Saturday, October 20, 2018

W is for Washington (Blogging through the Alphabet)

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Studying the history of the United States would not be complete without learning about the Founding Fathers of the nation including George Washington. The first American president was also commander of the Continental Army and president of the Constitutional Convention thus having a great impact on the historic foundation of the United States government.

How Can We Learn about George Washington?

There are so many great resources available to learn about George Washington. From primary sources of writing by Washington and about the first president to historical sites and even crafts and costumes! Learning about history does not have to be dull.

A fantastic way to learn about Washington is through read-alouds with your children. There are some great choices from different well-known publishers such as Landmark Books or National Geographic.

Learning about George Washington does not need to be relegated to older children and adults, as he is a good role model for all children. Some of the myths and stories told about Washington help us teach valuable lessons. For example, who hasn't heard the story of the cherry tree and the young Washington stating, "I cannot tell a lie" story? 

Reading through his Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation (which he wrote as a school exercise before he was 16) is a great way to study Washington and apply it to character education. Washington was a leader among his school friends – friends had even said he was not a fighter but a peacemaker on the playground. 

image from pixabay of Mount Rushmore

One of the themes that displays itself again and again in Rules of Civility is that of modesty and self-restraint. These are two great virtues to instill in children today. An interesting point made in the introduction of my copy of Rules of Civility by Letitia Baldrige is that in the time of Washington "the family was the center of the universe" and people attended church regularly where they would discuss good and bad behavior. Baldrige continues: Washington "would find our society today extremely foreign and probably unkind" (14). 

"let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave." 

To assist you in teaching the Rules of Civility, I have prepared some materials for you to use in your home or classroom. You will get three rules you can hang up in your house! 

Another great place to study George Washington is Our family has been enjoying several history courses already including Drive Thru History: American History. 

There are also interesting courses like American History for Beginners which utilizes interactive content to teach children of grades K-2 over the course of 34 weeks. Students will learn about events from 1492 to the creation of the Bill of Rights in 1791 through crafts, maps, studying vocabulary, and even recipes. 

Where can you choose from 43 history courses for your kids, with no per-course or per-student fees? During the Fall Harvest Special at, your entire family can access 400+ preK-12 courses across all subject areas for only $139/year! Use coupon code FALLGIFTS at checkout by 11/30/18 and also gain access to ten full libraries of World Book Online for research and timelines, a glimpse into nearly 600 historical events through This Day in History, and a huge streaming video library that includes Drive Thru History and Torchlighters titles! PLUS receive a FREE tote bag and THREE print fall back issues of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine (U.S. addresses only; tote colors vary). Make family history this year with all the great resources available at!

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Homeschooling and Creativity Go Hand-in-Hand

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Art has always been one subject our teenage son has been interested in but – after an overview and history of art course in public school – we were afraid he had lost interest in the art world. It turns out that he would rather work with a camera and photographs at this time in his creative life. So I was very excited to discover Image Editing and Creation from This 36-week online course is geared for grades 6-12 and teaches the basics of editing and manipulating an image. The course uses a free software program – GIMP – at the core to teach the students about image editing and creation.

Photo unedited 

Our son has been working through the 36-week lessons, learning about the basics of GIMP, color alteration, and the sharpening and blurring of images. In order to take the course, we had to download GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) onto our desktop. This process was very easy, especially considering a recent computer crash resulted in our "new" computer being one put together from many others. Once our son familiarized himself with the program through the early lessons, he has enjoyed the different assignments. He edited a photo that he took of his younger brother to create a series of color altered photos as well as edited some at my request for this post.

Color Enhanced 

What We Added 

So far, the only thing I have added was quizzes that I created based upon the vocabulary in the lessons. I haven't felt the need to add any other other assignments at this time.

