Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Makes a "Good" High School

For the record, school/education is very important to me.  I'm one of those parents who is at school regularly, who has bought books since the kids were old enough to be read to, who the librarians greet knowingly when I walk in the door, who checks homework, and is concerned about grades.  I am the mom of one autistic son whose standardized test scores are about average, a daughter who is academically gifted, and according to the school system,talented in art, and a daughter whose only B in first grade was in spelling (other grades were all A's).  In short, my girls are the kind of kids that make schools look good.

Today I read an article about high school students who were overworked and stressed out.  It brought to mind some things I've been thinking lately so I've decided to write about them.  As I've noted before, here in the New Orleans area, the schools of choice for  the middle class are the Catholic  schools.  With few exceptions, people who can afford to avoid the public school system do so.  Most of the Catholic high schools teach the kids seven classes a year.  All the students are required  to take four  years of science, English, math, social studies, and religion, along with two years of physical education, two years of foreign language, a year of some fine art and a year of computer.  A little math will tell you that the kids don't get many electives.  The ones that are offered tend to be more of the same--ie more foreign language, an extra science course or more history or art or music or pe.  They don't offer shop, home ec, drama, business courses or heaven forbid, vo-tech courses.  Honors students begin taking high school English and math in eighth grade,but does this get them more chance to explore different areas?  No, it allows them to take AP classes their senior year.

My daughter will be a junior at a magnet high school for bright students.  She started taking high school classes in eighth grade (English and Algebra I) and they earn eight Carnegie Units a year.  Assuming she passes everything this year, by the end of her junior year she'll have six credits of high school  English, math and history under her belt, along with three years of science, two years of psychology, two years of Spanish, two years of art, and two of pe.  If she passes the AP tests, she'll have six hours of college credit.  For her senior year she'll take either college classes or AP classes, with maybe an elective or two (but electives at her school tend to be more language, more science, more history...)  I can easily see her heading off to college with a semester or more of credit under her belt.  Honestly, I'd rather see her take home economics or drama or journalism or photography, or web design or auto repair.

The chances of my daughter going to a school with highly competitive admissions are slim and none.  I'm not paying for private college and I doubt she'd be willing to take out a loan for it.  The pressure to prepare that perfect application to be chosen ahead of all those other kids is one she won't know.  However, the pressure of demanding classwork with high homework demands is one she knows well.  This summer she has to read Pride And PrejudiceAll Creatures Great and SmallKing LearThe Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical TalesIncidents in the Life of a Slave GirlAmerican Colonies: The Settling of North America (The Penguin History of the United States, Volume1) (Hist of the USA)

She also has to do fifty note cards on famous psychologists.

This is a kid who likes to read, but who doesn't blow through books like her mom does (and Mom would have trouble blowing through a couple of those).  She doesn't have time to read much of what she wants during the school year because of homework and a good part of her summer will be spent reading these books she didn't choose and doing the required review--and people wonder why kids don't read.

I just have to wonder if we are doing the right thing for these kids.  So what if she goes to college with her first semester done (or more)?  That just means less time in easy classes getting used to a new environment.  Maybe it will mean changing majors a time or two because she's never taken accounting, or photography, or journalism, or drama.  I don't want her to spend her high school  years playing, but why rush college credit?  Why not give the kids the opportunity to explore the world, and PREPARE for college?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Blog Tour: Forever After

Forever After: A Hanover Falls Novel

About the Book:
Jenna Morgan mourned the loss of her husband, Zach, in the fire that destroyed the Hanover Falls homeless shelter and claimed the lives of three other firefighters. A year later, her ability to keep up the charade of prosperity she and Zach lived is at an end. Even with financial help from Zach's parents, she can't make the mortgage and credit card payments. But Jenna Morgan refuses to go back to the trailer home life from which she escaped. She's come so far. She just can't go back to that. 

Lucas Vermontez has endured physical therapy for a year, but the legs crushed while he fought the homeless shelter fire are nowhere near 100% yet. Will his dream of returning to the fire station ever become reality? And can he conquer these feelings he has for his best buddy's widow?

My Comments:
This was an engaging quick read with likable characters (along with a few I wanted to strangle).  It is Christian  fiction in the classic sense, in which one of the characters has to find Jesus before she can live happily ever after.  Themes of forgiveness, acceptance of God's will, and new starts in life are obvious, but the story is a good one.

There is one sub-plot about arson, and frankly, it fell flat.  It's kind of like reading a mystery about Tom, Dick and Harry, where John might have been mentioned in one sentence early on (or maybe in another book) and at the end you find out that John's daughter did it.  My reaction was simply "What's that got to do with anything?".

If you are fan of Christian romance novels, you'll probably like this one.  If not, take a look around my blog, maybe you'll find something more to your taste.  Grade:  B.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy.  I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blog Tour: Martha

Martha: A Novel

About the Book:
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented characters of the New Testament is Martha. Often painted in the colors of reproach, Martha seems to be the poster child for how not to be a follower of Jesus. From the mind of Diana Wallis Taylor comes this touching, well-researched portrayal of Martha of Bethany, sister of Mary and Lazarus. Through Taylor's lush descriptions and inspired combination of imagined and recorded dialogue, Martha's world--her trials, triumphs, and loves--vibrantly comes to life. Follow Martha as she is jilted by her betrothed, falls in love with a Roman soldier, grieves the death of her father, cares for her siblings, and serves her Lord with dignity and grace. Readers will never read the biblical story of Martha the same way again.

