Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Cat of Bubastes Audio Drama (Homeschool Review)

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

G.A. Henty’s novels are a favorite way for many homeschool families to learn history. These classics bring history to life through engaging stories set against a backdrop of wars and ancient civilizations. Over the past few years,  Heirloom Audio Productions  has converted several of Henty’s novels into high quality audio dramas, featuring well-known actors, vivid sound effects and musical scores. Their latest production is The Cat of Bubastes,  a story of ancient Egypt.

The Cat of Bubastes tells the story of a boy, Amuba, who is captured into slavery in Egypt.

The Cat of Bubastes  2-CD set ($29.97) includes three free bonuses:

  • The 47 page The Cat of  Bubastes eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter for families who would like to expand the educational value of the story
  • A printable poster featuring of 1 Chronicles, 17:20
  • An MP3 download of  The Cat of Bubastes.

The audio drama is also available in sets of four (for sharing with friends or family) or as an MP3 download without CD’s.

The Cat of Bubastes follows the story of a boy named Amuba who is captured into slavery in Egypt, then purchased to be the slave and companion of a boy his age who is destined to become a priest. His adventures include exploring tombs, saving a girl from a crocodile, helping to cover up the accidental killing of a sacred cat, and subsequently fleeing for his life. Even Moses, the prince of Egypt, makes a “cameo” performance!

Although we have enjoyed all of the Heirloom Audio Production stories that we’ve listened to, Emily and I both agree that The Cat of Bubastes is our favorite. The plot seemed easier to follow than some other Henty stories featuring lengthy battle scenes where the storyline was carried by crashes and shouts rather than dialogue.  the storyline moved quickly, keeping us on the edge of our seats at times. It was certainly educational with the focus on Egyptian life and traditions, but families will choose to listen to it over and over just for fun. I would recommend this drama for all ages. Even younger elementary-aged children would enjoy the story, although there are some deaths of major characters that could be disturbing to sensitive children.

Study Guide:

The PDF study guide that accompanies the Cat of Bubastes audio drama provides parents of younger children with discussion material to help their children understand the story better. Alternatively, the guide can be used as written assignments for older children, expanding the story into a fuller study of Egypt.

The guide includes several components:

  • Listening Well questions assess comprehension of the story.
  • Thinking Further questions require the student to think about the events, culture, and principles in the story and  analyze them or to relate them to modern times.
  • Defining Words include a list of the more difficult words in each section for students to look up.
  • Expand Your Learning is my favorite section! These fascinating tidbits of information teach more about related concepts, from dung beetles to hieroglyphs to ancient Egyptian diet. Although we didn’t spend much time using the study guide for this audio drama, I had Emily read through these sections.
  • Bible Study exercises are located a at the end of the guide and consist of lists of Biblical truths (“Throughout Scripture, God wage was against false gods and the demonic powers behind them.”) and several references to support each premise.
  • The guide concludes with Historical Background Information about the story. These pages discuss early Egyptian civilization, the stories of their gods, and how their beliefs influenced their life practices.

The study guide is an excellent resource for families who want to expand the Cat of Bubastes into a fuller literature or unit study.

We have previously reviewed Heirloom Audio’s  With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom’s Cause, and The Dragon and the Raven, so visit these links to read about these exciting dramas or visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more about The Cat of Bubastes.

Connect with Heirloom Audio:

Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial


Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Creative Scheduling

It’s easy to get into a rut. Do you study math, language arts, history and science every single day? Sometimes it is more successful to pull ourselves out of that traditional school mindset of every subject every day at the same time and experiment with some different scheduling ideas.

Why might you want to arrange your school year differently?

  • To allow more time to really dig into a subject. Sometimes, there is an advantage to having a long block of time to spend on research, hands-on projects, or even read-alouds without the pressure to “get to the next thing.”
  • To alleviate boredom. Staying with one routine day after day, year after year can be dull. When a student’s schedule changes from month to month or even day to day, it can keep interest higher.

What are some ways to schedule creatively?

  • Block scheduling. When my children were in elementary school, we did unit studies or topical studies for history and science. I found that planning was easier for me and that all the subjects actually got done if we alternated history and science. Although we continued to do math and language arts daily, we might spend 8 weeks studying the solar system. Then we’d immerse ourselves in the Middle Ages for 6 weeks, and so on. 

This year, Emily spent the first 6 weeks of school studying human anatomy and physiology. We used a Great Courses video series, notebooking, research, and a Moving Beyond the Page unit. This was an intensive study for which she’ll receive a  full semester’s credit. During that time period, she had a lighter load in some of her other subjects and we didn’t start some subjects, like Spanish, until her human A&P course was finished.

