Category: What I’m Reading

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Progeny Press Study Guide Reviews

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

The world we live in is so muddled. I cannot imagine being a teen or tween right now. Maybe every parent feels that way about the younger generation. It is a constant struggle to find solid, engaging literature for my kids. My thirteen year old daughter loves graphic novels and manga style art. She is constantly coming up against politcal agendas and themes that are counter to the Christian faith. Teaching her to discern is a daily lesson. I am always reading reviews, talking to friends, and trying to figure out what is healthy and what isn’t. It is exhausting! I love when I find a company that takes the guess work out of the equation. A company with a Christian worldview that helps kids see literature through a Biblical lens. Progeny Press is one such company. We were given the opportunity to review In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Study Guide for Grades 4-6 and Animal Farm Study Guide for Grades 9-12.

About In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson:

In the year 1947, Shirley Temple Wong and her mother receive a letter from her father. He asks them to come and join him in New York City where he has been working and preparing a home for them. New York is a long way from Chungking, China, but Shirley is excited that her family will be together again at last. Shirley has difficulty adjusting to life in a new country, with its new customs and languages. But then summer comes, bringing the miracle of baseball. Suddenly Shirley is playing stickball and following superstar Jackie Robinson as he leads the Brooklyn Dodgers to victory after victory. Jackie Robinson proves that in America, the grandson of a slave can make a difference and be a hero! And for Shirley as well, the land of America becomes the land of opportunity.

In times of chaos and upheaval, finding a book with relateable characters and stories of overcoming difficulties is great. Not every kid goes through heartbreak, disease, or suffering… but many kids will move at some point in their childhood. This is a relateable concept for sure.

I have always enjoyed using unit studies with my children. In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Study Guide from Progeny Press is an excellent unit study on the book. Before you even begin to read, there are activities to do that include Geography (learning about China on the map) and Social Studies (learning about world religions such as Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism).

The study guide goes chapter by chapter. Each section includes vocabulary, reading comprehension questions, and questions to dig deeper. This is all presented through the lens of Scripture.

We were given the eGuide to review. I am coming around on using eBooks and eGuides. This was easy to download and follow. I can print what I need and print multiple copies when needed. I keep all of my eLearning materials on a thumb drive. The files are divided into folders and easy to find.

The activities in In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Study Guide are fun and engaging. To be 100 % honest, with summer time, we have slowed down considerably on all things school and really haven’t given this study guide the attention it deserves. I am, however, really looking forward to doing the “A Year in Your Life” activity as suggested in the “After You Read Activities.”

About Animal Farm:

“A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. The stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned – a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible!”

Can we just talk about for a minute how perfect Animal Farm is for the time we are living in?!?! I have seen more quotes from Orwell’s Animal Farm floating around social media in the last six months that ever before. I am a sucker for a good dystopian novel. Most days, it feels like we are living in a dystopian novel!

My son also enjoys this genre and he is the one I had in mind when given the Animal Farm study guide to review. He is fifteen and heading into tenth grade. He needs to learn to think critically and examine the literature he is reading. We talk all the time about caring about what he is feeding his brain. This kid has been reading on a college level since he was about seven years old. Finding appropriate literature that is engaging to him has been a challenge, to say the least. I really appreciate how Progeny Press explores secular literature through a Christian perspective.

As with In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, the Animal Farm Study Guide begins with background information specifically about types of economic systems (Capitalism, Communism, and Socialism) as well as types of government (Monarchy, Democracy, Totalitarian, and Republic). Pre-reading activities are suggested as well. Students are instructed to read the book in its entirety before beginning the chapter by chapter study guide. While this may seem redundant to a high school student, I like the idea of reading it first and then breaking it down.

The study guide is designed to be completely independently (yay!). The PDF worksheets are designed to either be printed or filled in on the computer. If you have a more verbal processing or less independant worker, you could definitely go through the study guide together and use it as a great springboard for discussion. If your student completes a section per day, the study guide is designed to be completed in eight weeks. The work is manageable and includes things like Vocabulary, Analogous Events and Characters, General Questions, Analysis Questions, And Digging Deeper. If your child is anything like mine, they will skip all things “optional.” But I would encourage you to have them slow down and take a look at the great “optional” activities provided throughout the Animal Farm Study Guide.

