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A Students' Guide to U.S. History

Book cover: 'A Students' Guide to U.S. History'
Author(s): 
Wilfred M. McClay
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
ISI Books (Intercollegiate Studies Institute)
Number of pages: 
93 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

In A Students' Guide to U.S. History, author Wilfred M. McClay challenges the mind of the reader to think wider, deeper and higher about the study of American history. After explaining the purpose behind this book, he elaborates on what the study of history mistakenly is thought to be, before he realigns the reader's mind to what it should be. Taking a philosophical turn of mind, he dares the reader to search for truth; to do otherwise would be folly.

Rather than consider the study of American history as a boring parade of facts, he implores the reader to consider it "as a drama of incomparable sweep and importance." At the same time, he reminds us that "American history needs to be seen in the context of a larger drama."

Another reason he gives for studying history is because it tells us about ourselves.

Calling it a gallery of windows, there are a number of topics related to the study of history he suggests studying: America and Europe, Capitalism, Founding, Frontier, and many others. He gives an overview of each topic, discusses the proper lens through which the reader should view each topic, and offers additional reading selections. He closes with a list of dos and don'ts for studying and researching history and offers a final list of suggested reading.

Overall, the style of writing although intellectual and challenging at times, is not incomprehensible, stretching our vocabularies with an occasional, unfamiliar word or phrase, such as "opine portentously," "incommensurable," or "cynosure."

Even though the book is intended for college age students, a high school student or anyone for that matter interested in the study of history would benefit from this book. My only caution would be that a parent read any of the suggested fiction titles before handing them to a high school student. Some are not a problem, but others warrant discussion, or may contain parts which would be considered objectionable.

This guide is also available to download for free at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute home page.

Review Date: 
12-29-04
Reviewed by: 

A Tale of Two Cities

Book cover: 'A Tale of Two Cities'
Author(s): 
Charles Dickens
Copyright: 
1859
Publisher: 
Penguin Classics
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
544 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Historical Fiction set in the French Revolution. For the uninitiated - the two cities are Paris and London. The story also involves two men - one a French aristrocrat, hated by the lower classes involved in the bloody revolution for crimes committed by his family - the other a wealthy British bachelor. Both fall in love with Lucie, the beautiful daughter of a man who was freed from the Bastille after being wrongfully imprisoned. It is a beautiful story of love and sacrifice amidst the horror and evil of the Reign of Terror. This was one of my very favorite books in high school (I even wrote one of my college entrance essays about it), but others (such as my husband) found it somewhat tedious.

Review Date: 
3-25-2000
Reviewed by: 

A Treasure Chest of Traditions for Catholic Families

Book cover: 'A Treasure Chest of Traditions for Catholic Families'
Author(s): 
Monica McConkey
Copyright: 
2001
Publisher: 
Arma Dei Family Ministry
Binding: 
Spiralbound
Number of pages: 
299 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

with laminated "jelly-proof" covers

During the past few years, there has been a renewed interest in beginning and in continuing traditions within our families within the context of the liturgical year. This book has been written to help make these celebrations easier to plan as well as to provide countless new ideas. Some of these ideas are original while others are traditional. This book is especially well-suited for families with children in the preschool years up through the late elementary years.

The majority of the suggestions for each month are craft-oriented or games that are sure to appeal to younger children. For example, January 17th is the memorial of St. Anthony, patron of basket makers. The book gives a very simple biography of St. Anthony, suggests a "prayer habit", and includes the directions for making a basket out of bread dough. The description for the Feast of the Ascension includes detailed directions for making a kite to ascend to the heavens in addition to directions for making bubble-blowers and bubble solution. Ordinary Time saints' days include a lengthy section describing the making of Catholic games that will help in learning the catechism and in remembering the Saints. Names of some of the games are Jell-O Box Jeopardy, Catechism Categories, Holy Rummoli, and Lists and Levels; don't they sound interesting and fun to play?

The book is organized by the liturgical calendar, beginning with a New Year's Eve party for the beginning of the Church year just prior to the start of the Advent season and continues on to the Feast of Christ the King in late November. The dates and feast days are those of the modern Church calendar, although the listings for some dates include those saints not found on the revised Roman calendar. There are more ideas and suggestions than a family could possibly do; this book should keep your family busy for many, many years. It will be an excellent addition to your family library and a good companion to a book of saint's stories or of church history.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
2-4-02
Reviewed by: 

A Year With God

Celebrating the Liturgical Year
Book cover: 'A Year With God: Celebrating the Liturgical Year'
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Binding: 
Spiralbound
Number of pages: 
261 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

A Year With God is simply THE purchase of the year! Completely original, inspiring, and unique, the abundance of fresh ideas and activities will re-energize your religion class and re-motivate you to make your homeschool a truly Catholic school in every sense of the word. Spanning the liturgical year, A Year With God contains hundreds of carefully detailed and illustrated projects and activities. Nearly all of these can be extended into several other projects, giving you many, many years of exciting projects to work on with your students.

