Our November Reads

november_reads_2016

November was a relaxing month. A holiday. Some family. Outings. Nothing too crazy. Just plain and simple fun. Along with those incredible memories, came outstanding reads.

All of November’s books were school, family or personal reads. We’re taking a new approach to Our Morning Basket; one we can’t wait to share with you during the new year. Here’s a rundown of the books we enjoyed during the month of November:

  1. The New Concise History of the Crusades (Thomas F. Madden) – In this sweeping yet crisp history, Thomas F. Madden offers a brilliant and compelling narrative of the crusades and their contemporary relevance.
    This book was a must read which came directly from my husband’s office. We’re covering the Crusades in history, and this was an assigned read. My husband found it fascinating. My oldest girl found it informative, if a bit dry. 
  2. Uninvited – (Lysa TerKeurst) – In Uninvited, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences with rejection. With biblical depth, gut-honest vulnerability, and refreshing wit, Lysa helps readers: …Stop feeling left out and start believing that “set apart” does not mean “set aside.”
    I’ve been needing this book for years. Uninvited is brilliant, insightful, and beautiful. I loved every word. Then, passed it off to my daughter who needs every word as much as I. 
  3. Secret Keepers (Trenton Lee Stewart) – Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author and E.B. White Read Aloud Award winner Trenton Lee Stewart returns with a captivating, heart-stopping adventure about thrilling secrets and dangerous mysteries–and the courage to reveal the most frightening of truths.
    I enjoyed Mr. Stewart’s previous series, The Mysterious Benedict Society, and had great hopes for this read. While the story was interesting, I found it rather dry and dull. I was constantly comparing it to his previous works and coming up short. 
  4. Once Upon a Dream, A Twisted Tale, #2 (Liz Braswell) – What if the sleeping beauty never woke up? Once Upon a Dream marks the second book in a new YA line that re-imagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways.
    My oldest gal found this read and had it ordered at the library. She liked it well enough, but preferred #3 better. 
  5. As Old As Time, A Twisted Tale, #3 (Liz Braswell) – Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father’s reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle’s mother returns–a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern.
    The much admired book #3, ‘T’ really enjoyed this book. Frankly, the Beauty and Beast story has always been a personal favorite as well. 
  6. Nature Drawing & Journaling (Barry Stebbing) – A unique combination of nature journaling instructions, reflections, and space for your own work, Nature Drawing and Journaling will keep you outside observing & thinking for hours. Filled with Barry Stebbing’s 40 years’ worth of insights on studying nature and keeping an art journal, with patience and practice you’ll be able to create your very own!
    Another fun resource we added to our library recently. I am no artist, and am completely in-adept at teaching journaling as an art form. I feel I’ve learned much from merely perusing this book; I can’t wait to dig in fully and take this for a spin.
  7. Achieve What Matters in 2017 (Michael Hyatt) – 8 Strategies Super Successful people are using now to accomplish more next year.
    Who doesn’t like starting the year off on the right foot? I’ve enjoyed several of Mr. Hyatt’s previous works, and this read was no exception. A refresher course to re-energize the blogger, homeschool mommy, and wifey that I am. Whew!

Well, that was it for the month! December is here and we’ve already started on our next reads. As usual, Mom is just as excited as the kids. No surprise there! Prayerfully we’ll all enjoy the selections coming, and the memories will keep on building.

📢 Chime In!: Which inspirational book are you taking into the new year?

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We Must Decrease Before We Increase

decrease_before_increaseLet’s face it. ‘Tis the season to increase. More toys. More books. More clothes. More of everything. Perhaps before we concern ourselves with increasing, it might be time to decrease.

During the month of December, most our families will receive a great many blessings, all of which need to find a place in our homes. Before we focus on this all-important task, now is the perfect time to see where we can afford to downsize. We’ll start the Christmas season with a cleaner home and make room for any goodies our family might receive.

