Our June Reads

Our_June_Reads_2017It never ceases to amaze us how many books we finish in a month. The lists we share here are merely books we’ve used in a homeschooling/parenting capacity; there are many more which we read on our own! June’s list has a ton of incredible finds from our local library. Everything on this month’s list was completely new to us, which is always fun. All of them were used in our learning to some capacity. Most of them are now on a book wish list.

  1. What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? (Judith Viorst) – From the beloved and internationally bestselling author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst comes a brand-new collection of clever, hilarious, and poignant poems that touch on every aspect of the roller-coaster ride that is childhood.
    A poetry book I specifically chose for the kids. The poems are cute and a great conversation starter regarding feelings. 
  2. The Big Bad Book of Beasts (Michael Largo) – Michael Largo has updated the medieval bestsellers for the twenty-first century, illuminating little-known facts, astonishing secrets, and bizarre superstitions about the beasts that inhabit our world—and haunt our imaginations.
    The title alone had me, but the book itself is a gem. The Big Bad Book of Beasts is a fantastic reference guide for authors and artists, filled with both realistic and fantastical creatures to explore. This was pushed to the top of my ever-increasing book wish list. 
  3. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (Daniel Pool) – For anyone who has ever wondered whether a duke outranked an earl, when to yell “Tally Ho!” at a fox hunt, or how one landed in “debtor’s prison”; this book serves as an indispensable historical and literary resource.
    Our girls continually seek more knowledge about old English traditions and mannerisms. This book was the perfect fit. We highly encourage a slow reading to fully intake the multitude of knowledge to be found within.
  4. The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling (John Muir Laws) – The ultimate guide to nature drawing and journaling. This is the how-to guide for becoming a better artist and a more attentive naturalist.
    The ultimate guide to nature journaling, to be sure. Mr. Laws does a lovely job of explaining how to nature journal, including tips on drawing various creatures and nature finds. Don’t be scared of the obvious skill Mr. Laws has as an artist, however. Enjoy the beautiful examples of his work and move forward in confidence. 
  5. Kid Artists/Kid Athletes (David Stabler) – The series that began with Kid Presidents has new volumes that chronicle the childhoods of 16 celebrated artists and athletes!
    Okay, it was the adorable covers which caught my attention. I admit it. But the pages within are absolutely fantastic! Forget the kids, I enjoyed reading these books and continually am encouraging the kids to dig in. 
  6. Rebel Science (Dan Green) – If you think scientists are boring eggheads in white coats who never leave the lab, this dynamically illustrated book will set you straight!
    We discovered this read at our local bookstore and immediately checked it out from our library to fully explore it’s contents. Now, I’m going to have to buy it. It’s that good. Please note, the author isn’t Christian but that doesn’t come into play when reading, as the book’s intention is to give a timeline of when scientists lived and their contributions to science in general. 
  7. The Atlas of Oddities (Clive Gifford) – Atlas of Oddities takes kids on a round-the-world adventure that will help them see our planet in a whole new light.
    Maps hold a fascination for me. So when I can pick up a beautifully illustrated book for my children to enjoy, I’m all over it. The illustrations are out of this world cute and teach so much. You’ll definitely want to give this one a try.

We generally gather our reading materials from the library, but several of these have been added to our book wish list. Great reads are worth revisiting!  We were so excited to find another incredible selection this month! A few of them were excellent aids in nature study. Join us again next month as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading.

Your Turn!: I’ve been on a poetry kick lately, do you have a favorite poet?

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The Read-Aloud Dilemma

Read_Aloud_Dilemma“Do we really have to sit here and listen, Mom? Please!” Four anxious faces stare back at me, waiting for my answer. Our current read-aloud story is supposed to be Robin Hood. The plan was to progress through the book together, taking in the beauty of the words and having an open discussion of ideas. Instead, my kids are hoping I’ll see things their way and the torture will end. We have a read-aloud dilemma and this mama’s praying for a solution.

Our stand-off might leave you with the impression our children dislike books in general. Let me assure you this is not true. Our children read an average of 100-150 books per week. Reading is not the issue. Reading aloud is not necessarily the issue either. We read our history and science lessons together daily and enjoy the experience. So what is the problem?

The Dilemma – The simple fact is reading aloud takes time. We need to be sitting down all together and work through the literature at a pace which will, on average, suit the entire family. This is difficult when you have children in a wide age range and some of your children are exceptionally fast readers. Reading aloud can additionally be challenged by children who naturally have shorter attention spans. Time dedicated for reading together might need to be short, and those children who are steeped in the read might balk at having to stop for the sake of other siblings.

