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Beck Family Musical Series

Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Each set in this series contains two or three tapes and a book. The books contains the lyrics and music to a wide variety of folk tunes from around the world, hymns, and Gregorian chants. The Gregorian chants are relatively difficult, but the other songs are fairly easy to sing. I didn't know many of the songs, but we have enjoyed learning them. Each set of a book and tapes is roughly aimed at different ages, but I am having no trouble using the 4th-6th grade set with my seventh grade daughter. The sets are 1st-3rd grades, 4th-6th grades, and 7th-8th grades. The number of tapes in each set is the same as the number of grades covered. I recommend this program.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Becky Landers: Frontier Warrior

Author(s): 
Constance Lindsay Skinner
Copyright: 
1926
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
198 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Becky Landers, being the man of the family, knew that if there was to be turkey on the Christmas dinner table, she would have to provide it.”

So begins this tale (set in Kentucky in 1778). Becky Landers is most certainly a tomboy. Her brother is a captive of the Indians and her father was killed by them some time ago. So Becky must be the man of the family for her rather timid mother and two younger siblings. Determined to find her brother and bring him safely back home, Becky faces many challenges. Not that there weren't enough challenges to everyday life in Kentucky, where this story takes place. As we learn in this book, even getting a Christmas turkey can lead to dangerous and interesting adventures.

Although the story focuses on Becky it also brings in real historical characters including; Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, Simon Kenton and the French De Quindre, on whom "the quality of mercy" makes a deep impression.

Review Date: 
5-14-2007
Reviewed by: 

Beginning Apologetics 1: How to Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith

Author(s): 
Father Frank Chacon
Jim Burnham
Copyright: 
1993
Publisher: 
San Juan Catholic Seminars
Series: 
Beginning Apologetics
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
40 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

When I first considered converting from a "mere Christianity" form of Protestantism to the Catholic faith, I had several issues to deal with. I believed that "Scripture alone" was the rule of faith. I thought that the Catholic Church had added several non-Biblical doctrines throughout the years -- for example, praying to Mary and the saints and the existence of Purgatory. Though I knew that Jesus had given the apostles and particularly Simon Peter the power to bind and loose sins and to heal the sick, I couldn't see how Catholics could consider priests, bishops and the Pope to have inherited these powers. I was scandalized by evil people and actions in the Church's history (some real evils and some that were exaggerated).

I vividly remember my surprise and increasing respect for the Church as my husband and I read and discussed a Catholic apologetics book in which these questions were specifically dealt with from a Scriptural and historical perspective. Once I could see intellectually that Catholic doctrines were not just pious accretions and institutionalized hypocrisy, my road to conversion became a lot more direct.

Beginning Apologetics is written to help Catholics dialogue with sincere Protestants like I was, and to help them convey a Catholic perspective on these major issues using support from the Bible, from the writings of the Church Fathers and with the help of logical reasoning from common ground. The book is a simple 8 1/2 by 11 format, inexpensively paper bound, but has a lot of substance packed into its 40 pages. Its tone is reasonable and unconfrontational "Apologetics fulfills the command of St. Peter: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence..(1 Peter 3:15-16)".

It begins with an introductory section on method: how to be an effective, charitable apologist for our Faith, and how to read and mark your Bible. The body of the book is laid out topic by topic. The Eucharist, the role and origin of the Bible, and the primacy of the Pope have first priority, because it is from these central points that most of the central divisions of Christendom proceed. For instance, if a Catholic can convince a Protestant that Jesus in John 6 meant His words about His Body and Blood to be taken literally -- which indeed is the plain sense of what He said -- that in itself is a huge stumbling block removed, because that is a doctrine held only by the Catholic and Orthodox Church. If he can further convince the Protestant that "Scripture alone" is not a Scripturally supported doctrine, and thus contradicts itself, then he has significantly narrowed the separation between the Catholic and the devout and sincere Protestant.

The book goes on to address other questions and misconceptions that a sincere Bible-believing Christian may have about the Catholic Faith. Do Catholics really "worship" Mary? (the answer is no, and our reasons for "venerating" or honoring her are carefully supported from Scripture). Isn't it "necromancy" to pray to the saints in heaven? (again no, and again reasons are laid out proceeding from doctrines that Catholics and Protestants have in common). The manual closes with some briefer questions and answers like "Why do Catholics baptize infants?" and gives a list of recommended resources for further reading and study. Among these are the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism which is the apologetics book that first helped me to consider conversion seriously.

This book is one of the resources used by Mother of Divine Grace School for high school religion. It could be profitably read by anyone from 6th or 7th grade up to adulthood. It is a handy reference tool because it lays out the basic issues so simply and concisely, and because it puts the Scriptural references and key terminology in bold font so they are easily located. The book is #1 in a series that now includes 7 books.

