Beautiful Feet Books and MFW Adventures

I spent forty minutes in the Beautiful Feet Books booth at our convention last year. Everything about their books and curriculum called out to me. I love reading, its my absolute favorite thing ever, and every book in that stand beckoned to my book crazed heart. Beautiful words, engaging illustrations, they are precisely what comes to mind when I think of Charlotte’s urging to read “many worthy books.”

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If you are planning out your Adventures year, you will find a list of recommended read alouds in the back of your MFW Adventures manual.  Several of the books listed there are part of various curriculums created by Beautiful Feet Books. You can read more about this delightful company here.

**Before I go any further let me state from the get go that the history portion of My Fathers World is complete as is. You do not need to spend another dime to “beef” anything up!** 

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While planning Adventures, I kept returning to Beautiful Feet Books (BFB). My boys love reading and they are obsessed with American history. I knew they would be game for more and that it would not overwhelm them to add in a bit more. We do a lot of journal style notebooking in our home and I loved what I found in BFB’s Early American History Guide (EAH).  Short, meaningful lessons with great heart and ripe with curiosity seed.  I ended up purchasing the EAH guide and the Geography Guide for $3 each when Mardel had their clearance sale last summer. I managed to glean the rest of the books from the list via online thrift sales. I had already collected several BFB books from other studies and we had received a few other BFB books from other homeschool families. I laid everything out and came up with a little plan to weave these books in with our MFW study.

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The first 1-11 weeks of Adventures had a BFB from the EAH guide directly corresponding with it, then there were many long breaks with only weeks 13, 20, 27, 28 and 30 fitting in with the EAH guide. We filled the odd weeks out with BFB from other studies.

We would finish MFW in the mornings and in the late afternoons the boys would come back to the classroom and we would read from our EAH along with the assigned book and then we would do the lesson. It would take around 20 minutes of time once the reading was completed. The boys looked forward to these lessons. They even remarked that it felt like a fun hobby, something extra that they enjoyed doing on the side.

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During weeks 14-16 we read through books from a few of the other studies. The character study books were so much fun we ended up deciding to use the character guide this summer!

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Weeks 21, 23, 26 and 34 correspond with the Geography study which I can not say enough good things about. If I had to pick one study to do, it would be this one. You can really do it at any point in the year but I chose to fit them in with their corresponding states. I can not believe how much my children learned from this study.  In “Minn of the Mississippi”  we engaged in biology, ecology, geology, hydrology, art, geography, language arts, math, dictation, narration, cartography and anthropology. When we studied “Tree in the Trail” we experienced history, cartography, geography, sociology, anthropology, botany, meteorology, arithmetic and biology. “Paddle to the Sea” and “Seabird” were phenomenal as well. Again, short lessons packed with such richness!

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Most libraries carry the majority of BFB, especially the d’Aulaire books. Be sure to check with your local library to see if any of these books are carried!

Beautiful Feet Books has a special offers page which lists discounts for lowest price finds, military and missionary families.

Beautiful Feet also has free printable note booking sheets to correspond with the EAH that you can use too!

You can also take a closer look at any of the study guides by downloading sample pages here.

Lastly, here is the link to the pdf BFB reading list I created: MFW Adventures Beautiful Feet Book List

MFW Adventures: The Very Last Week Ever

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“Is this the very last week ever?” Cue the tears.

IMG_1246.JPGWe finished off the last state sheets.

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We drew our last birds.

We wrote letters to President Obama. Three versions to be exact since the first was awful: “Dear President Obama, No one around here really likes you that much but we still have to be respectful.” Yeah, it definitely needed work.

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And the world’s greatest science teacher taught my kids about electricity and computers. Let’s face it guys, I just had a marathon three weeks of science projects and invention activities. I am exhausted. Next week we’ll kick off our summer break with some fun coding work from Cody for Beginners Using Scratch. But for this week, Ms Frizzle had my back. Thanks, Frizz. You’re the best.
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I am so profoundly thankful for this year and for this curriculum that worked so well with our Classical and Charlotte Mason style of learning. I was able to add in exactly what would work best for our family: Beautiful Feet books, Simply Charlotte Mason, Ambleside Online and Classical Conversations.  It was the perfect mixture for us and I am so thrilled with how it all came together.

