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Saturday, 28 May 2011
The Compassion Bloggers Are At It Again!
Topic: Compassion International
The Compassion Bloggers are taking another trip. This time to the Philippines. Five bloggers and three trip leaders are going to be blogging about their interactions with Compassion International and the Compassion kids in this great island country. It is always a blessing to read the posts of those who are contributing. Just click on the banner above to get to the official trip site.
Friday, 27 May 2011
Read for the Heart - It'll Do Your Heart Some Good!
Topic: Homeschool Product Review
This is my last TOS Homeschool Review this year. It is rather sad. I am returning to the TOS Homeschool Crew for another year, though, so there will be a lot more reviews to come!
However, as the saying goes, I've saved the "Best for Last". At least one of the best. It's one of my favorite items this year anyway.
But enough chit-chat. So what is this great item? It's Sarah Clarkson's book Read for the Heart published by Apologia.
I can hear it now, "What! Another book?!".
Yes, another book, but it is a good one. It's not just a book ~ it's a book about books ~ good wholesome books that we should all have in our family libraries.
Let me tell you a little bit about the TOS Homeschool Crew. Sometimes they tell us about an upcoming item, let you research it a little and then fill out an interest form if you think it would be good for your family. You don't always get it if you fill the form out, and, sometimes, you are chosen to get an item even if you didn't fill out a form for it. They just want to know interest.
Anyway, when I looked at this book on the Apologia website, one of the first things that I noticed is that, in the appendix, the author had a complete list of G. A. Henty books. Now G. A. Henty has written some great historical fiction books but isn't a really well known author. I've seen lots and lots of lists of books that are "must reads" or that you "have to have in your children's libraries". I've learned to take lists with a grain of salt. However, when I saw that this book had a Henty list, I knew that it had to be different so I filled out the interest form.
And I was right! This book is different. Sarah Clarkson begins by making a case for why families should be reading good literature. She talks about what has happened to literacy in America and how to change that in your household. She continues with how to change your reading lifestyle and how to use her book to help you get started. She then lists some great books to consider adding to your library.
But it's not just a list of books, it's a list of great books that are in different genres of children's literature. Sarah Clarkson recommends: good children's picture books; "Golden Age Classics"; children's fiction; fairy tales and fantasy; history and biography; spiritual reading; poetry; and music, art and literature. But they aren't just lists. She explains why this author is a good author and why this book is a good book. Not only does she explain why the author and book is good but why we should read those types of books.
She doesn't stick with just the usual authors, either. She has done her research and mentions some unusual or not well known authors and books. G. A. Henty is an example, as is Gene Stratton Porter.
I really can't say enough about Read for the Heart. I have pored over her book and enjoyed reading about books that she grew to love as a child. I've been intrigued by the reasons why she likes a specific genre or author. And, last but not least, I've enjoyed reading some of the recommended books myself.
I'm going to tell a little secret about myself and give you, my readers, some neat information. Copyrights on books expire after so many years. If the author or family doesn't pick up the copyright, it goes into public domain and any company can print the book and sell it. It also means, though, that any book can be reprinted on the internet and be downloaded for free. There are lot's of online sites that offer free classics. And I'm talking classics like Tom Sawyer, Pride and Prejudice, etc. Recently we bought a used tablet - you know, one of those hand held computer's and I have downloaded a bunch of free books to read.
So, what does that have to do with Sarah Clarkson's Read for the Heart? Well, I have been so excited about some of the titles that she's recommended, I've searched for them and downloaded them! So far I have read three of the books that she's suggested, The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling and Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter. I'm now reading another Porter novel, Girl of the Limberlost. And, get this, I downloaded them all for free! Starting a family library of good books doesn't need to cost a lot of money. Now I'm reading Just So Stories to the boys and they love it. It has been great family time and that's exactly what Sarah Clarkson wants ~ a family that reads good wholesome literature together and on their own.
As you can see, I'm really excited about this book. It has begun to change my reading habits and the reading habits of my children for the better. And, it has also brought good family time back into our lives. This book is a must have!
