The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady ~ a book review

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the I Read with Audra program (Audra Jennings PR) and the publisher Kregel Publications.

The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady by Sharon J. Mondragon is just the book I needed. An enjoyable story combined with well-developed characters and a push toward evangelism made for a story line that I couldn’t put down. If you have ever felt comfy in your space and routine, don’t read this one because it will push you out of that comfort zone and step on your toes and rip up your routine, making you think long and hard about what you really are doing in your zest and zeal for God.

Do you like to knit or hand craft gifts and useful items? You will want to just jump right in a become a part of the Heavenly Hugs Prayer Shawl ministry. Here’s the summary of the story and how these ladies’ lives take quite a turn, right along with their knitting. There are surprises in both!

Margaret, Rose, Jane, and Fran had a good thing going: meet every week in the quiet of their peaceful chapel and knit prayer shawls. No muss, just ministry. That is, until their pastor boots them out of the church in his last-ditch effort to revive the dwindling congregation.

Uptight Margaret isn’t having it. Knitting prayer shawls where people can watch is the most ridiculous idea she’s ever heard of, and she’s heard plenty. Prayer belongs in the church, not out among the heathen masses. How are they supposed to knit holiness into these shawls if they’re constantly distracted by the public? But with no choice, the others embrace the challenge. They pack their knitting bags and drag Margaret–grumbling the whole way–to the mall with them. She can’t wait to prove them all wrong when it fails miserably, and show the pastor that she always knows best.

Without the familiar mold the group has been stuck in, their own losses, pain, and struggles rise to the surface. And the people and situations they encounter every time they try to sit quietly and knit are taking them a lot further out of their comfort zone than they ever imagined. Can they find the courage to tackle the increasing number of knotty issues they learn about in the community–or will the tangle be too much to unravel?

I found the story of Margaret, Rose, Jane, and Fran a joy to read. I just wanted to curl up with something cozy and a glass of ice tea and just read. I wanted to know how these ladies were going to fare when they had to leave their comfort zone, especially as I read about how grumpily Margaret was taking the challenge. Once they met Sarah, I just knew something bigger was happening. And then it grew. And grew. And grew. And you know what I saw? God meeting the open hearts with people who had no idea what God could do. It made me wonder about how much I was in my comfort zone, closed off from that big and wide and messy world that needs God. I adored this story and have told my teenagers that I think they would enjoy it, too.

The characters that come into the story are amazing and I found myself really rooting for them. From pregnant Amy with the purple hair to the prayer requesters who would not sign their prayer request, from the lady who is missing her father to the mom whose child came boldly into the circle, characters are everything and this book is packed with them. The fabulous and well formed characters really made this book an extension of life.

But I bet you are wondering about “the dragon lady” part of it. You know, our attitudes and outward appearances often made us a dragon. When we allow that to be what rules us, we lose ourselves. So what happens when we finally give in and listen to God? He can do amazing work in our lives. So, you’ll have to read to find out who exactly is the dragon lady. But I will tell you – God knows we can all be a dragon and he is looking for us to give that part of ourselves up to Him so He can smooth us over into one who works for Him.

About the Author:


Sharon J. Mondragón writes about the place where kindness and courage meet. Her debut novel, The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady (originally titled The Heavenly Hugs Prayer Shawl Ministry) was the 2017 winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis award in the Short Novel Category, and she has also been recognized by The Saturday Evening Post where her short story, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” was an Honorable Mention Awardee in the 2014 their Great American Fiction Contest.
 
Mondragón has been active in prayer shawl ministry since 2008 and currently serves as facilitator for the prayer shawl ministry at her church, St. Paul Episcopal in Waxahachie, TX. She also knits with the Circle of Healing at Red Oak United Methodist Church. She is a Level 2 Certified Knitting Instructor through the Craft Yarn Council and teaches beginning knitting at a local yarn store.
 
Mondragón is the mother of five grown children and has four grandchildren. After 26 years as an Army wife, she has settled in Midlothian, TX with her hero/husband, her laptop, and her yarn stash.
 
Visit Sharon Mondragón’s website and blog at www.sharonjmondragon.com and follow her on Facebook (Sherry Mondragón) and Twitter (@SJ_Mondragón).

