These reviews are the combined efforts of various home-school parents, most of whom have subscribed to the Family Times newsletter. We appreciate the efforts of all who have contributed. All reviews are written by home-school parents who have personal experience with the materials they review, and all are written from the perspective of Christians who attend non-denominational, non-institutional churches of Christ (see note below*). This is the audience that we seek specifically to benefit. Since various reviewers have participated, different viewpoints are reflected. Each reviewer is solely responsible for his/her own comments (although the editor has made changes for brevity and general suitability).
Most reviews contain information about costs, addresses or phone numbers where the materials may be obtained, etc. Please remember that we make no guarantees whatsoever regarding the accuracy for this information! We hope the costs can serve as "ball-park figures" for cost comparison purposes. You may need to use the Internet or local library to find up-to-date information regarding addresses, costs, etc.
Terms relating to home schooling seem to follow no standard spelling. We personally prefer two words ("home school," "home schooler," etc.) and hyphenated adjectives ("home-schooled student"). Others use just one word ("homeschool," "homeschooler," etc.). We have made little effort to standardize these terms in the reviews. And while we have tried to correct most grammatical errors, we have almost surely missed some.
We welcome and encourage updates to these reviews. Specifically, any home-school parent who attends a non-instrumental, non-institutional church of Christ is welcome to submit additional reviews or even alterative viewpoints. See our email address at the end.
This material is copyrighted by Family Times. You are permitted to give copies of any review to others for the purpose of promoting home schooling in a positive way. Please quote each review entirely without changing the content in any way and cite the source as /familytimes. However, you are not free to place any review on a website or publish it in any publication, in print or on the Internet, without permission. To obtain permission, please go to /comments.php
* Because of their unique beliefs, reviewers may oppose materials that justify divorce, abortion, feminism, profanity, gambling, smoking, drinking, etc. They may also criticize books for promoting ideas such as evolution, denominationalism, Calvinism, salvation by "faith only" without baptism, instrumental music in worship, church support of centralized earthly institutions or recreation or entertainment, etc.
|Greenleaf Press||Henty, G.A.
Notgrass American History
Alphabet Island Phonics
Draw Write Now
Hooked on Phonics
L/A through Literature
Portland State Handwriting
Sing Spell Read Write
Teach Your Child to Read...
Bob Jones Math
Complete Book of Math
Making Math Meaningful
Creation with Chemistry
How Does God Do That?
Lyrical Life Science
|Solomon Resource Guide
Young Scientists Club
|French in 10 Minutes a Day||Power-Glide Spanish||Rosetta Stone Spanish|
Bible Study Flash Cards
Bible Study Guide for all Ages
Free Online Bible Study Lessons
Growing Up in the Lord
Robert Harkrider's Books
Illustrated Bible Timeline
Ferrell Jenkins' Books
Ladies' Studies (various)
Light to My Path Workbooks
Men & Women of the Bible
Miller Family Series
Mrs. Lee's Bible Stories
New Testament Greek Online
Our Spiritual Heritage
Supplemental Bible Materials
Through the Bible in Felt
Bob & Sandra Waldron's Books
Christian Charm Course
Comprehensive Curriculum-Basic Skills
Fallacy Detective (logic)
Focus on the Family Citizen
Home Education Magazine
Home Educator's Family Times
Home School Court Report
Home School Digest
Home School Enrichment
Home Schooling: Start Here
|Monthly Idea Books
|Bible Mapper Software
Defending Liberty: HSLDA Story
Linda Haught's Fitness Club
|Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia|
American Adventure Series
America's God and Country
Books Children Love
Anyone Can Homeschool
Child Abuse in the Classroom
Clair Bee Sports Books
Dinner's in the Freezer
Dr. James Dobson's Books
Family Reading Booklist
Home Grown Kids
Homeschooling: A Parents' Guide...
Homeschooling for Eternity
Homeschooling: Learning Styles
I Am a Home Schooler
Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling
Make It Your Ambition
Marking the Milestones
Managers of Their Homes
NEA: Trojan Horse
The Right Choice
Teaching the Trivium
When You Rise Up
Please note that some of these curricula do not cover all subject areas or not all grade levels. Read the specifications carefully.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: PO Box 18000, Pensacola, FL 32523 (800-874-BEKA).
Grades covered: K-12
Cost: Purchasing just textbooks may cost an average of $200 or more per year.
This is a very complete curriculum, originally designed for use in "Christian" private schools. A Beka and Pensacola are not financially tied to any denomination; however, they are basically Baptist in view. This is occasionally a problem, but not often.
Home schoolers may enroll in a correspondence program or purchase individual textbooks and materials as needed. Available are essentially all materials you need, including texts, tests, and grading keys, grades K-12. Daily lesson plans, many visuals, and enrichment materials are also available. You can purchase materials for reading, phonics, grammar, math, science, history, health, vocabulary, and music, including complete materials for most high school topics.
The approach used involves traditional textbooks. Because the material is designed for classroom use, home schoolers may want to make some adaptations (though this is not necessary). The academic level is relatively demanding for each grade level.
Reading texts emphasize high moral standards, character improvement, and strong family values. Science is strongly creationist, thoroughly refuting evolution. History is strongly patriotic, but occasionally introduces premillennialism and religious history from a Protestant view. Faith only or other Calvinist views come up, but only rarely. The phonics program is good. Tests tend to contain too much busywork. We suggest replacing some test questions with essay and short answer questions.
The materials are fairly priced, but if you purchase everything you buy several items for each subject at each grade level. The textbooks can be reused for later students. Tests cannot be photocopied, but may be reused provided you have your children write their answers on separate paper. Field representatives are available to meet with groups of parents to demonstrate the books. Video tapes are also available.
For those who want a traditional textbook approach, we recommend Beka. Personally we prefer Saxon math over Beka. Families may want to start with Beka because it provides a complete program, then experiment with other materials as they become more experienced.
Reviewed by Sherry and Matt Hennecke
Contact information: A Beka School Services, PO Box 18000, Pensacola, FL 32523; (800) 874-3592
Grades covered: K-12
Cost: The "noncredit" program prices are $690 per grade (includes all subjects) for elementary or $315 per course for grades 7-12 or $820 for three to five subjects. The "credit" program is $740 per course.
As stated in their brochure, "the Video Home School features the master teachers of Pensacola Christian Academy in a traditional Christian classroom setting for the instruction of your child at home." Kindergarten through high school courses are available on either a credit or noncredit basis.
This program is based on videos tapes which present the material taught in A Beka Book texts. The tapes come in periodic shipments and must be returned after use. Also included are the student's textbooks, quiz and test booklets, teacher's manuals, curriculum guides, quiz and test keys, as well as some supplementary materials. All of these written materials are those which are available through A Beka Books.
The teachers on the videos are, for the most part, excellent. The elementary teachers are nothing short of amazing as they involve the at-home students. Most of the high school teachers (especially history and science) are extremely engaging and interesting. The subject matter is covered thoroughly.
The class schedule in the elementary grades is relatively rigid, since the subjects follow one another on the video tape. Since the teachers' instruction builds day by day, skipping ahead is difficult. Beginning with grade 7 the video instruction for each subject is on separate tapes, giving much more flexibility to slow down or to skip ahead in a subject as needed. Of course, the parents can modify the assignments and testing if they are using the noncredit program.
Doctrinal error can be largely avoided by deleting A Beka's Bible courses. The video teachers and the textbooks (usually history and English) sometimes make references to "faith-only salvation," Calvinism, premillennialism, and denominational missionaries. These errors are readily identified by older students. Nevertheless, parents should remain vigilant when using A Beka. This problem is very, very limited in the regular course work, but does occasionally creep in.
The standards and pace of the A Beka program are demanding and challenging. Students can work very independently, but a parent should be nearby to provide further explanations and to gauge the student's comprehension. Our daughters definitely feel like they are a part of their video classes and speak of their classmates and teachers as though they personally know them. We believe that the video school is an excellent way to home school older students.
Reviewed by Wayne Walker
This curriculum contains four core subjects - English, math, social studies, and science - taught through self-contained and self-instructional four-color worktexts called PACES (twelve per subject per year, each with a teacher's key), which are written in bite-sized pieces, especially suitable for slower learners. The emphasis is heavily traditional and back-to-basics with little stress on hands-on projects or thinking skills and features lots of drill and fill-in-the-blanks. While some consider it unexciting and without creativity, ACE students have been shown significantly to outperform public school students.
ACE is a very easy program to administer for the teacher because the curriculum is mostly self-instructional. It is equally easy for the student in early grades to follow. The layout is straightforward and logical, with a lot of repetition and texts that are printed in nice, clear type. It does move more slowly through material in the first couple of grades, but the writers feel that it is better to spend more time with the basics before jumping into more advanced studies.
Reviewed by Sherri Hope
Contact information: 1-800-739-8199.
Grades covered: K-12
For the past year, we have been using the BJU HomeSat system for our high schooler. The high quality teachers, visual graphics, and thorough instruction combine to make the classes enjoyable and interesting. These classes are challenging, content heavy, and tend to be more structured, requiring the student to adhere to a schedule. Compared to other video programs, HomeSat is more flexible. We can pick any combination of courses we want, regardless of grade or subject. No sets or unwanted Bible courses are required. Also, once taped, these courses can be kept and reused at a later time. HomeSat offers courses K - 12. While most classes are pretaped in a weekly block feed, some high-school-level courses can also be viewed live on a daily basis.
Startup costs include purchasing the hardware, course registration costs, and a monthly access fee (like cable TV). Books are purchased separately. The hardware consists of a satellite dish and a receiver. You can either install the dish yourself, or hire a professional (like we did). We've experienced no problems receiving the satellite signal, and the quality of the signal has been good. Course registrations pay for all test materials, assignment and taping schedules, etc. The Access fee allows you to view all channels plus any special programs. (For example, we watched the BJU Drama Dept. perform Shakespeare's "King Lear".) Student textbooks and curriculum are the buyer's responsibility. However, used materials can be purchased as long as they are current. We found that not all teacher's manuals are absolutely necessary. We also signed up during HomeSat's "register for one course, get one free" sale. These things helped to keep our initial costs down.
As with many curricula, HomeSat has a denominational world view. Unscriptural doctrine is sometimes discussed but we have found such references comparable to the A Beka curriculum.
Reviewed by Whit Sasser
Contact Information: Calvert School, 105 Tuscany Road., Baltimore, MD 21210-3098; (410)243-6030.
Grades covered: K-8
Cost: About $400 per year (kindergarten a little less)
This is the grand daddy of home schooling, having begun around the turn of the century. It is a day school in Baltimore, but has been for many years providing a high quality curriculum for people around the world. In the 1960's my parents used Calvert to teach me, as well as my sisters, for the two years we were in Nigeria, West Africa. In those days it was known simply as correspondence course schooling and was recommended as the curriculum used by US government diplomats and personnel for their children when in foreign countries without adequate school facilities.
The school is accredited by the State of Maryland, and is a secular curriculum with a "Christian" flavor. For an additional fee, an advisory service may be purchased where each student is assigned a teacher in the Day school, who will grade tests that are mailed in and give advice as needed. You purchase a package for each grade, that includes everything you will need, right down to the pencils and erasers. The teacher's manual is leased and must be either returned or destroyed after every year. Therefore, even though you may keep the textbooks, the package as a whole is not reusable; and since you cannot buy books separately, the whole price must be paid each year.
The teacher's manual is very extensive and enables almost anyone to teach their children. It instructs the teacher how to teach the material as you go. The curriculum follows a traditional textbook and test approach to learning and gradually shifts from hands-on instruction by the teacher in the lower grades to self-teaching by the students in the older grades. There are also additional music and foreign language courses available.
I highly recommend Calvert, but understand that the cost may be prohibitive to some, especially those with large families who hope to reuse a lot of the materials for subsequent children. But all-in-all, Calvert is a good way to teach your child at home.
Reviewed by Jeff Hamilton
Contact Information: Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools, 502 W. Euclid Ave., Arlington Heights, IL 60004; (708) 259-8736
K-12, Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Bible, History, Political Science/Economics, English, Math, and Science
There are two basic plans: The CLASS Plan, which is a full-service plan, and the Family Plan, which is a reduced-service plan. In the full-service plan, CLASS maintains all school records, grade tests, and issues quarterly report cards. With the reduced-service plan, the family is responsible for all record keeping. The full-service plan also includes legal advisement, if needed, and testing at the beginning of each grade level. The full-service plan runs between $185 and $340, depending on the grade level. The reduced-service plan runs between $165 and $285, depending on the grade level.
CLASS uses a traditional textbook study. Most of the books are their own publications or come from A Beka Books. The math books come from Modern Curriculum Press. Full teacher's manuals are provided for the math and phonics courses, but the remaining courses only come with answer keys.
When you first enroll in CLASS, several cassette tapes and manuals are sent describing home schooling, CLASS, and even how to answer those wonderful questions from neighbors and grandparents. If you choose the full service plan, as our family did, a California Standard Achievement Test is first sent for each student. After the test is returned, CLASS sends books roughly geared to the grade level of each student.
Courses in the elementary grades cover Bible, Reading, Spelling, Grammar, History, Science, and Math. Phonics is taught through the second grade. Handwriting is taught through the fourth grade.
There are religious references scattered throughout all the material. Christian Liberty Academy considers itself to be nondenominational and fundamental, but they are strongly Calvinistic. As a result, you must keep an eye on the material. However, all these flaws are easily spotted and can be supplemented. The lessons themselves are generally very good to excellent.
The science books are from A Beka and are a joy to use, strongly emphasizing the Bible's teaching of a six-day creation. History books are surprisingly up-to-date, and go out of their way to point out the Christian beliefs of many historical figures. However, there is a shade too much emphasis placed on the work of early missionaries. The reading books stress the virtues of Christian living.
CLASS requires music, Art, and Physical Education of each student, but CLASS supplies no material. Instead, you submit a general description of what was done in each of these areas to CLASS at the end of the school year.
A significant point to note is that upon graduation from CLASS, the students will have a traditional transcript available when they apply for college entrance.
by Sharon Ayres
I have been using Christian Liberty Academy for my curriculum and recently attended a speech by Dr. Lindstrom, superintendent of Christian Liberty Academy. He told us about CLA starting Christian schools in Moscow and other places to reach out for Christ. He said these were financed by CLA.
Afterwards I approached him to clarify this. I asked him, "Were you saying that some of the funds we send you for tuition are used for financing your 'mission' trips?" He was very happy to tell me, "Yes!" I was disappointed to learn this. I do not want my money to support the Calvinism they teach.
[Editor's note: CLASS gave me essentially the same answer when I asked them a similar question in the 1980's. Each family will have to consider the matter yourselves, but we believe you deserve to know that CLASS is a "ministry" of the Church of Christian Liberty, a highly Calvinistic church. They make no distinction between church funds and CLASS funds, so home-schoolers' money may end up financing any or all of their church activities. Also, you should be aware that, although CLASS does give a high-school diploma, there may be little practical advantage in this since it is not accredited. - Dave Pratte]
Reviewed by Tina Meade
Contact Information: Christian Light Education, PO Box 1212, Harrisonburg, VA 22801-1212; Phone: 540-434-1003
[This program is workbook oriented, rather than textbook oriented.]
Christian Light Education is economical, and Mary Pride gave it an A in her Big Book Of Home Learning. Each subject comes in ten light units [workbooks], so it is easy to know how much the kids need to do in a day. It is easy for the kids to follow on their own. Answer keys can be handed down, so it gets cheaper as you go.
The publishers are Mennonite, so the the material and pictures are quite conservative. They don't believe in instrumental music in worship or that children need to do anything to be saved. They teach against Christmas trees and Santa Claus. They believe in one man for one woman for life. However, they don't believe that baptism is for the remission of sins but do believe in pouring for baptism.
Christian Light has different plans:
This program provides parent training by mail or at the CLE training center. Also included are phone assistance for administrative and academic help, beginning testing and placement, record keeping with transcripts and permanent record, CAT and CTBS/4 Survey, grade 8 and high school diplomas. A one-time fee of $100 covers the complete training program and certificate for one parent, along with the above-mentioned services. Then there is a $50 fee for subsequent years - if sent in by June 30, after which it is $65. In this program you may purchase achievement tests. Your senior may obtain a diploma from Christian Light, but I doubt that it would amount to anything since they are not accredited.
This includes a complete training program by mail or CLE training center. You may purchase and use CLE curriculum, except restricted tests and diplomas. No additional services. The home maintains student records. One-time fee of $75.
This includes no training or services and no extra fees. The home school may purchase and use all CLE curriculum (except restricted tests and CLE diplomas). The home decides what to order and maintains student records, using CLE forms if desired.
I specifically asked whether any money we send them goes to any church. The lady said it does not. She said they are a non-profit organization and all the money goes to CLE.
Reviewed by Mark and Laura Cascairo
Grades covered: K-12
Konos uses a unit study approach. Each unit study involves a general theme topic which integrates all the usual subject areas into one topic. The theme is typically studied for a few weeks, then the studies move on to a new theme. With Konos the topics are character traits. Therefore, all required subjects, except math and language, are studied in light of a particular character trait. For example, in the unit on attentiveness, we studied ears, sound, music, eyes, frontiersmen, tracking, trapping, predator and prey, Indians, and birds. Through all of these studies, the quality of attentiveness was reinforced.
The beauty of unit studies is that the entire family can study the same topic. Konos, for example, divides the activities into three groups, those for younger, middle and older children. With unit studies, there is freedom to decide which topics get studied, in what order, and at what level of difficulty.
Konos provides multiple suggestions for activities and experiments, as well as for reading and writing projects. This curriculum works well for all learning styles because of the variety of activities possible. The hands-on activities help our children to really remember the lessons. There is so much to choose from that you do not dare try to do all that is suggested.
Each unit ends with a special activity. The obedience unit, which included a section on kings and queens, ended with a medieval feast complete with tapestries, costumes, food, juggling and more. These make for very memorable evenings.
Unit studies do require considerable preparation time. For this reason, I would recommend working with other families to share the load. Our family is involved with four other families in a co-op arrangement with twelve school-aged children total. The advantages of this type of arrangement are the ability to divide up the responsibilities, the opportunity for children from different families to learn and have fun together, and the ability to utilize the talents and skills of a greater number of involved adults. Much of the unit study work is done at home as a family, but once every two weeks, our co-op meets for a special all-day session.
The disadvantages of the co-op arrangement are primarily organizational. It is sometimes hard to get different families to agree to follow the same basic schedule. All families involved must have similar goals and a willingness to share in the work. It is important that basic moral values and beliefs are held in common by all, and good parental control of the children is mandatory. We found it helpful to formulate printed guidelines outlining the goals and responsibilities of the co-op, prior to the first meeting, so that each family participating has a clear understanding of what is expected.
The cost of unit study curricula varies. Konos Volume I costs about $85.00 This is really quite reasonable, considering that it provides two years' worth of material, can be used for grades K-8, is reusable, and includes every subject except math and language. Volume II of Konos is also for grades K-8. There are two other later volumes for high school. These latter two do not cover math or science.
We use the library extensively to supplement our learning material. To do this, we must plan ahead to order books to be available when each new unit begins.
In summary, unit studies provide a framework of themes around which most subjects can be taught. The themes tying the subjects together, in connection with the plentiful activities, help children to remember their lessons. Unit study curricula are relatively inexpensive, and while requiring some preparation and organization on the part of the teachers, they allow a tremendous amount of freedom to individualize the instruction according to a child's learning level, learning style, and special interests.
Reviewed by Sara Smith, Flint, MI
The Konos Unit Studies Curriculum is a great unit study set organized under 19 specific character traits. There are 3 volumes which are designed to cover grades K-8. Each specific character trait has 7-8 topics related to that character trait. These topics are the study subjects.
Volume I covers Attentiveness, Obedience, Orderliness, Trust, Patience, Stewardship, and Honor. Volume II covers Inquisitiveness, Responsibility, Love/Generosity, Courage, Wisdom, and Loyalty. Volume III covers Cooperation, Determination, Honesty, Self- Control, Initiative/Resourcefulness, and Joy/Cheerfulness. They do not have to be done in any particular order. It is useful, however, to do an entire trait before moving on to another trait. At the end of each character trait set of topics, there is an evaluation which is useful in determining whether or not the desired trait is being incorporated.
Each volume contains a list of what traits are covered in that volume, plus what topics are covered for each character trait in that volume. Each topic has a sample outline of the topic, including information such as how many weeks this topic should take, materials needed, theme, Bible material covered, songs, poetry and artwork applicable, books (broken down by age group), family ready suggestion, writing activities, activities from the list of suggestions, and family or co-op activities. This is stressed as a sample! You may choose to follow it completely, but you may come up with your own set of activities to do as well.
For each topic the following information is provided: 1) Bible applicable for the topic; 2) Examples, someone who applies (for Ears/Sound/Music Helen Keller, Ann Sullivan, Alexander Graham Bell, and Antonio Stradivari are the examples); 3) Vocabulary list; 4) Resources which include books, video, and/or audio recordings; and 5) Activities which list things to do to learn the material. This section has literally hundreds of ideas! Each activity includes the subject that activity covers as well. Some of the activities cover "life skills" as the subject! The hardest part of Konos is deciding which activities to do!
The resource lists provided are very good, but not every library will carry the same books. We never had difficulty finding something in the library that would meet our needs, even if it wasn't on the resource list. The Internet resources that are now available may also be explored.
Other products that Konos sells are Konos Compass, which includes a more comprehensive daily outline of some of the units and how to use the units, video taped seminar on using the unit studies (which is excellent), and a timeline kit with each volume, that is wonderful. However, the timeline takes up a great deal of wall space, so if you don't have a large wall to put it on, it's hard to use. The characters that are in the timeline packet are noted in the topic outlines. Individual unit topics are also available. If you just want to do a unit study on one topic (Kings and Queens, for example), many of these individual units are available. They are fairly expensive, however.
We loved using Konos. I have one learner who is hands on, and this curriculum is perfect for him. My auditory learner also did very well with this program when we were reading the books aloud as a group. We had so much fun with some of the units that we spent twice as long on them as the suggested time frame. The units lend themselves to multi-age teaching. The activities cover such a wide range of items that there is something for every age in every topic. The activities that are listed also inspire other activities that may more closely meet your needs. The possibilities are literally endless!
The aspect of doing unit studies that I did not like was not really knowing how much we have progressed. The Compass covers the scope and sequence of traditional curriculum and compares it to the Konos curriculum, and everything will be covered eventually. If you are organized well and can keep up a reasonable pace, this is a great curriculum.
Reviewed by Donna Craig
Written by Dorian Holt
A World of Adventure (volume 1) is $75 and A New World of Adventure (volume 2) is $90.
Learning Adventures is a proposed 5-year unit study curriculum for children in 4th through 8th grades that uses history as the theme for each unit. Each volume will contain 180 days of lesson plans including all the usual subjects: Bible study, the language arts (grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and writing), history, science, and the fine arts. It does not include math, typewriting, and handwriting. At present, only the first two volumes, A World of Adventure and A New World of Adventure are available.
I believe that Learning Adventures is the best unit study curriculum written for homeschoolers. Apparently many agree as it was voted Best Unit Study in Practical Homeschooling’s Reader Awards for 2002 and 2003. What makes Learning Adventures such a great curriculum?
First, I would have to say that its purpose is one reason. Having chatted with its author, Dorian Holt, through email, I discovered that the birth of Learning Adventures began when she was writing her son’s unit study curriculum. Her friends begged her to share, and she ultimately decided to put it on the market. She wanted to write a curriculum that would aid rather than discourage new homeschoolers and homeschoolers new to unit studies, since preparing unit studies is labor-intensive for moms and dads. She also wanted to design a curriculum that was not dependent on certain books, in order to keep the cost of purchasing books at a minimum for those who could not afford to stock one shelf of their bookcases with just one year’s worth of good books. For each volume of Learning Adventures, a family actually has to have only a Bible, though purchasing the required books for the literature study would also be advantageous. The rest of the books that a family uses for the history, science, and fine arts studies would be checked out of the library and there is no required list for these.
To insure that families adequately covered the information for each subject, Mrs. Holt provides “essays” in the history, science, and fine arts sections. For example, if the day’s history lesson includes a study of mummification and you have books that explain this process, then you would simply read from the library books and skip the little essay. However, if you did not have this information in the library books, then you could read the information provided by Mrs. Holt and pass it along to your children either by reading it out loud to them or by narrating it back to them. This process is the same for science and fine arts.
Other things that I liked about Learning Adventures are that Mrs. Holt includes lists for everything. She has lists of suggested books (note they are “suggested” rather than required) for history, science, and fine arts that she found at her libraries or that you can purchase from homeschooling catalogs; lists of applicable website addresses; lists by day of required materials for the history, science, and fine arts projects; and lists of vocabulary words for each subject as needed (these are not the words in the vocabulary study). The literature selections are great including such titles as The Golden Goblet, The Bronze Bow, Amos Fortune: Free Man, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and The Sign of the Beaver, just to name a few. She includes questions for reading comprehension and discusses literary devices. Grammar is structured rather than “hit or miss” as with some integrated language arts programs, pulling sentences out of the literature or the history or science subjects to use in order to teach the grammar subject of the day. For vocabulary, students study Greek and Latin roots in the style of English From the Roots Up. The root words are chosen from the literature, history, and science subjects of the day. The writing lessons are some of the best I have seen — slow and step-by-step — in order to ease the student into a new kind of writing. The study of history is chronological, which I think is the best way to learn history. The fine arts lessons - which include biographical information of artists and composers, but primarily focuses on crafts - have excellent projects, though older children may not wish to do them.
There are, however, some things about Learning Adventures that I consider negatives. There are errors in several of the Bible lessons and these lessons will need to be studied by the parent and amended before the school day begins. Even though the curriculum is designed to be less labor-intensive on the parents’ part, it is easy to rely on Mrs. Holt’s essays instead of skimming through the material to determine the main topic for the day and finding that material in the library books. While this may be a school-day-saver when Mom is sick or taking care of other sick children, I strongly advise against doing this on a regular basis as the essays are somewhat dry and your children will quickly lose interest.
Another serious problem we encountered with Learning Adventures was that, due its extremely small collection of media, our library often did not have any books on the units’ history and/or science subjects. So parents may end up buying books for history and a science kit for the science subject after all.
But what I dislike the most about the curriculum is that less than one year is devoted to world history (ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the Middle Ages, and Renaissance and Reformation) while a little over 4 years will eventually be devoted to American history. Mrs. Holt does include a study of Canada in volume two, so perhaps the lack of world studies will be remedied in future volumes.
Still I would have to stand by my statement that Learning Adventures is the best unit study curriculum I have seen. Each volume of Learning Adventures comes 3-hole punched and shrink-wrapped for insertion into a notebook (you provide). You will need at least a 3-inch notebook for the first volume (it’s about 750 pages long) and probably two 3-inch notebooks for the second volume (over 1500 pages). Additionally, you can order student pages that include all the workbook-type pages from the larger volumes. (You have permission to reproduce for more than one child in your family.) You can also join an e-group in order to share your experiences with Learning Adventures with other families also using it and to ask questions of those experienced with using it. If you have any questions of Dorian, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Review by Suze Tolbert
phone number 1-888-427-1000.