Our teen has used both images from the Internet and photographs he has taken himself in the course. I find this provides a perfect opportunity to discuss copyright and plagiarism with him as well as to introduce him to sites that offer free images for commercial use. – A Great Resource to Foster Creativity 

Image Editing and Creation is just one of the many great elective courses available at They offer 26 unique elective courses, and that doesn’t even count the courses available in other subjects that are often used as electives: art, computer and technology, drama and speech, health & fitness, and music!

There are over 200 lesson designers from 8 countries and 5 continents at! With all those personalities and experiences contributing to content, there really are courses to appeal to everyone’s interests and learning styles! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Book Club: Book Review: Shelter of the Most High

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

From the crash of the ocean to a welcoming inn in Kedesh, Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette is a fabulous book that truly brings to life individuals living during the interim period between the Conquest and the Judges of the Old Testament. This book is the second in the Cities of Refuge Series but I did not feel at a loss for not having read the first book – A Light on the Hill.

Shelter of the Most High opens in 1388 BC on the Island of Sicily with Sofea and her cousin Prezi enjoying the water and caves along the coastline before returning to their pagan village to help with the fish. The lives of the two young girls quickly changes when pirates attack their village and take Sofea and Prezi across the sea to the shores of Canaan. Both girls have to overcome physical, social, and psychological challenges as they spend their time in Kedesh – a city of refuge. Under Hebraic Law, cities of refuge were appointed by God – and told to Joshua – to protect those who accidentally kill another. The killer would cry for refuge from the city elders and would be judged accordingly. (See Joshua 20 for more on the topic.)

In addition to telling the story from the viewpoint of Sofea, we also see events as they unfold through the eyes of Eitan, an Israelite living in Kedesh with his adopted mother, father, and siblings. After Sofea and Prezi are brought to his mother's inn, we see his growing interest in Sofea as well as learn more about the past he has guarded from friends.

The changing back and forth between the viewpoints of Eitan and Sofea was smooth and – from my viewpoint as a reader – was not confusing. I enjoyed being able to see a bit more into the reasons behind their feelings and actions. For example, we see the blossoming love between them from Sofea's viewpoint: "His accent curved around my name, lending it fresh beauty and a sense of intimacy that I knew I should not desire" (127). And with Eitan we learn of his growing love as he "kept my eyes roving over the teeming crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sofea" (149).

There were moments, while reading the book, that I laughed aloud, felt sorrow and cried with the characters, and felt happiness for them as events worked themselves out for the main characters. It was a very quick read because it was so enjoyable.

Shelter of the Most High also contains a map of the area, a note from the author, and questions for conversation. These added details make the book all the more enjoyable to me as a reader. I happily recommend Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette to those interested in Christian fiction.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Exploring History Through Audio Theater – A Review of St. Bartholomew's Eve

There is something about history that has always intrigued me but I know many do not share my passion for the tomes of old. But we are fortunate that there are so many great ways to learn about the past including fantastic audio theater from Heirloom Audio. Our family was blessed with the chance to review their newest edition of the The Extraordinary Adventures of G. A. Henty – St. Bartholomew's Eve. My husband and our teenage son listened to the CD while traveling to Connecticut and thoroughly enjoyed it.

"Huddled together in a small chateau, mothers and children cling to each other. Weeping. Men stand guard. Waiting." 


To understand the tale of St. Bartholomew's Eve better, let me provide you with a little background history. The people that are central to the tale are the Huguenots – French Protestants who were in the middle of political and religious turmoil in France in the 1500s and 1600s.

During the reigns of King Francis I (1515-1547) and King Henry II (1547-1559), the power of the Huguenots as a group grew which led to government persecution. It was after the death of King Francis II, in 1560, that things moved violently against the Huguenots. King Charles IX and the French government were influenced by the queen mother – Catherine de Medicis – and she encouraged the Huguenots only to balance the power of the Guise family.

