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Word to Caesar

Author(s): 
Geoffrey Trease
Copyright: 
1955
Publisher: 
Hillside Education
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
274 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Set during Imperial Rome, Paul, a young boy, flees for his life when barbarians raid the Roman camp his father commands in Northern England. Wounded, exhausted, and orphaned, he barely makes it on the last boat leaving a nearby harbor. With the help of Lucius Fabius Severus, a Roman exile, he begins a new life. Out of gratitude for Severus helping save his life, Paul wants to reinstate Severus’ good name. But he must travel the length of the Roman Empire to do so, escape the clutches of wily villains, and speak with the Emperor Hadrian. Will he be able to accomplish such an insurmountable task? Urged on by the memory of his father’s high standards of conduct, Paul does not give up hope and always seeks to perform the noble action, even if it means risking his own life.

Although the main character is a boy, girls will enjoy this fast-paced adventure as well, especially when Severus’ daughter joins in the mission to clear her father’s name. A real page-turner, both my son and I polished it off in a few days. Because of our enthusiasm, my husband read it to the rest of the children. They too clamored to read another chapter and another.

More than a thrill-a-minute story, the reader learns a bit of Ancient Roman history, putting on flesh to those crumbing ruins. While the characters (except for Hadrian) are fictitious, the places in this story are real. A tourist can visit the remains of the Roman camp of Hardknot, as well as Bath and Ravenglass. In Italy, the farm in the Sabine Hills also still exists.

The book includes discussion questions and suggestions for essays. I particularly like the idea of tracing Paul’s trip from England to his final destination. This edition also includes maps, a picture of a bust of Hadrian, a picture of Hadrian’s tomb, historical notes, and a glossary with explanatory notes.

Review Date: 
5-5-06
Reviewed by: 

Wordly Wise

Subject(s): 
Review: 

Wordly Wise is a terrific spelling program - inexpensive and readily available from most homeschool companies. It was originally written in 1967, but has lived through many revisions. Each lesson is divided into four sections, with the fifth day being a test. Fits perfect into any homeschooler's weekly schedule!

One disadvantage is the book cover. Because the cover is soft, it is best to cover it with plastic to extend the life of the book. I have not yet felt the need of a teacher's key. My daughter is at the grade eight level, and I know that I may soon change my mind about the teacher's key.

The big difference in Wordly Wise is the calibre of the word lists. I have found that the lists are advanced, but not unattainable. Another bonus is the information given at the end of each lesson - spelling hints, pronunciation help, and word origins. I find that there is an emphasis on word origins, as well as on derivatives. All in all, it's a spelling program that I'd highly recommend. It is also recommended by Laura Berquist in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

World War II for Kids

A History with 21 Activities
Book cover: 'World War II for Kids: A History with 21 Activities'
Author(s): 
Richard Panchyk
Copyright: 
2002
Publisher: 
Chicago Review Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
164 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a well-written and engaging account of the major events of World War II - military, political, humanitarian, etc. - treated at a level appropriate for children - particularly ages 10-14. The book is divided into seven major chapters - The World at War (which covers the history of World War I through the end of 1941), The Long Road Ahead (which highlights some of the vast geographical areas involved in the war), The Home Front and Life During the War, Hope Renewed (the progress in 1943), D-Day and Victory in Europe, When Every Day Seemed to be a Year Long (which covers the Holocaust) and Pacific Victory.

The tone of the entire book is pro-American and patriotic. I particularly enjoyed the author's nostalgic reflections on some of the more wholesome entertainers of the day - like Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. First-hand accounts of various parts of life at that time are scattered throughout the book and cover an impressive array of nationalities. The 21 activities advertised in the title are very creative, but not overwhelming. Some of my favorites include: Decoding a Message, Rationing Game, and Make a Ration Kit (this is very detailed and fascinating).

This book would be particularly interesting for a family interested in delving deeper into World War II than the history textbooks do. It gives a great, but easy-to-use overview of the whole war chronologically (I learned a lot from reading it myself!). Combined with a dozen or so living history books, this could make a fun summer project or unit study for the entire family.

The author has done a fine balancing job in keeping the material appropriate for children without watering it down. However, there are a few areas that might be inappropriate for younger children - particularly the segment on the Holocaust.