Cost is $1000 for the 3-4 year program.
This is a basic education for high school by correspondence. Your child will get all he needs to graduate high school and enter college. The program is designed to be completed in 3 years. I believe you can stretch it to 3½ years without additional cost.
I liked this program because it is flexible. They send you one subject at a time. You take your tests online and get your results immediately. I called and had them send extra subjects, so our son always had 3-4 subjects to work on at a time. Sometimes he did an entire subject then went to the next. But some subjects took longer and needed to be done simultaneously. The program is set up to send the next subject when you take half the tests of the subject you are working on. Once we had 4 subjects at home, he worked on the first subject and when he got to the halfway test the next subject was sent. If at any time you want more, just call and they will send them. You can go online on your account and can see the order of the subjects. They get considerably harder toward your last year and take longer to complete. You will pick 5 electives at the end. There are about 20 choices.
As you read through the books they have self-checks with the answers in the back of the book. Be sure your kids do these as it will help them actually learn a bit of what they are studying. The final test is in the back of each book. You can have them take it as an open book test. This is not as easy as you might think. Many of the questions you must formulate an answer for. It's not just fill-in-the-blank word for word out of the book. If you fail a test they tell you what page the answer is found on and you can retake the test the next day. The most you can get is a 70 on a retake.
Lastly, you can have up to 3 people say you referred them and you get $50 back from each person (this includes "referring" one of your other children).
Reviewed by Bonnie Forsythe
Written by Margie Gray
If textbooks and workbooks leave you feeling a little burnt out at the end of the school day (not to mention the year!) and you like the idea of doing a unit study but think it would be too time consuming and necessitate too much preparation on your part, you might want to look at The Prairie Primer. It is a unit study utilizing the Little House series; it is divided into nine units, with each one corresponding to one of the Little House books. It has made our school days much more enjoyable. There are just numerous suggestions for activities so you can make it take as long as you want.
It is designed for children grades third through sixth, but is easily adapted to other ages. It covers U.S. History in the 1800's, U.S. geography, science, language, practical living, health and safety, nutrition, music, and art. I felt we needed some additional science so we occasionally worked on our Considering God's Creation by Eagle's Wings notebook, or sometimes read in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. Both of these books fit very well into our style of learning.
Above all, The Prairie Primer is full of scripture references and is a wonderful study on Christian character. I do not remember any doctrine taught but if there was, it was very easy to skip or explain the error of.
As for the preparation on my part, it has been no problem at all. Each unit is divided into four weeks. At the beginning of each week is a Planning Guide that lists the information and items that need to be gathered for the week's activities. For me, this consisted of making a list of a few books to gather from the library. If the books suggested were not available I was able to get another one on the same subject with no problem.
Mrs. Gray suggests purchasing a few other books to make the most of the study. If I had it to do over, I would try to get the Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook by E. Garson and Laura Ingalls Wilder Country by William Anderson. You might want to get The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker also, if you want to incorporate some of the cooking suggestions.
This is certainly the best thing that we have found in our five years of home schooling.
Reviewed by Joye Sautter
Grades covered: Junior and Senior High
Two experienced homeschooling moms developed Trisms, which stands for Time Related Integrated Studies For Mastering Skills. The approach used emphasizes student research, rather than textbooks or workbooks. There are three volumes of Trisms available, each one costing $100 to $125. Each volume guides the student, assisted by the parent, in learning by means of individual research. Each can be used with group learning, as in co-ops, or with different ages in a family. (At this point, I have used only two of the volumes.)
Volume 1: The History Makers, for middle school to junior high, covers the following subjects: World history, English (reading, vocabulary, language arts), geography, and science. Lesson plans are laid out daily and weekly for the parent to follow along with the student. For volume 1 the student creates four separate notebooks - one each for scientists, inventions, explorers, and language.
The student uses the questionnaire forms provided to guide him to research. The completed forms along with drawings and pictures fill up the four notebooks. Included were specific language and science assignments, a timeline for science, explorers, and the Bible, several blank maps, and quizzes and tests. No answer key was provided for the questionnaires - only for the tests. Each week a new bibliography helped the student to choose a book to read for a mini-report. A long research paper was expected as well. All this research could be acquired from encyclopedias, reference books, the Internet, and libraries.
The bibliography is appropriate for all reading levels but is not as conservative as I would like. Bible itself was not taught, but a timeline of Biblical events aligned with history is included in the teacher's manual.
Volume Three: The Rise of Nations, for high school students, covers the following areas of study: World literature, English composition, western civilizations (including government and economics), geography, and humanities. Eighteen units emphasized the rise to power of different world civilizations on a timeline of A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1860. Research topics for each unit were: regions, art, architecture, music, map study, famous people, and vocabulary.
The questionnaire method was used for this volume as well, with forms and maps included in the student pack. Specific literature assignments were given along with literature selections to read. A research paper was required and there were vocabulary quizzes, unit quizzes, and tests. An answer book was provided with Volume 3 for help with the questionnaires (unlike with Volume 1).
Trisms helped achieve my goal of sharpening my son's research skills.
Reviewed by Joye Sautter
Contact Information: The Weaver Curriculum, 2752 Scarborough, Riverside, CA 92503;
Phone (909) 688-3126
Grades covered: K-12
Cost: Each volume is $145, the Day-by-Day is $50 or $55, and the Wisdom Words is $40. For grades 7-12 a supplement books costs $30-$50, . Resource sets range from $40 to $265. They also have package deals.
The Weaver is a unit study curriculum that is Scripturally based and suitable for all ages, elementary to high school. The Weaver concentrates mostly on Bible, character development, social studies, and science. At present five volumes are offered, covering themes from Genesis eleven through the four gospels in the New Testament, and also a six-week Creation study. Since each volume includes grade-appropriate objectives and activities, it is easy to cover the same topic with all your children.
We used volumes I and II. In volume II (Exodus and the Law), for example, we researched related topics such as deserts, Egypt, early U.S. history, patience, and humility. The bibliographies included were quite helpful at the library as well as the other specific resource materials that I bought from the Weaver. A separate detailed lesson plan book, called Day-by-Day, kept me organized for the whole year.
To teach grammar and composition we used Wisdom Words and my children's writing actually improved. Each day my children wrote private letters to me or a journal. We had a daily exchange of stories, drawings, jokes, and experiences to share. It was fun and encouraging and got us writing.
The Weaver is non-denominational, but not written by a New Testament Christian. Therefore, you must study the Bible and discern what you read in The Weaver beforehand. During those two years though, I only found a few instances of disagreement.
After using The Weaver two years in a row, I felt confident enough to make up my own unit studies so I did not stay with it. But it was a good way to learn the unit teaching approach. I would recommend The Weaver because it helps focus your schooling on the Bible, where God would have us begin our knowledge.
Reviewed by Donna Craig
Contact information: Greenleaf Press, 1570 Old LaGuardo Rd., Lebanon, TN 37087; Edupress, P.O. Box 883, Dana Point, CA 92629
Greenleaf sells packages designed for studying the history of various different eras. We will review here the following:
What you get in the ancient Greece package is Famous Men of Greece, The Greenleaf Guide to Famous Men of Greece, The Greeks, The Children's Homer, and The Last Days of Socrates.
The Greenleaf Study Guide begins with the geography of ancient Greece and then proceeds to cover the Famous Men book.
Famous Men of Greece begins with some of the characters of Greek mythology then moves into actual historical characters of which we have written records. Greenleaf does point out the difference between myths and legends and "real" people so children will not be confused.
The Greeks is a wonderful book on the lifestyle of the ancient Greeks. The reading level is geared for upper elementary and junior high, but is still usable for younger children. It is the best I have seen.
The Children's Homer and The Last Days of Socrates are a bit difficult for children to read through although my nine-year-old loved The Children's Homer.
Additional books that I purchased from Greenleaf Press and highly recommend are Macmillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes, The Trojan Horse ... or How the Greeks Won the War (for the younger elementary crowd), and Usborne's Make This Model Trojan Horse (only for older children who are good with their hands). If you want more hands-on projects for your elementary students, then you might consider buying Ancient Greece Activity Book from Edupress.
The ancient Rome study package includes Famous Men of Rome, The Greenleaf Study Guide to Famous Men of Rome, The Romans, and City. The first three books are the same format as their ancient Greece counterparts.
Elementary-aged children may struggle with reading City, but older children should be able to handle the information and style of writing much better. A book which would substitute for City is See Inside A Roman Town which is part of the See Inside series edited by R.J. Unstead. You should be able to get this through your local bookstore. Be sure to look through it first and edit the pictures as you see fit.
During the ancient Rome study, the subject of Christianity is brought up repeatedly, and you will want to point out that Famous Men of Rome is a bit too liberal in its application of the word "Christian."
Other books which I recommend that can be purchased from Greenleaf are Pompeii ... Buried Alive! (for the younger elementary-aged), The Secrets of Vesuvius (for about ages 10 and up), Usborne's Make This Model Roman Amphitheatre (again, only for those older children who are good with their hands), and for literature The Bronze Bow. I also recommend Dorling Kindersley's Action Pack: Rome, which includes interesting models and activities about ancient Rome.
I find that doing history "the Greenleaf way" is the best way for my family to study history. Please consider using their materials.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
being republished by Preston Speed Publications of Mill Hall, PA. Some are also
available from Lost Classics Book Co. of Ft. Collins, CO.
Henty was born on Dec. 8, 1832, at Cambridge, England, and educated at
Westminster School and Cambridge University. Leaving college to volunteer for
service in the hospital commissariat during the Crimean War, he became
correspondent to the “Morning Advertiser” while in Crimea. Then in 1865 he
was appointed special correspondent to the “Standard” for which he traveled
extensively and reported on many important historical events during the years
1866 to 1876. During this time, he also began to write books of adventure for
boys, based on his own experiences or other historical events. His first was Out
of the Pampas in 1868, beginning a series of over eighty stories, the last
of which was published posthumously. He died at Weymouth, England, on Nov. 16,
Cothran suggests three reasons why Henty has become so popular among
homeschoolers: (1) He wrote from a "Christian" perspective, (2) he
wrote historical fiction for young adultes, and (3) his books are old and
preserve old-fashioned morality instead of modern political correctness.
Our first Henty
book was Wulf the Saxon about the battle of Hastings in 1066. From there,
we went back to Beric the Briton about the Roman occupation of Britain
around A.D. 60. Then we started with The Cat of Bubastes from ancient
Egypt in Moses’ time and have been following them chronologically. I did Wulf
the Saxon as a bedtime read aloud for our boys. They loved the adventure and
excitement. In fact, while I would read, they would get their toy swords and
battle-axes to fight along with the action in the book. My own curiosity was
piqued, and in doing a little research, I found that the book is amazingly
accurate from the standpoint of recording the historical events and
circumstances in which the author placed his fictional hero.
There are two
major objections that I have heard about the Henty books. One is that they
contain a lot of fighting. That is true. But then, the history of the world is
full of wars. War is a fact of life. In my experience with the books so far, war
is not glorified, promoted, or encouraged, but merely reported as a historical
event. Indeed, in each of the books that we have read, the heroes and the sides
for which they fought never engaged in offensive wars of conquest but always in
defensive wars to protect themselves from attackers, and even in that sought to
abide by principles of right, always behaving as gentlemen.
objection that I have heard is that the vocabulary is a bit challenging. That is
also true, but I look upon it as a good way to learn the meanings of perfectly
fine words which are not used very much today and improve one’s knowledge of
the English language.
Many people check
them out of the library, but if you want to own your own copies, I found in
doing some research for this article that used book websites such as Barnes and
Noble, Alibris, and American Book Exchange list many of Henty’s titles from
used bookstores for as little as three dollars, two dollars, or even one dollar.
You would actually pay more for shipping, but it is still often cheaper than
buying a new book.
Something that can be very useful in using Henty’s books to study world history is The Boy’s Guide to the Historical Adventures of G. A. Henty, written by William Potter and published by Vision Forum. After an introduction on “Why Boys Should Read the Magnificent Adventures of G. A. Henty,” Potter lists the 72 main books in chronological order and gives a synopsis of each story. Preston Speed is also publishing specific study guides for many of the individual books that some might find helpful.
Reviewed by Sally Anne Perz
Can be adapted for grades K-12
Cost: The Complete History Homeschool Kit includes five history kits for $220, or individual Homeschool Kits are $44 each.
We have been using Veritas Press History for the past three years and plan to continue to use it throughout high school. It is non consumable, and easy to use with several students of various ages. History is broken down chronologically to be studied over a five-year period: Old Testament and Ancient Egypt; New Testament, Greece and Rome; Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation; Explorers to 1815; 1815 to Present.
Each of the five kits consists of a tape, a teacher's manual, and a set of 32 cards. The tapes are catchy tunes using the titles of each card, meant for easy memorization of the people and events studied. The teacher's manual consists of reproducible worksheets, tests, grammar activities, and crafts. The cards have works of art on the front, and a summary and list of resources for further study on the back. They recommend resources by priority, usually current and easy-to-find titles. Since resources are purchased separately, it is up to the parent to choose supplemental material.
Veritas Press specializes in "Classical Christian Curriculum," yet the individual subjects can be used with any method of teaching. The material can be used to work through the entire chronological study in a five-year period. The first time through may be geared for introduction and allows for various ages and skill levels. When the study is completed, one simply starts over providing for higher skill levels using more difficult subject matter and resources to accommodate the more mature students. It is unlikely to be repetitious, as it will have been five years since the first time the subject matter was studied.
Parents are responsible for setting expectations for each student. For instance, I do not expect my younger children to memorize dates or do extensive writing. They read along with the older students and do the activities. Often we read the fiction aloud. As the children increase in skill level, more is expected of them.
It can be used as an overview in the early years - without worksheets, using lots of good books, and some activities. Older children can do the worksheets, writing exercises, in-depth studies, and more difficult activities. Older children can also use it as a starting point for in-depth studies in any areas of interest. The parent can pick and choose which things necessitate further study and which things can be glossed over based on individual priorities and interests. There are a few easy-to-find-and-correct doctrinal errors (in regard to the reformation and church history). Other than those, we highly recommend this material! Studying history chronologically makes it much easier to understand and enjoy!
(See Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons)
Reviewed by Bonnie Forsythe
Contact information: Eagle's Wings Educational Materials at www.eagleswingsed.com
This program is multi-sensory with a CD with the cutest little songs and colorful flash cards. You know how they say we learn best when we become involved emotionally? Well, the alphabets are each one a little character that lives on an island, complete with personality. The little stories about them teach all the rules they need to read and spell fluently, having fun all the while!
Here's what they claim (and we have proven to be true). "In three workbooks your child will learn to spell over four thousand words with consonant blends, digraphs, silent e, doubled consonants, short vowels, long vowels, diphthongs, and all other vowel combinations. It is the most THOROUGH, EFFECTIVE, and CREATIVE Phonics and spelling program available." A great handbook is included to be used to 9th grade plus a great little kindergarten math book. It's a little over $100 to get the whole package, but it's a 2 year program (plus the handbook which I've used for some remedial work with my son) and it's worth every penny and then some.
If you're looking for a really effective phonics program that will give your child a solid foundation without missing any steps you must check it out. I'm sure it's pricey compared to lots of programs.
Reviewed by Terry Park
Contact Information: The American Girls Collection, Pleasant Company Publications, Educational Division: 800-350-6555
Pleasant Company publishes two separate curriculums that integrate literature, language arts, and social studies. Both curriculums utilize the popular American Girls Series of literature which consists of five sets of books with six books per set. Each set is centered around a female character and her time period in American history. The time periods are: Colonial/American Revolution (Felicity); Pioneer/Westward expansion (Kirsten); Civil War (Addy); Turn-of-the-Century (Samantha); and World War II (Molly).
The curriculums can be used together (which would be the basis of your curriculum for an entire school year), or separately, depending on the amount of time you would like to spend on the study. I found them to be an excellent overview of American history for younger students (2nd-4th grades). (Also, the "...If You" series of history books from Scholastic corresponds splendidly with this study for additional information about the time period.) To avoid confusion between the two different curriculums, I will describe them separately:
America At School consists of five literature books (one from each time period), the teacher's guide, two 62" x 48" full-color wall charts, ten colored maps, and 20 activity cards for suggestions of crafts/activities to correspond with each time period. Cost: $75.00. (Hint: This curriculum comes with one book from each of the series. These may be exchanged at a bookstore toward the complete sets. This reduces the cost of buying the complete boxed-sets without duplicating books.)
The curriculum states the following to be its goals: "...to help children enjoy historical fiction both for the story it tells and the history it conveys; ...to help children see how America has changed and how it has stayed the same from the colonial period to the present by studying one aspect of American life - schooling; and, ...to help children be apprentice historians by undertaking activities that involve the kinds of questions, research, and writing that historians do."
I found the teacher's guide included in America At School to be immensely helpful for these reasons: 1) It contains a bibliography for each time period for supplemental reading; 2) a "Key Concepts" section that highlights important topics that will be covered; 3) a "Comparing and Contrasting Themes" section to help identify the academic lesson and personal lesson each character learns; and 4) several blackline masters for each book and for the maps that correspond to it. The entire curriculum is easy to follow and can be paced according to a student's needs. It can also be easily incorporated with unit studies.
The American Girls Teacher's Guides consists of five guides (one for each series that covers all six of the books in the series) plus one map for each series depicting the character's community. Cost: $31.16. These guides include several things not in the America At School guide. There are mini timelines detailing the major events surrounding each character's time period. Also, the blackline masters contain different questions. Like the America At School guide, there are key vocabulary words defined and various opportunities for the student to compare and contrast, explain their thoughts, and examine in more detail the various political/cultural activities of each time period. They also include questions covering the "Looking Back" section contained in every book which highlights-American history in that character's particular time period.
Additional supplements are available at an additional charge that correspond to each character: cookbooks, craft books, paper dolls, craft kits, and The American Girls Historian Club. If you wish to include field trips (i.e., vacations) into your study, there are also museum programs that correspond to each study.
Although not written from a Christian perspective, each of the girls has high moral standards and there are always consequences for their misbehavior (which is rare). Also, the girls are resourceful, respectful, and caring of others. The only drawback I found was that, except for the Kirsten character, they are all above-average in their standard of living.
While I used this curriculum with girls, please don't disregard the possibility that it may also work for boys.
Reviewed by Joan Elder
This program involves 6 books on differing subjects such as Seasons, Pilgrims, Indian Facts, etc. Each lesson incorporates drawing, reading and printing. The lesson details how to draw the subject along with 4 short sentences to print about the subject. After each book is completed you have a nice notebook of your child's drawing. It is very simple to follow with the immediate visual reward of your child's artwork.
Our daughter enjoyed showing her notebook to family and friends as something tangible she was doing in school at home. She enjoyed the compliments and it was nice for her to be learning while enjoying the process.
Reviewed by Beverly Mitchell
Contact Information: Critical Thinking Books and Software, 1-800-458-4849.
Editor-In-Chief Grammar Disasters and Punctuation Faux Pas workbooks consist of a series of three levels: A1 (grades 4-6), B1 (grades 6-8) and C1 (grades 8-adult). The premise of the series is for students to practice grammar, usage, and punctuation skills in context. Each book contains approximately 30 or so articles or letters and each lesson includes an illustration. The student must read the article or letter and find mistakes in the passage and/or discrepancies between the illustration and the text.
Each lesson has a detailed answer key that explains how the mistakes should be corrected and a corrected passage. Each book also contains a "Guide to Grammar, Usage and Punctuation" which detail common errors and gives complete rules and explanations for grammar, usage and punctuation.
The articles are challenging and interesting to read. Keep in mind that Critical Thinking Books and Software is a secular company and the books are not written from a Biblical perspective, although I have not found anything outstandingly objectionable.
Reviewed by Sally Anne Perz
Seven books are available in this series. Book A: Basic Italic (14mm), Book B: Basic Italic (11mm, 9mm), Book C: Basic Italic (9mm, 6mm and Introduction to Cursive Italic), Book D: Cursive Italic (6mm, 5mm), Book E: Cursive Italic (6mm, 5mm, 4mm), Book F: Cursive Italic (6mm, 5mm, 4mm), Book G: Cursive Italic (5mm, 4mm), and the Instruction Manual (which you really don't need).
The books loosely correspond to grade levels, but if you work 10-15 minutes a day each book will not last a year. Though I am no handwriting expert, I feel that it has worked well for us to allow the children to proceed at their own pace.
When the children do each page neatly, they produce very nice and easy-to-read handwriting. With as little as must be done each day, this is not a difficult feat, and the children can work primarily by themselves. I usually introduce them to the letters and sounds the first year, using Book A, while I am teaching them to read. However, in the latter books, they need little or no instruction.
Another thing we really like about the Italic books is that they use such variety for writing practice. The children will write a number of useful words and sentences to include: names, days, months, numbers, planets, countries, and various types of poems. On some pages, they will be asked to assess themselves and choose their best work.
The books are generally five dollars each and are available in most home education catalogs and on amazon.com. We highly recommend them!
Reviewed by Joan Elder
I love the idea of having lovely handwriting and this system is designed to make the transition from printing to cursive painless! The same printed letters are used for cursive writing with added serifs. This allows the child to transition naturally from printing to cursive without having to learn how to form the letters differently. I highly recommend home schooling parents to begin this as early as possible.
Reviewed by Karen C.:
This is a very simple program especially for a parent unsure of teaching this subject. It also helps with issues of accents. We have lived in many areas from way up north to the south and this can be an issue for a child first learning to read. This program has tapes (you may or may not want to use) that have the correct "unaccented" way to say the letters and sounds. It starts with the phonetic way to say the letters then combines the sounds to make simple words. They have little stories in the workbooks to read as they go along as well as readers. It keeps building adding new combinations. It also teaches sight words. There are 5 levels with workbooks, readers and the tapes. It only takes about 10 - 20 minutes a day. This is not inexpensive, you can buy these now at Sam's Club for $150.00. That does seem like a lot but again for someone who is unsure in teaching this subject, as I was, it is a very simple program to use. My oldest daughter didn't even finish the 4th book and at the end of 2nd grade tested at a 7th grade reading level with a comprehension level of 7th grade. We are now using this with my 5 year old and she is already reading well. Again to some it may be too costly but I highly recommend it, it work extremely well for us. We also use A Beka "Letters & Sounds" workbook and the Bob Books as supplemental readers with our 5 year old.
Reviewed by Donna Craig
Contact Information: Family Learning Services, PO Box 9596, Birmingham, AL 35220; Phone 205-854-6870
Learning Language Arts Through Literature is an integrated approach to learning language arts, based on the teaching methods expounded in Ruth Beechick's books. There are seven books in the series, each one identified by a color: the Red Book (second grade skills), the Yellow Book (third grade skills), the Orange Book (fourth grade skills), the Purple Book (fifth grade skills), the Tan Book (sixth grade skills), the Green Book (seventh-eighth grade skills), and the Gray Book (eighth-ninth grade skills). Also available is the Blue Book, which covers phonics and introductory language arts, and the Gold Book, which covers literature. These last two books are so different from the others that they will not be reviewed here.
In each lesson (with some exceptions), the student is given a passage from a work of good literature to either copy or take from dictation (depending on the student's level of ability). This passage is then used to apply the language arts skills of grammar, vocabulary, penmanship, phonics (in the Red Book), reading, spelling, and critical thinking. Using this method, the different areas of language are studied in relation to each other rather than in separate pieces.
The Orange Book and the Green Book are slightly different from the other books, because they are designed in units rather than lessons. These units discuss such topics as poetry, journal writing, writing a research paper, literature, grammar, etc.
The books are non-consumable and relatively inexpensive (no book is over $20). Even though the books are described as "non-doctrinal," there are a few assignments in each book that you will want to change or delete.
Each book tells how to use the book and how to incorporate the various language arts skills into the lessons. There is a skills index, larger print student editing models for the students to copy from and to correct from, answers to some of the lessons, and reproducible activity pages where needed. If you wish, you can purchase consumable student "books" for the students to do their daily activities for the Red, Yellow, Orange, Purple, and Tan books. In addition, you will also need a grammar handbook. They suggest Learning Grammar Through Writing. For the Green Book you will also need Star of Light and Adam and His Kin.
Personally, I like the idea behind LLATL. However, I find that we never finish a book. One of the things I don't like is that they do not use whole works of literature, just a sentence or two (in the younger grades) or a paragraph or two (in the older grades). I think that reading and copying a whole work of literature would prove much more educational, because the student would get more of a sense of writing style and would also have more time for the study of literature.
I also am not satisfed with their approach to teaching writing. Some lessons seem too tedious and others lack enough instruction. Because of this, I suggest that you buy a writing reference book such as Writer's Express, Write Source 2000, or Writer's Inc. if you plan to use this curriculum.
Finally, I believe there needs to be more grammar coverage. Most other people I know agree with this, so they supplement with Easy Grammar or Jensen's Grammar. I also recommend that you buy Rod and Staff's English Handbook when you get to the Green Book.
If you like a flexible curriculum that you can "play around" with, then this may be exactly what you need. If, however, you want all of your lessons fully planned so that you can just open the book, do a lesson, and go on to the next subject, you might want to consider something else.
Reviewed by Wayne Walker
Contact Information: McGraw-Hill, 251 Jefferson St., M.S. #12, Waldoboro, ME 04572;
Phone 1-800-417-3261 fax 1-888-203-9361.
Cost: The books are $7.95 each, but CBD (Christian Book Distributors; P.O. Box 7000, Peabody, MA 01961-7000; 1-800-247-4787) has them for $6.35 each.
The "Spectrum" series includes books for Reading (for grades K-6), Writing (1-8), Language Arts (2-6), Phonics/Word Study (K-6), Dolch Sight Word Activities (K-1), Math (1-8), Spelling (1-6), Geography (3-6), and Enrichment Math and Reading (3-6). I cannot review all the books in the series, but we have chosen the Language Arts (to supplement our reading curriculum) and the Writing.
I have found the "Spectrum" books that we are using to be quite good, helping to hone the basic skills. They appear to be designed as supplements for either classroom or home usage, but they cover such a broad range of material in each subject that it seems that with a little work one could almost possibly use them as a complete curriculum.
The books are not written from a uniquely "Christian" perspective, but neither have I found them to be anti-Christian or ungodly. They simply focus on the basic skills involved in learning grammar, writing, and arithmetic the way they used to be when many of us went to public school and actually learned something by continual review and practice of the fundamentals in grammar, writing, and arithmetic.
Reviewed by Terri Brinkley
Contact Information: Mott Media, 1000 E. Huron St., Milford MI 48042.
These books were originally published in 1838 for public schools. My set includes two primers and four readers (covering phonics through high school), a Progressive Speller, and a Parent-Teacher's Guide, written by Ruth Beechick in 1985.
