Wednesday, June 21, 2017

We Hit the Jackpot for American History Living Books! {An Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series Review}

If you enjoy living books and want to dive into American history, then the Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh might be for you! 

This series of five living history books certainly has proven a fantastically fun and educational choice for my family.

Adventures of Rush Revere

When I asked my children if they would like to read the entire Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series, they did not hesitate to shout, "Yes!"  Through prior experience reading Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims and listening to a library audiobook copy of Rush Revere and the American Revolution, my children had already become familiar with the main characters of the Adventures of Rush Revere series as well as with the way these books weave humor and facts together, creating entertaining (and educational!) reads.  They could not wait to own the whole series and to finish reading about the adventures of Rush, Liberty, Tommy Freedom, and Cam (plus, later, a homeschooler named Maddie):

  • Rush Revere and the Pilgrims, in which Rush, his horse Liberty, and his middle school crew visit the Pilgrims and celebrate the First Thanksgiving with them.

  • Rush Revere and the First Patriots, in which Rush Revere and company travel both to Boston and to Great Britain, discovering the people and events just before the American Revolution.
  •  Rush Revere and the American Revolution, in which current issues such as parent deployment and bullying layer into learning about the people, battles, and events of the American Revolution, shining light on true American heroism.

  • Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner, in which the U.S Constitution, flag, and national anthem - along with other American symbols, founding documents, and system of government, are explored.

  • Rush Revere and the Presidency, in which Rush and crew time travel to meet the first three American presidents and first ladies while teaching about leadership and elections.

As soon as the books came in, I asked them which they would like to begin with as a read aloud with me.  They chose Rush Revere and the First Patriots.  Then, when I was busy with other things one day, they asked Daddy to begin reading them Rush Revere and the Presidency, too.  And, as if that were not enough concurrent Rush Revere adventures, my oldest also chose to reread Rush Revere and the American Revolution during his independent reading time.

Then, when a bout of sickness passed though our home, because my children also wanted to dive into Rush Revere and the Star Spangled Banner and revisit Rush Revere and the Pilgrims but I had neither the time nor energy to read these books as well to them, I ordered copies of the audiobooks from interlibrary loan, so that my two younger children, who are still developing readers, could enjoy following along with their print books while Rush Limbaugh read to them on the CD's.  (What a delight it was to hear them giggling through sickness as they enjoyed the pairing of the author's narration with the illustrated books!)

Adventures of Rush Revere

Thus, between the five of us in our home, we've read (or listened to) each book in the
Adventures of Rush Revere series since mid-May and have enjoyed every bit of it! 

What the Children Have to Say About the Adventures of Rush Revere

When I sat down to write this review, I asked my children what they would like me to be sure to include in it.  My newly-ten year old said, "Are you ready, Mom?  it's going to be long.  I really like these books!"  Then, she proceeded to narrate:

I like all of the Rush Revere series.  In this series, Rush Revere is a substitute history teacher at Manchester Middle School.  He has a time-traveling talking horse that can turn invisible (say that five times fast!) and he takes some students back in time and brings his fancy phone back, so he can use the videos to teach other students.

One of my favorite books is the presidency one. The basic story of it is that Rush has a student friend named Cam who is running for school president and needs some help, so Rush takes him back in time to meet different presidents, beginning with George Washington.  I like the balance in this book between going back in time and being in present time.  It showed me how learning about history helped Cam become a better person to elect.  History is rich with virtues, vice, courage, adventure, war, and peace, surviving...  The past teaches people in the present.  It is true that if you don't learn the past, the same mistakes will happen again.

In another book, Rush has two other student friends called Freedom and Tommy that go on his first adventure with students to meet the pilgrims.  In this book, one of the funny parts was that Liberty got seasick.  Before we read this book, I knew a lot about the pilgrims because we have studied about them before and have visited Plimoth Plantation and a replica of the Mayflower.  So, the book was a good review.  I also learned that Myles Standish's wife died.

The other books were good, too, but I don't want to bore you with too much. I love history and I like these books.  They should make MORE!!!!

My eleven-year-old said:

These books are really good.

I love the horse Liberty, because he's super funny!  One time, he ordered pizza and said, "Your phone is very easy to navigate with my lips."  Another time, he went on, "Does the flag have 13 stripes which represent the 13 colonies, which represent the 13 United States, which represent the 13 bagels that you will buy for me?" (or something like that.)  That was really funny.  Liberty always hungry and silly, which make the books hysterical.

