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!

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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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A Christmas Carol

Whats_in_a_NameWhat’s in a name? A name is more than just something by which we are called; in a sense, it is our reputation. Did you know there are a multitude of names for God? 

Each name unique and powerful; the list is endless. Join us on this exciting adventure through Scripture, where we will learn some amazing verses, talk about how those verses should affect our lives, and discuss some practical ways to make these names “real”.

……

“Bah,” said Scrooge, “Humbug.”
~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

What’s in a name? Ask Scrooge, he could tell you. His name is synonymous with everyone unpleasant during the Christmas season.

You guessed it, our first book recommendation during our ‘What’s In a Name‘ series is A Christmas Carol. While we know there are a multitude of movie versions of this classic tale, don’t cheat. Read the actual story. You won’t regret it.a_christmas_carol

Here is a man whose name meant mud. He was grumpy, unkind, selfish, and uncaring. He carried the weight of disappointment and sorrow, which translated into how he treated others. Then, one fateful night, the Lord saw fit to meet him where he was and change his heart.

Our family owns several publications of A Christmas Carol, mostly because we appreciate the various illustrator’s renditions of the book. The story never disappoints and the moral is clear. No matter which version you read, take time to enjoy this lovely book.

Don’t forget! Join us each Friday during our ‘What’s In a Name’ series as we review favorite Christmas tales which point us towards our Heavenly Father and the true meaning of the season!

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

🎄Time to Chime In: Which is your favorite movie rendition of A Christmas Carol?

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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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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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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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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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Getting the Most From Our Reads

getting_the_most_our_readsSurprisingly, I read as much young adult fiction as my children do. I enjoy the genre and especially appreciate being able to share these books with my kiddos. Our family also delights in classic literature. We laugh, cry, and share some wonderful memories centered on great books. Together we’re getting the most from our reads.

In our family, reading books extends beyond the page. We soak up the words and make them come to life. Through conversation, play, and more, we use these steps to help us:

Read – No matter how we choose to read, sharing a book with our child can be fun. We pick one of the following methods and go to town:

  • Together – We snuggle on the couch, gather round the table, or cuddle in bed at night. No matter when or how, we enjoy the read as a family.
  • Alone – Some of our books make the rounds. Mom reads it first – making sure it’s a clean read – then it goes through the crowd, usually from the fastest reader down.

Story Coaster – After we finish our book, we hit the plot points. Were my younger children able to follow along? I use this time to ensure they understood who the main characters were and the focus of the story; reviewing vocabulary and literary terminology I wish for them to learn. Only a short amount of time is given to this, but it is well worth the few moments and our children have learned much in this practice.

Reenact – Depending on our chosen book, acting out portions of the story is included. While reading Little House on the Prairie, we might build a cabin with Lincoln Logs or do a little baking. Most stories inspire some form of hands-on activity to partake in.

Discuss – While the reading, in-and-of itself, is always a treat, I rarely leave a book without taking a moment to check in with my kids. I want to hear their thoughts on the read and cover important ground which the Lord has prompted me to share. This takes our book to a new level, moving past what’s on the page and encourages our children to correspond the story to reality.
A key-note: We launch conversations with open-ended questions. The goal is to get our children to talk, not merely answer “Yes” or “No”. We ask what our children liked/disliked about the book; what they learned; their favorite character/portion of the story; and their take on the book in general. As our children mature, we discuss world views which might be present. (One series which comes to mind is Hunger Games. These books launched many wonderful conversations about government and reform. The writing was not at its best, but the benefits from our talks was well worth the poor literature.)

Watch – If there’s a movie, we’re more than likely going to watch it. This launches entirely new discussions on difference between the two, which they liked better, and more. Plus, who doesn’t like a good movie?

Play – Did you know many popular books, authors, and publishers have websites filled with games and activities? For added fun, we enjoy hopping on to one of these sites and playing games which relate to our read. Our favorites are the The Chronicles of Narnia, Mysterious Benedict Society, and Harry Potter websites.

For those with littler children, or are unsure of where to start in their literary adventure, we highly recommend Five in a Row. With FIAR all the work is done for you! Each week, you follow a suggested read and enjoy the multitude of activities available. Included are questions to discuss with your children and additional resources. Once you’ve grown comfortable with the format, branch out and choose your own books.

We love great literature. By discussing these books and bringing them to life, we are creating wonderful memories and life-long lessons for our children to remember forever. Our books jump off the page and we get the most from our reads.

📢 Chime In!: What is your favorite part of reading a book?

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When Your Child Hates to Read

when_your_child_hates_to_readWe’ve been blessed in raising four children who love to read. But occasionally, one of our children will go through a phase where nothing appeals to them. There is no book mom can suggest and no genre which appeals to them. What’s a parent to do when their child is going through this difficult time; and what if this isn’t just a ‘stage’ and our child truly hates to read?

If our child is going through a stage where reading is no longer of interest, or has never experienced the joy of reading, it can seem impossible to spark the flame of desire. Is there hope?

Be Prayerful – You know me! Everything – but everything – starts with prayer. Encouraging a love of reading is no different. If our children are struggling in this area, we need to be asking the Lord to soften their hearts and open their minds to this skill. He can do what we cannot. We pray for an increase in their interest, and wisdom on our behalf to show them the way.

Set An Example – Expressing joy over our own reads encourages our children to pick up books. Our enthusiasm can be infectious. Are we reading often and consistently? We might share what we’re reading, exciting plot twists, what we’ve learned, and how this book has sparked our imagination. Reading our Bible daily is also important. Our children will mimic what they see us live out.

Show Patience – Yelling, belittling, grumbling, and nagging aren’t going to encourage our children to pick up that book buried under piles of dust. Our children need to hear about literature in a positive light and see grace lived out.

Be Creative – Great literature doesn’t only come in book form. We might consider reading aloud to our child, listening to books on tape, or attending book reading events. We want our children to experience the joy of the story, not stress over the reading of words. Given time, the reading will follow.

Talk It Out – Is there a genre our children like more than others? Before we hand them Shakespeare and ask them to enjoy, we might start with something more on their level and in their interest range. Perhaps we’re choosing books which are not challenging enough. Our child might need to step up their game.

Start Small – Just because our children know how to read, doesn’t mean they are ready for War and Peace. We might begin with littler books, or even books which seem like twaddle (shudder) but inspire our children to explore more. Our goal is to start the flame, then build. Eventually War and Peace might not seem out of reach.

It helps when I keep things in perspective. Our goal is to raise righteous children who love the Lord. We want them to enthusiastically read their Bibles. But if my focus shifts out-of-place and becomes the ever-impressive list of books my child has read, the Lord might be using this to teach me a lesson.

May the Lord help each of us to find balance in this area of our lives. May we have patience to reach our children where they are, wisdom to help them overcome this obstacle, and grace to lead our children in joy.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
~ Romans 12:12

📢 Chime In!: Have any of your children expressed disinterest in reading? Share with us how you’ve helped – or are helping – your littles through this challenging time.

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