I prefer to use a different method for teaching phonics and early reading, but once a child has learned phonics and simple reading, I believe McGuffey's Readers are excellent. The books are plain, but have simple black and white engravings in the early readers. I believe this helps students learn to appreciate the printed page, without being distracting by many colorful pictures.
Stories in these readers have moral teachings in almost every lesson. Concepts taught include respect for God and other people (especially parents), kindness to animals, diligence in studies, and hard work instead of laziness. Most of the stories are beautiful, but a few are morbid or exaggerated (such as the story of a boy who was deranged for life because other boys frightened him).
Every lesson from the Second Reader through the Fourth has questions to answer and words to spell and define. Also included are rules or exercises to teach enunciation and proper pronunciation of commonly mispronounced words. The Parent-Teacher Guide explains different reading levels and how to teach phonics and spelling. It also gives a short summary or comments on each selection, lesson ideas, and a very helpful glossary.
The readings include poems, history stories, and even some science stories. The language is rich and beautiful. The only false doctrine I remember encountering is "soul sleeping."
I recommend McGuffey's Readers if your children enjoy historical stores like Little House on the Prairie. However, if your children dislike old-fashioned stories, you may prefer other readers. I am convinced these readers will help strengthen morals, improve grammar, and increase vocabulary. I enjoy reading them myself!
Reviewed by John and Rhonda Bosworth
Modern Curriculum Press (MCP) has been providing classroom materials to public schools for over 40 years. This review will be limited to the phonics and spelling materials.
The MCP "Plaid" Phonics is a series of consumable workbooks for grades K-6 (Levels K-F). Levels K-C teach phonics skills and focus on learning to read; Levels D-F build vocabulary and focus on reading to learn. These are appealing workbooks which provide a very systematic and incremental approach to phonics, language development and reading. Once your child is reading, he will be able to progress independently through the work with only occasional assistance.
MCP's Spelling is available for 1st through 8th grades (Levels A-H) and are more of a "worktext" for language arts with each lesson spreading over four pages (and with a dictionary included in the back). Each lesson covers vocabulary, writing, and proofreading, with handwriting and dictionary skills added when age appropriate, so the "Spelling" name is misleading.
Each MCP workbook covers a complete year of instruction, is about $10 and is available at local teachers' supply stores as well as through a variety of homeschool catalogs. You do not need to commit to the entire program to benefit from a year or two. "Teachers' editions" are available, but not necessary.
The phonics program is great, even if you think you don't like workbooks. This program, linked with an abundance of reading, was all that was necessary for my boys to learn to read well at an early age. And, as a new homeschooling parent, I appreciated the "traditional" school approach (and record of such) for this important subject.
The spelling program is more difficult to recommend because it cannot easily be used "as is" for independent students and some of the exercises are definitely busywork. However, if you are looking for the characteristics included in this spelling program, and you do not mind modifying the lessons, you will find it useful.
by Donna Craig
Somewhere during my oldest daughter’s second year of home schooling, I learned about Portland State University’s Italic Handwriting series. I wish I could say that I thoroughly studied every handwriting option available and made an intelligent decision, but that was not the case. I chose Italic Handwriting simply because it looked easy and I liked the style.
The brochure that I was sent claimed that learning to write in italic is a lot easier than other methods and that the transition to cursive is smoother. I suppose that is a true claim since there are fewer strokes to learn for the manuscript and fewer joins once the children transition to cursive and fewer loop-de-loops for the cursive letters. However, if the authors of this curriculum were to view my children’s italic handwriting, they would probably end up rolling in the floor laughing. Suffice it to say, my children’s italic hand is not as precise as others.
Lest you think I’m bashing italic handwriting, let me also say that my children’s handwriting is a lot neater than it used to be. Prior to learning italic, when I looked at their papers, their handwriting looked like something one would see on a piece of papyrus while watching a special on ancient Egypt on the Discovery Channel. Now I can actually tell that I am looking at words in English. So we have continued to use Italic Handwriting for the past twelve years.
Each workbook is consumable and sells at retail for $6.95 each. You are supposed to start using them in kindergarten with Book A, but we have never started until third grade, using Book C which is actually intended for second graders). One reason for the delay is that I don’t start my children in a more formal approach to school until they are eight years old and using Books A and B at that point would be an insult to them because of the larger print. Another reason I delay is that I don’t want to push the handwriting until they are reading fairly well.
There is an instructor’s manual, but I also have never bought it. After looking through it, I was of the same opinion as other home schoolers that I know, that there is very little that is not already in the workbooks and purchasing the manual would be redundant.
Over the past twelve years, I have come to realize that it does not matter which handwriting program you start your child in, he will eventually develop his own handwriting style, including curlicues and loop-de-loops. But if you are almost at the point where you are considering hiring a handwriting specialist or an Egyptologist to decipher your child’s handwriting, then you might consider the Italic Handwriting series just to teach them that neatness does count.
I have purchased my Italic Handwriting workbooks through Rainbow Resource Center. They are discounted in price (now they are $5.50 each).
Reviewed by Melanie Bingham
Two of my high schoolers have used Notgrass American History, and both liked it very much. I'm excited to hear they also have World History! What drew us to this material was the emphasis on reading great works that fit into the particular period of history. Students read famous speeches and documents, works of period fiction, the Bible, and biographies. They are assigned to do much writing, so I've let it count for part of their English, too. You could do it over a one or two-year period, depending on how you scheduled it.
You buy the guidebook, and the author has written a few pages for the student to read in that guide-book each day, and then he gives them additional reading and writing assignments. It's laid out in "units." The questions and "thought" assignments are thought-provoking and well done. I am impressed with his Bible readings and how he chooses things for them to read and consider in light of the historical movement or person. I highly recommend it. I also thought the program was very reasonably priced. Even on Mr. Notgrass's reading lists he recommends Dover publica-tions (those great $1.00 versions of books!) anytime he can.
Reviewed by Wayne Walker
Contact Information: EduCare, 4700 Hubble Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45247. Phone 1-866-385-2022, fax 385-7920; Cost: The set retails at $48.00 (plus $8 for flash cards). Two optional instructional videos cost $40.00 each, and two accompanying CD ROMS cost $15.00 each.
The Professor Phonics set we bought consisted of an intensive, comprehensive phonics book and reader, a manual of instructions, a spelling and reading word list, and a companion advanced reader entitled A Sound Track to Reading, all written by Monica Foltzer, M.Ed.
To provide a little extra practice on the different sounds, I also used A Handbook for Reading, published by A Beka, also called The New Blue-Backed Speller. However, rather than going through that book from beginning to end as intended, I simply turned to the page that went along with the letter or sound that we had learned that day from Professor Phonics, which remained our primary phonics learning source.
Mary Pride's The New Big Book of Home Learning says about Professor Phonics:
"Marva Collins, a woman who has had phenomenal success in teaching inner-city, minority children, recommends Professor Phonics highly as being 'one of the simplest methods of teaching children to read.' ... Reading begins on the very first lesson page, as children learn the sounds of m, s, t, and a and immediately blend them into words. This immediate reading, and the association of pictures with the sounds, differentiates Professor Phonics from the other systems. You will notice that Professor Phonics is the least-expensive total phonics program around."
Supplementary reading material is very helpful with Professor Phonics. In fact, the author of Professor Phonics suggests, "The selection of good readers is of utmost importance. The easiest readers to use with Professor Phonics are phonetic readers which use words containing the short sound of 'a' almost exclusively in the beginning and then proceed to the other short vowels."
I also supplemented with Mrs. Silvers Phonics Workbook, published by Mott Media, 112 E. Ellen St., Fenton, MI 48430. This is a "pre-primer" which helps students learn consonant sounds, short vowel sounds, and common digraphs by looking at and circling pictures that contain the sound. Rather than following the book in order, we just turned to the page with the sound on it that we had studied from Professor Phonics and used it as a reinforcement.
The optional interactive CD ROM and fun-filled games for reinforcement were not available when we purchased our set, and I personally prefer the simple approach I described above. I recommend Professor Phonics.
Reviewed by Oscar M.
Contact information: Can be purchased at Books-A-Million, and online at Amazon.com and ChristianBook.com. You can read more about it at www.readamerica.net (click Phono-Graphix).
Reading Reflex is published by Read America. Most people would call it a phonics program, but it greatly simplifies the concept of phonics as we all learned it.
It is complicated to explain why it works so well, but I will summarize briefly. Reading Reflex teaches reading English like every other language teaches reading. Anyone can learn to pronounce every Spanish word relatively quickly though you may not understand anything you read, because each letter (or letters) represents only one sound. Although English is very much more complicated, Reading Reflex takes the same approach. For every phoneme in English (around 40) there is one or more spelling. All children need to learn is the spellings of each phoneme -- just like in every other language. In American English, many phonemes have several spellings, and some spellings represent more than one sound. Nevertheless, understanding English in this way is much easier than learning dozens of phonics rules and the multiple exceptions to most of those rules.
Reading Reflex does away with phonics rules which really don't work. For example, the various rules on adding an "e" to make the vowel long, such as in the words cake, home, and ride. The problem with the rule is that you have to learn so many exceptions that it doesn't sound like much of a rule. The o-consonant-e words are particularly egregious: done, some, love, dove, come, etc. These are not exactly obscure words. The Reading Reflex method is much easier: /o-e/ spells either the sound <oe(we call it long o as in boat) or <u(as in cup). Much simpler, right? Reading Reflex has reduced learning to read to two relatively small charts, one with consonant sound spellings and one with vowel sound spellings.
Reading Reflex also eliminates all the silent letters. (How in the world do we expect children to know by looking at a word which letters might be "silent"?) Instead it teaches them that the symbols (letters) n, kn, and gn spell the sound <n. The sound <oe(as in boat) can be spelled many ways, including "oa" and "ough." Doesn't that make a lot more sense than Saxon English which has children go to the board and cross out the u, g, and h in the word "though"?
Reading Reflex also does away with long and short sounds. All children need to understand to read is that certain letters and combinations of letters represent certain sounds. As children, they don't need to know the terms long and short. They can learn them later.
There are a few minor flaws, but once you understand the concept (it doesn't take long!), you can easily overcome them. .
Reviewed by Diana Dow
Sing, Spell, Read and Write is a complete phonics program, available from many home-school outlets. When purchasing the home study kit you will receive: a video tape of a class of children singing all the songs; workbooks to practice writing and spelling; a set of readers; games to reinforce what has been learned; a raceway chart to track progress; and a treasure chest of trinkets to give as rewards. Our children enjoy the readers and songs the most. Keeping track of progress is exciting.
As indicated by the name, Sing, Spell, Read and Write stresses spelling and writing. This is accomplished through the consumable workbooks. All three boys have found the workbooks to be too much work. Their ability to learn reading is much stronger than writing and spelling. I would rather get them reading well and concentrate on writing and spelling later. We use the workbook sparingly. I have found that when children have learned phonics well, spelling comes rather naturally.
Sing, Spell, Read and Write moves along at a pretty good clip. Be careful not to push a young child too soon. As with most things in life, reading can be learned easier if it is not pushed too soon.
My family enjoys SSRW. The songs have become part of our everyday life. It makes a good investment for a family. It is all non-consumable except for the workbooks.
Reviewed by Diana Dow
Published by Castlemoyle Books
I have finally found a spelling program I am willing to use. Spelling Power is it. Recommended for ages 8 to adult, spelling takes just 15 minutes a day. There are placement tests to ensure your child starts where he needs to be. Each level is given a letter instead of a number. An eighth grader can start at level C and not feel he is doing work below his level.
Each day the child takes a 5-minute test. After he writes down each word, the test giver spells the word aloud so the child can see if he got it right. If he did, go to the next word. If not, he writes the word correctly next to his misspelled word. At the end of 5 minutes he then writes the correct spelling of his misspelled words on the 10-step study sheet. He follows the directions on the page and then uses each word in a sentence. This activity takes 5 minutes. The last 5 minutes are used with an activity such as alphabetizing his misspelled words, cutting letters out of the newspaper to make his words, spelling the words on the telephone, etc. There are even dictionary activities.
Everything needed to use this program is in the book: reproducible study and test sheets, spelling lists, activities. Also available are inexpensive workbooks. These blank 10-step study sheets and daily test sheets simplify life by keeping things together. They come in 4 line sizes to accommodate your child's needs. Another extra you can purchase are the Activity Task Cards. Included in these cards are more activities than your child could ever want. He can do a different activity everyday. They are organized in order of difficulty. These are truly an extra, but it does help our day go smoother.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
In the 1800's Platt Rogers Spencer produced five copybooks as a complete course in elementary school handwriting. Later an instruction book was developed known as "Theory of the Spencerian System of Practical Penmanship in Nine Easy Lessons." It is arranged in a question and answer format to teach the theory of forming all letters from seven basic strokes. The Spencerian Penmanship copybooks and theory book have been reprinted by Mott Media, Inc., and are part of their "Classic Curriculum."
Book 1 introduces all the short lower case letters and the four strokes or principles that are needed to produce these letters. Book 2 adds two tall lower case letters, t and d, and the figures 1-9. Book 3 completes the lower case letters and introduces most of the capitals. Book 4 completes the capital alphabet and provides practice on all the letters as they appear in words. Book 5 presents sentences and sayings for writing practice. This form of penmanship became a standard in the late 1800's when an elegant handwriting was much prized and was known, not only for its beauty, but also its speed and ease.
In the curriculum for grades three and four, Mott Media's Writing Series workbooks (four per year for grades one through four) are keyed to the Spencerian books, although the latter can be used independently. The theory book is covered over those two years, with copybooks 1 and 2 intended for grade three and copybooks 3 and 4 intended for grade four. While there are no more workbooks after grade four, the Spencerian copybook 5 alone is used for grade five, and grades six through eight are supposed to go back and review using all five copybooks.
Spencerian Penmanship is the only aspect of the "Classic Curriculum" that I do not care for and that we do not use. The biggest problem that I see is that many of the letters are formed in a completely different way from the normal method that we usually teach for forming cursive letters. My opinion is that this may work well for a child who loves and enjoys writing. However, for a child who has difficulty with writing, Spencerian penmanship can be somewhat confusing, because he has to make his letters one way at some times and another way at other times. Therefore, we chose not to continue using Spencerian Penmanship.
Reviewed by Sally Perz
We wanted our reading lessons to accomplish a few things: to be challenging for eager learners, to be "natural" and relaxed, to be phonetic, and to be non-consumable. When it came time to teach our children to read, we found these two books to be the perfect method for our family. All this is available for only $45 dollars, so it is economical as well. No flash cards, no fancy games, and no preparation are involved - just you and your child cozy on the couch reading together for a few months and then your child will be reading to you!
We began our road to reading with Teach Your Child, taking about twenty minutes per day, and finished in less than four months. We did the book as it is laid out, except that we did not do the handwriting section of each lesson. The book begins with single letter sounds, then begins blending them into words, finally the child is reading sentences and stories by the fourteenth lesson. The kids loved the silly stories and progressed very quickly through each lesson. There are pictures included with questions to teach comprehension with each story. Some of the lettering is in strange fonts and there are a few symbols to aid in recognition. This does not seem to hinder them at all and they are "weaned" off of it toward the end of the book. They do not learn all of the rules and exceptions, simply how to read phonetically and a few words that are not phonetic. By the end of the book, they are reading at a second grade level.
However, they have not learned all of the sounds at this point. The book basically assumes that you will go on with progressively difficult books to gain the rest of the sounds. At this point, I began Alphaphonics to reinforce what they had learned and to teach the remainder of the sounds. Alphaphonics is considered "intensive phonics." It is simply a word book, no pictures or stories.
Since the kids had already learned to read with Teach Your Child, they could do several lessons of Alphaphonics per day until over halfway through the book. We often made up sentences with the words for fun, we also got some laughs out of their sentences at times, so it was not boring at all. As an aside, we put stickers over the euphemisms that are used. Like the other, this is no frills. We chose a time when we would not be interrupted and when the child was "fresh" (as opposed to nap time, or just before a meal).
By the time we finished Alphaphonics, the kids could pick a book off the shelf and read it aloud to me. I had them read some little easy readers each day for a few months and then they were reading everything and loving it.
Reviewed by Jeanne Burnett
Written by Paul R. Erwin
Published by Precious Memories Educational Resources, Battleground, WA
Grade levels 1-6
The Winston Grammar Program is a welcome change from the traditional textbook/workbook approach to teaching grammar to elementary students. It works well for teaching multiple levels of children simultaneously, which is a plus for home schooling. By completing at least two lessons per week, students can actually master the program in a semester, freeing up the subsequent semester for writing, literature, etc.
The program itself, including clue cards and student worksheets for each lesson, along with a marker board (my own recommendation) are all that's needed to get started. Children learn parts of speech and basic mechanics of grammar by manipulating clue cards to correspond with sample sentences presented in the lessons by the teacher. Much like a math program, each lesson presents new concepts, builds on previous lessons, and provides review. Quizzes are also included for tracking student comprehension. The program stresses throughout that no word can be determined as a part of speech until presented in the context of a sentence.
Based on its results, I consider the cost of this program to be very reasonable. It worked well for us because it cut teaching time in half and accomplished its purpose very effectively, as well as providing a little friendly competition between students.
Review by Stephanie Farmer
We have switched to Bob Jones math and love it! It actually makes our son think. When he does their word problems he really has to think and reason it out. If he does a division page, the word problems have a mixture of any type of math and sometimes using different procedures.
The math lessons don't have 50 redundant problems, but about 20 to a lesson. The explanations are easy enough, that our son sometimes teaches himself how to do that day's lesson! Instead of learning a new concept every day for a week and then practiced for a couple, he likes how it is gradually done. There were many times with our old curriculum that he would get hit with so many new concepts he would get flustered.
I love the spiral bound teacher's manual! It has poster ideas that I put on a small sized poster and we use as a game before each lesson, when necessary. Bob Jones is often reviewing past lessons, which develops a firm foundation. The math seems to deal more with daily matters we all run across too.
Here are a few extra tips. Teach them decimals before fractions. Many studies have been done that prove that kids that learn decimals first can handle fractions easier.
Remember, if your kids know their times tables math is easier! If you teach in groups like 8's this week, 9's next week it helps them learn. Start them by teaching 0-9 up to 5's, then once mastered 0-9 up to 11 and finish with the 12's.
Buy your kids a watch and encourage them to use it! It is amazing how quickly they teach themselves time.
I would recommend any parent switch to Bob Jones for 4th grade up to expand their thinking!
Review by Donna Craig
The Complete Book of Math workbook series by McGraw-Hill retails for $14.95, but at Walmart, each costs about $10. I have also seen these books at Books-a-Million and Waldenbooks and in the Rainbow Resource Center catalog. The series has a workbook each for grade levels 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6. (I am reviewing only the workbook for grades 1 and 2 since that is all we have used so far.)
I have used other programs but wanted something more economical, that moved at a more leisurely pace allowing math games or manipulatives, and that didn't have pages and pages with rows and rows of math problems that my children didn't need to do in order to master a new concept. I settled on the Complete Book of Math.
The workbook has a whopping 352 pages and has lessons on number recognition, counting (including counting by ordinals), comparing, classification, patterns, addition and subtraction (1 to 3-digit numbers), place value (through the hundreds), time (hours, half-hours, quarter-hours, and minutes), money (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half-dollars), measurement (including some metrics), graphing, geometry (circles, squares, rectangles, ovals, diamonds, and some use of geoboards), and fractions (through the "fourths").
The book is not just a collection of workbook pages. A suggested list of manipulatives is given following the table of contents. Many of these manipulatives can be found in your pantry or desk drawer. "Getting Started" pages offer suggestions on using these manipulatives to teach math concepts. These manipulatives include Unifix pattern cards, pattern attribute shapes and some pattern cards to accompany them, a Venn diagram, a "hundreds" chart, two place value charts (one for ones and tens, the other for ones, tens, and hundreds), a large clock face (you add the hands), a 7-inch ruler, and a 17-centimeter ruler. Directions are given for making a pan balance. Several games are provided, a nice break from doing workbook pages.
My children loved the workbooks. One big reason is because they are so colorful. (They actually remarked on this.) Another reason is because of their approach to problem solving. One doesn't just add 1+3 to equal 4, one has 1 yummy ice cream cone and then has 3 more. Or Buddy the bear needs to get off the ground in his hot-air balloon by moving through clouds whose sums are 9. Word problems featured throughout the book also appealed to them since they were problems about items or activities that interest children their age. They also had opportunity to "create" some of their own problems, such as the time they went on a scavenger hunt through the house to find things to measure with the provided rulers (which they thought were "cool").
There is no overload of problems on the pages. Some days there are 4 problems, some days there are more. Rarely, except at the ends of sections when mastery is expected, are there "row after row" of math problems.
My criticisms include that there is very little use of the number line. I consider this important in understanding numbers, addition, and subtraction, and is one of the things that I loved about Horizons Math. But number line instruction is easy to add in. Second, the paper manipulatives may be nice to have, but they may not be sturdy enough for the more active little mathematician. However, I covered ours with clear Contact paper and they held up well enough. Third, the workbook is arranged by subject instead of being "spiraled" as in the Horizons Math workbooks. I am not an expert in math, but after 15 years of homeschooling, I have seen that the spiral approach worked best with my children. However, the subject is 1st and 2nd grade math and I think parents can figure out how to spiral the math themselves. Last, sometimes the instructions that are given to the children are a bit wordy and simpler explanations are needed. Again, parents can probably provide the needed explanations after reading through the workbook pages.
There are no answer pages with the grades 1 and 2 workbook. (There are with grades 3 and 4.) I haven't considered this much of a negative as there are usually so few problems per page and it is easy enough to glance at them while my daughters are doing their work to check their problems, and to offer additional instruction on a concept on the spot.
For those who would like to use this workbook, you might wish to purchase additional manipulatives, though the workbook does try to make this unnecessary. We already had several manipulatives and these are the ones that we used: number tiles for the more kinesthetic learner, disc counters (I would recommend overhead counters as they are transparent and they fit on the hundred chart), realistic "play" money, fraction circles or squares, and a number line. Additionally, the pages are perforated, so you may wish to purchase a notebook in which to place the pages and a zippered pencil bag to fit in the notebook for all the workbook's manipulatives. I purchased my number line at Rainbow Resource Center. It's a write-on/wipe-off line that uses special crayons. I also purchased a bucket balance at Rainbow Resource Center rather than making a pan balance. It's more accurate plus with the addition of gram weights, you can use the balance for science activities.
Reviewed by Donna Craig
Contact Information: Alpha Omega Publications 1-800-622-3070
Cost: $25 per year
We use Saxon beginning with 54 up to algebra and are quite satisfied with it. However, we chose not to use their K-3 materials, mainly because I did not want to spend that much money.
Instead, we use Alpha Omega's Horizons Math. The joy in using it is that it also uses a spiral approach like Saxon. The workbooks are very well done with large text and colorful pictures. The lessons are two pages long (front and back of a page) with each tenth lesson actually being a review and also taking the fronts and backs of two pages. Each year requires two consumable workbooks.
These books are advanced. So, for kindergarten, let your child play with all the cool math manipulatives you can buy (Wal-Mart is a good source) and another workbook if you wish (perhaps Spectrum). Then begin them with Horizons Math K in the first grade. We used Horizons Math 1 for second grade, Horizons Math 2 for third grade and proceeded to Saxon 54 after that without any trouble.
There is also a teacher's notebook for each grade, but I stopped buying them both because this is basic math and because Alpha Omega likes to revise them about every five years. If you think you need a little help in explaining the elementary math concepts to your children, then consider buying Kathryn Stout's Maximum Math. It has wonderful tips on explaining every math concept that your children will encounter through grade 8, and the book is a lot less expensive than buying all those teacher notebooks for Horizons. Maximum Math
I would recommend that anyone who finds the spiral approach to math appealing to consider using the Horizons Math program at least for those first few years, even over Saxon K-3. I don't think you will be disappointed.
Reviewed by Sherry Shockley
Contact Information: Cornerstone Curriculum Project, 2006 Flat Creek Place, Richardson, Texas
75080; Phone (972) 235-5149.
Costs: Parent and Student Book: Level K = $30.00, Levels 1-4 = $40.00 each; Student Directed Book: Level 5-6 = $40.00 each.
Making Math Meaningful is a program stressing understanding math concepts rather that rote memorization. Concepts are taught by first starting with manipulatives and hands-on activities. For example, when learning multiplication, the child may be told to make as many stacks of 5 as possible from a stack of books. He then counts the number of stacks and the leftover books. He is learning about factors in multiplication and remainders. The student then moves to working with pictures of objects on worksheets. He may have a picture of several objects and be told to draw circles around the objects, putting them in groups of three. The third stage is when the student is solving problems using simply numbers.
MMM walks the teacher through each lesson with the teacher's instructions. The materials needed to teach each lesson are listed, so they can be gathered by Mom ahead of time. Then the instructional part of the lesson is divided into a script of "you (the teacher) say" and "the student should say." This makes the lessons very easy to use. The math program has much interaction between the teacher and student with the advantage of monitoring the student's level of understanding.
One major strength of this program is that MMM uses many word problems early. (This program would not work as well for late readers unless Mom reads each problem.) Students learn to not be intimidated by word problems and also learn the skill of locating necessary information to solve the math problem.
We used MMM volumes 1-3 for the first three grades. I loved the program (except for one confusing lesson on subtraction). After using this program for grades 1-3, my children moved to Saxon 54 with no problems at all. However, MMM does have a programs through Level 6, followed by Principles from Patterns - Algebra and Geometry programs.
We also used the Calculadder program to help our children memorize their facts and increase their speed. MMM does not teach students to memorize facts, and this skill is important.
MMM is an excellent math program for a beginning home schooler because it tells you what to do each step of the way. If the mom and the child enjoy interactive programs, MMM could be a wonderful choice for math. A manipulatives set is available for purchase (for grades K-3) for $15.
Reviewed by Bonnie Forsythe
Contact Information: Written by Steve Demme, Published by Math-U-See, Inc., 1378 River Road, Drumore, Pa. 17518-9760
This is a low-cost, manipulative-based K-10 math curriculum. The author is a home-school dad and former math teacher. He has developed a very effective, home-school friendly curriculum.
The manipulatives, which are a great help and enjoyable to use, are used from Kindergarten through High School. There is a lesson-by-lesson video for each textbook. Each textbook has 36 lessons, so it covers two or three grade levels. Each lesson has four pages of problems, which also review the concepts learned in previous lessons. The material is presented with emphasis on understanding the concepts and not just knowing how to get the answer.
We have been very pleased with this program. I initially looked into it because of the low cost. I was able to use the first textbook for my younger two and just go at a different speed for each child. You can get one book and copy the lessons for each child or buy separate workbooks. The workbook is only $15.00 and saves a lot of time and trouble. Remember, each one covers at least 1 or 2 years. After the first couple of years I had all the math texts we needed for a while.
