PlatformAs someone who works in social media, I am not a stranger to Michael Hyatt. I have enjoyed his wisdom and tips for some time now. Therefore, I was very excited when I found out he was publishing Platform, a book about social media and blogging.
Platform is for those interested in starting a blog or marketing their product via social media. It is also useful for those who are still a couple years into such a venture. Regular followers of Mr. Hyatt’s blog will probably be familiar with the content of Platform, as he states that much of it is from his blog. Those who have never heard of him or have read very little of his blog will want to grab a copy of the book.
Why would anyone want to read Platform?
- It contains step-by-step, practical information you can immediately use. The entire book is a tutorial in the new marketing style – social media. Have no idea what Twitter is? Don’t worry! He’ll teach you!
- In addition to teaching the nuts and bolts, Mr. Hyatt discusses marketing philosophy and good business practices.
- At first I wondered if it might be priced too high. After I considered the cost to hear Michael Hyatt in person, or to attend a course that presents the same information, I decided the price is very reasonable.
- Hyatt tells you exactly what he did that made his blog successful so you can replicate it. He doesn’t hide secrets. He wants you to be successful, too. He has notes for each chapter so you can use the exact online tools he does. He even lets you copy some of his verbiage!
- Mr. Hyatt adds value to the book by sharing many resources so you can continue to learn from other experts in various fields. He gives an example of when Chris Brogan helped his readers with something unrelated to social media, and he talks about how Dave Ramsey’s crew knows when someone will be successful. You will find yourself adding other books to your reading list.
- Most of all, as you read Platform, you see that Michael Hyatt practices what he preaches. He explains how important sharing and giving is. He also repeatedly shares about other leaders in the industry and explains what you can learn from them, recommending their websites. I think that says a lot about a person, especially someone so well known in a specific field.
If you are serious about wanting your blog to enjoy success or about marketing your business online, then I highly recommend Platform. More than that, I suggest you follow Michael Hyatt’s suggestions. Why reinvent the wheel when you can copy a model of success?
Differentiating Instruction With Menus for the Inclusive Classroom: Social StudiesMy children have a passion for both reading and history. That makes a literature-based learning system very successful in our home. No matter how well-read we might be, however, sometimes it takes more than a good book to truly bring history, or any other subject, to life. So, we like to occasionally pull in resources with a more hands-on approach. One resource we enjoy is Differentiating Instruction with Menus for the Inclusive Classroom: Social Studies (Grades 3-5).
The structure, organization, and implementation of Inclusive Classroom: Social Studies are identical to those found in Inclusive Classroom: Science (Grades 3-5). Once a teacher and student are familiar with any Inclusive Classroom book, they can easily pick up and begin to utilize another book in the series.
Inclusive Classroom: Social Studies covers various aspects of history, geography, and government, including the following topics:
- ancient history of Egypt, Greece, and Rome
- American history, focusing on the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and westward expansion
- state history, easily customized for any state
- government, economics, and money
- important US documents
- a study of people, including explorers, Native Americans, and US presidents
- leadership and citizenship
- geography, focusing primarily on the history and nature of maps with an additional section covering American landmarks and symbols
The title of Inclusive Classroom: Social Studies insinuates a broader scope of study than can be found in these pages. Although the chapters cover government, some history, and citizenship, the book lacks an emphasis on social and cultural interaction. I consider these to be integral components of a social studies course. Because this book lacks such an emphasis, we categorize it as history and government rather than social studies.
The American focus of Inclusive Classroom: Social Studies may also appear to limit the boundaries of the book’s usefulness, but the opposite is actually true. The nature of the menu system insists that assignments be very general and versatile, allowing freedom for the student to choose not only their activity but the scope of the activity as well. In fact, some of the Revolutionary and Civil War activities are general enough to apply to any war, and the explorer activities may apply to a wide range of explorations. This versatility allows teachers the ability to utilize these menus even for historical topics not specifically covered by this book.
The wide variety of historical projects in Inclusive Classroom: Social Studies provides a solid supplement for our history studies, delightfully broadening the style of our learning.