Final Thoughts:

Get your hands on this book. You won’t regret the read and you might just find yourself boldly asking God to take you our of the prayer chapel and into the world.

Giveaway:

You can win a copy of this book by entering the giveaway. Visit https://www.audrajennings.com/2021/09/win-copy-of-unlikely-yarn-of-dragon-lady.html to find the entry form.
The Rafflecopter will close on 10/19/21.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Whitacre & Willson ~ Composer ABCs

Today we are featuring more of what I consider band composers. Eric Whitacre and Meredith Willson. Both of these men wrote for more than band but since band is where I came to know them through playing their music, well, that is how they stuck for me.

Eric Whitacre composed for band due to what is called a fluke on his website. I found it interesting that he stumbled on a rehearsal, sat enthralled listening to it, and decided he had to write a piece for that group. According to what he said, he had never written for musical instruments at that point, only voice. He studied every instrument by talking to players of that instrument and asking asking all the questions he could – What is your favorite piece to play? What range are you most comfortable in? and more. The piece that came out of that is Ghost Train and one that I must have played right after it was released. A strange piece for certain but one that brings interest to the band world.

Deep Field is a piece that I find quite interesting. It is based on imagery from the Hubble Telescope and a film was created through collaboration with Whitacre, his Virtual Choir 5 which included 8,000 voices ages 4-87 from 120 different countries, producers Music Productions, scientists and visualizers from the Space Telescope Science Institute and multi award-winning artists 59 Productions. It is imagining the deepest reaches of space. The film created for the music shows some of Hubble’s amazing images, as well as never-before-shown fly-bys of galaxies. The images in the film are stunning and go beautifully with the music. There is even an app to be downloaded and cued by the conductor when this is played live.

Whitacre was born in Nevada in 1970 and studied at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. After graduation there, which is where his first compositions came to life, he studied at Juilliard School of Music, graduating with a Master of Music in 1997. His works are actually quite varied, though I initially knew only of his band music. He has written a large body of work for orchestra, choirs, film (including Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice), and more. He is a visiting conductor and a speaker. He has given TED talks. He is considered to be the pioneer of virtual choirs. (Virtual Choir 6: Sing Gently is below. It is a must listen.) And this is all for a composer who is still producing work. Keep your eye on this guy. His website has a list of all the compositions he has completed if you are looking for more to listen to and/or view.


Meredith Willson is going to be best known for writing The Music Man. Born in 1902 in Iowa, he has a long career as musician, composer, conductor, arranger, author, and radio personality. Shortly after high school, he was playing flute with John Philip Sousa’s band and later with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He toured and performed for a good while. His wife Rini also toured with him as a singer.

Willson wrote the script, lyrics, and music for the Broadway musical The Music Man. It was released in 1957 and played on Broadway for several years. It was then purchased for movie rights and found success on the big screen, also. The Music Man is a semi-autobiographical story of his Iowa boyhood. It includes many numbers that are well-known and the story is always a joy. (The song below is one that I often think of but I like all of the pieces. I had a hard time choosing which to post here. “Til There Was You” or “76 Trombones” or “Gary, Indiana” or others.)

Willson also wrote the book for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, another Broadway musical that was a solid success. Another of his musicals is Here’s Love but that one is not well-known.

Having spent a lot of time writing for radio, there are many, many popular songs that are credited to Willson. These include “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas,” “Till There Was You,” (a hit by the Beatles), and more. His body of work is interesting and includes campaign pieces (“Chicken Fat” was the theme song for President Kennedy’s youth fitness program) and school fight songs (University of Iowa and Iowa State Univeristy).

Willson died in 1984 in California.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius
T – Tavener & Tchaikovsky
U – Ustvolskaya
V – Vaughan Williams and Villa-Lobos

Featured from last week the letter V…

This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is W is for World
This week over at Every Bed of Roses the topic is Writing Cursive

Kids’ Devo Book: Roar Like a Lion by Levi Lusko ~ a book review

Disclosure: Many thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing this product/product information for review.  Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive the product in exchange for this review and post.

