Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Reading Journal: Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers

Book Description:
In the debut mystery in Dorothy L. Sayers’s acclaimed Lord Peter Wimsey series, the case of a dead bather draws Lord Peter into the first of many puzzling mysteries Lord Peter Wimsey spends his days tracking down rare books, and his nights hunting killers. Though the Great War has left his nerves frayed with shellshock, Wimsey continues to be London’s greatest sleuth—and he’s about to encounter his oddest case yet.  
A strange corpse has appeared in a suburban architect’s bathroom, stark naked save for an incongruous pince-nez. When Wimsey arrives on the scene, he is confronted with a once-in-a-lifetime puzzle. The police suspect that the bathtub’s owner is the murderer, but Wimsey’s investigation quickly reveals that the case is much stranger than anyone could have predicted.  
My thoughts:
If you read any kind of mysteries it isn't long before the name Dorothy Sayers will pop up. Since I've been reading quite a few mysteries lately I decided to delve into Whose Body?, the first book in the Lord Peter Wimsey Series. I have to admit that just the name Lord Peter Wimsey intrigues me enough to read the book!

Detective work to Lord Peter Wimsey is a hobby. He has the aid of a Scotland Yard man, Charles Parker, and his loyal butler, Bunter to help him with his sleuthing. He isn't bothered in the least with his unconventional ways of investigation and he will keep investigating until he finds the real murderer.

If Bertie Wooster (P.G. Wodehouse) entered the mystery genre I think it would look a lot like Lord Peter Wimsey. Yes, Wimsey is much smarter than Bertie, but that element of British humor is a great addition. I did find the murder details in this story to be more descriptive than say an Agatha Christie Poirot mystery, but not anything close to most modern mystery writers.

I really enjoyed Whose Body?.  Sayers writes a very suspenseful mystery with a just the right amount of humor in it that adds to the overall story.

Here were some passages I enjoyed:
  • "Oh, quite," said Lord Peter, grinning at the telephone. The Duchess was always of the greatest assistance to his hobby of criminal investigation, though she never alluded to it, and maintained a polite fiction of its nonexistence.
  • "I'm sure it must have been uncommonly distressin'," said Lord Peter, sympathetically, "especially comin' like that before breakfast. Hate anything tiresome happenin' before breakfast. Takes a man at such a confounded disadvantage, what?" 
  • Nevertheless, while communing with Dante, he made up his mind.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day by Kendra Fletcher (TOS Review)

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I am excited to talk about an e-book I recently reviewed from Preschoolers and Peace. Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Day by Kendra Fletcher is a short, but power-packed e-book that shows how you, as homeschool teacher, can take a portion of your day to teach all ages, include what you want, and ultimately enjoy your kids more.

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Circle Time was started in Kendra Fletcher's home as a way to gather her children together to start their homeschool day. They prayed, read the Bible, sang hymns which helped set the tone of the day. Gradually as time progressed they added other things they interested them.

In Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Day Kendra takes you through each step of planning out your own Circle Time. She also shows you how to:
  • Figure out what you want to accomplish
  • Plan a realistic amount of time for the ages of your children
  • Expand your Circle Time as your children get older
  • Ideas for memory work
  • Keeping the little ones happy while doing Circle Time with older children
  • Get your kids on board
After all these helpful tips and tricks she has a section with questions and answers and also a section where other moms their experiences of doing Circle Time. I really enjoyed these sections since they really help show a realistic picture of what Circle Time can look like for different families and situations. There is also a resource page and planning sheets that can be printed off to help plan you Circle Time.
 Planning sheets
I have read quite a bit of information about Circle Time from different blogs that I follow and last year I actually attempted to do something similar. When we actually did our "Bible Time" (what we ended up calling it) I think it was a favorite part of my day, but it was something that we did hit or miss.
The last couple of weeks we have done a very small and simple Circle Time (again hit or miss) with just a chapter from the Bible and a reading from a book. Right now I am mulling over what I have read and working with the planning sheets that were included, to help me decide how to make our Circle Time look for this coming school year.
I am really for the perfect time in the day to do this while keeping enough time for the kids to get there other subjects finished. I also know that we will probably have two parts to our Circle Time--one with me which will be mainly memory work and reading and then one with the whole family which will include our hymn and folk song studies.
I absolutely love the idea of Circle Time and am hoping to great success with it and I found Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Day to be such a big help to me. If I had any complaint it would be that there are just way too many things I want to add to our Circle Time. See what I mean?
Here are a few ideas and I have so many more!
This is such an encouraging read and honestly, I don't think you can go wrong with implementing this idea into your homeschool day. As Kendra states,
"Do you know that there is no "right" way to do Circle Time? What Circle Time becomes in your home is what is right for you." p. 32
Head on over the Preschoolers and Peace and check out all of her information and pick up a copy of the e-book Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Day by Kendra Fletcher. For only $4.99 you can't go wrong! Highly recommended!!!!! 

