I have been doing a good bit of reading and watching some videos, so here are my reviews. (Disclaimer: This may be a little bit clouded by my headache.)
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
This is a great book about an amazing woman from Somalia. It chronicles her life story and journey from Somalia and Kenya to The Netherlands and the US. What is more fascinating is her intellectual journey from radical Islam to atheism. Ms. Ali is best known as the woman who collaborated with Theo Van Gogh on the film "Submission". Van Gogh was murdered on the street in The Netherlands. Ms. Ali has been in Parliament in The Netherlands, and is currently a fellow in the American Enterprise Institute in the US. You can watch "Submission" on YouTube - I didn't link to it because it is somewhat explicit.
What I liked most about this book, and the reason that I recommend it, is that it portrays Islam as currently practiced in the Arabic world from the perspective of a woman - a woman who held to Islamic beliefs until 9/11/2001. I have read other books about the beliefs of Islam, but this was the first that demonstrated so clearly how Islam plays out in people's life. Ms. Ali, unfortunately, went from Islam to atheism. She says that Islam went against everything that her conscience told her. It appears that she has had contact and dialogue with Christians, but has not (yet) chosen that path.
There are some things with which I disagree. She talks about Islamics changing their beliefs to be more consistent with Western beliefs. What doesn't make sense, though, is that Islam is based on the belief in the Koran as the word of Allah. It doesn't admit room for change. In the same way, Christianity may look a little different in different societies, but the essential beliefs are unchanged since Jesus. So, I don't think asking Islamics to change what they believe is at all realistic. As a Christian, I pray that Muslims will see the truth of Christianity and meet Jesus.
Ms. Ali also tried to change the Dutch law that allowed private and homeschools because of the teaching that occurs in the "madrassahs" - the Muslim schools. Unfortunately, requiring that all children have a secular education isn't any better. In a free society, families must have the freedom to educate our children as we see fit. Our response to radical Islam must be to love them and to help them choose to integrate into society.
I could write for hours about this, but I hope I have given you enough to get you to read the book. Again, I don't agree with all her conclusions, but I have great respect for her courage and intellect.
Beyond Survival by Diana Waring
This is a wonderful book for homeschooling families. We use a curriculum, so I didn't need a lot of the stuff about how to teach different subjects, etc. But, I did find that it was a greatly encouraging book. She talked about how her kids are so different, but that they are learning and thriving in their home environment. I strongly recommend this book for anyone homeschooling or considering homeschooling.
What in the World is Going on Here? tape series by Diana Waring
I really liked Diana Waring's book about homeschooling in general, but I really disliked this tape series. This series is an attempt to look at world history through the lens of Christianity. I can handle that she is a young-earth creationist and takes the first several chapters of Genesis extremely literally. I had problems with a number of other items, though. In one place, she talked about the concepts of Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age being incorrect because she believes that God gave humans everything we needed to develop civilization from the time we were created. She uses a verse in Genesis 4 to support this - the verse states that a certain person was skilled in the working of bronze and iron. First of all, the dating of the first 11 chapters or so of Genesis is rather problematic. Second of all, one person being skilled in bronze and iron doesn't mean that the societies as a whole had learned to use them. I also have a problem with just brushing off such established ideas as the developing of society through certain "ages" - we clearly are in an information age that took several millenia to get to. Our society would not be here without having already gone through the industrial age, etc. There is more to which I object, but I'll leave it here. Obviously, I'm not going to use this resource with my kids.
"The Midwife's Tale" - DVD from PBS
This movie is based on a book, which is a historical evaluation of the diary of Martha Ballard, who lived during the time of the American Revolution. I didn't find the movie terribly exciting, but the story was pretty interesting. Mrs. Ballard practiced midwifery in addition to raising her own family. She delivered over 1000 babies and never lost a mom due to childbirth. What was rather sad, though, was that her own children treated her so poorly when she reached old age. Martha and her husband were finally able to build their own home when they were about 60. Soon after, Mr. Ballard was taken to debtor's prison for about a year. During that time, her son and his family just moved in with Martha, relegating her to a single bedroom. According to her diary, she felt that she was treated very poorly. After such a long and productive life, I can't imagine being treated so badly by one's kids. The diary itself is rather sparse, though. It's never clear whether or not the family was happy at home. Martha tended to just keep a record of what she did, when she delivered babies, other medical care she provided. It was only near the end of the diary that her own feelings were allowed to show. I would recommend this for adults. C watched it with me and was bored, but it wasn't inappropriate.
"Xanadu" - movie with Olivia Newton-John with music by ELO
This was a walk down memory lane for me. I had seen the movie as a teen and even owned the soundtrack. I chose it for the family to watch because we are studying Greek myths, and the premise of the movie is that a muse is sent to help a struggling artist. We all really enjoyed it. Some of the dancing was suggestive and some of the costumes were questionable, but it wasn't too bad for our kids. P also used the movie to talk about how we are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and not by a muse or other being. I highly recommend this movie for kids above about age 8.
"Civilization and the Jews" - DVD
This is another PBS movie. There are three parts to it, each with three episodes. So far, we have only watched the first two episodes. They fit very nicely with our discussion of ancient history. The point of the movie is to show the history of the Jewish people and their impact on civilizations. I recommend it to supplement world history curricula for older elementary kids and up.
That's all I have to write at the moment. I'll update my knitting situation later.