While our children are all willing, and happy, to sit through read-alouds which directly pertain to our “learning day”, when it comes to fictional reads, all patience flies out the window. It seems we need a compromise.

The Compromise – I have reading lists which I’d like our children to work through, literature which would be of benefit or add beauty to their learning adventure. Rather than make them suffer through reading it as a group, these books are provided for them to read at their own pace. Often, our girls breeze through them quickly. My youngest and I slowly meander through his list with dedication, adding fun side trips to encourage a love of reading.

Outside our regular learning routine and during devotions, reading aloud as a family is generally done in the car! Those long drives to nature walks and field trips are the perfect opportunity to pop in a good audio book and enjoy a story. We can also pass around a novel, taking turns reading the book to the group.

The Discussion – As each of our children work through their reads, Mom is sure to keep an eye on progress and engage them in dialogue. We talk about favorite characters, lessons learned, world views, selections which we all found rather dull, passages which were beautiful beyond words, gentleman which were anything but, ladies who needed stiffer backbones, places we wish we could visit, and so much more. We laugh, groan, and sniffle together. As a few of us start in, the rest inevitably chime in with their thoughts or are encouraged to read faster in order to join in the conversation.

One key point I should probably highlight is that all assigned and highly recommended reads handed to our children are books I have read myself. Either I read them before handing them over or have read them in the past. If I am going to have an intelligent conversation with my children about key ideas and plot points, it would behoove me to know what they’re reading. As a side note, I would personally feel a hypocrite if I required my children to read something I had no intention of working through myself. My children take note of this and it makes an impression upon their hearts.

Now, four smiling faces urge me to, “Start the next story, please!” Happy voices remind everyone about our last read, while anxiously waiting to hear what is coming. We all settle in for the drive, and our minds are taken on a journey to another place even as our bodies are being transported on another adventure. Our read-aloud time is no longer a dilemma, but a delight.

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned;”
~ II Timothy 3:14-15

Your Turn!: How has your family dedicated time for reading aloud?

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Our May Reads

Our_May_Reads

It never ceases to amaze us how many books we finish in a month. The lists we share here are merely books we’ve used in a homeschooling/parenting capacity; there are many more which we read on our own! May’s list has a ton of incredible finds from our local library. Everything on this month’s list was completely new to us, which is always fun. All of them were used in our learning to some capacity. Most of them are now on a book wish list.