I am seriously considering investing in a few more (maybe 4 total) study guides from Progeny Press and building my son’s tenth grade English credit from them. We could do a whole year of Dystopian Novels- Animal Farm, Hunger Games, Farenheit 451, and Lord of the Flies. I think the guides are well thought out and challenging.

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The Easter Storybook- A Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Every year at Christmas, we make a big deal of celebrating for the whole month. We build the anticipation through celebrating the season of Advent. It is a special time and we have a beautiful book that we use every year to prepare us for the birth of Christ. Every year, I think… why don’t we do this more often? What stops us from gathering and reading in anticipation all the time? I was excited to receive The Easter Story Book by Laura Richie. I have been so pleased with products from David C Cook and The Easter Storybook is no exception. It is a collection of forty Bible stories about Jesus, from his time as a boy in the Temple to His ascension to Heaven after His resurrection.

The illustrations in The Easter Storybook are stunning. Each two page layout features the reading for the day, the verses that accompany the reading, thought provoking questions, and a full page color illustration.

The stories are connected by the common thread of Jesus the Rescuer. There is a truth that we are not good enough and no matter how many good things we do, sin still taints and separates us from God. Jesus knows we can never be good enough on our own and that’s why He came! Jesus is the only one who can rescue us from our brokeness and sin. His life and work on the cross restores us and brings us into the eternal relationship with the Father we are destined for.

The East Storybook breaks down big truths into understandable pieces. It is not cheesey or incomplete like so many children’s Bibles tend to be. The writing is beautiful and thought provoking. I really like the questions at the end of each reading that provide a call to action… a way to respond to the reading.

I just checked Amazon and it looks like The Easter Storybook is in stock and available for Prime Shipping. If you do Easter baskets, this book would be a great addition.

The easy to follow format allows for daily readings. You could incorporate it into your morning routine, read at the breakfast table, gather the children for read aloud time when the rhythm of your day slows a bit in the afternoon, or maybe gather around before bed and read together. If you have older children in the home, you could have them take turns reading to the younger ones (this is my preferred way to use the book as it gets my big kids in on the time).

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What I’m Reading- Venturing With God In Congo

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

To spend much time with me at all will likely result in a conversation involving foreign missions. I have warned many friends not to get too close… There is a pattern in my life that involves sending close friends off to the mission field. This pattern has been in place for almost twenty years. You have been warned. My ears perk and my heart sings with the mention of missions. So, of course, when given an opportunity to review a book filled with the adventures of missions in deepest, darkest Africa, I jumped at the chance. And thus I read, Venturing With God in Congo by Darrell Champlin and punlished by Conjurske Publications.

I received a hard copy of the book. The binding is sturdy (a plus for our rough living… seriously… we break stuff all the time). The book includes some great extras including a pronouciation guide and map of the Congo. Venturing with God In Congo is a collection of stories from the 1950s and 1960s, written by Darrell Champlin. He has since passed away, but his writing lives on in this compilation. The stories share life lived over ten years in the Congo. Stories cover adventures in preaching, individual conversations, adventures in everyday life, hunting, surviving… living life on the mission field.

Story telling is God’s gift to us. When we open ourselves up to story, we see the Gospel played out in front of our very eyes. It is in the stories of our lives that we see the power of the resurrection. We see death, resurrection, beauty over and over. We could hand someone a Bible and say, “Here… the answers you are looking for are here.”… and that could be sufficient. God doesn’t need us, but he chooses to bring us into his work. He gives us a story that he is writing. When we share those stories, we share the Lord.

These are the thoughts I had as I was reading Venturing with God in Congo. The book is filled with story after story of adventure, heartbreak, fear, entering the unknown, leaving beding comfort, hunting rogue elephants, waking to leopard foot prints, and more. The book is a “riveting memoire of Darrell Champlin’s missionary exploits in the Congo jungles during the 1950s and 60s.”

