June 21, 2007

Suspense Technique #3 - Peril

Many of you know I've entered Wayne Thomas Batson's - Suspense Techniques Contests over at his blog Enter the Door Within. Well - the winners for the first and second techniques have been announced, and we're all awaiting the winner for #3 - Peril.

Here are the two pieces I entered under the third contest:

#1

The envoy had succeeded in their mission to find the rare herbs which, blended skillfully by the village sage, would cure the child’s burning illness. Their only obstacle on the return home lay at the precipice of the very mountain they’d been climbing for two days.

The rocky terrain and sudden downpours caused delays in the form of mudslides and fallen trees. The seven men trekked the remaining distance with great trepidation. All of them remembered vividly what had happened on their journey to the great grasslands of Elliseth.

What had started as an envoy of eight had been reduced to seven because of what lay mere moments away: a chasm of molten rock and fire called the Ruin of Loss. The opening of the mountain had claimed many lives in its inferno. It was said among the villagers that the screams of its victims were heard at the full moon.

The mouth of the mountain belched lava into a pool nearly a mile across. The long journey back around the obsidian cliff was the route of the seven men. They had watched their companion slip from that same narrow path and fall far beneath the rim of the mountain into the churning blaze. He had slowly sunk to his death; skin melting off his frame; his hair ablaze from the intense heat. His cries for help and the image of his last agonizing moments had haunted the men during the quiet moments of their journey. As they approached the return trek around the beast, the men stopped in silent tribute to their friend and brother-in-arms. The bravest man and leader, Tabor, stepped one foot onto the rocky black path and looked back at his men; they all understood that he wished them well on their dangerous route.

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#2

At the sight of the Captain’s lifeless body, all nine of the shipwrecked passengers stared suspiciously from face to face, trying to detect an inkling of guilt. One passenger, however, was trying not to portray his/her murderous motivations. But who would do such a thing?

Rations were running low and the island offered little food other than coconuts that grew atop sixty-foot palms. Sara knew that whoever the killer was, they were thinking the same thing that had crossed several minds since their shipwreck: if there were fewer passengers, there would be a better chance at survival for all those who remained. But murder was never an option that had entered Sara’s mind. She’d spent the last week scouring the island for animals, in hopes of some meat, while one of their number had been doing a different kind of hunting.

Terrified, Sara gazed from one face to the next. She could not imagine any of these people sinking to such desperate measures so soon. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison were elderly and neither looked capable of such brutality. Dr. Wilder had been helping the injured and tending the sick. Angela Moffit, the overworked financial advisor, had been so kind and assisted Dr. Wilder when she, herself, could muster the energy. Todd Walker had been doing his best to climb the tall trees and harvest as much food for the group as possible. Simon Nelson was an ex-minister and founder of several charities for underprivileged children. Belinda Moss was the eleven-year-old child of the Captain. Finally, Dylan Crosby had been an Olympic swimmer who donated a large chunk of money to build a school for the blind in the urban community he called home. All these people seemed the most unlikely to commit such a crime. However, the small island was definitely devoid of human life except for these eight other people. One of them was hunting; one of them was planning their next target as the rest of the group stood there in shock.

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I'll be posting Suspense Technique #4 - Frustration soon.

June 20, 2007

Used Curriculum Sale

For many home-schoolers, summer break began as soon as the weather got warmer. Around my house, we actually quit mid-May. Our trip to California was an educational experience in itself, but we couldn't really get back into our school schedule after the vacation. Our minds would've been on important summer musings. So - we took off early and our summer began in May.

Home schooling is one of the coolest lifestyles God could bestow upon a family - well, our family anyway. It's so flexible, enriching, and miraculous. I could go on and on about the joys of home school, for now though, I'll get on with my current topic.

Friday, June 22nd, I'll be joining many other parents in a frenzy of book shopping at the annual Used Curriculum Sale for CCHE (Clark County Home Educators) group to which I belong. I'm actually really excited about the whole experience, now that we've finished our first year and ironed out many of the wrinkles we ran into initially.

Last August was when we decided to pull our daughter out of her private Christian school, in order to attempt what we felt God was leading us to do - home school. We just dove right in and I attempted to research curriculum over the internet with moderate success.

I decided to try one publisher for all subjects, since this was our first exposure to the huge variety of curricula in existence. Bob Jones University Press seemed to fit our needs best. I had found an amazing website of reviews done by parents who'd actually used each type of curriculum: HomeSchoolReviews.com. This was and still is an amazing asset to our family. I highly recommend this site for even seasoned home-schoolers looking for a new curriculum.

