Jul 112011

It seems that the Amish lifestyle is a hot topic these days. In our fast-paced, modern society, we miss what the Amish have: family, community, and simplicity. But although there is a trend towards people simplifying their lives, I don’t think many people are becoming Amish. However, the basic frugal principles that the Amish follow can be adopted by anyone. In Money Secrets of the Amish, Lorilee Craker outlines these principles and shows how they can be applied.

The tips shared in this book are not new or extraordinary. They’re just old-fashioned common sense. They include ideas such as avoiding debt, waiting to buy things, reducing spending on gifts, and bartering. But the book doesn’t read like a finance book. Lorilee shares stories of real Amish families. For example, she tells of one family who saved $400,000 for a down payment on a farm while raising 14 children!

The book isn’t just about how frugal the Amish are. Along with interesting descriptions of the Amish lifestyle are Lorilee’s own stories. Her stories are of how unfrugal she was, and how spending time with the Amish while preparing to write this book, showed her how much she was taking for granted and how many things she could do without. She writes from her heart and isn’t afraid to laugh at herself. For someone who has been already been seeking ways to live more frugally, this book probably won’t have many new ideas. Even so, I found this an enjoyable book to read and an encouragement to persevere.

I review for BookSneeze®Disclosure: I received a copy of Money Secrets of the Amish to review from Book Sneeze. I was not compensated for the review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

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Jun 272011

Not every homeschooler chooses to homeschool for religious reasons. However, a great many homeschoolers do choose to homeschool so that they can teach their children from a Christian worldview. But after finishing high school, where should a young Christian continue his education if he chooses to do so?

State University?

Community College?

Christian College?

There are plenty of options available. Many Christian parents choose to send their children to secular universities, believing their children have been trained in the faith and are ready to face the worldly influences found there. But others feel that a Christian college is a better choice for their child.  At a Christian college their student will be surrounded by other believers. He will have Christian professors who believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God and who will help to strengthen his faith.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In fact, it’s probably less often the case than you think.

What do you think of when you think of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton? Elite private schools? Does anyone still remember that these Ivy League schools were founded on Christian principles? Already Compromised begins with a description of the compromise that led to the secularization of these schools. Are today’s Christian colleges going down the same path?

Ken Ham and Greg Hall with Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group sent surveys to presidents, vice-presidents, religion and science department chairmen at Christian colleges nationwide. These surveys contained a variety of questions like:

Do you believe in the inspiration of Scripture?

Do you believe in the inerrancy of Scripture?

What does your institution teach about the Bible?

Do you believe in God creating the earth in six literal 24-hour days?

The answers, found in Already Compromised, may surprise you.

I cannot say that I was surprised at the percentages of those surveyed who do not believe in a six literal 24-hour days of creation. What was surprising to me was the inconsistency in the survey answers. There were people who answered that they believed the Bible was literally true, but did not believe in a literal interpretation of creation. The book contains many other examples of these inconsistencies.

The book is more than the results of a survey however. It is a call to action. How did we get to this point? What should the church be doing? What questions should we ask before we send our sons and daughters to a Christian college? How should we teach them before they leave? There is even a chapter written directly to the student.

This book has forced me to start thinking about some of the tough decisions we’ll be facing in a few years. Our oldest son is going into the 8th grade. It doesn’t seem like college is that close, but I know that the next 5 years will pass quickly. We’ve spent more of our time worrying about how we’re going to pay for college than thinking about where he should attend. I’ve also got a renewed vision to make sure that my children understand what we believe and why we believe it. This book is a must read if you’re considering Christian colleges for your children.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review from New Leaf Publishing . I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.

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Jun 292010

The Core is the latest book by Leigh Bortins, the founder and CEO of Classical Conversations. Even though I knew a little about Classical Conversations because there are several groups in my area, I have never been involved in a group, or even attended an informational meeting. All the information I had was from members, or previous members, of Classical Conversations. My knowledge of the program could be summed up as follows:

  1. It follows a neo-classical model.
  2. The students do a lot of memorizing.
  3. It’s not an inexpensive program to join.

The reasons I had not joined, or even investigated the program further, were #2 and #3. I was excited to receive a review copy of The Core so I could finally see why so many people are so excited about Classical Conversations.

The book begins with a very thorough explanation of what is wrong with our country’s current educational model and the benefits of the classical model. Though this was not new information for me, it served as an excellent reminder of why we chose to educate our children classically, and it provided me with encouragement to stay the course. For someone unfamiliar with the concept of classical education, this book provides an exceptional explanation.

Part Two is divided into subjects such as reading, writing, math, history, and science. Each chapter is devoted to a single subject and how to teach it. I found this section very practical. The focus in the grammar years is mastering and overpracticing the foundational skills. The Core does strongly emphasize memorization of facts, especially in the early years. However, the author very clearly explains the reasons that memorization is so important.

I was honestly never thrilled with all the memory work that I had heard about in Classical Conversations, but after reading The Core, I am definitely going to be adding more memory work to our routine. An important thing to understand concerning the memorization in this program is that although it sounds like a lot of work, it is not in addition to everything else you’re already doing. It’s instead of. I think that’s what I was missing before. The approach is actually very relaxed in many ways. There is no structured history or science curricula for the grammar years. The time is spent in memorizing key facts and reading or listening to good books. There is time for exploring interests in science and history. The program doesn’t tie you to a specific time period in history or topic in science but allows for great flexibility.

I was also very happy to discover that The Core is not a big advertisement for why you should join Classical Conversations or buy their products. Of course there are a few mentions of specific resources used in the program, but overall it’s an instruction manual on how you can teach classically at home. I can definitely see how a group setting would aid in accountability, but I did not find myself, upon completing the book, immediately searching for Classical Conversations groups to join. Instead I have found myself thinking about how I have been teaching and why I have chosen to teach some subjects. I have also been trying to determine what changes I need to make to achieve the educational goals we have for our children.

I highly recommend this book both to classical educators who need to refocus, and to homeschoolers who are interested in learning more about classical education. It is available at Classical Conversations, and will be sold by major booksellers.

I have read 23 books this year for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Core from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated for this review.

May 262010

Last fall when I was doing my Christmas shopping (on-line, of course), I found a sale on a set of 4 historical fiction books. Although I was not familiar with the author, I decided to purchase them for my almost 10 year old daughter because she is crazy about historical fiction, especially books about girls and American history. Those books were the first 4 books in the Andrea Carter series by Susan K. Marlow.

You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Kregel Publications was sending me the 5th book in the series to review. My daughter really likes the books, but she didn’t want to read this one yet because she hasn’t finished the first 4 books. (She tends to read several different books at once, making it take her a while to finish any of them.) So I was introduced to Andrea in The Trouble with Treasure.

Andi is an almost 13 year old tomboy. She lives on a large cattle ranch near Fresno, California in the 1880’s. It’s an exciting time to live in California, and Andrea likes nothing more than being outdoors and riding her horse Taffy. Andrea’s friend Jenny is visiting for several weeks, and they are both excited about their upcoming trip to a logging camp with her older brother Mitch.

Unfortunately they ran into trouble on the trail. First a rattlesnake delayed their progress, and later they met up with some very frightening men. Andi is required to use strength and determination that she didn’t know she had.

I found Andi to be a likable girl. She honored her mother and sought to do what was right. But she did that without the book seeming preachy. The story was an exciting adventure with a little bit of mystery thrown in. The book wasn’t overwhelmingly Christian, but there were instances of prayer. Although not overly graphic, there were some tense portions of the book involving guns in which people were fatally wounded. I didn’t find the content objectionable, but some families might.



Disclosure: This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are our own.