Archives for August 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Golden Prairie Press — Costumes with Character

Over the last year, my oldest daughter has attended two different ladies’ tea parties–one for a Sense and Sensibility book chat and one for the Turn of the Century tea party at the Vision Forum Reformation of Food and the Family conference. Both times she had hoped to find a period dress to wear, but in each instance we were pressed for time and weren’t able to make a dress in time. Most of the patterns we had looked at were very elaborate and would have taken quite a bit of skill to make.

The Book

Both my daughter and I were very pleased to be able to review a copy of Costumes with Character by Amy Puetz. At first, I thought that this was simply a book of historical dress patterns. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was so much more. The book contains chapters from eleven different time periods. Each chapter gives a historical synopsis of the the time period, as well as information about the clothing of the time period. There are relevant quotes scattered throughout the book, along with a questions to spur further historical study. I was also glad to see a resource section to add to our studies. After homeschooling for 12 years, I am familiar with most homeschooling books, but Amy includes other books to shed light on the clothing during each time period.

Amy has included excerpts from several historical documents, helping the reader to better understand the people in each time period. This struck a chord in me as I realized that although there are general patterns of dress during each period, each specific person was much like we are today. They each had their own tastes and were limited by availability of materials, skill level, time, and money. Many of the women had to be very frugal and make do with what they had available. Most of the time, their daily clothing might have been very plain with an apron covering it to help prevent spoiling it as they did their work. Fancier clothing, worn only on special occasions, would have been carefully stored and passed down from one generation to the next.

The Patterns

As I mentioned before, most of the patterns I have seen in the past have been very complex. Amy has greatly simplified her patterns by first starting with a simple “base” dress, then build upon it for each costume. Some of the costumes are created by simply adding an apron, collar, and head covering. Others are more elaborate and require more skill level to make.

As first I was a bit disappointed that some of the costumes were so simple. But after I thought about it a bit, I realized that this is really a great thing for our family. For instance, my younger girls would be able to help with the simple pilgrim costumes, where as my oldest daughter would like to make a Civil War era dress, complete with hoop skirts. And just because the patterns are simple, doesn’t mean we can’t add to them and make them our own.

I am not seamstress, but I do sew quite a bit. Amy has written out her pattern instruction in a very clear, step-by-step manner. She has included illustrations and images to further explain the instructions. The patterns in the book are on a grid and must be enlarged. This can prove to be cumbersome as you print our several sheets of paper then try to piece them together. I was so thankful to get an email from Amy saying that she recently added full size patterns to her website!

Age Range

As far as the historical information in the book, this would be a great history supplement for anyone 8 and up. However, children this young would definitely need help sewing the costumes.


Costumes with Character comes in both the e-book version for $21.95 or the printed version for $37.00.

Through the end of August, Golden Prairie Press is having a back-to-school sale and offering 20% off all of their books, e-books, and patterns.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about Costumes with Character, click the banner here:

Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the product or service mentioned above for the purpose of a review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please read my disclosure.

Schoolhouse Review: Christian Liberty Press – Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is the first book in a three part series by author Douglas Bond. I asked my oldest daughter if she wanted to read the book because she truly loves music, especially hymns. This book has been a special blessing for her as she learns more about the sacredness of hymns. Here is what she had to say about Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers:

Mr. Pipes seems at first to be a children’s book.  But I think we can all learn from its message!

The story starts as two children are staying with their mother in a little-bitty English town.  The two children, Annie and Drew, are rather unpleased at the prospect of spending the whole summer there.  Drew, his headphones blaring music in his ears, and Annie, sketchbook in her knapsack, come across an old chapel while exploring.  They meet an elderly gentlemen affectionately nicknamed “Mr. Pipes”, because he plays the pipe organ for the church.  During their stay in England, they become good friends with Mr. Pipes, who tells them many stories of great hymn writers, all the while showing them who Jesus really is, and why He is worthy to be praised.

On the surface, it is a great book for teaching all about different hymn writers and their lives.  But there’s a deeper message about all of this and it has to do with the controversy between hymns vs. contemporary music.

One of the quotes in the book is “A good hymn should be like a good prayer — simple, real, earnest, reverent, and theological”.  Simple, not as in short, or as shallow, but simple as in straight praise and straightforward.  Real, genuine.  Earnest, having a longing desire, intent, fixed.  Reverent, submissive, humble, recognizing Him as who He really is, and worshiping in true adoration.  Theological, doctrinally sound.