Mr. Demme has a pleasant personality and is enjoyable to watch on the videos. The lessons are short and the concepts are made very simple using the blocks or fraction overlays. It is really nice to have the tapes, instead of my husband or myself doing all the teaching. The parent still needs to read the material in the teacher's book and understand the concepts to be able to help the students with some of the more difficult problems.
Since this is a math curriculum, there is not much place for religious teaching. The skip-counting cassette tape and coloring book, however, are available either with Bible references or with science and literature. I chose the Bible, and the singing sounds like a muskrat without accompaniment. My youngest son loved it, which really made learning his multiplication tables much easier and more enjoyable.
For $5.00 one can obtain a demonstration video. The money is returned when the tape is returned. If math has been a problem in your home, I suggest you check this curriculum out!
Reviewed by Cori Garrison
Contact information: Jackie Winner, Ed.S., 8800 - 49th Street N., Suite 401, Pinellas Park, FL 33782; (813)545-3047
Designed by Lore Rasmussen, Miquon is a secular 3-4 year spiral curriculum for grades 1-3. It consists of six different workbooks ($5.95 each) and three teacher's guides:
1. Lab Sheet Annotations ($13.95)
2. Notes to Teachers ($3.95)
3. First Grade Diary ($5.95)
Twenty-two math operations are taught in this program with each workbook increasing in difficulty. Once a topic has been presented, it continues to be combined with other topics. Miquon introduces all four basic arithmetic operations within the first year. Although it is Cuisenaire rod based (metric), it promotes the use of other manipulatives, including number lines.
The program is designed so that a concept is taught, then students do the worksheets (usually independently) using the manipulatives, and then check their work. Eventually the rods are used only to check the answers, then finally students learn to picture the items mentally. Several ways to solve a problem are taught, allowing students to be creative, while proceeding at their own pace and reinforcing skills already learned.
We purchased all three teacher's guides. However, I would suggest purchasing the Lab Sheet Annotations and the necessary workbooks. The Annotations book covers all levels, and the cross-referencing to the workbooks is easy to follow. You must, however, solve the problems in this book, as there is no answer key. It presents several ways to show your students problem solving, while showing some of the responses you may receive.
The First Grade Diary was a helpful reference when I felt I had not presented a concept well. It is full of ideas, but is not necessary for those who are comfortable with math concepts.
The Notes to Teachers book explains the Miquon philosophy and math learning process. It was interesting reading, but was not necessary to implement the program.
The manipulatives needed to work the program are:
1. A set of 155 Cuisenaire rods (basic set)
2. A hundred board
3. A geoboard/rubber bands
4. Base Ten blocks (for the last 3 workbooks)
We made the materials non-consumable by using clear plastic report covers and ultrafine dry erase markers. We photocopied sections specified as overall reviews/booklets and the lesson sequence chart, so we had portfolio information.
We have been advised that our children may not test well the first year, since standardized tests include problems with 3 or 4 digit numbers. However, by the second year students should be well advanced so they test well. Upon finishing the program, most students advance to Saxon Math 65. If a child progresses quickly in math, but is not able to handle the reading required in higher level books, the Rasmussens have written a series known as "The Key To..." workbooks. These offer operationally based, simply written text for ages 6-9, continuing the Miquon process. They are self-contained.
I have enjoyed teaching Miquon. We like the fact that the rods are metric, the materials inexpensive, and previously learned concepts are reinforced in later lessons. Workshops and seminars are available. I have found them to be effective and practical. Helpful telephone responses are also available.
Reviewed by Wayne Walker
Contact information: Reprinted by Mott Media, Inc., 1000 E. Huron St., Milford, MI 48042.
The seven volumes of the Ray's New Arithmetics were originally published in 1877-1883 and were more popular than any other arithmetic books in America during the 1800's and early 1900's. Organized in an orderly manner around the discipline of arithmetic itself, they present principles, progressing systematically from the simple to the complex, follow up each one with examples, and then include difficult problems to challenge the student so that he must rely on his arithmetic ability to answer the questions.
To some, the problems may seem quaint and even hopelessly out of date, but many of us appreciate the charm of a former era. Basic relationships of numbers do not change, so that the student can also learn the social culture of the 1800's at the same time he is mastering his arithmetic skills.
Ray's New Primary Arithmetic is intended for grades one and two. It begins with counting and other basic arithmetic skills and introduces addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Ray's New Intellectual Arithmetic is intended for grades three and four. It extends work in the four operations to higher numbers and introduces fractions, measurements, ratios, and percentages.
Ray's New Practical Arithmetic is intended for grades five and six. It reviews basic arithmetic skills and carries them to higher levels, along with factoring, decimals, proportions, powers, roots, and simple geometry. Ray's New Higher Arithmetic is intended for grades seven and eight. It includes philosophical understandings; principles and properties of numbers; advanced studies of common and decimal fractions, measurements, ratios, proportions, percentages, powers and roots, and series; business math; and geometry, with both basic work for the average student and challenging work for the advanced student.
The complete set also includes the Key to Ray's New Arithmetics which has answers to the questions in the Primary, Intellectual, and Practical Arithmetics, the Key to Ray's New Higher Arithmetic which has answers to the questions in that book, and Test Examples in Arithmetic which provides problems on topics in the Practical Arithmetic from which questions can be drawn for preparing tests. Mott Media has added a Parent-Teacher Guide for Ray's New Arithmetics written by Dr. Ruth Beechick. It includes a general scope and sequence of recommended mathematic skills for each grade, a planning guide with suggested daily plans, tests, a section on projects and games, and other teaching tips. The eight volumes can be purchased as a set or individually.
Thus, Ray's New Arithmetics provide a complete mathematics curriculum for grades one through eight. In addition, Mott Media has published a series of workbooks, four for each year from grades one through four, written by Dr. Rudy Moore, which are keyed to Ray's Primary and Intellectual Arithmetics. These provide additional information on and some extra problems for counting and writing numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions, as well as room to answer the questions from the textbooks. As children proceed through each workbook, they are referred to the appropriate lesson and exercises in the various texts. The Ray's New Arithmetics can be used alone, but some parents may prefer the extra guidance offered by the workbooks.
One of the benefits of Ray's New Arithmetics is that they emphasize mental arithmetic to precede written arithmetic as a means to assure understanding. Most early work is to be done with real objects such as fruit, counting blocks, and marbles, and later in the head with mental images of the objects. After children are ready to think symbolically, they gradually drop the use of objects and images and learn to compute with digits. Thus, children are led through the three growth stages in arithmetic: the manipulative stage, the mental image stage, and the abstract stage.
Another advantage is that Ray's New Arithmetics incorporate story problems. Students must read simple sentences which pose real life problems; decide whether to add, subtract, multiply, or divide; and finally arrive at the answer, sometimes mentally and sometimes in writing.
Ray's New Arithmetics have played, and still can play, a very important part in teaching children mathematics skills.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Saxon Publishers, 1320 West Lindsey St., Norman, OK 73069; 1-800-284-7019
Saxon math has become the standard of comparison for all other math programs for home schoolers for grades 4-12. The program is also available at grades one through three, but it uses worksheets and is quite expensive. Grades four and up use textbooks. Home-school packets are available that include textbook, answers for all problems, tests, and test answers. The packets are relatively expensive, but are hardback and can be reused for several children.
Saxon texts are known for clear and thorough explanations of new concepts and for reviewing concepts in every lesson after they have been presented. This "incremental" approach almost universally results in higher achievement test scores. The approach can be misleading because the early lessons in a book look so easy that some people think the books are too easy. However, they advance gradually and cover the subject thoroughly.
Prior to high school, texts are named Math 54, Math 65, etc. Math 54 is supposed to be for a typical fifth grader or advanced fourth grader, etc. However, I recommend that you consider it to be for a typical fourth grader or a "late blooming" fifth grader, etc. In this way, Math 87 would generally be used in seventh grade, then Algebra 1/2 in grade eight. Freshmen then use Algebra I, and Sophomores use Algebra II. Juniors can use Advanced Math (Algebra III, Trigonomety, and Geometry) and then go on to Calculus in their senior year, if they need really advanced math to prepare for their chosen field in college. However, in my judgment Advanced Math contains too much material to cover in one year for most students, even on a college preparatory plan. Unless students needs Calculus in high school, I suggest taking the junior and senior years to cover Advanced Math.
One other word of advice. Saxon Algebra texts are so self-explanatory that parents are tempted to think kids can learn them with little or no parent assistance. This can be a mistake, because eventually the volume of material builds up and the students become confused later in the year. I suggest that 3x5 flash cards be made for every new concept. These should then be reviewed with the parent before every test. This helps the parent keep up with the student's progress.
Review by Gerry Wright
We use Saxon math, and have, with one child or another, for the past 8 years. We chose it because it has always been so highly recommended, and it has worked well for the children. However, my soon-to-be sixth grader is longing for a change, and we will probably try something else this coming year (what to choose, what to choose!)
I believe that Saxon is a bit short on explanation of "why" in explaining some concepts. It explains how, but there is very little in the way of "why" sometimes, and I believe more "why" would be helpful. Also, a child with a quick grasp of mathematics can become very bored with the continual review. That said, though, it is a very solid program - so many users and recommendations can't be wrong.
One advantage to Saxon is that it can always be purchased used. I have bought a new set only once or twice in all this time. The used prices are a nice savings!
Reviewed by Wayne Walker
The Spectrum Workbooks were originally published by McGraw-Hill, and this company still sells them, but they are now listed as published by School Speciality Publishing, which is a division of Frank Schaffer Publications. In this series, there are books for grades K through 8 in reading, writing, language arts, phonics/word study, spelling, geography, and math. It is said that these "workbooks build a solid foundation for learning so that you can be assured that the skills practiced at home will prepare students to meet the challenges of modern life. Experienced educators from across the country have contributed to these materials, which have been approved by every state's Department of Education." I have seen them for sale in religious bookstores that carry homeschool materials, homeschool conventions, and homeschool catalogues such as Christian Book Distributors.
They appear to be designed as supplements to any standard curriculum for either classroom or home usage, but they cover such a broad range of material in each subject that it seems that with a little work one could almost possibly use them as a complete curriculum. They are not written from a uniquely "Christian" perspective, but I did not find the ones that we used to be anti-Christian or ungodly, as is the case with some materials used in the government schools. They simply focus on the basic skills involved in learning such disciplines as arithmetic the way they used to be when many of us went to public school and actually learned something by continual review and practice in the fundamentals. My only complaint about Spectrum Math is that it just moved on from one concept to the other rather quickly without much place for reviewing skills already learned. This is one reason that we switched to Saxon Math.
Reviewed by ???
Written by Apologia Press
This curriculum is very home-schooler friendly. The text reads smoothly and clearly without throwing in a lot of unnecessary additional information. Dr. Wile provides good explanations for all questions and problems, enabling home-school teachers with less science background to adequately teach the curriculum. Additionally, Dr. Wile offers a free internet/email Q & A service for those using his curriculum. He has responded very quickly to inquiries I made.
Dr. Wile's curriculum does have some problems, but they can be worked around and may be corrected in future editions. One problem is an almost total lack of pictures in the text. There is a supplemental CD available which includes some pictures and interesting experiments, but even this resource could be richer in visual images in my opinion. However, there are books available with good pictures which can be used to augment Dr. Wile's text, e.g., the DK Eyewitness or Usborne Illustrated Science book series.
Another problem with Dr. Wile's curriculum is that the experiments included in the text could be a bit more robust. One very simple experiment is used several times to teach different concepts. This is not bad, but it does make the labs less interesting to me. Supplemental science experiment books can be used to enhance the lab experience. The reasonably priced lab equipment set that Dr. Wile makes available is complete enough to do the experiments in his text but not complete enough to familiarize the student with very many different pieces of laboratory equipment. However, if a student takes college science courses, he/she will easily learn about any needed equipment there.
In Exploring Creation With Chemistry Dr. Wile tries to bring the reader to as complete an understanding of basic chemistry concepts as possible. I believe he accomplishes this goal. If the student consistently does all the problems, questions, tests and labs in addition to the reading, the student will have a good college-preparatory foundation in first-year high school chemistry.
Reviewed by Gerry Wright
Written by Paul and Danielle Harris.
HDGDT is called, on the front cover, "Complete Earth Science with an introduction to Life Sciences," for ages 8-12. I am liking it very much. It is not deep science, but it is easily supplemented, and is perfect for the younger ones just as is. It does not have color illustrations, and the pages are not overloaded with text. The instructions are directed to the student, with clear, easy-to-follow directions. Parent involvement can be increased by supplementing for older children, and by asking the review questions listed at the end of each chapter. It has goals written out which may be checked off by the student. There are lots of activities, most of them for the younger children, and I supplement those with other things for my older student. There are charts and graphs in the books for the student to complete.
Unit One covers the solar system, stars, galaxies, and space exploration. Unit Two studies Earth, interior crust, land masses, oceans, atmosphere and moon. Unit Three focuses on matter, rocks, minerals, and then finishes up with life science: cells, plants, animals and human body.
It could be consumable or not, depending on your use of it.
Reviewed by Heather Sautter
Contact information: $30.00 at Rainbow Resource.
This textbook, CD, and workbook curriculum is the third volume in the Lyrical Life Science series. This volume does an excellent job of introducing the human body and its systems in an easy-to-understand format.
One of the best things about the textbook is that it breaks down each system of the body (skeletal, muscular, nervous, digestive, etc.) by defining its function and analyzing it in a very simplified form. Along the side of each page in the textbook, there are illustrations and interesting facts for the students' easy comprehension. In addition to 12 chapters on the human body, a chapter on the study of Greek and Latin root words is provided to familiarize the student with the many branches of medical science.
If your student is an auditory learner this curriculum will be suitable for them. The CD (or tape) used with both the workbook and textbook is a musical aid to memorizing the parts and functions of the human body. The best part about this disk is that the lyrics are sung to popular camp songs and traditional patriotic tunes, not abstract or contrived melodies. This is the key factor to easy memorization.
The workbook tests the knowledge that the student gained from the textbook by fill-in-the-blank lyrics to the songs on the CD, multiple choice, short answer and dig deeper questions. Students can check their work in the answer key at the end of the book.
I believe this book will make anatomy easy for any student, no matter what age they are. Although I previously had biology, I learned more about the human body with this program.
Reviewed by Mark Bingham
Contact information: Durell Dobbins, e-mail: email@example.com; telephone: 1-800-831-3570; 328 Shady Lane, Alvaton, KY 42122
The Rainbow was written by Durell Dobbins who is a scientist (Ph.D. in microbiology), a New Testament Christian, and a home-schooling father. His curriculum offers substantial science, simply presented, on the junior-high level. It is designed to provide two years of science, with two lessons and one laboratory activity per week.
During the first year, students explore rudiments of physics and chemistry. The second year begins with biology and moves on to a section of "applications" in fields such as geology, astronomy, meteorology, and environmental science.
I find several advantages to The Rainbow:
1. The text itself offers systematic, sound, and thorough explanations in a non-threatening style.
2. Because of the style of presentation, students can work with as much independence as parents wish.
3. The author flavors his text with humor.
4. The text also carries a strong flavor of reverence - the attitude of a heart deeply struck by wonder at God's hand in things. The text discusses modern scientific theories as theories, giving careful attention to ways in which they diverge from biblical explanations.
5. In addition to the text, the curriculum package offers a laboratory manual and a complete set of laboratory supplies, that the student of science may be fully equipped to perform the scientific demonstrations.
As I've mentioned, The Rainbow is designed to cover two years. A single textbook covers both years' material. The laboratory manual and some of the supplies must be ordered separately for each year. The cost will strike many home schoolers as high. The first-year package includes the full two-year text, as well as the first-year lab manual, the first-year teacher's helper, and lab equipment and supplies. The second year's program includes a lab manual, teacher's helper, equipment, and supplies. Imagine the time, trouble, and expense of assembling each lab exercise, then multiply that by 30 to provide lab exercises for an entire year, and you'll begin to develop an appropriate perspective on the price.
Two more cost factors bear mentioning:
1. Dr. Dobbins is now working on The Spectrum, a complete high school science program for home schoolers. He plans to utilize the durable laboratory equipment from The Rainbow, so that students who move into the high-school program will have less equipment to purchase. The Rainbow can thus become an investment toward high-school supplies as well.
2. Customers who mention that they are Family Times subscribers receive a 15% discount on the program.
The Rainbow offers rich and solid content which appeals strongly to the child's curiosity; it offers a convenient and comprehensive package which appeals strongly to the parent's peace of mind; and it offers "true science - always." Beat that if you can.
Reviewed by Karen Walker
Contact information: Solomon Publishing Company, 5830 Sovereign Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45241,
The "Solomon Resource Guide" is a two-volume set dealing with science subjects from animals to weather. It takes a main topic and divides it into chapters to cover areas related to the main topic. Within the two volumes are topics like the solar system, plants, human body, and others. Each chapter is divided into five sections: Teaching Resources (books which give information about the subject); Reading Selections (fiction books related to the subject); Activities (experiments and hands-on projects to help reinforce the lesson); Creative Writing; and the Arts (art projects to reinforce also).
These two volumes cover kindergarten through eighth grade, dividing into the Primary (K-2); Intermediate (3-5); and Upper Level (6-8). These divisions are used mainly in the Teaching Resources section. Volume one has a test with an answer key for each level at the end of each chapter for those who wish to use the guide as a complete science curriculum. However, I use these as supplemental material, not as our main textbook, so I have never used the tests.
An advantage of these volumes is that the child doesn't just sit and listen to science being taught or do a workbook but gets involved and sees how science is at work in everyday life by reinforcing what he/she has learned.
Disadvantages are that the books are relatively expensive, and the Reading Selection material is mainly for primary level.
Reviewed by Sally Perz
This past year I received a pamphlet in the mail from The Young Scientists Club that looked interesting to me. First, understand up front that this may not be the most economical material. Second, understand that it is not primarily designed by homeschoolers for homeschoolers. In spite of these things, we are thrilled with the program. We have had to make very few changes regarding conflicts with God's word.
Once a month we receive a science kit with virtually everything we need for several experiments on a topic. It is clear, user friendly, and interesting. The only items that are not included are easy to obtain and often found in most homes on a regular basis. Our five children (13, 11, 10, 8 and 5) work together and we all enjoy the experiments. They have worked every single time! We have learned quite a bit in a fun way and it has changed my outlook on science completely.
There are 36 kits and various options regarding the kits and how often you receive them. Some topics include: minerals, fossils, mirrors, electricity, magnetism, polymers and many others. The program is designed for ages 4-12. The web site will answer any further questions.
Reviewed by Joye Sautter
Contact information: Bilingual Books, Inc. has this series in Italian, German, Norwegian, Spanish, Ingles, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, and Portuguese. Each book is about $18.00. Their address is 1719 West Nickerson Street, Seattle, WA 98119. 800-488-5068. www.bilingualbooks.org www.10minutesaday.com
Introducing a foreign language might seem daunting to new homeschoolers, but if approached simply, you will be surprised how readily your children will pick it up. Just like learning English, or whatever your native tongue, you begin by connecting names, objects, phrases to the words (sounds) you want your child to know, one word at a time. French in 10 Minutes a Day is a great workbook to introduce French to students from elementary level and up. What I like about this program is its special features and simple user-friendliness.
To start, the alphabet chart is listed with sample words given for each letter and the corresponding English sound to pronounce it. In fact, there is phonetics given for every word (example: the word for "who" is "qui"(key)). Although there is no CD or tape with this program, the phonetics given beside each French word helps you read the words easily. With French, understanding and using the nasal sound is very important, so this workbook adds "(n)" in the upper right of the phonetics to remind you to say the sound with a nasal tone. Other special features are plenty of sticky labels, puzzles, quizzes, flash cards, and laminated Pocket Pal to take with you. The text is lively with colored sketches and drawings on every page. Once you learn the alphabet, you compose questions, and then move on to nouns. That's when the French sticky labels come in handy. (A dictionary in the back of the workbook helps here too.) Then there are the numbers, colors, days of the week/months of the year, common prepositions, and common verbs conjugated. Eventually words for travel and eating out are covered and that's when the menu enclosed is a help. The laminated Pocket Pal has over 200 essential words, questions, and phrases.
The publisher is secular and therefore does not include words of a religious nature. The only page I did not appreciate was the one with a sketch of a woman dancer with her many petticoats showing. The wine/aperitif/alcohol list given in the beverage guide could be glossed over too.
French in 10 Minutes a Day boasts to simply teach the language by working or reviewing just ten minutes a day beginning at page one and progressing, not skipping about. By doing this you will have fun learning your new language.
Reviewed by Stacey Clark
“The Power-Glide Language Course: Children’s Spanish” is a fun and easy way for kids K-6 to learn Spanish. The program contains eight CDs, three student workbooks, one parent guide, and a CD-Rom which contains activities in Spanish, French, and German. The first workbook is very simple with stories called diglot weaves that mix English words with pictures of words spoken in Spanish and pictures to point at or color. As the workbooks progress they become more involved with word puzzles to solve, Spanish words instead of pictures in the diglot weaves and some text entirely in Spanish.
The course is built around an adventure involving a brother and sister trying to help their grandfather solve a mystery. The kids need to learn the key words from stories or songs in order to understand the clues they find. The story line naturally encourages children to become proficient in what they have just learned so they can complete the performance challenges and go on to the next part of the story. In addition to the suggested challenges, such as reading the text to a parent or retelling the story using as much Spanish as possible, my children have created picture books or performed plays of the stories.
I liked this program because from the very first lesson it uses frequent repetition of the learned words and humor to encourage the children to speak the words often. The stories are very child-friendly with classics such as “The Three Bears,” “The Three Little Pigs,” and “Chicken Little.” Other stories are also enjoyable, such as “The Broken Window” where some naughty children are playing ball in the street and accidentally hit a window of a giant’s house, or “The Farmer and The Turnip” which teaches cooperation when all the characters need to work together to pull up a giant turnip. The songs, which teach days, months, body parts, etc., are very catchy and really help with memorization.
The only thing I have not liked about the course is that some words are not translated at all. The parent guide only covers the first workbook so any questions one might have after that have to be answered through a Spanish-English dictionary or, what I use, the Language Tools translation page from Google. I sense that the purpose of these omissions is to teach children how to find the translation of an unknown word, but it would be nice to have parent guides for each workbook. It is a minor complaint and it won’t stop me from purchasing another course in French or German once my children have become fluent in Spanish.
I purchased this program from Rainbow Resource Center for $83.95 because it came highly recommended from a woman who taught high school French for years in a public school but now homeschools her son and tutors many others in French using Power-Glide.
Review by Alexa Chisholm
I have the Rosetta Stone Spanish Language program and have been teaching it for the past two years. The program has two Levels. Level I has eight units and each unit has 12 lessons. Level 2 has 9 units with 10 lessons each. The Rosetta Stone program concentrates on 4 areas: 1-Listening comprehension 2-Reading comprehension 3-Speaking 4-Writing First the students work with the program on the computer, the students have exercises for each unit that teaches and improves their listening and reading comprehension, a voice-record feature that helps them with their pronunciation, and dictation exercises to improve their writing skills. After they are done with a lesson they have a workbook where they are given exercises that pertain to the material covered on the computer. There are also crossword puzzles, and word lists for each lesson. At the end of each unit there is a test. At the end of the first level the child will have enough vocabulary for basic conversations. This program allows each student to go at their own pace and many opportunities for review in several different formats which gives room for the different learning styles. Another feature that I like is that if for some reason a week is skipped it is easy to pick up and go again. Ideally it should be used 5 days a week. This would allow for more comprehension and use of the vocabulary for that specific lesson. We have used it with a group of other kids once a week. They do their work at home and then we come together to review the lesson, the vocabulary and the exercises they have done in their workbooks. After discussing the different words, sentences, meaning etc. we have done games, exercises, and we practice conversing in Spanish.
Reviewed by Susan Treat
Written by JoLinda Crump and Cathy Valdes; published by Florida College Bookstore, Temple Terrace, Florida 33617 (1-800-423-1648)
Ages: Preschool- Senior High
The Amplified Bible Curriculum is billed as "A Set of Educational Bible Objectives Enriched with Activities & Resources." It is really intended to be used in Church Bible class programs as the basic curriculum guide for all classes. The book is divided into twelve sections. The sections include: Genesis, The Exodus, Israel's Wanderings, Joshua/Judges/Ruth, United Kingdom and It's Kings, Wisdom Literature, The Kings and Prophets (Divided Kingdom), Captivity/Restoration, Life of Christ, Acts of the Apostles, New Testament Epistles, and Final Epistles and Revelation. The entire program takes you through the Bible in three years.
In each section there are thirteen lessons. Each lesson is then divided into suggested Objectives, Concepts and Teacher Activities for each grade level (Pre-School, Primary, Junior, Jr. High and Sr. High). Materials from well-known publishers such as L. A. Mott, Walking with God, Truth in Life and NLBL are suggested to be used as supplementary materials or lesson plans.
There is a Daily Bible Reading schedule which directs the students to read the materials associated with the lessons. This way the entire family can read the same material but study different aspects and have different requirements depending on grade level.
This is basically a good, thorough chronological study of the Bible. I have found nothing unscriptural in any of its lessons.
I see only two problems with this material. The first is the way they divide up the lessons. It spends too much time on some things and not enough on others. For example there are five lessons dealing with Joseph but only one lesson dealing with the Parables of Christ. To solve this problem one could take the basic premise of the book and re-figure some of the lessons to suit your own preferences.
Second, I feel that some of the lessons are inappropriate for pre-schoolers. Some of the more obscure Bible passages will be too difficult for the pre-schoolers to understand. Still, the basic point can be made and if the parent/teacher is patient to explain and discuss rather than just read the passages to the child, things will be fine. The activities suggested are generally very appropriate for each age. As long as the teacher/parent keeps in mind that different ages are supposed to get different points from the lesson, the material works well.
Reviewed by Diane Demumbreum
Contact information: D. L. Woods Publications, 4625 Virginia Drive, Olive Branch, MS 38654, Phone: (601) 895-8437
This program consists of flash cards with important (not trivial) Bible facts and a teacher's guide. Various topics are available. The guide lists all of the questions and answers, plus it gives additional material and shows how the cards match to the lesson studied.
Relying on drill and knowledge in both heart and head, the sets are designed for use by congregations or individuals. Each set is arranged to cover a quarter, and there are enough sets for 4 years. Cost is quite reasonable. Sets of smaller cards are available, but you don't need them for home schooling.
Sets available include:
Survey of Old Testament
Survey of New Testament
The Devil, Sin, and Hell
Jesus the Christ
Old Testament Book by Book
New Testament Book by Book
The Book of Acts
Old Testament Geography
New Testament Geography
God's Plan for the Home
Men and Women of the Old Testament
Men and Women of the New Testament
The Parables of Jesus
Faith, Hope, and Charity
They are recommended for ages 2-adult. The study of the book of Acts, for example, includes 126 cards. Two-year-olds learn 18 of them. 3-or-4-year-olds learn 41, etc. By 4th grade students are expected to learn all the cards. All answers are directly from the Bible and ask for the book, chapter, and verse (or the chapter/chapters).
