Our September 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! September’s list are entirely from our local library, although a few were special requests. Everything on this month’s list was completely new to us, which is always fun.

  1. Women In Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win (Rachel Ignotofsky) – A fascinating collection full of striking, singular art, Women in Sports features 50 profiles and illustrated portraits of women athletes from the 1800s to today including trailblazers, Olympians, and record-breakers in more than 40 different sports. The book also contains info graphics about relevant topics such as muscle anatomy, a timeline of women’s participation in sports, statistics about women in athletics, and influential female teams.
    Having read Women in Science, we were excited for this newest release. While it was interesting to read about these fascinating women, it definitely had a more feminist slant than the first book. It’s worth a look.

  2. Junior Genius Guides (Ken Jennings) – Unleash your inner genius and become a master of mythology with this interactive trivia book from Jeopardy! champ and New York Times bestselling author Ken Jennings.
    This series is wonderful! We discovered them through an Instagram recommendation and we’re glad we took their suggestion seriously and found them at our local library. They grace our homeschool table and all the kids enjoy perusing them throughout the day. We were blessed in being able to find all seven and they’re all great!
  3. Around the World in Numbers (Clive Gifford) – Did you know there were about 10,000 light bulbs on the Titanic? Or that the Eiffel Tower is repainted every seven years—using 1,500 paintbrushes and 60 tons of paint? This engaging collection of statistics encourages kids’ curiosity by sharing some unbelievable numerical facts from across the globe.
    Another Instagram recommendation. I am drawn to picture books and this one caught my eye. It’s short, but incredible worthwhile. There are so many tidbits of information hidden in this book you’ll need to read it more than once to get them all. 
  4. The Adventures of Your Brain (Dan Green) – How does the brain work? What does it do, and what do we understand about it? The Adventures of Your Brain allows kids to explore this amazing and amazingly complex part of our body. Each page offers loads of fun features to play with, so kids will love learning all the fascinating facts!
    We appreciate being inspired by other homeschoolers. This one was also featured on Instagram and purchased through our local library. We love the interactive pages and the detail which went into creating this book. The bonus is that it’s a pop-up!
  5. 100 Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) – One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of a mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family.
    It’s been mentioned we might not fully appreciate this story because we don’t understand the history surrounding the tale. Perhaps this might be true. I don’t know. What I DO know, is that every single person in my book club who signed up to read it, hated it. Including myself. The worst part was I wanted to like it, but couldn’t get past the vulgarity – which I understand is purposeful – and insanity of the main characters. Perhaps next month’s read will be more enjoyable?

We generally gather our reading materials from the library, but several of these have been added to our personal wish list for the home. Who knew Instagram would be a source of book inspiration? Even adults can enjoy a good picture book!

Join us again next month as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading!

Your Turn!: Have you ever read a “classic” or an award-winning book only to find it wasn’t all it was built up to be?

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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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Our October Reads


October was a relaxing month. Nothing too crazy. Just plain and simple fun. Along with those incredible memories, came outstanding reads.

All of October’s books were included in Our Morning Basket. One was a suggestion from a fellow homeschooling family and blogger. Here’s a rundown of the books we enjoyed during the month of October:

