Reading is one of my favorite past-times. It always has been. I don't have as much time as I used to, but I still try to read whenever possible. I've tried to instill this love into my kids, too. My daughter loves to read, and my son is really changing his attitude about it since his reading ability has improved so much.

When we found out we would have the pleasure of reviewing a new book, we were excited. As a member of the SRC, we received the book Tunnel of Gold, by Susan Marlow and Kregel Publications.
Susan Marlow began writing books at around age 10. She is the author of Circle C Adventures and Circle C Beginnings series. These historical fiction books take place at a California ranch in the late 1800's. She spent time researching for her books by travelling to the area. She writes, "The best part about writing historical adventure stories is tramping around the actual sites. I have a gold pan, but it has not seen much action. Panning for gold is a lot of work!" (
Tunnel of Gold is the 2nd book her newest series, Goldtown Adventures. This series is for kids ages 9-13, but is a fun read of all readers, I think. The books start out in 1864, as the California Gold rush is coming to a close.

The main character is Jem, actually Jeremiah Coulter, a 12 year old adventurous boy that traveled with his parents and sister, 10yo Ellianna "Ellie" Coulter. Their parents were 49ers, in search of a new life out west and hoped to strike it rich. In the Goldtown Adventure books, Mr. Coulter is offered the position of Sheriff, and he accepts. His panning days are over and keeping the peace was first and foremost. You can read about the characters here. The Coulter's are a christian family which is evidenced throughout the book.

We learn throughout the book the struggles that ensued those that came to California to strike it rich. There were many heartaches, pains, and death. Jem and Ellie's mom died of influenza sometime after getting out west Both characters in the book face difficulties that were common in that era. But the book is not about the difficulties, but about the adventures.

Tunnel of Gold takes Jem, his sister, and his friends on adventures, or should I say misadventures, that are exciting to read through. You will read how Jem experiences gold mining, attempted cattle branding, the struggles and disagreements within the small mining town, and daily chores. 

Susan Marlow writes in a way that is easy to read but remains interesting. The language she uses is fitting for the era, which I like. It may be a bit challenging for readers, but it'll keep them on their toes figuring out what the different phrases and vernacular mean. Like surly, woolgathering, coyote hole, cussedness, frog in the puddle, and hobnob. Reading together will allow for discussion and explanation for younger readers. 

There is also a free study guide that can be downloaded right from Goldtown Adventures website. This guide offers activities, games, vocabulary, and history lessons for Tunnel of Gold. Like learning about the life of a hard-rock miner, making a miner's stove and donuts, too. The answers are at the back of the study guide along with links to explore more information.

How To Purchase: A personalized copy of Tunnel of Gold is available from Goldtown Adventures for $7.99 +s/h. You can also purchase both the first and second books as a set for $13.95 +s/h.

What We Thought: Each of us took time to read Tunnel of Gold. We enjoyed the story line and how Susan Marlow weaved historical facts throughout the book. Reading the book inspired us to do some research of our own. Because this was the second book and we haven't read the first yet, some of the pieces took time to understand, but it's still exciting. Reading the character descriptions on the website helped a lot.

The adventures that Jem chose were fun, and a little dangerous, too. Which made reading fun for my son. They were all typical for the period and Susan Marlow's era oriented language was fun to read. 

We utilized the free study guide after reading the book. This allowed us to already have an idea of what the story was about as well as evaluate reading with and without the guide. I must say, the guide really brought out points to think about that we otherwise might have skipped over, or lost along the way. The games and activities were fun and took us back to another era of time. It was fun. The vocabulary listed in the study guide was very useful. In some ways, I wish that we had used the guide along with reading the book the first time, but not using it encouraged us to find our own answers : ^ )

I believe you will find the Goldtown Adventures series a wonderful addition to your library. The 3rd book of the series will be out soon, too. You can read a sample of Tunnel of Gold here

To read more reviews on Tunnel of Gold and the first book, Badge of Honor, click below.
You may recall that last year there was a lot of hype about the end of the world as we know it : ^ ) This was all based on the Ancient Mayan Calendar. Scholars and laymen alike, have studied the Mayan's culture through artifacts and knowledge gained through the years, to learn what they could about this interesting civilization. For whatever reason, one of the findings was that their calendar ended on some random day in 2012. 

Of course, you know, that was not true and we are all here to talk about it. But learning about the Mayan Civilization is an incredibly interesting subject. They were an intelligent people that seemed to study and know about many things. That is why Dig-It! Games  created the Mayan Mysteries interactive PC/Mac/iPad puzzle based game.
Dig-It! Games was founded by Suzi Wilczynski, a professional archaeologist. She created Dig-It in 2005 after years of field work and being a middle school teacher. she found that traditional classrooms did not provide options for students to learn "about the fundamentals and importance of archaeology" (Dig-It!). She developed games that "promote creative thinking, independent learning, and cultural understanding" (Dig-It!)

The first game created was Roman Town in 2010. We were able to review this in 2010 as members of SRC (formerly TOS). We had fun playing it and did learn alot about Ancient Roman history. Roman Town received industry praise for this first game.

Mayan Mysteries was launched in 2012 and is available as a browser game for the PC or Mac and there is even an iPad App!

Mayan Mysteries allows your child to travel to this mysterious civilization and help Professor Alex Quinn and his niece and nephew, Fiona & Charlie, solve a mystery. Along the way of this fun adventure, your child will learn interesting facts about the Maya. He will discover artifacts, decode hieroglyphs, visit ancient Maya cities, explore the Maya calendar, and much more.

The game is historically accurate, too. Along with Suzi Wilczynski at Dig-It!, Mr. Robert Sharer was also a professional archaeologist and even discovered the tomb of an ancient Mayan king in 1993 in Honduras. Imagine the knowledge he had to contribute to the Mayan Mysteries game!