Eventually, a civil war broke out but with the Huguenots possessing some of the best military leaders in France, Catherine allied herself with the Duke of Guise. On Saint Bartholomew's Day, August 24, 1572, pro-Catholic forces murdered thousands of Huguenots. The massacre began in Paris (where Huguenots were gathered to celebrate the marriage of their leader – Henry of Navarre (later King Henry IV of France) to the king's sister – Margaret of Valois). Many well-known Huguenots were killed in Paris and the mobs and massacre spread throughout France. Henry of Navarre only saved his life by becoming Catholic (but he later converted back to Protestantism).

St. Bartholomew's Eve CD

The two-disc set provides 2-1/2 hours of adventure for your family as you listen to the events of early Renaissance France. Actors who help bring the story alive include Brian Blessed, Elizabeth Counsell, Brian Deacon, David Shaw-Parker, Andy Harrison, and Hugh Docking. The story will take you from your living room or car to 16th-century France where you will fight alongside the Huguenots and French Catholics.

"I have not considered it necessary to devote any large portion of my story to details of the terrible massacres of the period, nor to the atrocious persecutions to which the Huguenots were subjected; but have, as usual, gone to the military events of the struggle for its chief interest." 
Preface to St. Bartholomew's Eve by G. A. Henty

Possible Talking Points

While listening to St. Bartholomew's Eve, I quickly thought of many different topics and talking points you could further research and discuss with your children. These include:
  • Armor of God 
  • Fighting techniques of the time period 
  • Trained soldiers versus citizen soldiers 
  • Changes in weaponry 
  • Standing by your word 
  • Royal marriages and their influence on the citizens of the kingdoms 
  • Compromise and diplomacy 
  • Discrimination (the doors of the Huguenots were marked) 
  • Hiding in plain sight 
2 CD set with liner notes

What We Like

The narration of the events and actions by Brian Blessed as he portrays G. A. Henty is fantastic. For example, during one of the battle scenes, he narrates the action and we hear the clash of swords and men fighting in the background. This really brings the whole story to life. My husband also agreed that Blessed's narration was one of his favorite parts. 

From the beginning of the tale when Henty finds the two boys who are going to skip church to the end when the boys change their minds, the entire process of narration is well done. I really like the ending of the tale...the final track with Henty speaking about being able to worship freely based upon the actions of those in the story...this was a great conclusion! It brought everything together for me and also presented another great teaching moment.

Our teenage son thought it was told well considering it was "told virtually, not visually" and that overall the production was good. (Although he thought some of the sound effects were "a bit cheesy" but I contribute that to his being a teen.) His favorite part was "when the little kid with the peg leg wanted to fight."

When talking with my husband, he said the most jarring memory of the tale was when the actual slaughter began. The most stirring to him was when the Huguenots stood up to the Catholics. The climax of the audio drama was the most memorable to him.

Notes about the Audio Theater

As this production does portray battles, fighting, and some of the more violent aspects of religious intolerance, I recommend previewing St. Bartholomew's Eve before listening to it with your entire family. It is recommended for listeners of age 6 and up, but I don't know if I would let our children listen to it at that young an age. In fact, I would say that the audio drama is not for the faint of heart. For example, in one instance it describes the execution (not really in gruesome detail) of a young man who was thought to be a Huguenot and not a Catholic. They also discuss the deaths of families (being dragged into the street and meeting death). So while nothing is graphically detailed, it could be upsetting for younger children.

We enjoyed St. Bartholomew's Eve and are glad to add it to our collection of productions from Heirloom Audio. It is a great addition on our CD shelves next to Wulf the Saxon which we reviewed in February 2018.

To learn more about Heirloom Audio, please visit:

And don't forget you can read the reviews of other members of the Homeschool Review Crew!

Friday, October 12, 2018

V is for Viking (Blogging through the Alphabet)

Crashing through the waves on a longboat, men seeking adventure, or warriors charging into battle with axes raised – these are some of the images that might come to mind when hearing the term, "Viking." We often think of the various gods and goddesses of Norse mythology, too, as movies and television shows depict them in pop culture.

