Friday, March 27, 2020

Y is for Yancey (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

text: Blogging Through the Alphabet: Y is for Yancey; logos from A Mom's Quest to Teach and Blogging Through the Alphabet; image for US Capitol

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William Lowndes Yancey was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (representing Alabama) from 1844-1846 and would become a Confederate State Senator from Alabama during the American Civil War. He was born on a plantation in Georgia in 1814 and his father died three years later. His mother would remarry and his step-father, Reverend Nathan Sydney Smith Beman, was a supporter of abolitionism and had made the acquaintance of several prominent abolitionists (Lyman Beecher and Theodore Dwight Ward). Yancey would eventually reject the ideas of his stepfather and support secession and the idea of keeping slavery in the South. 

Yancey held many titles during his short life (he died when he was 48 years old) such as journalist, planter, orator, politician, diplomat, and secessionist. He was a member of the fire-eaters who were a group of pro-Slavery Southern Democrats who urged secession. They wanted to preserve the South even if it meant changing things politically in the United States. Fire-eaters spoke about whether or not remaining in the Union was a benefit to them (and their states) or not.

image of Yancey from Library of Congress

A Controversial Figure 

Yancey was involved in lots of tension-filled moments such as Bleeding Kansas. Yancey supported a  group that wanted to send men, or committees of public safety, to Kansas to fight for the Southern interests in that territory.  He also praised the man, Preston Brooks, who attacked Charles Sumner in the United States Senate.  Yancey was not one to sit on the sidelines. He even went so far as to suggest that they should be allowed to continue buying slaves from Africa. 

Yancey was ill off and on was not always to be actively involved in politics but he still did contribute articles to such conventions as the Southern Commercial Convention in Vicksburg in 1859. He then dramatically entered the scene with the Democratic convention in Charleston in April 1860. A proposal, by Yancey, to support slavery in the territories was voted down, it led to the walking out of delegates from six states and several delegates from two other states or 50 delegates in total. This split the Democratic Party. Eventually, they would nominate John C. Breckenridge and Yancey would go on tour speaking in his favor.

During the American Civil War 

Text: Blogging Through the Alphabet: Y is for Yancey - "Perhaps even now, the pen of the historian is nibbed to write the story of a new revolution." A Mom's Quest to Teach Logo; image of map during civil warOne of Yancey's positions during the Civil War was as a diplomat for the Confederacy. He was sent, as part of a three-man commission, to Europe to seek recognition of the Confederacy by such nations as Great Britain. Yancey would only be part of the overseas diplomacy from May to September 1861 as he would resign. 

While serving in the Confederate Senate, things became heated and Yancey was attacked by Benjamin Hill of Georgia. The argument was over the creation of the Confederate States Supreme Court and Hill hit Yancey on the head with a glass inkstand. Yancey fell over the desk and was eventually censured by the Senate (even though he was not the aggressor).

Yancey returned to Alabama, in part due to the injury on the floor of the Confederate Senate, but continued to correspond with President Davis and others in the Confederate government. He died shortly after he returned home on July 27, 1863.  Even though he is not a very well known figure in the American Civil War, he was, as an accomplished public speaker, influential during the time. 

Image of Yancey from the Library of Congress (Hon. William L. Yancey. , 1860. Photograph.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Learning about Elections with Home School in the Woods

logos from A Mom's Quest to Teach and Home School in the Woods; U.S. Elections Lap-Pak cover; text: Learning about Elections from Home School in the Woods

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.

History really comes to life when you have access to great materials like those produced by Home School in the Woods. Our family has had the opportunity to use and review a variety of resources from Home School in the Woods including a Project Passport World History Study, a lap-pak for elementary students, and other homeschooling resources. When the opportunity arose to review another product, we chose to review the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak. With this being an election year, and our teen son studying American government, I knew that this would be a great asset for our homeschool. The entire election process may seem like a normal part of our adult life and – as Home School in the Wood shares on their blog – we learn about these electoral processes as we grow up in a republic.

Home School in the Woods is run by the Pak family who give the glory of their business to God. They started with realistic timeline figures in 2002 and continue to add to their collection of homeschooling materials. So whether you prefer to take a Charlotte Mason approach to your homeschool or you are looking to teach children with different learning styles, Home School in the Woods offers many excellent resources from their blog to their many resources that you can use in your homeschool.

