Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Follow a Daring WWII Rescue in the Christian Historical Fiction: Prisoner of War {A Whatsoever Stories / Homeschool Review Crew Review}

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

If you're looking to connect World War II history with some Christian fiction for reading aloud or independently, Whatsoever Stories is a place to look. We've recently had the opportunity to review one of their new releases, Prisoner of War by Kinsey M. Rocket, and have enjoyed it.

Prisoner of War is well done.

Prisoner of War begins with action and continues to engage throughout.

The story centers around an attempt to save over 100 unarmed men from a POW camp under German control during World War II
and moves back and forth between what is happening with the imprisoned characters and what the men of the Wings of Service - who plot to save the POW's - are doing.

Switches in location/scene are indicated by visual breaks in the text. 

(When reading aloud, I indicated the switch by saying things like, "back to the POW's", "scene change," or "back to the Wings of Service" to help my son follow along without the visual cue of the stars.)

Whatsoever Stories

The book is intended for readers 12 years old or older, but I believe can be enjoyed by families with younger children as well. It is definitely written with an aim to engage readers while honoring Christ, and, as it says in the front pages of the book and on the Whatsoever Stories website:

"The purpose behind Whatsoever Stories is to produce wholesome, God-honoring books that parents can trust to uphold biblical principles and that will give young people good things with which to feed their minds so that good things can come forth from them." 

Prisoner of War fits this mission, and, although intended for readers 12 years old or older,  could be enjoyed by families with younger children as well I believe.

My son enjoyed this Christian historical fiction book.

When I asked my son for his thoughts for this review, he said:

My mom and I have been reading Prisoner of War recently. I have found it to be an interesting historical fiction novel set during World War II. 
The book focuses on two storylines that intersect. One is about a U.S military man - Charles Brentley - who gets captured by German soldiers and is put in a prison camp, where and he and his prisonmates try to escape. The other storyline is about an air rescue squad that attempts to rescue the soldiers in the prison camp. The stories intersect with an American special agent - William Whitlock, who swaps places with an enemy soldier and becomes the inside man at the prison camp.

The book is a Christian one, so there are references to God and the Bible, and one of the rescue squad people named Zach gets converted. 

I think the book is a decent one. The plot is exciting and easy to follow along. Sometimes, I found the story a little predictable and wordy, but I enjoyed it overall.

I would recommend this book as an independent read for fifth graders on up. Families could also read it together. People who like history, aviation, World War II, and Christianity might like this book.

Learn More

Prisoner of War is a 381-page paperback that seems to have a good binding and thick pages.

Each of its three main parts has a black and white illustration on its title page.

Before the historical fiction story unfolds, there is a Historical Note.

Then, at the end of the book, there is an Afterward which is a letter from the author to the reader that speaks to the reader about the author's hope that the tale has spoken to the reader's heart and encourages the reader to embrace Christ.

There is also a brief section in the back called "Inspiration" which summarizes the true incidents and facts that inspired the author.

Finally there is a glossary and a very brief author bio which, among other things, states that the author is a homeschool graduate!

You can preview the book here.

Christian Fiction Stories

Thirty-five Homeschool Review Crew families reviewed Prisoner of War, Trial at the Ridge (mean for ages 10-14), or Farmyard Faith (meant for ages 10-adult). Be sure to click through to find links to each of the blog, social media, or video reviews.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

A Poem Worth Sharing

On this Mother's Day, when news is abuzz with reactions to how the Supreme Court may overturn Roe vs. Wade, I look at my children and wonder why anyone would reject the gift of life. 

Every life is so precious - from conception to natural death - and so many people are ready and willing to welcome babies that other families cannot care for.

Every day, I am grateful to be "tied down" as Edgar Allen Guest so poetically write about in his poem "Tied Down".

Every life is so precious - from conception to natural death - and so many people are ready and willing to welcome babies that other families cannot care for.

What particularly irks me are those that look at children as a burden.