See below for a separately sold Study Guide for this book.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
7-19-04
Reviewed by: 

Beginnings

Author(s): 
Lori Ann Watson
Illustrator(s): 
Shennen Bersani
Copyright: 
2009
Publisher: 
Pauline Books and Media
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a lovely picture book about, naturally, beginnings. The simple but descriptive storyline, along with vibrant illustrations, take you through signs of new things - like a tomato plant, a tree and a thunderstorm. These capture the beauty of different aspects of God's creation, but only show the simple ways that we see what's coming next.

The story culminates in looking at the questions of where *we* come from and answers it in the simplest and most innocent way, focusing on the love of God who "chose the perfect place for you, inside the safe, warm shelter of your mother's womb..."

The author gives a nice balance in helping the child see himself as one part of God's beautiful creation, but one with a very unique role that exceeds that of the animals and plants around us and that was specially intended by God.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
6-28-2009
Reviewed by: 

Behind Enemy Lines

A Young Pilot's Story
Author(s): 
H. R. DeMallie
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Sterling Publishing, Co.
Series: 
Sterling Point Biographies
Number of pages: 
178 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a fascinating personal account of a U.S. Air Force pilot who was shot down over Holland and spent the rest of World War II in a POW camp in Germany. He wrote it specifically to honor the Dutch who took care of him at great peril to their own lives.

It was a particularly interesting read after being acquainted with Hilda Van Stockum's The Winged Watchman as locations and situations are very similar.

The narrative is simple and understated (and very REAL), but you can imagine the voice of a grandfather sharing his adventures and impressions with the young people of today. The epilogue is particularly fascinating and makes it even more clear why the author wanted to write down his story for others.

Violence and a few choice words make this most appropriate for seventh grade and up. It is a particularly fast read (extra-wide spacing also helps!) making it a good choice for older reluctant readers.

Review Date: 
2-26-2008
Reviewed by: 

Behold and See 3

Book cover: 'Behold and See 3'
Author(s): 
Suchi Myjak
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Binding: 
Spiralbound
Number of pages: 
266 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

I've been telling my friends who've asked about this book that I've never felt enthusiastic about a science textbook until now. This beautiful book, printed in full color on thick, glossy pages is really remarkable. The author, Suchi Myjak, is a Catholic homeschool mother with a Bachelors and Masters in Electrical Engineering. She worked in a chip design group at Intel Corporation until the birth of her first child.

There are three areas in which I think this book particularly excels...

First are the beautiful watercolor illustrations by Cameron Smith. (You can view some of his works on his website at http://www.frangelico.org). These illustrations are engaging and will really help draw students into the wonder and amazement of God's creation. The text also includes a number of beautiful photographs.

Second is how engaging the book is. Now, the word 'engaging' is thrown around a lot and usually has to do with how readable and interesting a book is. Behold and See 3 is certainly engaging in this respect. But it goes even deeper to a more complete meaning of 'engaging' that involves the active participation of the student in more fully understanding concepts by use of reflective questions, games, comparison charts and meaningful (but simple) experiments and hands-on activities (like mapping the tongue and making a mini-ecosystem in a bottle).

Third is its Catholic content. Behold and See 3 exceeds my expectations in this regard. Catholic material isn't just tacked on to an ordinary text, it is naturally incorporated into the text. It actually uses ideas familiar to Catholic children from the spiritual realm to better understand science (while retaining an excellent sense of the purpose of science in helping our children get to heaven). For example, in the introduction to the Chapter on Matter, the author helps children understand the concept of matter by contrasting it with the spiritual world that we cannot see and that science cannot study. Also, religious stained-glass windows are used to enhance part of the discussion about light and EWTN is used as an example of something that uses satellite technology. The text is further enhanced by quotations from the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

After an introductory chapter that explores the idea of what science is, why we study it, some basics on the scientific method and instructions for starting and keeping a science notebook, the text covers three primary areas:

The first segment, on Physical Science, includes chapters on Matter, Force and Energy and Astronomy. In this segment, children will study: states and properties of matter, mass and volume, forces, gravity, magnetism, friction, light, sound, the Earth's crust and atmosphere, the sun, the moon, keeping time, day and night, the solar system, the stars, space travel and satellites.

The second segment, Life Science, includes chapters on Animals, Plants and Ecology. This segment covers: animal classification, animal protection, hibernation and migration, the differences between animals and man, 'wild' and 'tame' flowers, parts of plants, seeds and growing plants, what plants need to grow, plants we eat, plants and the seasons, trees, animal habitats, food chains and food webs, ecosystems and stewardship of God's creation.

