Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Songs of Joy in The Anthems of Zion


Do you ever pick up a book which turns out to be so good that you don't want to put it down? Do you say to yourself  "Just one more chapter" and it turns into 2 or 3 or more?

If you answered Yes to either of the questions then I know of a new series of books for you.

Check out the Anthems of Zion series by Katie Schuermann. Titles in this trilogy are House of Living Stones, The Choir Immortal, and the soon to be released The Harvest Raise.




All three books are set in the fictional southern Illinois town of Bradbury.  Not only is the series a chronicle of small town life, the church in town, Zion Lutheran, is just as central a setting for all three books.

 In House of Living Stones  you will meet the main characters; Pastor Fletcher, Dr Emily Duke; a college music professor, Mrs Scheinberg; the church secretary, and many other loving souls who make Bradbury a wonderful place to live. Not only will you share in the joys (and not so joyous parts) of small town life, but also the life and happenings of Zion Lutheran Church.

The Choir Immortal  begins with a highly anticipated wedding at Zion. But will it happen or will several events turn into catastrophe and prevent this joyful event from taking place? As the story moves on the reader continues to experience life in Bradbury through the many people they came to meet in House of Living Stones. Just as in real life the people in Bradbury experience trauma and heartache and joy and happiness. Through it all they are comforted by their friends, but most importantly through the Word of God.




The Harvest Raise concludes this Bradbury trilogy. It may not begin the way the reader anticipates based on the conclusion of The Choir Immortal, but it is good none the less. Just as real life goes on, life moves along in Bradbury as well. Real life is full of changes, challenges, and new experiences and these are all experienced by the people in Bradbury as well. They grow and pull together through trials and joys, just as we do. Good comes out of difficulties in both real life and Bradbury. Through it all the members of Zion Lutheran Church are guided and loved by their faithful pastor, Pastor Fetcher. He never ceases to give anyone who comes to him the Word of God to comfort, guide, and instruct them.







My Thoughts 

I really enjoyed reading all three of these books and found myself nodding 'Yes' or agreeing with many of the situations. There were two parts of  The Harvest Raise with which I could especially identify. Bethesda is a Lutheran organization dedicated to serving people with developmental disabilities. Bethesda has facilities in many communities around the United States. Some of these facilities are smaller and provide homes for just a few people. The people who live in these homes are fairly integrated into many aspects of their community. In The Harvest Raise two of the residents of the Bethesda Homes attend church at Zion. One of the young men there develops a relationship with them and help them become a special part of Zion. I liked seeing the integration of the clients served by Bethesda into the life of the congregation. When I worked in the Chaplaincy department for several regional Bethesda facilities it was a high priority for us to see the people we served attend and be welcomed by their local churches.

In addition, in my vocation as a Pastor's wife I could really relate to many of the challenges faced by the occupants of the parsonage. I pray I can relate to those I encounter with as much grace and compassion as exhibited in these books.

I whole heartedly recommend The Anthems of Zion trilogy to anyone looking for a thoughtful and enjoyable read. I think these books will especially be enjoyed by fellow Lutherans as well as being great for those wanting to know a little more about the practices of a Lutheran Church. While Lutheran doctrine and teachings are a part of the story line these wonderful books are not a complete exposition of Lutheran beliefs.

To learn more about all three great books and for some fun things visit the Anthems of Zion homepage.

The Anthems of Zion books are the perfect books for summer reading. However, if you like them as much as I did you will certainly finish them long before summer is over.

The Harvest Raise (Available for preorder) as well as House of Living Stones and The Choir Immortal are available from CPH.



Disclaimer: I personally own House of Living Stones and The Choir Immortal. I received an advance digital copy of The Harvest Raise for the purposes of promoting it. I have not been compensated in any other manner and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

In The Hands Of A Child World Governments Notepack





Whether we like government or not it is a necessary organization in our communities, country, and larger world. Governments provide structure and benefits to the people residing in their land. Some of the governments allow people more freedom, while others tightly control many aspects of people lives. While we are blessed to live under a government which gives citizens a voice and freedom to make many choices, many people in the world do not enjoy these same rights, responsibilities, and freedoms. It is vital for students (and adults) to learn the basic tenets and principles of other types of governments to function in the world and most importantly safeguard the rights and freedoms we have in out type of government. The World Governments notepack from In The Hands of A Child introduces students to many types of governments around the world.

The World Governments  Notepack  contains:

  •  a brief overview of the notepack and suggestions on how to use it
  • a table showing a suggested breakdown of topics for each of the 5 suggested  days
  • a bibliography and related websites
  • instructions for each of the activities and note pages
  • study guide
  • notebook page templates.

The World Governments project pack has a recommended grade level of 8-12.

Topics covered include:
  • Role of Government
  • Powers of Government
  • Limited and Unlimited Government
  • Types of Government
  • Forms of Democracy
  • Governments Based on Politics
  • Comparing Democracies and Dictatorships
  • Famous Dictators
  • Types of Monarchies
  • Types of Republics
  • Governments Based on Economics
  • International Organizations
Each of these topics is discussed in the research guide and then students fill out a notebook page with information which they learned about that topic. The notebook pages have headings, and the student fills them out according to the directions on the activities and instructions page.





Sample pages for the student to create their own country and government or International organization.








World map where students identify countries with each type of government.




The World Governments Project Pack is also available in a lapbook format with mini books in which to record information learned. The study guide and topics are identical to the one in the notepack format.