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Reading Journal: Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

{Affiliate links enclosed.}

Book Description:
"Ignorant boys, killing each other," is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan's wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry's unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter's children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors "live right on."
My thoughts:
I have heard many good things about Wendell Berry's books. I really have a thing about reading books in order, but I had a hard time figuring out which book came first in his "Port William" novels and ending up just diving into Hannah Coulter.

I have to admit that Wendell Berry does a great job of drawing you right into the story. This story wasn't easy to put down. The story begins with the beginning of Hannah's life and follows her through growing up, years on her own, romance, marriage, being a widow and a new mom, and then finally the life she built with Nathan Coulter. It also gives a peek of the community of Port William and the people who surrounded them day in and out.

Wendell Berry writes very realistic fiction and I have to admit that as much as I enjoyed the story I also found it very sad and too realistic. I loved Hannah's resilient spirit, but her children were such a disappointment to me and just plain made me mad. I do like a story with a satisfying ending, which I didn't find in Hannah Coulter, but I do think it gave me a lot to think about.

Though Hannah Coulter didn't meet my expectations, I will be checking out other Wendell Berry books just to satisfy my curiosity. Have you read Wendell Berry? Which ones do you recommend?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Homeschool Programming: KidCoder Beginning Web Design (TOS Review)

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The last few weeks Caleb has been busy learning a new language. No, not foreign language, but computer language. We were recently sent for review from Homeschool Programming the KidCoder Series Beginning Web Design. Though my kids have grown up with computers I haven't raised any aspiring computer scientists, so this opened the doors to a new world for Caleb.
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The KidCoder Web Design is a course that will teach students from 4th grade and higher the basics of HTML, XHTML and CSS. In this course a student will learn how to create their own web page and give them the basics to build on to develop other web sites.
KidCoder Web Design has 13 Chapters:
  1. Introduction to Web Design
  2. Web Site Files and Directories
  3. Your first Web Page
  4. Web Content
  5. Connecting Your Site
  6. The Navigation Bar
  7. Cascading Style Sheets
  8. Practical CSS
  9. Understanding Cascades
  10. Positioning
  11. Branding Your Site
  12. Working with Graphics
  13. Tables
  14. Final Project
Chapters 1-12 are broken down into four lessons which introduces a concept with an explanation and examples that use the concept. At the end of each lesson there is a chapter review and there are one to two activities interspersed throughout the chapter. While they are working through the activities the student is also building a web site from scratch with step by step instructions. The last lesson of the course is where they take everything they learned and applying it to creating their own web page from scratch!
We received a download which included the activity starters, solutions, a Solution Guide (a very helpful and needed resource), tests and answers, and other supplemental items. I put moved the student text to my Dropbox so Caleb could access it from our iPad. This worked very well and looking back I think it would have been helpful to have the Chapter Activity Documents on the iPad also.
I basically handed this over to Caleb to start reading and working on the activities. He was given a lot of practice finding the KidCoder Web Design files on the computer and quickly learned the how to find the files he needed either through the "Start" menu or through the "C" drive.
For the beginning he did pretty well, with an occasional problem here or there. I was able to go through the solution guide and many times I could find the problem. By the end he was using the solution guide himself. At one point I was stumped on what to do and sent an email to the folks at Homeschool Programming. I had an answer within an hour and he was able to continue on with is activity.

