Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Force is Free on Kindle!

The Force (The Kingdom Chronicles) by Joyce and Alexandra Swann is free today through November 2.  It is the sequel to The Fourth Kingdom.  I am enjoying reading this book as it has characters you love and characters you hope get what's coming to them. It is intriguing, and you wonder how long it'll take before the "secret" is uncovered.  While I haven't gotten to The Force yet, I expect it to be even better than The Fourth Kingdom and can't wait to get started.

The Force (The Kingdom Chronicles) is free on right now for your Kindle through

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Summer/Fall Series: 50 States - Michigan


Home to the nation's third oldest European settlement—Sault Ste. Marie—Michigan is our 26th state.  Statehood was granted on January 26, 1837.  The word Michigan comes from a Chippewa word, "meicigama," which means "large lake."  The postal abbreviation is MI.  (Remember that Maine is ME, Maryland is MD, and Massachusetts is MA.)

Michigan's state motto is another long one: Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circum spice.  It means "if you are seeking an amenable peninsula, look around you."  There is both an upper and a lower peninsula in this state.

The capital of Michigan is Lansing.  It became the capital in 1847 and is named for an area of New York from which the settlers to Lansing, Michigan, came.  Detroit was the capital before that from 1805 to 1847.  Detroit comes from the French word for "strait."

Battle Creek, Michigan, is the Cereal Capital of the World because the Kellogg Company is located there.  Look at any box of Kellogg's cereal you may have in your pantry, and you'll see Battle Creek on it.  Detroit is where Vernor's ginger ale is made.  It was the first soda pop in the U.S. and was created in 1862 by pharmacist James Vernor.  Detroit also the center of the auto industry in the U.S.  General Motors is still headquartered there.  Motown Records began in Detroit, and Faygo Beverages, Inc., was founded here in 1907.  Sault Ste. Marie, the third oldest European settlement, was founded in 1668 by Father Jacques Marquette.

The major industries here continue to include car manufacturing and farming.  Timber and fishing add to the state's economy, too.

Michigan has the longest shoreline along freshwater on the globe, more than 3,100 miles.  It also touches four of the five Great Lakes.  There is always something to do in Michigan with all of the state parks and recreational areas.  Visitors can tour Mackinac Island which is home to the historic Grand Hotel.  The Henry Ford Museum is located in Dearborn, and there are many zoos and amusement parks, as well as museums.

This state has several nicknames such as "The Great Lake State" and "Wolverine State."  However, there are no more wolverines located in Michigan.  The state bird is the Robin, and the state mammal is the white-tailed deer.  The painted turtle is the state reptile, and the brook trout is the state fish.

The apple blossom is the state flower, and the Dwarf Lake iris is the state wildflower.  The state tree is the white pine.

The Michigan state flag was adopted in 1911.

On the blue background stands an elk and a moose which flank a blue shield with the word, "TUEBOR," on it which means "I will defend."  A man with his hand raised and a gun in the other hand stands on the shore as the sun either sets or rises behind him is seen in the shield.  The state motto lies below shield, and the United States motto, "E pluribus unum," is above it.  An eagle with an olive branch and 3 arrows sits between the shield and the U.S. motto.

People who live in Michigan are called Michiganders, Michiganians, and Michiganites.  Some famous people born here include director/producer Francis Ford Coppola; Henry Ford; founder of Motown Records, Barry Gordy, Jr.; director/producer John Hughes; Magic Johnson; author of the Left Behind series, Tim Lahaye; W.K. Kellogg; actor Taylor Lautner; Charles Lindbergh; Lee Majors of "The Six Million Dollar Man" fame; co-founder of Google Larry Page; boxer Sugar Ray Robinson; Mitt Romney; Steven Seagal; and tennis star Serena Williams.

Enjoy some Michigan games.

The following are some Michigan resources that can be found at  I am an affiliate with, so if you purchase through my blog I will receive a commission.

