Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review: Something Beautiful for God

Something Beautiful for God by Malcom Muggeridge

This book was originally published in 1971 and, apparently, was one of the very first books documenting Mother Teresa's work in Calcutta. It was republished in 2003 when she was beatified and I picked it up at a store-closing sale. (I hate when bookstores close, but I do like to buy their books when they do.) It's a short book and fairly easy to read, though there is much to ponder so it's worth spending some time on it.

The author quotes Mother Teresa "On Silence:"
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature -- trees, flowers, grass -- grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and sun, how they move in silence. Is not our mission to give God to the poor in the slums? Not a dead God, but a living, loving God. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within -- words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.
This is a succinct explanation on why we need to pray and that the result of prayer is the ability to better do God's work on earth.

In an interview with the author, she says:
I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us what matters is an individual. To get to love the person we much come in contact with him. If we wait till we get the numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers. And we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person. I believe in person to person; every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is only one person in the world for me at that moment.
In a world where everything must be supported by data, it's refreshing and important to remember that people are not numbers. Each person is loved into existence by God and must be greeted and loved and respected.

Blessed Teresa is not universally respected (though she perhaps is the closest person we have to such a thing in modern times), but there is no doubt that reading about her life is inspiring.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Real Learning

I've been hoping to read this book for many years, since early in our homeschooling journey. Our library was not able to procure it through inter-library loan, but my brother and sister-in-law selected it for me recently as a birthday present. Aren't they wonderful?

This book was published in 2003, when Elizabeth Foss's family was still young. She currently blogs at In the Heart of My Home, if you'd like to see what she's doing now.
The goal of such an education is to surround the child with noble people and books and other things with which to form relationships. For a Catholic parent, the first intimacy we want for our children is a true personal friendship with the Lord. (p. 26) 
The author quotes a lot from Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, and St. Edith Stein. Her philosophy of education is a combination of these ideas, so this isn't the best book if you're looking for an introduction to Charlotte Mason. I always think it's nice, though, to see people who are willing to take bits and pieces of different philosophies and create a homeschool that is perfect for their family.

Reading this book helped me realize how far I've come as a homeschooling mom. Many of her recommendations are books I've read and, shockingly, some of them I've decided I didn't like for our homeschool. It's not that they aren't fabulous resources; it's just that I have reached a point where I can pick and choose which I think will be best for us, which is exactly what she did.
Education is an art; it is not a science. There is no perfect method, perfectly applied, which will results in perfectly educated children. There is constant evaluation and adjustment. We cannot begin to outline at the beginning of kindergarten what we are determined to teach for the next twelve years. To do so would be to deny the possibilities of new ideas, new interests, new adventures. Instead, we accept that we cannot cover everything. We know that the holes are a part of the design, and that the design is an art. (pp. 88-89)
There is a nice section on supporting homeschooling parents with children with special needs, specifically mentioning something like sensory processing disorder.
The true fruit of my prayers for patience and understanding was the moment, real and palpable, when I suddenly understood that I needed to accept Christian as he is...There was nothing I could do about the fact that he was more content if I met his need for my presence. To nurture this child and to educate him, I had to give until it hurt. I had to stretch. (p. 169)
In the chapter on burnout, her description of burnout seemed awfully like depression to me. I liked her advice, much of which was similar to what has helped me when going through a temporary phase of chaos in our family, but I would encourage mothers to visit a health professional if those feeling persist.
You are not weak or inadequate if you need your husband's help to care for your family or educate your children. You are married (p. 214)
I did think the book seemed a little harsh for non-homeschoolers. Obviously, I think homeschooling is best for our family, but I know lots of people who send their children to Catholic or public schools who have prayed about that decision and know it is the best for their families.

If you're a Catholic new to homeschooling, you may find this book encouraging and helpful. I am glad I finally got a chance to read it and I've made a note to myself to revisit the Advent section when it's time to plan our own Advent season.

This review is my honest opinion. I received this book as a gift for my birthday. I'm not sure where it was purchased, I but I know you can find it at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts (not an affiliate link).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Catholic Company Book Review: Prayer

Pope Benedict XVI

I have been wondering a lot about prayer recently: why I pray, what I expect when I pray, what I should pray. When I saw this book in the list of review books for The Catholic Company, I knew I should request it. I was a little worried that Pope Benedict would be too academic, but was instead surprised at how applicable the book was.

Pope Benedict presented forty-five catecheses on prayer during his general audiences from May 4, 2011 to October 3, 2012 that were edited slightly to be published as a single book. Over the course of the book, he draws extensively from Scripture as well as the writings and experiences of a few saints.