I really like how the book chapters are different stories. Each chapter is like a complete journal entry. This would make a great read aloud around the breakfast table or maybe in the evening when everyone is home and things are settling down for the night. You could read one story a day or a week.

I read this book on my own for the purposes of this review, but intend to read as a read aloud with my kids (ages 8, 10, 13, and 15).

Other possibilities for using this book in your homeschool could be as the basis for a unit study. You could do a study on the congo, or the Belgian Colonial perion, or the animals of the Congo (there are tons of amazing stories of animal encounters throughout the book), or the history of Christian Missions. There are many directions you could go.

In a time when fear is so prevelant, it is refreshing and needed to be reminded of God’s faithfulness and provision. We see over and over through Venturing with God in Congo where God shows up in impossible situations. He provides financially. He provides friendship. He provides protection… protection even from angry hippos who disrupt a canoe trip down the river.

Books are an amazing way to give your child a cross-cultural experience without leaving the comfort of your home. I highly, highly recommend exposing your child first hand to missions… we are hoping to take our kids on a family mission trip this summer if the Corona virus doesn’t shut down the world. If, though, if you cannot physically go right now… at least give them the gift of stories from those who have gone.

I also love how missions and Venturing with God in Congo blows our view of God out of the water. We are often so self centered with our view of God, thinking we have the corner market on his character and image. The missionaries in this book went into the uncivilized world, armed with the gospel, not knowing what to expect from the people they met who were steeped in witchcraft and other practices. They began with the question, “Do you know God?” and were amazed to find that, many time, the people did! They knew of a creator God and the missionaries were able to bring the piece of the story starring Jesus Christ, the son of God. God had already laid the groundwork. He invited the missionaries into what he was already doing.

Want to be challenged? Want to know what God is up to around the world? Want to take a trip with your children to another country? Grab Venturing with God in Congo from Conjurske Publications and start reading.

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What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading- Fahrenheit 451

Most of the books I read in highschool have left a seared distaste in my memory… simply because it was part of school. I just had a long, long… very long discussion with my oldest to not discredit the value of something simply because it falls under the banner of “school.” As I was talking to him, I said that a conversation like this would have been lost on fourteen year old me. School was not a good experience for me. I skirted through. I reached out in middle school and asked for help, for tutoring… anything… but was told I just wasn’t applying myself. That if I would just work harder, I would be fine.

All that to say, Fahrenheit 451 is one of the only books I read in highschool that does not cause a cringe like response in my brain. I often feel like a homeschool mom failure because I really couldn’t care less about Pride and Prejudice and several others that seem to be like a rite of passage in our circles.

I have fond memories of Fahrenheit 451 and I really enjoy the dystopian genre, so I thought I would give it a revisit. I downloaded the audio book from Hoopla when we were heading out on a recent roadtrip.

The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy, and there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society and read books.

The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s ensalvement by media, drugs, and conformity.

Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a voel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock.

-back cover

Written in the 1950s, Bradbury’s book eerily captures today’s technological climate. The den in the Montag’s house is described as having walls that are entirely made of a screen… as if Montag’s wife is in the show she is watching… as if the show cannot go on without her. Technology is life and the only source of information. The people are fed all of their information through the screen. There is no fact checking or authenticity.. whatever “they” want you to know is what comes across. Sound familiar???

Montag is supposed to be a compliant fireman who burns books without question. There is a system… a routine. For a while, he finds comfort in the routine. He likes the predictability. Eventually though, he begins to wonder what it is about books that cause people to hold so tightly… to risk everything by having them in their home. The book follows his journey from unquestion complaince to someone willing to risk his career, his marriage, his house, and eventually his life for the sake of books. It is a compelling story.

The underlying message is not one of censorship destroying our ability to think and question, but rather technology. Remember, Bradbury wrote this long before computers, smart phones, internet, etc. He wrote this in a time when television was on the rise. Propaganda was playing a role in setting the thoughts on the world climate. Bradbury’s book leads us to believe that television destroys interest in reading literature.

