For our first year of homeschooling, we wanted to finish up US History, since that is what the schools in the area were doing–and my daughter had started US History the previous year, so it made sense to just keep going for the sake of continuity.

I spend a lot of time looking at textbooks. I’ve planned enough college courses to know that the right book can make all the difference, so a lot of time went into all the books we used. While I have a degree in history, American History is just not my thing, so I couldn’t just wing it.

In the end, we settled on the final volumes of Joy Hakim’s History of US. I read a lot of good reviews, there were student workbooks and teacher guides for us to use, and it seemed to cover all the requisite events and time periods. Now that we are coming to the end of volume 10, I can confidently say that we made the right choice.

The three books cover Reconstruction to the present, and they cover “typical” history (politics, wars, presidential elections), social changes (Constitutional amendments, Civil Rights, women’s rights, environmentalism), and popular culture (music, literature, and the arts). Does it cover everything? No–that would be close to impossible. There are topics that are glossed over, and there are others that are simplified. Part of that is that the books can be used at the elementary or the middle school levels–there are different ancillary materials depending in the grade. Not every topic is appropriate for all age groups, but the series strikes a happy medium. I didn’t feel there was anything truly neglected.

My daughter liked that the chapters were short–typically 3-5 pages. That made them manageable, and she typically did a chapter a day, and 3-4 chapters a week. There were often several chapters on significant figures that each focused on a specific period of his or her life–showing how a person’s childhood, for example, shaped the things he or she¬†did as an adult.

I did supplement with other things. Novels and other literary works were brought in to add more information and different perspectives to a topic. For example, she read The Book Thief and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl when learning about World War II, and A Raisin in the Sun when learning about race issues in the mid-twentieth century. We also watched films, TV shows, and documentaries. The CNN series The Sixties has been particularly useful for study of that decade, and we are about to start the companion series The Seventies and The Eighties.

That does bring me to my one complaint about the Hakim series. The most recent history is more skimmed over. I would have liked a bit more depth as we get closer to the present, but I did live through a lot of it, so I can add first-person knowledge–and maybe that is why those years are a bit more under-developed.

Overall, the series was a success for us. In junior high and high school, I never got much further than the Civil War, so I learned a lot too. My daughter has even expressed disappointment that Joy Hakim doesn’t have a similar series for world history, which has got to be a pretty high compliment from a student–the desire to read more.

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When I heard that Starbucks was going to offer coconut milk nationwide, I was intrigued. While I don’t buy coconut milk for drinking, I do love ice creams and yogurts made from it. I also buy the canned versions for cooking and baking, and recently, for turning into amazing whipped cream. For drinking, we stick to soy and almond as of right now.

But before I give my opinions about the new milk, a small digression. As I read about the new item in advance of its being available, a lot of the comments were negative. Are the soy and coconut milks offered by Starbucks perfect? No, of course not. Would it be great if we could get non-dairy milks without carrageenen and other iffy ingredients? Sure. But I think a lot of people lost sight of the big picture here. Starbucks doesn’t have to offer any alternatives to dairy milk. While there are more people avoiding dairy everyday, we are far from the majority. Perhaps a little gratitude that our non-dairy needs are being considered at all would serve us better than complaining that they got it wrong. It’s a step in the right direction.

Back to my review. I tried the coconut milk in my usual Saturday mocha. It was good–definitely added a coconut undertone to my drink. The thing I didn’t like about it was that it was thinner than the soymilk. It also didn’t have the same degree of foaminess. Since I don’t really have a problem with soy, I will likely stick with that option for now as I prefer the extra creaminess. But I like that it is available as an option, and I may try it again when I shift to iced drinks in the warmer weather.

If nothing else, I do appreciate that Starbucks is broadening their options and thinking about people who cannot, for whatever reason, have dairy or soy.

Kim Harrison

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