I could have quoted from every chapter. There is so much richness in each one.
The Giver is more precious than the gift. For us too, therefore, over and above what God bestows on us when we call on him, the greatest gift that he can give us is his friendship, his presence and his love. He is the precious treasure to ask for and to preserve forever.
The most important result of my time in prayer is the development of my relationship with God. It is not about asking for something and receiving it (or feeling like I don't). It's simply about spending time with him so that he can change me and change how I act in the world.

My favorite chapter was the one on St. Paul. Pope Benedict explained three results of the work of the Spirit. The second of these (you'll have to read the book to learn the other two) is a complete trusting of the Lord despite any trials and suffering.
We understand that with prayer we are not liberated from trials and suffering, but that we can live through them in union with Christ, with his suffering, in the hope of also participating in his glory.
In the chapter on St. Alphonsus Mary Liguori:
More than anything else we need his liberating presence which makes us truly fully human and hence fills our existence with joy. And it is only through prayer that we can receive him and his grace, which, by enlightening us in every situation, helps us to discern true good and by strengthening us also makes our will effective; that is, renders it capable of doing what we know is good.
A final quote:
The more and the better we pray, with constancy, with intensity, the more like him we shall be, and he will truly enter into our life and guide it, bestowing up on us joy and peace.
I am still working through the purpose and results of prayer myself, but this book was a wonderful source of thought and contemplation for me. Though I did not stop while reading it to look up the Scripture references, I have noticed the themes standing out more clearly to me in my Scripture readings. I highly recommend this book; it's definitely one of my favorites of all The Catholic Company book reviews I've done over the years.

I received a review copy of this book.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Prayer - by Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: Theras and His Town

Theras and His Town
by Caroline Dale Snedeker

This book is recommended in the Connecting with History program (affiliate link) and as possible additional reading on Ancient Greece at Mater Amabilis for Level 2, so I decided to purchase it even though the cover was not enticing. I am so glad I did!

Theras is a young Athenian. The book begins on his first day of school and follows him and his family through a few years of life in Athens before tragedy strikes and he is forced to move to Sparta. Eventually, he journeys home again through adversity and danger. It's a wonderful story of courage, perseverance, loyalty, and friendship that manages to convey a lot of information on Athens and Sparta as well as the geography, culture, daily life, and achievements of Ancient Greece. In short, it's nearly everything good historical fiction should be.

I intend to ask First Son to read this independently next year, but it would be appropriate as a read-aloud story for all ages.

This review is my honest opinion. I purchased my copy of this book at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts (not an affiliate link). It is also available at RC History (an affiliate link).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Preschool Reading Around the World: Canada, Alaska, Artic, Antarctic

In the third term in this year's Reading-Around-the-World, we focused on books set in Canada, Alaska, the Arctic, and Antarctica, to correlate loosely with First Son's study of the Arctic and Antarctic.

A Cat in a Kayak by Maria Coffey, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, is a funny tale of a cat whose home is inundated with obnoxious noisy animals until Teelo thinks he can't stand it anymore, but when he sneaks off for some peace and quiet, he realizes home is a pretty good place to be. It's set in Canada, but there are only a few pages that really give a glimpse of the country. The children enjoyed it.

Under a Prairie Sky byAnne Laurel Carter, illustrated by Alan and Lea Daniel, is a small story of a young boy who wants to be a Mountie when he grows up. His father gives him a mission: to find his brother before a storm comes. So off he rides, showing us the land and animals all around their farm before finding his young (adorable) brother and bringing him home ahead of the storm. I liked this story more than the kids did.

Disappearing Lake: Nature's Magic in Denali National Park by Debbie S. Miller, illustrations by Jon Van Zyle, is a fantastic picture book about a lake the author and her family visited regularly which, like many lakes in Alaska, forms as the spring melts the snows and gradually disappears as the water seeps into the earth. It's beautifully illustrated and gives a wonderful glimpse of nature study at its best.

Kumak's House: A Tale of the Far North by Michael Bania is essentially the same story you'll find in It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale (another wonderful book). The author and illustrator lived in the Arctic as a teacher for 17 years, and the details in the book show that. There are in-depth explanations of many features at the end of the book. And it's a funny story.

The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale retold and illustrated by Lydia Dabcovich is the tale of an Inuit woman who raises a polar bear cub. He grows to be an excellent son, loyal, loving, and helpful, despite what any of the villagers thinks or says. I really liked the illustrations in this book.