The Table of Contents begins with "Celebrate Advent and Christmas", continues with "Celebrate Lent and Easter", and concludes with "Celebrate Ordinary Time". This overview will provide you with an easy-to-use reference to the book, but even more valuable is the "Index of Activities" in the back of the book. This Index is arranged by the calendar year and provides page and activity references to specific Feast Days of the Church. Have you ever considered celebrating The Feast of St. Nicholas? Or the Annunciation of the Lord? Or the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows? Now you have ready-to-go plans for these and hundreds of other special days.

Plays, craft projects, dramatic readings, games, drawings, hands-on learning, writing projects and much more employ all of the various styles of learning. Also included are the most popular longer-term projects from the CHC Lesson Plans. Many families have purchased the lesson plan sets just to have access to these enriching ideas. The wide range of projects and activities appeal to all age groups as well. I have a sixteen-year age-range between students in my own homeschool, and there are enjoyable activities for everyone, including me! The extensive artwork is professional, orthodox, and pleasing while remaining accessible and comprehensible to everyone. Produced with a variety of easily-read fonts on creamy, thick paper, the book is a joy to read while allowing both durability and excellent reproduction quality. CHC has permitted that activity pages may be copied for immediate family members, further extending the usefulness of the book. Arrangements can also be made for group copyright permissions; this is a terrific way to introduce these activities into homeschool cooperative groups, sacramental preparation classes, and other group situations.

Every other book that we have used as we have celebrated the liturgical year has been tied to the cultural traditions of different countries around the world. While we have enjoyed these experiences, there are plenty of books available to learn about them. A Year With God is different from these books; it does not include such popular and well-known traditions as the Christmas Tree or the baking of Hot Cross Buns. A Year With God is focused on the truly spiritual and universally Catholic in a way that develops and fosters growth in virtue and holiness. The richness and depth of our Faith comes alive in a way that is unforgettable, both to the student and the teacher. Take the time to really read through and use this book. It will be a blessing to your family!

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Copyrights 2003/2005

Donated for review by Catholic Heritage Curricula

Review Date: 
11-5-03
Reviewed by: 

Abigail and the Widow Mary

Book cover: 'Abigail and the Widow Mary'
Author(s): 
Noel Trimming
Copyright: 
1996
Publisher: 
The Pentland Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
62 pages
Review: 

Mr. Trimming has created several very engaging stories about some of Jesus' most beloved miracles told from the point of view of children. These stories fall into the category of historical fiction. In other words, they are based on real events, but include some fictitious characters and dialogue. This technique allows us to see the story from a different point of view (in these stories, it is from a child's point of view) and more fully understand the story because of historical details such as customs and ettiquette of the day. The author develops these stories in such a way that children more fully understand the significance and joy of these miracles. For example, the first story is of the miracle of the Wedding at Cana, when Jesus turned the water into wine. This is told from the viewpoint of Abigail, the young sister of the bride. The story relates how important certain customs related to the wedding ceremony are and how nervous everyone is about the wine being in short supply. We see that running out of wine during the celebration would be a devastating blow to the family and the bridal couple and how even young Abigail fearfully awaits what will happen. After understanding this background, how much more joyous, particularly to the young reader, is it when they see how Jesus (with some encouragement from his mother - "the Widow Mary") comes to their aid? I believe these kind of stories are an excellent way of portraying to children how great Jesus' love is for us.

My children were familiar enough with these stories from the Bible that they delighted in figuring out which story was being told (the background development gives them a little chance for guessing). So enjoyable was this story, in fact, that I was coerced by my daughter into reading the entire book in one sitting. I have to admit that I found the task not at all unpleasant.

In order to give you a sampling of the book, the story of Reuben's Basket, which is about the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, may be read online. Note: A character in one of the stories makes a joke that some may find offensive. Keeping in mind that the author is British (and some of the words involved in the joke have different connotations to British than to Americans); I don't think the joke is a real problem, but you can decide for yourself as the joke in question is included in the chapter that you can read on their website listed above.