I consider this to be very good Bible study support material. I have 4 of these sets and have found no error in them, although I did on occasion lengthen the "required" answer for what I thought was better clarification. These combined with daily Bible reading and/or Bob and Sandra Waldron's books help us retain the information which makes us all better Bible students.
Reviewed by Sherry Shockley
Contact information: Dr. Donald and Mary Baker, 37 Delsie Street, Clarksville, AR 72830. Phone (501)754-2223.
The Bible Study Guide for All Ages by Dr. Donald and Mary Baker consists of four units, each with 104 lessons. The purpose of the Study Guide is "to lead the Bible student through the Bible in a systematic manner resulting in a personal and enduring faith, the retention of Bible facts, and the Bible becoming an easily used tool." Another purpose is to help Christians grow in the ability to teach others.
Each lesson contains several sections. The first is Drills. This part suggests certain facts about the Bible that should be memorized. Some of the drills in Unit 1 are the books of the N.T. and their divisions, the twelve apostles, the 10 plagues, and verses about worship. These drills may include visual aids. The drill section sometimes includes a game like "Who Am I?" - a 20 questions type game of a Bible character.
The second section in a lesson is Review. This reviews the students' knowledge of previous lessons by asking a few questions.
The Text for the lesson is next followed by the sections Additional Scriptures and According to the Dictionary. The extra scriptures correlate with information from the text. The dictionary section explains the meaning of certain terms or gives background information about the lessons.
Questions are then given and include the verse with the answer.
The Maps section lists places from the Bible text for the students to label on a map. The Study Guide includes basic maps to be copied and labeled. (A good atlas or geography reference book on Bible lands is very helpful for this section to locate places.)
Then a Time-line suggestion is given. A time-line packet can be ordered to correlate with the Study Guide.
In the Songs section, two songs are suggested that tie in with the lesson. I have recognized many of the names of the songs, but there are some with which I am not familiar. An a cappella cassette of the songs can be purchased; however, one can just substitute another song that is appropriate for the particular lesson studied.
The section called Bible Words to Say Together stresses a particular verse from the text and a concept taught therein to apply in one's life.
The Prayer Time section encourages one to pray for God's help in applying the lesson to life.
The last section is called Visual. For each lesson (except the review and the end of each unit study) there is a sheet of stick figure sketches of the various parts of the story. These pages can be photocopied to simply color in or can be looked at as examples while the students sketch the pictures on a blank sheet of paper. Their sheets then go into a folder, and they end up with their own "Joseph Book," for example.
One of our favorite parts of this study is the Use Your Bible drill that occurs about every fifth lesson. Each student uses his Bible and a highlighter. He highlights particular words in a verse that focus on an important event he has studied. For example, in Gen. 37:3, he would highlight, "Israel loved Joseph more." After marking several verses, the students close their Bible and race to find and read a particular phrase they marked in a previous lesson. This technique has been wonderful in increasing my children's ability to find their way through their Bible and locate information (without a verse being given) more quickly.
I have enjoyed using this material because it is so focused on the scriptures. We read and discuss the actual text. The Study Guide works well to use as a family. All the children can study simultaneously. While I have found no doctrinal error so far, some of the visuals have been inaccurate. We simply discuss the problems and move on. Actually, as my children grew, we seldom used the pictures. With younger children they were quite helpful. I highly recommend the Bible Study Guide for All Ages.
Reviewed by David Pratte
The Creation Museum, 2800 Bullittsburg Church Rd., Petersburg, KY 41080; 888-582-4253; creationmuseum.org
The Creation Museum is a huge building housing displays that explain Biblical and scientific aspects of the Bible. It is located in Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. The displays are impressive, extremely professional, and generally quite Biblical. The museum is operated by Answers in Genesis, an organization closely related to the Institute for Creation Research. We found no evidence of any ties to any particular denomination. In addition to the museum itself, they sponsor a website, numerous publications, and speakers.
The entrance fee is not inexpensive but is comparable to other all-day amusements. Check the fees on their website before planning a visit, especially if you have a number of children. They do give discounts for HSLDA members (bring proof of membership), and "senior pastors" and their spouses are free (just tell them you are a preacher and bring evidence). Expect to spend all day to really benefit from your visit.
Our overall opinion of the museum was very favorable; but as you would expect, denominationalists inevitably include a few errors or weaknesses.
The greatest error is found in the section on the life and death of Christ. It concludes with a summary of how to be saved. The display presentation quotes Scriptures about faith and repentance, but none about baptism. It does not openly deny the need for baptism, but it simply ignores it. Free literature offered outside the display also ignores baptism, but mentions praying or saying a poem for salvation.
Besides the museum displays, speakers present scheduled presentations on various topics. Some of these obviously have religious music sung to the audience by soloists, etc., accompanied by instruments. We avoided those, but one we attended portrayed "angels" who spoke street talk ("That's cool, dude!") that seemed demeaning to the Biblical portrayal of angels.
Some material attempted to explain scientifically how various Bible events (like the flood) would have affected the earth. This involved some speculation which may or may not be valid. But note that this speculation concerned the effects, not the causes, of the miracles. As a rule they avoided giving naturalistic explanations for miracles, but strongly emphasized that miracles require supernatural intervention by God.
Museum employees were always friendly and well dressed, but expect some immodesty from patrons, even though they are generally religious.
With a few such exceptions, our impressions were very favorable.
The main section of the museum is a walk through the Bible story. Visitors walk from room to room at their own pace. Each room presents displays, videos, and/or charts describing and representing Bible events (days of creation, Adam naming the animals, the first sin, the flood, etc.) Some of these displayed images of people or animals (still or moving manikins) portraying or discussing some Bible event. These naturally involve some interpretation to visualize the scenes, but most were impressive, very well done, and very Scripturally oriented.
The main emphasis was on creation and the flood. The purpose was, not just to oppose evolution, but to explain and defend the Bible accounts. Biblical authority is emphasized throughout, with strong documentation emphasizing that the days must have been 24-hour days, the flood must have been worldwide, etc. Scripture was frequently quoted and contrasted to false teaching of science and liberal religion, often naming scientists or theologians who advocated error.
One area that especially impressed us was a room showing various videos of the wonders of creation. Various aspects of nature would be discussed, demonstrating how amazing God's creation is and how evolution cannot explain what exists around us.
Besides the walk through the Bible and the presentations, the museum includes a planetarium, restaurants, a large bookstore, botanical gardens, and a petting zoo. The planetarium costs extra, but don't miss it. It presents the solar system and universe in amazing detail, emphasizing the greatness of the Creator.
Anytime we buy a book written by denominationalists - whether a commentary or a school textbook - we expect to find some error. Nevertheless, if we are careful to find the error and point it out to our children, we can find such materials beneficial. That is how I would encourage all to approach the Creation Museum. It is not perfect, but with careful good judgment, it can be an amazingly impressive and faith-building tool to challenge our families with the greatness of God and the accuracy of the Bible.
Written and reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: Light to My Path Publications www.gospelway.com/sales
This is a 60-page Bible study workbook (8 1/2 by 11) on basic topics relating to living as a disciple of Christ. It is designed to be used for family or personal Bible studies (or new convert studies, Bible classes, etc.) for ages junior high and up. It was originally designed to follow my basic "Home Bible Study" series that I use to teach the basics to non-members (see this material described elsewhere).
The material is divided into ten lessons, however each lesson will take several study sessions to complete depending on the background and experience of the students. Each lesson is in question-and-answer workbook format and includes heavy emphasis on Scripture.
The lessons are entitled as follows:
1. How to Change Yourself
2. How to Study the Bible
3. "Teach Us to Pray"
4. Attending Church Meetings
6. Human Relationships
7. Responsibilities to the Local Church
8. Purity in Everyday Life (moral purity)
9. Church Organization and Work
10. Church Discipline
This material should be very useful for study with older home schoolers. (Note that many of these lessons are available as individual study workbooks - see Light to My Path Workbooks described elsewhere.)
Reviewed (and mostly written) by David Pratte
Contact information: https://www.biblestudylessons.com
These courses and study articles are all available online. They can be effective to teach your children the basics about salvation, the church, etc., then other more advanced studies move beyond beyond the "first principles." They should be suitable for junior-high students and up. All are completely free.
The Free Bible Study Lessons web site at https://www.biblestudylessons.com includes a number of online courses that can be downloaded and studied individually or as a family. Then the answers are submitted online and graded automatically by the computer. All courses focus firmly on the Bible and require open-Bible study.
Courses available include:
The gospel of Mark (written by Gary Fisher)
Jesus Is Lord (introduction to "Christian evidences," Bible authority, steps to salvation, and the church)
The Book of Acts (two courses)
Following Jesus (lessons about discipleship)
Additional courses are being developed and will be added as we are able.
The Gospel Way web site at https://www.gospelway.com contains many in-depth study articles about various Bible topics. These also focus entirely on Scripture, and all are completely free. While most are not in question-and-answer format, they should be easy to use for teaching junior-high students and up. They should also make useful reference material for research on Bible topics.
Reviewed by Tina Meade
Written by Jeffrey W. Hamilton.
Contact information: Jeffrey W. Hamilton, 915 Michael Dr. Papillion, NE 68046;
This book is written by a home-schooling dad who is also a gospel preacher working with "non-institutional" churches of Christ. It is based on the author's knowledge and understanding of scripture with regard to puberty, and beyond, in the lives of boys.
Jeff does not mince words, and this book is not for the squeamish. It is a practical, down-to-earth guide to adolescence. The book deals quite frankly with the physical aspects of puberty and human sexuality and also explains the spiritual aspects of such. Jeff urges young men to be pure and upright. He makes the subject seem like any other subject - he is not embarrassed to discuss sexuality with his readers and he helps the boys reading his book to feel the same way. In fact, he offers to discuss any questions with anyone who reads the book, and gives his address at the back. Jeff seeks to build self-confidence in young men.
It is my belief that the book would be most appropriate for older teenagers - those who have matured to a point that they are thinking of looking for a wife. Jeff suggests dating several girls in order to learn what to look for in a wife.
It is obvious that Jeff Hamilton understands young men, and in this book he hopes to help them understand themselves.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: Available from nearly any bookstore operated by members of conservative churches of Christ
Robert Harkrider is a gospel preacher working with non-institutional churches of Christ. He has written a number of workbooks primarily designed for use by adults, but easily adaptable for teens. Each paperback workbook contains an outline with discussion and Scriptures. The material is generally well organized and contains good Scriptural evidence. This is followed by questions on the material. My only criticism is that the booklets are paperback and tend to fall apart with use (I pull mine apart, punch holes with a paper punch, and put them in a notebook).
He has the following books:
This includes two workbooks. The first teaches the truth about salvation in detail. The second discusses various common doctrines taught by denominations and cults, then compares them to the Bible.
This workbook is designed to teach men their duties in the home, in society, and in the church. Man as well as women need to study about family roles, etc. I have studied this material twice, including studies in which teenage males were involved.
Bro. Harkrider also has written study workbooks on many individual books of the Bible. I highly recommend the material.
Reviewed by Susan Treat
Written by Crystal and Louise Hunter.
Contact Information: CLH Publications 1-813-985-5046.
For all ages.
This is not just a Bible Timeline. It is a complete "big picture" of the Bible. It begins with "Before the worlds began, God had a great plan" and ends with "God's plan complete." It includes "fulfillment of promise" cards which show you where in Bible history the promises to Abraham and others were fulfilled. There seems to be nothing unscriptural here.
Each important character in the Bible is represented by a face. These are especially helpful when dealing with the kings of the divided kingdoms. The 'good' kings have smiles, the 'bad' kings have frowns. This method is used for all of the characters. It makes it easy to see who followed God and who didn't.
The timeline comes in 15 panels. When placed on a wall it would be 10" wide by 28' long. It could, however, be placed on a bulletin board in left-to-right, top-to-bottom format.
I recommend it for all ages. The faces may appear to be a little juvenile for high schoolers, but unless students already have a firm grasp on the order of the kings and other Bible characters, they will benefit from this presentation. Everyone will grow in faith by seeing how God's plan is fulfilled in the Bible.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: Available from virtually all bookstores operated by members of conservative churches of Christ.
Ferrell Jenkins is a gospel preacher working with conservative churches of Christ and a professor at Florida College. His material is generally designed for adults, so some of it may not be suitable for Junior High or High School; but he has several study guides that can be easily adapted to these age groups.
Here are two I have used:
This is a workbook with questions and helpful comments on each section of the book. It would be very useful as a guide in teaching teens at home.
This book is a thorough overview of the scheme of redemption. It is not just "the five steps to forgiveness." It is thorough study of the nature of God, the nature of man, the promises to Abraham, the church, etc. I have also effectively used this book to teens.
Bro. Jenkins also has some good material on evidences and other topics that I would suggest you consider for use in home-school teaching.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Our ladies' class has used several workbooks in studies including home-schooled girls and young ladies, as well as adult women. The following books are highly recommend by the ladies in my family as suitable for Junior High or High School.
* Daughters of Eve, Lottie Beth Hobbs. This is a thorough study of women of the Bible. Each woman is studied with emphasis on the Scriptures relating to her.
* The Challenge of Being a Wife, Ruth Hazelwood. This book emphasizes the woman as a wife and mother. She is instructed how to fulfill her role and properly treat her husband.
Written and Reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: Light to My Path Publications www.gospelway.com/sales
Pratte Publications has published several workbooks on various topics and various books of the Bible. These have been used effectively with teens. All contain heavy emphasis on Scripture and are reasonably priced compared to other booklets.
These study workbooks are intended to teach the basics of "first principles." They discuss topics people need to learn in order to be converted and become faithful members of Jesus' church. They can also serve to strengthen those who are new in the faith. The approach highly emphasizes study of Scripture with questions for the student to answer about each key reference. Topics are included as follows:
* Why Should You Believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible?
(Evidences from creation, miracles, fulfilled prophecy, the resurrection, etc.)
* Is Jesus Really Your Lord? (Authority of Jesus in the Bible compared to human authority)
* How Can You Be Sure Jesus Has Forgiven Your Sins? (Examples of conversion and a careful study of baptism)
* Where Can You Find Jesus' Church? (Identifying characteristics of Jesus' church are studied then compared to modern denominations)
These workbooks all consist of organized studies on various topics. The emphasis is on Scripture, with many passages listed followed by questions about the passages. Topics available include:
* Attending Church Meetings
* Church Organization and Work
* Doctrines of Men vs. the Word of God (human creeds)
* Evolution vs. Creation in High School Texts
* How Great Thou Art! (nature of God)
* How to Study the Bible
* Human Relations (family, government, business, etc.)
* Purity in Everyday Living (moral issues)
* Responsibilities in the Local Church
* "Teach Us To Pray"
* Women's Liberation Movement
Note that many of these workbooks are included as part of the the larger Following Jesus booklet described elsewhere.
These booklets consist entirely of questions on various books of the Bible, verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter. Each lesson contains numerous study and thought questions, usually at least one or two questions on each verse of each Bible chapter. The booklets contain little or no comment, but challenge the student to thoroughly examine the Bible text, compare other passages, define words, and make applications. (Note: Students are expected to answer the questions in their own study notes, not in the booklets.)
Books of the Bible for which books are currently available include:
* Gospel of John
* Acts of the Apostles
* 1 Corinthians
* 2 Corinthians
* James - Jude
by Karl Hennecke
A few years ago we developed some class material for the church in Columbia, Missouri. We called it Men and Women of the Bible (MWB). There are 96 lessons, all of them available on my home page. There they can be viewed or downloaded as individual text files, or as an executable program file (for each part, 1-4). Readers who have access to the Internet are encouraged to investigate this material for use in your home school.
Reproduced below is the introduction for the lessons:
Men and Women of the Bible is a course designed to help the student learn more about characters in the Bible and to discover principles that are timeless in their application. It is the goal of this course to provide practical lessons which will benefit the Christian in his walk of faith.
Part 1: Adam - Samuel (24 lessons)
Part 3: Life of Christ (24 lessons)
Writers of the Men and Women of the Bible series have been given freedom to develop their own understanding of the biblical text. Each writer has been permitted to state his own conclusions. Beyond the general editorial policies, the editors have sought no artificial uniformity, and differences are allowed free expression. A writer is responsible for his contribution alone, and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the editors.
Reviewed by Bertina Smelser
Are you looking for a good way to structure a family devotional period? I was when I found the Miller Family Series by Mildred A. Martin. A dear friend recommended it, so I decided to give it a try. The kids loved it!
What is the Miller Family Series? It is a series of quaint paperback books, which follows the lives the Miller family, a conservative (maybe Mennonite) family of four or five children (a baby is born during the series.) Each chapter covers a day in the life of the Miller family and applies a different proverb or character concept, ending with the family in a devotional period where Dad Miller is using scripture to discuss the day's events with his family. Such issues as neglecting duties, disobedience, harsh words, etc., are covered.
There are five titles in the series. We have read two titles in this series so far. Wisdom and the Millers (ages 6-12) includes such chapters as "Go the Ant," "A Soft Answer," and "A Companion of Fools." Prudence and the Millers (ages 7-14) discusses health, safety and courtesy topics, including the foolish joke which turned into tragedy and the Mother's Day fire. We have also purchased Storytime and the Millers (preschool to early grades), which was written to teach such concepts as respect, kindness and obedience. The age recommendations are flexible, of course, as I have enjoyed each of the stories myself! School Days and the Millers may not be as applicable for our families since we home school. The Miller family children attend a private school. Occasionally something that happens in school is mentioned in the other books, but it does not detract from the application of the chapter for us as home schoolers, in my opinion.
I do not recall any doctrinal problems in this book since it deals with Proverbs and other general topics. As with any man-written book, we must watch for error in applying scripture. You need to be aware that the Millers are apparently Mennonites, which makes their dress noticeable. The Millers do attend worship services in the stories, but the topics discussed are not doctrinal, but instead about sitting still during worship and welcoming visitors. This series helped our family have a nice period of devotion where we could discuss applying scripture to our everyday life. Overall, I found these books very helpful and refreshing.
These books are inexpensive ($5-$7 range) and can be found at Amazon.com or many homeschooling supply catalogs.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: Truth Magazine Bookstore, PO Box 0670, Bowling Green, KY 42102; Ph: 800-428-0121
Written by the wife of a conservative gospel preacher, these Bible story books are written to teach children from pre-school to early school ages. There are two books: Mrs. Lee's Stories about God's First People, including stories about Old Testament characters, and Mrs. Lee's Stories about Jesus.
Each book contains many stories about Bible people. Each story is written very simply so young children can understand, beginning in pre-school years. The type is also large, so early readers can use the stories as they learn to read. Following each story is a series of questions to test the child's understanding of the lesson.
We used these books with each of our three children and found them very helpful. I cannot recall any significant inaccuracies in the stories. I highly recommend these books to all parents of small children.
Written and reviewed by Jeff Smelser
Contact information: www.ntgreek.net
NTGreek.net is an online course for serious students who want to learn to read the Greek New Testament. The first level course corresponds to approximately 1/3 of a good first year Greek course.
The online course is designed to be used in conjunction with New Testament Greek, A Beginning and Intermediate Grammar, by James Allen Hewett, Hendrickson Publishers, 1986. There is also a Greek font that must be installed so that the user can see Greek characters.
There are two ways to use NTGreek.net:
1. Un-Registered users are welcome. Anyone is free to browse the site, do the exercises, etc. If a person is sufficiently self-motivated and self-disciplined, he can learn to read the Greek NT this way, although few will manage to do so.
2. Registered students will pay a fee and in return will receive a structured course with feedback, assistance, and evaluations. Homework for each lesson will be submitted by e-mail and will be returned to the student with comments. Additional help will be available by e-mail correspondence. Each lesson will also have a final quiz that will be graded.
Visit the web site further details, including information about fees and starting dates for courses.
Reviewed by Mark Bingham
Contact information: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 281-537-5873 and ask for Nancy Tumlinson.
JCS Publications, the company that made the Our Spiritual Heritage chronology box and is working on the Our Spiritual Heritage Bible class curriculum has just published Our Spiritual Heritage: A Home Bible Study Plan. They have taken the first section of their Bible class curriculum and converted it into a family-friendly home Bible study.
This study comes in an affordable workbook form. It is a 26-week (5 days a week) thematic study. The theme is "God is Wise: He Makes Great Plans." Daily activities will take 15-30 minutes a day.
The study includes activities for seeing God's wisdom in the created world, and praising God's wisdom using the Psalms, family prayer, and song. It provides Bible stories for the family to read together. These are stories of wise people who followed God's plan and succeeded, and foolish people who rejected, ignored, or changed God's plan and failed.
This Bible study also includes chronology cards that will help you tell the story of the whole Bible to your children, and story cards to help you review all the stories you study together and introduce the new lesson each week. Additionally, the study includes a people review activity and a geography activity each week. Finally, it has application activities for learning the lesson of the story and memory verse suggestions.
To use this study you will need one K-3 Workbook for each child in your family between Kindergarten and 3rd grade age ($12.95) and one Parent Notebook to go with it ($19.95). You will need one 4-6 Workbook for each child 4th to 6th grade age ($12.95) and one Parent Notebook to go with it ($19.95). The Parent Notebooks are essential, because this material is not designed for a child to do in a corner alone. It is for parents and children to do together, and many of the activities are oral and not included in the Student Workbook. If you have any little ones 2-6 years old, you will want to order a Psalm Coloring and Tracing Workbook ($2.00) for each of them. Big kids (Junior High or High School) can pair up with little brothers and sisters to help them with their work.
There is one last component of this study that you'll need to order from JCS Publications. It is their Chronology Box ($28.95). This will give you the materials for the fun and profitable activity you'll do together every week - drilling and learning Bible chronology. The box includes much more chronology information than you'll use with these workbooks this year. But you can use the box in years to come for additional chronological Bible study with your whole family, or to teach yourself, new converts, unbelievers, or children in Bible classes the story of the Bible in chronological order.
[Editor's note: JCS Publications is working on adding other study materials, so that far more materials are available. Please contact them for an up-to-date list of their materials and prices.]
Reviewed by Mary Shackleford
Written by Jane Britnell
Contact information: Britnell Pub., Athens, AL
I really like Rainbow Lessons by Jane Britnell. The lessons are designed for teaching basic Bible stories to preschool children. There are two volumes, Old Testament and New Testament, broken down into 52 lessons each. Each book has instructions for teaching in a Bible class setting or for teaching at home.
Each lesson has a summary of the story, a simple illustration, a memory verse, and questions about the lesson. Also included are directions for two simple "games" using the memory verses and questions.
[Editor's note: Jane Britnell is a member of a non-institutional church of Christ.]
By Sally Anne Perz
Our family has found some wonderful Bible study material on the Internet.
simple site with lots of free, cute activities for toddlers as well as for older children. We use the puzzles, coloring sheets, activities, and Bible verse memory cards for all of our children (aged 2-10). There are a variety of coloring sheets and worksheets available, as well as some really nice bookmarks to make; we use the print out versions rather than interactive ones.
We have utilized the memory verses for the past two years. They began posting one per week, but now have moved to quarterly verses. This is more convenient as they are on the site longer - twelve at a time with memory cards to print, and two "featured verses" without accompanying cards. We don't usually go on schedule with the site; rather I cut and paste the memory verse cards into Microsoft Word so I can print out four on each sheet as well as save them. I then laminate them, cut them out, and hole punch one corner so we can bind them together. I keep up with all of the verses on the site and have quite a stack of them for our use. There are no archives on the site, so I don't ever miss saving the new ones! The pictures are really nice and it makes memorizing fun for all of us. The site also has handwriting sheets that look like fun, but we don't use them. Everything here is free!
contains 325 Bible Stories - 163 from the Old Testament and 162 from the New Testament. They are in Adobe Acrobat format and are very user friendly. Each packet contains a cover sheet, a coloring sheet with a memory verse, question sheets, and activity sheets. I have been using this for quite some time with our children and we really like it. So far we have found the studies to be accurate and sound. However, as with anything, the lessons may contain false doctrine, so please review them first! We always read the Bible Material from which the story is taken using the New King James version so the kids can understand it well, and answer the questions easily. After reading the selected verses, the older children do the questions and puzzles on their own and I help the younger children.
While we like to use the Internet for supplemental study materials, we base the majority of our study in God's Word. We are very fond of our Precious Moments Illustrated Family-Time Bible, which we use in our daily study. It is the New King James Version with accompanying devotional material and character studies, published by Nelson Regency. In past years we have also enjoyed reading the following Bible Storybooks: The Read and Grow Picture Bible (our favorite), Mrs. Lee's Stories About God's First People, Mrs. Lee's Stories About Jesus, Egermeier's Bible Storybook, The Beginner's Bible, The Children's Bible (Golden), Bible Stories (DP).
Reviewed by Susan Treat
Written by Betty Lukens and published by Betty Luken's Inc.
Available through most bookstores run by Christians.
The Betty Lukens felt figures are high quality colorful fully cloth figures. They come in two sizes: Small (6 1/2" figures) $69.95 and Large (12" figures) $149.95. Both sizes are available in "Deluxe" boxes with filing system and all backgrounds for an additional charge. They are useful for ages preschool through 3rd grade.
There is no paper to punch out. These figures are actually printed on the felt. You must cut them out and put them into a filing box (extra charge). There are two backgrounds: Water and Sky Scene and Indoor Background. Overlays such as Desert, Hillside, Shoreline, and Throne Room transform the backgrounds into scenes for various stories. There are 512 figures and objects including Bible characters, animals, buildings, pyramids, ark, fiery furnace and many others. These will last for a lifetime. Any Bible story can be told using these figures.
The set comes with a Teacher's Manual which has 182 stories with detailed scene arrangements telling you exactly which figures to use for each story. The stories in the Teacher's Manual do contain some Baptist doctrine. I would suggest reading through it and making adjustments as necessary. There are also some stories left out, so if a complete coverage of the Bible is desired, some additional stories will be necessary.
This is a very easy way to tell a lot of stories with one set of materials. The hardest part is getting out the characters and returning them to their proper places in the filing system. Some diligence on the part of the teacher is required to keep all the figures in their proper place and easily accessible.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Written and published by Bob and Sandra Waldron
Contact information: Bob Waldron, 108 French Way, Athens, AL 35611, Ph: 256-232-4666. Also available from most bookstores run by Christians.
The Waldrons have written several paperback books (8 1/2 by 11) that should be of great help to all Christians who home school. Here is a brief overview:
This book gives a complete historical overview of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Bible geography is emphasized with many maps. The result is a thorough overview of the Bible. Students learn, for perhaps the first time, how all the stories fit together. This makes an excellent history-social studies course for junior high or high school students.
This material is excellent for training teachers, but is much different from other teacher training material. It includes information about teaching methods, but the unique aspect is how the book urges teachers to teach the Bible, using each Bible story to teach the lesson God intended. The authors show that many of our classes and workbooks have gotten away from strong emphasis on the Bible.
