Just A Kiss (A Review)



I have read several others of Denise Hunter's books, but I haven't picked one up in a while.  A couple weeks ago I just needed something light and happy to read, so I grabbed her latest, Just A Kiss.

This is the final book in the Summer Harbor series, and it was fun to see how some of the other characters ended up.  This book covers the youngest Callahan brother, Riley Callahan, and his return home from Afghanistan, where he lost a limb.  He is still pining after his best friend, Paige, but how can he pursue her when he doesn't feel like a whole man after losing his leg?

This book was just what I was looking for as far as being an easy read.  One thing I always like about Hunter's books is how she keeps the story moving in a natural, enjoyable way.  I will say that the two books I read in this series came off a little formulaic to me though.  Guy and girl are falling for each other, realize it, get together, something drives them apart, then they realize they can't live without each other and get back together.  I typically enjoy that kind of romance, and it could just be because I have been reading different sorts of books lately, but I found myself wishing she had changed it up a bit in this story.

However, I did enjoy this book.  The characters were likable, and I liked the ending.  If you are looking for a Christian (or even just clean) romance, definitely check Hunter's books out!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Why I Won't Be Watching "This Is Us"



Last night I watched the premiere of "This Is Us".  It's probably not a show that I would have jumped to watch, except that I saw so many people mentioning it on Facebook the day after.  A Christian author (who shall remain nameless) even touted it as the possible next "Parenthood", so I figured I had to check it out.


Why I Can't Recommend This One



Note: I don't recommend this book.

1/5 stars.

I have been wanting to add more poetry to my reading repertoire, and I recently got a review request for this poetry collection, The Journey Begins: A Walk Of Faith, so I jumped on it! The poetry is written by Lynn M. Strong, most of them written when he went through a difficult time when he was forced into early retirement   However, I was happy to see that the poems seemed to be applicable to any life stage and not specific to this particular trial.  Strong writes a short devotional/explanation of each poem.  I liked the style of his poetry and the way these poems would be easy to call to mind while going through a difficult circumstance. I
 enjoyed the poems in this book for the most part, and I did appreciate the Scripture the author included and some of the things he says about searching the Scriptures for what's true.  However...I can't recommend this book for the following reasons.

I was concerned because in several places there seemed to be echoes of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) as he talked about "the vision" that he wants to share (I never really figured out what he was talking about), a "true remnant" that he wants to be part of, and taking back "dominions" that have been lost. These are all things that are common themes in NAR "doctrine" , a movement that is not in line with Scripture at all.  It was subtle enough in this book that I wasn't really sure whether I was imagining it or not, but the fact that I can't figure out what he is referring to sometimes bothers me. I felt many of his verses were taken out of context and used in a way that made his true meaning vague. 

It's hard to say whether his meaning in some of these poems was really in line with Scripture or not because a lot of his references seemed too vague - like he personally would know what he meant (and maybe those in his movement?), but not the rest of us. As the book went on, he seemed to talk less about hearing God's Word through Scripture and instead referenced hearing "God's word" through other "vessels". He mentions an "Apostle" he met in ministry, and after that I really started to skim because this made me suspect that he is indeed involved with the NAR, which I believe is errant and dangerous. 

I'd encourage you to read more about NAR yourself (you can watch an overview video here, this was a good summary too, and this series on John MacArthur's blog might be a place to get some information too), because it is not in line with the Bible and is sneaking into more and more churches and ministries. 

I can't recommend this book because all this made me feel pretty suspicious about where the author is coming from. It's a pity, because some of the poems might have been good, but I can't endorse it with NAR beliefs mixed in.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion. 

Always My Baby




We are on the countdown to Clarice's first birthday, and I laid in bed last night thinking, How did this happen? Where did the last year go?  Clarice still seems so little to me, but she is growing so much!

Her little personality just keeps singing through more and more, and it cracks me up.  She's my little firecracker.  When she is unhappy, you know it, and when she is happy, you know it.  She screeches either way, and you have to look at her face to see whether she's happy or mad.  Most of the time it's happy though, and I love her little grin!  She has the sweetest smile, but when she is really amused by something she'll grin and scrunch her eyes - it almost looks like a grimace, but it's just her expression to show she's excited.