I’m a pianist, and enjoy hymns very much.  But I haven’t always loved hymns, nor even known about them.  I’ve played the piano for about eleven years, and my roots were in classical music.  But along the line, I’ve had teachers that have taught me to play jazz, blues, and pop.  I used to also really like country music, and played contemporary Christian music.  A couple of years ago, we moved, and went to a church that sang only hymns.  At first, I remember telling my mom that it was hard to learn the hymns. With contemporary music, you can easily guess what comes next, because they all sound the same.  But each hymn was different and new.  I wanted to play the piano at church because they needed a pianist, but I had no idea how to play hymns.


One day, by God’s providence, I got a piano teacher.  She truly was the best pianist I had ever heard, and taught me more than I think I had ever learned about the piano in a few short months.  She taught me how to treasure hymns, because they express how great our God really is. One of the most important things she taught me was that music has the power to move people.  She told me to close my eyes, and envision scenes to go with the song I was playing, and then play what I saw.  I realize now that hymns aren’t “just songs”, they’re ways to express the depths of our soul to the Lord.


Reading Mr. Pipes, I remembered many things that my piano teacher taught me, and these things were reinforced in my mind.  It’s not that I doubt the sincerity of anyone while singing contemporary songs.  But who is our God?  Is it just “Our God is an Awesome God”?  Or is He “Holy, Holy, Holy”?


Another really important thing that I learned from my piano teacher, and Mr. Pipes reminded me of, is that music is for the words.  The music is meant to compliment the song, and if you’re more concentrated on the music than the words, if you’re more concentrated on the music than how Holy our God really is, then something is not right.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t think we should have nice music to go along with it, or that I just want to sing a cappella (come on, I am a pianist after all!). It means that the music should highlight the words. I had a huge lesson to learn in this area. I used to play monotone.  But a hymn should be simple, the music emphasizing the words, and beautiful.

The words should be simple as well–not trying to fit as many words in as you can, and not trying to impress people with a large vocabulary, but consisting of one thing, and that is worshipping God.  I believe God does like beautiful music and words. However, they shouldn’t take away, but add to worship.


In worshipping God, it really does help to know who He is, and what He has done.  In praising someone, or thanking them, you don’t just say “you’re good” or “thanks”.  As in “Awesome God”, the only words we find to describe Him and what He has done, and praising Him for that, are “He’s awesome”, “He reigns”, “He’s wise”, and “He’s powerful”.  One of my favorite hymns, “One Day”, tells of His death, burial, and resurrection.  Not all hymns have so much about Him.  But in one verse of “Tell me the story of Jesus”, we find that He was nailed to a cross, died, and liveth again;  that He loves us, and that was the reason that He paid the ransom for our sins.  The best hymns are the ones that express what the Bible says.  Ones that remind us what a great God we serve, and praise Him for that.


Simple, earnest, reverent, and theological–we now have a pretty good foundation for a hymn.  But none of this really matters if it’s not real.  I think this can apply to the hymn itself, because we want it to be real in the sense of not imaginary, but true.  But that kind of fits with the theological perspective.  I think real applies more to the singers of the hymn.  You could have the most simple, earnest, reverent, and theological hymn/song out there, and yet if you don’t really mean it, it doesn’t do a thing.

Is God only glorified by hymns?

I know some godly Christians who exclusively sing contemporary music.  The song may not be the best, but they sing it earnestly and real.  I don’t think that God is only glorified by hymns, but I do believe that He wants our very best.  He wants us to worship Him the very best we know how.  We should always be seeking to glorify Him more and more in all we do.  There’s never an “arrived” place, only a journey closer to Him in all we do.

What if others don’t agree?

As a final note, I believe that this may be some of what Paul was talking about to the Romans.  He was talking about eating, and herbs vs. meat.  He was making the point that while one eats meat, and another herbs, it’s even better not to offend the brethren, or cause them to stumble.  I think that this applies to music too.  In my personal worship, I exclusively sing hymns.  But at some churches, they may sing contemporary music.  Do I refuse to sing?  No!  I sing knowing that I’m worshipping God with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and so as not to cause strife within the church.  I prefer to sing hymns, because I believe they praise God to the fullest that I can praise Him.  But it’s even more praise when we don’t cause strife within the church.


In summary, this is all what the book “Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers” has taught me.  I choose hymns because I believe God is most glorified when I sing them.  Just because a song is called a “hymn” does not mean that it worships God the best, because “hymn” is becoming a broader term with each year that passes.  But we do need to search ourselves, and honestly ask ourselves, what glorifies God most?

Search me, O God,
And know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior,
Know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be
Some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin
And set me free.