Go Home, River by James Magdanz, illustrated by Diane Widom, is one of my favorite picture books. There's a wonderful blend of family, Inupiat culture, and natural science. The illustrations, painted in octopus ink, are lovely as well.

River of Life by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle, is a wonderful book exploring the banks of a river in Alaska throughout the year. It gently introduces the readers to a world of wildlife. The illustrations are rich with color and movement. This should probably have a post as one of my favorite picture books.

The Frog Princess: A Tlingit Legend from Alaska retold by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger, is the tale of a princess courted by many but dismissive of them all until a mysterious man appears who leads her into the lake.

Beyond the Northern Lights by Lynn Blaikie has relatively little text and lots of beautiful illustrations. I really enjoyed this book myself.

Kumak's Fish: A Tall Tale from the Far North by Michael Bania is the ultimate fish tale (inspired by a real story) that celebrates a community working together. The illustrations are delightful as well. Kumak is a favorite with the children.

Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews, illustrated by Ian Wallace, is the story of the first time Eva Padlyat walked the bottom of the seabed in search of mussels. It's a nice story of courage and accomplishment for young children.

The Blizzard's Robe by Robert Sabuda is a legend of the gift of the northern lights and is one of my favorite picture books. The illustrations are magnificent. This is a book worthy to read even if you aren't seeking out Arctic or Antarctic books.

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers is just wonderful. My children love many of Mr. Jeffers's books (especially Second Daughter, who laughs uproariously from beginning to end of Stuck), but he's not my favorite illustrator. This book, however, is probably my favorite Jeffers book with crisp sweet illustrations. If you haven't yet seen them, Mr. Jeffers has some wonderful vidoes. I like this one myself and you can even watch him read Stuck.

The Seasons and Someone by Virginia L. Kroll, illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi, is a brief glimpse of the year with a young Eskimo girl. There's a little culture, a little nature study, a little beauty, and a peaceful story wonderful to share with young children.

Penguin and Little Blue by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson, is one of many books about penguins at our library, but in this one the penguins attempt to adapt to a life of traveling celebrities, starting with a stay in a Kansas hotel. Hilarity ensures.

Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica by Jonathan London, illustrated by Julie Olson, is a great book for young children on the life of a newborn emperor penguin. It's probably not great literature, but it's entertaining and informative. The illustrations usually fill the two page spread.

Other Posts on Reading Around the World with picture books

Australia, New Zealand, and Hawai'i

Central and South America

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Favorite Picture Books: The Boy Who Held Back the Sea

The text of this book is fine. It's a retelling of a Dutch tale in which a young boy holds back the waters of a leak in the dike when he is not believed because he's a bit of a rascal. He stays all night at the dike, suffering through a thunderstorm, and presumably learning from the adventure to be more virtuous in the future. His behavior changes at the end, though it seems more like a trick by the grandmother telling the story than believable from the revelations in the story itself.

The illustrations, though, are magnificent. Thomas Locker has painted picture after picture, full pages in the style of the Dutch painters to give a grand feeling of the landscape and homes of the Dutch people. Flipping through this book makes me want to travel!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Quote: Prayer

Pope Benedict XVI in Prayer (a review copy):
His words are a precious reminder to us today, used as we are to evaluating everything with the criterion of productivity and efficiency...Without daily prayer lived with fidelity, our acts are empty, they lose their profound soul, and are reduced to being mere activism which in the end leaves us dissatisfied.
At the end of the chapter:
And there is another precious reminder that I would like to underscore: in the relationships with God, in listening to his word, in dialogue with God, even when we may be in the silence of a church or of our room, we are united in the Lord to a great many brothers and sisters in faith, like an ensemble of musical instruments which, in spite of their individuality, raise to God one great symphony of intercession, of thanksgiving and praise.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Homeschool Review: Claire Jordan Mohan books

Mater Amabilis schedules The Way of the Cross: A Story of Padre Pio and The Young Life of Saint Maria Faustina, both by Claire Jordan Mohan, to be read during the Easter season in Level 1A.

These are nice saint stories that focus on the youth of the saint while still telling a little of their adult lives. I read The Way of the Cross aloud to First Son in second grade (and First Daughter, who was five). We then discussed it a little rather than a straight narration. I thought we all enjoyed the book, though I know First Son doesn't remember much of Padre Pio. This book is ten chapters. Some of the chapters were a little long for First Son to follow and narrate well in second grade.