Levi Lusko has a view of life that inspires and encourages. Hardship in his life has brought him close to God and his writings share that well. Roar Like A Lion: 90 Devotions To A Courageous Faith is a book of short daily devotional thoughts to share with children. The publisher recommends ages 6-10 but my personal feeling is that it is well suited as young as 4, especially because a parent will be going through it with them.

Each of the 90 devotional thoughts includes a Bible verse, some thoughts about applying that to the child’s life, a prayer to God relevant to the topic and either a Did You Know? or a Get Ready To Roar! These two page devotions open up in a simple way deep topics to delve into and discuss from a Biblical view.

Every page of the book has beautiful, bright, and colorful artwork that will capture the mind of the child as each devotion is begun. The topics are varied but are quite relevant to the students. These include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • facing fears about school and friendships
  • dealing with peers, including things like peer pressure and bullying
  • handling emotional times like disappointment, grief, and new challenges
  • having courage to try new things
  • understanding how we fit into God’s story and plan

Each devotion even has fun facts or interesting ideas that relate to the topic of the day in some way. For kids who really absorb trivia, these help them relate as the trivia will tie back into the topic.

These devotions are written with engaging language for younger children and new independent readers. But, as with many devotions for children, it is always best to engage as a family and study the Bible and its application to our lives together. Parents understand their children, their passions, and their needs. This makes them the right for helping a student study the Bible at their level and their applications.

You can get this book today through https://www.roarlikealionbook.com/
On this website, you can also sign up to get a parent guide with additional questions to help guide your family into a deeper study each day.

I like the simplicity of these studies for young students or children whose families may be new to Bible study. The topics are handled on the level of the children yet with a draw towards knowing God more. I have not read all of the devotions so there may be something I am unaware of in the lessons that is not Biblical but I have not come across this at all with Mr. Lusko’s writings in the past. (I have read and enjoyed his book Through The Eyes of a Lion.)

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

12th Grade Curriculum (2021)

Last year of high school! Some days, she is ready to go on and others she is not. That’s okay. She is not excited about being on her own and responsible for everything all the time. That’s okay. Her goals have changed in the last few months, in large part due to a very poor dual credit teacher. Maybe they would have changed regardless but they changed quite quickly last spring while she was in that class. Dual credit, though, has made this school year a bit easier for her.

Miss E is not taking dual credit classes this year since her goals have changed. She no longer plans to attend college and wants to get multiple income streams working for her after high school. She has talked to the dance studio already about teaching there in the fall of 2022. She is working on photography and is excited about starting a photography business. Setting that up will be part of her coursework in the spring. She also wants to be a published author. These goals directly impact her coursework for this school year.

First off, she is working on the Lenspiration website. This is a photography program that is designed to help students become better photographers. It is not aimed at only teens but also at adults. There are some pretty cool opportunities on the site and she is still exploring there and learning. She is working on photography daily, getting to know the camera and figure out how to better use it. She will be adding in some learning about photo editing in a couple of months. And, as I said previously, setting up her business will be part of her photography course in the spring.

In dance, she is taking every class she can and assisting as much as she can. She is assisting about 9 hours a week. She is taking ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, acro/leaps/turns/tricks, pointe, and is part of the company. This takes about 10 hours a week in the studio.

She is completing the last few lessons in geometry using CTCMath. After that, she will begin working on a personal finance class from Crown Financial Ministries.

For her language arts/literature, she is working on a novel. She is dedicating a specific number of hours each week to the writing and editing of the book. The goal is to get it written, have it read by others, then get it edited, and then work on the publishing aspect by the end of the school year. She also has a number of other writing projects in the queue that she is interested in so she may also work on some of those. I would like her to spend some time in the spring looking into some free lance writing and see where that takes her. She is expected to keep reading (never been a problem for this girl!) a variety of materials.

She has 3 credits of science and 4 credits of history so she has completed those requirements and does not have any on the schedule this year.

She has a one hour per week paid job in child care, as well, that she is responsible for.