Decreasing is always hard. What if we need that waffle iron at some point, even though we haven’t touched it in over two years? Reducing is a difficult task but oh so necessary. Here’s a few guidelines which have worked well for our family when trying to determine how we might minimize the amount of ‘stuff’:

  • We determine how often the item is used. Toys, clothes, and books which no longer fit our children’s needs, and have no lasting value, need to be removed.
  • We determine if the item has lasting value. If the item can be passed down to younger siblings, is a family heirloom, or timeless we keep it. (Classic reads, fancy dresses, Lincoln Logs, LEGOs, and more are all keepers.)

Once we’ve established which items we need to keep and which will be reused, we reorganize our storage accordingly and marvel at our new use of space. (Doesn’t that feel awesome!) Then, we set to the task of repurposing the items we need to be rid of.

  • We take out the trash. Toys which are entirely thrashed, clothing of a more personal nature, clothing too used to be repurposed, and other items unfit for sharing should be disposed of.
  • We clean up. Clothing is washed, toys are carefully gone over – ensuring nothing is broken or damaged, batteries are removed from devices, and everything is placed in its proper container.
  • We give away. Perhaps there are friends who would be blessed by receiving some of these items. We try our best to give to family and friends in need first, then take all other items to our local Goodwill.
  • We sell. Sadly, we don’t use this option as much as we could. I’d rather give than sell. It’s much easier. However, there is value in this option and should be considered.

Increasing seems much simpler than decreasing, doesn’t it? During the month of holiday-toy-safetyDecember, our families receive a great deal of blessings. Food, clothing, toys, and more come in brightly wrapped packages. Perhaps this is why December is also National Safe Toys and Gifts Month! 

Once again, our friends at Consumer Safety encourage us to be on guard for toys and household items which pose potential threats to our families. Even as we’re unpacking those Christmas lights and musical plush items which adorn our homes, this is the perfect opportunity to remind our children about fire safety and the proper usage of batteries. To this end, Consumer Safety has kindly offered us, and our readers, this helpful graphic to remind us of the importance of National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, and to offer tips on increasing wisely.

The truth of the matter is I need less not more. December is the perfect opportunity to decrease our home and pray about what would increase the lives of others. While I downsize, I’m reminded of each blessing and memory, and give thanks for each item. As I plan and repurpose, I pray for the family who will receive the increase, asking for blessings upon their home. With purposeful increase in our own home, we use our money as wisely as possible and ask the Lord’s wisdom in using our finances well.

May the Lord show each of us ways in which we may decrease, focusing more on increasing the lives of others.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
~ John 3:30

📢 Chime In!: As parents, do you buy toys or clothing for your kids at Christmas?

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Book Review: The Kingdom of Oceana

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a free copy for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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kingdom_oceanaEvery once in a while, we discover a book filled not only with exciting adventures, but something new to be learned. This month, we had the privilege of receiving one such read and we’re excited to share it with you.

A fictional story set in Hawaii, The Kingdom of Oceana, tells about 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa who trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, unleashing a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to destroy their tropical paradise. With the help of his ancestral spirit animals, his shape shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must overcome his own insecurities, a lifetime of sibling rivalry, and a plague of cursed sea creatures brought forth by the tiki’s spell.

What We Liked… The Kingdom of Oceana is a lovely read. The story is intriguing, the characters charming, and we learned a great deal about Hawaii. We found ourselves unable to put the book down; reading it in one afternoon.

What We Loved… The beautifully illustrated front cover is not to be missed. Also highly appreciated were the study guides which accompany The Kingdom of Oceana. This is obviously a work of the heart and it shows.

And What We’d Change… Nothing! This was a work of art from beginning to end. We look forward to reading more Mitchell Charles in the near future.

To learn more about The Kingdom of Oceana, and Hawaii, visit the WEBSITE filled with helpful learning pages and guides. You can also read the first chapter of The Kingdom of Oceana, or listen to the audio chapter.