Review Date: 
2-21-05
Reviewed by: 

Woven Cross Kit from Illuminated Ink

Publisher: 
Illuminated Ink
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The Woven Cross Kit provides materials for three beautiful woven crosses. Each kit comes with thin strips of vellum paper 3 ½” x 3” (The primary kit colors are green, purple, and black with gold accents), gold rhinestuds, red metal hearts, and step-by-step illustrated instructions. The quality and beauty of the materials are impressive. The project also comes in in a Pastel kit.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
5-2-2006
Reviewed by: 

WriteGuide.com Individualized Writing Course

Book cover: 'WriteGuide.com Individualized Writing Course'
Subject(s): 
Review: 

We've all heard the whining and complaining that can come with teaching composition. Many children just refuse to make the effort to write, and when they finally do finish an assignment their parents agonize over how to grade the composition. Having heard the writing complaints for years, I am excited to report that there is now a solution in WriteGuide.com.

Last month two of our children participated in an online tutorial through WriteGuide.com. Wait--before you stop reading because "those things are too pricey for our family," let me assure you, this tutorial is very affordable. Our children had a great time working on several different compositions that were a part of their tutorial and anxiously waited each day for an e-mail response from their tutor. Writing has never been so easy in our home.

WriteGuide.com provides individualized writing courses for as short as 1 month or as long as 12 months. The parent determines the goals of the course and, along with the tutor (all teachers hold masters degrees and have extensive teaching experience) the course content is decided. The students may either have "from scratch" writing assignments, as my children did, or follow a curriculum that the family is already using. The tutor contacts the parent through e-mail to establish the relationship and then the course begins. Each day the student submits his assignment and receives a reply that same day from his teacher. This is not an abstract relationship or one based on forms; the student chats with his teacher through e-mail and receives a personal, friendly reply that motivates the child while at the same time instructing him on style, grammar, mechanics, etc. as they directly relate to his writing assignment. You can see samples of e-mail exchanges between students and teachers at http://writeguide.com/samples.htm

Our online tutorial was a month long and went from the 2nd of one month until the 2nd in the next calendar month. Rather then have one child do the tutorial for the entire month, our 15-year-old son worked with the teacher for three weeks and our 12-year-old daughter worked with her for the remaining 5 or 6 days. The variety of assignments that WriteGuide will allow is quite varied. While working with the teacher, our son wrote a six-page research report on religious symbolism along with a complete bibliography. (What a relief not to have to teach that myself!) He also wrote the beginning of a fantasy novel. Our daughter, who normally hates writing, cheerfully wrote an essay about the Hittites and is begging to do another writing tutorial. I am amazed at how much her writing improved in just one week's time. The teacher was flexible and enthusiastic throughout the course and we were especially happy to learn that she was Catholic. WriteGuide.com employs several Catholic teachers and matches them up with Catholic families upon request.

I'm very impressed with the quality of WriteGuide.com and highly recommend it for both home school families and public school students. You'll be surprised at how much your child will learn in just one month.

Review Date: 
10-16-03
Reviewed by: 

Writing Strands

Subject(s): 
Review: 

The Writing Strands program focuses on the structure of writing by teaching the student to organize his thoughts before writing. Many of the ideas the author uses are found in other English programs, such as Voyages in English, but in WS they are presented in a more systematic fashion with each lesson building on preceding lessons. The lessons are written for the child to read and do independently, with the parent checking work occasionally. WS is very straightforward and directs the child to write about specific topics. I liked this approach, but after working through half of WS3 my son was less then enthusiastic about continuing. Some of the topics he couldn't relate to and others were boring. While his writing was organized, I didn't see any improvement in sentence complexity. I continued to search for a writing program that would work for our family and discovered the Institute for Excellence in Writing.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Year of the Black Pony

Author(s): 
Walt Morey
Copyright: 
1976
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
171 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Absolutely absorbing! This well crafted story of a boy, a pony, and his new family takes place in Oregon in the early 1900’s. Year of the Pony is a wonderful story about a young boy’s dream to tame a wild black pony, while at the same time having his own heart tamed by a stranger he must learn to trust.

After his father dies, 12-year-old Chris, his younger sister Ellie and their determined mother begin their new life with Frank Chase. In the process, they all learn to open themselves up to the true meaning of trusting love. Chris soon finds out that not all men have his father’s violent temper and that his new father is actually a kind and good person.