  1. Ordinary People Change the World (Series by Brad Meltzer) – WE CAN ALL BE HEROES. That’s the inspiring message of this lively, collectible picture book biography series from New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer.
    A friend on Instagram shared this incredible series. We immediately pulled every available book in the set. My son is in love. So am I.
  2. Make: Magazine (Maker Media) – As the leading voice of the maker movement, Make: publishes tested projects, skill-building tutorials, in-depth reviews and inspirational stories, accessible by all ages and skill ranges.
    I happened across this publication while perusing for other periodicals. This is an amazing resource for learning! Each issue is filled with tons of incredible projects to make with detailed instructions. Check them out… Make:
  3. The Beauty of the Beast, Poems from the Animal Kingdom (Selected by Jack Prelutsky) – A stunning collection of poems celebrating “the beauty and wonder of the animal kingdom.” Poet and anthologist Jack Prelutsky has chosen 200 works by 123 poets from Carl Sandburg to Seamus Heaney, with a tip of the hat to his own “The Multilingual Mynah Bird.”
    An incredibly fun book to explore with the kids. Many animals were covered, and all of the poems lovely.
  4. The Curious Garden (Peter Brown) – While out exploring one day, a little boy named Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.
    It was the art which drew us in, but the story which kept us coming back for multiple readings. The Curious Garden is a wonderful story and quite inspiring.
  5. Art & Max (David Weisner) – Max and Arthur are friends who share an interest in painting. Arthur is an accomplished painter; Max is a beginner. Max’s first attempt at using a paintbrush sends the two friends on a whirlwind trip through various artistic media, which turn out to have unexpected pitfalls.
    An adorable read, through and through. We loved how this story explored the fun and adventurous aspect of art.
  6. What To Do With a Box (Jane Yolen & Chris Sheban) – If you give a child a box, who can tell what will happen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expedition. The most wonderful thing is its seemingly endless capacity for magical adventure…
    We’re continually on the lookout for books which encourage children to think creatively. In this case, outside the box. Mission accomplished!
  7. The Little Island (Margaret Wise Brown and Leonard Weisgard) – There is a little island in the ocean—and this book is about how it is on that little island, how the seasons and the storm and the day and night change it, how the lobsters and seals and gulls and everything else live on it, and what the kitten who comes to visit finds out about it.
    Suggested by an online acquaintance, this charming story helped us focus on our nature studies; learning to experience God’s creation through all of our senses. 
  8. A Child of Books (Oliver Jeffers) – A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy. She invites him to go away with her on an adventure into the world of stories… where, with only a little imagination, anything at all can happen.
    I confess, the cover caught my attention. It went in my basket without further thought. Was opened in the quiet of my home. And devoured entirely, from beginning to end. We loved the clever illustrations and thoughtfulness of the story. 
  9. Finding Wild (Megan Wagner Lloyd) – There are so many places that wild can exist, if only you know where to look! Can you find it? Two kids set off on an adventure away from their urban home and discover all the beauty of the natural world. From the bark on the trees to the sudden storm that moves across the sky to fire and flowers, and snowflakes and fresh fruit. As the children make their way through the woods and back to the paved and noisy streets, they discover that wild exists not just off in some distant place, but right in their own backyard.
    Another nature study find by Mom. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the story without the tendency of some books towards glorifying nature to the point of considering man an evil. 
  10. The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs (Tristan Gooley) – Gooley has compiled more than 850 outdoor tips—many not found in any other book in the world—that will open readers’ eyes to nature’s hidden logic. He shares techniques for forecasting and tracking, and for walking in the country or city, along the coast, and by night. This is the ultimate resource on what the land, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and clouds can reveal—if you only know how to look!
    I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. It came highly recommended so we gave it a chance and were pleasantly surprised. We learned so much from just the first chapters, we cannot imagine pushing through this book quickly. Even a single reading will not be enough to fully absorb its material. For nature explorers, this book is a wonderful guide and help!

We generally gather our reading materials from the library, but several of these have been added to our book wish list. Great reads are worth revisiting!  We were so excited to find another incredible selection this month! A few of them were excellent aids in nature study. Join us again next month as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading.

Your Turn!: How do you know when a book is so good, you have to buy it?

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Review: The Secret Bridge by Lamplighter Publishing

The_Secret_BridgeEvery once in a while, we come across a read which sparks the imagination and edifies the soul. This week, we’re happy to share with you a new read we had the pleasure of reviewing. The Secret Bridge by Lamplighter Publishing was a joy from beginning to end, and we know you’ll want to hear all about it!

Lamplighter Publishing’s aim is to develop Christlike character one story at a time, and this book hits the mark! The Secret Bridge tells the story of young Bridget Channing, and her journey toward a meaningful relationship with God. Through trials, tribulations, and a helpful friend, Bridget learns what it means to cast her cares upon the Lord and fall in love with her Creator.

We first meet Bridget on a sea voyage to England, following the death of her father. While aboard, she befriends Godfrey Bullingham, a naval officer who desires to see Bridget settled well. When disappointing circumstances leave Bridget homeless and with little to live on, Godfrey saves the day by proposing marriage. At first hesitant to accept, Bridget quickly realizes marriage might be her only option and accepts the offer. After a hasty ceremony, Bridget is taken to Godfrey’s hometown where she will be staying for the year while he is away at sea. Everything seems to be working in Bridget’s favor until her husband asks her to keep a secret. A big secret. Throughout the remainder of the book, we experience Bridget’s struggle to keep the secret hidden while more and more secrets become known to her. In the midst of her trials, Bridget meets a most unusual gentleman who encourages her to “Acquaint thyself with Him.”Secret_Bridge_TitlePg

The Secret Bridge was cleanly written, which is a requirement when choosing our books. Thus, any of our children could have read the story. However, I had a personal desire to read the book myself and took possession first. I had planned to read the book slowly, perhaps taking a few chapters at a time. I quickly realized this was not possible. The Secret Bridge was too good to put down. I finished the entire book in one night!

I will note, this story might be best suited for young ladies. There is no action in the book and a great deal of conversation whilst drinking tea. We should also point out that while the main purpose of the story is to encourage a closer relationship with Christ, there is a distinct romantic element to the story; particularly at the beginning of the book. I would recommend The Secret Bridge to young ladies in middle school or older, as the topic of marriage and proper courtship would be more appropriate for that age category.

