Daughter (at 6) and I discussed Dilecta's battles with Self to do what she knew she ought rather than what she desired in the moment.


Many parts of the book seemed to speak to me in particular this spring. The Prince Guardian says:
"[Y]ou did wrong just now by not listening to me. Do not do more wrong by listening to Malignus, who wants to make you discouraged and unhappy. Our dear King is very kind, very forgiving. he knows his little Dilecta really wants to love and please him, but that she is very weak. Tell him now that you are sorry. As soon as you see that you are doing what he does not like, stop doing it. Tell him you are sorry you began to do it, and he will forgive you. Then go on as before. Try again as if you had never saddened him. Do this as often as you fall into any fault. Get up at once as you would if your foot slipped in crossing a road. You would not sit there crying till a motor came and drove over you. But you would jump up at once and go on as before, very little the worse for your tumble, perhaps even the better for it because it would make you more careful in the future."
I still do not like the part of the book where a fire seems to smite (and kill) a large number of sinning people in the book. I don't think it's the best example of how sinning hurts us, nor do I like how little Dilecta seems to sorrow for their suffering. My children, however, seemed not to notice this part of the book much, even my soft-hearted First Daughter.

We'll read this book at least once more, closer to when Second Daughter and Second Son receive their First Communions.

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. Links to Catholic Heritage Curricula and Sacred Heart Books and Gifts are not affiliate links. I purchased my copy used years ago at a book sale within our homeschool group.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Book in Verse to Add to Our Kansas Study

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

May B is eleven and living in a sod shanty with her family in Kansas. She's never been able to learn to read fluently despite all her efforts. Desperate for money, her parents allow her to work for a "neighbor" twenty miles away, serving a new and unhappy bride in the loneliness of the prairie. After the bride tries to leave and her husband doesn't return from following her, May is left alone. Her struggles with reading, loneliness, hunger, and numbing cold intertwine.

Written in verse, the poetry of the solitude and sweep of the prairie world is haunting. Though May eventually finds the courage and strength to escape her predicament, this book is more stark and harsh than many pioneer books. I had considered reading it aloud next year during our Kansas study, but I think instead I will ask First Daughter (who will be 9 before the end of the year) to read it independently.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Difference in Personalities

Thanks to Story Warren, I watched Young Feathers with my children last weekend.



A few minutes in and Second Daughter (6) yells, "I want to do that!"

A few more minutes and First Son (11) quietly remarks, "That must be a little scary."

(By the end, First Son decided the jetmen survived alright so he would like to try it, too.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Review: Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill

The Little House on the Prairie books at our house are disintegrating, thanks to the repeated readings of my daughter. When I saw this book mentioned, I requested it from the library and had to wait months for my chance at a copy. The main text is Laura Ingalls Wilder's first draft of her memoir, shared with her daughter and modified two or three times in continued failed attempts to find a publisher for a memoir written for adults. Later, she and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, expanded on different parts of the memoir to write the children's books and other fiction.

The real treasure of this edition, however, are the annotated notes. The editor (and presumably a team of assistants) sought evidence of each person mentioned in the memoir, his or her relationship to the Ingalls family, and their fates in life. They attempted to identify every animal, bird, and flower, often commenting on the interaction between early pioneers and the environment. They researched historical events and attempted to place episodes of Laura's life in time despite a lack of dates in her memoir. Illustrated with photographs, simplified maps, and other artifacts as well as illustrations by Helen Sewell and Garth Williams, it is a feast for anyone interested in the real Laura Ingalls Wilder and pioneer life.

The extensive index is ideal for those who want to ask about one particular person or experience, but I read the entire book cover to cover with delight. I was impressed at the evidence for Wilder's growth as an author and how she skillfully molded events and experiences in her own life into those of a fictional family that epitomized her ideal of American pioneers.

Highly recommended!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Book Review: The Perfect Egg

The Perfect Egg by Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park

We've had chickens grazing here on the Range for almost six years (in fact, it will be six years next month) and have learned to enjoy eggs for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. We are always watching for new recipes, though have a solid repertoire already. Kansas Dad, especially, has perfected his skills for a number of egg presentations.

When I saw this book offered by Blogging for Books, I couldn't resist requesting it even though I doubted it could have many new-to-us recipes. I was mistaken!