First Son read The Young Life of Saint Maria Faustina independently, then narrated it to me. First Son and First Daughter have sung the Divine Mercy chaplet in a children's choir for the past three years, so First Son could place those in context. St. Faustina is also one of my grandmother's favorite saints because they are both Polish. This book is eleven chapters. They seem like they might be a little longer than in The Way of the Cross, but they are also in a larger font. First Son seemed able to read and narrate them adequately in third grade.

Two years ago, when I was gathering materials for second grade, I had trouble finding The Way of the Cross. I finally found a copy on the website for a monastery (or something) in Canada. More recently, I found The Young Life of Maria Faustina used on Amazon for a reasonable price. There's no doubt that these out of print books are a little harder to find.

I think you could substitute another of Claire Jordan Mohan's biographies. I bought a copy of Katie, The Young Life of Mother Katharine Drexel when I purchased The Way of the Cross and will probably use it as a substitute in fourth grade for another out-of-print biography. Our library has two of her books: The Young Life of Pope John Paul II, which First Son read and enjoyed (not for lessons, just for fun), and St. Maximilian Kolbe: The Story of the Two Crowns. It seems like The Way of the Cross seems particularly hard to find, but some of the others are readily available used at reasonable prices.

Alternatively, I think a book from the Encounter the Saints series would be a good substitute. These are readily available, though it appears some of the individual books do go out of print and become harder to find. We have about ten of these books and have enjoyed them. First Son could probably have read one independently in second grade, though we may have broken some longer chapters up.

Another good option would be a book from the series being reprinted by Mary's Books, In the Footsteps of the Saints. We have a few of the Level 1 books, which First Son could have read independently in second grade. I don't have any Level 2 or Level 3 books (which are apparently available in some places already), but I talked with Linda at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts, who carried just about all of the available books in the series. She said the Level 3 books would be a bit easier than the Vision saint books, which are written at the fourth or fifth grade level. They would probably be wonderful substitutes and you could choose a saint dear to your child's heart or interests.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Quote: Prayer

Pope Benedict XVI in Prayer (a review copy):
Dear brothers and sisters, in our prayer we should look more often at how, in the events of our own lives, the Lord has protected, guided and helped us, and we should praise Him for all He has done and does for us. We should be more attentive to the good things the Lord gives to us. We are always attentive to problems and to difficulties, and we are almost unwilling to perceive that there are beautiful things that come from the Lord. This attention, which becomes gratitude, is very important for us; it creates in us a memory for the good and it helps us also in times of darkness. God accomplishes great things, and whoever experiences this--attentive to the Lord's goodness with an attentiveness of heart--is filled with joy.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review: The End of the Affair

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

This book is heart-breaking, but wonderful, startling in its honesty, beauty, and unwanted hope. You can read many reviews on Amazon telling about how deep and meaningful it is. Instead, I'll share a few of my favorite quotes.
I have never understood why people who can swallow the enormous improbability of a personal God boggle at a personal Devil. I have known so intimately the way that demon works in my imagination. No statement that Sarah ever made was proof against his cunning doubts, though he would usually wait till she had gone to utter them. He would prompt our quarrels long before they occurred: he was not Sarah's enemy so much as the enemy of love, and isn't that what the devil is supposed to be? I can imagine that if there existed a God who loved, the devil would be driven to destroy even the weakest, the most faulty imitation of that love.
From Sarah's diary:
I said to God, 'So that's it. I begin to believe in you, and if I believe in you I shall hate you. I have free will to break my promise, haven't I, but I haven't the power to gain anything from breaking it. You let me telephone, but then you close the door in my face. You let me sin, but you take away the fruits of my sin. You let me try to escape with D., but you don't allow me to enjoy it...What do you expect me to do now, God? Where do I go from here?'
 A priest responding to a comment about intercessory prayer for something small:
'Any sort's better than none. It's a recognition of God's power anyway, and that's a kind of praise, I suppose.'
And, to finish, a quote from near the end:
What I chiefly felt was less hate than fear. For if this God exists, I thought, and if even you -- with your lusts and your adulteries and the timid lies you used to tell -- can change like this, we could all be saints by leaping as you leapt, by shutting the eyes and leaping once and for all: if you are a saint, it's not so difficult to be a saint. It's something He can demand of any of us, leap.
In Sarah's experience, I see the desire to do what we are told is right even though it feels all wrong, and to struggle to act on the new knowledge and to persevere even when you want desperately to give it all up and go back. Only there's something...something that pushes us on. Is it love? Is it God?