2870554: Michigan Michigan
By Willis Dunbar / Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Covering the entire scope of the Wolverine State's historical record - from the time humankind first arrived in the area around 9,000 B.C. right up to the present gubernatorial administration - this new edition of Michigan now also examines Michigan's colorful history from 1980 to 1994.  **This may not agree with the timeline of a six-day creation view of history.

454744: The Mystery on the Great Lakes: Michigan* Superior*  Huron* Ontario* Erie The Mystery on the Great Lakes: Michigan* Superior* Huron* Ontario* Erie
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

426783: Michigan Native Peoples Michigan Native Peoples
By Marcia Schonberg / Heinemann Raintree

426767: All Around Michigan: Regions And Resources All Around Michigan: Regions And Resources
By Alexandra Fix / Heinemann Raintree

This book contains all kinds of fun and fascinating facts about the regions of Michigan and their valuable resources. You'll find colorful maps that help you locate Michigan's regions and understand their features. You will learn about the many natural and man-made resources of the state and how they affect its economy.

426805: People Of Michigan People Of Michigan
By Marcia Schonberg / Heinemann Raintree

18972EB: Danger on the Great Lakes - eBook Danger on the Great Lakes - eBook
By Carolyn Keene / Aladdin

38803EB: Great Lakes Indians: A Pictorial Guide - eBook Great Lakes Indians: A Pictorial Guide - eBook
By William J. Kubiak / Baker

Show your students what America looked like before it was settled by the pioneers . . . when it was the dominion of the North American Indians. Packed with 139 sketches and paintings, Kubiak's fascinating resource features valuable cultural and historical information about 25 tribes of Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Siouan stock. 224 pages, softcover from Baker.

423652: Henry Ford Henry Ford
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International
Correlated to state and national standards, this series teaches students about important people, places, and events in history. Broken down into short, easy to read passages reinforced by simple activities, each reader includes a glossary, interesting facts, reading, puzzles, highlights of achievements, sequencing of important events, and simple math activities. 12 pages each. Grades K-4.

815100: Eat My Dust!  Henry Ford"s First Race Eat My Dust! Henry Ford's First Race
By Monica Kulling / Random House, Inc

It's 1901, and Henry Ford wants to build a car that everyone can own. But first he needs the money to produce it. How will he get it? He enters a car race, of course! Readers will love this fast-paced, fact-based story! For ages 6-8.

0419105: Henry Ford: Young Man with Ideas Henry Ford: Young Man with Ideas
By Hazel B. Aird, Wallace Wood(ILLUS) & Catherine Ruddiman / Aladdin

366407: Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan
By Melanie Dobson / Summerside Press

Though Elena Bissett's once-wealthy family is determined to find her a rich suitor, she'd rather secretly meet a fisherman named Chase at the lighthouse---where they work to solve a decades-old mystery. But when she's forced to meet elusive millionaire Chester Darrington, her two worlds collide. Must she choose between her heart and her family's future? 320 pages, softcover from Summerside.

38584EB: The Grand Hotel - eBook The Grand Hotel - eBook
By Mary Davis / Barbour Publishing

A family legend brings Aimee Mikkelson to the Grand Hotel on Michigan's Mackinac Island. As she seeks to uncover a hidden inheritance, Aimee's carefree nature hits a wall of organization - Mr. Dillon Thurough. Now her mission is two-fold: Recover the treasure and help Dillon break out of his routine. Dillon Thurough hates surprises. As one of the Grand Hotel's assistant managers, he has a one-, five-, and ten-year plan, and the free-spirited Ms. Mikkelson doesn't fit into any of them. Yet somehow, her ways are getting to him. As they work together to follow the antiquated clues, could Aimee and Dillon also be following the Lord's map to romance?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apply to be a Part of the Crew!