But Dear Reader….. (scroll allllllll the way down)

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My dearest hope when I began to blog our Adventures year was that my posts would encourage other homeschool mamas to figure out ways to make school work for their families. I loved finding bits and pieces of information that shaped and formed our personal philosophy of education. I felt like I was building a beautiful nest out of the best materials I connected with from an endless wood of homeschool material. I’m thankful for all those voices and blogs and stories that lent out fragments for our homeschool. When I started writing,  I didn’t want to give a bullet point list for homeschool success, some burdensome unattainable, unrealizable list. The last thing anyone around here needs is more false pressure.  I simply wanted to let you all peak in through the window and catch a glimpse of how we made things work for our family, in the hopes that you would find one or two small things that would spark an idea in your own mind to carry back home with you and fit alongside the other pieces of your own philosophies. I hope that happened for some of you. I know sometimes we look at blogs and we only see our insecurities and walk away feeling “less than enough.” I’ve done it to myself quite often. Hopefully you saw past the edges of my pictures and realized that there were children fighting, dirty dishes, endless loads of laundry and a homeschool mama trying to keep it all together.

In June we will begin our Exploring Countries and Cultures year (unless the kids drive me bananas and they beg to start sooner). Thank you for joining us on our Adventures year. Thank you for all the questions and encouragement and feedback. We are thankful for you too!

Onward Explorers!!!

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MFW Adventures: Inventions

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Months ago I started collecting old appliances and bits of junk for the boys to tinker with during the last weeks of MFW.  I had envisioned many afternoons spent watching the boys take apart things and attempting to put them back together or combining them to come up with new things. They were so intrigued when we read Homer Price last year, the thought of a young boy building and fixing radios in his spare time was exciting for them. They wanted to do it too! I am thinking of expanding our junk collection and allowing them more time to tinker with things in the coming months. A copy of David Macauley’s “How Things Work,” a work table and some simple tools–thats pretty much the game plan.

The boys made some crazy inventions out of legos too! As the sons of an engineer they take their building very seriously. It was great to hear them explain their creations and their reasoning as they detailed their choices made in style and structure and how it impacted the function of each invention. We’ll be celebrating our end of the year with a trip to Disney World and we will definitely be stopping at Epcot’s Innovations area.

One machine the boys were not allowed to take apart (even though they begged to!) was my sewing machine. My second born started sewing a quiver for his archery set. He started out by hand stitching two inches of work, which took him awhile to get straight. Then I turned on the machine and the last 12 inches of seam were completed in seconds! “No wonder they called it IronWoman!” he exclaimed.

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Speaking of fantastic inventions, here is a great demonstration video of McCormick’s Reaper. The machine in the video is 174 years old!

We played telephone around the house on telephone day. I also jumped on the chance to sneak in a little practical life skills lesson. We made sure to reinforce our important phone numbers in our memory banks and we practiced correct phone etiquette. We don’t have a house phone so this was an area I knew my children needed help in since they have never had to answer a phone before. It was great practice for them!

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Our Classical Conversations community announced that they would be holding a science fair and I was ecstatic to see that it coincided with our Inventors unit.

The boys were able to select a topic that interested, ask questions, conduct research, keep a logbook, make a hypothesis, record materials needed, run through the procedure (with adult assistance) and then record conclusions and analysis. They employed the scientific method, which they use every week during their experiments at their Classical Conversations community.  Our eldest chose to experiment with dew traps and investigated the process of obtaining water to sustain life in semi arid regions. Our second born built rotors and ran tests on a homemade wind turbine to determine how much weight it could lift.  As you can see from the picture above, everyone showed up for the test runs!

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The boys decorated their project board and took their displays to the science fair. We loved getting to see all the other science experiments there. I highly recommend joining in on a science fair. Ask local private schools or county fair or community groups if they are willing to include homeschool projects and be sure to obtain their rules and procedures list.

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We’ve got the innovation bug over here now and I don’t doubt that the boys will be inventing all sorts of things in the coming weeks!

MFW Adventures: Pioneers on the Plains

Time for Pioneers on the Plains! We loved our book basket readings and the selection of stories from American Pioneers and Patriots. After we finished all our reading, we gathered round the table and talked about the remarkable timeline of pioneer life we have taken in this year. We made a list of all the greatest virtues and attributes these pioneers possessed and we made a lovely poster to hang in our class.