Yes, children can be challenging, but they are also such an incredible blessing. Every day, I am grateful to be "tied down" as Edgar Allen Guest so poetically wrote about in his poem "Tied Down".|

I think the poem is definitely worth sharing:

'They tie you down,' a woman said,
Whose cheeks should have been flaming red
With shame to speak of children so.
'When babies come you cannot go
In search of pleasure with your friends,
And all your happy wandering ends.
The things you like you cannot do,
For babies make a slave of you.'

I looked at her and said: ''Tis true
That children make a slave of you,
And tie you down with many a knot,
But have you never thought to what
It is of happiness and pride
That little babies have you tied?
Do you not miss the greater joys
That come with little girls and boys?

'They tie you down to laughter rare,
To hours of smiles and hours of care,
To nights of watching and to fears;
Sometimes they tie you down to tears
And then repay you with a smile,
And make your trouble all worth while.
They tie you fast to chubby feet,
And cheeks of pink and kisses sweet.

'They fasten you with cords of love
To God divine, who reigns above.
They tie you, whereso'er you roam,
Unto the little place called home;
And over sea or railroad track
They tug at you to bring you back.
The happiest people in the town
Are those the babies have tied down.

'Oh, go your selfish way and free,
But hampered I would rather be,
Yes rather than a kingly crown
I would be, what you term, tied down;
Tied down to dancing eyes and charms,
Held fast by chubby, dimpled arms,
The fettered slave of girl and boy,
And win from them earth's finest joy.'

May the gift of motherhood - and the right to life - prevail in our country!

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Be a Reading Mother!

Image: The Fairy Tale by James Sant

What a blessing each Lord's Day is when we purposefully slow down to focus on faith, family, sometimes friends, and, frequently, taking time to refresh ourselves before another week ahead.

As my children grow, we don't spend the entire day every Sunday together, of course, but we dp aim to be together for Mass and at least a bit of family time, too. 

Sometimes, our time together includes read-togethers. For, yes, even with teens and tweens, I still try to include read alouds in our lives. In the minivan and at home, we sometimes all get read to by an audio CD. At home, I also still read aloud to my kids.

Sometimes they grumble about it. Sometimes they eagerly gather. Always I am glad for the time to share time together with books.

I pray that when my children are older, they will look back at our read-together times with thoughts much like Strickland Gillilan writes about in this poem that is in the public domain.

What a fun poem it is and what a blessing it is to be a mother who reads to her children.

The Reading Mother
by Strickland Gillilan

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings--
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a Mother who read to me.

I encourage all mamas to be reading mothers - reading adventure, reading spiritual readings, reading the Word.

God bless!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Learn about the Famous Men of Greece with Ease and Independence! {A Homeschool Review Crew / Memoria Press Review}

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

If you are looking for a well-written and designed classical history resource Famous Men of Greece by Memoria Press is worth a peek.

I had just been thinking about how I would like to refresh my 11-year-old’s history studies with something self-paced and mostly independent when an opportunity to review products by Memoria Press arose. Thus, I grabbed my son, showed him the options, and he chose the Famous Men of Greece set, a classically-based history resource designed for children in grades 5-6.

Shortly thereafter, we received our review materials - a text, a Student Guide, a Teacher Guide, and flashcards.

All three books are formatted in the same softcover size and are
designed to be open-and-go.

The textbook, written by John H. Haaren and A.B. Poland is broken into 32 chapters which introduce students to the rise, Golden Age, and fall of Greece, by beginning with discussion about Greek Gods and then carrying forth with introducing the lives and minds of thirty famous Greeks to include Aristotle, Ptolemy, Odysseus, and Alexander the Great. Written in an engaging and understandable style - with both black-and-white and full-color images throughout, the text helps student establish a grasp on the faces and places which made Ancient Greece and its impact.