As I devoured the story, there were a few points which caught my attention in particular. Mr. Jocelyn, the gentleman who speaks with Bridget, is a naturalist! While the study of God’s creation plays no significant role in the story, I appreciated reading of his love of nature and his desire to teach children through his hobby. It was also interesting to note the back story of the tale, which centers on a family dispute as far back as the time of Secret_Bridge_IllustrationHenry VIII. As we are currently studying this era in our history lessons, this was a fun circumstance and a God moment. While not important in any way to the story, it would be remiss if we failed to mention the gorgeous cover of this book. Mole skinned, engraved leather, and gold embossed. It’s a beautiful book.

The Secret Bridge was a joy to read! I can’t think of a single thing I disliked about the book. The story itself was lovely to read, well-told, and edifying. The character lessons throughout were encouraging, even for one who has walked with the Lord for years. We look forward to exploring more exciting reads at Lamplighter Publishing!

If you’d like to learn more about Lamplighter Publishing, along with The Secret Bridge, please visit them at their website. You can also find Lamplighter Publishing on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

To read additional helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into The Secret Bridge, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

Review Crew Disclaimer

Your Turn!: In The Secret Bridge, Bridget has a developed a hobby of wood carving. Which hobby/handy-craft would you most like to acquire?

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Dragons Love Tacos 2!

Oh no, the world has run out of tacos! What should we do?

A. Check emergency taco supplies
B. Eat emergency taco supplies
C. Panic
D. Fire up that time machine in the garage
E. All of the above

We’ve got to save the tacos! The dragons are here to help. Just keep them away from all that spicy salsa. You remember what happened last time.

Dragons Love Tacos_2_TourInspired by the release of Dragons Love Tacos 2, we asked ourselves this important question: Could we help save the tacos by going back in time to the Renaissance? Did they even have tacos during the Renaissance? What better way to discover tacos during but to visit a Renaissance Faire! My dragons and I piled into our time machine, lovingly called a car, and blasted into the past.

The journey was surprisingly shorter than anticipated, and met with much anticipation. We arrived to discover things looked quite different from what we were used to. We felt a little under-dressed as we were presented at court, but the queen kindly disregarded Dragon w/ Fanour attire and graciously allowed us to peruse her kingdom in pursuit of our goal… tacos!

We got excited when we saw this beautiful creation. It was shaped like a taco, but alas, was not. It’s called a Spanish fan; which was quite pretty, but not fit for eating. It seems you can use them for creating a soft breeze to cool your dragon scales.

Dragon TeaWe did find dragon tea, but tea is not tacos! Our new friends allowed us to take in the lovely aroma, but there is no substitution for our favorite crunchy snack.

Everywhere we went, we asked for help. It seemed no one even knew what a taco was! Much to our surprise, even ingredients for tacos were not to be found. Lettuce, it would appear, is hard to Dragon w/Mancome by. And tomatoes… these people from the Renaissance would not sell us a tomato. There seems to be a rumor about them being poisonous? Imagine that.

After a quick return to court, thanking the queen for her kindness and generosity, we were forced to admit defeat. It seems the Renaissance does not have tacos! Wait… what’s that you say? We’re on the wrong continent! Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?!

A History Lesson: If you and your dragons wish to learn more about tacos and their illustrious history, The Smithsonian has a fantastic article which might come in handy! Who knew this tasty treat has been around since before the 1800’s and was a favored snack amongst minors (the silver kind, not the little ones who mess up our houses).

Don’t Skip the Giveaway!: Enter for a chance to be one (1) grand prize winner and receive a set of Dragons Love Tacos and Dragons Love Tacos 2 (ARV: $17.99 each), or to be one (1) of five (5) second place winners to receive Dragons Love Tacos 2 (ARC: $17.99 each).

Dragons Love Tacos 2

Click the above image to enter our giveaway!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on May 1, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 29, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about June 2, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Tour Schedule: If you and your dragons would like to explore more adventures centered around this fantastic book, check out this incredible list of bloggers showcasing Dragons Love Tacos 2!