She is suddenly much more mobile, and she's been crawling and climbing on everything.  She's figured out how to crawl on her hands and knees, and she pulls up with furniture onto her feet now.  The first time I came in her room and found her standing, she scrunched her face and bounced up and down, so proud of herself.

Her hair has definitely started filling in, and she has little blond curls at the back of her head.  I love them so much, and hope they stick around for a while.  Her eyes are still bright blue, and I love seeing how different colors bring them out.



Clarice has four little teeth.  I have a feeling more will be popping through soon, but for now I love the four she has, the way they shine when she smiles.  She puts them to good use too, and she dug right into a full peach at the peach festival - I looked down and suddenly there was a two-tooth bite out of one of the peaches in our bag, so we let her have at it!



The other day I was swinging her at the park, and her little hands were white-knuckling the sides of the swing.  She looked up and gave me a face somewhere between afraid and excited, and it cracked me up.  Do you remember that movie, Chicken Run?  Her little afraid face made her face look just like that, barely smiling eyes and a little horizontal oval of a mouth with four little teeth in the middle.  It cracked me up and made me want to scoop her right up, but she decided the swing was fun and laughed then, so we continued on with it.  I do believe she's a fan now.



We stopped nursing last month.  I knew I would wean her sometime around one year, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized didn't need that kind of emotion to deal with when I would already be handling a bittersweet first birthday.  She had been nursing less and my supply was decreasing, and one day after church I was nursing her in her room and she fell asleep.  I was sitting there, praying about when to stop, and I just got this feeling like this would be a good time.  I didn't want to not remember her last time nursing; I didn't want it to peeter off without my noticing, until I was left wondering what happened.  So I memorized every little feature, her sweet little eyelashes and arms wrapped around me, and then I laid her down, closed the door to her room, and cried a little.  It was a good decision though.  I have the sweet memories to hold, and we are both enjoying a little more freedom.  She still falls asleep in my arms when I give her a bottle.



---

My Sweet Clarice,

I know you are getting bigger, but you still just seems like this little thing to me.  Your feet are still tiny, and I just have this mental picture of you as my tiny baby - but you're really not.  You're almost one.  As with all of you kids, I'm hanging on to every little bit of babyness in you that I can.  I love it when you snuggle with me, or fall asleep in my arms, or reach up your hands for me to pick you up.  I love the way you sit on my hip, or rub your eyes when you're tired.  I love the way you still hesitate when you crawl on your hands and knees.  I love the way you bury your little face against my chest when you are scared or hurt.  I'm hanging on to all of these evidences that you are still my itty bitty baby, because someday soon I'll turn around and realize you've become a toddler.  And I'll be sad then, but not too sad because you'll give me joy in every season - and because you should know, darling, that you'll always be my baby.  I love you more than words.

-Mama

Homeschool Philosophies (And Which One I'm Picking)


Is it just me, or are public schools starting earlier and earlier every year?  When I was growing up, I remember starting school the last week of August or the first week of September.  I have to admit, I kind of resent how schools start mid-August these days.  Even though I don’t have any children in public school, it still feels like it’s cutting the summer short.

In our house we believe summer lasts until the end of August, so we started our homeschool kindergarten this week!  And let’s just commiserate for a moment on the fact that my firstborn baby is starting kindergarten…

In honor of our first week of school, I thought I’d share with you all my homeschool teaching philosophy.  When I was a homeschool student I never even thought about things like choosing a curriculum and philosophy, but as I’ve been preparing to teach my own kids I have been thinking about it more and researching different educational philosophies.  I’d thought I’d share a little summary of what I’ve learned with you, including what I think about each philosophy.  If you hang in there until the end of this rather long post, I’ll reveal the method we’ll be utilizing!