World War II for KidsThe World War II era is such an interesting time to study, but many resources are geared toward older kids due to the intense subject matter. In our homeschool, I like to incorporate hands-on activities whenever possible, and I found World War II for Kids to be a complete resource for incorporating activities and background information into our history studies. Though younger kids might not need to be exposed to all aspects of the war, teaching them about this time period in a gentle way will introduce them to topics that they will revisit in high school.
The wide variety of information and activities makes World War II for Kids suitable for use with elementary, middle, and high school aged students, with some modification. The resources in the book include the following:
- maps of the European and Pacific theaters
- timeline of war-related events from 1933 to 1945
- actual photographs of historical figures, events, and artifacts
- detailed explanations of WWII lingo including V-mail, rations, ranks, reconnaissance, codes, Jewish star, Victory gardens, and propaganda
- complete chapters on history ranging from Hitler’s rise to power to the surrender of the Japanese
- personal memories from people who lived through the war
- twenty-one activities related to the topics covered, such as: staging a radio adventure program, playing a latitude and longitude tracking game, using cereal to study the physics of dropping bombs, and practicing phrases in French, German, and Russian
World War II for Kids is so complete that it can be used as a primary textbook for studying this historical era. I use it as a companion to our other history texts and as a literature supplement when reading other books from this period, such as The Cay. The publisher recommends this book for ages nine and up, but some of the material might not be suitable for kids younger than middle school age. There are photographs of dead soldiers and descriptions of the horrors of concentration camps.
The most notorious and deadly of all the camps in the Nazi system was Auschwitz. Two million people died in the huge Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. Unlike Terezin and other concentration camps, Auschwitz was an extermination camp, also known as a death camp. Most prisoners in death camps were killed almost immediately upon arrival. They were told that they had to take a shower. Instead they were sent to the gas chambers… (p. 123)
This passage goes on to describe how the prisoners were killed and other atrocities that were carried out on their bodies. War is definitely horrible, and though it should not be sugar-coated, I use discretion when teaching my boys. My nine-year-old is not ready for some of this material, and honestly, I would rather not know some details. But, there is an abundance of information in World War II for Kids, so I can easily find other topics to cover with him.
My younger boys enjoy the activities on code-breaking, camouflaging their bicycles, making a care package for a soldier, and making an insignia. We are learning the differences between different weapons like mortars and howitzers. The personal accounts from real people, such as Eva’s recollection of the Russian invasion of Budapest, make these stories come alive for us and show my boys the human aspect of history. The author includes many first-hand accounts from letters and interviews, and even suggests that kids talk with and interview friends, neighbors, and family members about their experiences during World War II. We should “always remember that wars are fought by real people—as real as your sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents.” (p. vii)
Ephesians: Discovering Your Identity and Purpose in ChristWhen reading through the New Testament, students of Scripture quickly see that Paul’s letters provide a treasure trove of spiritual instruction, resource for growth, and confusion! Sometimes we desperately need the companionship of other believers to help us work through and apply that treasure. Sue Edwards’ nine week study Ephesians: Discovering Your Identity and Purpose in Christ offers a great tool and resource for women who desire to come together in a small group to study Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Ephesians, part of the Discover Together Bible Study Series, presents an inductive walk through Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. This study is applicable to women ranging in age from youth to senior adult. Although other inductive approaches look much more intently into Ephesians than this study does, the author has created Ephesians to be accessible to women who desire depth but cannot commit to a more time-consuming study.
- Each lesson is designed to be completed in approximately an hour and a half over the course of the week, followed by a group discussion time. Because the lesson is conveniently divided into topical segments, it need not be completed in one sitting.
- “Digging Deeper” questions are provided in the margin for those who wish to go deeper or spend more time in study.
Ephesians is a deeply personal study. The author offers very little discussion within the body of the study itself. She simply assigns a reading passage from Ephesians and then presents questions that force women to evaluate themselves in light of Scripture. Few questions lend themselves to right or wrong answers, and some women might feel very uncomfortable with such a personal approach. They might especially struggle with sharing their answers in a group setting. Even so, I cannot imagine a more appropriate approach to Ephesians. We cannot grow through the study of this epistle without analyzing ourselves in light of its message.
Each lesson in Ephesians contains a QR code linking to a short video clip that adds background information, personal application, or deeper insight into certain passages. The videos can also be easily found on the Discover Together website. Although these clips are considered optional, they do enhance the study beautifully.