I praise Thee, Lord,
For cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy Word,
And make me pure within.
Fill me with fire
Where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire
To magnify Thy Name.

Lord, take my life,
And make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart
With Thy great love divine.
Take all my will,
My passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord
In me abide.

O Holy Ghost,
Revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival,
Start the work in me.
Thy Word declares
Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now,
O Lord, I humbly plead.

What Ages is This Book For?

The publisher recommends this book for grades 7-10. However, my daughter is nearly 18 and she enjoyed it immensely and is looking forward to reading the next book in the series.


Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers can be purchased as a PDF for $8.79 or in a print version for $9.89.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers, click the banner here:

Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the product or service mentioned above for the purpose of a review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please read my disclosure.

Schoolhouse Review: Apologia – I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

I certainly didn’t know what I was getting into when I signed up for this one! From the title and description, I assumed that I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist would be just another apologetics book. Most of the non-Christian people I know or have met fall into one of three categories — 1)people who believe they are saved because of their good works; 2)people of other religions; and 3)agnostics. I don’t know that I have ever had a conversation with a true atheist. However, I was hopeful that I would strengthen my ability to contend for the faith.

I should add here that I think the title of the book is a bit limiting. This book doesn’t just confront the faith that atheist must have for their beliefs, it is a storehouse of defense against any beliefs contrary to true Christian theology. And although I believe the authors to be Arminian, the information is not specific to one Christian doctrine.

In the book, authors Norman Geisler and Frank Turek walk the reader through “The Twelve Points that Show Christianity is True”. They use reason (logical deductions) and science to carefully prove each of these points. This was so encouraging because so many times as Christians we are told that we believe because of our faith, but the science proves differently. This is just not true. It takes faith to believe in the One true God, but it also takes faith to believe He doesn’t exist. It really is just a matter of where you place your faith. And if used correctly, science points to the wonders of God’s creation.

I absolutely loved one of the quotes used in the book to demonstrate this point. Robert Jastrow, who is an agnostic scientist and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, ended his book God and the Astronomers with this:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

Sadly, it will end like a bad dream for too many people.

One of the things I was thankful for while reading this book is that it shows that you don’t have to choose one over the other–being a scientist or being a theologian. The two complement each other. Geisler and Turek show over and over again how the two go hand-in-hand. And the authors do an excellent job at illustrating their explanations in ways that even I could understand.

For example, when explaining the Anthropic Principle (highly precise and interdependent environmental conditions), they interweave the failed space mission of Apollo 13 and how anthropic constants allowed the astronauts to make it home. This helped me tangibly see that the precise levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere couldn’t be there by chance. The gravitational interaction of the moon and the earth effects so many aspects of our lives and must be perfectly balanced. It reminds me of a song by Nicole Mullens which says,

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean you can only come this far?
And who showed the moon where to hide till evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?


Along with the book, Apologia has developed a curriculum to help students retain the knowledge learned through studying the book. The book is a hefty 400 pages, but using the curriculum you slowly work your way through them both over the course of 9 months. This may seem like a long time, but I have discovered that there is so much information packed into the book that it really takes to time to let it sink in.

The curriculum is a worldview course that walks you through each chapter of the book and offers additional help with the material. Personally, I really appreciated the workbook because some of the material presented in the book is very deep and requires a great amount of thought to grasp. The workbook breaks down some of the more complex thoughts and offers additional explanations.

I also appreciated the mini historical biographies scattered throughout the workbook. They offer a glimpse into the lives of historical figures and some of their personal beliefs. I think sometimes we learn about people in history, but don’t really relate those people to the time in which they lived. I was reading about Albert Einstein and was surprised to find that he died the year before my mother was born. His General Relativity theory shows that time and matter came into existence at the same time, which we know as creation.

The curriculum also teaches students to look up the material presented and research it for themselves. So many times we are presented with “facts”, but the Bible tells us to be “wise as serpents”. We need to check things out for ourselves and not depend on others to feed us what they feel is important. I felt like the curriculum helped me understand the basics enough that I can then go and weed through other information without feeling like I haven’t a clue as to what they are talking about.

Last, I felt like the curriculum (and the book) showed me many of the arguments that are presented against creationism. Like I said before, I haven’t had conversations with atheist, or many agnostics for that matter, and sometimes I just don’t understand their beliefs. When you don’t know where they are coming from, it makes it difficult to present information that can dispel their beliefs.


While I thoroughly enjoyed most of the information presented in both the book and workbook, I was concerned with the authors beliefs concerning the Big Bang theory and the age of the earth. The authors have taken a middle ground approach, not endorsing either a specific belief but showing how several theories could prove true.