(Warning: this post is long, but I’m going with it, because I know those of you that are interested in homeschooling philosophy will eat it up.  For those who aren’t already familiar with some of the “flavors” of homeschooling - I recommend watching “The Five Flavors Of Homeschooling” which is a great explanation, or checking out some of the books on my new homeschool mom’s book list!)



Charlotte Mason

The first real philosophy I started reading about was Charlotte Mason, and as I tell you more about it you will probably be able to guess why I like it.  Charlotte Mason was a teacher in England in the 1800’s, and she had a lot of things to say about education, but her biggest point was that learning should be done not through textbooks but through “living books” - basically high-quality books that you would read if you were actually interested in a subject.  Her philosophy also focused on giving kids a lot of time outside to explore nature and a firm grounding in the arts.

What I Like About It 

In case it isn’t already obvious, I LOVE the thought of learning through reading actual books!  I think this is how we learn most things as adults - when I want to learn something new, I pick up a few books on the subject, I don’t purchase a textbook.  I like the idea of teaching my kids how to find informational books to learn.  I especially like this philosophy for learning history and art, and I think it could be done well with some science topics as well.  

I also love that this method includes a lot of time reading aloud and having children recount what they remember from the book in either verbal or written form.  I want to read aloud to my kids a lot anyway as part of our schooling, and I think reciting back everything they remember is a good way to cement the information for them and practice communication skills.

The Charlotte Mason books I have read talked about creating a “book of centuries”, which is a book the kids create themselves to place different people and historical events in the appropriate pages for each century in their book.  I love how this could give kids a big picture of history and help them remember generally when things occurred because they wrote it down themselves in their book.

I also love the time spent outside that is emphasized with Charlotte Mason, though we are a bit limited based on the weather.

What I Don't Love

While I love the idea of teaching through living books, there are also things that would be hard to learn from that type of book.  Math is a good example.  I still haven’t figured out how learning math can fit into this philosophy, and I think we will have to resort to textbooks for subjects like that.

Another negative is time.  Teaching this way would take a lot of time.

Charlotte Mason Philosophy discourages forcing kids to memorize large amounts of information, which is a negative to me because I actually like the idea of having kids memorize important facts, and especially Bible verses.



Classical

Classical education is based on the idea of the “trivium”, grammer, logic, and rhetoric.  The thought process behind this is to take advantage of the natural development of children - younger children’s talent at memorizing, middle school children who like to argue anyway (so they might as well argue logically), and synthesizing that together for high school students as they learn to communicate their opinions.  The bottom line is that a lot of information is memorized in the young years, around middle school students start learning to reason, and in high school they study long hours and learn to synthesize all these skills together to form and argue their own opinions.

What I Like About It

The concept of the trivium does make sense to me, and I particularly like focusing on memorizing important facts for younger children.  That is the stage we are in, and I remember how easy it was to memorize things when I was in elementary school, so I like the idea of taking advantage of that during the younger years.  I also like the idea of teaching middle and high school students to think logically and debate well.

What I Don't Love

Classical education is really very intimidating to tackle without a program or guide.  One of the marks of classical education, especially for older students, is rigorous study.  I see the value in that, but I also feel intimidated just thinking about keeping up with it as a teacher, and I would hope it wouldn't take up so much of their time that they couldn't also pursue their interests.

Classical Conversations

You get a little bonus section here! I know several people who are part of Classical Conversations, which is a group-based organization that forms the basis for a classical education for it’s members.  Families meet each week to learn together and provide a chance for children to present or debate.  

I have mixed feelings when I think about this program.  There are aspects of it that I really like, and if we were to go with a classical model all the way, I think Classical Conversations would be a must.  However, I can’t quite make myself join for a couple reasons.

First, I am not thrilled with the format of circling through different periods of history every three years, which is the model classical education uses.  In this program kids will learn about ancient history, the middle ages, and modern history over the course of three years, and then they’ll circle back through again.  Honestly, when I start teaching my kids history, I want to start with American history and work backward.  I like the idea of starting young kids with the history of things that are most familiar to them, and then branching out from there.  I personally think it’s most important for my kids to learn the history of their own country first, and once they have a good grasp on that I’ll be ready to introduce other historical periods and countries, so ideally that is how I’d like to handle history education.