This journey through history is fun and educational. As your child enters the playing field, she will be introduced to the main characters and then given instructions. Each phase of the game offers intriguing messages, fun games, and a challenge to find hidden artifacts. And throughout the game, your child is learning about the Mayan Civilization in a fun, interactive, and interesting way.
Mayan Mysteries is designed for students in grades 5-9. There is a nice teachers section that offers support with helping your student learn the most from Mayan Mysteries. There are also grade-level specific in game evaluations. Fun and educational......

How To Purchase: Mayan Mysteries is available for a single user for $21.99 (PC/MAC). The iPad App is $9.99.

What We Thought: We liked Mayan Mysteries ok . I like the amount of history that is available. The graphics seemed a little behind the times, but the game moved along well without hesitations. It really was fun and we enjoyed learning.

My son and daughter both played the game on their own. My daughter made it through the entire game pretty quickly. She liked playing it but did get very frustrated at the end when the game didn't really end. It was basically "stay tuned for the next episode of. . .". She didn't like that. She said she worked hard to get to the end to solve the mystery, and there was no closure. She added that the games were not consistent with the story line, which she thought would have added to the experience. There were also no instructions for the games. She was able to figure them out, but didn't like, for example, in one game she typed the answer several times before realizing how the game actually wanted the answer. My daughter also adds that the information needed to play the games came after the game in the trivia that followed. For example, descriptions for specific tools needed to excavate were not given until after the game was played. This didn't make sense. My son just had fun and didn't really say much either way. He's 13, lol. But he did like it, which says alot with all of today's technology.

You can watch the video above of the game to see for yourself. You can also read more reviews below.
Geography is a fundamental subject taught in every classroom across America. However, it is often combined with history, and it's importance is reduced to merely a reference and not an actual place on the map. When I was in school, Social Studies was the subject and, though we looked at maps, the historical facts took precedence and the maps became, seemingly irrelevant. But homeschooling has changed that focus for me. I've realized that geography is just as important in life as history itself.
Memoria Press believes this, too. They have created "a unique geography program designed for students pursuing a classical education" (Memoria Press), Geography I. This curriculum focuses on the geography of the Ancient Roman Empire: the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. Historical content is given in the "History's Headlines" and "Tour of Today" sections. "Your student will learn countries and capitals of today and relate them to the ancient lands of the Greeks and Romans, deepening his understanding of both the past and the present."

Before I write about Geography I, I'd like to tell you a little about Memoria Press. You might remember that I've reviewed products for them before. They are a family run company that "produces simple and easy-to-use classical Christian education materials for home and private schools". Their products include K-12 curriculum, including Jr. Kindergarten. Their subjects include Christian Studies, Penmanship, Grammar, Literature, Logic, Languages, Phonics, Science, History, & Geography. Every product "is characterized by 3 things: simplicity, quality, and affordability" (Memoria Press). The simplicity lies in the ability of every family to be able to teach the subject, regardless of familiarity with the subject. The quality is demonstrated by the level of academic standards that exist within each subject. And the affordability is proven by the reasonable cost of the curriculum and the continued desirability by users. You can read more about Memoria Press and their products here.

As members of the SRC Crew, we have reviewed Memoria Press' Famous Men series, Latina Christiana, and Logic series. We have enjoyed each of the products, and have actually used them many times since the review. Being able to review Geography I is a wonderful complement to our previous reviews.
Geometry I is designed for students in grades 4-8. I believe it's appropriate for use with high schoolers as a supplement, too. 

The Geometry 1 curriculum consists of 5 workbooks/texts: the student text, student workbook, teacher guide, United States student workbook, and the United States key, quizzes, and tests.

Each of the workbooks are consumable, but can be purchased individually for use with more than one child. The countries and history that correspond to them are combined into 3 sections: Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. In the text, there is also a section of full color flags.

The first chapter of the student text introduces your student to geography. Definitions and explanations of hemisphere, country, capital city, resources, and climate are given. For climate, each of the world's climates is described: tropical, dry, temperate, continental, polar, alpine. It's simply stated, which makes it very easy to understand. Each section of the text begins with a brief overview of the area. Memoria Press has included pertinent information for each and writes it with information that will interest your student. These overviews include sections titled "Story of the Land", "Land of the Story", Fast Facts, maps, and photos. Though brief, the information is enough to get your student introduced to the area and form possible connections to it with historical facts he might remember.

For example, in the Europe overview, Constantinople, the Vikings, and the Caspian Sea are mentioned (below photo on left). Most students, I believe, will recognize these names/titles and remember something they may have learned about them. The information might be brief, with only a word or two, but it is enough to stimulate the thought process : ^ )

The descriptive sections that follow will then expand the lesson and include "History's Headlines", Fast Facts, photos, maps, and a story or two, all specific to that country (photo on right).
click to enlarge
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The United States student workbook is a brief overview of the US states and and capitals. The teachers key includes the answers to the questions, quizzes, and tests that are in the student workbook. 

The student workbook is broken into 8 regions: New England States, Middle Atlantic States, Great Lakes States, Southern States, Plains States, Rocky Mountain States, Southwestern States, and Pacific States. There are then 4 sections that the student will go through. The first section is identifying the states on a map, the second is matching the capital with the state, the third challenges the student to match the state with the capital, using the correct spelling, and the fourth section the students must identify each state and capital on a map. It is a nice overview. It does not offer historical facts or information, which is ok for a review, I think.

HowTo Purchase: Memoria Press offers Geography I for $48.00. which includes all 5 books. That's an excellent value for a full year curriculum. You can purchase the individual books, if desired.

What We Thought: We liked Geography I. We used it as a supplement in our eclectic homeschooling world. We were learning Medieval history this year, so we connected as much as possible. Because there are Biblical references throughout the student text. we were able to use it also as a companion to our Bible lessons. I really liked the lessons because I do not remember geography well from high school.