  1. Silas Marner (George Eliot)A moral allegory of the redemptive power of love, it is also a finely drawn picture of early nineteenth-century England in the days when spinning wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses, and of a simple way of life that was soon to disappear.
    A rather slow read, but charming non-the-less. Our children found themselves quite attached to the main character, Silas Marner, and cheered him on throughout the story. It was a lovely book we finished via audio.
  2. All of a Kind Family (Sydney Taylor) – It’s the turn of the century in New York’s Lower East Side and a sense of adventure and excitement abounds for five young sisters – Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie. Follow along as they search for hidden buttons while dusting Mama’s front parlor, or explore the basement warehouse of Papa’s peddler’s shop on rainy days.
    Another leisurely story, the characters were sweet and believable.
  3. Peter Nimble & The Fantastic Eyes ( Jonathan Auxier) – Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon, he steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher—a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes… Along with his loyal sidekick—a knight who has been turned into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat—and the magic eyes, he embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to discover his true destiny.
    An exciting tale of adventure and mystery, our oldest girl really enjoyed this book. Now, for the sequel.
  4. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Bks. I &II (Maryrose Wood) – Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children… Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess.
    One of the best book series we’ve read in a while. It started off a bit slow, then took off running. Our girls have finished the first two in the series and can’t wait for our library to bring in the remaining three.
  5. Castle (David Macaulay) With typical zest and wry sense of humor punctuating his drawings, David Macaulay traces the step-by-step planning and construction of both castle and town.
    Tying in with our history lessons, this was a great addition to our studies this month. The illustrations are fantastic and Mr. Macaulay’s humor terrific.  
  6. Cathedral (David Macaulay) – Journey back to centuries long ago and visit the fictional people of twelfth-, thirteenth-, and fourteenth-century Europe whose dreams, like Cathedral, stand the test of time.
    Another great read by Mr. Macaulay, we’d recommend any of his books in this genre. There are so many to choose from, and each one a gem.
  7. Inventions That Could Have Changed the World, But Didn’t (Joe Rhatigan) – The fascinating stories of inventions that could have changed the world, should have made a difference, or would have astounded us all, but for one reason or another, didn’t. Some inventions were too wacky, weird, or unwieldy. Other simply didn’t work. And still others may be the next big thing . . . some day.
    This book was an assigned read for my son. Each invention is quite remarkable, and many caused us to wonder why they haven’t yet become popular. If you’ve a little inventor in your home, this might be just the book for them.

November hasn’t even begun and we’re already looking forward to the next read. 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!: Have you ever picked up a ‘sleeper’ book; one that started off slow and then left you wanting more?

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Our August Reads


August was out of this world busy. Between sick kitties, volunteer work, school back in session, and organizing group activities, life has never been more fun. With various field trips thrown in, mommy’s surprised we got much else done.  However, we are back in action. Thus, books! Each month we’ve been blessed with incredible reads. This month was no exception.

Two of these books were included in Our Morning Basket. The others were personal reads for mom. Here’s a rundown of the books we enjoyed during the month of August:

  1. A Rat’s Tale (Tor Seidler) – Montague Mad-Rat lives a solitary existence in the sewers of New York City. His only delights are scavenging through Central Park for feathers and berries for his mother, and painting the seashells his aunt brings him. One day, he rescues the beautiful Isabel Moberly-Rat, and upon escorting her home is introduced to a world he never knew existed. 
    A very cute story. I think our older children found this story to be a tad slow. However, the illustrations are charming.
  2. Good Morning, Miss Dove (Francis Gray Patton) – Miss Dove is a strict disciplinary, plus a well-respected teacher, who has inspired her students to individual greatness. One day during class, Miss Dove experiences great pain in her back. While in the hospital, her former students rally around her causing Miss Dove to reflect on her past. 
    Enough good things cannot be said about this story. Read it. You’ll love it. The story is not high in action and suspense, nor is it particularly funny. But it will touch your heart. One of the best reads we’ve covered in a while!
  3. Nature Anatomy (Julia Rothman) – See the world in a new way! Acclaimed illustrator Julia Rothman celebrates the diverse curiosities and beauty of the natural world in this exciting new volume. With whimsically hip illustrations, every page is an extraordinary look at all kinds of subjects, from mineral formation and the inside of a volcano to what makes sunsets, monarch butterfly migration, the ecosystem of a rotting log, the parts of a bird, the anatomy of a jellyfish, and much, much more.
    A highly recommended book, we borrowed this read from our local library. Mom liked it so much, it is now on my wait list for Amazon. We can see why everyone recommended Nature Anatomy.
  4. Baked Explorations ( Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafito, Tina Rupp) – Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito’s 2008 Baked was published to national critical acclaim and raved about across the blogosphere. Since then, their profile has gotten even bigger, with continued praise from Oprah and Martha Stewart; product availability in every Whole Foods across the U.S.; and a new bakery in Charleston, South Carolina, with even more traffic than their original Brooklyn location.
    Mom checked out this book because – well – sugar. It didn’t disappoint. The recipes might seem a tad hard for those new to baking. However, most are within reach for the average home cook.
  5. The Tiger, Love, #1(Frederic Brremaud) – A day in the life of the king of the jungle, this lavishly illustrated story follows a single majestic tiger through a wordless adventure of survival as it hunts prey and defends itself from other would-be killers defending their territory. This exciting tale is told without narration or dialogue, conveyed entirely through the beautiful illustrations of Federico Bertolucci. A beautiful, all-ages title that explores genuine natural behavior through the dramatic lens of Disney-esque storytelling. Like a nature documentary in illustration.While we might not want to judge a book by its cover, this one does not disappoint. Gorgeous inside and out, The Tiger is magnificent. My oldest found this at the library, but all of us have soaked up its pages, including my husband, the illustrator. When he wants to buy something, you know it’s good.
  6. National Parks, America’s Best Idea (Dayton Duncan) – America’s national parks spring from an idea as radical as the Declaration of Independence: that the nation’s most magnificent and sacred places should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. In this evocative and lavishly illustrated narrative, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan delve into the history of the park idea, from the first sighting by white men in 1851 of the valley that would become Yosemite and the creation of the world’s first national park at Yellowstone in 1872, through the most recent additions to a system that now encompasses nearly four hundred sites and 84 million acres.
    Considering it is National Park month in the good ‘ole US of A, this book seemed appropriate. Filled with spectacular photography, National Parks was a lovely way to learn American History and explore God’s creation.