This a whole series of nine paperback books that discuss every book of the Bible, giving a brief summary of the contents and very brief comments. The contents of the books of the Bible are presented and discussed in chronological or historical order. This helps put the Bible story in proper sequence. Also included are helpful geographical notes. These books are mainly intended for use by teachers as resource material, rather than workbooks for students. They serve as a brief Bible commentary, but mostly they are intended to guide the teacher to know how to tell and teach the Bible story.
We have used most of these books and highly recommend all that we have used.
Reviewed by Rhonda Bosworth
Written by Jane Hoffman
The Backyard Scientist series is a group of 5 books which guide children (and their parents) through a multitude of simple science experiments. The books are written directly to the children, but adults are expected to supervise. Each book is spiral-bound, has whimsical black and white illustrations, and can be found for under $10.00. Because each book is slightly different, specifics about each are listed below.
The Original: 10 chemistry/physics experiments for ages 4-12; 56 pp.
Series 1: 25 chemistry/physics experiments for ages 4-12; 52 pp.
Series 2: 25 chemistry/physics experiments for ages 9-14; 52 pp.
Series 3: 25 life science experiments for ages 4-12; 52 pp.
Series 4: 24 experiments for the entire family; 52 pp.
Each book has a diverse selection of experiments. If you or your children are interested in doing science experiments, any of these books might be suitable. However, because the books lack overall organization as a group, as a series they do not lend themselves well as a resource to assist you in investigating topics you might have become interested in apart from the books. And, while a few families may actually have on hand all of the items required to do some of the experiments, realistically most families will need to plan in advance to shop for or round up from friends and neighbors the one or two items they will be lacking for most of the experiments.
Biblical Applications: This is a paperback companion volume to the above books. A verse of scripture is offered along with a brief discussion of how the experiment (and resultant learning) can be correlated with concepts taught in the scriptures. The ideas presented in this book are really a stretch, however. For example, Jesus is compared to a magnet in one place and Paul is compared to cornstarch in another.
These books are fun if doing experiments are what your children enjoy doing, but as a resource they are not useful. And the Biblical Applications book does little to enhance the physical or the spiritual aspects of God's creation.
Reviewed by Rhonda Bosworth
Written by Margaret Kenda and Phyllis S. Williams
Does your child enjoy nature? Exploring patterns and shapes? Art? Music? Poetry? Codes and Puzzles? Games? What about history? If the answers to these questions are, "Yes," your child may enjoy Math Wizardry, even if he or she does not care for math. This book is written directly to learners ages 8-88, and, for the most part, no adult supervision is needed.
This book has over 300 pages of activities that will engage and challenge your child. Our world is filled with "math," and the goal of this book is to help the child discover the importance of understanding math and have fun while doing it. While this book never mentions the name of God, and doesn't directly teach about Him, you can see His handiwork clearly while participating in these activities.
Here is a sampling of some of the activities you will find:
Explore shapes and patterns in nature.
Learn the history of traditions and numbers.
Learn how to design shadows.
Learn about fractals and golden numbers.
Play tangram games, star games, and Mancala.
Make your own puzzles.
Make 3-D mobiles.
Learn ancient language "codes."
Count to 10 in four languages.
Learn puzzlers by using numbers to amaze others.
Learn how to develop helpful shortcuts in math.
Learn to think like a computer.
Build an Abacus.
Learn to use math for sports stats.
Make magic squares.
The book even gives you ideas for having a Math Party, complete with instructions for a treasure hunt!
Admittedly a great many of these ideas and activities can be found in other sources; however, this is the only book I have ever found to have so many and such diverse items in a single source. And, because of its "ageless" appeal in many cases, this is likely a book you will want to hang on to.
Math Wizardry is organized well so it can be readily used as a reference book as well as an idea book. Whenever a problem is presented in the book, an answer for that problem is provided at the back of the section where the problem was presented. However, this book does not contain math lessons based upon a regular course of math principles. This book does include all of the "fun" math that traditional textbooks tend to leave out!
Whether or not you are good at math, this is a fun book to have on hand. For those who would not call math their "strong point," this book helps to explore the world of math as well as make you more comfortable with it. For those who have a firm grasp on math, this book provides all the fun and creativity that you may have never realized was inherent in math. It comes as a spiral bound paperback, 7.5" x 9.5", 325 pages. Single color illustrations abound, and the format and font used in the book is reader friendly.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: Harvest House Publishers, 1075 Arrowsmith, Eugene, OR 97402. Phone: 1-800-547-8979.
These workbooks by Wayne and Emily Hunter, entitled Christian Charm Course (for girls) and Man in Demand (for boys), are intended to teach boys and girls in their early teens (or before) about manners, health, and grooming. Many practical lessons are presented in a very interesting format, while at the same time using these ideas as a basis to teach useful spiritual lessons.
Some topics covered are: conversational skills, posture, physical fitness, hair management, cleanliness, grooming, choosing and caring for clothing, good manners, sexual morals, dating, and overcoming self-consciousness. Many excellent points are made, and good illustrations accompany the text. The Scriptures are brought in where they fit, and sometimes the physical lesson is used as an illustration to teach a comparable spiritual lesson.
The authors are denominational so there are a few areas needing correction (especially in the girls' book), but overall the material is well worthwhile. It provides excellent opportunities to discuss subjects that might otherwise be neglected. The presentation clearly holds the students' attention.
Reviewed by Sally Anne Perz
Published by McGraw Hill/American Education Publishing
The Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills books introduce and reinforce basic skills for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. They are useful in planning your curricula and determining whether your children are performing at grade level.
Comprehensive Curriculum books retail individually for $20, but can often be found at Sam's Club for less than half of that price. They are kid friendly: full color, fun and informative. Subjects included are: Reading, English, Reading Comprehension, Math and Spelling (also included within the other headings are phonics, grammar, and writing). The books include teaching suggestions and answer keys in the back. They are about 500 pages each. The pages are perforated, but we find it to be more orderly to only remove the pages that require cutting. As far as the grade levels go, the books are on target for most subjects. Some children may find certain subjects more challenging than others; this is easy to work with and does not detract from the usefulness of the books.
For pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, reading is not required. These books are geared for parent interaction or aid from older siblings! They simply introduce subjects such as reading readiness and math skills. They are a good activity to provide some desk time and to help children learn to give attention to a task. They include cutting, pasting, and other easy to do activities (but not so much of this that it becomes burdensome for the less than crafty among us!). For those little ones who can already read, this is a fun activity to reinforce reading skills and following instructions.
Books for grades one through six are geared for students who are able to read. For those who are looking for supplemental material only, these are a perfect choice. For those who want to introduce skills without using other written material, there may be some explanation required.
In addition to these books, McGraw Hill/American Education Publishing also produces a variety of other activity workbooks. These make great travel books and are also good for kids with special interests, as they have titles covering nearly all subjects. Some of our favorites are Bible Activities, Time and Money, and The Complete Book of Animals.
Reviewed by Mark Mayberry
Edited by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
Grades covered: K-6
The Core Knowledge Series is a set of teacher's guides [not student texts] that attempt to define, in a coherent and sequential way, a body of widely used knowledge that is taken for granted by competent writers and speakers in the United States. A good understanding of this body of core knowledge provides a solid foundation for a child's future educational success. However, because the CK series comes from a secular perspective, we occasionally skip certain selections we feel are inappropriate.
In the area of language arts, CK offers numerous poetry selections, excerpts from various classic literature, and also an assortment of sayings, phrases, and proverbs that have become a part of the English language.
Reviewed by Gerry Wright
Written by Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn
Cost $22.00; soft cover
"Fallacy - an error in logic - a place where someone has made a mistake in his thinking." This clear definition, simply stated, is the opening sentence of "Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Six Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning," by Nathaniel & Hans Bluedorn, and is typical of the book's writing. The back cover states that the Bluedorns (sons of the authors of Teaching the Trivium) "designed this book to be a handy text for learning to spot common errors in reasoning", and they've succeeded very well. The clearly written text and humorous examples and illustrations make up an easy, interesting introduction to logic that will, one would hope, entice your children - and you - to want to learn more about proper logic.
Each lesson takes less than 30 minutes to complete. Lesson 1 is four pages long, which is typical. The hope of the authors was that a family would do the lessons together - mother and/or father and children reading the chapter together, discussing it, and doing the exercises at the end of each chapter which illustrate, reinforce, and review. Jamie and I would often read the chapters at different times and then come together for discussion and review. She especially liked the fact that the book requires no written work - just a short reading session and discussion as long as is profitable.
The book begins with a section that teaches good reasoning before progressing to two other sections teaching such logical fallacies as the red herring, ad hominem attack, the straw man fallacy, and many more. The lessons were designed for ages 13 to adult. (Younger children could read the book, but some of the abstract reasoning might be a stretch). We liked the humor with which the Bluedorns write - a laugh always seems to make a point more memorable. Even more importantly, the Bluedorns write from a very moral viewpoint.
The Fallacy Detective may be ordered from most homeschool materials sources. I bought mine from Rainbow Resource, CBD has it (although as far as I know it is not discounted at any source). Another plus for the book is that when you've finished it, it has very good resale value, making it an even better value.
Reviewed by Rhonda Bosworth
For ages 8-12
This is a spiral bound paperback book, 7.5" x 9.5", 332 pages, written directly to the 8-12 year old learner. It contains over 150 projects and activities for children to accomplish that have some tie to geography. Single color illustrations abound, and the format and font used in the book are reader friendly. Adult involvement and supervision are generally not necessary, but when advisable the writers instruct the child to involve an adult.
For the most part the activities focus on the "whys" and "hows" of geography, and not the "wheres," "whats," and "whens" of geography. So don't expect this book to teach where Argentina is or what the export for that country is; do expect this book to explain how men determine where countries begin and end, and what types of food the occupants of one country might depend upon to live. Unfortunately, the book on occasion refers to the "billions of years ago" theory as fact.
This book truly urges the child to explore, much as an explorer might. The explorations are all geography directed, but many of the activities and projects require use of math, language, science, art, etc. After spending time exploring with this book, a child will have a better sense of how he "fits" into this physical world and the tools available to him to explore its physical aspects.
Directions for making all kinds of maps and directional tools are provided. Earthquakes, glaciers and other weather related geography is covered. The inhabitants of the land (people as well as animals) along with the plants they live with is touched upon. And even lost civilizations and extinct animals have not been left out. Puzzles and mysteries encourage the child to think through some problems to determine an answer (solutions are included in the back of each chapter).
All of the activities and projects are arranged so that all like projects are placed together, and because an index is included, the book can be used as a reference resource. A glossary of terms is also included at the back of the book. Most of the items required for the projects are easily obtained; many do not require any special items at all.
This book is an excellent source for exploring the world around us in an uncommon way.
Reviewed by Gerry Wright
Written by Cindy Dunagan
Many home schooling parents keep a journal, and many require their children to keep one also. This activity is more popularly described as "journaling." Journaling is a beneficial multi-purpose activity, as it develops the habit of writing, while at the same time it creates keepsakes that will be treasured by parents and children alike.
Homeschooling mother Cindy Dunagan has taken the value of journaling a step further by developing a set of journals specifically designed to add a Bible-based dimension to the activity. Mrs. Dunagan had used many devotional journals with her own children, but, in her words, "Some seemed merely self-explorative rather than Biblically based." Motivated by the desire to inspire the development of virtue and values in her children by means of Biblically-based journaling, Mrs. Dunagan has spent the last four years choosing writing prompts, searching out the perfect verse for each prompt, and dividing more than 400 verses and prompts into four age-appropriate journals.
The four-journal series is titled Journaling Toward Moral Excellence, and is described on the front cover as "A Character Building workbook of 100 Thought Provoking Questions To Help the Young Discover the Value of Moral Strength." Each journal targets a different writer -the young writer, the preteen, the teenager, and the young adult. Following the dedication page is a page containing suggestions for using the book. Each page has a very pretty decoration at the top, a bible verse, and a relevant question/prompt to be used as a springboard for the writer. For Example, page 24 of the Teenager Journal quotes Psalms 33:6 ("By the word of the LORD the heavens were made..."). Underneath the verse is another small decoration, followed by "I see God's power in nature when I observe..." and the rest of the page is for the writer's thoughts. Still another page quotes Eph. 4:32, and the prompt is "In some ways it is good to be sensitive...."
I am very enthusiastic about this series. One usually thinks of girls when journaling is mentioned, but this is a valuable tool for boys as well. (I haven't found anything gender-specific in the prompts of my copy!) These journals, properly done, will produce great benefits, and will be treasured by the owners (The author writes on the back cover of one of the volumes, "Create one of your most precious keepsakes - written photographs of your heart!")
Reviewed by Joye Sautter
Written by Ruth Beechick and Jeannie Nelson
The subheading on this user-friendly 71-page softcover book is “oral language manual for parents and teachers of kindergarten and primary children.”
If you are a new home-schooling parent of small children who tends to feel guilty about your mostly informal, no workbook-type schooling methods, this curriculum book is for you. If some of your teaching is a formal “let’s sit down and play school now,” but most of it is questions and discussions while you are at the grocery or in the car or at mealtimes, then you will love this manual.
The author says, “For all the lessons, this manual can help you keep track of what your child is learning, and this will assure you that you are indeed teaching, whether informally or formally. Enjoy this manual. Let it be your servant and your teacher’s aide.” I did enjoy it. In fact, even though my last child is a senior in high school now, I still can recall the fun I had just using this book as a reference. It was so handy. You will teach manners, poetry (even some I remember as a child), how to use the telephone, vocabulary through games, stories like Henny Penny with fun activities, and memorizing important addresses and phone numbers.
The author calls this “a complete year’s course in oral language for young children.” Each chapter begins by giving the teacher objectives for the unit, how to use the unit, and the time it will take to complete the unit. The rest of the chapter takes you step-by-step through what to say, what to do, and then gives the stories, memorizing tools, games, poems, actions, and field trip ideas. There are black-and-white illustrations throughout the manual for interest. Each unit is geared to having fun with your child while having him think. Even the poems unit includes praise and prayer ones, along with the full text of “Little Bo Peep.” I highly recommend this manual. It is a great bargain at Rainbow Resource for $5.95.
So now you can relax because this manual will help you fill in the learning gaps in the area of language arts and help your active doesn’t-want-to-do-a-workbook-type young child have fun and learn too.
By the way, Ruth Beechick wrote another manual for grades 4 to 8, You Can Teach Your Child Successfully. It is also a great resource and sold through Rainbow Resource.
Reviewed by Angela Malone
Developed by Kathy and Steve French.
phone 800-574-9936 fax 904-287-0363.
Costs: Fraction Mania is $24.95 plus s&h. Mental Math is $19.95. There is one book for each grade level first through fifth.
This math program was developed and published by members of the Lord's church. It was originally developed to help children who were struggling with math, and was tested in some Jacksonville, FL area schools. After going through the program, all of the children who were in remedial math moved up to regular math classes.
Two common problems have been found in math classes today, at all grade levels:
1. The inconsistencies of math terminology. Many texts use terms different from those used on the SAT or similar tests. As a results, students often miss questions on achievement tests simply because they do not understand the terminology. All the materials published by Math Concepts, Inc., use terminology that is consistent with current terminology used on such tests.
2. Many students lack self confidence when answering even simple math problems. Mental Math solves this problem through the use of daily exercises. Students gain confidence when they find that they can answer these questions on a consistent basis. Mental Math is designed to be an easy and fun exercise that students eagerly participate in.
The Mental Math program consists of daily questions that reinforce the learning of critical math skills for grades 1 through 5. Terms and questions mirror the current SAT. There are 5 questions per day for 1st grade and 10 per day for 2nd through 5th. These exercises should take about 10 minutes per day and will reinforce current studies.
Fraction Mania is a fast-paced, action-packed galactic experience with 5 separate game options for ages 6 to adult. As players soar through the stars, they collect "fractions" of the planets they visit. Collect all of the planets and you win Fraction Mania. Collect and dispose of all the planets in Double Mania.
Fraction Mania was developed to help children learn fractions in a fun way. It has been used with great success in improving children's math skills. Adults will find it challenging to keep up with their children in Double Mania. These games sharpen the mind and encourage concentration and deduction. Playing these games will enable children to recognize the fractions 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, and 1/8 and soon after, most all other fractions. Players will gain a better understanding of equivalent fractions, how to rename fractions, and simplify fractions. Renaming improper fractions as mixed numbers, comparing, adding and subtracting fractions are no longer difficult after playing Fraction Mania games!
Reviewed by Rhonda Bosworth
Science Wizardry for Kids is published by Barron's. While "Wizardry" is in the name, no wizardry or magic is involved in the multitude of experiments. This book is written directly to the 8-12 year old learner, and adult supervision is only necessary in some of the projects. (Where needed, the book does instruct the child to get the assistance of an adult.)
The over 200 experiments suggested cover all aspects of science, and are good starting points to explore different aspects of our world. Some of the experiments will undoubtedly encourage additional exploration, depending upon the particular interests of the learner. Most of the experiments are actually broken into smaller steps, or mini-experiments, and therefore a natural progression of knowledge and skills occurs as the learner works on a certain series of experiments in the book, building on what was done in the prior experiment. However, the learner still has freedom to pick and choose the experiments based upon interest, without doing any prior experiments, in most cases.
Unlike the "Backyard Scientist," all of the projects are in a single book and arranged so that all like projects are placed together, and, because an index is included, this book can be used as a reference book. Very rarely are "special" items required, which means that the learner can actually do some things on his own as he becomes interested. If the item mentioned isn't found "on hand", it can usually be purchased at a market or drugstore and can be used for other things.
If you have a background in science, this may not be the book for you. However, if you want to expose your children to some fun, hands-on activities that will stir-up their interest in our physical world, this will likely be a book you will be pleased with. It comes as a spiral bound paperback, 7.5" x 9.5", 316 pages. Single color illustrations abound, and the format and font used in the book is reader friendly.
Written by Priscilla Mitchell,
Published by Winepress Publishing, PO Box 1406, Mukilteo WA 98275
Reviewed by David Pratte
This well-written hardback book challenges children to appreciate the evidences for God's creation. It is written in rhyme and has interesting pictures. Preschool children will enjoy having it read to them, and school-age children will enjoy reading it.
The theme of the book is that living things are evidence of God's existence. They could never have existed without God's creative power. The book specifically focuses on the incredible design of seeds, comparing them to computers. The poems show how seeds are programmed to produce all kinds of different plants and animals. It describes the great variety of living things, showing that all these are produced by the power of seeds. The obvious question is: Who programmed the "computer"? Does He have a will for your life?
Sections of the book talk specifically about dolphins, pine trees, sea horses, monkeys, honey bees, and humans. The section on humans briefly describes the development of the baby in the womb (useful also in refuting abortion).
One poem refers briefly to Christmas in a religious way, but not in detail. A description of the artists refers to a "pastoral ministry."
The illustrations are good, though some are slightly amateurish.
I highly recommend the book, and I believe you will find your children will be challenged by it as they enjoy it.
Reviewed by Mark Bingham
Peter Usborne set out, during the late 1970s, to produce children's books that would be engaging enough to rival television and comics, but that would provide solid educational value, both by packing information into small books and by packaging that information in a visually stimulating presentation. His books offer more than visual stimulation, however. By exploiting and encouraging the child's natural curiosity, they help children learn and reassure children that learning is fun.
The Usborne catalog lists about 800 titles, including books for children of all ages, from board books for the very young to "Atoms and Molecules" and "Electricity and Magnetism" for those beginning to fancy themselves mature. There are storybooks, consumable workbooks, books on history, science, geography, grammar, hobbies, arts, sports, etc. The catalog overwhelms; you're better off thumbing through some of the books themselves.
When you do, you'll begin noticing right away the features that will captivate your children. Open the book "Things People Do," for example, and you'll find each large page opening an arresting display of scenes from a workplace. The illustrations are vivid and appealing, with something of the allure of comics, drawing your eye to the generous captions. Both text and pictures are informative and consistently witty.
In most of the preschool activity books ("Starting to Count," "Shapes," "Colors," "Ready for Reading," etc.) and in the many early readers, "Notes to Parents" offer advice on getting the most educational value from the books. The Starting Point Science series offers parents help in answering questions children may raise after completing the simple experiments the books describe.
In the "Farmyard Tales" series for beginning readers, each page has two sections of text. The line at the top of the page is limited to the simplest vocabulary so that children can "help" with the reading. In the same series, as in nearly all the books for younger children, the beautiful illustrations by Stephen Cartwright include a hidden duck for children to find. There are true/false puzzlers scattered throughout the Mysteries and Marvels of Nature books, with a page of answers and explanations to satisfy the curiosity.
Several series of puzzle adventures (some for as young as age three, others for ages 12 and up) encourage reading and exercise logic skills by giving readers mysteries to solve and offering visual and verbal clues with which to solve them. The books in the First Nature series supplement the vivid illustrations and fascinating facts with puzzles and activities (such as hidden pictures) and with drawings in the corners, drawings which become moving pictures as you flip the pages depicting, for example, a butterfly in flight or a bud flowering.
Then there's the Great Search series, which I think of as "Waldo Goes to School." "The Great Animal Search" and "The Great Undersea Search" offer magnificently illustrated scenes of natural habitat as visual puzzles, asking readers to locate the animals in their habitat and offering information about both. In "The Great History Search," scenes from life in various historical periods are packed with fascinating details. On the page opening which depicts the marketplace in Athens around 450 B.C., for example, readers are challenged to find (among other things) the stall where oil lamps are being sold, three actors (carrying masks) on their way to rehearsal, three children playing with hoops, six sets of balance scales, and a man who hates his new haircut.
Usborne books are not written or published by Christians, so some special cautions are in order. Among the 800 titles is a handful of books in a series called "Spinechillers." They are clearly intended to compete with the popular Goosebumps series, pandering similarly to a fascination with the occult. We don't recommend them. Also, there are a handful of books on prehistory, and a larger selection of history and science books on a broader scale which include brief sections on prehistory. They present the evolutionists' view of the origins of the world and of life. Less important, but annoying nevertheless, is Usborne's occasional nod toward politically correct gender roles. This sort of role shifting is occasional, not nearly so obnoxious and distorting as it seems to be in most public school texts.
Many of the Usborne titles are available in a choice of bindings, either inexpensive but durable paper or an extra-sturdy library binding. They are printed on acid-free paper to last years without yellowing. Most of the paperbacks range from $2.95 to $7.95. Many are also available in economical "bind-ups" in which three or four related titles are bound together in one volume.
These books do a remarkable job of capturing kids' interest in reading, exploring, experimenting, and learning. You might say that they make learning fun. Or you might just say that they help kids and parents remember what fun learning should be.
Reviewed by Rhonda Bosworth
Contact information: Boys' Quest/Hopscotch PO Box 227, Bluffton, OH 45817 419-358-4610.
Cost: $17.95 for six issues (1 year) or less if you buy more years at one time. Back issues are available for $4.00.
Boy's Quest and Hopscotch (for girls) are fun magazines, similar to Highlights but with the focus of supporting traditional family values, instead of reflecting what the world does. Each magazine (7" x 9", 50 pages) is based on a theme such as Pets or the Circus, and is written for 8-12 year olds. Regular features include informative articles, jokes, a comic series, and lots of activities - some science, some not. These magazines focus on fun, although the articles are educational and the word activities, for example, will help them with language. While not as "polished looking" as many other magazines, Quest and Hopscotch are full of color and illustrations and therefore appeal to children.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Address: Citizen, Focus on the Family, PO Box 35500, Colorado Springs, CO 80935
Citizen is a monthly magazine published by Focus on the Family. Its purpose is to report items of current news interest from the viewpoint of conservative Bible believers, and to encourage readers to take action to stand up for the family and moral decency.
Issues commonly discussed are abortion, pornography, homosexuality, gambling, divorce, feminism, problems in the schools, and related issues. Bills under consideration by congress and other government actions are often reported. While the articles may seem "political," the actual goal is to protect the family and to promote decent morals in society.
The magazine is written by and for "fundamentalist Christians," so members of churches of Christ may not always agree with every article. However, since moral and family issues are approached from a Biblical viewpoint, most of the information is very helpful.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published bimonthly by Mark and Helen Hegener, P. O. Box 1083, Tonasket, WA, 98855-1083; phone: (509) 486-1351;
Cost: $32.00 for a year (six issues)
Unlike so many other home education magazines, this one does not come from a specifically "Christian" perspective, although it is not specifically "anti-Christian" either. It tends to lean more toward the "unschooling" philosophy of John Holt, but it is nice to get a different perspective on things, and there is always some good material in it. .
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published bimonthly by Jane R. Boswell, P. O. Box 708, 51 W. Gray Rd., Gray, ME 04039; phone: (207) 657-2800;
Cost: $8.00 for first-time subscribers and $12.00 for renewals for a year (six issues),
In newspaper format, this is a general homeschooling publication. It will be sent without charge to those who cannot afford to subscribe or donate.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published bimonthly by the Home School Legal Defense Association, P. O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134; phone: (540) 338-5600;
This magazine is designed to provide news and information for members of the HSLDA and is free to them, but I understand that it is available to non-members for the price of a subscription, which is $15.00 for a year (six issues).
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published quarterly by Wisdom's Gate, P. O. Box 374, Covert, MI 49043; phone: (800) 343-1943
Cost: $18.00 for a year (four issues), but when you subscribe you can sign up a friend for a one-year gift subscription absolutely free!
Wisdom's Gate was founded in 1988 by editor Skeet Savage who had homeschooled her six children since 1978. The magazine is committed to equipping parents to train their children in godly character, disciple them to follow the Lord, and understand the world around them from a Biblical worldview. It is an unabashedly Biblical publication.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published bimonthly by the Lewis Family, P. O. Box 163, Pekin, IL 61555; phone: (800) 558-9523.
Cost: $18.00 a year (six issues).
The publishers give as their purpose "to provide encouragement and information to the Christian homeschool community."
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published bimonthly by Rick and Cyndi Simmons, 13258 Overlook Ct., Conroe, TX 77302; phone: (936) 756-2226.
The editor says that their "primary platform" is to "provide Homeschooling Parent as a ministry of encouragement to the homeschooling community nationwide" with "a belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior." Many homeschooling organizations and support groups often give free copies of this magazine to members. However, if you want it mailed to your home, individual subscriptions are $14.95 for a year (six issues).
Reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: Contact HSLDA, PO Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134; phone
Cost: We received a free complimentary copy from HSLDA. I assume they offer it free to others as well.
"Home Schooling: Start Here" is a twelve-page brochure (8 1/2 x 11) published by HSLDA and designed to introduce the concept of home schooling. It would be especially useful as a foundation resource for families that are just beginning to consider home schooling. I believe it would also serve as an excellent introduction to give to family members or friends who may doubt the value and validity of home schooling. The brochure is full-color, containing many pictures and professionally produced and printed.