These are my daughter's thoughts: "I like the way that the student text is set up, it is easy to read and understand. The text covers all the essential information about each country: location, capital, climate, resources, etc. I do not like the way the questions are presented in the student workbook, although there isn’t really anything wrong with them; I just don’t like them". I asked her what she didn't like about the questions, and she said that she didn't think that she could do them well without referencing the text. Since the lessons are suggested to be done 2-3 countries per week, she felt that by the end of that section, the student might not remember where the countries were on the map. I could see her point, but feel that each student is different in how they remember and we, as homeschoolers, typically know the best method to use to help our children : ^ )

You can view samples of the Text, Table of Contents, and the Workbook too see how this might work for your family. I'm confident you will see the benefits of this excellent geography curriculum.
Throughout life we learn many important lessons. Some are from personal trial and error experiences, while others are passed on through generations of lessons learned. Tidbits of wisdom are an invaluable part of these. I was privileged to have grown up having grandparents, great grandparents, and for a short time, great-great grandmothers. I have heard many stories of old, along with a few very important pieces of wisdom. But sadly, as I have grown, some of those have faded from my memories. However, a recent review opportunity triggered some of those memories back, and I am ever thankful.

Papa's Pearls: A Father's Gift of Love and Wisdom to His Children and Grandchildren was written by Diane Flynn Keith to "share my father's heart to the world". She compiled memories and anecdotes from her own childhood, her father's life, and those of family members, and created this beautiful memoir that we, as readers, can enjoy, think upon, and learn from. "Papa's Pearls" are words of wisdom that her father not only spoke, but also lived by. A few are common sayings that anyone my age or older may have heard their parents or grandparents recite, while others come from hard life lessons Papa endured. But don't be quick to judge this book thinking it's just simple phrases that have been overused. It is far from that. Mrs. Keith offers experiences and lessons behind each pearl that Papa gave, which affirms the wisdom behind it. By the time you reach the second chapter, you will have already realized this book is more than just a memoir.

You may have heard Diane Flynn Keith's name before. She is a homeschooling mom that is also an alternative education specialist and parenting coach. Her book, Carschooling: Over 350 Entertaining Games & Activities To Turn Travel Time Into Learning Time, is how I became familiar with her. She is also the editor and chief of Homefires, and offers the sites Clickschooling and UniversalPreschool, as well. With all of these accomplishments, she is, as she writes, first and foremost, Papa's daughter.
Papa's Pearls was written "to help parents and children reach their full potential and enjoy the extraordinary lives they deserve," (Papa's Pearls). 

You might ask how Ms. Keith father's pearls can help you. I believe this paragraph straight from her introduction in the book, says it best, "Papa lived by a set of immutable truths that he used as guidelines for an extraordinary life. He learned these truths through the school of hard knocks. He was a Depression-era street kid who was on a fast track to prison through criminal activity with hoodlum friends. He had a series of life-changing experiences that caused him to course-correct and establish a path for personal success and happiness." (pg. 1). 

A little bit about Papa- He was born Carol Joseph Flynn during the Great Depression on January 19, 1922. He was named after King Carol I of Romania. He lived in San Francisco with his family in a very difficult period of America. He was favored by his mother, who encouraged him throughout his life. He worked hard, even as a young boy selling newspapers, to help his own family. His Father, Mickey, was a boxing trainer and promoter, which in those days, often meant that there was connections to not so nice people. Papa learned a few things then and, as Ms. Keith writes, "when I piece together the hints, the fragments, the barely veiled stories, I now know that during his teen years, Papa was not just hanging around with delinquents and petty criminals, he was probably guilty of committing crimes himself," (pg. 7). He was sent to "Continuation School" which was thought to be an answer to "what's the worst thing that could happen". It wasn't, and was even "one of the best things" that happened to Papa. He learned skills that he wouldn't have in regular school, and straightened out his life. 

That question became one of his pearl's passed on to his family. There are many throughout this great little book. There are 17 chapters, each with at least one pearl of wisdom. Ms. Keith added wonderful stories from Papa's life and family memories that fit the specific pearl well. Papa's Pearls includes many these important truths, but the most meaningful to me are:

"Everyone Deserves a Second Chance"
"You Don't Kick Someone When They're Down"
"When You Fall Down-Get Back Up, Brush Yourself Off, and Try Again"
"Tell Yourself You Like It"
"What Were You Thinking"
"Let It Go-Like Water Off a Duck's Back"
"Be Grateful Every Day"
"Life Is Too Short, Relax. Take A Little Time Off"
"You Gotta Roll With The Punches"

There are, of course, many more pearls of wisdom in this great book, but you will have to read it yourself to see them : ^ )

Ms. Keith writes the book in an easy to read conversational style, which is nice. It makes you feel like you are a part of the pages, or the stories. It brought back many memories for me as I read each of the stories. Either stories of my own, or those that I've heard from my grandparents and parents.
How To Purchase: You can purchase an autographed copy of Papa's Pearls for $14.97 (plus $7 shipping) directly from Ms. Keith. There is a special offer right now, as well, if you sign up for the e-updates. The book is also available through Amazon for $13.47. You will find the link here.

What We Thought: I really enjoyed reading Papa's Pearls. It reminded me many different sayings I have heard throughout my life. I lost my father in 2000 at age 47, but he, too, was an incredible man. His grandchildren called him "Pa", and the name kind of stuck, even though it was for too short of a time. He wasn't perfect either, and had a lot of learning experiences in his life, but he taught me some wonderful lessons from the growing that he did. He encouraged me, loved me, and taught me how to be wise and love always. 

I think the most valuable pearl that Ms. Keith wrote was not necessarily a pearl, but a statement, "I love you. You know that, right?" Love is the most precious thing you can offer your children, and Papa certainly freely gave that to his family. That's how I feel about my dad.

The one thing that I was surprised about with the book, was that God was mentioned in one chapter towards the end. To me, these many pearls of wisdom fit well with The Lord's Word and the messages that He wants us to know and live by. It doesn't necessarily cause the book to lack in value, it was just something that I noticed. I plan to use this book along with our Bible studies to help the kids learn how each of the pearls fits into God's Word, and what He says about each.

I'm confident you will enjoy reading Papa's Pearls and will find the lessons applicable to your life, no matter where you are in your walk.