The books are also very educational.  In them, I learned or reviewed that:
  • modern schools have elections.
  • other people wanted George Washington to continue with his presidency, but he did not want to because he did not want to be like a king.
  • Paul Revere made the Boston Massacre engraving.

  • Some of the crew on the Mayflower did not like the Pilgrims.

  • Paul Revere was not the only one to make the midnight ride.  
  • That people fought over how our government should be when our country was first formed.
and more.

I really like how they deal with "Elizabrat" and dunk her in a pond by Windsor Castle.  It's funny and teaches her a lesson.  In the books, the characters deal with people they know being sick, bullying, parents being off with the military, and lots of other troubles.  So, while we learn about history, we learn about how to deal with troubles, too.

The books are great for everyone!

My youngest, at six, said that he especially likes the talking, time traveling horse in the series - Liberty, because, "He's funny.  He always wants to eat, he talks to caterpillars in the president book, and he does other funny things."

My youngest also enjoyed how Rush travels back and forth between the present day and the olden days and sometimes brings modern or old things with him.  He said  he really likes "Rush Revere and the American Revolution because the pepper spray in it was funny."  Basically, "Rush was helping Paul Revere," he says, and "had to distract the British, so he sprayed them."

Without question, the
Adventures of Rush Revere series is a hit here for its humor and its imaginative, yet accurate, portrayal of history.  

Not Just Great Living Books...

One thing the children did not mention when I was having them narrate for this review, but which I know they appreciated, was the actual physical presentation of the books.  Each o the 200-240 page books in the series is a hardcover with a full color dust jacket and thick, glossy pages that look "aged".  Chapters are a bit on the longer side for a modern books geared for 8-12 year olds, but they are broken up with illustrations, maps, sketches of famous people, and photographs of historical places, artifacts, and documents.   Each book also contains questions for review at the end.

Plus there's more online at the Rush Revere website!

Shhhh!  Don't tell my children yet, but the website is chock full of activities, homeschool resources, educator's resources, and more that go along with the Adventure series.  I have purposefully kept this from them, because I know we do no have time to get lost in the many, many resources there.  However, when slower schedules and colder weather return, I plan to strew our Adventures of Rush Revere Books around and to introduce them to the downloadable and online materials at the Rush Revere website, so they can continue to have fun-fun-fun (and, also be learning-learning-learning) with Rush Revere!
Learn More
Obviously, we are big Rush Revere fans here and would recommend the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series to others who want to dive into American History with well-written, humorous books that weave true facts, patriotism, and lessons in virtue into a fanciful premise that has modern folk rush, rush, rushing into history atop a talking, time traveling horse.

Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series {Reviews}

One hundred Review Crew families learned about
Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series. Enjoy reading what each of us thought.

Adventures of Rush Revere
Find the Adventures of Rush Revere on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Celebrate Corpus Christi with Art, Music, and a Poet-Tea

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi!  

This floating feast day was instituted in 1264 and is currently celebrated either on the Thursday or Sunday after Trinity Sunday, depending on your location.  This day, also called the
Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, was inspired by a Eucharistic miracle and a vision of an Augustinian nun from Belgium named St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon and honors the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Corpus Christi procession, BL Harley 7026, f. 13 (England, c.1400-c.1410
Traditionally, Eucharistic processions are held on this day, with rose petals strewn in the path of the Sacrament. Some people also decorate their homes with candles in windows, as well as with floral wreaths, greenery, and banners. 

At our home, this year, Corpus Christi Thursday also was celebrated with a Poet-Tea.

A Feast of Corpus Christi Setting and Menu

{Disclosure: Some links which follow are affiliate ones.}

Since our final AMP It Up club meeting of the year fell on
Corpus Christi Thursday, I suggested to the other family that would be coming that focus our Art, Music, and Poetry explorations on the liturgical celebration of Corpus Christi with a simple Poet-TeaThus, for Corpus Christi, our
simple poet-tea table was decorated with:


  • a white tablecloth (for purity)

Had I had time to go out and get roses, I might have also strewn our table with petals and, for fun, even set up a peg doll or Lego processionPerhaps next year...

Since the morning before our AMP club gathering was busy, however, I kept things super simple, including the symbolic drinks and foods that were minimal, meaningful, yet tasty:

  • grape juice (representing wine which transforms into the Blood of Christ. Any red or purple juice, or even real wine, could, of course, also work)

  • gluten-free Glutino crackers (representing the bread which transforms into the Body of Christ. Any round cracker, wafer candy, bread loaf, or even unconsecrated communion wafers - sometimes used by parents whose children need to practice for First Holy Communion - could work.)