If you would love to receive homeschooling products for the price of using them and honestly reviewing them, then consider filling out the application to be on the 2014 Schoolhouse Review Crew.  The link will take you to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog where you will need to read the "fine print."  The link to the application is at the bottom of the blog post.

 photo 2014Applications_zps30afe543.png

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Summer/Fall Series: 50 States - Massachusetts


The state of Massachusetts (MA) began after the Pilgrims, or Separatists, landed in Plymouth in 1620.  They were persecuted for their faith in England and did not enjoy religious freedom in Holland, so they set sail for Virginia, but they were blown off course during their journey across the Atlantic.  Because the charter they had received from King James was to establish a colony in Virginia and they had landed north of this colony, they wrote an agreement that established a government in which the people would have a say in how things were done—the Mayflower Compact. That first winter was a difficult one, and many of the settlers died.  The following year, an Indian man named Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to plant.  A year after first settling, they celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the tribes living in the area.

Massachusetts' history is teeming with some of the most significant events in the early history of our nation.  A few years after the Pilgrims were established in Massachusetts, the Puritans came.  These were people who wanted to purify the Church of England but had been persecuted.  They were given a land grant from the king, so they settled in an area of Massachusetts they called Salem.

With an increasing population, more opportunities and institutions became available.  The city of Boston was founded in 1630; it is the largest city in Massachusetts and also the capital.  Boston Common became the first public park in 1634.  
Named in honor of John Harvard, the nation's first college, Harvard, was founded in 1636.  The first post office opened in Boston in 1693, as well as the first free public school.  From February 1692 through May 1693, the Salem Witch Trials took place.  The first lighthouse was built in 1716 in Boston Harbor.

From the early days of the colony through the late 1700s, it was controlled by England.  As the colonists began to realize increased taxes and lack of representation in English government, they grew dissatisfied.  A series of events led to the American Revolution including the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the Boston Tea Party in 1773 when the colonists threw tea into Boston Harbor in protest of the tea tax.  The first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired in 1775 in Lexington and Concord.  The war would last 6-1/2 years but end with freedom.  The colonies at that point were free to govern themselves.  The U.S. Constitution was written and signed in 1787.  Massachusetts ratified on February 6, 1788, and became the sixth state.

ore than 200 famous historical figures were born in Massachusetts, even from its earliest days.  Since the list is quite extensive, I have chosen to mention those who may be most familiar or who have prominent roles to play in history.  I will provide explanation for some as I feel it is needed.  If they are unfamiliar, I encourage you to research them.

  • Abigail Adams
  • John Adams
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Samuel Adams
  • Susan B. Anthony -suffragist/abolitionist
  • George H.W. Bush
  • John Chapman -aka Johnny Appleseed
  • Crispus Attucks -runaway slave killed in Boston Massacre
  • Roger Baldwin -co-founder of ACLU
  • Clara Barton
  • Katharine Lee Bates -wrote "America the Beautiful" poem
  • Leonard Bernstein -composed score for West Side Story
  • Susan Butcher -four-time winner of Iditarod
  • Connie Mack -helped establish American League in baseball
  • Jeff Corwin
  • E. E. Cummings - 20th century poet and novelist
  • Matt Damon
  • Bette Davis
  • Cecil B. DeMille -director/producer
  • Emily Dickinson
  • WEB DuBois - co-founded the NAACP
  • William C. Durant - founded General Motors
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Richard Buckminster Fuller - architect who made geodesic domes popular
  • William Lloyd Garrison - abolitionist
  • Robert Goddard
  • Hetty Green - one of the first women to prosper through the stock market
  • G. Stanley Hall - established idea of child psychology
  • John Hancock
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Winslow Homer
  • Joseph Hooker - Union general in the Civil War
  • Elias Howe - invented the sewing machine
  • Howard Johnson
  • Kennedy family - many members including President John F. Kennedy
  • Jack Kerouac - writer
  • Emeril Lagasse
  • Lewis Harold Latimer - helped patent light bulb and telephone
  • Mary Lyon - founded Mount Holyoke College - first women's college
  • Rocky Marciano - boxer
  • Cotton Mather - Puritan minister who consulted during Salem Witch Trials
  • Christa McAuliffe - teacher who died in Challenger explosion in 1986
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Paul Revere
  • Theodor Seuss Geisel - Dr. Seuss
  • Roger Sherman - signed and drafted Declaration of Independence and signed U.S. Constitution
  • Squanto
  • Anne Sullivan - taught Helen Keller
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Eli Whitney - inventor of the cotton gin and idea of 'interchangeable parts'
As you can see, Massachusetts' roll call reads like a Who's Who of American history.  One idea for an activity for your child is to choose one person and research their life and their significance to our history.