Home School in the Woods U.S. Elections Lap-Pak cover

What Do You Get?

With the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak you decide upon one of three license types and between a digital download or CD. We received the digital download for our review for use with our homeschooling family. There are 21 lap booking projects in total to teach your children about elections and the election process. Activities include those that promote creative writing, coloring and drawing, research, reading and comprehension, and more skills. (You will need to print everything yourself – see my advice below.)

For each activity, you can use the Project Directions to help you figure out just what pages to print and on what kind of paper (there are instances where they recommend printing the pages on cardstock or different colored paper). Let's take a look at activity number 8: A "Handful" of Political Parties as you complete this in your homeschool. From the Project Directions (as you can see below), you will need to print two pages and gather together scissors and a glue stick or double-sided sticky tape (I prefer to use the double-sided tape for some projects but I have found the glue stick works well for most of the activities). The instructions are quite detailed and explain what to cut out and attach so you can finish your project.

screenshot of directions to make A "Handful" of Political Parties lap-pak activity

You can also find out where you can listen to the reading from the text for information about the political parties precisely in the audio file. These links are available from the Start Here file that you download. You click on Political Parties-1 (base) and Political Parties-2 (text) to find the necessary downloads and you can even view a photo of a completed project.

screenshot from instructions page of U.S. Elections Lap-Pak

A "Handful" of Political Parties Lap-Pak activity in various stages of completion
Our son's project as we worked on it.

A "Handful" of Political Parties completed project sample
The sample from the instructions. 

How Did We Use the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak in Our Homeschool?

We used the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak primarily with our first-grader (please keep in mind the activities are designed for grades 3-8). I printed out the reading text as a 24-page booklet which we read through as well as used the audio that accompanied our digital download. It was very nice to have the audio play so I did not have read the entire booklet aloud to our son myself. We followed the activities mostly as they were laid out in the instructions prior to my picking and choosing ones to complete this past week. We still have a few projects left as well as the putting together of the entire lap book itself.

During the past few weeks, we learned about the different forms of government (our son really liked the second activity and proudly walked around explaining the governments and definitions), how other nations impacted the type of government the United States has, and how long the president, vice president, and others serve in office. Each of these topics were examined through the booklet we created as well as the different activities that will be included in our Election lapbook.

several completed projects from U.S. Elections Lap-Pak including definitions of different forms of government and a piggy bank that shows how campaign money is raised

What Did We Think? 

text: Learning about Elections with Home School in the Woods; Go on a hands-on adventure in history while studying about U.S. Elections; U.S. Elections Lap-Pak logo; A Mom's Quest to Teach Logo; Raising Money projectThe U.S. Elections Lap-Pak fit perfectly into our homeschooling day. It was quite easy to sit down and read the booklet or listen to the audio to learn about the elections in the United States. Depending upon how much work each activity required and how long our son decided to take coloring, the various parts took from as short as 15 minutes to as long as 45 minutes to finish. I felt that the time it took to work on the Lap-Pak was just right.

I really appreciate the way in which Home School in the Woods organizes everything. Now that I have a bit more experience with the materials, I can quickly get everything together for our son to complete during his homeschooling lessons. It does take a bit of time to print everything but that is mostly because you want to make sure you print out the correct pieces on the correct paper.

I was very impressed with the presentation and variety of information in the Lap-Pak. The booklet was easy to read and understand. For the ideas that our first-grader had trouble grasping, I was able to explain things in more detail using the hands-on activities and a bit of my own research. I like that this was something that could be a stand-alone unit or it could be incorporated into one's government course.

Some of our first-grader's favorite activities included those projects that you could move – like the Raising Money project and the Who Do We Vote For? project. He preferred those with moving parts. He also enjoyed creating the Terms of Office mini-book because he really enjoys making little books about different subjects. When asked to tell me one of the most important things he learned, he referenced The American Experiment project: The United States government is based upon Greek Democracy, the English Protection of Rights, and the Roman Respect of Law.

Text: I really like how this project visually explains the three branches of the government; image of The Three Branches project

I would highly recommend the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak to families looking to learn more about the election process. This is a valuable resource for any year but especially for a presidential election year! 