Near the end of the review period the videos became available to us and I had Caleb use a few of them. There was a video for every lesson from each chapter. The videos had illustrations portraying the concept being taught and then and on screen step by step demonstration of the concept.
I thought they were helpful, but Caleb struggled with them due to the fact he started doing them half way through the course and just wasn't used to watching them. Sometimes the examples in the video were a little different than what was written in the lesson, which I think for a younger child would be confusing.
I thought this was a great introduction to web design especially if you didn't have any prior knowledge. I don't think Caleb felt talked down to at all. I was very impressed on how much he understood the concepts being taught. When he needed my help I would question him on something and he could explain to me what he had done and what he was trying to do. 
Even though Caleb didn't come out with a great desire to build web sites, I felt it gave him a great foundation and understanding of the basics of building a web site. I liked that it was easy to use for both student and parent and didn't require the parent to have prior knowledge on website design. It also promotes self learning and the student's experience success in their projects.
KidCoder Web Series is available at Homeschool Programming:
  • Course only - $70.00
  • Course & Video - $85.00 (Coming in early August)
  • Video only - $20.00 (Coming in early August)
Also, KidCoder Advanced Web Design will be available soon. Don't forget to check out Homeschool Programming for the other programs that are available.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Couponing Made Simple by Christi the Coupon Coach (TOS Review)

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I have to admit that couponing is something that totally eludes me. I have read a few book about it and do subscribe to a couple of coupon sites, but that is about the extent of it. I recently received for review Couponing Made Simple by Christi the Coupon Coach, which was an easy read and then set out to see if I could learn a thing or two.

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Couponing Made Simple starts off by whetting your desire to save money with a handful of success stories. The book then shows how by couponing you will learn a whole new way to shop. The first thing you learn are the first two Rules of Couponing which are:
  • Rule 1: Buy on Sale
  • Rule 2: Stack Coupons
The author, Christi, then gets into the nitty-gritty of couponing by covering many different topics such as:
  • The language of couponing (blinkies, peelies, etc.)
  • How to organize your coupons
  • Tips and tricks
  • Ethics in couponing
  • Networking and communicating
  • Other ideas and ways to save money that don't require couponing
I tried implementing her system, but again it was a no-go. As much as I liked her idea of filing the inserts in a file folder and cutting out as needed I discovered that that didn't work for me. I need to handle every coupon to help put it into my visual memory.

One problem I have with coupons is that we don't use many of the items that they give coupons for and yes, we eat processed food. Outside of Target, I don't know of too many other stores that you can stack coupons at. Every once in while I can do it at Fred Meyer, but those occasions are few and far between.

I also usually ignore what Walgreens and Rite-Aid have on sale since I HATE shopping at those stores, but that being said I did read the through the blog posts from the coupon sites that I subscribe to and honestly, I didn't see anything there that I really needed to stock up on. I checked thoroughly through Safeway and the Fred Meyer ads each week, but again the deals were for things we just wouldn't eat or use. Because of this I didn't think the time it took for me to research out the deals was worth it. (The author did tell us that she only devotes a couple of hours every two weeks to shopping and couponing.)

I had the biggest success at Target where I scored 4 bottles of body wash, 2 bags of mini Kit-Kats, and a can of shaving cream for $7.09.

Even though I wasn't successful I do think if you are interested in couponing, Couponing Made Simple is a great introduction to couponing and chocked full of other money saving tidbits.

Couponing made Simple by Christi the Coupon Coach is available in paperback for $18.00 or in Kindle for $4.99. She also has a page where she lists her favorite websites for matching coupons.

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5 Days of Great Kid's Books


Here is a list of our favorite kid's books compiled from 5 Days of Great Kid's Books Series that I did in participation in Schoolhouse Review Crew "5 Days of ..." Blog Hop.

 Enjoy learning about some of our favorite Kid's Books reads!

What's On Your Nightstand - July

What's On Your Nightstand
Another month has come and gone and I am dreadfully behind in posting book reviews. Another think to put on my ever growing to-do list. This coming month is going to be especially busy with a visit from my mom and dad, a small vacation, and homeschooling planning, and planning an Economics class for a homeschool co-op and yes, my knowledge of economics basically consists of 'what comes up must come down'--scary, I know! My picks for August may be a little generous for the time I have, but for now these are my goals.