I almost want to read it again immediately.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quote: Prayer

Pope Benedict XVI in Prayer (a review copy):
Silence is the environmental condition most conducive to contemplation, to listening to God and to meditation. The very fact of enjoying silence and letting ourselves be "filled," so to speak, with silence, disposes us to prayer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Favorite Picture Books: Peter Claver, Patron Saint of Slaves

illustrations by Rebecca Garcia-Franco

Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit priest who traveled to Colombia in the New World "in the time of explorers and sailors." Horrified by the institution of slavery, he dedicated his life to serving the slaves, tirelessly caring for them and advocating for them. It is a wonderful example of treating all people as we would treat Christ and of standing for what is right against a culture or society without being overbearing at all. The text and illustrations manage to convey the evil of slavery without being frightening for young children.

Though it is written about a Catholic saint, any Christian without qualms about saints in general would be able to read and enjoy this book with children.

I purchased this book directly from Paulist Press during their annual sale. I'm not sure how I received the catalog (it takes place only by mail), but I'm certain you can call to find out how to get on their mailing list.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Homeschool Review: More Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls

by Caryll Houselander, illustrated by Renee George

This book is scheduled as Lenten reading in Level 1A (second year) of Mater Amabilis. First Son independently read one story twice a week during Lent. Mater Amabilis does not recommend narration for these stories, but I asked First Son to tell just a little of what he read to make sure he paid a little attention. (At first I thought I would read them aloud again, but then decided I wanted First Daughter to have the pleasure of reading them herself in a few years.)

I wrote quite a bit in my review of Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls last year. This book continues in the same way with many more wonderful stories, the last of which is the same text found in Petook: An Easter Story. It was an appropriate story to read during Holy Week.

I highly recommend this book and Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Quote: Prayer

Pope Benedict XVI in Prayer (a review copy):
Man bears within him a thirst for the infinite, a longing for eternity, a quest for beauty, a desire for love, a need for light and for truth that impel him towards the Absolute; man bears within him the desire for God. And man knows, in a certain way, that he can turn to God, he knows he can pray to him.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Grammy and First Daughter dueling

Kansas Dad hits Grammy

Second Son needed help holding up the water gun

Second Daughter takes a break to get a drink

Then it was time for fireworks.

Including blowing up a banana

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Trip to Boston

These lovely ladies were the reason for my trip to Boston and it was delightful!

Let's hope it's not another five years before we're all together again.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

June 2013 Book Report

Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky is an interested science fiction story of what it might be like if intelligent life from another planet visited Earth, leaving behind remnants of their visit but neglecting to contact any human. (purchased as one of the Kindle Daily Deals)

The Cure of Ars by Milton Lomask is one I pre-read for First Son. It will be on a list of saint biographies he can choose to read next year. St. John Vianney is an inspiration to young boys who struggle in their studies. This is part of the Vision Book series from Ignatius. I've been collecting a few for our home library this summer. I wouldn't quite classify them as strict biographies. They seem more adoring than that, but I do think they are good literature for young Catholic readers. (purchased used on Cathswap)

The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green is on the Memoria Press list I've mentioned before and it's fantastic. First Son will be reading it next year in fourth grade, though I have made some notes on language I will want to explain, including a couple of inappropriate words. (library copy)

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter is on the list of classic children's literature for Level 2 in the Mater Amabilis curriculum. I had never read it and found it delightful. Pollyanna is not nearly the annoying girl in the movie I remember. The love interest is a little ridiculous but I don't think the kids will mind. I debated briefly about reading it aloud but decided instead to ask First Son to read it himself in fourth grade. Apparently there's a newer movie version that follows the book more closely. I haven't seen it yet, but I think we might watch it next year after First Son reads the book. (free Kindle Version)

St. Pius X: The Farm Boy Who Became Pope by Walter Diethelm is another Vision Book I pre-read for First Son. I think First Son would like reading about St. Pius X because he came from a small town (as we do) and because he instituted First Communion when children are seven or eight rather than when they are twelve or thirteen. (purchased used on Cathswap)

Why Bother Praying? by Richard Leonard, SJ, is the only book I purchased with birthday money. I've mentioned a few times I'm sensing a need to develop my prayer life more. I struggle, though, especially with intercessory prayer. I believe there can be miraculous answers to prayers like that, but I have to believe most of the time, the change must be in the person who prays. This author seems to have a similar feeling. I found his book easy to read and often refreshing and enjoyable. He talked about how prayer is about "creating a space within which we can encounter the love of God." This seems like a good introductory book on prayer for someone who hasn't prayed a lot or wonders what the purpose of prayer is. (purchased copy)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum was recommended by fellow homeschooling friends. I had never read it and have mixed feelings about the movie, but based on their recommendations, I pulled it up on my Kindle and read the entire thing on my flights home from Boston. It is wonderful, much more wonderful than the movie. In a little introduction, Baum mentions he wanted to write a fairy tale without any moral but I think perhaps he was not quite successful. (free Kindle version)