Advice to First-Time Users

Now that I have used Home School in the Woods for a couple of years, I am no longer as intimidated as I was when I first had to print out all the materials. As these are digital products, you will need to print and prepare the items on your own (or with the help of your children). At first, it may seem daunting but the instructions are clear and if you make a mistake (like I have), you can always print the page or pages again! And – when you are done – your project may look like the sample below.

finished project of U.S. Elections Lap-Pak from Home School in the Woods
When we are all done, our project will resemble this finished sample project.

Do You Want to Learn More?

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There are so many excellent products from Home School in the Woods. We reviewed the Renaissance & Reformation Project Passport World History Studies and the Knights K-2 Lap-Pak. Please be sure to see what the rest of the Homeschool Review Crew used in their homeschool.

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Studying One Hero at a Time: Christian Heroes: Then & Now, C.S. Lewis Review

Text: Studying One Hero at a Time: Christian Heroes: Then & Now Review; photo of C.S. Lewis; C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller book cover; YWAM Publishing logo & A Mom's Quest to Teach Logo

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.

History can be taught in a great number of ways and I love using the books from YWAM Publishing to learn more about individuals from various periods of history. From reading about Christian missionaries like Elisabeth Eliot or early leaders of America like William Penn, YWAM Publishing offers two lines of great books for your homeschool: Christian Heroes: Then & Now and Heroes of History. As we have reviewed two books from the Heroes of History line, I chose to review C. S. Lewis: Master Storyteller by Janet and Geoff Benge this time in our homeschool from the Christian Heroes: Then & Now line of books. And we were also lucky enough to receive digital access to the unit study based on our book.

Our teenage son has been reading works by J.R.R. Tolkien for his language arts course so I thought that reading a biography about C.S. Lewis would fit in nicely with our homeschooling plan for this year as the two men had been friends. And even though he is at the high end of the target range of the books (they are written for 10 and up), I knew he would enjoy reading this biography as he really liked the ones he read previously. And we were able to use a bit more of the work from the unit study this year than we have in past years. 

C. S. Lewis Master Storyteller Book cover

About the Book - C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller

The Lewis book is different from the others in the series as they are normally written from the subject's perspective. This book is written with an omniscient narrator which does make it easier to tell the story of C.S. Lewis.

The story follows the life of C.S. Lewis – called Jack at his insistence since he was two years old – providing a peek into his early childhood (playing with his brother in their attic and creating imaginary kingdoms), his service during World War I and friendship with Paddy Moore (which led to his promise to take care of Paddy's sister and mother if anything happened to Paddy), his return to the Christian faith (aided by his friends and fellow authors), the writing process for many of his books, his relationship with Joy Gresham, and more details are provided about his life in this paperback volume.

About the Unit Study

If you have never used a Unit Study from YWAM Publishing to go along with either their Christian Heroes: Then & Now series or their Heroes of History series, you will probably find the instructions for using the unit study either in the classroom & home or in small groups very helpful. These digital guides give you an overview of the series and how to use them in different settings. From tips and tricks on working students of varying ability levels to how to accomplish the activities in the small group if you don't plan on giving homework, these two guides will help you get started.

C. S. Lewis Master Storyteller Unit Study intro screen capture

The Unit Study is broken into two parts: Part One is the main curriculum guide and Part Two contains a fact sheet and maps for your child or student to fill out. You can use both parts in their entirety or bits and pieces, which makes this a very flexible curriculum.

contents page of C. S. Lewis Master Storyteller Unit Study

During the review period, we primarily used the chapter questions with the book as our son has been completing a lot of work for his other courses. The chapter questions contain a vocabulary question, factual questions, comprehension questions, and open-ended questions looking for the students' opinion or interpretation.

Chapter Questions from Master Storyteller Unit Study

We did gather together all the copies of C.S. Lewis that we had in the house as suggested in the chapter entitled Display Corner. It is also suggested to gather some of the books that Jack may have read as a child, images of some of the events described in the books (such as photos of London during the blackouts during World War II), and examples of Greek and Latin writing.

The book would fit nicely into both a literature and a history course where children could explore the works mentioned in the book and the topics mentioned in the Unit Study. If you were studying geography you could use the pages which discuss places and some of the activities suggested (one being calculating the location of the places in the book to each other). There is also a list of vocabulary which would be useful for middle school students to study.