Vikings voyaged along the coasts of Western Europe and traveled as far as North America and to the Black Sea. They were great maritime warriors who were also great fighters on land. Historians aren't positive about why they started raiding other kingdoms and villages but it might have to do with their family structure and inheritance system. Only the eldest son would inherit from their father so younger sons needed to make their own way in the world. Going on adventures and conquests would be an excellent way for younger sons to gain treasure to set up their own household.

One of the earliest known raids occurred in 793 at the monastery in Lindisfarne. This monastery was a center of Christian learning off the Northumbrian coast and chroniclers write of the monks being either killed or taken away and of the looting of treasure by the Vikings.

During the 830s, the Viking raids increased and they visited numerous places and cities including: Antwerp, Paris, the coast of Spain, the coasts of the Black Sea, and Constantinople.

Keys to Viking Success 

Why were the Vikings so successful on their raids? Why didn't people just prepare for their arrival and fight back? The Vikings were able to concentrate all of their raiding forces at an unexpected point to launch their attack. For example, they could land wherever they wanted by merely grounding their vessels on the beach. 

The voyage from Denmark to England in a longboat would only take about two days. 

And even if they were repulsed, they could quickly relaunch because their longboats had a prow at each end. They did not need to turn their boats around for a rapid escape. 

The skills of their everyday life prepared the men for their raids. They didn't need any specialized training because sailing, warfare, hunting, and sports provided the means to learn how to be a good Viking warrior. Even the fact that they were living in dangerous times aided them in preparation. 

Establishment of Kingdoms 

Over time, the wintering camps of Vikings became permanent bases and they expanded their control and rule in other lands. For example, the Danes took control over Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. By 911, they controlled Normandy. Eventually, they even held territory near Novgorod and Kiev. As they intermarried and became more settled, the Vikings raided less. Their armies still terrified other kingdoms (the Vikings were physically stronger and could wield larger weapons) but they did not embark on as many conquering raids. 

Odin's Warriors 

There was a special group of warriors who were wild and were said to owe allegiance to the one-eyed Norse god, Odin. These 'berserkers' were said to truly believe in the idea that a warrior should die heroically in battle. Even though historians debate their existence, we can find details about them in Norse literature. They fought wearing bear or wolf skin – no armor. Before battle they would enter a trance-like fury which would enable them to fight ferociously. Supposedly, they would growl and roar before charging into battle and were said to be immune to pain. 

Homeschooling and Learning about Vikings 

We have been using this year for our teen and his homeschooling needs. One of the courses he has been taking is American Literature in Historical Context, which looks at literature from pre-colonization to post-modernism. One of the first works that he read was the Viking Tales by Jennie Hall. After reading several tales, our son completed a journal entry in which he examined the character traits of the Vikings.

American Literature in Historical Context is a 36-week text-based course for grades 9-12 designed by Melissa Williamson who has a degree in education in middle grades English and Social Studies. In order to truly understand American literature, students will study the works in conjunction with the cultural and historical events of the time. Personally, I think this is a great idea and this is why we choose this as one of the courses our teenage son is taking this homeschool year.

Wonderful Opportunity to Join 

The Fall Harvest Special at “leaves” you ready for learning! From 10/1/18 through 11/30/18, you can receive a FULL YEAR of Ultimate Membership for only $139 (reg. $179)! With access to 400+ courses across all ages, 10 libraries of World Book Online, household and academic organizational tools, and a supportive community of fellow homeschoolers, there is something for everyone at! Lock in this discounted annual rate for your entire family, plus receive a FREE tote bag and THREE print fall back issues of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine (shipped to U.S. addresses only; tote colors vary). Use coupon code FALLGIFTS today to "rake" in a content-rich, parent-friendly, educational experience. Don’t let this deal blow away!

Resources and References 

Viking Tales by Jennie Hall