I am somewhat dogmatic when it comes to the age of the earth how it was created. I believe God’s word and I don’t think, as the workbook states, that sticking to our dogmatic beliefs will limit God’s ability to save the lost. I also don’t think it does justice to God’s work in creating the universe, to call it by the name “Big Bang”. This is a term coined by men who scoff at the work of the Lord. To me, using their terms will only confuse believers, giving Satan a foothold in this area.

What Ages Should Use the Curriculum

The book and accompanying curriculum is geared toward high school and older, but depending on your student you could possibly use it with junior high students. If possible, I would recommend going through the material with your student and discussing the information. This is the time our kiddos are learning to contend for the faith themselves and we should really be a part of arming them for the battle. It also helps to discuss the areas that we disagree with, so that our they understand why we disagree and what we believe about the issue.


The cost of the book is $16.00 and the cost of the workbook is $33.00.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, click the banner here:

Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the product or service mentioned above for the purpose of a review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please read my disclosure.

Schoolhouse Review: King Alfred’s English

OK, I am just going to cut to the chase and say right up front that King Alfred’s English has moved into my “top 10 favorite books” list. I don’t know how many times my jaw fell open and I was just amazed by the depth of research and information Laurie White put into this book!

In King Alfred’s English, Ms. White chronicles the development of the English language from its humble Anglo-Saxon beginnings up through the ages to our present melting pot lingo. She illuminated the transformation of the language by giving the reader a detailed history lesson so that we can see the change in the context of other historical events. It is not enough to simply know that around the time of the first millennium there was a large influx of French words into our language. When you realize that William the Conquering, Duke of Normandy, had taken it upon himself to rule England, you can then see that with his rule came a large population of French-speaking nobleman. It then becomes clear how the French language heavily influenced our own language during his rule.

Another aspect of Ms. White’s writing that I particularly enjoyed is seeing how the providence of God worked in the lives of men to bring the English language to where it is today. I guess I had always thought (though not consciously) that each language was in the same form today as it was when the Lord confused the languages at the tower of Babel. I didn’t realize how much change occurred over the centuries and how each change was brought about for the greater purpose of God. For instance, I was amazed at how the fall of the Greek Byzantine Empire led to the resurgence of Greek education. The rest of Europe now had access to many historical writings and a new interest in learning Greek emerged. Interestingly, the Greek Orthodox church, fleeing from Muslim persecution, brought with them the New Testament manuscripts they had preserved for many years. Here is the “coincidental” kicker, the Gutenberg printing press was unveiled just three years later. So for the first time in history, all of Europe had access to the New Testament and a printing press to help disseminate the Word of God! Amazing!

If all this history and change in the English language weren’t enough, Laurie White ties in some of the most remarkable background information about our language I have ever heard. Some of it is funny. Some of it is sad. Some of it just makes you go “hmm’. Ever wonder why we call a hog “pork” when we eat it? How about calling a deer “venison” or a cow “beef”? Remember all those uppity French nobleman that came over with William the Conqueror? In the barnyard where the lowly Englishmen worked, the animals were known by their English names–hog, deer, cow. But when they were served to the French nobleman, they were announced by their French names–pork, venison,beef!

Since I am from Texas and have heard all my life that “ain’t” isn’t a proper word, I thought I would leave you with a final quote from King Alfred’s English (to prove how smart us Texans really are)

“Ain’t I” was short for “am I not?” or, more accurately, “am not I?” as in, “I’m beautiful, ain’t I?” ain’t was the contraction for am not. So, what happened to it? Why can’t we use ain’t now? Today, the correct form is to say, “Aren’t I?” which put straightforward would be “I are not, ” and that sure isn’t grammatically correct!

I would encourage all of you to add Kind Alfred’s English to your reading lists this year. I think that even young teens would enjoy it (Laurie writes in an easy-to-understand way).

Order King Alfred’s English

King Alfred’s English retails for $16.95, and can be purchased at Christian Books, Amazon, and Rainbow Resources. It is also available for the Kindle for $5.95.

Discount Code

For those interested in purchasing a copy, Laurie has graciously given me permission to offer four (4) of my readers a discount code to purchase her book at 50% off! The first four comments will receive the discount code.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about the King Alfred’s English, by Laurie White, click the banner here:

Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the product or service mentioned above for the purpose of a review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please read my disclosure.