  • grapes (again, reminding us of wine)

Our Outdoor Poet-Tea for Corpus Christi

Once our friends arrived for our Corpus Christi poet-tea, we gathered at our celebratory table set under the shade of a tree, and I asked the children what the foods laid out on it might remind them of.  They answered, "The Last Supper!", "the Eucharist," "First Holy Communion," "the Fruit of the Spirit," and "the Holy Trinity".  With this, I bridged into asking the children if they knew what solemnity is celebrated by the Church either 10 days after Pentecost or on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday - Corpus Christi!

I, then, asked the children to guess what the words "Corpus Christi" might mean, whereupon they suggested "the Body of Christ".

Using an infrographic downloaded from CBCPNews, we, then, chatted about the history and significance of the Corpus Christi, before gathering around my laptop to watch a brief video about Corpus Christi from Britannica Kids.

After sharing a few more thoughts about the day - and about Eucharistic miracles, which the children were quite interested in, we prayed grace and enjoyed our tea fare.While the children enjoyed some time to play and chat, we cleared the food and drink and placed paper and art supplies on the table.  Then, when we called the children back from their break, I explained that while I was preparing for our gathering, I had looked poetry written especially for Corpus Christi or about the Body and Blood of Christ. In doing so, I had found fun, medieval riddle poems at a Clerk of Oxford which were originally from
BL Royal 17 A XVI:

It seems white and is red;
It is alive, and seems dead;
It is flesh, and seems bread;
It is one, and seems two; [i.e. to be composed of many parts]
It is God's body, and no mo. [nothing else]

 and DIMEV:
It seemeth white and it is red;
It is alive and seemeth dead;
It is flesh and seemeth bread;
And is true God in his Godhead.

The children got a kick out of looking at these poems written in old-style language and also enjoyed hearing me read their modern translations aloud.  We chatted about what each line of the riddles might refer to based on the children's understanding of the Mystery go the Blessed Eucharist.

BL Royal 2 B XIII, f.22 (London, c.1508)

We also talked about how old Bibles and books were often illuminated.

I, then, explained that Corpus Christi inspires more modern poetry, too.  As examples, I shared two sonnets from Malcom Guilte: Love's Choice (about the Sacrament itself) and This Table (about the communion table).  In these poems, we noted rich words and phrases that brought sensations to mind and emotions to heart.

After that, I reminded the children that portions of Bible itself are considered poetry and shared how I had found an interesting concrete-poem style image of a Bible verse online at My Catholic Faith Ministries:

The children thought this image was "so cool", and I agreed! 

I, then, recalled our past discussion about how hymns and songs are often simply poetry set to music.  I explained that there are a number of such musical poems related to the Body and Blood of Christ, some of which they might know from Mass, Adoration, and other experiences. 

I had considered sharing musical excerpts of such songs or reading their lyrics as poetry using the article Corpus Christi: Our Debt to St. Thomas Aquinas from Catholic Exhange and Catholic Culture's Corpus Christi Hymn section, but I could tell the children were getting antsy.  Thus, I decided to simply play the
Corpus Christi Sequence Hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas from YouTube as background while the children worked on their own poetic and artistic creations.

I suggested to the children that they use the simple supplies set on the table -- paper, pencils, colored pencils, Color Sticks
, and Thin Stix -- to meet one of three challenges:

(1)  Design a concrete poem inspired by Corpus Christi using your own words or words from the Bible.  Then, decorate the border of it.

(2)  Write any style poem you wish about Corpus Christi and, then, illuminate a portion of it.

(3) Write any style of poem you wish inspired by the Eucharist, and, then, make a separate illustration - perhaps a still-life using our candles, chalice, and paten.

Before turning on the Youtube music and having the children get down to creating, I offered them one last bit of inspiration by quickly chatting about the symbolism, using this excerpt from Catholic Culture as a resource:

"The usual symbol for the Holy Eucharist is a chalice, with a host rising out of it.

The chalice is shown with a hexagonal base, as a rule, symbolizing the Six Attributes of the Deity (power, wisdom, majesty, mercy, justice and love), and with a richly wrought stem of gold, studded with precious stones. The host is shown as the typical circular wafer, upon which may be imprinted the letters I. N. R. I., from which proceed rays of light, symbolical of the Real Presence, the substantial presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine.

An altar, upon which is set a cross, two or more candles in their tall candlesticks, a chalice and a ciborium, is another symbol often seen."