You can read more reviews by clicking the following link.
Writing, like reading, has always been a part of who I am. When I was younger (with time on my hands), I used to write poetry and short stories with every occasion in my life. Whether I was happy or sad, angry or frustrated, writing was my outlet. Writing my thoughts, even if it didn't make sense, helped me get through various phases of growing up. I have encouraged my kids to use writing in the same way, but they don't always see things the way I do : ^ )

My 17yo has always liked to write, but mostly about things that she created, not assignments that were given. With the help of Writing with Sharon Watson, though, I have found a new method to encourage creative writing in our home. As members of the SRC, we were given Sharon's Writing Fiction [In High School]: Bringing Your Stories To Life and Writing Fiction in High School: Teacher's Guide for review. This program has helped re-open my daughter's eyes to her love of writing.

Sharon Watson was a fellow homeschooling mom for 18 years. She now teaches high school composition, fiction writingand literature to homeschool students, and offers all-day workshops. She is also the author of Apologia's Jump In curriculum, as well, and you all know how much I like Apologia :^) She created her writing courses to help students that  were "stumbling through school. . . trying to make sense of their writing and literature classes". She wanted to find "ways to make difficult writing tasks and concepts" easier for students to understand (Sharon Watson Biography). 
Writing Fiction in High School is a wonderful curriculum designed for high school students that love to write but that may need guidance to get started or even to enhance their already written stories. 

It is written in a conversational style, which makes it easy to follow and enjoyable. The student doesn't have to have a dictionary next to them to understand the lessons, which is not always the case with traditional textbooks.

There are 13 chapters that have multiple short lessons. Each lesson is considered a day's lesson. At the end of each, there is a box with "The End of Today's Lesson". This may seem insignificant, but to students that are wired for lesson plans or need to see the end of the tunnel before going through, this can mean a lot. Because each lesson is brief, the student will not feel rushed when completing the assignment, which, again, is not difficult, yet moves the student forward in the quest to write a great story.

For example, in Chapter 2, point of view is being discussed. One of the activities is to write down your first memory. Later in the chapter, there are a few questions to answer based on that memory: "What point of view did you use, How close to that child is your retelling-in the skin or outside looking at yourself, Did you tell it as though you were that age or from the distance of your current age, looking back?" The next step in that lesson is to rewrite your memory using a different point of view. The lesson and assignment seem simple, but could you do it . . . easily? It took me quite a few minutes trying to decide what my first memory is. Even as I write this, I wonder if it's really the first, and was it really my memory or one that I created based on a story that my mom told me. Writing it from different POV's was interesting, too. Being able to step outside of the story and read it as though it were someone else, is fascinating. Although, I think in many ways, we do this throughout our life in different situations, or at least I do. It's a good way to reflect back and learn from the experience, or see how God had His hands in it.

In Writing Fiction in High School, students are encouraged to discuss their writing with others, which helps adds objectivity and find areas that could be tweeked. The curriculum can be used by independent learners, co-ops, writing clubs, and classrooms. It can be easily adapted to meet the needs of your family and students. Sharon does suggest forming a writing group if the curriculum is not being used in a co-op or classroom. This is so that the students can interact with others and "have lively discussions, read or listen to one another's work, and critique one another's work" (Teacher's Guide, pg 1).

Writing Fiction in High School also has a "Manuscript Track" for students that already have short stories or manuscripts written. In many of the lessons, there are extra assignments that students can do to modify or enhance their pieces. This is an added bonus for us. Since my daughter has a manuscript that she wrote for our homeschool theater group, it's allowed her to examine it with a different perspective and new found ideas. One of her first comments was "Wow, my characters are really shallow." She realized she needed to add more dimension to the main characters to make a better story. 

The Teacher's Guide offers ideas for discussion as well as answers for assignments and lessons. It's a handy tool for moms that need guidance in teaching writing.

With Writing Fiction in High School, students will learn how to:

* Write engaging dialogue *
* Build scenes *
* Ramp up the conflict *
* Create empathetic protagonists *
* Select a point of view *
* Describe settings and characters *
* Hook their readers *
* Critique themselves and other writers *
* Get published *

* And much, much more! *
(Writing Fiction in High School)
How To Purchase: Writing Fiction in High School is available for $25.05 and the Teacher's Guide can be purchased for $9.95. An excellent price for a curriculum that can be used in multiple ways.

What We Thought: We loved this curriculum. It is well written and very easy to follow. My daughter really liked that. The lessons were straight forward and not difficult to complete. We have a co-op class with our homeschool group and I'm considering offering a writing class and using this curriculum. I believe it will be well liked by other parents and, more importantly, the students.

I wanted my daughter to write her thoughts down, since she was the primary user of it. This is what she wrote: 
"I like the way the workbook is written, it is very easy to follow. The book excerpts given are perfect illustrations of the point the author is trying to make. The examples taken from other books were from very interesting books, I looked up a few of them so I could read the rest of the story.  Writing Fiction In High School is very helpful for learning how to better write new stories of my own, and also to polish the ones I have."
I am confident you will find Writing Fiction in High School a wonderful supplement to your high schooler's curriculum. There is much to offer.

To read more reviews click here or the banner below.
Reading is more than just a subject in school, it can be a way of life. It can take you into a world as foreign, or familiar, as you choose. It can be educational, inspirational, or fun. But it can also be arduous, abstruse, and obscure. Sometimes we need a little help understanding what's written, or the author's true intent. 

Progeny Press has created wonderful study guides to help your students understand and enjoy what they are reading. As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we were given a free copy of Things Fall Apart Study Guide.
Progeny Press was created in 1992 by Michael & Rebecca Gilleland. Their search for quality classic literature guides with a Christian Worldview yielded little and as homeschooling parents, this wasn't acceptable. Their first study guide was tested in a Christian school and loved. Now, 21 years later, Progeny Press offers more than 100 study guides that are edited and reviewed by The Gilleland's to ensure their high standards are met. 

Their mission: "To teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!" (PP) You can read more about Progeny Press on their About Us page.