My Thoughts


I have used many Lapbook Project Packs from In The Hands Of A Child with my two children over our homeschooling years. However, as they have gotten older they have been more reluctant to use lapbooks to study and explore different topics. However, I think the idea of a short study guide to learn about a topic is great. So the notebook pages project pack is a great geared to older students. They still explore a topic using the same study guide, but have a different way to record their learning. I own one or two notebooking project packs, but had not tried one until I had the opportunity to try this World Governments set.

As my daughter is high school age and more becoming independent in her studies I gave her this pdf unit and had her work on it independently. (I printed the notebook pages/ organizers for her, since her printer access is more limited). I directed her to work through what she could on her own and let me know what she needed help on. She had some questions about the content in the study guide and we discussed some real world examples of what was written, but she essentially completed the project pack on her own. While it is bittersweet to let get of the teaching and working together, I was happy to see how well she did with this project pack on her own.

Vocabulary notepage organizer
My daughter liked the notepages format better than lapbook.  She thought is was not as labor intensive and more age appropriate for middle and high school than cut and glue lapbooks. I like the notepages, but the graphics aren't as fun or eye-catching as the lapbook templates.These notepages are a good way to help students organize their thoughts after writing and practice taking notes from a text. This skill will be invaluable to them in continuing education.


I really like the notepages vocabulary sheet. This organizer gives the student plenty of room to write the definition of words. There may also be room to use the word in a sentence or otherwise expand the definition.



This World Governments notepack would be a great way to start a World Government course by giving an overview of many topics to be covered in the course. It made a good segue from American Government to World Government. With the basic information learned here it will be easy to put together a World Governments semester course utilizing non textbooks and other resources. Otherwise I am not sure how to put it in to something where I could give high school credit for the work. (I am not trying to imply or suggest that everything done has to be done for credit, it is very nice to be able to do so).

Another way to utilize this project pack could be during a summer or other school break for a student to explore the topic and decide if they had enough interest in it to explore it further in a full fledged course.

Even though the lowest level listed is 8th grade it could probably also be used for 6th or 7th grade as well, especially if the student has an interest in these topics. As it is a brief introduction a younger student could probably get something out of it with out becoming tired of it as something that stretched out over a longer period of time.

One suggestion my daughter had was to have a note after the the sections in the text where a note page or organizer is to be filled out.

The biggest challenge with the notebook format of the project pack is coming up with a good way to save the completed notebook pages.  With a lapbook it is easy; all the mini books are fastened into a file folder or something similar. These notebook pages aren't quite as easy. I have thought about binding them, but I don't have a comb binder and I don't know if binding about 20 pages is efficient either.

After seeing and using this notebooking project pack I think this is a great alternative to lapbooks for older students. It provides a concise study which can be completed in a reasonable length of time which can be used to achieve many goals.


Has your child completed a notebooking unit? How did you sane the pages?



Disclaimer: ( I received a free digital copy of this Project pack for the purpose of this review. I have not been compensated in any other way. All thoughts are my own. I was not required to right a positive review. Photos, with the exception of the logo, are also my own.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

In the Hands of A Child Ecosystems Project Pack




The Ecosystems Project Pack from In The Hands of A Child is a great way to teach upper elementary,  junior high and high school students about how nature and the natural world works together. The suggested grade levels are 5-10.

Topics taught in Ecosystems include:

  • Ecosystem cycles
  • Energy cucle
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Nitrogen Cycle
  • Oxygen Cycle
  • Nitrogen Cycle
  • Water Cycle
  • Disturbance Cycle
  • The Energy cycle
  • The effects of disturbances of these cycles
  • Food chains and webs
  • Trophic Levels
  • Omnivores
  • Ecosystem Management
  • Biomes
  • Related Vocabulary
There are mini books for each of these topics which students write in after reading the corresponding section to show what they learned and know.
Wheel minibook

Clipboard minibook










There is also a bonus hands-on activity of creating a creating an ecosystem included in the project pack.  (There isn't a mini book for this activity).

The project pack includes:
  • Text Study guide
  • Vocabulary and Definition list
  • Templates for all the minibooks
  • Directions for how each minibook works and information to writein each
  • Planning Guide with suggestions of what text to read, vocabulary words, and minibooks to complete each day
  • List of related books and websites
  • Directions for how to use the Project Pack as well as putting together the lapbook
  • Full Color pictures of a completed lapbook

This Ecosytem Project Pack is laid out to be completed in 8 days, but that number could easily be changed by adjusting how many sections were studied each day.



My Thoughts


We found this to be a great way to learn about ecosytems. It is very complete and detailed, but doesn't get bogged down or boring. The text is concise and interesting. I really appreciate how the topic and vocabulary words are divided up; the amount of material to read and write about in the minibooks for each day is just right. Each days assigned reading and number of mini books to fill in is about equal so that is a great help is scheduling the amount of time it should take each day. The bonus activity of creating your own ecosystem is a fantastic way to make many of the concepts taught concrete. This was something my son was not able to complete at this time as all the components were not available at this time. I also appreciate having the list of related books and websites handy if my child wants to learn more after reading the study guide.

One of the features I thought was really cleaver was a side bar featuring a summary of the story "The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly".  In the story the lady swallows many different creatures which parents and older children will recognize are part of a food chain or ecosytem. This example is then used to show how the parts of an an aquatic ecosytem work together to complete a circle. What a great way to use something students are already familiar with to illustrate a new concept!

I like having the pictures of completed minibooks included in the project pack as it is helpful in the event that I don't understand from the written directions how a minibook is supposed to go together.


Completed Lapbook



Completed Lapbook
This was at a great level for my middle school aged son, I would probably add additional reading or research for the high school level.







Disclaimer: ( I received a free digital copy of this Project pack for the purpose of this review. I have not been compensated in any other way. All thoughts are my own. I was not required to right a positive review. Photos are also my own.)