In addition to many famous people and historical events, Massachusetts has an extensive list of state symbols:

Bird - Black-capped chickadee
Game Bird - Wild Turkey
Dog - Boston terrier
Horse - Morgan Horse
Cat - Tabby cat
Fish - Cod
Insect - Ladybug
Marine mammal - Right whale
Flower - Mayflower (ground laurel)
Tree - American elm
Bean - Navy bean
Historical Rock - Plymouth Rock
State Folk Hero - Johnny Appleseed
Beverage - Cranberry juice
Muffin - Corn muffin
Dessert - Boston cream pie
Cookie - Chocolate chip cookie

Massachusetts' name has its origin in an Algonquian word meaning "a big hill place."  There was also a Massachusetts tribe living in the region when the Pilgrims arrived.  The state nickname is the Bay State, and the motto is "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem," which means "By the sword we seek peace but peace only under liberty."  The motto is written on the state flag and is also depicted by an arm wielding a sword.  The current flag was adopted in 1971.  It is white and shows a native American standing with a bow and arrow on a blue shield.  There is a white star which represents Massachusetts being one of the 13 original colonies.  The old flag had a design on each side.  The new one has a design on just one side.

Many well-known companies are headquartered in Massachusetts, including Au Bon Pain, BJs Wholesale Club, Boston Beer Co., Dunkin Brands, Inc. (think Dunkin Donuts), Bose Corporation, Baskin-Robbins, Gillette, KB Toys, Liberty Mutual, Ocean Spray, Polaroid, Staples, Talbots, Welch's, Yankee Candle Co., Raytheon, Uno Chicago Grill, and Smith and Wesson.  Are you familiar with Necco wafers?  Necco is located in MA.  The name is actually an abbreviation for New England Confectionery Co.  There are also five separate makers of shoes in the state: New Balance, Stride Rite, Reebok, Rockport, and Saucony.

More interesting facts are that Boston is called "The Hub" and "Beantown" and had the first subway system in 1897.  The game of volleyball was created by William G. Morgan in Holyoke in 1895.  The fig newton cookie is named after Newton, MA.  The city of Lowell is where the American Industrial Revolution began.  It was the first planned industrial city, manufacturing cloth/textiles.  Cape Cod National Seashore represents the first time the government bought land to create a park.  The town of Quincy is home to the first Dunkin Donuts and the first Howard Johnson.  The first zip code was issued for Agawan: 01001.  Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1845.

Sitting in the Charlestown Navy Yard is a 44-gun frigate which was originally constructed in the 1790s—the USS Constitution—in answer to the need for a Navy.  It was constructed with exterior and interior layers made from oak planks that were seven inches thick with diagonal cross-bracing in the middle layer to add strength to the ship.  In battle, cannonballs were seen to bounce off the hull, and it was given the name "Old Ironsides" because of its impenetrability.  The frigate has been restored, but it is as originally designed by Joshua Humphreys.

The USS Constitution is one of the many things that can be seen on a visit to Massachusetts.  Other sites and activities of interest are Boston Harbor where the Tea Party took place, Faneuil Hall, the Freedom Trail, Plymouth Rock, Old Sturbridge Village, Plimoth Plantation, Norman Rockwell Museum, Paul Revere House, Battleship Cove, Salem Witch Museum, The House of the Seven Gables, whale watching, New Bedford Whaling Museum, Adams National Historic Park, Old South Meeting House, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket.  These are just a sampling of the hundreds of activities available to Massachusetts' visitors.

Spend some time playing Massachusetts learning games, and test your knowledge.

I will provide below an extensive list of books that discuss topics relevant to Massachusetts.

I am an affiliate with  If you purchase any of these items through my site, I will receive a commission.