So, how much is this book? Just $17.00! You'll make up for the cost of it by downloading all of the recommended books that you'll find for free. Just click here or on any one of the above hi-lighted links for more information on this and other great books by Apologia. Click here to find out what other TOS Crew members thought about this book. Happy Reading!
As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent a free copy of Read for the Heart in order to read and review on my blog.
Thursday, 26 May 2011
Eagle's Wings: Considering God's Creation
Topic: Homeschool Product Review
Okay, this is one of those, "I would have never tried this until I reviewed it and now I love it", type reviews.
I think I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that, although I always liked science, I was never any good in my science classes. That's why I struggle sometimes to teach science to my kids. This year, however, I have been very blessed to review a couple of good science resources. Considering God's Creation is one of the best! I am so glad that we were chosen to review it.
When we began homeschooling with John Allen, we found a very popular and well written science curriculum for him to use. We loved it and he loved it and we have chosen to keep using it. Children, as you all well know, can be different. What works with one doesn't always work with another. I think Joshua may someday be ready for the same books that his brother uses, but not yet. So, I have been piecing together science things for him to use. A unit study here, a lap book there, reading assignments added in, a book found at a used book store - you get the picture. When we received Considering God's Creation and I began to look it over I realized that this was the one for Joshua.
Let me tell you what I like about this course and then I will tell you how Joshua has reacted to it.
All right, I think I've gushed enough about how much I like Considering God's Creation. Joshua really likes it as well. This is right down his alley. As I mentioned above, we are going to use this next year with him. Remember, if a review item makes it into our everyday homeschool it's got to be good! If he really likes it (and I'm sure he will) and if we don't want to use one of those "study one topic in a year" studies that John Allen did, I may even use this for two years. The second year we can do some of the digging deeper things. That's the beauty of this curriculum. You could use it in a variety of ways. Do what I said above or extend each lesson and make it a one, two, three or more week lesson by doing the notebook and then the digging deeper studies. Or, if you have children of different ages using it at one time, you can do the basic stuff together then, while the youngers are doing the notebook, the olders can be doing digging deeper stuff.
AAHHH - I've got to stop exuding and finish this review!
Now we get down to the nitty-gritty. This curriculum is adaptable for kids in 2nd through 7th grades and the student book (that can be copied for kids in the same family), teacher's book, and the CD are...get ready for this...just $29.95 . If you plan to use this in a co-op situation or if you just want your kids to have separate student books they are just $13.95 and the audio CD's are just $3 if you want an extra one of those. The company that makes Considering God's Creation is called "Eagle's Wings" and has all kinds of great curriculum. You can check it all out by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. As always, different members of the TOS Homeschool Crew reviewed this item and you can find out what they thought by clicking here. Happy Home Educating!
As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent free copies of the Considering God's Creation Teacher's Book, Student Book, and audio CD in order to try out and review on my blog.
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Fully Engaged - How to Do Less and Be More - A First Wild Card Blog Tour Book
Topic: Book Reviews
My mom used to quote an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying, "The hurrier I go the behinder I get." You know, the more I think about it, the more I think that it's true. When we "run around like chickens with our heads cut off", hardly anything gets done. That's true in our everyday physical lives and in our spiritual life as well. That's what Fully Engaged addresses. I really like this book. What an awesome idea! Instead of hurrying up to get more things done - slow down. Check out the information below.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Summerside Press (May 1, 2011)***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
John Busacker is president of The Inventure Group, a global leadership-consulting firm, and founder of Life-Worth, LLC, a life planning creative resource. He is a member of the Duke Corporate Education Global Learning Resource Network and is on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Carlson School’s Executive Development Center.
In 2009, Busacker released his first book, 8 Questions God Can’t Answer, which unlocks the profound power of Jesus’ timeless questions. He annually teaches in a variety of emerging faith communities and supports the development needs of leaders in Africa through PLI-International.
John is an avid explorer, occasional marathoner, and novice cyclist. He and his wife, Carol, live in Minneapolis and have two adult sons, Brett and Joshua.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Doing less is typically equated with laziness in our culture, but on a recent trip to the Serengeti plain, author John Busacker learned that doing less can actually be a very productive strategy for living. As Busacker and his family realized that they were lost in the wilds of Africa, their guide, Moses, stopped and waited for a new course to emerge. Within moments, the family was back on the right path. What John learned that day was the power of what can happen when he stopped DO-ing in order to focus on BE-ing found.