The children then set to work creating while listening to the music from my laptop.  (Of course, YouTube has plenty of other Corpus Christi hymns, talks, etc. some of which contain beautiful art images, that we might have enjoyed if we were not outside enjoying the beautiful weather!)

Finally, the children shared their creations with one another...

and went off to play again.

Our Corpus Christi Poet-Tea proved a lovely closing gathering for our AMP It Up club year, allowing us to celebrate three things we value: faith, friendship, and the arts.  We do hope to enjoy more such gathering next fall through spring and, that by sharing about this one, we inspire you with your own celebrations and learning.

Happy Corpus Christi!

O Lord Jesus Christ, You who have given us Your precious Body and Blood to be our meat and drink, grant that through frequent reception of You in the Holy Eucharist, I may be strengthened in mind and body to do Your holy will. Amen.

Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, have mercy on us.

{Short Novena prayer from Catholicism.About.Com}

Please do share your own Corpus Christi traditions, prayers, recipes, resources, and ideas with us!  We love discovering new ways to live the liturgical year in our domestic church.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What a Flexible, Fun Immersion Approach to Learning Spanish!

I wasn't looking for a new foreign language program when the opportunity to review the Educator's Spanish Collection by Whistlefritz came up.  However, after watching the video below about its immersion method and also the intro video (which follows), I knew my children would benefit from the program.

Thus, I showed my children the
Whistlefritz website and watched some videos about the program with them.  As expected, they immediately asked if we could try the language-learning collection.

What Makes Whistlefritz Unique

When our package from Whistlefritz came in, my children and I were excited and got straight to watching the videos in it. Later, we began using the lesson book and cards together, and, then, the CD's when my oldest - who has an aversion to music lately - was not around.  In doing so, we realized that whileWhistlefritz uses many of the same components as other language programs - videos, playing cards, lesson plans, CD's - it does so in a different way.  Each component of the collection compliments another, but can be used on its own, too.  This means that at home or on the go, of one learning style or another, your child can benefit from an immersion approach to learning a foreign language that is as flexible as it is fun!Components to the program are:

  • 5 Spanish for Kids DVD's:  These DVD's immerse children in language learning as native Spanish-speaking adults and children speak in fun, fast-paced, clearly pronounced language with plenty of repetition. 

    Each video has its own theme and target vocabulary and lasts about 24-30 minutes, which can be watched all in one go, or in briefer segments, particularly when paired as a supplement to specific lessons from the lesson plan book.

    Videos can be watched in any order b
    ased on children's interests, however a recommended order for children three and under is included with program materials.
    Some portions of the DVD's are "humans only" while others are animated.  Throughout every video, an animated mouse called "Fritzi" makes appearances that - if my children's reactions are anything to go by - keep children engaged and laughing.
    For those that like translations even when using an immersion program, translation guides are available as pdf's online, too.

  • Spanish Matching Cards: A deck of 50 laminated matching cards contains pairs of playfully illustrated images and accompanying Spanish action words.  Children can play Memory, Go Fish, and other games with these to reinforce learning through play. (My younger two, especially, liked doing this.)

  • Spanish Lesson Plans for Kids:  A 277-page softcover book includes 40 lesson plans for teaching Spanish to young children, including lessons with cross-curricula connections. 

    Sample lessons plans
    show exactly how each lesson is formatted with a clear lesson description, objective, goal, materials list, key vocabulary, time estimate, focus and review, teacher input, guided practice, independent practice, closure, and extension activities.  All necessary printables are included in the lesson plan book as well.

    As written, each lesson typically takes about 30-40 minutes.  However, since each is so concisely organized, parents can easily adapt lessons for briefer time frames or extend them beyond 40 minutes.

    Because my youngest child is on the older side for the age group that
    Whistlefritz is aimed at and his older siblings tend to be audio-visual and interpersonal learners, more often than not, I adapted lessons to our strengths and needs by keying into the key vocabulary and picking and choosing which printables and activities I felt would work best with my children.  The ease of doing so - and doing it on-the-spot, proved a godsend for me when a rather immediate and long medical appointment came up for my daughter. 

    The day of my daughter's appointment, I tossed the lesson plan book into my bag, planning to look ahead in it during inevitable down time at the specialist's office.  As soon as we were brought to the first patient room that my daughter spent time in that day, she saw the book in my bag and asked to work with it while we waited for her doctor.  So, I quickly accessed lessons to review and kept my daughter engaged in Spanish fun until the doctor game, and, again, later in the day in each of the three different patient rooms we ended up in. 