I think this is a perfect Unit Study to use while studying about World War I and World War II. One of the project suggestions is to make a diorama of a trench like Lewis might have fought in during WWI. You can also recreate the radio broadcasts that Lewis gave during WWII.

What Did We Think?

Text: Studying One Hero at a Time: Christian Heroes: Then & Now; "From his earliest childhood, C.S. Lewis loved to hear and tell stories." C. S. Lewis book cover; pen and paper clipart from; A Mom's Quest to Teach logoBoth my husband and I read Master Storyteller prior to handing it off to our son to read for his English course. Our son will be finishing the book this week as part of his homeschooling studies.

I have had little interaction with C.S. Lewis prior to reading this biography. I have watched movie versions of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and a biopic of his life from the 1990s. So, most of the information in Master Storyteller was brand new to me. As I was reading the book, I wanted to learn more and more about the life of Lewis. With the mention of each book that influenced Lewis or that he or his friends' wrote, I wanted to add them to my to-read list. I am now interested in reading Spirits of Bondage, The Everlasting Man, The Pilgrim's Regress, The Problem of Pain, and The Screwtape Letters to name a few. Personally, I think that is a sign of a quality book – one that encourages the reader to read more about the subject or by the subject. I also found myself wanting to know more about Lewis' relationship with Janice Moore. Just why was he so willing to take care of her even to the detriment of his own health and work?

My husband says C.S. Lewis is most probably his favorite author. Both Lewis' fiction and non-fiction have inspired my husband in his spiritual walk. The Screwtape Letters was his first read of Lewis' works. A Grief Observed assisted my husband in his grieving when his first wife died. He has enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia in its 1979 BBC movie format since he was a kid (before reading the series entirely in his 30s) and finished the "Space Trilogy" just this year. Lewis' apologetics have bolstered his faith since he first read Mere Christianity in the 1990s. He said reading this biography was a thrill because he felt he really got to know Jack as a person after knowing him so long via his writing. He gave the book a 5-star rating on, read That Hideous Strength right after Master Storyteller, and now wants to read The Most Reluctant Convert – another C.S. Lewis biography. Though written for a younger readership, my husband says this biography would meet Lewis' standards, as Lewis once wrote (in his essay, On Three Ways of Writing for Children), "...A children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story."

Our son's thoughts: "I enjoyed the book a lot. I had previously read the book on Ronald Reagan as part of the Heroes of History series, which is also written by Janet and Geoff Benge. The way they tell the stories is helpful to understand the background behind some major historical figures, like C.S. Lewis. This book gave me an in-depth look at his whole life and its most important moments. I would probably recommend this to someone between the ages of 10-13, as it is easy for me to read."

"More than anything Jack tried to write so that anyone could understand what he wrote" – much like these books from YWAM Publishing. The books are written so that anyone can enjoy them and learn more about the men and women who are Christian Heroes and Heroes from History. In addition to reading excellent books, a portion of every sale goes towards mission programs in over 140 countries to help children and adults spread God's word.

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There were many families who had the chance to read books from YWAM Publishing and use the unit studies in their homeschool. Please be sure to read their reviews, too! 

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Friday, March 20, 2020

X is for.... (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

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While writing my Blogging Through the Alphabet series on the American Civil War, I have been dreading this letter, the letter X. Just what could I write about that was still related to my topic of choice? When I was doing some research, I discovered at least two potential topics. I could write about Xanthorrhiza or one of the many Corps in either the Union or Confederate Armies that started with the Roman Numeral for 10 – X. This post will be shorter than my other ones on the American Civil War but here is what I have learned.

What is Xanthorrhiza? 

Text: So what can we research that starts with the letter x in terms of the American Civil War? A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; men with stretcher clipart from wpclipart.comAs I have shared in previous posts, the life of an American Civil War soldier was rife with danger and they didn't necessarily have the best medical supplies or hospitals to help take care of their wounds and injuries. During the Civil War, Xanthorrhiza was patented. It is the pharmaceutical name for medication made using the root of the Xanthorrhiza apiifolia which is also known as yellow root. It had been used by Native Americans in a tea to treat stomach ulcers, colds, and other things. And in the Southern part of the United States it was used as a folk remedy.

The form used during the Civil War was first introduced in 1862 by two different individuals at two different times: Mr. G. Dyson Perrins and Mr. William S. Merrell. The version they were examining both contained berberine which was part of the yellow root and was also used in medicine (and dyeing).