In the same way, says Busacker, we have to allow our internal GPS to stop and recalculate the direction of our life. As we do so, we’ll find greater abundance, contentment, and peace of mind. If you are like most people who feel lost on the road of life, Busacker’s new book, Fully Engaged: How to Do Less and Be More, is perfect for you. Fully Engaged encourages and equips us to move beyond what Busacker calls an “air guitar life”—a life of furious motion and considerable energy, but in the end one with no sound and little lasting impact. In a world filled with noise and fury, Busacker offers a measured and wise strategy for living that is marked by three key components: 1) Awareness, 2) Alignment, and 3) Action.
· Living with Awareness means that, instead of piecing together random moments, you begin to live intentionally. By doing so, you no longer measure your life worth by your pay check, but by your attitude.
· Living with Alignment ensures that what you have and what you do match what you really want out of life. It means that your job is not simply a means to make money, but a calling to be pursued with vigor.
· Living with Action compels you to move in directions that propel you toward an exhilarating future. This means that you’re not afraid to fail and that setbacks are to be celebrated as progressive steps on the journey of success.
List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (May 1, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Measure Your Worth
Your life is worth so much more than money.
It seemed like a good plan at the time.
Seven years ago, our family decided to spend spring break in Tanzania, East Africa. One night, we stayed in a quaint African lodge on the edge of the Serengeti Plain. The plan was to wake up at dawn, drive out into the vast national park at first light, and see who was eating whom for breakfast. By noon, we were to have made it to the gate of the Ngorongoro Crater, intending to venture down in for additional afternoon wildlife viewing.
Of course, nothing on an African safari goes exactly according to plan. It rained during the night, so what passes for roads quickly transformed to goo-filled ruts. Our guide, Moses, was forced to navigate by feel, having neither a map nor GPS.
It became increasingly clear that we were driving in circles, making no progress toward the Ngorongoro Crater. Not wanting to sound any alarms, as discreetly as I could I leaned forward and quietly inquired, “Moses, are we lost?”
What followed was a rapid-fire conversation between Moses and Ramos, our driver. Having limited Swahili vocabulary but reading the body language and urgency of tone, I was guessing that this was not good news!
After about a minute, Moses leaned back, looked straight at Carol, and delivered the verdict: “We could be.”
Carol, who is an intensive-care nurse by background and who values both having and then executing an orderly plan, began to envision our imminent death at the mouths of the same lions we had just observed eating a Grant’s gazelle for breakfast.
I knew what our older son, Brett, was thinking by the gleam in his eye. He who has never seen a 50-foot cliff he didn’t want to drop on a snowboard and authentically values adventure, especially accompanied by a little danger, was thinking, This is AWESOME! I’m the fastest guy in the car! So what do I have to worry about anyway?
Humans, it is said, are the only animals that speed up when lost. This is especially true of American humans.
Moses, our guide, did the exact opposite. Rather than speed up, he came to a complete stop and waited for someone else to catch up so he could determine where we were in the Serengeti and then chart a new course to our destination.
He stopped DO-ing in order to focus on BE-ing found.
What we needed that day on the Serengeti Plain was a GPS. What an amazing technological device. Using the broad perspective of three coordinates—latitude, longitude, and altitude—a GPS can find your car amongst the millions of cars on the planet, tell you exactly where you are, and then help you navigate to your desired destination…all in a soothing, patient voice too.
Humans, it is said, are the only animals that speed up when lost. This is especially true of American humans.
When you screw up or are too stubborn to heed its advice, it doesn’t bark, “You moron! Why don’t you ever listen?”
No, it simply says “Recalculating” and calmly charts and then gives you a new route. Now that’s grace!
So why don’t we apply the same broad perspective and grace to our own lives? Our tendency is to zero in on only one coordinate—money—and then ratchet up our speed at all costs to get more money or the stuff that more money can buy (like prestige or power).