The brochure answers the basic questions people have about home schooling. It starts with a brief history of the modern home-school movement, including facts to document evidence of past success. It answers the "big questions" about the legality of home schooling, socialization, college entrance, and how to obtain curricula and materials,. It then lists some "useful tips" about support groups, selecting a curriculum, field trips, dealing with skeptical relatives and friends, and handling difficult topics like foreign languages and advanced math. The text is sprinkled liberally with quotations, statistics, and family profiles to document the claims and successes of home schooling.
As you would expect, since it is produced by HSLDA, the brochure makes several references to HSLDA and concludes with a pitch for joining HSLDA. Some may consider this a disadvantage, but frankly I consider it an advantage. There is, in my opinion, no organization that has more experience and can speak with more authority about the home-school movement than HSLDA. They have been on the frontlines of the legal conflicts almost since the beginning of the current movement. And their attempts to defend home schooling in courts and legislative bodies have required them to accumulate thorough documentation about home schooling successes. Their descriptions of HSLDA are factual and objective with no "hype." I encourage home schoolers to join HSLDA, so I appreciate the information the brochure gives about it.
The first and last sheets include some advertisements by home-school publishers and an HSLDA membership application. However, these are deliberately designed to be torn off, if you wish to give the brochure to someone without these ads.
Finally, I remind everyone that membership in HSLDA has many legal advantages, and I encourage everyone to join.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published bimonthly by James and Stacy McDonald, P. O. Box 436, Barker, TX 77413; phone: (281) 492-6050.
Cost: $21.99 for a year (six issues).
This magazine is designed to provide homeschoolers with the tools to teach culture and literature as well as a number of other subjects, all from a Biblical perspective.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published bimonthly by Michael and Mary Leppert, PMB 911, 587 Ventu Park Rd., Suite #, Newbury Park, CA 91230; phone: (805) 492-1372.
The publishers are also the authors of the "Homeschooling Almanac." This homeschooling newspaper seeks to provide a broad range of information and resources to all homeschoolers without promoting an agenda relative to religion or homeschooling style. And the best thing about it is that it is absolutely free. All you need to do is send them your name and address and ask to be put on their mailing list. The entire cost of printing and mailing is borne by the advertisers.
Reviewed by Cindy Shaver
Contact information: 800-334-0298.
Cost: $5.50 per issue; $22.95 for six issues.
This magazine is divided into grade levels (preschool, kindergarten, primary, and intermediate). It features themes also. For example the Oct/Nov issue had a look at colonial America, a reading list relating to colonial America, learning about pumpkins, Thanksgiving reading, punctuation practice help, a section on Italy, a look at volcanoes, etc. the magazine is for school teachers so it has reproducible activities and craft and bulletin board ideas.
Reviewed by Cindy Shaver
Pub. by Teacher's Friend Publications.
Cost: about $10.00 each.
These books have a calendar heading for each month that you can color and put above a calendar. Then there is a listing of some special event for each day. What I've done is make a blank calendar and then I make special daily numbers that tell what happened that day in history (assuming it is something I want noted). Then a student may read a book on that topic or look it up in the encyclopedia and write a brief report about it.
The books also include different themes and activities for that month. For example April's book contains creative writing ideas in the form of chickens hatching, thematic activities on bees, bugs and butterflies, thematic activities on parts of a flower and gardening, and thematic activities about the Olympic Games. These activities include puppets, word-seek puzzles, poems, pictures to color, etc.
Reviewed by Rhonda Bosworth
Contact information: Nature Friend Magazine, 2727 TR 421, Sugarcreek, Ohio 44681, (330) 852-1900.
Cost: $22.00 a (school) year (or $18.00 if you have 10 or more in a group)
Nature Friend is published by "a conservative Christian publisher" and focuses on God's World. Each magazine (6" x 9", 35 pages) has articles about plants and animals and is written for 8-12 year olds. Regular features include a science project, "search and find" pictures and other activities based on nature, a mailbag where questions are addressed, a "how to draw from nature" section, and a section where readers can submit their own pictures and poems.
In addition to the many illustrations, Nature Friend is filled with magnificent photographs that would rival any other nature magazine. This is a nice magazine to have tucked with a Bible to give to a restless child when the need arises, as it is a learning tool and supports God as creator.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published quarterly by Paul and Gena Suarez, P. O. Box 185, Cool, CA 95614; phone: (530) 823-0447.
Cost: $19.00 for a year (four issues).
The publishers of this magazine definitely come from a Biblical background, but it aims to have material that will be beneficial for all homeschoolers.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published bimonthly by Home Life, Inc., P. O. Box 1190, Fenton, MO 53026; phone: (636) 529-0137.
Cost: $19.95 for a year (six issues).
Mary Pride, author of The Big Book of Home Learning, her husband Bill, and their family began this magazine in 1993. Their purpose is three-fold: "(1) to continually advance the frontiers of homeschooling, (2) to make it as easy as possible for parents to homeschool, and (3) to encourage parents to raise their children to become Christian heroes." They are continually researching and investigating promising educational models, strategies, and products in a sort of "Consumers' Report" for homeschoolers.
Reviewed by Cindy Shaver
Cost: Issue price $4.25, subscription price for 4 issues is $14.95.
This is strictly themes with reproducible activities for the kids. One Nov/Dec/Jan issue, for example, had turkey activities, quilt activities, a unit on the book "Mama, Do You Love Me?", an Artic life booklet, and "Professor Groundhog's Weather School."
In order to keep school fun and interesting, I try to add extra activities to the three R's curriculum that I purchase. These magazines provide me with many of my ideas for those activities.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Published bimonthly by Pat and Sue Welch, P. O. Box 20219, Portland, OR 97294; phone: (503) 253-9633.
Cost: Issue price: $3.75, subscriptions are $15.00 year (6 issues)
This venerable magazine was founded in 1980 to "provide information, inspiration, and support to Christian home-school families and Christian home-school state and national organizations." They still maintain an excellent website and have a free e-mail newsletter. If you would like more information, you can contact them.
Reviewed by Cindy Shaver
This magazine has a resource directory of advertisers, great letters from readers who tell about their own experiences with homeschooling, a cover family is featured in each issue, teaching tips, and usually there is a special folder section relating to some topic like learning through literature or higher mathematics.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Bible Mapper is a free program that enables you to make and print maps of Bible places. It takes a while to learn to use. But once you know the program, you can make a map of any Bible region, add or remove cities or geographical features, insert labels, etc. It does require a free registration key from the author to unlock all of the features. (Note, however, that no technical support is available.)
Reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: HSLDA, PO Box 3000, Purcelleville VA 20134; Phone 540-338-5600.
"Defending Liberty" is a video tape produced for the Home School Legal Defense Association. It basically reviews the modern history of legal developments in the home-school movement, beginning in the early 1980's.
While it was produced as a promotion to encourage home schoolers to join HSLDA, it is in my opinion an excellent overview of major legal issues. Obviously it frequently mentions the involvement of HSLDA, but the approach is entirely calm, factual, and (I believe) accurate.
The tape consists primarily of interviews of families that personally faced the legal battles of the 1980's and 1990's, along with commentary by HSLDA lawyers who were personally involved in those struggles. You will learn (or be reminded) of the story of these valiant pioneers and will be challenged to appreciate once again the blessing of our current freedoms.
The message gives credit to HSLDA for its involvement in these legal victories, and rightly so. The ultimate thanks should go to God, as the video clearly portrays. But I firmly believe that God used HSLDA as His means to bring about those victories. I fear to think where home schooling in this country would be had God not raised up HSLDA to lead in these crucial conflicts. The presentation is not propaganda but is completely factual, as will be attested by many home-school pioneers.
You may not agree with the religious views of everyone at HSLDA or everyone in the tape. But that is not the issue. The issue is home schooling and the freedom to educate our children as we believe best. That is what HSLDA is about, and that service is provided without our needing to compromise our faith.
Those of us who lived through the early years of the home-school movement will clearly remember the prayers, trepidations, and hard-fought legal battles that won the liberties home schoolers enjoy today. Those of you who are newer to the movement may not be moved to tears as I was in recalling those difficult and dangerous days, but you most definitely ought to develop an appreciation of how we got where we are. If we do not remember the dangers of the past, we will surely become complacent and lose our liberties.
Reviewed by David E. Pratte
Karen and I saw the movie Expelled recently. We very much appreciated it and highly recommend it.
It does have one bad word (spoken, of course, by an atheistic evolutionist). It also has pictures from the holocaust that might bother small children, though I doubt most would understand since it is not very graphic or dwelt upon. I suspect, however, that small children would be bored by the movie anyway, since it is a documentary.
The theme of the movie is that the scientific establishment in this country has essentially banned consideration of the possibility that life exists because of intelligent design. This is viewed as so scientifically unreasonable that it cannot even be considered as part of "science." The movie interviews people who have lost jobs or otherwise been financially punished, not primarily for defending creation, but simply for questioning evolution or for suggesting that Intelligent Design be considered.
But I was especially impressed by other points. The movie does a good job of demonstrating the complexity of the cell. This is emphasized in the context of how difficult it would be for a "simple one-cell organism" to begin by chance, since in fact it would have to be extremely complex. The chances against such an event are demonstrated.
I was also much impressed by the way the movie documents the connection between evolution and philosophies that are clearly immoral and/or uncivilized. It proves that Hitler's Nazism, including the holocaust, was based on Darwin's views. It also shows how evolution leads to selective breeding of humans (eugenics), abortion, and killing of all unproductive humans, even briefly documenting the connection to Maragaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood.
Finally, it shows the tie between evolution and atheism. While not all evolutionists are atheists, nevertheless evolution is a fundamental tenet of those who are atheists or agnostics. Interviews in the movie show prominent atheists personally expressing their bitter antagonism for God, the Bible, and creation.
And of course, the interview with Dawkins is especially interesting as Dawkins bitterly denounces every concept of god, especially the God of the Bible. But when carefully questioned, he acknowledges that he has no idea where life came from, but maybe it was placed here by beings who evolved on another planet. As the narrator Ben Stein points out, that is "intelligent design" - the very thing "science" is supposed to be denying as "unscientific." But Dawkins cannot allow it to be called "god"! And the movie does not point it out, but that just raises the question of how life began and evolved on that other planet. And what proof is there of such life? By putting it on another planet, Dawkins effectively eliminates efforts at scientific investigation of the hypothesis. Yet he views intelligent design - if the intelligence might be God - as so beyond belief that it is worthy of nothing but ridicule.
I encourage all teens and adults to see the movie, and probably pre-teens would benefit too. I assume it will be available soon on video.
Reviewed by Terri Brinkley
Available through Bob Jones University Press (Phone 800-845-5731).
This 22-minute fitness tape is great for children. Linda Haught and five children, who are all clothed modestly in T-shirts and sweat pants, work out to instrumental, classical-style music. The routine is simple, yet challenging enough to build endurance and increase coordination. No special equipment is needed except a yardstick or a rolled-up newspaper.
The only problem there could possibly be with this routine would be some hopping that may bother some who want low-impact workouts. I don't see how it could hurt children of normal weight.
I recommend this for the whole family, especially when the weather is too bad to play outside. Our kids love it.
Reviewed By Mark Mayberry
We recently purchased Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2000. This is by far the most elegant electronic encyclopedia that I have used. It offers excellent content with a visually appealing, easy-to-use interface. It provides a wealth of information, and also serves as a portal to the world wide web. The Deluxe 2000 Edition of Microsoft Encarta contains 42,000 articles, 10,000 archive articles, 2,450 sidebar articles (speeches, etc.), 40 million words, 170 videos and animations, 2,500 sound clips, and over 19,000 links to the world wide web.
Encarta contains a number of interesting features. The Dynamic Time Line allows you to scroll through different periods of history, noting the major events that occurred over time. You can focus on specific areas of interest by searching the timeline by date or time period, or by the name of a particular person, event or topic. You can filter the timeline by category or by place, compare what happened in two different subject or geographical areas during the same time period. You can zoom in to see detailed information about a given time period, or zoom out to see events from a broader scale.
An excellent set of World Maps are also included. Starting with the global map, you can zoom in to a specific area. Then you may access an encyclopedia article that focuses on that specific area.
Another interesting feature of Microsoft Encarta is the Archives section, which consists of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Yearbook (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. These might be useful, especially in this age of Political Correctness when history of past events is often revised according to the prejudices and norms of the present age.
Encarta also allows you to take multimedia Virtual Tours of certain natural wonders, major cities, ancient sites, and famous land marks. These Tours allow you to travel to fascinating destinations far and near, and explore them as if you were there. For example, the Virtual Tour of Jerusalem starts with a 360 degree view of the Mount of Olives. From there you can travel to the Garden of Gethsemane, view the Lion's Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem, or read about the ancient City of David.
Another nice feature of Encarta is the InterActivities section which affords an opportunity for hands-on learning. Various multi-media elements are employed to demonstrate concepts and present information in the areas of the physical and life sciences, the humanities, geography, anatomy, and calculation. Each interactivity includes its own instructions.
The Encarta Curriculum Guide offers a useful way for teachers to create unit studies. The Curriculum Guide points you to encyclopedia articles on a given subject. Then you can access more related information by following the related links.
Finally, the Encarta Research Organizer is designed to teach students how to turn research into a well-written report. It shows how one goes about selecting a topic, collecting and organizing information, writing a report, and identifying one's sources.
In many ways, I believe multimedia products have been over-hyped. However, I highly recommend this product.
by Natalie Bishop
As homeschooling grows in popularity, more and more high-school-aged students will be looking to establish a high school record before applying to colleges or employers. It will be helpful to have objective evidence of a student's abilities. AP courses and exams are one way to do this.
An AP or Advance Placement exam score is based on a 2-3 hour exam designed for high school students, testing the knowledge typically covered in a full or half-year college course. Students are allowed to take the exams during any grade in high school. If students pass the tests, they usually get college credit, the chance to opt out of intro-level courses, or advanced placement in higher level courses at their chosen college. A growing number of colleges offer the option of entering as sophomores to students who have successfully passed 3 or more AP exams. AP exams are scored on a 1 to 5 scale with a 5 being the highest. A score of 2 will translate into "possibly qualified," a 3 will equal college credit at many colleges, a 4 "well-qualified," and a 5 is "exceptionally well qualified."
Developed in 1955 by the Educational Testing Service, the College Board of Princeton NJ, who also offer the SAT and CLEP Exams, AP courses and exams are offered in the following subject areas: Art: Drawing or General Portfolio, Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Calculus (Intro. and more advanced), Economics: Micro or Macro, English: Language or Literature, Environmental Science, French: Language or Literature, Government and Politics: Comparative or US, History: European or US, Human Geography (beginning in year 2000), Latin: Vergil or Latin Literature, Literature, Music Theory, Physics (three levels offered), Psychology, Spanish: Language or Literature and Statistics.
Each exam consists of a multiple choice section and a "free-response" section where students either write essays or solve specific problems showing all steps. Students must take the exams at a school which offers that particular exam. Usually public school guidance offices have information and are familiar with the procedure. It is suggested to contact the school early in the school year, late September to October, and tell the guidance office or AP coordinator of your desire to participate in the exam process. Follow up with a call in January or February (when the tests are usually ordered) and take the test on the scheduled date (usually during May). The exam is proctored by an official who is not the AP teacher for that course. Exams are only given on specific days and at specific time periods. Each exam costs around $75 to $90, usually paid on the day of the exam.
There are excellent guidebooks available directly from the AP headquarters for a reasonable fee. Each book describes the course coverage expected, sample test questions and tips on preparing and designing a course. Write to Advanced Placement Program, PO Box 6670, Princeton NJ 08541-6670 for their free Guide to the Advance Placement Program and The AP Bulletin for Students.
Other guidebooks, such as the Barron's AP Guides, are available at commercial bookstores. They offer a full length AP exam at the end of the book which students may take and score themselves, with full answers and explanations included. They also give a lot of help with learning how to construct a strong essay, a must for any student hoping to successfully complete an AP course. Any of these guidebooks would be very helpful as you and your student design an AP course.
Another way to prepare well for an AP exam is to take a course on-line. PA Homeschoolers have organized a number of Internet classes for homeschoolers preparing to take AP Exams. Their web site has information about their course program, as well as an order form for various AP guides and suggested textbooks. This format is especially valuable for international homeschool students, who may not have access to quality libraries.
Because the exam and scoring are not only rigorous, but also completed by independent officials, they are an excellent vehicle to use when showing how well a student is prepared for college work. As homeschoolers look for ways to show college admission offices objective evaluations of their high school work, AP courses and exams will continue to be a valuable resource.
Reviewed by Sally Anne Perz
Barbour Publishing, Inc., publishes this set of 48 historic fiction books, written by various authors. The books give a very interesting overview of American history from 1620-1945. Though the main characters in each book are fictional, there are several historic figures introduced in each book.
While the literary quality is not highly impressive, we felt the moral quality was excellent. The books are wholesome, with bad behavior condemned rather than excused. The few exceptions to this would be occasional false doctrines slipping in from time to time, which were easily recognized by even the smallest of our children. The families are usually happy, church going, and have parents in traditional roles. In the last few decades the attitudes became a bit more 'modern' than we would have liked to see in our own children. While nothing clearly ungodly appears, we found a few hints of feminism that made us raise our eyebrows a bit.
While they are recommended for ages 9-12, our seven-year-old read them without any difficulty, and we know a few teenagers who also enjoyed reading them. We highly recommend them for the entire family to read together, as even our toddler was able to follow along and enjoy the books.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Edited by William Federer
Contact information: FAME Pub. Inc., 820 S. MacArthur Blvd., Suite 105-220, Coppell, TX 75019-4214.
This superb book consists entirely of quotations from famous people who respect the Bible as being the Word of God.
I have heard for years, as you probably have also, that the founders of our nation were men of faith who respected and encouraged religion. They did not intend to remove religion from government, and they certainly did not intend to establish a humanistic government that would remove religious influence from all public forums. They just did not want a single denomination as the established religion of the nation.
The value of this book is that it proves beyond a doubt what these great men of history really did believe and intend. It will thrill you to read their views. Many of these quotes could not even be read in a modern public school, let alone could a modern politician openly defend them. Yet historically the ideas were not only openly defended, they were often encouraged and adopted as accepted public policy.
Here is a sample to whet your appetite (from page 147):
"Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for benefits received and to implore such further blessing as they stand in need of ...
"It is therefore highly recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States ...
"That with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favour, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance ...
"That it may please Him ... to take school and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under His nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth 'in righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.'"
- An official proclamation passed by the Continental Congress, 11/1/1777
Reviewed by Wayne Walker
Written by Terry Dorian, Ph.D., and Zan Peters Tyler
Contact information: Huntington House Publishers, P. O. Box 53788, Lafayette, LA 70505.
This book consists of two parts. Part I (Introduction and Chapters 1-4) are by Zan Tyler, founder and president of South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools.
Chapter 1 is entitled "Why Would I Want to Homeschool?" Mrs. Tyler points to several benefits of home-schooling which serve as worthy motivation for deciding to home school. Chapter two answers the question, "Is There Any Evidence Home-schooling Works?"
Chapter three discusses the subject, "Is Home-schooling Legal?" The chapter chronicles some of the efforts that she and others put forth to make home schooling legal in South Carolina, with threats of imprisonment, legislative fights, and court suits.
Chapter 4, "How Can I Build a Support Network," mentions several sources of encouragement and help for home schoolers, including husbands and wives, extended family, local support groups, state organizations, and national organizations, as well as church and community.
Part Two (Chapters 5-8 and Conclusion) are by Terry Dorian, who, in addition to being a home-school mother, is a certified reading specialist, holding a master's degree in Reading and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Public Address. Chapter 5 deals with that ever-present question, "What about Socialization?" She gives an excellent, Biblical-based discussion.
Chapter 6, "Choosing the Right Curriculum," discusses four educational philosophies which have affected home-schooling methods and materials: essentialism (traditional subject-centered textbooks), perennialism (Charlotte Mason's Living Books), progressivism (unit studies), and existentialism (John Holt's "unschooling"). The chapter ends with a suggested library for "Finding What Works for You."
Chapter 7, "Finding the Will to Organize Our Time and Material Possessions," and Chapter 8, "Overcoming Fear of Failure," are both primarily motivational in nature. There are five appendices at the end of the book with various home-schooling materials arranged by topic-instructional methods, national conventions, legal services, support organizations, and student resources.
As with anything written by human beings, there may be occasional statements with which one might disagree. But the general emphasis on seeking to follow God's will in our home-schooling choices is something that all Bible believers can appreciate. There is much good information in this book, both to encourage us who are home schooling in our endeavors, and to share with that doubtful relative or friend in hopes of providing some enlightenment on the subject.
Reviewed by Mark Mayberry
Written by Elizabeth Wilson
This is an excellent guide to the best of children's literature. It sorts books by subject and level, and offers a brief summary of each book. For example, it offers suggestions in the following categories: Animals, Art and Architecture, Bible/Spiritual Teaching, Biographies, Crafts and Hobbies, Geography and History, Handicaps and Special Problems, Horticulture, Humor, Language, Literature, Math, Music and other subjects. In the Literature section, the books are grouped in three levels: Level I covers preschool through grade 2, Level II covers grades 3-4, and Level III covers grades 5, 6 and up. Each of these categories is further broken down into the following sub-headings: Fables, Folk Tales and Fairy Tales, Fantasies, Modern Realistic Stories, and Historical Realistic Stories.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Edited by Phyllis Schlafly.
If you ever become discouraged in home schooling and want something to give you motivation to continue, this is the book to read. If you have friends with children in the public schools, and you want to give them something to warn them about the dangers in the public schools, this is the book to read.
This book contains personal testimony from 108 parents and teachers who testified at hearings conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Education in March of 1984. The testimony thoroughly and consistently documents the heavy influence of Secular Humanism, Values Clarification, the occult, evolution, sex education, and immorality of all kinds.
I suggest you borrow it from a library or order it from a religious bookstore.
Reviewed by Dave Pratte
When I was young (a few years ago), I really enjoyed reading books of sports stories written by Clair Bee. These books were written in the 1940's or 1950's. They were generally wholesome and taught good morals in the context of novels about various sports. I think they make great reading, especially for boys who might otherwise be less inclined to read books.
One disadvantage is that, since the books were written so long ago, the rules and equipment of various sports have changed. This makes the stories seem confusing to those who know the sports as they are now. I think most boys can just make allowance for that and enjoy the stories anyway.
However, in recent years Broadman & Holman have published updated versions of the books by Clair Bee about his favorite hero Chip Hilton. The revisions were done by a relative of his (I believe), so the stories are still the same except that the details are updated (rules of games, technology, etc.).
These books teach fair play, honesty, hard work, team spirit, courage, truthfulness, good sportsmanship, and strict discipline. They oppose smoking, drinking, gambling, and profanity. Some may contain euphemisms (but no actual profanity), references to dancing, and fighting. Uniforms may be mentioned that in practice are immodest (cheerleaders, etc.), but I can't recall anything graphic being mentioned.
The updated books are available at bookstores, but even the older books can be bought used on Amazon and other online sources.
Similar books are written by other authors, especially John Tunis. I would recommend his books too, but as I recall some may have a few profanities (which I just mark out if I own the book).
Reviewed by Bridget Trefethen
Written by Jill Bond
This book is a good place to start if you want to do "bulk" cooking but are not sure if you know how. Jill Bond gives you a plan for what she calls "Mega-Cooking." She also includes her family's favorite recipes, takes you through the process using one of her recipes, and shows you how to break down all the tasks, including shopping. Best of all, you can easily adapt many of your own family favorites to her "Mega-Cooking" system and plan your own menu. The book is very enjoyable to read. Read and enjoy, then cook, eat, and enjoy! It really works!
Reviewed by David Pratte
Dr. James Dobson is a well-known author and head of Focus on the Family. He has written several helpful books about families and raising children. His style is very interesting and humorous, as well as factual and instructive.
Although he is not a member of the church of Christ, Dr. Dobson is evangelical and generally quite conservative. His views on family issues are especially helpful and usually Biblically accurate, though he often defends his views by evidence other than Scripture.
Some areas to guard against include his views on how to know God's will. In addition to Bible study, he advocates watching for signs of God's will in the form of opened or closed doors of opportunity. He does not believe baptism is necessary to salvation, but that rarely arises in his books.
Some specific books I recommend include:
This is Dobson's basic book about child rearing. He emphasizes the need for balancing love and punishment, strongly defending spanking and other forms of punishment. Very helpful information, especially for those who are beginning to raise a family.
This book is written for pre-teens and is designed to help prepare them for the major changes that will face them in their teen years. The intent is for parents to read and discuss the book with the child. This gives opportunity for communication and parental guidance regarding issues that might otherwise be ignored because of their intimate nature.
Specific topics covered include the physical changes of puberty, issues of sexual morality, relating to peers and family members, etc. A good book to use to teach "sex education," as well as related subjects.
Contains Dobson's error regarding how to know the will of God. Weak discussion of masturbation.
This book is designed for late teens who are nearing the age to go out on their own. It discusses sexual and moral issues, choosing a marriage partner, choosing a career, choosing a college, and dealing with parents in this often tempestuous time of life.
I believe Dobson covers some very needed areas and generally recommend the book highly. However, it contains Dobson's error on how to know God's will, and the discussion of working mothers is weaker than I would prefer.
Reviewed by Conny Calvert
Written by David Pratte /family/booklist.php
David Pratte put together this modestly priced booklet to provide an "excellent source of wholesome entertainment" for families. The books reviewed, however, will also educate and build virtue in those children and adults who read them.
This booklist includes over 300 brief reviews of wholesome books for children to read on their own, for parents to read to children, or for families to read aloud together. It includes most of the better-known children's books, some "classics," biographies, science books, and many other less-well-known books. Each book is reviewed using his criteria for wholesome qualities instead of negative content.
The books are listed in alphabetic order, followed by a separate alphabetic listing of authors. Especially good authors are noted. The high standards used in evaluating these books makes the booklist very helpful.
The book is unique in that it is written from the perspective of a faithful New Testament Christian. Using it will get you started in evaluating other books yourself and determining your own family's reading standards. There are many older books that you will especially want your children to read instead of some of the newer, less desirable, books. The booklist has helped our family find some delightful books which we would not have discovered on our own.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Written by Dr. & Mrs. Raymond Moore
Published by Word Books, 1981.
Dr. and Mrs. Raymond Moore are modern advocates of home education who were especially influential in the early days of the movement. But this particular book is written to encourage parents to guide their children's learning in their early years at home, rather than enrolling them in early formal childhood education (such as pre-school, day care, or kindergarten).
The book first discusses research into early childhood development and learning. The Moores affirm that, for normal children from loving homes, there is no research that indicates early formal education is helpful, and contrary to popular belief, there is much that indicates it could be harmful. Most children, before the age of eight (or even later) are just not ready physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually for a formal, structured learning program.
To begin such programs too early causes many children to "burn out" after a few years. It also tends to convince many children (especially little boys) that they "just can't do it." They are not ready to keep up with what is expected, so they quit trying. Their only problem is that they have not developed enough yet, but later when they are mature enough, they don't try because they have become convinced they can't. This is the cause of much "learning disability" today - and it is completely unnecessary.