Week One:
May 1 – In Wonderland – Jane Austen Taco Hunt
May 2 – The Children’s Book Review – Review
May 3 – A Homeschool Mom – Tacos in the Renaissance
May 4 – Inspiration Laboratories – Tacos in Space
May 5 – Ali’s Book Nook – Dragon Paper Doll Activity
Week Two:
May 8 – The Book Nut – Tacos in Ancient Greece
May 9 – A Story A Day – Tacos During the Civil War
May 10 – Pirates n’ Pixie Dust – Taco Pirates
May 11 – Margie’s Must Reads – Review
May 12 – My Little Poppies
Week Three:
May 16 – As They Grow Up
May 17 – YA Book Nerd
May 18 – Swoony Boys Podcast – Review & Mini Swoon
May 19 – The Plot Bunny – A Dragons Love Tacos Playlist
Week Four:
May 22 – Reading is Better with Cupcakes – How to Properly Eat a Taco
May 23 – No BS Book Reviews
May 24 – Mundie Kids –Time Travelling with a Dragon Checklist
May 25 – The Book Shire
May 26 – Artsy Momma

FTC Disclaimer

Your Turn!: If you could go back in history, which time period would you most like to explore?

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Our April Reads

Our_April_Reads_2017

It never ceases to amaze us how many books we finish in a month. The lists we share here are merely books we’ve used in a homeschooling/parenting capacity; there are many more which we read on our own! April’s list has a few incredible finds from our local library. Everything on this month’s list was completely new to us, which is always fun.

  1. Lindbergh: The Tale of the Flying Mouse (Torben Kuhlmann) – A story of toil and triumph—inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight! These are dark times . . . for a small mouse. A new invention—the mechanical mousetrap—has caused all of the mice but one to flee to America, the land of the free. But with cats guarding the steamships, trans-Atlantic crossings are no longer safe. In the bleakest of places . . . the one remaining mouse has a brilliant idea. He must learn to fly!
    The illustrations are what sell us on Torben Kuhlmann’s books. They are simply amazing. But you’ll love this adorable story about a little mouse with big aspirations. The kids thought this was a perfect read. 
  2. Beautiful Birds (Jean Roussen) – In this stunningly illustrated introduction to the world’s most beautiful birds, Jean Roussen and Emmanuelle Walker pay homage to an alphabet of birds in all their feathery fancies.
    A nature study read for the month, the colorful illustrations were wonderful and definitely helped us explore the world of exotic birds. 
  3. Before After (Anne_Margot Ramstein) – Just as day turns into night and back again, a many-tiered cake is both created and eaten down to a single piece. Each spread or sequence of spreads explores a before and after.
    A wordless book I wanted to explore with the kids, this book is perfect for littles or the art of storytelling. 
  4. The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts (Maja Safstrom) – Did you know that an octopus has three hearts? Or that ostriches can’t walk backward? These and many more fascinating and surprising facts about the animal kingdom are illustrated with whimsical detail in this charming collection.
    I’ll be honest, I picked up this book because of the cover itself. It’s adorable! However, I was pleased to find the pages within just as charming. We recently discovered there’s a sequel! This was a great book for nature study. 
  5. Three Swords for Granada (Walter Dean Myers) – In the year 1420, the cats from the kingdom of Spain attacked their foes: dogs led by the cruel Fidorean Guards. Full of bravery and ready to give their lives for their country, the cats begin a swashbuckling journey of swordplay and derring-do.
    As we are studying the Renaissance, this seemed a perfect read for the younger kiddos. Three Swords is a cute book and a fun read. 
  6. None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (Jen Wilkin) – Jen Wilkin leads us on a journey to discover ten ways God is different from us – and why that’s a good thing. In the process, she highlights the joy of seeing our limited selves in relation to a limitless God, and how such a realization frees us from striving to be more than we were created to be.
    One of my parenting/mommy books of the month, I discovered this read through an Instagram account I follow. Each chapter was a blessing and an encouragement. Grab it, you won’t be sorry.
  7. Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too (Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish) – With humor and understanding, Faber and Mazlish explain how and when to intervene in fights, provide suggestions on how to help children channel their hostility into creative outlets, and demonstrate how to treat children unequally and still be fair.
    Parenting can be tough sometimes, so this book suggestion piqued our interest. While the overall principles were sound, we were saddened to find the concepts within were not grounded on a moral foundation. While this is not mandatory in writing a parenting book – by any means – we, personally, prefer it. Without Christ, we are nothing. 

We generally gather our reading materials from the library, but I know a few of these have been added to our book wish list. Great picture books are worth revisiting!  We were so excited to find an incredible selection this month! A few of them were excellent aids in nature study. Join us again next month as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading.

Your Turn!: Do you have a favorite “wordless” picture book?