The boys have been melancholy this week, knowing that Adventures is drawing to a close. They are quiet and working slowly through their last assignments. They asked to revisit some of our favorite Pioneer projects from earlier in the year and I agreed that they could each pick a few activities.

We made homemade bread and butter. We packed a “pioneer picnic” and ate it outside under the trees. We played “Pioneers” in the backyard for at least an hour each day. With no girls around its tough to play Little House on the Prairie, but they have managed to create their own story line about the Ingalls prairie cousins the “Ingsons” <–see what they did there? “Luke”, “Mark” and “Carson” played on the prairie this week and had a ball.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

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“In Grandma’s Attic” is a perfect way to end the year. We gathered some of our buttons in a jar and the boys have been playing with them as we read aloud. They make button animals or use the buttons to decorate play doh trees. They sort them by size and shape or by color. They ask questions about their own grandmothers and great grandmothers and I have spent many hours this week reading and retelling our own family stories.  I found a fun looking basket at a thrift store a few months ago and I have decided to make it our button basket. I’ll be asking our relatives to send any fun buttons they don’t mind parting with for our basket. Its been such fun to play with and enjoy something small and simple while we tell and enjoy stories.

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Birds are suddenly back in full force! I loved comparing their bird drawings this week to the ones they produced earlier in the year. The Blue Jay and House Sparrow drawings were especially sweet this week.

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I always have the boys copy out a bit of the information from our Birds, Nests and Eggs book to accompany their drawing. We use spiral bound nature journals from Classical Conversations and they have held up nicely throughout the year. I love the little nature quote interspersed throughout.

The boys have grown in remarkable ways this year. Their individual tastes are becoming more refined and specific. Their passions are starting to take shape. I am already starting to plan how I will help cultivate these interests in the coming year.

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MFW Adventures: Transcontinental Railroad

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Anybody else play Ticket to Ride allllllll week long? The boys were eager for rematches whenever possible and they ended up playing at least twice a day.  We would read from various books in-between games.

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We had a great “Railroad Day” which consisted of….
1) BEGGING my kids to try a bite of Irish Oats for breakfast. (They are not oatmeal fans).
2) The boys donning their engineer overalls and we read American Pioneers & Patriots account of immigrants building the transcontinental railroad. Fetching rails and water and food and supplies—we decided to make a game of it!
3) Splitting into two teams of two and using every bit of wooden track we had to race to the middle of the room. I had set the tracks up in a different room and one brother had to run and fetch rails and bring them back into the building room. They also had to squeeze one snack run in there (apples + water). The boys had to drink the water, finish their snack and build more track than the other team in order to win. Team “We Hate Potato Famines” won by a hair!  Team “Ten Mile Dragon” was pretty bummed.
4) We had fried rice for lunch and read “Coolies” (more info below).
5) We played more rounds of “Ticket to Ride.”
6) We read “Iron Horses” and “Locomotive” while enjoying a railroad track snack (pretzels stuck together with chocolate hazelnut spread.

It was a really fun day! Here is a quick review of the books we read:

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Iron Horses by Verla Kay. History told in rhyming quatrains! The boys liked reading this one aloud in “locomotive” voices, they really caught the cadence!

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Coolies by Yin. Excellent early Chinese American history read aloud.  After reading the Irish perspective in American Pioneers & Patriots, I was on the hunt for something from the Chinese perspective. This fit the bill!

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Locomotive by Brian Floca. My boys were a less interested in the story and more intrigued by the illustrations. They spent an entire afternoon, working on similar illustrations for their journals.

Online Resources
Interactive Transcontinental Railroad
Central Pacific Online Railroad Museum
List of Links related to Railroad History

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This week was a prime example of why I love using MFW.  I love that we have wiggle room to add fun and wacky days, like “Railroad Day” and still have room for lots of rich learning. Its good to know that I don’t need to pack their day to the hilt for them to walk away having experienced truth, goodness and beauty. Even as we shift closer and closer to being strictly Charlotte Mason, I am still holding onto MFW because I see how my kids are flourishing with it.