August Nightstand:

From June's Nightstand:
I also read:
  • Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government by Glenn Beck - Yeah, I know this is NOT my typical reading. Honestly, I can't stand to listen to any kind of talk radio so thus I avoid Glenn Beck, but I really enjoyed this book. Very insightful on what is happening in our government today. I think what also makes this book appealing is how colorful the pages are and the illustration included which make it easier to read than just a normal book.
  • Parenting From the Heart by Marilyn Boyer  - A mother sharing a heart about parenting. Filled with lots of illustrations from her years of parenting along with homeschooling the author offers a lot of encouragement to a homeschool mom.
Booklets from my Kindle: Freebies from my Kindle. Short, sweet, and even though I can't say they were profound reads I can truly say that I think I found little tidbits in each one to help in our homeschool journey.

I listened to:
Appointment with Death: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie - Sloooowly, making my way through Poirot's stories.

See what others have read over at 5 Minutes for Books.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

25 Truths by Ed Douglas (TOS Review)

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It is nice to come across a book that reinforces Christian principles that you are trying to train your children in and shows how it can they look in real life situations . We recently have been reading the book 25 Truths from Ed Douglas Publications.

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25 Truths: Life Principles of the Happiest and Most Successful Among Us is written by Ed Douglas who is a retired bank president, chairman and CEO of a local bank located in Missouri and a financial planner. This book was inspired by:
... a three-page list that Ed had compiled and titled "Life’s Truths" or "25 Tips for an Enjoyable Life." He shared the list with friends, acquaintances, and students that he coached as the head high school tennis coach. (see more here)
25 Truths deals with character, values, and what is important in life. Each truth is discussed by the author in concise and easy to read sections. The author also gives many examples of how these truths related to incidents in his own life and how they guided him in making better decisions.  
A samples of truths include:
  • Protect Your Reputation
  • Be Slow to Judge
  • Make every Day Your Best Day
  • Practice - It Make Perfect
  • Set Goals and Write Them Down
  • Spend Time with Your Family
  • And so many more!

Following each chapter is a summary which summarizes the truth in one or two short, easy to understand sentences. Then there follows a summary portion which repeats the 'truth' and then gives a series of questions to be answered.

I read 25 Truths as a read-aloud to Chantry (11), Destini (13), and Caleb (17). I enjoyed that so many of the truths he covered are things that we have been teaching and instilling into our children since they were young. The examples were a wonderful way to show how other people apply these principles in their own personal life. Plus, they got to see that maybe mom and dad aren't crazy after all!

We then would go through the summary portion and answer the questions. I have to admit that a lot of the questions were hard for them to respond to since they haven't experienced for themselves yet, but we didn't let that stop us from talking about them. The questions still gave opportunity for great and sometimes hilarious discussions. Also, it made me have to share things in my life that I was doing or not doing. Yes, I had moments of conviction.

I did have two small issues with the book. The first was that the term "Christian principles" was used when so many of them were "Biblical principles" which could have been backed up from the Bible. Yes, he does use some scripture in book, but there could have been a lot more used. If I go through this again I will probably do some quick Bible digging and find scriptures to look up to add.

My second issue arose when we got to the "You Gotta Believe" truth. He started off the chapter saying that you needed to believe in a higher power and then told his story about how he believed in God and what God had done for him. I appreciate his honesty, but I eventually gave up reading that chapter since I believe there is no other Higher Power except for God and I do not want there to be any confusion on that point with my children and we did discuss that. Since the author talks about being a Christian through out the book I was surprised he straddled the fence on this one truth.

I think 25 Truths is a very helpful book and it made a great family read-aloud. The chapters are short and don't take very long to read, yet they are packed with full of great things. We had such a wonderful time talking about these truths and I think my kids came out with greater insight on their mom (and dad, when he was awake).

25 Truths by Ed Douglas is available from Ed Douglas Publications for $12.50 plus $3.00 for shipping and handling.

Now I'm off to set come goals and write them down!!!

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