BJU Press was a blessing. The lessons were laid out and the Teacher's Editions taught me how to teach my daughter. I had help - backup so to speak. Initially, all of these things saved my sanity and curbed my worries of, somehow, damaging my little girl's education.

After the first week or so though, I realized that even home school books didn't have to be followed to a tee. So - I improvised. In Math, my daughter was quite a ways ahead of the book, so I let her take the test and if she scored 90% or higher, she could go on to the next one. In English, the book was arranged so that every other chapter was about writing a different kind of essay (persuasive, compare and contrast, etc.) - well what third grade kid really likes to write an essay every other week? Not mine. So - we reviewed the material and moved on to more grammar and sentence structure type stuff. The point is that I altered nearly every book from it's original state, to something that fit my daughter's learning style. That's the beauty of being her teacher.

So after a year of tweaking the books to suit us, I'm able to recognize much better what our specific needs are. This is a tremendous advantage when picking out curriculum for our next school year. I've finally made some decisions and hope to find at least a few of these curricula at the sale on Friday. We'll be going with the following:

*Math - A Beka
*English - Rod & Staff
*History/Social Studies - Bob Jones Heritage Studies (an excellent program)
*Science - Neoe Science (Chemistry 2, Physics 2, or Biology 2)
*Spelling - A Reason For... (Level E)

As for Reading and Bible, we do our own thing. My daughter reads everyday, on her own, and I have her either write a short journal entry on what she's read, or tell me, in order to check her comprehension. This is unconventional, but I want her to develop a love for reading that is personal, and not just read because I said so. (I also developed a rewards program where she gets one penny per page she's read, only after she's finished the entire book.)

For Bible, I've taken a more practical approach. I've prayed about it, and for now, we're using an amazing teaching Bible my dad gave me a few years ago and trying to apply it to our everyday lives. If she's having a disagreement with her friends, we look up what the Bible says about that. If her attitude is a problem, we'll look it up. I've also found a really great devotional series for her called Devotions for Girls: God and Me, and one for me, as well, (God's Little Devotional Journal). Our goal, even in summer, is to start our day with a page in our devotional books, so we start out focused on the Lord, which gives us perspective throughtout our day.

So while all the children in the land are dreaming of swimming pools, ice cream trucks, and sleepovers, parents like me are preparing for the fall year of home school. The sale this week will be a fantastic opportunity to buy, as well as sell, my used curriculum. Every year, kids move up a grade and others leave behind the books we'll be needing and vice versa. It's a beautiful thing. All those discount books, all that knowledge, all waiting to be delivered and found.

Most people don't realize that home school does, in fact, cost money. It's not as much as private school, but it's definitely not free. So local sales like this one are a chance for us to sell the old books and hopefully get some money toward next year's learning.

It's funny because it's not even officially the end of her 3rd grade school year, and I feel like 4th grade will be fantastic!

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Update: The sale was fantastic! I found about 70% of what I needed for our upcoming 4th grade year. Yay!

June 19, 2007

June CSFF Blog Tour - Day Two

I'd like to invite you all to not only read Sharon Hinck's latest book, The Restorer, but get to know her a little and find out where she comes from and what makes her tick. A Christian author's motivation is nearly as important as their work. Sharon's genuine experiences as a Christian, mother, and author have prepared her to weave messages of faith throughout captivating stories of heroism and redemption.

Take a few minutes to explore Sharon Hinck's world, via her website: SharonHinck.com. Here's an excerpt from her welcome message:

Do you enjoy tales of inspiration? Are you a weary traveler seeking a place to rest your pack for a time? You’re welcome here! My novels share a common theme. Life is a grand adventure, and even the small choices we make each day can be heroic.

When the minutia of modern life wears me down, I write to remind myself of the bigger picture: We have an amazing God who made us, loves us, and invites us to be part of His story. And He is an expert at taking ordinary people and empowering them to make a difference by sharing His grace with others.

So get to know Sharon Hinck, and get to know her gift of story-telling.

June 18, 2007

June CSFF Blog Tour - Day One




This month we'll be looking at Sharon Hinck's first book of her Sword of Lyric series, The Restorer.


The basic premise of the book is a soccer-mom, Susan Mitchell, that dives into a parallel world that awaits the arrival of a Deliverer. Without in-your-face Christianity, The Restorer, is filled with messages that will not only appeal to Christian women, but fantasy fans as well.

Check out some of the other CSFF Blogtour participants' reviews. They're listed to the right by name. Explore, have fun, and learn a little something.