September’s stack of books is already piled high and we’re ready to get moving. Our problem is never what to read, but having enough time to read them all! Wish us luck.

📢 Chime In!: Which book is at the top of your stack right now?

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Our July Reads


Our_July_ReadsJuly was out of this world busy. It seems we had a birthday every single week. With various field trips and comic conventions thrown in – yes, we read those, too – mommy’s surprised we got much else done.  However, we are back in action on the formal learning front. Thus, books! Each month we’ve been blessed with incredible reads. This month was no exception.

Two of these books were included in Our Morning Basket. The rest were personal reads for mom, all pertaining to parenting. Here’s a rundown of the books we enjoyed during the month of July:

  1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl) – Fantastic Mr. Fox is on the run! The three meanest farmers around are out to get him. Fat Boggis, squat Bunce, and skinny Bean have joined forces, and they have Mr. Fox and his family surrounded. What they don’t know is that they’re not dealing with just any fox–Mr. Fox would never surrender. But only the most fantastic plan ever can save him now.
    The first read of the month for Our Morning Basket, I couldn’t wait to share this funny story with the kids. We laughed until our sides hurt, watched the movie (which was an entirely different animal altogether), and then promptly downloaded the soundtrack (which was surprisingly great). This isn’t fine literature, but it’s a fun read.
  2. The Wainscott Weasel (Tor Seidler) – While other young weasels dance under the pines, Bagley thinks about Bridget, the mesmerizing fish who lives in a pond down the brook from his den. Only a true hero can save Bridget from the gruesome death that awaits her and this is exactly what Bagley, much to his own surprise, proves himself to be.
    I purchased this book before having kiddos for the art alone, and quickly discovered the story was a charmer. The kids found the book sweet. It was a pleasant read to start our morning.
  3. The Radical Pursuit of Rest (John Koessler) – We live in a culture that values activity, achievement and accomplishment. Whether in our careers, churches, schools or families, busyness is the norm in our lives, and anything less makes us feel unproductive and anxious. We have to work all the harder, then, to pursue true rest in a 24/7 world that is constantly in motion.
    A fantastic book I discovered through the Building Relationships podcast. How we view productivity, our involvement in the church, and the notion of being useful is all challenged by Mr. Koessler. Definitely a must read!
  4. Full Time Parenting (Israel Wayne) – A typical working parent spends just 19 minutes a day looking after their children. Many parents are determining to take back the raising of their own children. They are not content to be a part-time babysitter for their child. They want to be Full-time Parents. Learn how to take the steps towards becoming a Full-time Parent, or learn how to be a better one.
    Another spectacular book by Mr. Israel Wayne. While I might be spending more than nineteen minutes a day with my kiddos, I want to be using my time to the fullest. Mr. Wayne offers Biblical wisdom on such topics as Family Culture vs. Pop Culture, The Perfect Family Syndrome, and A Christian Education Manifesto. Get it, read it, you’ll love it. (A full review of this book will be coming soon!)

August’s stack of books is already piled high and we’re ready to get moving. With school back in, there’s plenty to keep us busy and explore. If only we can find time to read them all.

📢 Chime In!: What is the first book your family plans on reading together during the coming learning year?