398584: The Marvelous Massachusetts Coloring Book The Marvelous Massachusetts Coloring Book
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International
Kids can color and learn new facts! Lots of fun and educational, too! All ages can enjoy this book. Includes:

  • State Symbols
  • Historical Places
  • Scenic Places
  • Massachusetts Characters
Softcover, 32 pages. Gallopade International.

83296: Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony
By Alice Turner Curtis / Applewood Books
Tell your girls to don their bonnets for a visit with Anne Nelson in old New England! They'll learn what life was like during Revolutionary times as they join in Anne's adventures: a journey with Native Americans, capturing an English privateer, and more! Includes a Little Maid paper doll and dress. Originally published in 1914 for girls aged 7 to 12. 190 pages, softcover from Applewood.

5565X: Everyday Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony Everyday Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony
By George Francis Dow / Dover Publications
Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony is one of the most detailed works upon the daily lives of the early colonists. Scores of illustrations and photographs highlight portions of the text, bringing a clearer portrait of what actual items and houses looked like. Drawing on extensive research, the colonists' dwellings, furnishings, wardrobes, games, medical practices, economics, crimes, and more are all expounded upon with accurate descriptions. 293 indexed pages, softcover.

903052: 13 Colonies: Massachusetts 13 Colonies: Massachusetts
By Roberta Wiener & James Arnold / Heinemann Raintree

002516: Heroes of History: John Adams, Independence Forever Heroes of History: John Adams, Independence Forever
By Janet & Geoff Benge / Emerald Books
The Heroes of History series chronicles the true stories of fascinating men and women who changed the course of history.
Growing up in Massachusetts, longing to be a farmer like his father, John Adams never imagined the vital role he would one day play in the transformation of the colonies into an independent American nation. As the injustices of British rule stirred up the colonists to revolution and independence, this rising young lawyer became an influential member of the Continental Congress and a passionate advocate for freedom.
For ages 10 and up.

575887: John Adams (Movie Tie In) John Adams (Movie Tie In)
By David McCullough / Simon & Schuster
This Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of John Adams looks at the birth of a young republic and explores the extraordinary factors that transformed 13 colonies into a united nation. Chronicling the life of America's second president, his youth, career as a Massachusetts farmer and lawyer, his marriage to Abigail, his rivalry with Thomas Jefferson, and his influence on the birth of the United States are explored in exquisite prose. Reissue with movie-tie-in cover. 751 pages, softcover.

95522: Paul Revere Paul Revere
By George Sullivan / Scholastic Trade
"In Their Own Words: Paul Revere" tells the exciting story of Paul Revere's life using his own writing and art. On April 16, 1776, Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride from Boston to Lexington, Massachusetts. He rode to tell people in the countryside that the British troops would soon arrive. Although Paul was stopped by British soldiers, his actions on that night have made him an American legend. Yet Paul accomplished much more than that. Did you know that Paul Revere was at the Boston Tea Party? belonged to the Sons of Liberty? was an expert silversmith? had sixteen children? opened a gun powder factory? designed and made money? Hear Paul's story as if you were really there.

457154: Who Was Paul Revere? Who Was Paul Revere?
By Roberta Edwards & Nancy Harrison / Grosset & Dunlap

Discover who Paul Revere really was with this illustrated biography in the Who Was series. Featuring fun facts from throughout his life, you will learn about Paul's life from his birth in Boston, Massachusetts, through his pivotal role in the Revolutionary War, and on. Includes a bibliography for more reading.

80489: The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter
By Nathaniel Hawthorne / Dover Publications
First published in 1850, The Scarlet Letter is Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece and one of the greatest American novels. It's themes of sin, guilt and redemption, woven through a story of adultery in the early days of the Massachusetts Colony, are revealed with remarkable understanding of the human heart.  Hester Prynne is the adulteress, forced by the Puritan community to wear a scarlet letter 'A' on the breast of her gown. Arthur Dimmesdale, the minister and the secret father of her child, Pearl, struggles with the agony of conscience and his own weakness. Roger Chillingworth, Hester's husband, revenges on himself on Dimmesdale by calculating assaults on the frail mental state of the conscience-stricken cleric. The result is an American tragedy of stark power and emotional depth that has mesmerized critics and readers for nearly a century and a half.