We have benefited from Progeny Press' study guides in the past. We had reviewed their guides back in March of 2012 and liked them so much I have since purchased a few more to use for our Co-op's classical book discussion. They are written well and thorough, but more importantly, offer a christian perspective in the analysis of each book. In my own research for study guides, I have found Progeny Press to be one of the only company's that offer this. 
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, is a book unfamiliar to me prior to this review so I was happy to have received the Things Fall Apart Study Guide to complement it. We did purchase the book as it does not come with the study guide, but it is very reasonable and may be available from your local library.

The story is about Okonkwo, an Ibo clansman from a Nigerian village ,Umuofi . It takes place in the late 1800's which was entering the beginning of a time of change for what is now called Nigeria. The British would soon be attempting, and succeeding, at colonization of Nigeria, and Christianity was entering into communities, disrupting and disputing the belief system in place there for generations. 

Chinua Achebe was born in 1930 in Nigeria to a Christian teacher. He wrote Things Fall Apart to depict Nigeria and it's culture true to history and not just as perceived by many. He writes of "the complex rules, patterns, values, and rituals of Okonkwo's society". And he "weaves their vivid language, proverbs, and stories into the novel" (Things Fall Apart Study Guide, pg. 8).

The main idea of Things Fall Apart, to me, is best described when Achebe writes,
"Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo's fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. . . And so Okonkwo was ruled by one passion - to hate everything that his father Unoka had loved" (Chapter 2, pg. 13)

These words foreshadow, to me, Okonkwo's impending demise. Okonkwo strived so hard at not being who his father was and being a man, that his life was filled with ill-fated decisions and actions. 

Progeny Press chose an excellent piece in Things Fall Apart to create a study guide for. Because the book is rich with a different culture and belief system, having a study guide to help understand it is critical, at least to me. There are many aspects of Okonkwo's culture that we are not familiar with, and the study guide explains it well. And offering this through a Christian perspective allows the reader/student to understand it without criticizing it.

Things Fall Apart Study Guide, like most of the Progeny Press study guides, is broken down into groups of around 3 chapters each. Each of these includes a combination of the following activities: Vocabulary, Questions, Characterization, Analysis, Dig Deeper, and Optional Activities. Also included in each of the study guides are the following sections: Synopsis, About the Author, Historical and Cultural Background, Pre-reading Activities, Overview, Essay suggestions, and Additional Resources.

One of the things I liked in this study guide was a Dig Deeper section for chapters 1-3. It described the various "cultural responses to sin". There was info on Shame Based Societies, Fear Based Societies, and Guilt Based Societies. I just found this fascinating. I'm not sure why, I just did : ^ ) Progeny Press has added it all. You can view a sample of Things Fall Apart Study Guide here

According to Progeny Press, Things Fall Apart Study Guide is designed for students in grades 10-12. Because the story is intense, I do believe that this age group would be likely to understand and appreciate it better than younger students. But I also believe that if there were a student in middle school (6th or 7th-9th) they might be able to understand it if working with an older student or parents. The book does have violence, domestic and criminal, as well as information about gods, oracles, and magic, since this was the culture and belief system of Okonkwo's society. 

How To Purchase: Progeny Press offers both the book and the study guide, but they are sold separately. Things Fall Apart, the book, is available for $11.95. Things Fall Apart Study Guide is available as a printed booklet - $21.95, CD - $18.99, or Instant Download - $18.99.

What We Thought: This was a difficult book to read, at times. There were a few chapters that had flashbacks and "two intertwining stories", that really made it necessary to concentrate on what I was reading. There are so many distractions around me that I often end up reading a paragraph a couple of times before getting the true meaning of it. I am glad that I had the study guide to help decipher what I was reading, or more importantly, bring an understanding to what was important.

The questions posed and the Dig Deeper sections of the study guide really brought about great conversations while we were studying this book. Questions like: "Which of the three responses to sin most closely resembles the culture in which you live?", "In Chapt 9, a medicine man told Okonkwo  'that [Elwefi's] child was an ogbanje, one of those wicked children who, when they died, entered their mother's wombs to be born again'. . .What do these statements imply that the Ibo believe about the afterlife? Read Hebrews 9:27-28. What do these verses say about birth and rebirth?". The questions not only helped to ensure an understanding and remembrance of what was read, but give a deeper understanding of what God and His Word says about the different subjects.

My 17yo daughter read the book on her own. She liked it, though she thought it was "dark". My 12yo son and I read through the book together. We all did the study guide together. We had the PDF file, which allows for answers to be typed into the file instead of having to print the pages. (It can still be printed if chosen.) We liked this. I didn't have to worry about using ink unnecessarily. We chose to do a few of the Dig Deeper questions and the Optional Activities, but not all of them. Progeny Press suggests to do one section a week, which could technically be done and include all of the extra optional work, but for the sake of this review, we chose to progress a little faster and not complete all of the work. We were still able to gain a much better understanding of the book. I did choose not to complete the essays (at least on paper). We did discuss the questions and thought about how we would answer. I really like being able to have open discussions with the kids about deeper subject matter like that included in Things Fall Apart. Even though it is based on a society that existed more than 100 years ago, there are still many relevant situations in today's world. 

I believe that the Things Fall Apart Study Guide would be an excellent resource for your high school student if they are reading Things Fall Apart. If this book is not in your syllabus, check it out and see if it might fit. If not, Progeny Press offers many, many more study guides that might. To read reviews about a few of them, click here or the banner below.
History is one of those subjects that has the potential to be engaging and exciting, but is often taught in a manner that is dry and boring. I know that when I was in school, it was one of my least favorite subjects. Actually, I think it was my least favorite subject.. But with homeschooling, I have learned that history is full of interesting facts and have come to really like it. But finding a curriculum or supplement that brings excitement into the format, can be a challenge.

Knowledge Quest offers a change to that "same old" style of learning. We have been blessed to review their products not once, but twice. Back in the summer of 2012, we reviewed their TimeMaps computer program and loved it, and this year we received for review their Timeline Builder for iPad APP. 