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell is the novella upon which the movie, The Thing, is based. I wanted something quick-paced and fun to read at the airport and this fit the bill exactly. (borrowed Kindle version from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library)

He and I by Gabrielle Bossis (a review for The Catholic Company)

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris (purchased copy)

Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfield is an enjoyable mystery set in ancient Rome written for young readers. It's one of the books recommended by Mater Amabilis for Level 2 additional history reading and is also found on the RC History booklist for volume 1 (affiliate link). While following a group of young boys on their adventures, we learn much about ancient Rome, logic, and problem-solving. I particularly like how the boys find assistance from adults around them. Originally I thought First Son might read it in fourth grade, but now I'm considering waiting until fifth grade when we'll be studying ancient Rome again. (

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy is pure fun with virtues as well like perseverance, courage, and friendship. The Princes Charming and their princesses are not quite living happily ever after and are struggling against the assumptions others make based on the slightly mistold tales of their adventures. It was on my list already, but wonderful reviews from friends encouraged me to read it right away. It's going to be First Son's next summer reading book and I think he'll love it. All those fairy tales we've read in The Blue Fairy Book and The Red Fairy Book will give him ample background to enjoy the humor. (library copy)

The Spartan Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins is on the list of possible books for independent reading on ancient Greece for Mater Amabilis Level 2. It's a very simple story of twins, Daphne and Dion, who live near Athens though they are Spartans. It shows much of life in Athens during the time of Pericles through a small adventure, as well as differences between Athenians and Spartans. It would be appropriate to read aloud to younger children, but I intend to ask First Son to read it himself in fourth grade. (free Kindle version, linked above)

Books in Progress (and date started)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Homeschool Review: Our Life with Jesus (Faith and Life 3)

Book 3 in the Faith and Life Series, Revised Edition

In third grade, we continued with the Faith and Life series for catechism. I find this series to be a solid Catholic source of basic information on the faith. I did not use the teacher's manual or the activity book in third grade. I would have liked the teacher's manual, but did not want to spend the money on it. As for the activity book, I knew First Daughter would want one as well and did not want to buy two, especially since she could not read much at all at the beginning of the year.

There is a new edition of this book, the third edition, that was recently published to address changes in the liturgy introduced a year ago. I was able to use the revised edition without any problem with the downloads Ignatius Press provides on their website. Used copies of the Faith and Life series seem to be widely available. I've gotten most of mine used from local families. If you are buying new, I recommend making sure you buy the third edition.

I asked First Son to read one chapter a week (on one day) and narrate it. He was able to read the content without any problems, though there is more text, printed smaller, than in Faith and Life 2. Each chapter includes catechism questions and sometimes quotations from the Mass or Scripture. I liked to use the catechism questions as discussion prompts after First Son's narrations, but we did not try to memorize them. Our catechism lessons usually took fifteen to twenty minutes, including First Son's reading, narration, and discussion.

There are thirty chapters in the book. I chose to put our catechism aside during Advent, so the number of chapters was perfect. It loosely follows salvation history, beginning with creation and moving through the Old Testament with Abraham and Moses, then into the New Testament with Jesus' birth, childhood, and Passion. Following Moses, there are a few chapters that expound on the Ten Commandments. In a similar way, there are a few chapters that delve more into the Mass after the chapter on the Last Supper. The chapters following Pentecost focus on the Church, Mary, and the Communion of Saints.

Unlike Faith and Life 2 (and more in line with the other Faith and Life books), Our Life with Jesus uses real paintings for most of the illustrations along with some photographs for many of the chapters on the Mass. The real art is a great benefit of this book.

I am satisfied with our catechism with the Faith and Life series. It seems to present the same information each year but slightly more in-depth, but I like that how clearly it teaches the faith and have decided I don't mind the review. We supplement our catechism with PSR, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, celebrations of the liturgical year, daily prayer, and many other activities. I therefore look to our catechism books to cover the basics so I am sure we aren't missing anything.

I have also posted reviews of the first Faith and Life book, Our Heavenly Father, and the second Faith and Life book, Jesus Our Life.