It seems like this book focuses on innovative ways to present the egg. The Morning section was our favorite include recipes like Mediterranean-Style Baked Egg Boats, Arepa de Huevo (which I haven't tried yet because I haven't found masarepa), Egg Bhurji (an Indian take on scrambled eggs, which is a new dinner favorite here on the Range for the grown folks), Egg Clouds, and Gyeran Bbang (a Korean street food that was delicious but made a horrible mess of my muffin pan). Of course, there are versions of croissants, pancakes, and eggs benedict as well. For many recipes, like pancakes, deviled eggs, and egg salad, a base recipe is presented along with a variety of options for modifying it, encouraging tailoring the recipe to your own tastes (or what you have in your pantry).

In the days of internet recipes and search engines, cookbooks are not necessary for learning how to cook or bake something delicious and healthy. The authors' personal comments for each recipe are like reading a letter from a friend about a recipe we simply must try. More than anything, though, contemporary cookbooks provide beautiful photographs of the food and this cookbook has a full page photo for every recipe.

I'm pleased to have this cookbook on our shelf.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are my own.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Third Grady State Study: Kansas and the United States

Almost three years ago, First Son did a study of Kansas history and state symbols, mainly because I did something like that when I was in third grade (for Georgia) so it seemed appropriate. I remember a lot about Georgia from that time and hoped First Son learned to know and love his home state a little better. I never wrote about it on the blog, but I've been thinking about it again because First Daughter will be in third grade next year. I'm going through my plans and modifying them a bit. This post is partly a review of what First Son did and a plan for what First Daughter will do next year.

Kansas (From Sea to Shining Sea) by W. Scott Ingram was First Son's main "text" book and I liked it very well. It is written at a level good for second or third graders to read independently but still gives lots of information.

Week 1
Chapter 1- Narrate. Draw a map of Kansas. Draw a sunflower.

Week 2
Chapter 2 - Narrate. For a notebook page, describe the three regions (Dissected Till Plains, Osage Plains, Flint Hills). What are the two main river systems? Add them to your map of Kansas.

Weeks 3 - 8
Chapter 3 (a history of Kansas) pp 17-22, pp 22-29, 30-34, 34-39, 39-43, 43-46 - Narrate each week.

Week 9
Chapter 4 - Narrate. What are the three branches of Kansas's state government? Describe them. What is the capital? Add it to your map.

Week 10
Chapter 5 - Narrate. Add some of the places mentioned to your map. Write pages for two of the places, drawing pictures and making notes.

Week 11
Kansas State Seal coloring page. Read the text on the coloring sheet and at this website. - Narrate.  We checked out How to Draw Kansas's Sights and Symbols from the library, just for fun.

Week 12
Kansas state flag coloring page. Research the state flag (some information is here). Narrate and color the flag for your notebook.

Week 13
Governor - Make a notebook page for the governor. Include where the governor was born, how long the governor has been in office, how else the governor has served in Kansas and any interesting facts.

Week 14
Make a notebook page for the state song. Write the lyrics and add drawings to illustrate it. The Higley text is the official state song. It's pretty long, so I printed the lyrics for First Son. I may have First Daughter just copy the first few verses. (We are familiar with this song, but if not, we would learn to sing it and work on memorizing it.)

Week 15
Bison for Kids by Todd Wilkinson - Narrate.
Make a notebook page on the bison. Include a drawing and some notes.

Week 16
Winter Wheat by Brenda Z. Guiberson - Narrate. Make a notebook page for it. Be sure to tell why it's important in Kansas.

The official Kansas study finished, we used time in the rest of the year to memorize states and capitals with States and Capitals Songs. I copied the CD onto the Kindles and let the children listen once a week. They all love the little songs, though they get repetitive for adults pretty quickly. More than two years later, my six year old will still ask to listen to them occasionally.

I worked with First Son to memorize the state abbreviations and postal codes using Learn the States and Postal Abbreviations. I thought this would be useful for First Son, but eventually decided it wasn't worth our time to worry about memorizing them.

We also read from My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States occasionally during our weekly poetry time. (I would read poems from the book and we'd enjoy them together.) We often played the Scrambled States of America game, which is fun. Even non-readers can play if you adapt the game a little.

Melissa and Doug Wooden USA Map Puzzle can be useful in addition to mapwork on paper. We've had this puzzle for about ten years and it's still in great condition. We managed to keep the pieces safe by keeping it up high and only bringing it down when requested when we had babies and toddlers. Now that our youngest is four, it's still on a shelf, but low enough for any of the kids to use at any time.

For First Daughter next year, I'm going to modify the study a little. We'll start with Me on the Map. I intend to have her draw a map of her room, a map of our house, a map of the area around our house (being in the country, we don't really have a neighborhood), and label a county map. (The county names can be found here. This activity is useful in case of a tornado watch or storm moving through, familiarizing her with our county and the counties near us.) She can already find Kansas on a map of the United States and the US on a world map.

