Our July Reads, or The Series is The Thing

Our_July_Reads_2017

While this monthly post generally shares the list of books we’ve read during the current month, we’ve just noticed we haven’t yet returned the list of learning books we checked out last month. In fact, these same books have been gracing our shelves for several months and I have no intention of returning them until they force me. It might be time to break down and just buy them. Maybe. Instead, the family has chosen to spend this month focusing on various series we enjoy. Perhaps some of them have found their way into your home?

  1. Fablehaven (Brandon Mull) – For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite.
    This is a fun series my girls enjoyed. Every magical creature you could imagine is found within its pages. Very imaginative. 
  2. The Ranger’s Apprentice (John Flanagan) – They have always scared him in the past — the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….
    My little lady didn’t know what to expect with this series and had misgivings at first. She quickly gained an appreciation of both characters and storyline. This series is long, but worth every page. 
  3. The School for Good & Evil (Soman Chainani) – This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.
    I read this series before my children came across these books. I was drawn to the storyline and the idea of roles being chosen simply by looks. Upon further reading, we are forced to acknowledge external appearances do not always indicate the person within, and true love is friendship. The girls loved the series, and it gave us plenty to discuss.
  4. The Cat Who... (Lilian Jackson Braun) – A series of twenty-nine mystery novels and three related collections by Lilian Jackson Braun, featuring a reporter named Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Kao K’o-Kung (Koko for short) and Yum Yum.
    Not the most action packed of series, I do enjoy the mystery of each story and the silly antics attributed to Koko and YumYum. The books are clean and easy reading.

As we launch into a new month, it might be time to make decisions regarding new purchases and look for upcoming reads. Until then, we’re enjoying these great series and keeping our eyes peeled for books to enjoy. There’s no doubt we’ll find what we’re looking for, the question is how we’ll fit them all into our book box!

Your Turn!: Which series would you recommend; either juvenile or adult?

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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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The Three R’s

The_Three_RsWithin the world of homeschooling, there are many different ways to approach our children’s learning. Should we go with a classical method or perhaps a more unschooled approach? Do we use only textbooks or do we use unit studies? There are so many decisions to be made and so many areas to choose from, it can sometimes be overwhelming and daunting to even think about it.

When we first began to homeschool, I made sure I had a long talk with my husband about what he expected to see in our children’s education. I knew if we were together on what they were learning and if the Lord was at the center of it all, I couldn’t go wrong. I would have the peace of knowing the two most important men in my life were behind me 100%. When we talked about what we wanted from our children’s education is came down to three basic things:

Reading – If our children could read well, there was no end to the possibilities of what they could learn. Now when I say reading, it is not as simple as reading words on a page. Reading well, meant they would not only be able to pronounce the words on the page, but understand them. In order to do this, we started our children reading at a very young age, about 3 years old. We would sit daily, for short periods of time, teaching them to read basic words and then advancing them at their own pace. As they began to read on their own, we made sure they knew where the Dictionary and Thesaurus were. They were taught to look up words for themselves and learn their meanings. We also steered them toward books that would increase their vocabulary and advance them in their comprehension. After a book was read, would we talk about it. Did they understand the book? Did they understand the message the author was trying to get across?

‘Riting- Good writing skills go far beyond penmanship and the ability to write several paragraphs. We wanted our children to be able to write in such a way, that they not only could get their point across but make it interesting and compelling while doing so. In order to help them learn to write better, we not only give them lessons in grammar and penmanship, we also have creative writing exercises which force them to look at common, every objects in a new light. Previous topics have included trees, cats, birds, the art of cards, and more. Our children have been encouraged to take these basic topics and find a way to make them interesting. They are free to explore all topics at any angle they choose. Cats have been explained not only as household pets with factual information about them, but instead as emotional creatures seeking to give comfort and perhaps at times being snobbish and aloof. Trees are not simply deciduous or evergreen, but as symbols of life and death. If they can learn to make even the most common items appealing and interesting, writing more in-depth papers will be much easier.

I am sure she is thinking she should have picked a smaller pumpkin.

Reasoning –  I am sure you were all thinking that I was going to write, ‘Rithmetic; weren’t you? Nope! To us, reasoning is the other – and perhaps the most important – skill we wanted our children to learn. All of their education would be for naught, if they didn’t know how to use their minds to think things through and come to logical conclusions about life. Our worldview is not only important to us, but is essential. It is why we do what we do! Our children need to know why they believe what they believe. They need to understand other people’s worldviews and how to break down arguments to their basic principles. They need to be able to assess a situation, make a wise decision, and then know how to act upon it. There are many ways to teach our children how to reason well. We have chosen to teach our children logic, apologetics, and, yes, arithmetic. Logic will teach them to think well, Apologetics to know why they believe what they believe, and Arithmetic to work through basic day-to-day life. Each has a functional purpose and is a necessity. Think logic and apologetics need to wait until high school? Think again! There are great ways to start teaching these now! A couple of great resources are Kids4Truth and Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door. These resources can be used for kids as young as six and seven.

The truth is every education will have “gaps”. There is always going to be a subject that wasn’t covered perfectly or thoroughly. While I am sure there are a number of ways to approach home education, we felt that if these basic areas were taught and taught well, our children would be prepared for life. If our children can read, write and think well; they would be fully capable of doing whatever the Lord called them to. The rest is just details.

“Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.”
~ Proverbs 4:13

Your Turn!: What is your family’s main focus in learning?

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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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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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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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