478906: Who Was Abigail Adams? Who Was Abigail Adams?
By Grosset & Dunlap

Now kids can learn all about the life of Abigail Adams, one of the strongest and smartest First Ladies! In this illustrated biography, kids will learn about our country's second First Wife, from her childhood in Massachusetts, to her role as wife and companion to second president John Adams.

61390: 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving
By Catherine O'Neill / Simon & Schuster
In cooperation with the Plimoth Plantation, a living-history museum in Massachusetts, National Geographic has recreated the first Thanksgiving. Photographs by National Geographic photographers of the recreation at Plimoth Plantation illustrate this book.
In 1621, in a small settlement on the edge of the sea, 52 English colonists celebrated their first harvest. The colonists were joined by 90 men of the Wampanoag tribe for a gathering that was to last three days in a town now known as Plymouth. Over the centuries, there have been countless versions of this story, creating a popular myth of the first Thanksgiving. Many Americans imagine brave, peaceful settlers inviting a few wild Indians over for a turkey dinner. But there was no pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce at this celebration. There were no Indians with woven blankets over their shoulders and large feathered headdresses. No pilgrims with somber black clothes and silver buckle hats either. The English didn't even call themselves Pilgrims.
This book puts aside that myth and takes a new look at our American history. It questions what we know and recovers lost voices of the Wampanoag people. True history includes the voices of all its participants. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving invites young people to read, listen, and think about our shared history. The book also features a foreword, a section on the actual reenactment and the concept of living history, a chronology, an index, and a bibliography.

81776: John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell and the Land of Promise
John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell and the Land of Promise
By Marc Aronson / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
This carefully researched and insightful account by Sibert medalist Marc Aronson focuses on the intertwined lives of John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Puritan Commonwealth in England.  Set against a broad canvas of the turmoil that engulfed Britain in the 17th century, the book examines the clashes of the monarchy and the church with Parliament, which led these two powerful men to take opposite courses. Here is a panoramic view of the period, from elaborate masques to the trial of a heretic, from wars fought against Indians to dramatic battles led by cavalry, from the toppling of a king to the search for the ideal society.

Packed with literary allusions, vivid descriptions of significant events, and a cast of memorable figures, this sweeping account picks up where the highly acclaimed Sir Walter Raleigh leaves off, providing another riveting look at British and early American history. Cast of characters, maps, end notes and bibliography, Internet resources, timeline, index. Grades 7 and up, Ages 12 and up. 7 1/2 x 9 inches. Hardcover, 224 pages.

61683: Colonial Days: American Kids in History Series Projects, Games, Activities and Recipes Colonial Days: American Kids in History Series Projects, Games, Activities and Recipes
By David C King / John Wiley & Sons
Colonial Massachusetts. The best way to learn about it is to "live" there! Your children will join young Nathan and Sarah Mayhew on their farm in 1732. Education becomes hands-on fun as kids "do as the colonists do" in year-round activities such as making a model weathervane, baking bread, dipping candles, and playing Jackstraws. Over 40 projects! Ages 8 to 12. 112 pages, softcover from Jossey-Bass.

439686: Who Was Johnny Appleseed? Who Was Johnny Appleseed?
By Joan Holub / Grosset & Dunlap

Discover who Johnny Appleseed really was with this biography on the real man. Written for kids ages 9-12, this biography features information about John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, from his birth in Massachusetts, through his death and beyond as his legend spread throughout the country.

114401: Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?
By Putnam Juvenile

John Hancock liked to be liked. He liked to hear the "huzzahs" of the people around him. He liked to be at the head of the parade. Jean Fritz brings history alive again with her account of John Hancock's life as a child, businessman, and Massachusetts representative. 47 pages, softcover.