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Our May Reads

May Reads 2016May was a full month on all fronts. With our longer reads, promotion night plans in full swing, and my kiddos slowing down in anticipation of the upcoming break, our family reading list was quite short. However, shorter lists make for more in-depth conversation, and this month was no exception!

All of these books were included in Our Morning Basket. Mommy had a full month of activity, thus her personal reading time was put on the back-burner. Here’s a rundown of the books we enjoyed during the month of May:

  1. The Orange Fairy Book (Andrew Lang) – Includes 33 tales from Jutland, Rhodesia, Uganda, and various other European traditions: “The Magic Mirror,” “The Two Caskets,” “The Clever Cat,” “The White Slipper,” “The Girl-Fish, and more.”
    We discovered this read through an online acquaintance, and can’t express in words how grateful we are to have found this series. Our family adores fairy tales, and this set is no exception. The Orange Fairy book is one of fifteen in Andrew Lang’s color collection, each one obviously named after a different color. A few of the tales were familiar, most were unique and a treasure. Oh, to buy the entire series. A new goal!
  2. Prayers That Changed History (Tricia Goyer) – Martin Luther. Sojourner Truth. Helen Keller. St. Patrick. We read their stories, and of other people like them, in history books and hear about the amazing things they did to change the world. But one part of the story is often left out: Each one of them wouldn’t have accomplished what they did without prayer.
    Given as a gift at a local homeschool convention, we’ve been using this book as part of our morning devotion throughout our learning year. What a blessing being able to read beyond the typical biography, and discover the power of prayer in each of these people’s lives. Each chapter was an inspiration and an unforgettable lesson.
  3. A Wind in the Door (Madeleine L’Engle) – A Wind in the Door is a fantastic adventure story involving Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe; the chief characters of A Wrinkle in Time. Charles Wallace is having difficulty in adapting to school. He is also strangely, seriously ill. Can Meg and Calvin help Charles Wallace before it is too late?
    A great read. What surprised us most was how well it tied in with a recent Biology lesson without us even making the attempt. I always love the conversations which arise from reading anything by Madeleine L’Engle. Her books offer much to ponder with our children.
  4. A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Madeleine L’Engle) –  In this companion volume to “A Wrinkle In Time” and “A Wind In The Door”, fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace and the unicorn Gaudior undertake a perilous journey through time in a desperate attempt to stop the destruction of the world by the mad dictator Madog Branzillo.
    A fantastic story which led to in-depth conversations regarding time travel, God’s view of time, character, and so much more. Our kids enjoyed this story very much. 

June’s stack of books is already piled high and we’re ready to get moving. With a summer break coming up, I’m praying to get back into my own personal reading time and explore incredible summer reading ideas to share. Plus, summer reading programs kick in this coming week. I can’t wait to score some incredible prizes!

📢 Chime In!: Does your library offer a summer reading program?

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Required Reading, Part II

The first half of the year under our belt, it was time to take stock of where we stood and discover if we were ‘on track’ with the year’s reading plans. Would our routine within stand the scrutiny or need to be revamped?

(sigh of relief) Okay, it looks like we are doing just fine! Two of my kiddos are zooming through their reading lists; one of them all done, but for her Bible reading. My little one doesn’t have a required list quite yet, but he too is doing just fine with his reading. So, it looks like our yearly plan is panning out so far.

Having required reads is definitely a plus for all of us. I don’t have to remember to pass out assignments each week and the kids get to choose which books they read on their own, in whichever order they prefer.

The downside… getting the kids to remember to look at their lists. Occasionally I will look in their binders and remind them to get busy on them, but usually they are pretty good at taking care of business on their own.

Third Grade

The biggest struggle is when you have a read that just doesn’t interest them at all. While I would like nothing better than to let it sit by the wayside, this just doesn’t sit right with me. Not everything in life is going to be fun and enjoyable; I think this is one of those areas I need to push. Good literature is never a bad idea, whether or not we think we’ll ‘like it’.

Thankfully, most of their reads are enjoyable. We’ve had lots of fun discussing, critiquing, and recommending various books over the first half of our year. A few of them have movies as well; we watch those whenever possible as well.

Now, let’s hope the second half of the year is as successful as the first!

How do you handle reads which don’t interest your child? Do you make them read anyway or wait until they express a desire to dive in?