One day we hope to visit Hawaii for ourselves. What a blessing it would be to see all the places mentioned in the book and give God the glory for His wonderful creation. Until then, we’re blessed to enjoy exciting books which take us to another place and encourage imagination.

📢 Chime In!: Surfing or SCUBA diving, which would you prefer?

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A Belated Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

No matter where you live, no matter where life finds you, there is always something to be thankful for.

May the Lord bless you and yours always. May He richly fill you with His presence, peace, joy, hope, and love. May He speak to you in the quiet and chaos of the day. For all His gifts, may we be truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!
~Cristina

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Book Review: Monday… Super-Fun Day

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a free copy for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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book_review_mondayIs it because every day looks the same, or am I just taking for granted everyone knows this? Our little man is struggling to remember the days of the week, and I can’t figure out why. We cover it in our curriculum. We’re constantly going over our schedule for the week. Perhaps, in his little mind, one day is just like the next and mommy is always telling him what day it is; so why bother? Either way, we really need to get this down.

Just as I was about to head to our local library and borrow a plethora of books on the topic – Who doesn’t love a charming story which helps solidify a learning concept? – we received the offer of a book. We gladly accepted and discovered an cute read.

Written in non-calendar form – beginning with Monday – Monday… Super-Fun Day will take young readers on an expedition in learning the days of the week. From surfing and sand castles on Monday, or playing in the rain on Tuesday, to sailing and hot air balloon rides over the tall pines of the forest on Wednesday, and many other journeys along the way.

How We’re Using It… Because our son seems to be forgetful in remembering the days of the week, this became a daily read for a short period of time. After formal studies, we took a moment or two to flip through the book and refresh his memory.

And Why… Repetition does wonders for a developing mind. For a week we read and re-read this short book to help him retain the facts. Not wanting to frustrate him with too much reiteration, we’ve since scaled back our reading and altered our methods of review. But, the book will continue to make an appearance to keep him on track.

Our Favorite Day of the Week… Thursday!

“Thursday, was a word day.

A reading-books-at-the-library day.

A seeing-how-much-I-could-learn day.

Oh, terrific Thursday!”

We found Monday… Super-Fun Day an adorably short story for younger children. The book is a perfect length for young readers. We found each day’s ‘adventure’ to be charming and thoughtful. We found it quaint and sweet that the illustrations were done by the author herself.

While I’m still tempted to head to the library and load up a box of books on the topic, Monday… Super-Fun Day is a fun addition to our home library and one we’re blessed to have received.

📢 Chime In!: Did your children struggle with remembering days of the week?

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Before Over-Booking Gets Out of Hand

before_over-booking_gets_out_of_handIt’s coming; I can feel it. Once the learning year gets underway, things start moving along at a faster pace. Then the holidays hit, and chaos begins. We go from just a few activities a month to activities several times a week. We jump from one event to the next, trying to fill our days with fun and fond memories for our kiddos. In all the planning, sometimes we bite off a little more than we can chew.

One of the dangers in being a parent is over-planning. Now, add homeschooling to the mix and you have one crazy household! Not only are we planning our learning routines, but we are adding in sports events, field trips, visits with friends, play dates, swim days, crafting opportunities, and more. Before you know it our calendar can be overbooked.

Perhaps I’m not the only one to notice this strange phenomena and all the challenges which come with it? Our intentions are well-meaning and our hearts are in the right place, but, next thing you know, the kids are getting cranky and you are all tired of running in high gear. Slowly, but surely, you become overwhelmed.

Might I make a humble suggestion, to myself as well as everyone else? Instead of over-booking our lives with event after event, let’s save time for things which really matter and events which benefit our families the most. Not every opportunity needs to be taken, and not every event needs to be attended. We need to learn the fine art of saying, “No!”

Just looking at our current calendar, I can already tell we are starting to hit our limit. Before bite off more than I can chew, it’s time to start saying, “No!”