Sue Edwards’ contagious enthusiasm reveals itself throughout Ephesians, both in the written material and in the video clips. This quote from Philip Schaff’s History, included in lesson one, perfectly summarizes the delight in Ephesians that Edwards exudes.
[Ephesians] certainly is the most spiritual and devout, composed in an exalted and transcendent state of mind, where theology rises into worship and meditation into oration. It is the Epistle of the Heavenlies… (p. 19)
That enthusiasm drives women to learn, study, and grow for themselves regardless of age or stage of life. In fact, I look forward to working through this study again in a few years, knowing that I will benefit from these questions in future stages of life. Ephesians truly is a study that will grow with me!
Lightning Literature & Composition: British Christian Authors 19th-20th CenturyLightning Literature and Composition: British Christian Authors 19th-20th Century is a one-semester course for upper level high school students. Schedules are included in both the Student’s Guide and Teacher’s Guide to plan out the semester or to spread the course out over a year, if desired. Students read and study both fiction and nonfiction selections in-depth, answer comprehension questions, and complete numerous writing assignments, including research papers.
Grammar is not included in British Christian Authors, but the course is designed for upper grades when grammar studies have usually been completed. The Student’s Guide offers suggestions for strengthening established grammar and composition skills, such as encouraging students to keep a vocabulary notebook using words from the readings. Other suggestions for extending the course include:
- creating a reading journal
- reading additional biographies on the authors discussed in the course
- starting a family reading or writing night
- doing oral summary presentations
- forming or participating in a writing group
British Christian Authors includes poetry and prose selections from George MacDonald, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Amy Carmichael, and T. S. Eliot. Most of the selections are included in the Student’s Guide or through internet links. In addition to the literature included in the Student’s Guide, students will need unabridged copies of the following:
- The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
- Why Does God Allow War? by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
- Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Teacher’s Guide contains answers to the comprehension questions, but no real teaching prompts for parents. So, British Christian Authors is really more of an independent study program. The schedule does provide structure for the course, but parents who prefer a more guided curriculum will find this course to be more hands-off.
My favorite things about British Christian Authors
- The course is uniquely designed and written for homeschool use.
- The Student’s Guide is written to the student directly and is easy to understand, with clear explanations and plenty of examples to clarify points.
Don’t worry if you can’t always think of an exotic way to begin your papers. As with anything else in life, it will get easier with practice—but it’s also true that some topics just don’t lend themselves to an exciting beginning. Just present the most enjoyable introduction you’re able to for each paper and keep writing. (p. 20)
- The Student’s Guide includes background information on the authors, helping students put what they are reading into the context of the author’s world.
- Students are given choices for written exercises ranging from essays and research to creative writing and poetry. There is something for everyone, and students will feel ownership of their work by being allowed to choose how they will invest their time. Even when all the choices given are for five-paragraph essays, students still get to choose from several topics and styles.
- Writing is taught using examples from the reading assignments as models.
You need to explain what you mean by your terms in order for your readers to understand what you mean by the rest of your argument. Chesterton’s definitions of optimist and pessimist in chapter 5 are an excellent example of this. He means a slightly different thing by them than I think of when I hear them. (p. 122)
- Reading comprehension and literary analysis are both covered. Each lesson includes chapter-by-chapter or section-by-section comprehension questions so students and parents can check their reading. Writing exercises provide opportunities to dig deeper into the reading through analysis and research.
- The Teacher’s Guide provides grading rubrics and checklists along with helpful advice for grading written work.
For students who are ready to move on to more specialized English courses or those needing an elective, British Christian Authors is a unique and thought-provoking choice. Because of the level of the reading selections and the amount of research, critical analysis, and writing included, this course will serve as a good preparation for college level work.
More Beauty, Less BeastMore Beauty, Less Beast is a light-hearted woman’s devotional divided into thirty-four small chapters that are about the right size for one a day. The back cover states that author Debora Coty has her own brand of “off-beat wit” and I find that to be exactly how to describe the book. Her humor certainly is unconventional, seeking to grab your attention as she relates her many stories. She uses plenty of symbolic and colorful metaphors to make her points in a roundabout way.