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Our March Reads

Our March Reads (2017)

This was a lucky month in the book department. We found so many reads, we almost didn’t have time to finish them all! In March, we explored a world of literature and did some learning along the way. Join us as we share our picks of the month. I wish I could tell you all of them rocked, but…

  1. Tangle Journey ( Beckah Krahula) – Gain deeper insights into how tangles can be combined to create more complex and realistic forms, how to use contour and shading, how to work with mid toned papers by adding highlights and shadows, how to use introduce color-based media, how to integrate mixed-media techniques, and how to work on various surfaces.
    This was a homeschool pick for the month. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what it meant to ‘Tangle’ before picking up this book. In fact, that might just be one of the reasons I picked up this read. However, we quickly discovered a fantastic art form easily learned by artists of any age. This was a great book for beginners and veterans. 
  2. Crafting With Nature (Amy Renea) – Fuse your love for crafting and the outdoors with this incredible compilation of DIY crafts, recipes and gifts made with natural materials you can grow or gather yourself.
    Another homeschool pick for the month. This was a fantastic read, and one to add to the shelf if you’re a wild and free learner. Included were a multitude of artistic projects to explore as a family, homeschooler, and nature lover. 
  3. The Total Money Make Over (Dave Ramsey) – Instead of promising the normal dose of quick fixes, Ramsey offers a bold, no-nonsense approach to money matters, providing not only the how-to but also a grounded and uplifting hope for getting out of debt and achieving total financial health.
    This book was a personal read for Mom. I had great hopes for this book, having heard much of Mr. Ramsey’s program. Unfortunately his wit does not transfer well onto the written page, and comes across as rather flippant and rude. The advice given is sound, but honestly nothing new. I was expecting something grand and novel; instead it was the basics. Good, but the basics.
  4. Color Lab For Mixed-Media Artists (Deborah Forman) – In Color Lab for Mixed Media Artists, color is explored through multiple lenses-nature, history, psychology, expression-as you work through 52 exciting and approachable projects that explore the infinite potential of the chromatic experience.
    Yet another homeschool pick for the month. Being married to an artist, and having children who appreciate creativity, Color Lab was a fun exploration of color. If you’ve never had the opportunity to venture into this study, this would be a good book to try.
  5. The Bad -Ass Librarians of Timbuktu (Joshua Hammer) – To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.
    Let me state the obvious from the get-go. I did not title this book. So please be gracious. On to our thoughts… This was a good book! I wasn’t sure what to expect of this read, but found it enjoyable and full of historical detail which I had yet to explore. Because of the title, this book was initially chosen for myself, but found it to be clean and something I might possibly pass off to my high school students in the future.
  6. The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible (A.N. Wilson) – In The Book of the People, A. N. Wilson explores how readers and thinkers have approached the Bible, and how it might be read today.
    Another read for Mom, this was an incredibly disappointing book. Mr. Wilson attempts to explain his ideas on how people read the Bible – mainly as a book of good ideas and not truths – and fails to see the redeeming power of Christ. He shares his beliefs on how Jesus cannot be known from the Bible, in fact history itself cannot even give us an accurate picture of Him! Altogether a frustrating read, which will teach me to pick up a book based on its title alone.
  7. The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers to Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On and Others Don’t (Carmine Gallo) – Keynote speaker, bestselling author, and communication expert, Carmine Gallo, reveals the keys to telling powerful stories that inspire, motivate, educate, build brands, launch movements, and change lives.
    It had the word TED in it, so I picked it up. This read was okay, but just okay. The bulk of the story relied on, well, story telling and less on how to BE a good story-teller. There are a few good tips mixed in, but you could probably read the table of contents and save yourself the time of reading the entire book. 
  8. Thank You For Being Late (Thomas L. Friedman) – In his most ambitious work to date, Thomas L. Friedman shows that we have entered an age of dizzying acceleration–and explains how to live in it.
    Yet another ‘Mom’ read, Thank You for Being Late was incredibly long-winded and dull. In fact, I had a hard time staying focused on why Mr. Friedman even chose this title. The point gets lost amongst the multitude of details regarding microchips and the modern science of milking cows. 
  9. Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World (Michele Borba) – Bestselling author Michele Borba offers a 9-step program to help parents cultivate empathy in children, from birth to young adulthood—and explains why developing a healthy sense of empathy is a key predictor of which kids will thrive and succeed in the future.
    Unselfie was an interesting ‘Mom’ read. While I agreed with the majority of ideas presented by Ms. Borba, I found it interesting she did not establish a foundation for WHY children should be empathetic. As a Christian, I found we’re already building this into our children. Faith and obedience to Christ will naturally lead to the loving of His people. 
  10. Present Over Perfect (Shauna Niequist) – Written in Shauna’s warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be.
    A great read for any parent! The Lord isn’t asking us to be perfect, but willing to follow Him wherever He leads.  This was an encouraging and edifying book. 
  11. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain (John Boyne) – When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house.
    For those who read The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, you might anticipate this book will have a twist. I will not give away the surprise, but you won’t be disappointed. For those who have not read previous works by Mr. Boyne, you might wish to read this yourself before passing it on to children. While the story was surprisingly clean, the nature of its content will be disturbing. Death, violence, and attempted rape are mentioned. This was an emotional book, but well told. A good read. 