The third segment, on the Human Body, includes chapters on Anatomy, the Senses and Nutrition/Health. This segment covers: body proportions, skin pigment, the skeleton, joints, muscles, the heart, lungs and breathing, circulation, the brain, the five senses, nutrients, a balanced diet, food groups, the virtue of moderation, exercise and food safety.

I'm really very, very impressed with this book. Full-color books like this are expensive to produce, particularly for small Catholic companies, but I think that the quality of this text is well-worth its price (approximately $45).

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

This book was donated for review by Catholic Heritage Curricula

Review Date: 
7-16-03
Reviewed by: 

Behold and See 6

Book Cover
Author(s): 
RoseMary C. Johnson
Copyright: 
2012
Publisher: 
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Series: 
Behold and See Science
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
365 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Recently during our school hours the iPad told us of a new study on salmon behavior--a link to it was posted by a prolific Facebook friend.

It was an "Aha moment"! We are using Behold and See 6 for Science and had read recently about the curious and amazing behavior of the salmon: it returns to the very place it was born to lay its eggs even after years in the open ocean. The article in question was about a new study where scientists think the salmon may actually use earth's magnetism to help direct them on their way back to their birthplace.

We wouldn't have read the article, or cared about salmon at all, if not for the wonderful Science curriculum. I will spare the reader of this review from details of the curriculum per se. Publisher Catholic Heritage Curricula is very generous in providing information and details about it, along with many sample pages.

As it happens with any good curriculum, if I am reading it aloud to the 6th grader, family members of different ages will invariably stop to listen as well. In this case it is most likely the eighth grader. Never mind she is two grades ahead: she loves it, and when I ask the workbook questions orally she can answer them all.

What's to love in this curriculum? Start with the professional presentation, binding, layout and overall quality: outstanding. The book is gorgeous and everything about its quality of production is top-notch! What a delight to have something so professional done available to the Catholic homeschooler.

Then the writing is wonderful. The right combination of story-telling, engaging language and the right amount of information provided on any given topic. The lessons revolve a homeschool family studying science together and we get to "know" them pretty well! In this manner the book also inspires families to follow their example of creative whole-family learning models.

The organization is also so well done: chapter divisions, illustrations, photographs, sidebars definitions and workbook links, he workbook, labs. Everything has been very well-thought of!

I use the poetry volume by the same author and publisher so I am familiar with her capabilities: suffice is to say she graduated Summa Cum Laude from The University of Dallas and, having a son there, I can attest to almost-impossibility of this feat.

Enjoy browsing through the samples and informational on their site. This science volume is recommended for 6th-8th grade but truly I think it can be done from 3rd to 8th grades... well, actually, I am much older and I am learning as well!

Review Date: 
2-25-2013
Reviewed by: 

Belisarius

Author(s): 
Paolo A. Belzoni
Copyright: 
2006
Publisher: 
Arx Publishing
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
239 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

I have to admit that I had high expectations for this book! I had been looking for something for this time period for more than a year. And, thankfully, my expectations were well met . . . this is a great new resource for those of you “reading your way through history.”

Belisarius was a general under Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. He was renowned as a virtuous and courageous leader who accomplished great victories despite unsupportive and even imprudent superiors. Without him, Justinian’s reign could not have been as long-loved and illustrious.

This novel deals with the early life and military career of Belisarius. It begins with a young Belisarius and his mother successfully surviving a raid by the Huns. He then grows up training as a soldier with his father while obtaining a solid book education as well. He is portrayed as a devout and virtuous young man who has natural leadership skills and keen military understanding.

When he enlists as a soldier, he doesn’t always have an easy time of it, but makes his way through the political intrigue of the times and is well respected by all those who serve with him. They are ready to follow him when he is appointed to one leadership role after another, until finally he is named a general.

What I really like about this telling of the story is that it is not a white-washed version of the times, or of Belisarius. His virtue is portrayed sensibly without making him appear overly perfect. He is an appealing character, one the reader sympathizes with and roots for. He is often put in situations that appear impossible; many obstacles - from incompetent fellow commanders to conspiring politicians - frustrate his purpose. But, while he is not always victorious, he acquits himself well and his honor increases.

The author weaves in a great view of the historical time period in Byzantium: the state of the cities, “the factions,” the movement and assimilation of the barbarians, and the politics of the Empire. The descriptions of the battle scenes are not dry and incomprehensible (as in some military biographies), but very readable and interesting. The author also includes diagrams of several of the battle formations showing how each side was arrayed and ready to engage. This helped tremendously when trying to visualize the battles. A glossary of definitions is also provided. I found this to be essential since the names used to describe the army in this novel are “eastern” instead of Roman and were unfamiliar to me. For example, instead of a Centurion being in charge of 100 soldiers, the title is Hekatontarch.