Corresponding to each chapter in the text are workbook pages in the Student Guide which follow a similar pattern chapter by chapter, using the following sections:

  • Facts to Know, which names and defines essential people, places and concepts and, sometimes, lists famous quotes, too
  • Vocabulary, which presents a short list of terms that students will come across in their reading and can note the definitions of
  • Comprehension Questions, which ask for straightforward information from the chapter
  • Activities, which are primarily mapwork

Additionally, the Student Guide contains periodic review pages, which ask students to do such things as define words, name who said specific quotes, describe events, review geography, and recall important people, places, and concepts, thereby encouraging students to review and retain learning from prior chapters.

At the end of the Student Guide there are also pages for Greek Gods and Their Roman names, notable quotes, timelining, drill questions, and maps. Correcting and reviewing the Student Guide is made super simple with the Teacher Guide, which is almost identical to the student workbook, but has the answers typed in the blanks and includes the addition of seven tests, a final exam, and keys for all tests and exams.

The flashcards are well-constructed, traditional cards that can help students with memory and drill work.

How Did We Use Famous Men of Greece?

When our review copy of Famous Men of Greece set came in, I introduced it to my 11-year-old during a 1:1 on our back deck. Together, we tag-read the first chapter and worked through the first pages of the Student Guide. He told me he liked the book. Hoorah!

After that one sitting, my son began to self-pace through the material with me checking in on his progress about once a week. By the time he got to the first Review portion of the Student Guide he had tired of the workbook-style of learning so asked if we could just chat about some of the material, which we did, continuing to use the materials in this way - an easy, effective, mostly-independent approach for my son.

What Does My Son Have to Say about Famous Men of Greece?

When I asked my son for his thought to share in this review, he said:
The Famous Men of Greece is a fun-to-read, independent learning material set. The way it works is that you read a chapter or so of the book and, then, answer questions about what you read.
I like the reading part, but the workbook gets a bit old. It is a lot of writing, which gets repetitive. It does make sure you know what you're reading through. I plan to finish the book and parts of the workbook. I would recommend this to students who like Ancient History or traditional schoolwork and who are in fifth through seventh grades.
Considering my son has picked the text up since I had him give his review thoughts, I would say the materials are a success here.

Would I Recommend This Classical History Resource?

Since Memoria Press offers classical homeschooling materials, if your family follows a classical approach, the Famous Men of Greece set will fit right into your homeschool. The materials, in my opinion, would also be fully appreciated by traditionally-minded homeschoolers who benefit from straightforward, open-and-go, read-and-respond-to-prompts type materials and those who have children that want to move forward with learning independently off screens.

Here, because we tend not to have a traditional, workbook-type learning, the text and Teacher Guide (with its written answers which helped me to easily jump right into discussions/checks of my son's independent work) were our favorite parts of the set.
Overall, I have found Famous Men of Greece to be a well-organized, open-and-go set with opportunities to learn history, improve geography, understand the impact of Greek men of thought, and let students work independently. Thus, I am pleased that we have begun using it and recommend as a worthwhile resource for studying classical history.

Learn More

Classical Christian Education

Over twenty Homeschool Review Crew families reviewed
Famous Men of Greece or other Memoria Press, history, Latin, or math resources. Be sure to click on through to find blog, social media, and video reviews about each family’s experience.

Memoria Press
You might also enjoy browsing our past Memoria Press reviews.

You can also find Memoria Press on: 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Pause... and Rejoice

When my daughter and I were chatting while walking on a favorite local trail today after Mass, she asked me something about "in ten years..." 

I laughed while responding, saying that in ten years she could very well be married with children of her own.

Those words made us stop short for a moment.

What? How? I thought to myself as we continued on. What did I just say? How is it possible that my daughter is on the cusp of adulthood already? 

As every parent knows, the days may go slowly, but the years fly by, and, somehow, in the seeming blink of an eye, your baby is all grown up.

You cannot stop time from marching on.

But you can choose to pause.

So, pause I did. 

I listened to my "little" girl share all her thoughts. I stopped at a favorite part of the trail to take silly photos with her.

I rejoiced in the gift of her being my daughter and us having time to spend together.