My Comments:
It is interesting to see how an author can take a Biblical character about whom little  is known and weave a whole life story.  Martha's story is relatively short (243 pages) and is filled with interesting details of life in her time and place in history.  As in the Bible, she's the worker; her sister Mary is the dreamer, the impractical one.  This book is yet another example of how a novel, even though you know it is made-up, can help you better visualize scenes from Scripture.  Grade B-

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy.  I was under no obligation to write a positive review.

Monday Memes

Mailbox Monday is hosted this month by The Bluestocking Guide and is where book bloggers gather to share what showed up in their mailboxes this week, whether those mailboxes received email or snail mail.

Snail Mail:

From The Catholic Company, for review

There's a little bit about Mary in Scripture. We can glean a bit more from the tradition of the Church. Some of the approved apparitions add a little insight, too. But where can we go to get the complete picture, to find out about the whole Mary? Wholly Mary does just that. In an engaging style, Chris Padgett walks us through what the Bible has to say about the Mother of God. What has she meant to the Church throughout the centuries, what do the apparitions add, what have the saints told us about her and, most importantly, what can we learn from her ourselves? Other facets of this explanation of the Blessed Mother include:
  • The power of the rosary
  • How the Mass relates to Mary
  • Four important dogmas about Mary
  • Mary and the Trinity
  • Mary and ecumenism
With the enthusiasm and passion Chris Padgett is known for, Mary is sure to come alive for you in a wholly new way!


Shadows on the Sand: A Seaside MysteryShe serves him breakfast at her café every morning … but he never seems to notice her.

Carrie Carter’s small café in Seaside, New Jersey, is populated with a motley crew of locals … although Carrie only has eyes for Greg Barnes. He’s recovering from a vicious crime that three years ago took the lives of his wife and children—and from the year he tried to drink his reality away. While her heart does a happy Snoopy dance at the sight of him, he never seems to notice her, to Carrie’s chagrin.

When Carrie’s dishwasher is killed and her young waitress disappears, Greg finds himself drawn into helping Carrie solve the mysteries … and into her life. But when Carrie’s own painful past becomes all to present, her carefully constructed world begins to sink.

Will the fragile relationship she’s built with Greg implode from the weight of the baggage they both carry?

NetGalley downloads 
FrameWork for the Shoulder: A 6-Step Plan for Preventing Injury and Ending Pain
Individuals with shoulder ailments know the frustration of having to miss out on the everyday activities they enjoy. They have also experienced the difficulty of finding an exercise program that does not exacerbate their pain or symptoms, yet they know the importance of exercise in maintaining healthy shoulders and bodies.

Help has arrived. Renowned sports medicine physician Dr. Nicholas DiNubile provides readers with cutting-edge strategies for safely starting, building, and maintaining a lifestyle and exercise program designed to overcome pain and injury in the shoulder. This complete resource includes:
-a comprehensive explanation of the causes, preventive strategies, and treatment of
common problems
-tailor-made exercise plans incorporating innovative exercises that can be done at home or
the gym
-nutrition and lifestyle advice to reduce pain and fortify muscles, tendons, and bones

Fine Cooking Cookies: 200 Favorite Recipes for Cookies, Brownies, Bars & More
Name your cookie! Shaped, drop, bar, roll and bake, or slice and bake, they all get professional treatment and triple testing from Fine Cooking magazine, the most trusted name in cooking. This fresh batch of more than 200 amazing recipes will inspire great baking. From classic favorites like snickerdoodles and chocolate chunk to more sophisticated treats like biscotti and fruit bars, there’s something for every occasion. Bakers will roll out these sweets for the holidays, for dessert, or just to fill up the cookie jar. Also includes Fine Cooking’s signature style of tips and secrets from the pros, step-by-step photos to help master techniques, ingredient profiles, and shortcuts. For anyone who wants to bake like the best,Fine Cooking Cookies has all the right ingredients.


Just Tacos: 100 Delicious Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Once a staple of Mexican street food, tacos have crossed the border to great popularity. Taco’s endless variety of great-tasting flavors satisfies any time of day—in all kinds of ways. Convenient, portable, and affordable, tacos are equally welcome at a dinner party, for brunch, or as an afternoon snack. Just Tacos celebrates this versatility with 100 original recipes featuring beef, pork, lamb, seafood, vegetables, breakfast ingredients, and more. Easy-to-make and easy-to-eat, adults, teens, and kids can all try their hand at turning out a tasty taco (or making their own tortillas), whether it’s filled with ethnic ingredients or pantry staples. And in these pages tacos don’t go it alone—information-packed sidebars offer up excellent salsas, sauces, fun drinks, and solid how-to techniques. Just Tacos is a great showcase for this much-loved comfort food.

Amazon Freebies (which I may actually read someday)


The Days of SummerCougar Cub Tales: I'm Just Like YouSentence of Marriage (Promises to Keep)All I WantPlace of PeaceDear Cupid


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It's Monday, What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  She asks what we read or reviewed this week and what we plan to read next week.Read this Week:
A Wedding Blunder in the Black Hills Cute romantic comedy.  To be reviewed in August
Baby, Come Home (Southern Roads) My Review.
Wyoming Sweethearts (Love Inspired) To be reviewed in July
Someone to Watch Over Me To be reviewed in July

Resisting Mr. Tall, Dark & Texan (Harlequin Special Edition) Reviewed here

Currently reading:
Wholly Mary: Mother of God

Up Next:

Blessed, The: A Novel

Other posts:
I wrote about how to get free e-books.

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