Then we'll read Kansas and go through the rest of the state study (seal, governor, flag, etc.). At the end, I'm adding a week for her to read Amelia Earhart: Adventure in the Sky by Francene Sabin. A biography with more detailed information and lots of photographs, Amelia Earhart: A Life in Flight, will be lying around if she's interested in learning more. The following week, I'll ask her to look through the photographs in The Four Seasons of Kansas.

First Daughter will then listen to the states and capitals songs, about one song a week or more often if she likes. She'll finish the year by reading Smart About the Fifty States.

In addition, I might offer some independent reading set in Kansas. Many of these books are use din our American history, so it just depends how our history studies match up. If it's something we'd read in a few months for history, I'll wait. If we wouldn't read it during the year, I'd provide it as an option for First Daughter's independent reading.

Wagon Wheels, Level 3, Grade 2-4 (I Can Read) by Barbara Brenner is a early reader book that tells an exciting story based on real life.

Pioneer Summer, Cabin in the Snow, and Our Kansas Home by Deborah Hopkinson is a trilogy set just as the settlers in Kansas territory were debating whether to become a free or slave state.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - of course! First Daughter has read this book many times already, so it won't be an option for her, but First Son did read this in third grade.

From Kansas to Cannibals: The Story of Osa Johnson by Suzanne Middendorf Arruda is the true story of a young woman from Kansas who traveled to exotic locations around the world making films with her husband of wildlife and native peoples. This book works really well in third grade for us as it covers both Kansas and jungle life, coordinating with our Jungle Islands study. Be aware the attitudes of Osa and her colleagues are very different from those we expect today regarding conservation and diversity which can prompt discussions. You can find many examples of her work on youtube, too.

Additionally, I'll put some Kansas picture books in book baskets for Second Daughter or Second Son.

Aunt Minnie McGranahan and Aunt Minnie and the Twister by Mary Skillings Prigger
Going West by Jean van Leeuwen
Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst - This book isn't really about Kansas, but Henry wisely uses Kansas wheat in his waffles and the depiction of advertising is too funny to miss.
S is for Sunflower: A Kansas Alphabet by Devin Scillian - I never read all the words in books like these to my little ones, but the older ones might like reading it themselves.

Some fun picture books of all the states:
How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. by Marjorie Priceman
The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller
America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates, illustrated by Chris Gall

Finally, I'm really hoping to add some Kansas travel to our year. I don't often travel alone with the children, so our travels will depend on a combination of when Kansas Dad can get away and how adventurous and brave I am. Some of the sites I'm considering are: Topeka, Abilene, the Martin and Osa Johnson Museum, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the Cathedral of the Plains, and the Flint Hills. Over the summer and in early fall, we're planning to visit the Little House on the Prairie Museum and Old Cowtown Museum. Kansas Trail Guide: The Best Hiking, Biking, and Riding in the Sunflower State has me dreaming...

Monday, May 4, 2015

April 2015 Book Reports

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is the tragic story of a family devastated by the Revolutionary War. I appreciated the attempt to show the Tory side of the war and how families were divided. I felt like the end was unnecessarily hopeless. It would be much too violent to read aloud to my younger children (who will be 9, 7, and 5 next year), but I think I'll even look for something else for my 11 year old son to read. (library copy)

Bright April by Marguerite De Angeli is the endearing story of a young black girl. Her Brownie troop is a prominent part of her life so nature study forms a background for much of her education. On a special trip, she suffers discrimination and prejudice but with some wise advice and comfort endures to develop a friendship instead. I plan to read this aloud to the family next year. I think Second Daughter (who will be 7) will particularly enjoy it. (library copy)

Mysteries of Life in Children's Literature by Mitchell Kalpakgian - my review. (inter-library loan)

Cinnabar, the One O'Clock Fox by Marguerite Henry was recommended by someone in the Read-Aloud Revival facebook group. As we're just approaching the beginning of the Revolutionary War in our American history, I thought we could give it a try even though I hadn't read it myself. I thought it was a fine book, but my children all loved it. They begged for me to read from it first every day. It's not particularly historical and, I think, made fox hunting out to be a bit less cruel than it really is, but it was fun. (library copy)

The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket. We listened to this book on audio CD. I was pleased to point out the reference to Damocles to my daughter since we had read that myth earlier this year. We also had a good discussion about how authors choose names for characters that tell us more about them (like Captain Sham). The author reads this one, and he's a better author than narrator. (library copy)