We rejoiced in the beauty of nature, the bond of mother-and-child, the gifts of this Easter season - which, yes, we chatted about along the trail.

During quiet moments on the trail, I prayed in the quiet of my heart with true joy and thanksgiving. I also prayed, of course, for my daughter's - and my other children's - protection, continued spiritual growth, and future.

It was a simple time, but a special one that I am truly grateful for.

I encourage you this Sunday, next Sunday, or any day in between to take some time to pause with a loved one of your own and rejoice! God is good - and taking time to pause and appreciate the simple gifts He gives us in nature and in one another is good, too.


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

It amazes me how Christ shines light even in the darkest of places. 

We had a rather Lenty day of Easter Vigil here, but, by evening, were blessed with a beautiful Vigil Mass followed by Coffee and... with fellow parishioners.

We did not have a chance to take a family photo in front of the altar as we have in past years at our old parish, but we did snap one between chatting and eating.

Then, despite getting home after 1 a.m., somebunny was able to hide eggs and fill baskets.

Later,  my earliest riser helped me boil eggs, since we had not had a chance to dye any as we traditionally do on the day before Easter.

She also enjoyed opening her "bed egg" while waiting for her brothers to wake.

Meanwhile I set up our Easter breakfast table with our traditional donut tomb for the risen Jesus. 

Then, finally, the boys arose and the hunt was on!

 Post-hunt and Easter basket time, some of us walked to our local church for Easter morning Mass.

Then, we finally got to doing our Easter eggs.

I am so grateful that even at my children's ages, they will come together with me to do this!

Simple pleasures!

Then, there was cooking and preparing before the extended family festivities, which included an outside Easter egg hunt, feasting, celebrating a birthday, and belatedly celebrating a Christmas pajama stocking exchange since health issues prevented a family Christmas this year.

Truly, it was a day filled with light and love. I am so grateful. 

I pray your Easter season is beautifully blessed.

You can find our Easter archives here.

It was a ble

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Fix It! Grammar Gets the Job Done! {A Grammar-in-15-Minutes-a-Day Review}

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

If you've got a student who needs to bone up on grammar, vocabulary, and writing, but is not an English aficionado, Fix It! Grammar by the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) can help.

My eldest son is not a fan of English these days and needed as pain-free a push as possible to:

  • improve his grasp on grammar.
  • focus on expanding his vocabulary.
  • and encourage him to write legibly and well by hand.

So, when I saw an opportunity for us to review the latest edition of IEW's Fix It! Grammar, Level 5, The Frog Prince, I jumped at the chance.

In the past, an older version of Fix It! Grammar's, Robin Hood had been working well for my son until he lost his copy of the student book, got out of the habit of using the program, and threw his focus into other studies and projects. So, I knew the format of the fourth edition Fix It! Grammar books could work for us if I could just get my son to buy in to putting effort in.

Praise God! I gave enough of a carrot for my son to try The Frog Prince (telling him he could be done with grammar if he finished the book) and the ease and efficiency of the Fix It! Grammar program has been doing the rest.

This Grammar Curriculum Works for My Son!

Here is what my son had to candidly say about his experience with The Frog Prince  so far:

All high schoolers have that one subject they struggle with. For me that is English. I have tried multiple different approaches to studying the subject, few of which have been effective long-term for me. 
When my mother saw the review for IEW’s Fix It! Grammar, The Frog Prince, she decided to accept it. I had no say in the matter, which was probably for the best since I do not like English these days. 
As my mother handed me The Frog Prince, she told me to do it, and I would be done with grammar for high school. So, after some short-lived obstinance, I gave in and started working through the book. 
Even though I was not enthusiastic about working on English, I soon grew to appreciate how little effort I had to put in while still getting effective results. With just about 15 minutes a day, I was improving enough to get my mother off my back about how bad my English skills were, which was a sweet relief. In fact, I would even spend longer on some days just to get ahead. 
It has worked beautifully since Fix It! allows for self-pacing. All I had to do was complete editing a section on my own.