It is not an intense program but it fits into her goals well, driving forward what she wants to do. That is the goal of education, right? Again, this benefit of home education means she will be prepared for her goals, ready to take on the world.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

10th Grade Curriculum (2021)

You’ll remember, perhaps, the review we did for My Father’s World 9th grade curriculum. I like the curriculum but it is packed. It doesn’t leave much space for personal choice, courses working toward a life goal, or electives. The coursework is interesting, though the Bible leaves a lot of information out there that must be discussed with a Bible open in front of you. This adds a lot of time to the curriculum. I treasure these discussions but you have to acknowledge that time addition. There are no electives in the curriculum so when you add those in, you are again adding in time commitments. All of this impacted the fact that Miss L did not complete the MFW 9th grade curriculum, though she worked a minimum or 4 hours on book work each school day last year. That time did not include dance, violin, or time spent in other situations working on electives such as a Bible study titled Pearls that she did through the church or debate. When you count in these other things, she would spend about 6-8 hours per day on her education. She generally worked on art work and dance on Saturday and had Bible class, worship, dance, and other church activities on Sundays. So, she worked hard. Yet, there was still a lot to be done in the MFW curriculum.

The other bit you need to know about Miss L is that her long-term goal is to dance with a professional ballet company and to teach dance. This drives our education choices for her and impacted some of our choices last year. She dealt with a long-term injury last year that required about 1 to 1 1/2 hours of therapy work daily. This again impacts the amount of time she was spending on her school work. Her recovery needed to take some priority as it impacted her health, her ability to dance, and, most importantly, her attitude. If you have ever worked through pain, you understand how it impacts a lot of your life. So, we prioritized her recovery, sometimes letting the therapy work push the book work to the side. She is much better this fall and so she is driving on with all of this.

That all being said, My Father’s World is the curriculum that she is using for history, Bible, and literature. They utilize a number of different programs within this curriculum so she has the Notgrass World History, some Bible resource books, and a good number of supplemental books for history and literature.

For math, she really struggled to understand concepts last year in Algebra 1. She could not comfortably move on with Algebra II, even though her score from last year using CTCMath showed an 88% pass rate. Yet, she couldn’t use the information. (I believe CTC is a good program; it just didn’t work for her.) We have pulled out No-Nonsense Algebra and are starting from the beginning on it to really solidify some of the basic information and get her comfortable to move on into the Algebra I and II information included in this program. It won’t take her all the way through Algebra II material but it will bring her a long way into it.

She is continuing on with the Apologia Physical Science that was included in the MFW package we reviewed last year. It isn’t a favorite but she is learning the information pretty well. She is working through it at a good pace. We will likely move her into Friendly Chemistry or Friendly Biology when she finishes this program.

She is working as a student assistant at the dance studio again this year. Her is putting in about 5 hours a week for this. She is also taking ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, private ballet, and is part of the company group. Her personal classes are about 11 hours at the studio per week.

She has decided that she misses violin so she is adding that back to her schedule. We will be looking for a retirement center for her to perform at in a couple of months. I don’t know yet if we are going to get her an instructor (where would we fit it in?) but she would definitely benefit from that.

Not to be forgotten is debate. She will tackle the Lads to Leaders debate topic this year. The debate topic is as follows: Resolved: Because the Bible is God’s authoritative and complete instruction to mankind, no latter-day revelations beyond the first century are valid. It will take, as always, a lot of dedicated Bible reading, study, and preparation. She’ll work on this until Easter weekend 2022. She will also include a number of other L2L events.

She has a plate that is so full but she doesn’t want to let go of any of it. We do modify some of the lesson plans and activities in the MFW curriculum. Some of it is just busy work or something to put a grade on; there is no real synthesis of information occurring. We skip those things.

This is the student that we are really seeing the benefits of home education with. We can tailor her schedule to her needs and allow her education to support her goals, not the other way around. Too often, education comes first and the goals are decided after. Her goals were definitely there first and I constantly remind her that education will help her fulfill those goals. Perfection in physical science is not as important as her time perfecting ballet. It is a joy to be able to help her reach for the stars without the stumbling block of a traditional education.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Vaughan Williams and Villa-Lobos ~ Composer ABCs

Folk music plays an important part in the upbringing of most people and that is also true of composers. Both of the composers from today have a background highly influenced by the music of their lands and cultures.