Serving the cunning Emperor Justinian is not always easy for Belisarius, and there is a lot of foreshadowing that things will not always go well in their relationship, but as this story ends, Belsarius gains an important and decisive victory over the Persians and Justinian is satisfied. I await Book 2 with great anticipation . . . and a little dread if I am right about the foreshadowing.

Recommended for 8th grade and older. (Some of the battle scenes get a little gory, so keep that in mind if you have sensitive readers.)

Review Date: 
11-2-06
Reviewed by: 

Bella at Midnight

Copyright: 
2006
Publisher: 
HarperCollins
Binding: 
Paperback
Number of pages: 
288 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley, 2006, HarperCollins Publishers, 278 pages, Hardcover.

Bella at Midnight is a surprising find in the world of modern fiction. While Bella at Midnight includes all the basic elements of the classic Cinderella tale, such as glass slippers, a grand ball, a handsome prince, a sweet godmother, an unkind stepmother and two distant stepsisters, this is a story for older children. Touching on many themes that young people have to deal with, such as peer pressure, acceptance and love, the struggle for virtue and goodness in a world gone awry, and much more, it is sure to appeal to those who are searching for a hero, “pure of heart and most virtuous.”

Rejected by her wealthy, noble father, Bella is brought up by a good peasant family that “taught her all that is good.” Her childhood is filled with many happy and contented memories. As she is growing up, one of her playmates is the prince. Their relationship as children is really quite charming and sweet as well as totally believable and touching. Finally, when her father summons her to his estate, he has married again. His new wife has two daughters and distains Bella.

Bella’s new life lacks the love and joy of her former family and she is scorned and ridiculed. When things begin to look their worst, Bella must come to the aid of the prince or fear he must die on account of the treacherous aspirations of the king. Will Bella be able to save the prince in time?

Set in an imaginary kingdom during the Middle Ages, Bella at Midnight is a story of chivalry, honor and a “worthy knight.” While Bella at Midnight is based on the classic Cinderella tale, the heroine breaks the mold with a courageous young woman who is also gentle, kind, and good. While quite the dramatic character, she exhibits many of the same fears as anyone who is about to embark on a serious, life-threatening mission.

As in most fairy tales, there is some magic and miracles, but nothing evil. The bulk of the story rests on circumstances based on reality.

Unlike some modern fiction set during this time period that delights in taking pot shots at the Catholic Church, the Church is spoken of respectfully throughout the story. It is refreshing to see the positive references to God with the “good” characters displaying a deep and abiding faith and trust in God as well as showing a well-formed conscience. People recognize that it is dishonorable to break an oath. This does not mean that the main characters are all holy and good without blemish or flaw, far from it. It is clear throughout the story that selfish motives can lead to destructive consequences.

This is a unique story in that each chapter is written from a different main character’s point of view, including Bella, Prince Julian, the stepmother, and more. This did not disrupt the flow of the story, but rather added an interesting aspect in that everyone does not see a situation from the same point of view. By doing so, we understand the motives, thoughts, regrets, and more behind key characters’ actions, giving the story a greater depth.

With intrigue, chivalry, and adventure, Bella at Midnight is a refreshing version of the Cinderella tale that late middle school and above age children will enjoy.

Review Date: 
7-1-2007
Reviewed by: 

Belles On Their Toes

Book cover: 'Belles On Their Toes'
Author(s): 
Frank Gilbreth
Ernestine Gilbreth
Copyright: 
1950
Publisher: 
Perennial Classics
Series: 
Cheaper by the Dozen
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
240 pages
Subject(s): 
Review: 

This sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen is, if anything, even more hilarious. Both share a realism that only a true story can acquire. After Frank B. Gilbreth's death, his wife Lillian takes over his business as an efficiency engineer, traveling to conferences and teaching students in her home. The 11 Gilbreth children are growing up, and manage to find a hilarious situation in each new experiences. As usual, the Gilbreth family faces cigarettes, garden fertilizer, one piece bathing suits, and meetings with the president with equal aplomb and humor. This book is primarily the story of 'Mother', and the Gilbreths after their father's death. I recommend reading it after Cheaper By The Dozen for that reason. Both books contain examples of the prejudices and attitudes of the 'teens and 'twenties, and provide many opportunities for learning experiences.

Video/DVD: This book was made into a movie in 1952. It diverts more from the book than the Cheaper by the Dozen movie, and has taken the form of a musical. It is available on DVD.

Review Date: 
1999

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