First a little bit about who Knowledge Quest (KQ) is. KQ was started in 2001 by Todd & Terri Johnson. They are a homeschooling family that set out to develop black and white maps to help supplement lessons on American and World history. Over the years, they've expanded their products to include wall timelines, hardcover timelines, and historical biographies which included geography. In 2011 they took their products to a whole new level and created mobile apps of the iphone and iPad. You can read more about the Johnson family and Knowledge Quest here.

Our original review of, TimeMaps, introduced us to KQ's exceptional products. The goal of TimeMaps "is to communicate history in a truly engaging way", by merging historical timelines, maps, and information into one resource. 

Now with KQ TimelineBuilder for the iPad, we have their wonderful software in a portable platform. 

Timelinebuilder is not exactly like TimeMaps, as you and your student build the information yourself. 

TimelineBuilder has fully customizable timelines for any subject.

As KQ put it, "TimelineBuilder is THE timeline resource tool that will organize and display chronological events the way YOU want to see them" (KQ).

So How Does It Work?

With the TimelineBuilder, you can choose from a "sample" timeline or customize your own, choosing your own dates, title, subject, pictures, and description. There is a direct link to wikipedia that automatically pulls up a relevant search based on the event name you put in. You have the option of using that info or searching for something different. You also have the choice of which pictures you want to use for each event. Photos can come from an outside source (ex. wikipedia) or your own photo files.

The following photo shows an enlarged image of the bottom of the Apps main screen (seen in the image above).

To begin, you would select "About this App" which gives you a great introduction on how to use it. After viewing this, you then will choose either "New Timeline" or "Sample Timeline". Whichever tab you select, the following screen (image on the left) will come up and you there will create the "Timeline Name". Once you've selected that you can dates, description and select a background, then click the "done" button, which will come up when you start typing. If you've chosen a sample timeline, one will automatically be generated based on your timeline name. A "New Timeline" will generate a blank template where you can add your own events. Whichever timeline you started with, you will have the option of adding a "new event". The image below, on the right, is a screen shot what pops up. Here you add an Event Name and/or dates. You can add images and search Wikipedia, too. The event then will show on your timeline.
We created a few timelines using the Sample option and the New option. 
This timeline was started as a sample and we added in "The history of paper" and "Be Thou My Vision". Once the date is added, the program automatically places it on the timeline in chronological order. We chose images from Wikipedia for our added events. We were also able to adjust the sizes of the images simply by dragging it. Each of the events can also be moved around to fit the screen or to adjust to your preference. 

In the image, you can see that "Be Thou My Vision" is highlighted in red. I had chosen it to modify. At the top of the screen shot, you can see 3 tabs that allow you to either edit, delete, or "snap to vertical", which will return you to your main timeline.

In this timeline, my daughter (17yo) was practicing. You can see "practice timeline" on the left hand side of the screen. When she created the timeline, she added this in the description. She was able to choose her background and used images from our own photo files for each event. 

She had fun matching images to her selected dates. 

We used this timeline to build our family tree. I used just the "start date" and added the full birthdate and date of death (for my dad) in the description. The description is seen by clicking the image.

I've been playing around with this using different photos and adding my husband's family info, too. It's an interesting way to create a family tree : ^ )

Another option that KQ TimelineBuilder for iPad has is to "Share" the timeline. You can share either by sending an email using the events alone or the entire timeline. You can save the events and/or timeline as photos, and even save the file to share via iTunes.

Below are shots from my email after sharing my daughter's timeline. The first photo is a share of the timeline, which includes a photo of the main timeline and a listing of the events. The smaller image (to the right) is a share of the events only. The photos of each event is included along with the description of the events. We though this feature was pretty cool. 

How To Purchase: You can purchase the KQ TimelineBuilder for iPad for $6.99. That is an excellent price for this great App. You will have tons of history right at your fingertips.

TimelineBuilder is for ages 10 and up, but I believe that children of all ages could have benefits from using it.

What We Thought: We enjoyed being able to review this App. We had fun creating different timelines and played around with all the different features. Since we are studying Medieval ages right now, we did try to create a few within this time period. I like the fact that we had instant access to Wikipedia to come up with the descriptions and photos, too.

There were a couple of things we didn't like. First, with the sample timeline, all the event descriptions that are created by the program itself are in Latin. Though we studied Latin some, we couldn't really figure out what was being said. We could go in and edit the descriptions, but it would've been nice to have it in English from the start. There may be a way to do it automatically, but we weren't able to figure that out yet. 

The other thing is when you are creating an event, if you touch outside of the popup, it takes you back to the main timeline and your info is deleted if it wasn't completed. This became frustrating for my daughter because she wasn't used to using the iPad and kept touching the wrong spots.

Overall though, we loved this App and plan on using it with our history lessons. I believe you will like it, too.
We love science! There are so many interesting things to learn about, and see, and do. We believe that God created all things and that He gives us the wisdom to explore & learn what He wants us to. For centuries, those explorations have led scientists to incredible discoveries. Today, we can learn about all of these through various sources.

But what's the best way to learn it? There are innumerable science programs available in the forms of textbooks, modules, videos, unit studies, lapbooks, and online. Determining which is best really depends on your family. But one company that we've recently been introduced to has definitely caught our attention. Supercharged Science is a company that offers a physical science curriculum and their awesome Supercharged Science eScience Online Learning Program. This is an online program that offers a complete science education, including experiments, to K-12 students and educators. We were able to review the eScience program with the extended high school level as members of the SRC.

Supercharged Science was started by Al & Aurora Lipper several years ago. Aurora has an extensive education and career experience. She has a Bachelor's and Master's in Mechanical Engineering Cal Poly State. Her thesis was in flow patterns of F-15 engines (with a 4.0 and "Graduation with Distinction"). She taught at Cal Poly, has worked at NASA, and then created Supercharge Science to help children learn science and have fun doing it.  
So What is the eScience Program?