Ralph Vaughan Williams was an English composer. He was born in Down Ampney in 1872 and died in 1958. His family history is aristocratic – his father was a prominent lawyer and his mother is from the family known for Wedgwood pottery. He is also a descendant of the Darwin family. He was taught piano and violin as a child. He was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated in both history and music. He continued musical study at Royal College where he became life-long friends with Gustav Holst.

Shortly after his marriage and a visit to Paris, he became very interested in folk song and spent a number of years collecting songs from the many small villages and towns around the country. While in Paris, he studied orchestration with Ravel and had his first piece performed – A Sea Symphony. He also was able to set his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis in 1910. After WWI broke out, he served in the military for a bit and was able to put his musical skill to a bit of use. During the war, in 1914, he wrote London Symphony and a work for violin and orchestra, The Lark Ascending.

After the war, he returned to the Royal College of Music as a professor. He remained there until 1938. During this time, though he was often considered an athiest or a “Christian agnostic”, his musical ability and knowledge of folk music made him the key person to help edit a hymnal for the Church of England. He was diligent about this project and it was very successful and well accepted. He wrote many hymns for the book, utilized many folk themes and applied text to them, and used music from previous composers, including Tallis, Gibbons, and Holst.

One of the reasons Vaughan Williams is considered such a successful composer is because his music reflects his homeland. England’s music is well represented in his compositions. Melody is clear and flowing. Harmony is bright and lovely. Holding onto the history of the music, Vaughan Williams also caught the hearts of the listeners. There is a large body of work to choose from. There are symphonies, hymns, concertos (he even wrote a concerto for the bass tuba as a virtuoso instrument!), overtures, masses, fantasias, motets, film music, and more.

Heitor Villa-Lobos is a Brazilian composer. He was born in 1887 and died in 1959. Both events were in Rio de Janiero. His father hosted weekly musical get-togethers and from this was born Villa-Lobos’ love of music. He learned to play cello by age 6. He was highly influenced by Bach’s music. He also was able to travel the country with his family and fell in love with the folk music of his native land. When he returned to Rio de Janiero, he began to find and associate with musicians playing native folk music. He also learned to play the guitar.

He left home at 18 and traveled the country. He played the cello and the guitar to support himself. He began to compose also. He eventually returned to the city and began studying the European composers which had begun to influence him at an early age. He studied hard and this influence can be heard in his early compositions. His work was featured on a concert in 1915. His work was beginning to merge the traditional Western music with the rhythmic ethnicity of Brazilian music.

Traveling to Paris in the ealry 1920s brought Villa-Lobos to the epicenter of music. He brought with him a tremendous number of works (over 2000 are credited to him at this time) but his style and his voice were still developing. He continued to study and learn and write. He returned to Brazil in 1932 when he took charge of music education for the schools in the country. He continued to travel and listen and learn, never stopping the evolution of his music.

Villa-Lobos is known for his blending of traditional Brazilian music, particularly the melodies and rhythms, with Western tradition music. Bachianas brasileiras is probably his most well-known piece. It is a set of 9 piece for various instrumental and vocal combinations incorporate a contrapuntal technique in the manner of Bach which is applied to themes of Brazilian origin. He also wrote concertos, string quartet pieces, solo instrument pieces, symphonic poems, trios, quintets, symphonies, film music, and more.

Not mentioned in many of his biographies, Villa-Lobos also wrote a large body of work for guitar. The following is a long video (over an hour) of his guitar music.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius
T – Tavener & Tchaikovsky
U – Ustvolskaya

Featured from last week the letter U…

This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is V is for Vacation
This week over at Every Bed of Roses the topic is Value Added Learning

Also be sure to visit others who ling up. You can the Blogging Through The Alphabet link up at Our Homeschool Notebook or Every Bed of Roses.

7th Grade Curriculum (2021)

I enjoy reading about what families have chosen for their student’s curriculum. I assume that others enjoy reading about what we have chosen.