The bulk of our list this month consisted of reads for me! How did that happen? No matter how many good books I have in my pile, it continues to grow. It’s a never-ending cycle. Next month, we’ll be focusing more on children’s literature and books we’ve been reading as a family. However, we’ve enjoyed this month’s focus on good books which inspire mom to keep reading and keep learning.

Your Turn!: Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction as a relaxing read?

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Review: By the Way Book Series, Washington ~ Here We Come!

By the Way Book Series ReviewWe’ve never visited the state of Washington. Have you? For those of us who live too far away or extended vacations aren’t currently an option, we’ve got the next best thing. Our recent review of By the Way Book Series, Washington ~ Here We Come revealed you don’t have to leave home to explore God’s creation and learn about a fabulous US state.

By the Way Book Series is an informative collection of reads sharing fun facts about several US states and encouraging discovery of Biblical truth in everyday life. We had the opportunity to review Washington ~ Here We Come, our son’s first book choice. (Closely followed by Florida’s Treasure Coast ~ Here We Come, which we’ll have to visit soon!)

After perusing our choice of books, we anxiously watched our mailbox for our read to arrive. Our son was excited to receive his package and when it showed was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the book. The illustrations and images are well laid out, with plenty to learn amongst its pages.

Washington ~ Here We Come follows Alex, Lexi, Miss Cindy (their bus driver), and other team members as they discover the state of Washington and the heritage of that region. Together we explore such sights as Washington’s firsts, Olympia National Park, Ruby Beach, Quinault Rain Forest, and more. At each stop, we learn about the flora, fauna, and history of the area.

Our goal was to use Washington ~ Here We Come as our bedtime read, a quiet moment together where we read one-on-one. We started immediately, reading several pages aloud each night. We were not in a hurry to rush through the pages, instead choosing to fully absorb the text and open discussion before moving forward.

Washington ~ Here We Come was a fun read. We enjoyed learning about creatures such as the Banana slug which can reach lengths of up to twelve inches. (Imagine me shivering while my son giggles uproariously.) We read about Sitka trees used to make airplane frames in WWI. Native American history was explored, reminding us forty-two tribes still live in Washington today. As a parent, I truly appreciated By the Way subtly pointing my son to God. Each section spotlights God’s creation, His provision throughout history, and His goodness without losing focus of the immediate lesson.

There was much to cover. So much so, we will more than like be re-reading By the Way several times more before fully absorbing its contents. In fact, we could see how each By the Way adventure could easily be adapted into smaller studies in both science and history, prompting a world of discovery.

If you’d like to learn more about By the Way Book Series, please visit them at their website and on Facebook. To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what By the Way Book Series has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

Review Crew Disclaimer

Your Turn!: Which state would you most be interested in learning about?

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Our February Reads

February Reads (2017)

This was the month of love, and we’re loving us some books. In February, we explored a world of literature and did some learning along the way. Join us as we share our favorite picks of the month.

