Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: Marie Durand

Marie Durand (Illustrated Christian Biographies for Young Readers)In a day when "Every detail of the palace and its grounds was meant to glorify the king" (pg. 60), how does one woman glorify the King of Kings? Simonetta Carr's latest book, Marie Durand, paints a clear portrait of a woman who did just that. To some, the life of Marie Durand may seem wasted as they reason, "How can a woman who spends more of her life in prison than out of it be of any use to God?" To others, Marie's life will prove faith-building as she chose to be an instrument in God's hands in the midst of trying circumstances, using her knowledge and skills to teach and encourage others, rather than simply pining away in a prison, overcome with self-pity.

Marie's life is instructive, answering the timely question, "How should we live in the midst of persecution?" We see how God sustained her and enabled her to live a life of persistence, resolve, and faithfulness throughout her imprisonment. Although she spent time writing letters to secure provisions and request release for herself and the other prisoners, she did not allow these matters to consume her overly or prevent her from living a fruitful life but "…simply continued to do what God called her to do every day, keeping her eyes on the future 'triumph of glory,' loving those around her, and thanking God for what she described as 'the honor of wearing His uniform for His just cause" (pg. 53).

Marie Durand is the ninth book in the "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series, and the second of these biographies to highlight a female. It is enhanced by a letter from Marie to her niece, Anne, which is included at the end of the book and reflects Marie's humility and hope in God. This seems particularly fitting since much of what is known about this fairly ordinary woman is a result of her correspondence.

When it comes to church history, "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" is one of our family's favorite series for children.  As I've written before, Ms. Carr is a very gifted author and one of my personal  favorites as her writing has a purpose and depth which exceeds that found in much of written material for children today. I am grateful that she continues to add to this exceptional series!

As with previous volumes in the series, readers of Marie Durand will encounter a carefully researched account that is instructive and edifying.  Understanding is aided by a map and a  timeline, which Ms. Carr has thoughtfully included. The text is adorned with delightful illustrations and well chosen, intriguing photos, as one can see from the sample pages which  Reformation Heritage Books has provided. What can't be conveyed in these samples is that these sixty sturdy pages are contained in a  hardy hardcover with a stitched binding, making this book a collectible title that will endure many years of enjoyment, as we've come to expect from this high quality series.

I commend the biography, Marie Durand, and pray that many will be strengthened as they seek to persevere in light of God's faithfulness. The profitability of studying the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us cannot be understated!!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted"(Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV).

You can read more about Simonetta Carr's "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" here, as well as, download activity pages for several existing titles (Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin) and a study guide for John Owen.

*Many thanks to Cross Focused Reviews, Reformation Heritage Books, and Simonetta Carr for providing me with a complimentary copy of Marie Durand in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: Inheritance of Tears

Displaying TEARS COLOR BIG 300.jpgThe Bible says, " is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). There isn't a person living who hasn't experienced trouble. For many couples, miscarriage is one such trouble. In the midst of suffering, we are faced with hard questions:

  • Who is in control in the midst of trials and suffering?
  • Is God good? Can I really trust Him?
  • Why do babies die? Is it because of something that we do?
  • Does anyone understand my suffering?
  • What purpose, if any, does my pain serve?
  • What happens to babies that die?

Jessalyn Hutto knows the pain of miscarriage. In her book, Inheritance of Tears, she answers these questions, as well as, others and seeks to comfort couples with the comfort with which she has been comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4). She points others to the rock-solid truth of God's character as revealed in His Word and to the hope that we can have in Jesus Christ. While miscarriage is the specific context to which Jessalyn speaks, her words can easily be more generally applied to suffering and trials.

Unlike Jessalyn, I have not experienced miscarriage first hand. However, when my friends and family have faced miscarriage, my attempts to comfort them have seemed woefully inadequate. I came to this book desperately wanting to learn how to be a better friend and care more effectively. God used this book to remind me that the most helpful comforter is the one who points the sufferer back to God. He wants His children to draw comfort from Him. As Jessalyn writes:

"Indeed, even the feelings of isolation can be a great blessing, for isolation from all worldly comforts forces us to draw comfort from the Lord himself" (pg. 55)


"Trials sanctify us and draw us into closer fellowship with God, which inevitably leads to genuine, eternal happiness" (pg. 72).

Inheritance of Tears is a Biblically faithful primer on suffering. Jessalyn writes honestly about the questions that miscarriage raises. I pray that God will use this book to comfort many couples in the face of loss and to equip many more to be Gospel-centered comforters.

Thanks to Jessalyn Hutto and Cruciform Press, you can have the opportunity to win a copy of Inheritance of Tears. If you are interested, simply fill out the form below before  12pm EST, Thursday, April 2, 2015, for a chance to win. (Sorry, giveaway only open to those with a US mailing address.)

*Many thanks to Jessalyn Hutto and Cruciform Press for providing me with a complimentary copy of Inheritance of Tears in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Making Tapestry Fit Most Budgets

TapestryFor several years, I used a different chronological program because the new cost of Tapestry of Grace resources was overwhelming and intimidating to me. After trying to make that other program more like Tapestry of Grace, my husband and I finally decided to simply purchase Tapestry. Now that I have gone through a whole year plan, I have many more ideas about how to make Tapestry fit our budget well. I have found that it is very easy to use Tapestry without spending a lot of extra money on books, especially at the grammar levels.

