Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall

Harvest of Grace follows Sylvia Fisher as she recovers from a heart break and moves away from home and onto the struggling Blank family farm. When Aaron Blank returns home his only desire is to sell the farm and go into the non-electric appliance business. With Sylvia and Aaron having different reasons for wanting the farm to succeed they work side-by-side finding a deep companionship with one another. The story also visits some characters in the previous books of the Ada’s House series of novels.

I will be honest, I have not been impressed by any Amish novels other than Beverly Lewis. But Cindy Woodsmall makes the Amish setting come alive once again. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will be going back and reading the Ada’s House novels that came before Harvest of Grace. I quickly fell in love with Sylvia Fisher and hoped the best for her as she began to seek a new life away from home. I applauded our hero as he returned home a recovering alcoholic and truly tried to mend fences with his grieving and hurt parents. It’s a story that is easy  to enjoy and get caught up in and I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Waterbrook/Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.



Tales from the Farm

Aaron’s aunt and uncle have a farm… kind of. Not a real farm, but they have acres of land, dogs, chickens, goats, cows, and up until recently horses. They have a barn and a chicken coop. They have a playground area and lots of fun stuff to explore and places to roam.

Our family reunion takes place about 5 minutes from the Steen farm but this year we came a bit early and spent the first evening at on the farm. As soon as my children ran out of the van Lydia ran straight to big black lab named Smeigel and gave him a big hug. He was excited for the attention.

The Steen’s grandson, Josiah, is only weeks older than John and they became fast friends. They roamed the land together finding sticks, chasing each other and climbing dirt “hills.” At one point in time I look over, John has a huge stick, has cornered 3 chickens and waving his stick in a deep voice yells, “COCK-A-DOODLE-DO!!!!” The chickens proceeded to rush at him and John turned around and ran for his life yelling, “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!” It was one of the funniest things I’ve seen.

It was time to go and it was late at night. The kids walked out of the house and John immediately didn’t like the “angry sounds.” They had to take him back inside and explain that those sounds were crickets and cicadas happily singing in harmony. Apparently he doesn’t remember ever hearing them before.


* This is not a finished post, but I wanted to kept what I had. *

A Response to an article entitled “American Preparatory Academy”

A Response to an article entitled “American Preparatory Academy“:

I love charter schools. I love what they represent… choice. I honestly do not see the negative side of charter schools.

Because I’m curious I’ve googled “charter school opposition” (or something like that). Then I googled (American Preparatory Academy scandals because 1) It was a criticism that charter schools are known for scandals and 2) I was curious about my son’s school. Just as a side note, this is the only article, and I was proud of my school in the end.)   I do not feel as though the opposition has a good argument. But, for now, I digress and move onto this particular blog post.

For whatever reason when I went to comment on the post the comments weren’t working, so I’m blogging about it. 🙂

The blog post is simply a straight forward copy and paste of an article from the Salt Lake Tribune with no commentary. Well… kind of. You see, the author links to the news article, but then copy and pastes only excerpts of the article that suits the needs of his/her agenda. At first, reading the article, I didn’t realize that the entire article was not included. She quotes a large portion and then adds in “…”. Then quotes another large portion and ends with another “…”. Now, to my understanding, when one uses the “…” to indicate that material has been removed, the removed material should not have any bearing on the meaning of the overall story. The second “…” was used correctly, however, if one digs a little farther the first “…” changes the entire outcome of the American Preparatory Academy “scandal.”

So, basically, here’s what happened:

In the portion that the author quoted it is revealed that,

“The academy pays a charter school management company $986 a year per student to run its two schools, according to the management agreement. The company is owned by sisters of the chairman of the academy’s board.”

“With about 1,140 students enrolled in American Preparatory Academy’s two schools, the for-profit management company, led by Carolyn Sharette, receives more than $1 million a year, she said. Sharette’s brother, Howard Headlee, chairs the American Preparatory board, which hired Sharette’s company.”

“Sharette, Headlee and their sister Laura Campbell opened the first school together in 2003. Sharette and Campbell worked at the school and later created the charter management company, called American Preparatory Schools Inc…”

Whoa. That sounds a little dicey. And that’s exactly where the author of the blog leaves the story and how he/she wants you to feel… a little icky.

However, if you dig a little further (ie click the link to the original story and read the whole thing, you then find out):

“Sharette said setting up a management company became necessary to allow her to assist other charter schools that were approaching her for help without using American Preparatory Academy’s resources.”

“Headlee did not attend the meeting in which the board voted to hire Sharette’s company, did not participate in discussions about it and previously declared his conflict of interest, according to minutes of the 2008 meeting in which the board voted to hire Sharette’s company.

Headlee said he has no financial interest in his sister’s company. He said the board followed competitive bidding practices required by state law but Sharette’s bid was the only one that met the needs of the school’s instruction model.

Sharette’s company employs the academy’s administrators and handles the school’s finances and academics.”

So, after reading the entire article concerning APA we find out, in fact, that while there may be questions, those questions were answered in such a way that everything is above ground. We find out that the charter management company owner started the company, not to embezzle money, but rather to protect the charter school and help others, that the brother did not participate in the hiring process of his sister’s management company, and that while the company gets $986 per student per year at least part of that money goes right back to the school in the form of salary for the administrators and is compensation for being  the school’s accountant, if you will.

What irks me is that the author of the blog left readers to believe that there were some shady dealings being done, when in actuality, those involved were really trying to do what was best for the school and avoid accusations of nepotism. The author wishes to promote the idea that charter schools are wrong because there are scandals attached to them. However, here’s the thing… public schools have scandals too.

In a comment she asks “but what’s wrong with them finding my blog where they will only end up reading a Salt Lake Tribune article about the school?”

The answer is that it’s wrong because of the excerpt posted can lead people to believe there was a scandal, when in fact those involved answered openly, honestly, and had done everything according to the law. It’s wrong because by the very fact of posting it on a blog entitled “Charter School Scandals” leads people to believe there was a scandal.

I don’t mind that the blog exists. It’s well within the American’s freedom to collect scandalous articles and have them all in one location, and could perhaps be helpful at times. However, what I do mind is people purposefully trying to distort information to benefit themselves or their agenda. It just isn’t helpful to the conversation. If this person thinks that charter schools are wrong or add to corruption within education then they should support their case with honesty and integrity.

As an end note in regards to the second school mentioned in the article, Monticello Academy, another local charter school, I think the State Charter Board was correct in “ousting” the director of the school. They did so because of parent complaints “of low teacher morale and efforts to block parental involvement in the school’s management,” lead to an investigation. To me, that’s what charter schools are all about. The parents wanted their teachers to be happier and so be able to perform their jobs better. They also wanted more involvement in the school. When they didn’t get what they wanted they went about changing things. They held power in their school. I think that’s awesome (this coming from a former teacher), and I don’t think that’s true in the public schools.