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to [His disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
~Mark 6:31

📢 Chime In!: How is your currently calendar looking? Is the coming month starting to look overbooked?

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Book Review(s): Questions…

book_review_questionsDuring the course of my walk with Christ, I have asked Him many questions. I’ve pondered my purpose, whether I’m failing in my parenting, how I can be a better wife, and how much worse things can get before He finally calls us home. But did you know the Bible is filled with questions God has for us?

Why would God have questions? I assure you, it is not because He doesn’t have the answers. Rather, He desires to guide us into deeper understanding and wisdom. In Questions God Asks and Questions Jesus Asks, Mr. Israel Wayne once again seeks to edify and encourage readers with each unique chapter. We are taken through a series of questions meant to engage us and bring us closer to God.

In Questions God Asks, Mr. Wayne discusses important topics such as “Where Were You?”, “Why Are You Angry?”, “Is anything Too Difficult for the Lord?”, and several more.

In Questions Jesus Asks, Mr. Wayne continues with such chapters as “Who Do People Say That I Am?”, “What Will It Profit a Man?”, “Do You Want to Get Well?”, “What Were You Arguing About?”, and more.

Both books are brilliant. We enjoyed each tremendously. We found them to be easy reading. But don’t let that fool you, the questions themselves are deeply moving and demand answers.

How We’re Using Them… In lieu of a boxed Bible curriculum, our family chose these reads to start off our homeschool day and Our Morning Basket for the entire first semester. We slowly went through each book, chapter by chapter, breaking down the message God shared through Mr. Wayne and searching the Scripture references provided.

And Why… The Lord blessed my heart when reading through these books and I wanted to share the blessing with my children. Each of these questions encouraged our children to understand more of God’s character, Jesus’ divinity, and our relationship with each.

While these books were not specifically designed with children in mind, there was no chapter which did not minister to my family as a whole. Each question presented met each of us in a special way. I would especially recommend these books for students in junior and senior high, although younger children could easily benefit from following along with parents.

Yet again, the Lord has used Mr. Wayne in a mighty way. Both Questions God Asks and Questions Jesus Asks bring our hearts before the Almighty with grace and love. Read them. You’ll be blessed.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
~ John 17:3

📢 Chime In!: Which Biblical question has God (or Christ) asked which has spoken the most to your heart?

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Child-Led Changes to Our Homeschooling

child-led_changes_in_homeschoolingI plan our year well in advance. Everything is in order, everything has a place. So when my child comes to me and says we need to make a change, you can bet I’m not jumping for joy. My control is slowly slipping away. But something better is taking its place, if only I have eyes to see.

We want our children to take an active part in their learning; to communicate their needs and struggles. While not every suggestion will be met with affirmation, we wish to take their thoughts into consideration and help them grow.

Whether it’s a schedule change, a mix-up of curriculum, or a newfound interest which requires more time, when we let go of our control and allow God to lead, amazing things begin to happen. Encouraging our children to share their thoughts on our homeschooling creates open communication and a better learning experience.

While I do my best to plan our year well and pray over each area of study, there will inevitably be changes. This doesn’t necessarily mean my planning went wrong, or that I wasn’t listening to the Lord. Instead, the Lord has something better in store and a lesson needed to be learned. (Not that I should discount the occasional redirection when my ideas have gone astray from where the Lord intended. I’m human.)

It would be key for me to remember, I truly never have control. This isn’t my homeschooling, but the Lord’s. I can fight, I can fuss. But at the end of the day, God’s will is best. It’s when I let go of control and let God move that I begin to see the fulness of His plan unfold. It’s a beautiful thing.

“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.”
~ Proverbs 19:21

📢 Chime In!: Have your children suggested any changes for the year so far? Share them with us!