I have read so many articles about the decline of attention span or desire of knowledge because of the fast paced technology of our society. I’ve read that critical reading skills are just not a thing amongst the younger generations (including mine). There is a call to push the reading endurance of our students. Just as one would train for a marathon… setting measurable goals and building endurance. We are so use to quick sound bites of information. Our society is becoming a visually wired people… needing images, memes, pinterest boards… quick and appealing to our ADHD senses. I don’t think Ray Bradbury was terribly off in his futuristic novel.

I highly recommend Fahrenheit 451. Guy Montag meets people that cause him to stop and think. Why would people live in a home with no screens? What is it like to just sit with people and have lively conversation? What could it mean to think for yourself and not just take what is fed through the screens? What is it about books that would cause someone to give their life for them?

“It’s not the books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books”

I recommed this cautionary tale for high school and up. There are some curse words scattered throughout. I do think it takes the ability to think abstractly to grasp the message of the book. It is filled with action, science fiction, dystopian language… as well as a strong message to remain steadfast in the ability to think for yourself and be aware of the infuence of culture and those from whom we receive information.

First published in October 1953. 227 Pages.

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What I'm Reading

What I am Reading- Death on the Nile

We took a long car trip back in July. It was our bi-annual trip to St. Jude for my daughter’s scans and appointments. She underwent treatment for a malignant brain tumor almost four years ago. We are on a schedule of going to St. Jude every six months to make sure she is still cancer free and see how she is dealing with the side effects of treatment.

Sometimes she and I fly out for the appointments, but usually in the summer, we opt to drive so other family members can go with us. This time, we decided to bring the whole family and make a trip out of it. We started with a visit to my brother’s farm in North Georgia where we got to celebrate my mom’s birthday and spend time with cousins. This was a four hour drive from our house. When we left the farm, we had a six hour trip to St. Jude in Memphis.

Everyone prepares for car trips in our family by loading up their tablets with games, books, videos, etc. I am typically the designated driver because it is the only way I can avoid car sickness. I generally do not like audio books because I have ADD and cannot always focus long enough to keep up with the story. However, listening to audio books while I am driving is a whole different story… get it… story ??? *crickets*

I loaded my phone with a couple of books I downloaded via Hoopla. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie was one of them.

The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful; a girl who had everything- until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: “I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.” Yet in this exotic setting, nothing is ever quite what it seems…

Book Description

This is my second Agatha Christie book and certainly will not be my last. Christie’s books are timeless. Set in 1937 when Cairo is still considered a jewel of a city. This mystery features a young heiress, multiple motives for murder, and criminals traveling under assumed names.

The famous detective, Hercule Poirot happens to be enjoying a holiday on a cruise on the Nile. His companion, Colonel Race, is also on the cruise because of a tip that a seriel killer is also vacationing there under an assumed name. All is going smoothly until one night when Linnet Ridgeway is murdered in her cruise cabin. Colonel Race entrusts Poirot in bringing the murderers to justice.

As with Murder on the Orient Express, it seems everyone we meet in the story has a motive. We have a ridiculously rich young American girl with her newly aquired husband, her friends, and her business advisors as well as a British mother and son, an aging spinster with her nurse and neice, and many more characters including the famous Hercule Poirot. Filled with plot twists and plenty of red herrings, this story proves to be a puzzle until the end. Once the end comes and the killer is revealed, you realized that the clues were there all along and feel a little upset that you didn’t figure it out first!

I enjoyed listening to this book and trying to solve the crime alongside Poirot. Death on the Nile is a quicker read (or listen) than Murder on the Orient Express. It has all the ingredients to make a fantastic story. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, upper middle school and older.

There are a few outdated terms that, by today’s standards, would be considered racist or offensive. But you have to remember that this book was written in the 1930s. These terms are not distracting in any way to the plot. The descriptions of murder are also not the focus. There is no gore or over the top depictions. Murder is not idealized. The focus is on solving the puzzle.

First published in November 1937.

And! The language is clean, which is a huge win in my book!