Miss J is 12 to start her 7th grade year. She is extremely social. To say the pandemic has been tough on her is an understatment. She thrives on hugs and talking to others. She loves to read and has spent the past 3 months reading over 40 books that her oldest sister recommended. She enjoys hands on learning and desires to be a chef or baker when she is older. Her desire after high school is to attend culinary school. I share all of this because it drives our choices for her.

Math – We are changing from CTCMath to a book based program this year. We decided this right before Math Skills Rescue Books 1 and 2 came up for review on the Crew. So, this is what she is working through. It is essentially a pre-algebra program. I don’t know for sure but I think this will likely take the better part of 2 school years to get through. I could be wrong and she could fly through some of it. We are still in the early stages of the program. Our full review will be up in a couple of weeks. Until then, you can look at what I have shared about it so far on social media.

Language Arts: Creative Writing – We are using the book we reviewed a few months ago, Sparkling Bits of Writing Book 1, because it was a fun writing process without stress for this girl. She struggles with her writing, not because she doesn’t have ideas but the process of taking thoughts and turning them into something on paper is hard. This book was so fun that it eased that process for her. We are continuing it. She will be working on this two times each week.

Language Arts: Literature – She will be reading literature that goes along with the period of history that we are in. I really like the books from Memoria Press on people from history periods. So, if I can get my hands on them for each time period, this is what she’ll read. Right now she is reading Famous Men of Rome. (This review was the whole package; we are just using the student text.) I like these books because they are story based while still being a solid biography. They provide interest for the person and it backs up her history program. I will also pick and choose a few other books to do as a read aloud with her because she enjoys that.

Language Arts: Grammar/Spelling – It’s NOT Greek To Me. We were supposed to be on a review for this program and I was disappointed when that option dissipated. We are still using the program, though we do not have the digital teaching slides to do with it. (The teaching slides came on a thumb drive that we could not use on the technology we had. We do not have brand new computers and it wouldn’t work on the Chromebook, a desktop running Windows 7, and a new computer running Windows 10. The teaching slides were on PowerPoint and they would not work with Google slides. So….) It works the students through 12 lesson of Greek morphemes (roots, prefixes, and suffixes) that are common in English. It is a lot of writing so we are taking it slow – at least 2 weeks per lesson. She is working on this 2 times in a week.

History – Miss J will be working through the studies for the ancient civilizations from Home School In The Woods. She will do them out of order since she was already working on Project Passport: Ancient Rome for a review. She will continue on that and when she is done with it, she’ll pick one of the others. This hands-on history program is a good fit for her. She can skip the parts that are heavy on the writing and do the other parts and still get the information. Picking and choosing parts is good. We will also utilize other books or videos, including Drive Thru History. (We are watching Ancient Rome lesson 1 now through SchoolhouseTeachers.com.)

History – Some of the time periods will have people for which we have a person in the Figures In Motion books. When we find those, she will cut the person out and assemble the flexible figure to add to her folder of people.

Science – The Critical Thinking Co. has sent us a book of science crossword puzzles. Miss J is doing one of these puzzles a day for now. In a couple of weeks, we will go back to the kitchen chemistry and science program I designed for her. We will add a few books around mid-school year to the experiments part. The kitchen chemistry is a lot of fun for her. She does get to choose which experiments to do but she has to do some reading as well. The books I chose for it cover a lot of chemistry ideas in a way that Miss J really relates to since she loves to cook and bake and be in the kitchen. You can see some of our activities by visiting these links: ice cream, can experiment, burning a nut, or a freezing experiment among many others.

Thinking/Logic – Miss J is working through The Fallacy Detective. You can read our review of it to learn more. She only works on it once a week and does one lesson each time.

Guitar – She really wants to learn to play the guitar. We have tried a couple of things but we are working with a video course from The Great Courses this year. We’ll see how it goes.

Dance – She is dancing quite a bit this year – 4-5 days per week. She is studying multiple styles and participating in Junior Company.

That’s about it. I am sure we’ll do some other things that will really impact her learning but this is the start and the outline. It is a good solid bit of learning.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Ustvolskaya ~ Composer ABCs

I had to really search to find a composer for this week. As far as I can tell, we own nothing by any composer starting with U other than a couple of hymns in the songbook. But I don’t know those two songs and didn’t find them particularly interesting. So, I searched online and found Ustvolskaya in a couple of interesting lists. Taking a look and a listen at her music, I wouldn’t particularly search her music out but it does provide quite the contrast to much we have looked at.