MFW Adventures: States & Language Arts

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I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the schedule for this week. Its so nice and simple. We took full advantage of the light schedule and we spent as much time outdoors as possible.
We played with magnets and we filled out state sheets and we did not do a darn thing extra!

I thought I would take this week to discuss the Language Arts aspect of our MFW Adventures journey. Our second born is 7 years old and reading everything he can get his hands on. Poetry, chapter books, nature encyclopedias. MFW 1st phonics worked for him. It was all he needed. He wanted to keep his eldest brother company and ended up  zipping through all his Explode the Code books in no time. This week he finished up book 4 and started book 5.  He has continued with Spelling by Sound and Structure. He is two weeks from finishing! First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease (both by Susan Weiss Bauer) have helped his writing and language skills take off. Really, its been a breeze with him.
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Then there is my eldest. Who really, really struggled through MFW 1st phonics. It did not click. Not at all. And I had no idea why. Every time I dragged out that bible reader, he would get tears in his eyes. This broke my heart and I worried that he would have weird associations with the Bible. I added in Explode the Code and it helped a bit, but by the time we were ready to start Adventures, I knew he was behind. We are fairly certain that he has dyslexia. He really had to pause and assess before he read anything. I don’t know what his fluency level will be when its all said and done. Last summer was difficult. Even if he managed to get the words out correctly, it was all done at a painfully slow pace. We ended up adding “All About Reading” to the mix…
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And I am so glad we did! This last week he finished Level 2 and he was ecstatic. It was wonderful to watch him press forward and work hard to achieve his goal. He would stay at the table working hard, long after everyone else had left. He didn’t give up. He is even eager to crack open Level 3 and get started! He has also done Spelling by Sound and Structure along with First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease.  Every now and then we take the time to do a specific encouraging passage of copy work over a longer period of time. Usually a quote from one of his heroes: George Washington, Ben Franklin or Ulysses S Grant. We keep these special pieces of work in a specific notebook to mark his progress. We have ended up shifting his reading time to first thing in the morning and first thing in the afternoon. His mind is the most fresh at these time slots and there is much less frustration to content with.

While he was learning with All About Reading, I was learning, once again, to calm down and allow him to learn at his own pace. Why must I have to relearn this concept every year with a different child? He is right where he needs to be. He is learning and he still loves to learn. I want to preserve that love and nurture it, not kill it for the sake of standardizing his learning. We have decided to continue with All About Reading and next year’s Language Arts final choices will be made after I’ve had some hands on time at our local homeschool convention. Anyone else just love flipping through curriculum? Yum.

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My goal this summer to to continue growing a love for reading in the hearts of my children. For anyone not already plugged in, please check out the wonderful Sarah Mackenzie (Teaching From Rest) on her blog. Read Aloud Revival has been a great encouragement to us. I love listening to RAR podcasts while folding laundry–it gets me through it and inspires me all at once! Check it out!

MFW Adventures: Abraham Lincoln

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We have spent the last two weeks learning about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. The boys picked up their Beautiful Feet Early American History Guide again and dove into Ingri D’Aulaire’s “Abraham Lincoln” which, like all D’Aulaire’s books, was a big hit with my kids. This book really brought Lincoln to life for them. Our conversations this week were centered around the importance of truthfulness, the discipline of hard work and the responsibility we have to stand up for justice.

My eldest son (age 8) was able to memorize the Gettysburg address over the two week period. We would spend 5 minutes at a time reviewing and adding a new line. This would happen on the way to the grocery store or before bedtime or while we waited for his brother’s soccer practice to wrap up. It was really great to see him accomplish a lengthier piece of work.

We spent so much time reading this week, desperately trying to catch up on the read alouds we missed while my throat was out of commission. I placed a large piece of kraft paper on the floor and the boys had their war plans laid out on it while I drank cup after cup of Throat Care and read. We did not make any fancy lap books or spend time with handouts. Other than a few coloring $1 coloring books from Dover on the various uniforms and weaponry of the Civil War, we mostly engaged with the battlefield below while listening to living book about the war.