  • Schedule variations within a week. One method that is gaining popularity in public schools (and that has always been the practice in colleges) is to study different subjects on different days. Math might be scheduled for Monday through Thursday. Science might be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and History might be on Tuesday and Thursday. This allows for some variety from day to day and gives the student longer blocks of time to focus on a subject.
  • Combining subjects. This is one of my favorite ways to both save time and to make education more meaningful. Once your children are reading fairly well, they don’t necessarily need a full language arts or English class. It is so easy to combine language arts into other subjects. Use science vocabulary as spelling or vocabulary work. Assign your children biographies or historical fiction to read. Not only will this enrich their history lessons, but the assignments do double duty, counting for two subjects. Have him write reports about what he is learning in history or science and skip those end-of-chapter questions. You can still use a spelling, vocabulary, or writing curriculum as needed, but you don’t necessarily need one every day or even every year. Of course, unit study curricula are great for combining multiple subjects, from science to art.
  • Daily scheduling. Want to start small? If you always begin your day with math, surprise your children with a read-aloud or art project first thing. Take a walk or go to the park for a break mid-morning. Little surprises or daily variations can keep routines from becoming dull. Keep in mind that your children may need to do math or harder subjects earlier in the day when they are fresh, but there is probably still some room for variety.
  • High school credits. I’ve found myself doing a bit of creative bookkeeping as I award my daughter’s high school credits. She has some subjects, such as critical thinking and art that she does as she has time, depending on what else is going on with her other subjects and extra-curricular activities. Although she did both of these subjects last year, I didn’t feel that she had yet earned a half credit for the courses. She is working on art this summer to finish up a credit. She’ll complete credits for critical thinking and logic next year. I’ll just put them on her transcript in the year in which they were completed.

What ways have you found to schedule creatively?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Pray-ers (Homeschool Review)


The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles, written by Mark S. Mirza, and published by CTM Publishing, Atlanta, is a novel that follows the lives of three Christians, Epaphras, a first century contemporary of Paul, a nineteenth century preacher, and a modern-day new believer. As the reader follows the lives and struggles of these men, she “meets” the angels and demons that are assigned to respectively encourage and to tempt each man.

The purpose of The Pray-ers is not only to entertain, but to give the reader explicit instruction in the art and practice of prayer. As one character teaches another about prayer, about discerning God’s will, and about leading lives that honor Him, the reader also learns the lesson, and witnesses the characters growing in their faith. As Mirza states in his Preface, “I want you to learn prayer. I don’t just want you to learn ABOUT prayer.”

The book is also a look into spiritual warfare. The three demons refer to God as the “Holy Enemy,” follow their human charges around, and strategize how to tempt them into sin or how to distract them from practices such as sincere prayer that will cause the humans to follow God rather than practice sin and selfishness. The demons fight and compete among themselves, demonstrating the results of rebellion against God. This aspect of the novel reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. Meanwhile, three angels encourage the lead characters, occasionally even appearing to them. The appearance of the angels strikes fear into the demons because they realize that they cannot effectively fight God or His messengers. I find it fascinating to think about the spirit world around us and enjoyed this aspect of the novel.

Throughout the novel are footnotes for scripture verses that reference the stories, passages, and principles that are being taught. The reader could use the book as a Bible study by looking up each verse or could easily ignore most of them, just researching the few that provoked more interest.b

I found The Pray-ers to be both imaginative and instructional. Unfortunately, it was also in need of some serious editing. I found the wording to be awkward and repetitive and the book was littered with punctuation errors, spelling errors, and incorrect word usage. Because of this, I found it difficult to read and found my self frequently either editing passages in my head or rereading sentences that didn’t make sense the first time through. It was also a bit too preachy. I felt that the characters did a lot of “lecturing” each other in order to convey the message to the reader and this felt awkward in a novel. I was best able to follow the story by skimming, which certainly wasn’t the author’s intent. Perhaps with some revision, the story could better reach its potential.

Connect with Mark S. Mirza and the Pray-ers:

Twitter: @ThePrayersNovel


The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
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Monday, September 19, 2016

CurrClick Fall into Savings Sale

CurrClick started their Fall into Savings Sale today, featuring hundreds of e-products for homeschooling at 80% off.

My printable learning games are included in the sale, most at only 70 cents! If you’re studying American history, geography, ancient civilizations, planets, animals, or plants this year and are looking for a fun way to supplement your studies, be sure to grab a few games this week at their lowest price ever!

Galloping Through Ancient Greece GameAll About Animals gameExplorers of the World Matching Game

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Yellowstone Adventure


Roosevelt Arch—the original park entrance


Morning Glory pool




We encountered quite a few bison bulls wandering along the roadsides.

















It’s fun taking a vacation with a cousin!



    The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

(My niece was quite indignant that they copied the title “Grand Canyon” from the real Grand Canyon.)