Anna and the Baby Buzzard by Helga Sandburg with fantastic illustrations by Brinton Turkle is a book I found while searching the library catalog for something else. I just love Turkle's illustrations. Anna steals a baby buzzard from a nest (the saddest part of the book) and raises it as her own, learning to let him grow up and be a buzzard. Second Daughter is fascinated by birds and will just love this book. I intend to read it aloud next year. It's a bit long to consider it a picture book, but it is not a chapter book either. (library copy)

A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean is the story of a girl who stops talking about a year after her mother's death, the blind-deaf boy who befriends her, and the dog who attaches himself to them both. Somehow it all comes together. Cally sees her dead mother, which is a little weird. I can't decide if she's supposed to be a ghost or if Cally is imagining her; the text isn't definitive. This is a middle grade book, touching on themes of loss, family, loving parents who might not know the best thing to do, and being comforted. This will be an option for First Daughter next year in third grade. (library copy)

El Deafo by Cece Bell is a graphic novel based on the author's life after she becomes deaf as a young child. She invents a alter-ego superhero to help her navigate elementary school. My children love this book, especially my 8 year old daughter. I think some of the references to a crush in fifth grade were unnecessary, but generally liked the way the tale is accesible to those who are not deaf, giving some insight into what it is like to be deaf and how important friendships and honesty are, especially when someone's life is so different from your own. As a interesting side note, one of our librarians is deaf. She used an aid like the one in the book but didn't have as good an experience with it and eventually stopped using it. (library copy)

King David and His Songs by Mary Fabyan Windeatt is a biography of King David in which the author imagines him singing one of his psalms throughout his life, with one psalm in each chapter. David's sins are appropriately presented for kids of all ages (as well as his penintence), but this isn't the kind of book that explores his life in great depth. My children enjoyed listening to this biography, recommended for Volume 1 of Connecting with History. (purchased copy)

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes - my review. (library copy) 

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo was recommended on a facebook thread for the Read Aloud Revival group. Our library had an audio copy available and we needed something for the van, so I requested it...and absolutely loved it. This book may be one of my favorites of all time. There's courage, goodness, honesty, and kindness, in a world that's a little bit silly. (library copy)

Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization by Scott Hahn was the book selected for the adult education class at our parish. Overall, I'd have to say I don't recommend it. Though I don't think it was intentional, the depiction of Protestants seemed more negative than positive (or even neutral). I felt like Dr. Hahn wrote this book really quickly off the top of his head in order to have a book on the shelves focused on the New Evangelization and I think he probably has better books, though I haven't read anything else he's written. (borrowed from the parish)

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry is another book set in Port William. This one tells the life of Jayber Crow, a bachelor barber who falls in love with a woman married to another man and remains faithful to her in secret until her death while her unfaithful husband ruins her family's land in a quest for a bigger and more industrialized farm of modern America. It's not quite as grim as it sounds, but was not as near lovely as Hannah Coulter. (library copy)

I also finished Minn of the Mississippi, Galen and the Gateway to Medicine, and Our Lady's Book. I read these just ahead of First Son, who read them independently in school this year (fifth grade). I may write homeschool review posts of them at some point. (all purchased copies)


Books in Progress (and date started)
Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). My homeschooling budget is always grateful for any purchases. 

Links to RC History are affiliate links.

Links to Sacred Heart Books and Gifts are not affiliate links.

These reports are my honest opinions.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book Review: As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden

The Princess Bride is the most important movie from our college lives. Kansas Dad's friends watched it repeatedly, even assigning roles to each person that would be recited in chorus with the movie. (Kansas Dad was the clergyman.)

In this memoir, Cary Elwes (Westley) eloquently and touchingly shares his love of the movie. All along the way, the producer, director, and other actors chime in through interviews with their own memories. A book like this shows how making movies can bring joy and goodness into our culture, both through a movie itself, but also through the relationships of those who create it together.
I also think there is a reason everyone involved with The Princess Bride still enjoys talking about it more than twenty-five years later: it really was that much fun. There's a certain pride in the finished produce, of course, and of being forever associated with such an enduringly popular movie. But it's the process itself that I remember most, and how much fun it was to go to work every day.
Being enamored of The Princess Bride ourselves, I thought perhaps we would have already heard all the stories from behind the scenes, but many of them were new even to Kansas Dad. Our children also love this movie and I'm comfortable sharing this book with them. First Son might like to read it, or perhaps we'll all listen to the audio CD version.

If you haven't seen the movie, go watch it now. In fact, watch it a few times. Then you'll appreciate this book all the more.