Let’s be honest. Too often we value our stuff above our health, relationships, spiritual vitality, or life itself, don’t we? If you don’t think so, take a quick peek at your schedule right now…bet you just winced a bit, didn’t you?
It’s so easy for our personal GPS to get messed up— especially if we’re willing to let a single-minded pursuit of financial assets spin us in circles in the wilderness. After all, we believe, assets and liabilities determine our financial health and overall success…don’t they?
Net worth—what you have minus what you owe—has long been the key scorecard of prosperity and progress. Are you successful? on track? Check your net worth statement.
But is that really an accurate measure of a successful, fully engaged life?
An abundant life is that healthy but elusive blend of play, work, friendship, family, money, spiritual growth, and contribution.
Abundance creates contentment. Contentment inspires gratitude. Your peace of mind, sense of fulfillment, and joy are determined by how well you manage many life dimensions, not just your finances. Intimate relationships, deep spiritual life, right work, good health, a vibrant community, interesting hobbies, and active learning all impact your sense of engagement with life.
Life worth is the investment you make into and the return you receive from all of these dimensions. It is both internal (a deep personal sense of engagement and fulfillment) and external (the ability to bring joy and lasting value to others). And, like a GPS, it takes more than one coordinate to determine your location and direction.
You can be fully engaged with little or no net worth. Here’s what I mean.
Net worth: what you have minus what you owe.
Life worth: the investment you make into and the return you receive from all life dimensions.
The first time I visited Tanzania, I was amazed at how content the people seemed to be, even though they had next to nothing in possessions. I wondered, Is it because they are unencumbered by the shackles of “stuff” that they are fully able to connect with their families and friends? Is that why they are happily able to do the work required to live yet another day? Why they are content, even when they’re not sure sometimes where their next meal is coming from?
Upon further reflection, I couldn’t help but add to these thoughts: And why is this sense of joy sorely lacking in our affluent Western world?
The thought was sobering…and enlightening.
As Os Guinness says:
The trouble is that, as modern people, we have too much to live with, and too little to live for. In the midst of material plenty, we have spiritual poverty.1
Simply stated, material wealth is measured by net worth. Spiritual wealth and engagement are summed up by life worth. So let me ask you: What’s your life worth right now?
Many people decide they must build their net worth first in order to fund life worth later.
But putting life on hold for one more business deal, one more project, a pay increase, a hopeful inheritance upon a relative’s death, or an investment return ensnares the unsuspecting in its grip of “not quite enough.” It can slowly form habits of overwork and selfishness. The focal point is always on what’s next instead of what’s first.
Do you find yourself falling into the trap of thinking, Hey, I’ll just hang in there. What’s coming next has got to be better.
If so, you are in danger of driving in endless circles— and exhausting yourself in the process.
Don’t fall for that kind of thinking. Dreams delayed can become a life unlived. As American journalist and best-selling author Po Bronson put it:
It turns out that having the financial independence to walk away rarely triggers people to do just that. The reality is, making money is such hard work that it changes you. It takes twice as long as anyone plans for. It requires more sacrifice than anyone expects. You become so emotionally invested in that world—and psychologically adapted to it—that you don’t really want to ditch it.2
Dreams delayed can become a life unlived.
Always DO-ing more ultimately causes us to BE less— less of a friend, mother, partner, student, or son.
I know. I’ve experienced it firsthand. I spent 14 years in the financial services industry, sitting at the table with countless people as they discussed their life dreams and financial goals.
What moved me were the life stories of the people with whom I met. Embedded in the discussion of money were the hopes, dreams, fears, regrets, beliefs, and biases of each person. Asking the right questions and then listening with both head and heart got right to the core of the matter with most people. And it was always about so much more than money. Inevitably, meaning trumped money. Life worth always outweighed net worth.
Don’t wait until you have your own “lost in the Serengeti” experience—divorce, death, job loss, a failed semester, or a sick child—in order to enlarge your perspective. Choose to take an accurate reading of your life worth now so you can make a balanced investment in each of your key life dimensions.
To do this, you have to practice a “salmon perspective”—swimming upstream against a rushing torrent of marketing and messaging to the contrary. But nothing wonderful is ever gained by taking it easy. It requires commitment on your part. Let me share something with you. It’s worth it. Your life, thinking, and relationships will be transformed.