Supercharged eScience (SCS) is a complete science curriculum that can be used independent of other curriculum or in conjunction with, depending on your own preference. They even offer a "conversion chart" to help direct you to which lessons coincide with a particular curriculum from another company. SCS "meets or exceeds" state and national standards. Each of the lessons includes exercises and quizzes, as well. 

SCS does not teach evolution or creation. This sets eScience apart from most curriculum that I've seen. Though we are creationists and use a creation based science program, it's refreshing to be able to use an online source and not have to worry about what "facts" my kids are learning that are irrelevant or unnecessary to the topic, like many secular sources have. 

SCS is a step-by-step program that guides your student through each lesson and every experiment. Aurora is an interactive and vibrant educator that will engage your student's desire to learn science. She is the sole instructor in each video and absolutely brings science to a hands on level, even astrophysics and thermodynamics!

SCS is self-guided. Even though the lessons are titled Unit 1, 2, 3... they can be done in any order of preference. And each unit can take as long, or as quickly, as you and your student decide. With the conversion chart, Aurora has made it very user friendly. And each of the lessons has experiments listed for young students as well as high school students. The units are categorized by topic and grade level (SCS FAQ's).

SCS is accessible on or offline. Aurora has also made all of the lessons plans printable, too. You can download the complete lesson as a PDF file and/or view them online. The videos are included within the online lesson. There is even a complete "shopping list" to ensure you have all the necessary lab equipment/supplies for each of the units far in advance of when you are ready.

SCS is parent friendly. If you have any questions while using Supercharged Science' eScience program, you can simply call or email a customer rep directly. Aurora is even available on Wednesday afternoons (as of this posting) and you can call her directly with any questions of the lessons or experiments. That, to me, is amazing!!! There is a full list of FAQ's and a special Parent Resources page that offers info like: what should my child know about science, common mistakes made when teaching science, 6 keys to teaching science, keeping a scientific journal, and so much more.

SCS offers a Getting Started page. This page will help you and your student learn the basics on using Supercharged Sciences' eScience program. It lists how to get started and how to get the most out of the program. This is a great place to start, for sure. There is a video that you can watch, too, with Aurora talking about the program. Check it out for a quick sample view.

How To Purchase Supercharged Science eScience Online Learning Program:

The eScience program has 2 different levels. The K-8 level is $37 per month and the K-12 level is $57 per month. The expanded K-12 program includes the High School levels which are wonderfully designed with higher level experiments. 

What We Thought: I have to admit, when we first began to use the eScience program, we were not fascinated. We had a difficult time navigating the site, which was frustrating. And it seemed like some of the experiments didn't give us the list of supplies needed. 

This was before we viewed the getting started page and watched the video. We jumped the gun a little on that. Once we figured it all out (read the instructions, lol), we loved it. My 7th grader is completing General Science through Apologia and all of the lessons fit smoothly with it. My 12th grader is using Apologia's Physics curriculum and enjoyed Supercharged Science very much.

We pretty much jumped around to whatever we chose to do most of the time, but it was really nice to be able to look up specific lessons depending on the topic we were learning that week. I also like that we could go at our own pace. This allowed us to do as we pleased, which is important to us. 

The experiments, for the most part, were very user friendly, too, except the Chemistry ones. These required a chem kit, which we didn't have. But we were able to watch the videos and still learn. Most of the experiments used around the house supplies or easily accessible ones, with links to sites we could get them from. This, again, was nice.

I do believe we will continue to use this program throughout the rest of the year and into next. It has many positive aspects. I think you will really enjoy it, too. You can try it out for 30 days to see. 

For other great reviews, click the link below.

Do you like reading old books? We do. We enjoy the use of the language and reading about the culture of those times, but the primary reasons we like older books are the fundamental beliefs that God reigns, morality exists, and right and wrong is black and white. But often we're not sure what the books are about or which ones really are family friendly and wholesome. Some of these books we've not even heard of because they haven't been available for several years. 

Daniel Mills wanted to change this. He founded Salem Ridge Press in 2005 specifically to republish books that are wholesome, teach godly character, have a high moral value, and "fit the qualifications of the Bible" (SRP). Salem Ridge Press' philosophy comes straight from Philippians:
There is a rigorous process that each book must endure before it is chosen by Salem Ridge Press (SRP) to be republished. We have had the pleasure of reviewing one of those wonderful books, Elfreda The Saxon: Or, The Orphan of Jerusalem. This is the sequel to Leofwine the Monk by Emma Leslie
Elfreda The Saxon was originally published in 1875, is 265 pages long and is geared for readers age 12 and up.

It takes place in Medieval years of 1189-1215 A.D. and is in Emma Leslie's Church History series.

Elfreda is a young Saxon orphan that must go to live with her aunt, Lady de Valery, in England. Lady de Valery was not pleased with the situation and ultimately sent Elfreda to London. It was during the Muslim capture of Jerusalem, King Richard I's reign, and The Crusades.

The underlying story, and the connection to Leofwine, is that there was a family curse placed on him 100 years ago and it seems that it still follows Elfreda. She and her cousin, Guy, meet when she arrives in England, and they endeavor to free the family from the curse. Guy had joined King Richard's Crusade and believed he could bring honor to the family and break the curse. Elfreda believed she could break it by living a devout life. But there was only One that could set the family free from the bondage of this curse

The events we read about in Elfreda the Saxon, were true to the historical accounts documented on the history of the church.. The persecution of the Jewish people was painfully accurate. Not that the book depictions were horrifically graphic, but it was the fact that it happened at all that had an impact.

Salem Ridge Press chose a remarkable book to republish in Elfreda the Saxon. It's an excellent book that teaches about accepting The Lord as Savior and trusting Him, all while bringing church history lessons to a very personal level. You can read a sample of the first chapter here. But I warn you, you're going to want to finish it : ^ )

A couple things about Salem Ridge Press' books: Because the books were originally published between the 1800's-1900's, some of the words are no longer used today. SRP wisely added these words and their definitions as footnotes on the first page they are seen. SRP also has added historical notes in each of the books which helps the reader gain an insight to the time period before reading the book. They also have included a write-up on the author, which is nice. SRP has not just republished old books, they've brought outstanding books back to life.