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I also want to share one of our favorite productions from Audio Adventures: “With Lee in Virginia.” You can follow the link for information on the all star cast and how the production came together. We are huge G.A. Henty fans over here and I was over the moon when I discovered that Audio Adventures was producing so many of his stories. (We also have “Under Drake’s Flag”, “The Dragon and the Raven”, and “In Freedom’s Cause” all of which get an enthusiastic recommendation as well!) The boys were riveted by the story “With Lee in Virginia” and they listened to it several times over the past two weeks.

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Another treasured audio CD is from Greathall Productions, read by Jim Weiss. “Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America is a wonderful biographical CD. We could listen to Jim Weiss read all day long. His voice is just wonderful. (Last year, my son said he wanted to be Jim Weiss when he grew up!)

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Here are a few of our favorite books from the pile we read:

Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters
Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale by Deborah Hopkinson
Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster *** This is a great book to flip through and read bits out of but it is definitely out of age range (2nd-3rd) as a main study. But we loved looking through it!

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Abe loved books. We decided to really celebrate that this week and the boys spent a lot of time enjoying their favorite books over and over. We had our monthly “PoetTreats” tea time this week to make sure we celebrated our favorite poems too. “PoetTreats” is always a special time for us. I decorate our table nicely and make their favorite tea and treats. Everyone gets to bring their current favorite poetry book and we go around the table reading poems out loud while we enjoy our snacks.

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To cap off our study of Abraham Lincoln, my husband took the boys out to the wood pile where they learned how to chop and split wood. They were all so eager to lend a helping hand and learn from their Dad.

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The second week of the study was spent learning about slavery and the Civil War. We enjoyed learning about the first submarines of the Civil War and the kids came up with some really fun designs for old war machines!

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I brought out a reproduction newspaper from the civil war era and we discussed how differently news traveled back then and how soldiers communicated with various camps and the people back home. Each boy got to pen a pretend letter containing important battle plans for another civil war captain to read. Then they had to be delivered by another soldier through the woods to the campsite. Lets just say, I am still finding bits of paper and the occasional wood rifle in the backyard. It was a busy day!

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We have taken a few “Civil War” field trips in the last year and half. Knowing that we’d be diving into Adventures and eventually studying the war between the states, I made an effort during our road trips to stop off and show the boys bits of history. Over Christmas we stopped off at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Last April, my Mom and I took the boys to Fort Sumter.

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We learned a great deal at the museum and this week I asked the boys to recall some of what they had learned. They remembered many, many details from the fort and the museum inside. My eldest described in great detail, the flag pictured below, which is the original flag that was flying over Fort Sumter when it was attacked.

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My youngest remembered passing by the old Slave Mart (now a museum).

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Slavery is a hard topic to explain to children. We are proud to be Americans but we also want to acknowledge the very terrible things our country has been a part of. Racism is especially heartbreaking to explain when your children are completely innocent that such a thing exists. They first heard about it last year during our Cycle 3 study with Classical Conversations. I read them wonderful books starting with the civil war era up through the civil rights movement and they were left feeling very confused. They would ask about their African American/African friends and family members and wonder what it was that subjected them to these horrible things. I was feeling a little anxious about starting that painful topic all over this year.

But this year, we had a few months of prior African History study in Cycle 1 of Classical Conversations. Hearing about the Songhai, Zanj and Zimbabweans, gave them a clearer picture of Africa and its history. We studied the start of the slave trade and its origins briefly to give them an idea of its full scope and long history.

We did read several books about the lives of slaves on southern plantations and their experiences in the underground railroad, but the most helpful book we read was, “Who Owns the Sun?” by Stacey Chbosky. Now at first my son could not stop saying “God!” in answer to the question so I had to start over and preface it by saying, “Yes, God owns everything. But this book is asking if any one man owns the sun?” and this helped us move on with the book.

By the last page there was not a dry eye around our table.

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I don’t think I will ever find an easy way to talk about slavery and/or racism, because it is a horrible and hard thing no matter how you approach it. Giving the boys a bit more background into the culture and discussing the topic of slavery in general, helped us understand the specifics of slavery in America a bit more clearly. Their tender hearts were pierced by this which was hard to watch but necessary for them to experience as they continue to grow in a world where racism is very much alive. We finished our time of study by praying to God and thanking Him for the life of Abraham Lincoln, who stood for up for justice and truth. We prayed for our country as we continue to be divided on issues of race. We prayed for our men in uniform overseas and here at home and for our leaders that govern our country.