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Is Self Awareness a Thing of the Past?

is-self-awareness_a_thing_of_the_pastHave you ever been in a quiet setting and had someone rudely interrupt with a loud comment? I have. I find this highly annoying and equally frustrating. My opposition isn’t necessarily to the comments, but rather to the timing of them. I imagine others might feel the same. And what about the acquaintance who felt the need to point out your growing waist line?

A recent homeschool outing brought this issue front and center for me. I often wonder if people have a lost their “buffer zone”. The little place inside all of us which tells us when something really needs to be said or if we need to restrain ourselves. I wonder why it is certain people don’t seem to recognize when a comment is out-of-place, either by its timing or purely by its existence.

Since these events, it occurs to me that perhaps I need to be taking better stock of my kids’ “buffer zone”. Do they speak at times when it is best to remain quiet? Do they say things which ought not to be said? I would hate to be out somewhere with my children and find myself slinking down in my chair, due to the ridiculous nonsense which just came out of one of their mouths.

I think all of us have moments when, upon reflection, we ask ourselves, “Why did I just say that?” The key is to learn from those situations and not to repeat them. Unfortunately some people not only fail to reassess, but they find this character trait amusing.

Through training and discipleship, we hope to make our children both more self-aware and sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. We try to keep our children conscious of their surroundings and the appropriate decorum therewith. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be a frequent occurrence and is often a teaching moment for all of us.

May the Lord continue to do a work in our homes and in our children, continually drawing us closer and making us more like Himself. Through His leading, our heart is to see people as God sees them and to use our lives as a way to reach people for His Kingdom. May we do this through our words, actions, and character.

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
~ I Timothy 4:16

📢 Chime In!: How is the Lord directing you to help your children learn this important skill?

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When Holidays Equal Bad Behavior

when_holidays_equal_bad_behaviorIn all the hustle and bustle of the coming holiday rush, my kids can occasionally reach a point where they start to misbehave and become belligerent. Sometimes, they can pick a very inopportune moment to voice their rebellion. While my first instinct is to become embarrassed and upset, I am trying to become better about thinking before reacting to their outbursts. Usually our kids are very well-behaved and obedient. If they are agitated, perhaps there is a reason.

While I am sure the list of reasons for my kids’ misbehavior could be endless, I believe it really boils down to a few basic things:

  • They are tired. With all the holiday activities, sometimes the kids have skimped on the amount of sleep they are getting.
  • They are hungry. Excited and anxious to keep busy, my children will often refrain from eating.
  • They are too busy. Amidst all the fun, kids need downtime, too. Too much fun can be overwhelming.
  • They are not being given enough attention. The holidays can be a time of rush for mom and pop; buying presents, mailing cards, baking, and the like. Being neglected can often lead my children to act out in hopes of receiving attention.
  • They are not being trained. In all the hustle and bustle of the season, mom and pop can become lazy in their attempts to maintain discipline.

Most of these problems have very simple solutions; it is only a matter of me taking the time to do the right thing.

  • I need to make sure we all get enough sleep. My kids are not going to willingly fall into bed (at least not generally). I am responsible for setting bedtime and sticking to it.
  • I need to make sure they are eating well. It doesn’t matter how much fun they are having, I need to make my children sit down and eat a healthy meal. I should also monitor how much junk food they are taking in, especially during this time of year!
  • I need to avoid over-booking our schedule. While there are many events that appeal, trying to add everything will only tire us all out!
  • I need to make sure that I am listening to my children and not putting outside responsibilities before them.
  • I need to stop using grace as an excuse for laziness. My children are not going to train and discipline themselves; I need to remain consistent.

If I fail to fulfill my responsibilities as their parent, I am only making life harder on all of us. The holidays will only be less enjoyable and my family will lose sight of the true meaning of the season.

Maintaining a well-balanced routine will help us get the most of the holiday and keep mommy from dying of embarrassment.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
~ Ephesians 6:4

📢 Chime In!: How do you help your children maintain balance during the holidays?

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