Galina Ustvolskaya is a Russian composer who lived from 1919-2006. She studied music early in her life and was studying formally in the Rimsky-Korsakov Leningrad Conservatory when WWII struck. She was forced to put a hold on her studies but did come back to them in 1946. She studied composition. After her studies, she also taught at the same school for 30 years.

Her music is often called austere or stark, harsh or sharp. It is what I studied in 20th century music – abstract, difficult to follow, non-melodic (to my ear). She was accused of Formalism, which is a formal approach to music that leaves the listener apart or lost as far as following the music. It is considered quite abstract and this did not sit well with the audiences of the mid-1900s. She had to create more melodic pieces that audiences could better relate to. Her response was a tone poem Stepan Razin’s Dream.

In the 1950s Russia, music that didn’t fit the expected format or composers that didn’t conform often had a hard time getting their music to the stage. This was true for Ustvolskaya. Her works often spent years after completion on the shelf. Her name and her music became more known in the 1960s and 1970s. She was a sort of cult name in Moscos and Leningrad during the 1970s.

Ustvolskaya lived a quiet life in her hometown of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). She rarely left and refused to leave Russia, even when prompted to do so. She considered her art, her music, as her voice and stuck to her ideals with it, seldom compromising her vision for her works. This definitely left her out of the public eye yet we have an interesting composer to explore today because of it.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius
T – Tavener & Tchaikovsky

Featured from last week the letter T…

This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is LEGO ABCs: U is for Unicorn 
This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is Uniquitous Homeschooler

August Wrap-up ~ Online Book Club

Our theme for the online book club this month was Newbery books. This could be any take on things so I chose to read the newest award winner and an honor book that I have been meaning to read that I have had on my shelves.

The newest award winner book is titled “When You Trap A Tiger” by Tae Keller. With one major exception, for which I would not allow my elementary aged students to read this book, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Lily and her mom and sister move in with her Halmoni (grandmother) and a whole new world opens up for Lily. She is thought of as a quiet Korean girl and often sits in that stereotype politely. But when she sees the tiger and learns that her Halmoni is very ill, she realizes that she has to become bold and fierce. Making new friends and facing her fears, she does just that and learns that freedom comes in different ways.

I truly enjoyed the story but had a haunch early on that there was something being hinted at that I wouldn’t like. And I was right. I Do NOT understand why authors and publishers have decided that there has to be a homosexual character in every single new book. It truly ruined this story for me. It was not overtly done but it was made clear at the end of the book. And it made me sad. The storyline had nothing to do with this and it was truly included solely for the purpose of saying it was inclusive or whatnot. But for that reason I will not recommend this book. I would not be opposed to my girls choosing to read it because we have had discussions about the agenda some authors/publishers/media executives have about homosexuality and they know the truth about God’s will. They know that this lifestyle is sinful. Still, I would not recommend this book to anyone. (For parents, if you are reading aloud, you could easily skip that part and where it was sort of hinted at early on, if you choose to.)

The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell is the other book I read this month for the theme. I truly enjoyed it. I had started it a couple of times during the school year last year but never got very far in it while my daughter was reading it. I really enjoyed this story of a teenager on trial for breaking the law of Spain, while in New Spain, in 1541. He was part of a group of explorers, though he was a cartographer. They sought gold in Cibola. When they found it and he ended up with it, he did not turn in the required 1/5 for the king. Thus, he is on trial. The story of how he came to be in possession of the gold and now on trial is found in the story.

This was truly and enjoyable read. I loved hearing how the expedition went, looking at the maps as they are included in the story, hearing about the people met and the cities visited. It was such an adventure. The ending is pleasing and leave some openings for interpretation and your own guess about what is going on in the future. I would recommend this one. I could make a great read-aloud. It is also a good read for a middle school or high school student to go along with a history program fitting the 1500s and the time of explorers in the New World.

Our library system has a great little pamphlet that they keep available, among others, that lists all of the Newbery medal winners. It could make for a neat reading challenge for the girls. So, I am kind of mulling that around in my head.