    The ease of using the
    Whistlefritz lesson plans to present impromptu Spanish activities with my daughter sure helped make what would have otherwise been long, nerve-wracking waits into fun foreign language learning.  Now, my daughter wants me to bring the book to her next appointment, too!  Undoubtedly, I will.  I might also finally print out and use the FREE stand alone lessons available for download online.

  • 3 Spanish for Kids CD's:  Three CD's accompany the DVD's and lesson plans offering upbeat, Latin rhythm songs to get children on their feet and practicing new vocabulary when listened to at home or keep them thinking and chair dancing in the car.  My daughter enjoyed these with Daddy and me while stuck in traffic on the way to and from several appointments.

The Children's Thoughts

Even though this program is geared for children between the ages of one and seven, all of my children (ages 6-11) enjoyed it. 
My 11-year old liked the video portions best.  He said:
"Whistlefritz was good. I liked how parts of he video were in full cartoon, parts were in partial cartoon and partial real...
Whistlefritz French

and parts of it were in just real.
Whistlefritz Spanish

I learned some words, and I cannot wait to watch it again and again until I learn more."

My almost-seven year old also appreciated the program.  He said:
"I liked it. I liked the videos and the cards the best. A video part I liked was the weather one...
Whistlefritz French

I liked that you can play more than just memory with the cards, too - like Go Fish."

My youngest also commented to me that he doesn't feel like he's learning Spanish. He's just having fun. To me, that says a lot.  Learning that does not feel like learning is the best kind in my book!

In fact, for my just-turned-ten year old daughter, the fun and flexibility of the program is what makes it so ideal for us right now.  She said:

"I liked Whistlefritz - the book, the movies, the CD's, and the cards.

Whistlefritz Spanish

We brought the book to the doctor's office and my mom used ideas from the lessons. She used the Spanish colors like
rojo and cafe, and I had to find them in room, and my dad was wearing cafe pants!

I liked to watch the movies, too. I watched them all at least once, sometimes when I first woke up.  My favorite is the ones with the food and a lot of songs.

I like CD's and how there were pretty much a ton of songs. We listened to them in the car when I was with just Mommy and Daddy.

I also like playing Go Fish and Memory Match with the cards.

I have learned Spanish. I can say most of the colors, most of the numbers up to 10, how are you, what's your name, good, not so good, okay... and more. I really cannot wait to watch the movies again so I can learn even more words"

Truly, of all my children, my daughter has been enjoying this program the most and is our most eager learner with it.  During our review period, she often asked if she could watch he DVD's when she awoke before her brothers and wanted to do something quiet.  Also, as previously discussed, she loved passing the time at recent medical appointments by reviewing and adapting lessons.  It's been a joy to watch her get excited about this program and to see her brothers learning, too.

Learn More

Whistlefritz Spanish

Whistlefritz offers both an Educator's Spanish Collection and an Educator's French Collection.  Both currently sell for 20% off their regular prices, with the Spanish collection selling for the current discounted rate of $165 and the French one for $115.

Whistlefritz French
Forty-five homeschool review crew families reviewed either the Spanish or French collection and have shared loads of pictures and thoughts in their reviews. 
Spanish and French {Whistlefritz Reviews}

I encourage you to go take a peak at the other reviews to get an even fuller picture of how flexible
Whistlefritz is. 

With the DVD's, CD's, cards, lesson plan book, and extra materials at the
Whistlefritz website, the language program is so easy to adapt to different ages and styles. 

Hands-on learners can cut, paste, color, and craft.  Audio  and kinesthetic learners can listen and move to the CD's.  Visual learners an enjoy the DVD's.  Interpersonal and kinesthetic learners and can enjoy the playing cards and other games described in the lesson plans. On-the-go families like mine can take the deck of cards, CD's or lesson book with them when off to appointments and enjoy the DVD's back home. Families that are at home more can enjoy the MANY hands-on activities described in the lessons plans. 

Truly, flexibility while increasing Spanish exposure and learning was a key reason I wanted to try
Whistlefritz and it is exactly why I like and would recommend the Educator's Spanish Collection to others.  I wondered if the program would prove "too young" to engage each of my children, but it has not.  Instead, it has proven to be a flexible, family-friendly way to easily add Spanish learning to our lives even when life throws curve balls.

You can find
Whistlefritz on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  
If you're looking for fun, flexible, immersion-based Spanish or French for toddlers to early elmentary-aged children (and even pre-teens in my home!), do consider Whistlefritz.

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