Jesus knew all about our natural inclination to fret about our finery and stew about our stuff—to live a one-coordinate life. That’s why He cautioned His closest friends:
Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.3
Leading a fully engaged life begins with a multi-coordinate focus on your life worth—a realization that
Relationships matter more than anything.
Health determines your quality of life.
Work gives voice to your giftedness.
Hobbies engage your energy beyond work.
Learning animates your imagination.
And Faith gives all of your life purpose.
Nothing wonderful is ever gained by taking it easy. It requires commitment on your part.
To determine your current life worth, use the assessment that begins on the following page. There are 10 dimensions of life worth. Measure each one. Your life is worth so much more than money. Are you living like it?
DO less. BE more.
What Is Your Life Worth?
How satisfied are you with each life dimension listed below? How important are these life dimensions to you? Please rate each on a scale of 1–5 (1=low; 3=medium; 5=high).
HEALTH ______ _______
Regular routines that promote healthy energy and vitality
LEARNING ______ _______
People and environments that stimulate growth
FAMILY ______ _______
Interest and involvement in the lives of family members
WORK ______ _______
Work that expresses talents and passion
LOVE RELATIONSHIP ______ _______
Alignment with loved one’s values and dreams
SPIRITUAL LIFE ______ _______
Sense of purpose, relationship with God, and/or service to others
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Reading With Reading Street
Topic: Homeschool Product Review
John Allen, our oldest, went to public school through third grade. There were various reasons why we felt the Lord was leading us to homeschool. Those are discussions for another post. I will say, however, that he had excellent teachers during his four years in the elementary classroom. In fact, I credit his second grade teacher for instilling his love for reading. There were two second grade teachers who had been teaching for years - Mrs. Young and Mrs. Clouse. In fact, both of them are retiring this year after many faithful years as excellent teachers. Mrs. Young and Mrs. Clouse worked together in many ways and were very resourceful teachers. When the school system decided to switch reading curriculum, as they did every five or six years, they didn't throw away the old sets of reading books, they saved them and used them. I am telling you the truth - the year John Allen was in second grade, they must have gone through six reading books! They were always reading. They had their regular story every week, then they also had one or two other stories that they read that week. From that year on, John Allen has loved reading.
That's why I was thrilled when I was chosen to review a set of 2nd grade reading books developed by Scott Foresman called "Reading Street". Scott Foresman is a company that develops curriculum for public schools, but is really wanting to get into the homeschool market. Before you totally exit out of my blog, however, let me tell you that I was doubtful at first that this would be something that would work with homeschoolers, but am now convinced that for some homeschoolers it may be a worthwhile investment.
Here's what I really liked about Reading Street:
All in all, I was really pleased and pleasantly surprised with these books. Joshua loves them, they are simply laid out and have just the right amount of comprehension activities to enforce what he is learning. It could easily be used as a core reading curriculum if you wanted, but I like it just as a supplemental resource.
Now, before I tell you the price of these two books, let me explain something. Each on of the main stories that are in these books can be bought as a stand alone book at Wal-Mart or at your local book store. Each one, however, would cost $3 on up to $10 or more if bought separately. Just as an experiment, I looked on Amazon for the five main books from Unit One. They added up to be around $50 if bought new! So, how much does "Reading Street" cost? If bought together the two books can be $86.97. Separately they're $43.47 each. Remember, though, that these are beautifully bound books with all of the stories in them and with the added comprehension/grammar sections. Why go through all of the hassle of buying each one of those great children's books separately and spending all of that money if you don't have to. Just click here or on anyone of the hi-lighted links above for more information. The website that you are lead to has other supplemental resources that I can't vouch for because we didn't receive them, but look great. There is also a website of free supplemental lesson plans, activities and other things developed by teachers that are ready to be printed out and used. You can find them by clicking here. Finally, other TOS Crew members reviewed reading street and some of the other great Scott Foresman products and you can find them by clicking here. Happy Homes Educating!
As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received book one and book two of Reading Street - 2nd grade in order to try out and review on my blog.