Perspective: 
Catholic

Abraham Lincoln

Book cover: 'Abraham Lincoln'
Author(s): 
Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
Copyright: 
1939
Publisher: 
Dell Publishers
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
56 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Our family has almost worn out our copy of this well-loved book. Abraham Lincoln the boy comes alive in the story and illustrations. We see him grow to a young man and take several adventurous trips "down river" and learn that a fortune-teller from New Orleans predicted that he would be president some day. The authors indicate his empathy for the slaves during this trip and show how his honesty and integrity eventually win the respect of many, although they don't make for an easy life. The book includes information and anecdotes from the Civil War, but avoids the topic of his assassination.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Accent Your Syllables

Book cover: 'Accent Your Syllables'
Author(s): 
Cathy Behrens
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
Cathy Behrens
Binding: 
Stapled Softcover
Number of pages: 
30 pages
Subject(s): 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a 30-page, self-published book with an answer key that fits into a unique category within the language arts curriculum. Accent Your Syllables is a brief worktext that first introduces the rules for syllabication and accents in English, then provides many exercises to practice applying those rules. The rules are printed in a blue ink and are easy to find on the pages. This course would be best suited for a student who is reading fluently, as the words are generally multi-syllable. Choosing words at random from the exercises provides this list: displease, exported, scripture, soapstone, Mediterranean, bacteria, and sedimentary. I plan to use this course over the period of a few weeks, rather than using it once a week throughout a school year. This course promises to be an excellent preparation for a student beginning the formal study of a foreign language as well as a course in a specific part of the study of English.

Additional notes: 

Available from the author at 300 Marsh Street, Sedan, MN 56334

Review Date: 
4-9-01
Reviewed by: 

Addition Songs

Copyright: 
1998
Publisher: 
Audio Memory
Subject(s): 
Review: 

Audio Memory offers math audio tapes and CDs for practicing "Math Facts" in Addition, Subtraction and Multiplication. (Sold separately from each other). These are Math drills set to music (of the synthesized variety). Although these make for an easy memorization aid, I found the songs almost unbearably sappy. (My children did like them though.)

Review Date: 
5-13-2000
Reviewed by: 

Advent in the Home

Activities for Families
Author(s): 
Ellen C. Becker
Mary T. Barnes
Copyright: 
2009
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
120 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

My first impression when I opened Advent in the Home was, “Wow, it’s all here.” Normally in October I start filling my calendar with meaningful Advent activities; jotting down ideas on scraps of paper which I promptly lose and printing out coloring sheets until I run out of ink. This seems to be fairly common in homeschooling families. Aspiring to create a more spiritual tone to what has become an oppressively secular time of year can be quite overwhelming. There are just so many ideas spread out in books, periodicals, and on the Iinternet. Gathering them all and putting them to use in the home can actually create frustration and distract well-meaning parents from focusing on Christ.

Advent in the Home attempts to lessen the workload of the educator by gathering all these ideas into one book. The book includes coloring pages for the preschoolers, prayers to accompany the lighting of the Advent candles, feast day activities and recipes, a lovely rosary booklet, a paper advent wreath centered around “Doing God’s Work”, an Advent blessings booklet, a scripture based paper chain, all the ornaments for the Jesse Tree, a template for an O Antiphon house, the Liturgy of the Hours, a Nativity matching game, and much more. The illustrations are simple, clean, and charming. There is not a single filler activity in the book; all focus on Christ and all are very doable even during a busy time of year.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
10-19-2009
Reviewed by: 

Advent Reflections, Come, Lord Jesus!

Author(s): 
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
64 pages
Subject(s): 
Review: 

In Advent Reflections, Come, Lord Jesus! Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan shares four meditations, one for each week of Advent: “The Threes Comings of Jesus,” “St. John the Baptist,” St. Joseph: A Man Forgotten,” and “Our Blessed Mother Mary.”

With his earthy, conversational tone, Archbishop Dolan’s speaks to our hearts. As he talks about St. John the Baptist, he says, “You see, John’s entire ministry was captured in that one moment when he eyeballs Jesus coming out of the desert and bellows out to the crowd, pointing to Christ, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29). That was his job description—to point out Christ. With that, his job was done. He could have retired to Sun City.”

Archbishop Dolan combines teaching, inspiration, personal experience, and scripture in this lively text. To illustrate a point he is making, he weaves in short personal stories or adds scriptural passages that add depth and meaning.

Too often we listen to a sermon or read a spiritual book and later can’t recall what we have heard or read. To help us better remember his essential points, Archbishop Dolan uses catchy phrases. In describing “The Three Comings of Christ,” he says, “Our Lord comes to us in history, mystery, and majesty.”

Advent is a time of waiting and longing for the coming of our Lord. With all the bustle of Christmas preparations, it is easy to lose our focus on what this season is all about. Archbishop Dolan seeks to keep this message of hope alive with words of inspiration, questions for us to reflect on, and a prayer to carry us into the coming week.

Although there is only one meditation per week, instead of daily, there is plenty for us to reflect on during the week.

Not just “pretty” words, Advent Reflections, Come, Lord Jesus! challenges us to put our faith in action. This is an ideal resource for the whole family.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
11-25-2007
Reviewed by: 

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