Did you read any Newbery books this month?

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Husband Auditions ~ a book review & GIVEAWAY

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through I Read With Audra for the purpose of this review.

Synopsis: Meri Newberg is the last of her group of friends to marry. As the last single young woman, she gets “the gift.” When she gets to her place for the summer, renting a room from her brother who will be away for the time being, she opens it. And gets a shock she was not expecting. It is a list. To be more specific, it is a newspaper clipping of advice from the 1950s on how to catch a husband. Yep, she is completely embarrassed and ready to throw it out. After all, who would really do these?

  • #2 Fake a flat tire or pretend engine trouble.
  • #4 Move to a state with more men than women. We recommend Nevada.
  • #16 Work as a waitress or nurse. Men love being taken care of.
  • #19 Go to you local fishing pier and feign squeamishness about baiting your own hook.
  • #21 Ask a man to take your photograph. Chances are, he’ll want his own copy.
  • #100 Get your personal ad in front of as many eligible bachelors as possible. Like on a billboard.

Kai, her brother’s roommate, gets an idea. As an up and coming cameraman looking for his big break, he talks Meri into actually trying some of the ideas out AND letting him film them to post online for a new series. They start with #33 “Go to a rodeo. Rescue the Lone Ranger from himself.” So, she buys a lasso and a bandana and tries to lasso a man. Following these up are getting stuck at the top of the Ferris wheel (thanks to Kai!), visiting a ball game and pretending to not know where the seat is, faking needing help at a pool (just to find out the man is married), and many more hilarious set-ups. The series, Meri Me, is a huge and immediate hit. Everyone loves watching Meri try to catch a husband.

Before long, Kai begins to wonder about whether this is really such a good idea after all.

My Thoughts

This is a fun, quirky, page-turner book. I absolutely adored the pluck and spunk Meri shows in all of her feats of auditioning men using The List. It was such a fun read that I couldn’t put it down. It was such a nice change to have a clean Christian romance. So many times, there is just enough “romance” in those types of books that I will not read them. This one? Not a smidge of the inappropriate. In fact, I handed it to my teenage daughter (she’s 17) because I knew she’d enjoy this too. And she did. She couldn’t put it down, either. We both thought this was such a fun look at dating and how the online world is integrated into life now. I appreciated also how the characters’ Christianity was included without it being such an “in-your-face” part of the story that it becomes unreal and unrelatable. I can heartily recommend this fun read to teens and adults alike.

A major plus? I really like the emphasis on knowing yourself and what you can and should be, that doing something like getting married before you are ready to be the person you need to in a marriage is crazy. I really like the ending. I won’t spoil it but it is quite surprise and brings a smile to the reader’s face. It is what I would hope would happen for every young man and young lady contemplating marriage.

About the Author

Angela Ruth Strong sold her first Christian romance novel in 2009, then quit writing romance
when her husband left her. Ten years later, God has shown her the true meaning of love, and
there’s nothing else she’d rather write about.

Strong’s books have since earned Top Pick honors in Romantic Times, won the Cascade Award, and been Amazon best sellers. Her book Finding Love in Big Sky recently filmed on location in Montana and will air soon. She also writes articles for SpiritLed Woman. To help aspiring authors, she started IDAhope Writers where she lives in Idaho, and she teaches as an expert online at Write That Book.

Besides writing, Strong teaches exercise classes, works for an airline, and enjoys Harley rides with her husband and camping with her three kids.

Learn more about Angela Strong at www.angelaruthstrong.com, or find her on Facebook (Angela Ruth Strong Fan
Page
), Instagram (@ang_strong), and Twitter (@AngelaRStrong).

And now for the giveaways!

I Read With Audra is hosting the giveaway for a copy of the book. Visit her blog to complete the Rafflecopter entries.
https://www.audrajennings.com/2021/08/win-copy-of-husband-auditions-by-angela.html This will end September 14, 2021.

Also Angela Ruth Strong is giving away a round-trip airline ticket. Visit https://mailchi.mp/50fe6fc73514/husband-auditions-book-launch to sign up for her emails and be entered to win.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

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