114166: Why Don"t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?
By Putnam Juvenile
Sam Adams was a walker and a talker. He talked about the evils of England, he gave the signal for the Boston Tea Party, and he talked as a representative of Massachusetts. He also walked a lot but only because he couldn't ride a horse. When he & John Hancock had to escape (nicely warned by Paul Revere), they had to take a carriage with driver and hide in the swamp-not exactly a dramatic exit! Framed by the story of how he finally learned to ride, this engaging biography of Samuel Adams is the story of a true American patriot. 47 pages, softcover.

241666: Puritans vs. Witches             - Audiobook on CD Puritans vs. Witches - Audiobook on CD
By The Vision Forum, Inc
Perhaps the most godly group of Christians to populate North America were the Puritans of New England. Yet no group has been more ruthlessly vilified by modern historians, and no subject more misrepresented than their infamous Salem Witch Trials. In this brilliant, scholarly presentation, Dr. Paul Jehle goes beyond the popular rhetoric to expose the truth. He reveals both the wisdom and the failures associated with the Trials, and he makes the case that God used them to lay the foundation for the greatest revival in American history - the Great Awakening. 1 CD. 64 minutes.

15870EB: The Witchcraft of Salem Village - eBook The Witchcraft of Salem Village - eBook
By Shirley Jackson / Random House Books for Young Readers
The Landmark Books are a homeschool family favorite! Well-written with clear sentences and all the drama of history intact, this book covers the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The accusations, defense, and words of the jury are recorded with vivid descriptions of the atmosphere of fear that ran rampant in Salem and Salem Village in the 1600s. Grades 6 & up. 142 pages, softcover.

3212401: Boston Women"s Heritage Trail, 3rd Edition Boston Women's Heritage Trail, 3rd Edition
By Applewood Books

Women's lives and achievements have enriched the history of Boston for almost four centuries, yet the significance of their stories is often overlooked. Patriots, reformers, abolitionists, suffragists, artists and writers-Boston women have always played an integral role in shaping history. The Boston Women's Heritage Trail tells some of these remarkable stories, and forever weaves Boston women back into the fabric of the "city upon a hill."

954704: The Boston Dictionary The Boston Dictionary
By John Powers / Applewood Books

833477: A Short History of Boston A Short History of Boston
By Robert J. Allison / Applewood Books

If you want to learn about Boston history, here's the perfect place to start. Robert Allison introduces you to the great characters, dramatizes the shaping events, and takes you from John Winthrop's City on a Hill to the Boston of today.

212104: The Boston Massacre The Boston Massacre
By Robert J. Allison / Applewood Books
Acquaint yourself with the unique character of New England and the events, people, and landscape that have shaped the region's history.  The Boston Massacre incited the Revolutionary War and has been taught in American textbooks throughout the country. Quickly used by the Revolutionaries as material to incite a war and illustrate the injustices of the Redcoats, it also showcased the democracy thriving in the city of Boston; the British soldiers were defended by none other than John Adams. This brief history explores the event and its fascinating aftermath. 72 pages, softcover.

302976: The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin
By Cheryl Harness / National Geographic Children's Books
The illustrations play the starring role in this biography of Benjamin Franklin. Done in watercolor, gouache, ink, and colored pencil, readers will be transported back to Philadelphia, Boston, London, France, and the many locations Ben Franklin visited over his life. The conversational text narrates the events of his life from his early apprenticeship to his life as a diplomat to France and his works as an integral player in the new American country. References are made to his and his son's out-of-wedlock children. 47 pages, softcover.

774130: Easy Reader Biographies: Susan B. Anthony Easy Reader Biographies: Susan B. Anthony
By Carol Ghiglieri / Scholastic Trade

787503: Famous Authors: Emily Dickinson Famous Authors: Emily Dickinson
By Kultur International Films

822488: The Seuss, The Whole Seuss, and Nothing But The Seuss The Seuss, The Whole Seuss, and Nothing But The Seuss
By Charles D Cohen / Random House, Inc
Theodor Seuss Geisel, creator of Horton the Elephant, the Grinch, the Cat in the Hat, and a madcap menagerie of the best-loved children's characters of all time, stands alone as the preeminent figure of children's literature. But Geisel was a private man who was happier at the drawing table than he was across from any reporter or would-be biographer. Under the thoughtful scrutiny of Charles D. Cohen, Geisel's lesser known works yield valuable insights into the imaginative and creative processes of one of the 20th century's most original thinkers.