Then, during a 1:1 lesson, my mother would go through and check it. After that, I would copy the piece with correct spelling, grammar, and such. 


I have also learned some interesting vocabulary while using the book, which is a nice thing to be able to flex on my friends. 
Overall, I would say Fix It! Grammar has allowed me to do what I like to do: control my lessons and pace myself. It is easy to use and works well. I would definitely recommend it. 
My only complaint is that the version of The Frog Prince used is not the original, but one obviously adapted for this curriculum. You can not win them all I guess. 
Anyhow, that's all I have for today. Until the next time my mother decides to make me write a review...

As you can see, even though my son is not an English nor a review-writing enthusiast, he can see the merit of IEW's Fix It! Grammar, Level 5, The Frog Prince. What a victory!

Fix It! Grammar's 4th Edition Makes Language Arts Even Easier than Earlier Editions Did!

I like the fourth edition of Fix It! Grammar even more than I liked earlier editions of the program. The new editions have larger fonts, more white space, and more examples on the Learn It pages than prior editions Student Book pages did, which is something I always look for since my second child benefits from white space and larger fonts!

Each "day" of the lessons also has its own page now with a handy checklist at the top, a large-font passage to edit, and lines for rewriting the passage right on the page. This makes the proven method of Fix It! Grammar even more user-friendly for students. (Prior editions, as you can see in the side-by-side picture below, had passages for each day of a lesson week on the same page.)

There are also some fabulously user-friendly features in the new 205-page, lay-flat, spiral bound, softcover 
Student Book design which make it even better:

  • an instruction page.
  • a clear scope and sequence that shows which weeks introduce and reinforce specific concepts
  • a vocabulary chart.
  • a table of contents.
  • teaching pages.
  • pages where students read, maker, fix, and rewrite passages.
  • an appendix with the complete story.
  • appendix pages where students can collect lists of strong verbs, quality adjectives, and -ly adverbs.
  • appendix pages to help identify and review pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, clauses, phrases, and sentence openers.

I liked
 Fix It! Grammar student books before, but now am even more impressed by them!

The 4th edition Teacher Manual is also well-designed. It corresponds page-by-page, lesson-by-lessons with the Student Book and includes everything a parent - or self-correcting student - needs to correct each lesson quickly.  It also includes information for downloading other free resources and contains a full Glossary. So, wh
ether you are an English lover or not, you can easily use the Teacher Manual with success.

In addition, you can get thirty full-color, laminated, Fix It! Grammar Cards, which we also received. These support the Student Book by highlighting key concepts and can be used by students who like flashcards for quick reference, memory, and games. A digital list of games and activities for the cards can be accessed online. 

My son chose not to use the cards, but I have looked them over and plan to use them with my middle child when she is ready for them since she tends to like flashcards and games. They will be a handy, fun tool to use with her.

What I Appreciate about Home Learning with IEW's Fix It! Grammar

IEW's Fix It! Grammar, Level 5, The Frog Prince is a clear win in my home! My son appreciates that it is self-paced, easy, effective, and - as he so bluntly put it - gets me off his back. 

I like that, as Fix It! Grammar always has, the fourth edition works as an off-screen, open-and-go, full-year grammar curriculum that can be done in about 1/4 of an hour a day. I also love the new design of the curriculum which makes it even more user-friendly than prior editions. 

IEW has most certainly taken a good thing - its 
FIX IT! Grammar curriculum - and made it even better with its 4th edition. Whether students re just starting out with grammar or are at higher level, I recommend Fix It! Grammar. With six levels of user-friendly options this homeschool curriculum can help students at varying levels to learn grammar in context, improve editing skills, and transfer grammar and vocabulary concepts to improve writing.

Learn More

You can find our past IEW reviews by browsing here

Also, be sure to click over to the Homeschool Review Crew to find links to current blog, video, and social media reviews from families that have recently been using Levels 1-5 of the six-level Fix It! Grammar program.

You might also want to connect with the 
Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) on social media.


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