Bookshelf CentralOne thing that I have found helpful is to read the book summaries on Bookshelf Central. In those paragraphs, there is a lot of helpful information about which books are particularly easy to substitute and which books can be combined for multiple levels. Although one may not be teaching an Upper Grammar or Dialectic student right now, it can be helpful to purchase some of those titles, at times, instead of a Lower Grammar title since the former be utilized again later. (For example, Bookshelf Central may note that the Upper Grammar Arts/Activities resource will work well for both Lower Grammar and Dialectic or when a Dialectic or Rhetoric Worldview title might serve well as a read-aloud for lower levels instead of purchasing Lower and Upper Grammar-level titles.)

 From what I have seen and read, the newer Year Plans of Tapestry include more titles than the older, Classic version because some families didn't want to re-read titles that they'd read three years prior. If this isn't a problem for you, you might wish to purchase and utilize some of the upper level resources for use at a lower level as noted by Bookshelf Central. Personally, re-reading books isn't a problem for us because, as you mature, you understand and appreciate different things. I liken it to watching favorite movies again and again. There are also so many wonderful suggestions in the Arts/Activities resources that we couldn't possibly do them all; it is quite refreshing to know that we don't have to do it all this time and that we can save certain projects for next time. (Though you can still go back to these projects even if you purchase the other resources. ;)

Okay, so I have written all those paragraphs and pretty much simply established that Bookshelf Central has helped me immensely in saving money by simplifying. Here are a couple of additional thoughts...

Decide what you want to prioritize.

Diary of an Early American Boy - How important is it to you to complete all of the literature worksheets at this level? Many of the questions on these worksheets tend to be resource specific (unless specified otherwise by Bookshelf Central), so you'll want to have these resources available if you aren't comfortable adapting the questions and want to utilize all of the worksheets. At the Lower Grammar level, I'm comfortable with not doing all of these, doing many aloud, and adapting "on the fly", so I don't feel like I have to have all of these titles, but this varies by family.

Westward Ho! An Activity Guide to the Wild West
- How important are Arts/Activities to you? How often do you want to do them? How craft-minded are you? Will you need a little bit of instruction or a lot of hand-holding? There are many wonderful suggestions for Arts and Activities in the pages of Tapestry without purchasing these titles. If on a tight budget, it would be easy to Google instructions for many of the activities. Reading the craft books, even if we don't complete the activities, is one of my children's favorite things to do; the books are typically fairly inexpensive when purchased second-hand; and these resources are usually used for five or more weeks, so we often purchase these resources. However, it would be an easy place to simplify, depending on one's means.

The "Little Lights": Full set of 12 volumesAfter looking at the write-ups on Bookshelf Central, you should have a good idea of what can be easily substituted. Most of the history titles are easy to substitute with similar resources from the library. Many libraries have a limited supply of Worldview titles, so if the Church History/Worldview component is important to you, you will likely need to invest in those resources or purchase something similar so substitute. Again, we simplify here by using some resources for multiple levels. However, this category is probably the highest priority for our family, so I make sure that each level has something to read on the given topic. The Little Lights biographies by Catherine Mackenzie are wonderful, and we read them again and again. My four-year-old is particularly fond of carrying them around, and they are very sturdy. I highly recommend all of the series! We also love the History Lives series by Brandon and Mindy Withrow and use those as a read-aloud at all levels (though I think only one of them is a scheduled read-aloud and another is used at the Dialectic level). Again, this depends on your unique family. Do your young kids love read-alouds, or do they have a short attention span? (I have one child that dislikes read-alouds, so I don't do as many of these with her.)

Once you've figured out how you can substitute and what is important to you, you'll probably have a list of books that you do want to secure. Inter-library loan can be helpful if you are organized and if your library doesn't charge a fee for that service (ours charges $3 per book to cover shipping which isn't very helpful when I can pick something up used for $4 but can be more helpful for high priced resources). Don't be afraid to make a list and ask your library to order resources when they don't have any on a specific topic. (If they already have a dozen books on the topic, it is less likely that they'll order your unique title, so that's something you'll want to take into consideration before making a request. They are also less likely to order niche topics such as many worldview titles. However, there are many things that they will consider ordering, so don't be afraid to ask.) Finally, there are many wonderful sites for used resources:, Vegsource, eBay, PaperBackSwap, and Bookmooch. I've also gotten a lot of resources used off of more mainstream sites like Amazon and Abebooks.

Consider your time and your resources and prayerfully go from there. Tapestry can fit into many budgets. It has provided a great framework for us. I substitute more at the Lower Grammar level, but I'm also purchasing resources for Upper Grammar and Dialectic students simultaneously, so you may find that you don't have to substitute as much as I do if you are only purchasing for one level at a time.

If you have found this information helpful, you may also wish to read my post on Planning and Organizing Books. You can also read more about this subject on the "Tapestry of Grace" Blog: Homeschooling in Hard Times: Money and Books.
Many blessings on your homeschool journey!

*If you've found this post helpful, please consider using my Advisor code (elizabethhankins) when purchasing Tapestry of Grace year plans.