More Beauty, Less Beast is divided into four sections: Outer Beauty, Inner Beauty, Fruit of the Spirit, and Beautifying My World:
- In the first section of More Beauty, Less Beast–Outer Beauty–there is a lot of focus on health and other aspects as the author relates her experiences, making light of physically maturing and aging in her own unique style. She also discusses the pitfall of relying too heavily on fashion, encouraging women to have God as their highest priority. I did have to get used to the vivid, and perhaps zany, style of writing.
- The section on Inner Beauty has practical suggestions for changing our focus from what is outside us, while making habits and understanding concepts that help cultivate our inner being. The author’s stories begin to get more interesting, and her points become pragmatic. This section was more enjoyable for me than the first.
- The next section on the Fruit of the Spirit does a good job of talking about cultivating them, and reminds us that sometimes we have to completely rely on God’s Spirit for some fruits. Each fruit discussed is given an actual fruit label to help us visualize its role in our lives. For instance, she says patience is like a banana: smooth, quiet, and full of nutrients good for endurance.
- Beautifying My World is the last section, in which the author talks about ways we relate to those around us.
Each chapter in More Beauty, Less Beast begins with a short Bible verse you can perhaps think about and meditate on all day. The Bible verses are from a wide range of mostly modern Bible versions, which I feel give it a very random feeling. The chapters close with a quote–often humorous–and a “take-away” section called Taming the Beast. These have a handful of practical questions related to each concept discussed to help you apply it in a deeper way to your life.
Gustavus AdolphusReviewed by Shari Popejoy
For inspiring courage, bravery, purpose, and destiny in young boys, Gustavus Adolphus: A Hero of the Reformation, is a great biography to add to a unit study of the Reformation. Continue reading →AUTHOR:
CONTAINS: softcover, 102 pages
PROS: wonderful book of inspiration, especially for young boys
CONS: could contain more illustrations and related historical notes
British Middle Ages Classical CurriculumReviewed by Michelle Snyder
British Middle Ages Classical Curriculum is a literature-based history program for the Middle Ages with over fifty digital books and teaching helps to plan your individualized curriculum. Continue reading →AUTHOR:
PRICE: CD: $24.99
printed Study Guide: $24.99
CONTAINS: CD with 55 digital books and study helps such as maps, illustrations, and User’s Guide
PROS: versatile, self-contained curriculum using digital classic living books
CONS: requires you to plan your own curriculum; not a step-by-step program
Let’s Thank God for FreedomReviewed by Sarah Andrews
I think Let’s Thank God for Freedom is great to have on hand for children as believing families celebrate patriotic holidays throughout the year. At its bargain price, it is a great option for gift giving or prize winning! Continue reading →AUTHOR:
CONTAINS: paperback, 24 pages
PROS: though patriotism is encouraged, loving God is given higher priority
CONS: closing verse seems a little disconnected
Kid’s CampaignReviewed by Heather Henriques
For an easy, inexpensive, and accessible look at the presidential elections, Kid’s Campaign is a timely study for your family to complete this year. Continue reading →AUTHOR:
PRICE: Teacher Guide: $20.00
Student Edition: $15.00
CONTAINS: Two e-books: Teacher Edition, 70 pages; Student Edition, 62 pages (6 weekly lessons)
PROS: easy to understand; interesting activities
CONS: needs a group of students to be effective; some sections could use more information
So You Want to Be President?Reviewed by Anne Campbell
So You Want to Be President? fits in nicely with our American history and election studies, and I am currently trying to stump my husband with trivia questions. The kids rank it as one of their favorites in this genre.
Continue reading →AUTHOR:
PRICE: hardcover, $17.99
CONTAINS: hardcover, 52 pages
PROS: David Small’s fabulous illustrations
CONS: have to flip back to illustration key to identify illustrations
A More Perfect UnionReviewed by Jen McDonald
For a child-friendly overview of the story of the U.S. Constitution, you cannot beat A More Perfect Union! Continue reading →AUTHOR:
CONTAINS: paperback, 48 pages
PROS: engaging llustrations; puts the story of our nation’s beginnings in understandable form
CONS: does not discuss the deep faith of our Founding Fathers