Of special interest is the Moore's contention that early formal schooling puts peer pressure and moral pressure on children before their judgment has matured to the point where they can handle it. The book shows that, when children face continual interaction with large numbers of peers, without the supervision of parents, they become peer oriented. Their conduct and decisions are more and more controlled by peers, rather than by parents. And this leads to the dominance of peer dependency in the modern public schools.
But the Moores are not advocating that small children be left uneducated. They affirm that the best education for small children is for their parents to lovingly guide and instruct them, informally, at home. The book describes the development of children from birth to age 7-9, giving detailed suggestions showing how parents can guide and train the children at each age level.
While we do not agree with everything in the book, we generally highly recommend it. In fact, we strongly urge parents to read it before they make a decision about pre-school, day care, or kindergarten for their children.
by Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Reviewed by Wayne Walker
The vast majority of homeschooling books are written by homeschooling parents. If my memory serves me correctly, Sam Blumenfeld is a bachelor! However, his name has been familiar to me for years, since, as one who has taught in both private and public schools and done private tutoring; he has been in the forefront of those calling for educational reform. His 1984 book NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education helped open a lot of people's eyes about the leftist agenda in the public schools. And he has developed his own program to teach reading, Alphaphonics, which many have said is excellent. After we began homeschooling and I subscribed to Practical Homeschooling, imagine my pleasant surprise to see that Blumenfeld has a regular column in that magazine! He also writes regular columns for WorldNetDaily and has become a big supporter of homeschooling.
Homeschooling: A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children (published in 1997 by Citadel Press, a division of Kensington Publishing Corp., 850 Third Ave., New York City, NY 10022) is a little old, but the arguments made are still valid and, in fact, everything that has happened since 1997 simply serves to confirm what is said. There are two kinds of homeschooling books: those which explain why homeschooling is best and those which tell how homeschooling can be done. This book is somewhat of a combination of both but the emphasis is on the why. I could give copious quotes from the book, but that would take up too much space. In the introduction, Blumenfeld writes, "What first started as a negative reaction against government monopoly education and all of its shortcomings, has now be-come a positive attempt by thousands of parents to create and enjoy a new family lifestyle built around the nurtur-ing and teaching of children....While many people in our society seem to be searching for a way to escape our civili-zation, homeschoolers have an amazing sense of reality and responsibility when it comes to raising children and imparting to them an inherited body of knowledge, wisdom, and values." This is absolutely one of the best books to support and encourage homeschooling that I have ever read! After wonderful opening chapters on "Why Homeschool?" and parenting, Blumenfeld discusses "How to Teach and What to Teach" about writing, spelling, and arithmetic.
There are excellent chapters on socialization, and even on "Dating Versus Courtship." Blumenfeld's material on ADD is worthy of consideration.
Finally, the later chapters on bureaucrats and legislators, why public schools cannot be trusted, and how bad public schools can get are scary to the max and should erase any possible arguments that those who believe in Judaeo-Christian principles might still make for sending innocent little children into these dens of humanistic indoctrination.
Public school teachers who are Christians have my admiration and endorsement for trying to make a difference in the public schools, but there is absolutely nothing that they can say to me which would convince me that public schools are acceptable places for my children, especially after the evidence that Blumenfeld gives. Unfortunately, this book is apparently out of print. I purchased mine on the "bargain books" rack at Barnes and Noble, I think. If you can get hold of a copy of it, it would be a great resource to help convince those relatives who have lingering doubts about homeschooling.
Reviewed by Wayne Walker
Written by Israel Wayne
Contact information: Wisdom's Gate, P. O. Box 374, Covert, MI 49043; phone: 800-343-1943
The book contains an introduction and ten chapters. Let me quote a few paragraphs from the introduction. "This book is a unique reflection on an educational philosophy that has under girded my upbringing ... For what it's worth, the concepts in this book are things we learned, as a family. I hope they will strengthen your family ... Only under the authority and Lordship of Christ will the homeschool journey be successful" (pp. 4-5).
Chapter One is entitled, "Keeping An Eternal Perspective." Israel writes, "By keeping in mind that we are homeschooling out of obedience, not preference, our family has avoided becoming discouraged when things become difficult." (pp. 9-10).
Chapter Two, "A Biblical Education," discusses the three main world-views that have affected American education (Christian, Modernist, and Post-Modernist). Chapter Three, "The Importance Of Reason," gives twelve guidelines in teaching children how to think rationally. These principles are applied in Chapter Four to "Teaching The Core Subjects" (history, science, mathematics, language arts, philosophy, and literature), in Chapter Five to "Social Studies," and in Chapter Six to "Multiculturalism." Chapter Seven deals with "Parents' Rights" and Chapter Eight with "Socialization or Socialism?" The discussion on socialization alone is worth the price of the book.
In Chapter Nine, "Developing A Family Ministry," he makes the following point: "If the homeschooling movement produces only in-turned, selfish individuals who care exclusively for themselves and their comfort, we will have failed miserably. There is a world in need, and we are the hands and feet, the Body of Christ, who must bring the good news to those who have ears to hear" (p. 142).
Finally, Chapter Ten consists of "Common Excuses To Keep From Homeschooling."
There may be a few statements in this book of a "doctrinal" nature that one might disagree with, but all the good advice and suggestions that it contains far outweigh any such minor disagreements. This book is well worth the price to remind those of us who are already homeschooling of our glorious purpose in so doing and to encourage anyone who is considering it of the spiritual benefits of such an endeavor. I highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Writtenby Skeet Savage
Contact information: Wisdom's Gate, P. O. Box 374, Covert, MI 49043; 800-343-1943; www.wisdomsgate.com; available for $16.00.)
Skeet Savage is founder of Wisdom's Gate and publisher of both Home School Digest and An Encouraging Word. This book is divided into thirty-one devotional chapters which seem primarily designed to explain why homeschooling is the best form of education for children and to encourage those who have chosen it in their journey. Yet, the book is more. It draws from Mrs. Savage's own experiences in homeschooling her six children to provide Bible-based instructions and suggestions about how to raise children generally. Written with a gentle wit and a wisdom born of first-hand knowledge, it will challenge all parents to work at developing the kinds of attitudes in themselves that will enable them to direct their children in the ways of the Lord.
The early chapters deal with such subjects as the "perfect" homeschool family, reasons for homeschooling, homeschooling amid opposition, and finding and giving real support. Later chapters discuss tuning your child's character, biblical discipline, knowing your child by heart, and when rebellion hits home. The author also addresses topics like burnout, over-commitment, socialization, and learning to let go.
Concerning socialization, she said, "As homeschooling parents we have absolutely no Biblical admonition to 'socialize' our children. However, as mature Christians, we are called to be salt and light to this world. Homeschooling is the process by which we prepare our children to fulfill that purpose. The erroneous notion that we should send our impressionable Christian children into those pagan dens of iniquity commonly known as 'public schools' so that they can be 'salt and light' makes about as much sense as dropping them off down at the local neighborhood gay bar so that they can be a witness for Jesus--and learn tolerance to boot!"
Concerning separation from the world, she noted, "Allow me to clarify something here. In speaking of our Lord's command regarding separation from the world, I'm not talking about some misguided, separatist, militia mentality that suggests we all should just head for the hills and hole up in the woods with our freeze-dried foods and ammunition. Separation from the world does not mean hiding out in the boonies where you don't have to see, or deal with, anybody (although we all have days where we would gladly settle for that interpretation!)."
"Since separation from the world is not optional for the true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, what does it mean to be separated from the world? It means you don't feed your mind on the world's junk-food quality entertainment. You don't wear their uniforms or desire their bounty. You don't worship their idols or trust in their gods. You don't sacrifice your children on their educational altars."
In conclusion, the crux of the book is expressed in the following paragraph. "How can we, as Christian, live in and reach out to this sick world, yet, maintain a safe and peaceful environment for our families? Is it possible to live purposefully and effectively for the Kingdom, or is life just a mere game of chance recklessly played against gambler's odds?" While there may be a few specific statements with which not everyone will necessarily agree, I believe that if you are convinced that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," for the most part Skeet Savage draws broad, general principles from Bible teaching that will help you to answer those questions.
Edited by Paul and Gena Suarez (published in 2006)
Available at $14.99 from Broadman and Holman Publishers; 127 Ninth Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37234; 1-800-233-1123; www.broadmanandholman.com
Reviewed by Wayne Walker
The editors of this book also serve as publishers of The Old Schoolhouse, a quarterly homeschooling magazine, and homeschool their four children in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It is described as "a homeschooling convention in a book." When I received my copy and began thumbing through it, I found it so interesting that in one evening I worked my way through the entire book, reading large portions that I found especially applicable to our situation and carefully perusing all the other sections.
For parents who are thinking about homeschooling, the whole idea can seem a bit daunting. Even after the decision to homeschool is made, there are still many questions to be considered, one of the most important of which is how to find out what method will work best for their own family. This book explores the ten most popular home education methods to help parents in determining which one will meet the needs of their situation.
If you would like to give your children a classical education, there is advice from Douglas Wilson and Christine Miller. If the Principle Approach appeals to you, you can read suggestions by Katherine Dang and James Rose. Jenefer Igarashi and Heather Allen explain the traditional textbook approach with information about homeschool co-ops by Jennifer Pepito. Catherine Levinson discusses the Charlotte Mason Method while Jessica Hulcy and Jennifer Steward talk about unit studies.
Those who have special needs students will want to find out what Christine M. Field and Sherry Bushnell have to say. If you travel a lot, Dianne Flynn Keith takes homeschooling on the road with Carschooling. Maggie and Tyler Hogan and Diane Waring help readers understand the Eclectic Method. You can learn about delight directed studies with Raymond and Dorothy Moore and Mary Hood. And Ruth Beechick and Clay and Sally Clarkson conclude with a section on whole-hearted learning.
Learning styles among children are widely varied. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Each mind has its own method." Homeschoolers have found that one size does not fit all when it comes to education. The well-researched facts and experiences presented by the different contributors in this book will help parents to determine their own educational philosophy and then decide which teaching method or methods will serve their family. I highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Written by Julie Voertberg; published by Albert Whitman & Co., Morton Grove, IL
This short book describes, in story form, the daily routine of a nine-year-old girl who is being home schooled. It is written on the level of a nine-year-old, as though the girl is simply telling about her life and education. The story is well written, interesting, and includes many illustrations.
The level of the book would make it interesting to a child, especially one who is being home schooled. However, the material also gives a good explanation of what home schoolers do. This can be useful as a simple introduction to folks who wonder about home schooling or are even skeptical.
The story describes how home schoolers really are educated, yet without the pressures and disadvantages of public education. It also demonstrates how they are exposed to practical applications of education in everyday life, how they have a strong family life, and yet how they also have a wholesome social life.
Worthwhile reading for people of all ages.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Written by Marsha Ransom
Contact information: Alpha Books, 201 W. 103rd St., Indianapolis, IN 46290, a Pearson Education Company
This is one of a whole series of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to..." books published by Alpha Books. The back cover says, "You're no idiot, of course. You know it's important for your kids to get a good education -- and you'd love to teach them yourself, in your very own home. But when you think about the knowledge and resources you'd need to succeed, you wonder if you make the grade.... Don't put those kids on the school bus! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling will help you make your living room a classroom -- and open the doors to a lifetime of learning."
The author, Marsha Ransom, is the mother of four children and has homeschooled for twelve years, including all the grades from kindergarten to senior in high school. In addition, she has spoken at homeschool conferences and curriculum fairs.
This book truly has a wealth of information in it. It is divided into six parts with at least three chapters in each part. Part 1, "Homeschooling in North America Today," discusses "What Is Homeschooling?", provides some "Homeschooling Facts and Figures, and gives "Quick Answers to Beginners' Questions." Part 2, "First Things First: Getting Started," discusses the legal questions, approaches to homeschooling, and how to find support. Part 3, "Choosing/Planning a Curriculum," has chapters on both using a full-service curriculum and planning your own curriculum. Part 4, "Taking the Plunge: What Do I Do Now?" provides advice on how to home educate 3-5 year olds, 6-8 year olds, 9-12 year olds, teenagers in high school, and kids with special needs. Part 5, "Keeping Track: Testing/Assessments/Record-Keeping," gives information on each of those three subjects. Part 6, "Burnout Prevention," contains five chapters on various topics that should be helpful in avoiding homeschool burnout.
There are also five appendices that provide a glossary, selected resources including websites, homeschool support organizations, a list of study programs, support schools, publications, and vendors, and a bibliography for further reading. Also, unlike some other homeschooling books in my collection, this one is fully indexed, which greatly increases its usefulness as a reference resource. Mrs. Ransom does tend a little to push unschooling, but she gives equal time to all homeschooling approaches without being judgmental about any of them, and also discusses with the same weight those who homeschool for religious reasons as well as those who do so for purely academic reasons. All in all, it should prove to be a very helpful book for beginning homeschoolers, veteran homeschoolers, and non-homeschooling friends or family who would be willing to read pro-homeschool literature.
Author: John Notgrass
Reviewer: Wayne S. Walker
Age level: Intended for teenagers; Price: $15.00
Publisher: Notgrass Company, TN; 1-800-211-8793;
John Notgrass graduated from high school at home in 1997. He now works as a partner in his family's publishing business and enjoys reading good books, making music, and maintaining an active interest in civic affairs. A featured speaker at homeschool conventions and support group meetings, and a regular columnist for Home School Digest, John lives with his parents, four sisters, brother, and grandfather in Middle Tennessee. This book was written primarily for homeschooled students, especially young men, to encourage them to live for God's glory, but it is suitable reading for all young people who want to please Christ in their lives. It would be my suggestion that parents and their teenage children sit down, read it together, and discuss the material.
Different chapters deal with making plans and preparations on how to honor parents, gain an education past high school, make a living, be different from the world in lifestyle, look for a suitable marriage partner, raise one's own children, become involved in civic affairs, and serve God as a member of Christ's body. I especially liked the chapter on "Why I Plan to Train My Children at Home." Because people have different backgrounds, everyone may not find each specific suggestion useful. However, the author himself says, "I do not expect you to do everything the same way I do, but I do expect you to think about the issues, make conscious decisions, and live them out confidently."
The passage of scripture upon which the book is based is, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; so that you may conduct yourself decently toward outsiders, and have need of nothing" (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). The book does an excellent job of providing interesting information and advice that will help young people accomplish this aim in their lives. I especially appreciate the emphasis that the author places on using the scriptures as the absolute standard upon which we must make the choices and decisions that face us in life. John identified himself as a member of the Church of Christ and says that he appreciates his "restoration heritage."
Reviewed by David Pratte
Contact information: Home School Legal Defense Association, PO Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134; Ph: (540)338-5600
"Marking the Milestones" is a brief history of the modern home-school movement, from 1983 to 1998. Since it was published by the Home School Legal Defense Association, it emphasizes the legal aspects of the movement. The problems and victories of the major court cases and legislative activity are described in some detail. But the information also serves as a useful general history of the movement.
Most home schoolers should find this very interesting reading. People who have doubts about the legality of home schooling should find the material very helpful. It would also serve as an excellent resource for term papers about home schooling. And I believe it would be very worthwhile to save the paper for the benefit of our children and future generations of home schoolers to remind them of the sacrifices and challenges of the early pioneers of the movement.
Reviewed by Lori Biesecker
Written by Steve and Teri Maxwell
Contact information: Managers of Their Homes 2416 S. 15th St. Leavenworth, KS 66048-4110 Phone: (913) 772-0392
Cost: $25 for the book; other related materials are available
The preface to Managers of Their Homes (MOTH) explains the book's conception and purpose:
There is a saying, "If Mama is happy, everybody's happy. If Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy." How often this is true! God has placed a desire in each mother's heart to have a smooth-running, peaceful household.
Through the years, I have observed many home-schooling mothers and families. The moms who seem the most content can manage their families and homes. On the other hand, some of the most unhappy mothers I have known are the ones who can never keep up with their workload. A mother who is unorganized with her time is often burdened and discouraged.
I have seen many books on organization and time management. But, I have never seen one that addresses the unique needs of scheduling that a home-school family generates or one that guides you through simple steps and worksheets to help you actually set up your own personalized schedule.
Providing such an approach to home-school time management is the purpose of MOTH. A few miscellaneous details about MOTH:
* It includes a scheduling kit which contains everything you need to custom-design a schedule to fit the needs of your family.
* The book teaches you how to design this wonderful schedule, how to fix it if it isn't so wonderful, and what to do about those inevitable interruptions.
* The book teaches Mom to develop a schedule for herself and her children - not her husband! MOTH also stresses the importance of consulting one's husband throughout the scheduling process, of putting the husband's needs first, and of the wife's submission to the husband's desires for his family.
* If you send in a registration form to the Maxwells, you receive their permission to copy all of the forms in the scheduling kit for your own personal use. Another option is to purchase additional Scheduling Kits.
* It will not teach you how to clean and organize your home - it assumes you already know how to do those things but need help with how to find the time to do it. (If you don't know how to do these things, I recommend you read Confessions of an Organized Homemaker, by Denice Schofield, Is There Life After Housework?, by Don Aslett, and Clutter's Last Stand, also by Don Aslett.) MOTH teaches you to determine exactly what activities you, your husband, and God want you to be doing each day and then helps you figure out how to fit them all in to 24 hours.
In closing, although the price seemed high to me before I decided to purchase it, the knowledge I have gained from reading and using MOTH is worth many times its cost. My household is running smoothly, I have time for personal activities I enjoy, my children are enjoying their days learning, working, and playing, and my husband is pleased. Moms, if you get this book and use what you learn from reading it, I think it will be the best gift you've given yourself in a long time.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Written by by Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Contact information: The Paradigm Co., P.O. Box 45161, Boise, ID 83711.
This book discusses how public education began, then it traces the development of John Dewey's Progressive Education and how the N.E.A. promoted it. In essence, Blumenfeld's point is that, from the first conception of public education, Humanists and socialists promoted it because they recognized it as the ideal vehicle for them to use to indoctrinate our children with their beliefs. But it took the efforts of Dewey, Progressive Education, and the N.E.A. to really give the Humanists and socialists the upper hand in the schools.
Blumenfeld documents that the N.E.A. is not just a professional organization for teachers, nor is it just a labor union. More than that, it is a major political lobby, perhaps the most influential lobby in our nation. It wields tremendous political clout, and intends to become even more powerful. Blumenfeld then documents the N.E.A.'s support of socialism and of essentially every major dogma of Humanism. He also shows that the N.E.A. is largely responsible for the current illiteracy problem in the public schools.
Clearly, this is a challenging, thought-provoking book. Readers may not always agree with Blumenfeld's conclusions. He sometimes speaks favorably of "Calvinism," though little detail is discussed. But as a source for documenting the causes behind the education dilemma, the book is excellent, and well worth reading.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Real-Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home, written by Rhonda Barfield, published in 2002 by Fireside Books, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Ave. of the Americas, New York City, NY 10020, a registered trademark of Simon and Schuster (available in or by ordering through all major booksellers).
This book is absolutely fascinating. Rhonda Barfield, of St. Charles, MO, just outside of St. Louis not far from where we live, is a veteran homeschooling mother, author of several books (Eat Well for $50 a Week, Feed Your Family for $12 a Day, and 15 Minute Cooking), and a noted homeschool speaker. Rhonda, who describes herself “as a dedicated but not fanatical homeschooler,” says, “This book is not meant to be a how-to manual, but a book of stories.” These stories chronicle the homeschooling experiences of several different kinds of families — Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and generally “liberal.” Some unschool, while others follow a traditional schedule and curriculum. They are diverse in geographical location, family life-style, philosophy and worldview, methods of teaching, and goals desired through homeschooling. Their numbers include single parent and African-American families, some with a large number of children and some with only one child, as well as those with special needs students and even special needs teachers (i.e., one homeschooling parent is blind).
The benefits of this kind of book are at least two-fold. First, it shows that, in spite of their differences and even occasional disagreements, homeschooling families from different backgrounds “share much common ground” and that, “by reading about each others’ ways of life, perhaps it will help us all to recognize that we have a great deal to discuss and learn from each other.” You will likely not agree with all the values and opinions expressed in the book, but the more we know about others, the more we can respect their freedom to choose their own path even if it is not like our own. Second, the book lets people know that if all these different families, each with its own unique situation, can homeschool, then anyone who really wants to can do so as well.
Reviewed by David Pratte
Written by Christopher Klicka
The complete title of this book is: The Right Choice: The Incredible Failure of Public Education and the Rising Hope of Home Schooling. It is written by one of the primary lawyers working for the Home School Legal Defense Association. Some supplemental chapters were written by Gregg Harris.
This is the best book I have read giving a general overview of the home-school movement. Klicka is in a unique position to observe the movement and document what it is really about. As a result, his material is an excellent introduction to the subject.
He begins with several excellent chapters documenting the problems in public education. Next he describes the advantages of home schooling, showing how it is superior to public schooling. The chapters by Harris then give guidance for beginning to home school.
Later sections show how home schooling has been attacked by the educational establishment and social workers. Then Klicka reviews the successful work done to defend our parental freedoms, summarizing the legal issues involved. Finally the book has several appendices, including lists of resources for people seeking to learn more.
I suspect some skeptics might view some comments in the book as overstatements. Nevertheless, as a lawyer, Klicka carefully documents virtually every major point. A few statements are religiously unfounded, but these concerns are minimal.
Overall I found the book to be excellent and would highly recommend it as an introduction to anyone wanting to learn about home schooling. It would be good for people considering home schooling or for friends or relatives of home schoolers who want to understand why we have chosen this approach. It also is very reassuring to those of us who are home-schooling, helping motivate us to continue.
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Contact information: PMB 168, 139 Colorado St., Muscatine, IA 52761
The complete title of this book is Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style. The authors are Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, proponents of what is commonly called a "Classical Christian Education."
There are those who advocate education based on the Renaissance classical curriculum derived from ancient Greece and Rome, which includes reading Homer, Plato, Caesar, and Virgil; studying the philosophy of Aristotle and Seneca; and learning to speak like Demosthenes and Cicero. The Bluedorns identify this as a Classical Humanist Education.
However, using a similar model, a Classical Christian School movement has arisen among those from a Reformed background, among Catholics, and within some homeschool programs. The Bluedorns define their concept of a Classical Christian education more narrowly to include that which is of good form and lasting value (classical) and which conforms to a Biblical standard within a Biblical worldview (Christian).
In 1947 Dorothy Sayers delivered an essay entitled "The Lost Tools of Learning," in which she advocated that education return to the three subjects of the formal medieval Trivium - Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. The model suggests that each child passes through these three stages of development. and the method indicates that each subject can be taught through these three stages of development.
The Bluedorns claim that this Trivium model/method is actually based on Biblical principles. "For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2:6). The grammar stage, which involves the accumulation of facts, is knowledge. The logic stage, which involves seeing the relationships between facts, is understanding. And the rhetoric stage, which involves the practical use and expression of what has been learned, is wisdom. They generally identify the stages of child development with grammar through age 12, the logic being ages 13-15, and the rhetoric being ages 16-18 (others divide it slightly differently).
The book investigates different methods and approaches to homeschooling in the light of the Trivium and makes suggestions as to various activities that can be pursued during each of the stages of child development. In addition to discussing several other issues that are of special interest to homeschoolers, the book has two appendices. One consists of a number of very interesting articles on education, and the second is a resource list for those who are interested in pursuing a classical style of homeschooling.
Here is a quote from the Bluedorns that itself is almost worth the price of the book. "Those Christians who have resisted Homeschooling look at it as a short-lived aberration in history. They smirk, and wait for homeschoolers to wake up and join the real world. They will be waiting until the end of the world. Homeschooling is an even more fundamental philosophical culture-shift than what took place when the parochial Christian school movement began in the 1960's. Homeschooling is here to stay, because it answers questions that Christians have been asking ever since God began to put the desire in the hearts of parents to pass on their faith to their children." To which I add a hearty AMEN!
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Written by R. C. Sproul, Jr.
Published in 2004 by P and R Publishing Company,
P. O. Box 817, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
Available in many conservative religious bookstores and in most homeschooling catalogues
R. C. Sproul, Jr. is a minister with the St. Peter Presbyterian Church of Bristol, TN, a homeschooling father of six children, and a regular columnist for Homeschooling Today magazine. This small but powerful book of six chapters is intended to provide a Biblical foundation for homeschooling, drawing primarily from Deuteronomy 6:1-9.
Chapter 1, entitled "The Goal of Education," explains the "why" of education generally and of homeschooling specifically. Sproul writes, "This is our goal -- raising God-glorifying children, rather than raising responsible citizens who can manage to get along with the world around them."
Chapter 2, entitled "Parents: God's Chosen Teachers," discusses the "who" of God's plan for education. The general public wonders if parents are really qualified to teach their children, and some parents even ask themselves this question. "You don't have to go to college to get a degree in education. ... If there are wee ones in your home ..., and if they belong to you, you are competent to homeschool."
Chapter 3, entitled "You Shall Speak of Them," sets forth the "how" or methodology of homeschooling. Referring to Deuteronomy 6 and the command to "talk of them," he says, "I'm hoping we'll come to understand that there is no line that separates life from school.... We talk to our children when they lie down and when they rise up, we speak to them of who God is and how he relates to his world -- that is how we develop a Christian worldview."
Chapter 4, entitled "The Three G's," talks about the "what" or content of what godly parents need to teach their children. The "three G's" that should form the basis of our curriculum are as follows: "The first G is 'Who is God?' The second G is much like the first, 'What has God done?' The third and final G is 'What does God require?' ... We don't start with the state's curriculum, and then attempt to find a Bible passage to justify each part. Rather, we start with the Bible and go from there, learning evermore of who God is, of what he has done, and of what he requires of us."
Chapter 5, entitled "Boys and Girls," points out the importance of recognizing the divinely created differences between male and female in teaching children. "We ought not to be ashamed to have a boy curriculum and a girl curriculum, because we are raising boys and girls. Or better still, we are raising men and women."
Chapter 6, entitled "Objections Answered," gives suitable responses for some of the reasons that people give why we should not homeschool or even that some parents give for not homeschooling. Regarding socialization, he writes, "But this isn't really what people mean by socialization. What they want for my daughter Darby is for her to be hip to all the things other ten-year-old girls are concerned about, like fashion labels, television shows, pop singers, and other essentials to the good life. They are concerned that my daughter is not under the sway of Madison Avenue, that she is free. But I have none of that concern. I raise my daughter, her sisters, and her brother to be free. Their identity is in Christ, not in pop culture."
As always, any book written by a human being is subject to error, and only the Bible can be recommended without reservation. Sproul readily admits that he is a Calvinist in his religious beliefs. Concepts mentioned in the book include calling preachers pastors, having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, being saved by faith alone, praying the sinner's prayer, and needing the Holy Spirit to illuminate the scriptures in our minds. However, these items are really incidental to the overall purpose of the book.
(c) This entire file is copyrighted by David E. Pratte, 2003, 2007. Please see the copyright guidelines in the Introduction above.
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