When administering it to patients during the Civil War, it was given as either a powder or in a liquid form mixed with alcohol to hide its bitter taste. This tonic was given for battlefield wounds, infections, and other injuries.

photograph of Confederate soldier from

Army Corps 

When reading about the different corps during the American Civil War, you might see the names written either in numeral form (14), word (Fourteenth), or Roman numeral (XIV).  If you are using The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, you will come across the Union referring to their Army Corps by the Roman numeral and the Confederate Corps by the names of the commanders (such as Jackson's Corps). It is important to be familiar with both in your studies of the American Civil War.

Do You Want to Learn More? 

There is so much to learn about the American Civil War. From studying the people who led the United States like Abraham Lincoln or the people who led the Confederate Army, there are a multitude of biographies available. In addition to studying individuals, you can also study entire groups of men serving or the places that were integral to the battles. What area have you enjoyed learning the most about during the series so far?

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Book Club: Book Review of The Runaway Bride

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; cover of The Runaway Bride book; clipart of bride and groom

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

The Runaway Bride by Jody Hedlund is second in The Bride Ships Series. At first, I was concerned because I had not read the first book in the series, but I quickly learned that I could thoroughly enjoy the story of Arabella without having read A Reluctant Bride. In this work of Historical Fiction, Hedlund takes us to British Columbia right after a smallpox outbreak. We see the results of the outbreak on the Native American population and how they are treated. Amidst this drama is the tale of Arabella and her attempt to be a gentlewoman seeking a marriage appropriate to her social standing.

What is the Story About? 

A Mom's Quest to Teach Logo; book cover of The Runaway Bride; text: "Haunted by mistakes in her past, will she ever again trust her heart to another?"As one may guess from the lovely cover image, the story is about one woman's journey in the late 1800s to find a marriage of higher social standing. Arabella Lawrence arrived on the Tynemouth bride ship along with other women who were seeking a new life through marriage in Canada. The ladies who were on the bride ship ranged from the various classes of life in England. So some were quickly married off, some had jobs lined up for themselves almost right away, while others had more difficulty finding a suitable marriage for whatever reason.

From the very first chapter, Arabella meets the two men that will be at the center of her marriage dilemma: Lieutenant Richard Drummond of the Navy and Peter Kelly, the town baker. If Arabella were simply to pick the man who would most likely allow her to live according to the social standing she was used to, she would pick Drummond but Peter is not content to let Arabella go. Peter fell in love with Arabella from the first moment and even though he has a past full of mistakes, he has set his sight on living the best he can according to God and the guidance of Pastor Abe.

During the story, we are introduced to a host of other characters including the natives of British Columbia, the settlers who were living there prior to the landing of the bride ship, and those from the past lives of Peter and Arabella. We also get a peek into the life of a baker in the 1860s as well as the interactions between different social classes.

What Did I Think? 

I really enjoyed how Hedlund incorporated the flashbacks from Arabella's past to explain just why she escaped on a bride ship to British Columbia. I think the book was better suited to life in the 'present' rather than starting with Arabella's life in England and then following her across the ocean on the ship itself. I think the story moved more swiftly by starting with her arrival at Vancouver Island.

I think Hedlund has done an excellent job of bringing to life the 1860s in British Columbia. I almost felt like I could smell the bread being prepared and baked by Peter and his assistants. I enjoyed joining Peter and Arabella on their canoe trip to see more of the natural wonders of the area. And I wanted to learn how to bake all the yummy cakes right alongside Arabella.

My only problem with The Runaway Bride is with the explanation of the treatment of the Native Americans after the smallpox outbreak. Whether or not the Navy was responsible for the spread of the disease, I tend to read events like these with a bit of skepticism because there is often the desire to look at the past using today's standards and opinions. So perhaps, people who helped the natives were treated like Peter Kelly was in the book (I added this topic to my list of things to read more about in the future).

Would I recommend The Runaway Bride? Yes! Those who enjoy Christian romance and historical fiction would enjoy reading about how Arabella finds courage in God and how Peter mended his ways to find God himself. I look forward to picking up the first book in the series and reading the third when it is released.

I am including The Runaway Bride as part of my AtoZ Reading Challenge!