58644: Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving
By Eric Metaxas / Thomas Nelson
This entertaining and historical story shows that the actual hero of the first Thanksgiving was neither white nor Indian, but God. In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a 12-year-old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: An English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims land in a strange new world. Recommended for ages 5 to 10.

878951: Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin
By Coughlan Publishing

Action-packed non-fiction, the graphic library series present the stories of history in high-interest, graphic novel format. The story of Eli Whitney's life and invention of the cotton gin, as well as his later important invention, is recounted in pictures and captions. Index, glossary, and "more information" fact page are included. 32 pages, softcover. 4th Grade reading level.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chess House Review

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Chess House is a company that was started in 1972, changed hands a couple of times, and is now owned by the Neff brothers.  Their company provides instruction in chess through DVDs, books, school kits, giant sets for parks, etc.  They are a resource for everything chess including boards, pieces, software, and so on.

We received the Starter Chess Learning Kit.  It comes with the "Pawn Level" DVD; a classic chess set with two spare queens; a 20" x 20" flexible board which is made in the USA (needs a solid surface on which to play) and is odor free; a cloth carrying case with handle which holds all pieces, the rolled-up board, DVD, and activity booklet.  We even received a chocolate bar with the Chess House logo imprinted on it.  Needless to say, that didn't last long in our house.  It was a nice little treat.  This kit usually sells for $49.99, but it is on sale now for just $39.99.

As soon as the kit arrived in the mail, we opened it and put the DVD in so that we could begin learning.  I was hoping that chess might be something my middle child could enjoy, something that might intrigue him enough to spend less time in front of his computer.  This didn't happen, but my daughter who is almost 12 enjoyed it and was eager to play me so that she could beat me.  I wanted to learn as well because the only thing about chess that I could remember over the years was that the knight moved in an L shape.

The instruction on the DVD is provided by National Master Elliott Neff.  He breaks the basics down into 10 lessons on this 53-minute DVD.  The lessons are as follows:

Intro to Chess
The Queen
The King
The Knight
Pawn Shields

Each lesson from Pawns to The Knight explains the piece's worth, its placement on the board, and its movement.  Elliott does a good job explaining each piece.  He is shown sitting in front of a chess board with the pieces on it that he is talking about, but as soon as he starts moving them an animated board is shown so that it appears we are looking down upon it.  That helps the viewer to understand the movement better.  Elliott gets basic but keeps his speech and explanation at a level that does not speak down to his viewer.  The video is geared towards those who are 4 years old and up, but he speaks as if teaching his equal.

The Castling, Pawn Shields, and Development sections on the DVD provide strategies to make the game more interesting beyond the basic movement of pieces.  My daughter and I were sure to employ these techniques in our games with each other.

As we played, there were things I couldn't remember from the video, but my daughter had no trouble remembering them.  I'd go back to the video to be sure, and she was always right.  One thing I would like to have in this set (and it could be included in the activity book) is a guide that simply lists the allowed movement of each piece.  After the game is played a few times, this information becomes routine, but when just starting out it would have been helpful to have it on hand without needing to go back to the video.

The activity book included in this set provides games for each piece so that they can be understood better.  We didn't play the games, as we just wanted to go directly to a regular chess game, but each piece has 2 or 3 additional games to play.  On the last page of the booklet, there is an order form for certificates of completion signed by Elliott Neff, succeeding videos in the series, and workbooks.

I feel Chess House has provided an excellent resource for teaching chess.  It is taught in a professional manner with nothing childish or cutesy in it.  The materials are of good quality and made in the U.S.A., which is a bonus.  I will continue to try to get my middle son to play chess, but if that doesn't work I at least know my daughter has taken to it.  Of course, that may be because she enjoys beating me at something.


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