How To Purchase: Salem Ridge has republished many great books (I was able to review a few others back in 2008) that all can be purchased directly from them. Elfreda the Saxon is available for $14.95 (softcover) or $24.95 (hardcover).

What We Thought: As you can tell from my review, I am impressed with Salem Ridge Press' books, Elfreda the Saxon was no exception. While reading, I was easily absorbed in the story. I loved that I was given the short history lessons at the beginning so that I knew more about the time. It allowed me to understand more of what Elfreda was really going through. 

I had my daughter write her own opinion, which follows:
"I like the formatting of the book, for example., the font and setup. The historical facts and word meanings are nice. I would have liked to see a glossary of the words though, instead of having to search through the book to find where the definition was printed. Especially when I couldn't remember them later in the book.  I think that this was a good book to reprint, I do not think I would have even heard of it otherwise. I am glad I was able to read it :)"

I am sure we would not have heard about Elfreda the Saxon if SRP had not republished it. I am thankful for the dedication they have given to these "old books".
My husband and I grew up in the 70's & 80's. We didn't have a computer, except in high school (and maybe a little in junior high), and it wasn't anything like it is today. There were no colors or great graphics, that I can remember, at the beginning. It was MS/DOS or something : ^ ) I used the computer in math and at the library. At home, we did things like play outdoors, ride bikes, play Atari, and basic other kid stuff (at least I did, not sure about my husband, lol). I didn't know much at all about the language of a computer.
But the world of technology has changed a lot since then & Computer Science for Kids wants to help students learn the basics about computer programming so that they are better prepared for an ever advancing technological world. They offer products that will help your kids learn how to create applications and games using Microsoft Small Basic.

Computer Science for Kids (CSK) offers 2 programs to do this: Beginning Microsoft Small Basic and Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic. They are essentially the same programs up to chapter 10. After that, Computer Bible Games adds 3 additional chapters that allows the student to program & play Christian based games instead of Secular games, as the Beginning Microsoft Small does. As members of the SRC, we were given Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic for review. 

This program is geared for middle school students (10 & up) and is designed to help them understand Microsoft Small Basic "while developing "fun and simple" learning games and Computer Bible Games" (CSK). 

So what is Microsoft Small Basic? It is a programming environment to help prepare kids for future work with "more complex programming languages like Visual Basic, Visual C# and Java" (CSK).

Computer Bible Games is an interactive, self-paced, program that is very easy to follow. Your student will learn: program design, text window applications, graphics window applications and other elements of the Small Basic language. Throughout the 13 chapter course, your student will learn a great number of things about programming. The following is a list of the chapters (you can click Table of Contents to view the chapters in depth and Sample Lesson to view chapter 4).

1. Introducing Small Basic
2. Small Basic Program Basics
3. Your First Small Basic Program
4. Small Basic Program Design, Input Methods
5. Debugging, Decisions, Random Numbers
6. Small Basic Looping, Subroutines
7. More Small Basic Looping, Arrays
8. Small Basic Graphics, Mouse Methods
9. Timers, Animation, Keyboard Methods
10. Noah’s Ark Project
11. Daniel and the Lions Project
12. Elijah and the Ravens Project
13. Additional COMPUTER BIBLE GAMES & Learning Games Projects

Your child will learn how to program and play: Noah's Ark, Daniel and the Lions, Elijah and the Ravens, The Good Shepherd, The Prodigal Son, The Lost Coin, and Bible Scramble

Computer Bible Games offers numerous examples in the over 400 pages of course notes teaching the student to use Microsoft Small Basic to successfully create programs while having fun. Each chapter builds upon and reviews the previous lessons.

In lesson 4, we created a savings calculator that simply asked for basic input and then calculated the total amount saved including percentage rate. It was simple, but fun : ^ ) Below is a screen shot. . .
The only thing that we found disappointing was that these games are not discussed until the later chapters. But this is because it's important to learn the basic steps before moving on to the next level. Jumping from A to D without B & C will cause you to miss essential lessons that are vital to your program working correctly. So we have been patiently working 
through the lessons, building our knowledge base up in preparation for more fun to come.

How To Purchase: Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic can be purchased as a physical book or a digital e-book. The E-book is really a set of files that download and are opened individually as a Word document. We received the single user e-book version for review. The Single User License Digital E-book is normally available for $59.95, but now through 7/4/13 can be purchased at the sale price of $34.95. That's a good price for basically a one semester program.

What We Thought: We have enjoyed using Computer Bible Games for the last few weeks. So far I've learned some new things, and am realizing that I already knew a few of the basic lessons. My kids are enjoying learning about programming and are looking forward to completing the whole course.
Since we have only had this program for only a few weeks and each chapter takes approx. 3-6hrs. to complete (over the course of a week), we have not completed all 13 chapters. But we are eagerly anticipating learning how to create, & play, the actual Bible games in lessons 11-13. The screen shot to the left is from the game Elijah and the Ravens taught in chapter 12. 

We worked together on each lesson and spent the necessary time needed for all of us to fully grasp the concept. The language of programming can take a little bit of time to get used to. My daughter (17) caught on pretty quick and wanted to zoom through the lessons, but my son (12) needed some extra time to understand. She has seen some programming before, but he never had. He is, however, anxious to get to the games. He loves playing computer games and the fact that we will be creating them ourselves (with clear guidance from the lesson, of course) is fascinating to him. I think that once all of this truly "clicks" for him, he will be asking to continue on to the next level of programming. And then. . ."boldly go where no man. . ." Sorry, I couldn't help myself  : ^ )  All of this computer talk reminded me of the advanced technology of the sci-fi show of my day, lol. 

But really, learning to navigate through Microsoft Small Basic with Computer Science for Kids can start an exciting journey into the world of computer programming for my son and yours. We've had a lot of fun so far and know that there's more to come. 

Check out Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic for yourself and see what you think. For more reviews on this program and Beginning Microsoft Small Basic, click the banner below.