  1. Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon (Torben Kuhlmann) – A long time ago a mouse learned to fly . . . and crossed the Atlantic. But what happened next?…
    I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But when the cover is this cute, you just have to pick it up! The pages inside? They only get better. Cute beyond words; this is on my growing ‘wish list’ of books to buy.
  2. Pen Pals (Alexandra Pichard) – An octopus and an ant are paired up to write letters for a school project in this charming picture book.
    Absolutely adorable! My son thought this was the sweetest book and read it multiple times. In honor of our own pen pals, this book was added to our stack and thoroughly enjoyed.
  3. Design Wise (Vern Yip) – Have you ever wondered exactly how high to hang your artwork? How about the light fixture over your dining table? Trusted designer Vern Yip answers these questions, and more, by revealing the right formulas and measurements that can make any room feel just “right.”
    Interior design is a hobby of mine. Perhaps it has to do with my organizational nature; who knows. This book intrigued me, what with all the formulas for amazing rooms, and it didn’t disappoint. Design Wise is a perfect handbook.
  4. See America, A Celebration of Our National Parks & Treasured Sites – Just in time for the 2016 centennial anniversary of the National Parks Service, the Creative Action Network has partnered with the National Parks Conservation Association to revive and re-imagine the historical legacy of WPA travel posters.
    This was another book cover which caught my eye. We enjoyed exploring the pages within and seeing the creativity each poster offered. The artistry and imagination of each illustrator is incredible. Pages include details on the national park listed, which was fun to learn. This is another book added to my ‘wish list’. 
  5. You Will Not Have My Hate (Antoine Leiris) – One night last winter, Antoine Leiris was at home looking after his son while his wife, Hélène, was at a concert with friends… That night Hélène was killed, along with 88 other people, at the Bataclan Theatre.
    A touching read. You Will Not Have My Hate is an honest retelling of one man’s struggle with the murder of his wife, and the aftermath of raising his son in a world which offered him pity. Told in journal form, this was a quick read, but one worth the undertaking.
  6. The Wild Robot (Peter Brown) – When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings?
    I’ll be honest, this book was nothing like I expected. I was anticipating adventure and mystery. Instead, we received a shipwrecked robot’s perspective of nature on the island she is marooned. The story is slow-moving, if you’re looking for action, yet there is so much to gain from this book. For the homeschooler, each chapter offers mini-lessons one could easily adapt to nature studies. 
  7. Pax (Sara Pennypacker) – This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.
    This book came highly recommended. The story is about Peter, a boy, and his pet fox, Pax, who are separated by the boy’s stern father and desperate to find one another again. Parents might wish to read this story before handing it to younger children; death, the violence of war, and other issues are discussed within. Despite the heaviness of several passages, this is a lovely book and one worth reading. 

Plenty of book love going on over here. This month’s list proves you’re never to old to appreciate a great picture book and nature books are making a strong come back.

p.s. If your interested in learning more about the See America Project, give them a look!

Your Turn!: What is your favorite picture book of all time?

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Our January Reads (2017)

january_reads_2017

Are you as excited as we are? A new year has begun, and this means tons of new literature. Besides the books we’ve already tagged at the local library for upcoming reads, we’re keeping our fingers crossed on a few previews as well. As always, this should be a spectacular year on the reading front.

As we started back with homeschool lessons mid-month, and the month isn’t quite over yet, I’m afraid we don’t have many books to cover. But, rest assured, February’s stack is quite large and we’ll have tons of great books to share.

  1. Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Want Made Women Miserable (Andrea Tanteros) – Fifty years after Betty Friedan unveiled The Feminine Mystique, relations between men and women in America have never been more dysfunctional. If women are more liberated than ever before, why aren’t they happier? In this shocking, funny, and bluntly honest tour of today’s gender discontents, Andrea Tanteros, one of Fox News’ most popular and outspoken stars, exposes how the rightful feminist pursuit of equality went too far, and how the unintended pitfalls of that power trade have made women (and men!) miserable.
    An interesting read, to be sure. I am not a feminist by any means. But the title was intriguing, especially with all the media buzz lately, so I thought it might be worth a shot. I was surprised to find I agreed with most of Ms. Tanteros’ arguments, and spent a great deal of time sharing with my husband, who continually reminded me that men have been making these points for years. 
  2. The Bet (Chekhov) – The Bet is an 1889 short story by Anton Chekhov about a banker and a young lawyer who make a bet with each other about whether the death penalty is better or worse than life in prison.
    This short story was suggested at a recent conference. It can easily be finished in under half an hour, but the context of the story prompts hours of conversation and soul-searching. If you’ve yet to read it, follow the link and be blessed!
  3. Tyranny of the Urgent (Charles Hummel) – Now thoroughly revised and expanded, this classic booklet by Charles E. Hummel offers ideas and illustrations for effective time management.
    While technology has advanced well beyond that which was mentioned in this booklet, the truths remain. In a world which constantly urges us to hurry, it’s time we learn to slow down and hear God. 

Short, but sweet! February is about to dawn and already our stack is growing by leaps and bounds. Join us next month to see what we’ve been reading, and what we recommend.

Your Turn!: Which non-fiction read would you suggest we pick up next?

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