Chris has often dreamed of owning a beautiful wild pony that runs free near his family’s homestead. “The sun made his black coat glisten like satin. The big muscles across shoulders and legs rippled like light flashes on water.” Whenever he steals the chance, he goes up on Christmas Ridge to watch the wild black pony thunder past with a herd of horses.

Through the kindness and ingenuity of his new father, Chris is able to eventually own the black pony. But is it a good idea? The owner wanted to shoot the pony because no one is able to ride this seemingly untamable beast and in fact threw one of the owner’s new ranch riders, breaking his leg.

His practical mother is not at all happy. The horse is yet another responsibility that will eat their precious resources while not providing any helpful work. The pony seems to be just another cause of strife between Chris and his mother, dividing them even further apart.

Through several unsuccessful efforts to mount the pony, Chris is ready to lose hope. With the help of Frank and a clever idea of his mother’s, Chris begins to realize his dream of riding the black pony. Just when things start to look up, the pony becomes deathly ill after saving Chris’s life during a terrible blizzard.

More than the desire for a beautiful pony, Chris wishes he could have a real family. In the end, the black pony is instrumental in binding the family together as they all open their hearts to the healing presence of love, patience, and kindness.

Review Date: 
12-28-2006
Reviewed by: 

You Can Share the Faith

Author(s): 
Karen Edmisten
Copyright: 
2016
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

I highly recommend this terrific little book for everyone who wishes to share their faith with others – especially with their family and friends. Karen is an atheist-turned-Catholic (and Catholic homeschool mom, and contributor to this website) who shares in this book many common aspects of the conversion journey through her own experiences and those of a number of her friends.

These stories are organized around a very practical set of “do’s” and “don’ts” that will help readers be better prepared to witness to and support those who are being drawn to the faith. Karen’s tone is gentle and friendly (and prayerful!), but not at all timid about tackling many important issues, concepts, teachings, relationships and potential misunderstandings. The end result is a very great set of connections to help believers be more loving, patient, understanding and supportive of others.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Reviewed by: 

Young Faces of Holiness, Modern Saints in Photos and Words

Book cover: 'Young Faces of Holiness, Modern Saints in Photos and Words'
Author(s): 
Ann Ball
Copyright: 
2004
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
236 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

If you want to go to sleep, don't read Young Faces of Holiness by Ann Ball. The stories are absolutely fascinating. The thirty-five stories include young people from all walks of life and countries of the world who are either Blessed, Venerable, or candidates for canonization.

In a world that feeds the imagination of children to think only of themselves, this book is a refreshing anecdote to the me-ism of our modern culture. Ann Ball does a marvelous job of showing the spiritual development of these young saints. They too struggled with their faults. At the same time, they are a source of hope, because they chose to suffer or even die for Christ. We need to be reminded over and over again to strive to achieve the Divine Smile in the midst of crosses and suffering. Many of them did nothing extraordinary in terms of the world. They wanted to love God to the best of their ability. For example, although Annie Zelikova lay dying in terrible pain from tuberculosis, she was known for her constant smile. She said, "I must smile to my last breath." Another young candidate for sanctity, Gerard Raymond, wrote, "Help me, O Jesus, to love You more and more."

After reading just one or two stories, we are forced to make an examination of conscience and ask ourselves, "If they can conquer their faults, then surely I can conquer mine and strive to achieve the same attitude as these children." Although no reading level is suggested, the average 4th grader could probably read it. Since most children's comprehension level is far beyond their reading level, this book would also make an ideal read aloud to younger children. For many young children seeing pictures of these children will be an eye-opening experience. Other young people their own age tried to be holy.

Because a few of the children experienced violent deaths, you may wish to skip those stories for young children. Both Maria Goretti and Blessed Antonia Mesina were brutally murdered and died defending their purity because of their love of Christ.

Note from the Webmaster: I would like to suggest that this book is ideally suited to pre-teens and teenagers (approximately 6th grade and up) who will be able to reflect on the heroism of these children under difficult circumstances (and sometimes extreme suffering) and be inspired to apply some measure of that heroism to their own lives.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
10-17-05
Reviewed by: 

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