Schoolhouse Review: Schoolhouse Teachers

We moved to Northern Califonia back in 2002. I only had 2 kids back then, with one on the way. We had just finished our first year of homeschooling surrounded by several veteran homeschooling families, and now we were off on our own. A new friend from church told me about an upcoming homeschooling activity (Bruce Larson from Sequoia Ministries was speaking to the kids) and asked if we would like to join along.

On one of Bruce’s tables were some homeschooling magazines that he was giving away to anyone who wanted one. Being new to homeschooling, I picked out a couple of them and brought them home to devour. I didn’t even mind that there were no color pictures and only about 30 pages long.

The next year I attended the annual bay area homeschooling convention in Santa Clara, CA. While there I met one of the nicest ladies (Jen Igarashi) and she said told me about a magazine she wrote for. She said that they had just finished publishing their first full length color magazine and it even had an interview with Mel Gibson in it. I realized that this was the same magazine I had been reading and quickly signed up for a yearly subscription. And so began my journey with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

Over the years, I have so enjoyed reading The Old Schoolhouse and I must admit I was highly disappointed when they decided to stop printing their magazine and go to a digital only version (I am a paper-in-hand reader). I recently discovered a new site they have launched called Schoolhouse Teachers. Let me tell you, this site is a powerhouse for the homeschooling family. There is so much there and honestly I just don’t know where to even begin (this may be a loooong review!). So I guess I will touch on some of my favorite areas and hope that I do the site justice.

Schoolhouse Teachers

This is the heart of the website and really such a blessing. Schoolhouse Teachers are men and women who have a passion and a deep knowledge about a specific topic, who have agreed to pour out their passion and knowledge to help families learn about things they may not have to opportunity to learn about. For instance, my son is an aspiring film-maker. I have not found many opportunities for him to learn about film-making (other than sifting through film-making sites, which may contain objectionable material).

The film-making class on Schoolhouse Teachers is taught by George Escobar who is a director, producer, writer, and co-founder of Advent Film Group. He has over 25 years of film-making experience, having worked for big names such as the Discovery Channel and Time Warner. The best part though, is that he loves the Lord and he teaches film-making with a Christian worldview. I am so grateful that he would expend his time and energy to teach young adults such valuable skills. It just makes my heart sing to be given this opportunity!

Mr. Escobar started off his class in June (don’t worry though, the class is self-paced so you can start anytime) with several introductory videos. The videos in July and August have become more in-depth. There are also assignments given to the student to help further their learning as well as become familiar with several great resources.

And film-making is only one of many classes that are offered at Schoolhouse Teachers. At the moment there are classes in home economics, lapbooking, high school math, geography, history, and lots more (but a little bird told me there are about to be lots more classes coming up in the next month or so ; ) So if you are looking for some extracurricular classes (or even some basic classes that you need to cover), this is a great opportunity to learn some new things.

Schoolhouse Planners

I had seen the schoolhouse planners on The Old Schoolhouse website, but hadn’t paid much attention to them because of the price.  When I was asked to do this review, I was shocked to find that if you sign up to be a member of the Schoolhouse Teachers, you can download the schoolhouse planners for free! And not only the big main planner, but any of the five planners available (schoolhouse planner, special learners planner, primary, intermediate, and high school planners).

These planners are not just a calendar for homeschooling moms, they are a resource in themselves.  The “Big Mama” as it is called, contains over 800 pages!  There are articles from many homeschool veterans.  There are tons of forms that you can customize to meet your own needs.  The calendars are interactive so that you can type in your information and change it up as you need to.  There are tons of “lists” at your fingertips to help with memorization.  I haven’t done my planning for next year, so next week I am going to be printing out the pages I need and getting started.  In fact, the younger kids will be at VBS, so it will be a perfect time to sit down with my planner and plan.

I am not quite sure how I am going to use the primary planners.  Hannah is just starting to read proficiently, but she does like having a checklist and keeping track of her own work.  Maddie will be in the 5th grade, so I am sure she will love having her own planner.  I am thinking about buying the small 5 x 8 inch notebooks and printing their planners smaller to fit it, then making a notebook cover for it.  We’ll see how much I get done next week!


The Schoolhouse Teachers is only $1.00 for the first month (so you can try it out and see how you like it), then $5.95 a month thereafter.  You have access to all the classes, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and the back issues, the schoolhouse planners, e-books, recorded expo-to-go sessions, and tons of other goodies.  Or you can purchase a one year membership for $64.26 and save 10%.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about the Schoolhouse Teachers, click the banner here:

Disclaimer: As part of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the product or service mentioned above for the purpose of a review. All opinions are my own. For more information, please read my disclosure.