Second, I am not thrilled with some of the things that Classical Conversations treats as important to memorize in the younger years.  A lot of it is wonderful information, but some of it is not particularly important in my opinion, especially for young children.  I would much rather my kids memorize Bible verses than lists of mythical Greek gods.  It is more important to me that my child grows into an adult that loves and serves the Lord than an adult that knows how to win an argument.  In the younger years especially, I would much rather focus on instilling values and biblical truth than secular facts, and I just am not sure there is a lot of the former in CC.  For me, the perspective is a bit lacking with this program, at least from what I’ve heard of it so far.  I reserve the right to change my mind.


Unschooling

Unschooling is basically the philosophy that children don’t need a formal learning program.  Learning occurs every day, in everyday situations, and if you make the tools and opportunities available, children will teach themselves the things they need to know.

What I Don't Love 

I’m switching the order here and am going to tell you what I don’t love first.  I don’t love this as a complete learning philosophy.  I heard a speaker once quote Proverbs 29:15 in the context of unschooling.  This is what it says:

"The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother."

It is clearly not biblical to leave a child completely to himself.  Proverbs also speaks in many places about the value of hard work - and I don’t think that is something that a child learns without direction.  

Now to be fair, I think that most “unschoolers” are not actually leaving their children with no direction or education, so I wouldn’t say what they are doing is unbiblical unless they are truly neglecting any education of their children.  I think that is rare among unschoolers who are serious about preparing their children to be successful.

Overall, this philosophy is somewhat extreme to me, and there is too much variability.  It would be so stressful for me not to have some sort of guide to follow as I educate my children.  Some people make it work, but I don't think t's for me.

What I Like About It

That said, I think there is definitely something to be said for giving children enough time and space to learn what they actually want to learn.  I’ve already seen how much Wyatt can teach himself and how much information he can retain when a subject interests him.  The kid knows more about race cars than me.  I read the book Free To Learn this summer, which talks about an educational philosophy that I would liken to unschooling, and it opened my eyes to some ideas I had never considered before.  I like the idea of letting my kids have some time to pursue their interests and explore outside.

Traditional

Traditional schooling is basically what you would find at a school, only at home.  It uses mostly textbooks to teach, and tests to reinforce learning and measure performance. 

What I Like About It

There is a certain comfort in frequent tests, and tests are a good way to evaluate where a student may need to review.  Textbooks also have all the information in one place.

What I Don't Love 

While there are exceptions, many textbooks are rather dry and don’t exactly inspire love for the subject matter.





The Reveal: Eclectic Homeschooling

After all this research, I’ve come to the conclusion that we will be an eclectic homeschool family - meaning we will be using bits and pieces of several different educational philosophies and ultimately doing the things that work best for our family!

Below is a summary of how we will most likely incorporate parts of each philosophy.  I reserve the right to change my mind on any of this - obviously.  A perk of homeschooling is getting to experiment until you figure out what works best for your family and each child.

How We’ll Use Charlotte Mason

While we may still use textbooks as a guide, I definitely want to read a lot of living books with the kids, especially for learning history.  As they get older I love the idea of having them practice writing through recounting what information they retained from our reading.  I love the “book of centuries”, and we will definitely be incorporating that into our school, as well as spending as much time outside as we can get away with.

How We Will Use Classical

We will absolutely be using a lot of memory work in our kindergarten and elementary school homeschool!

How We Will Use Unschooling

I want to make sure to leave space in our day for the kids to learn about the things that interest them.  I also agree with the idea that every situation in any given day can be a learning opportunity if you take advantage of it, and I hope to do that as I teach my kids!

How We Will Use Traditional

I like the idea of textbooks and tests most for math, particularly in the higher grades.  Math is a subject that is very hard to teach for a lot of people, and while I don’t know how we’ll fare yet, I think when we get to more complicated math we’ll make use of textbooks and tests.  We may also do periodic tests with other subjects so I can evaluate where we may need to work a little harder.


These are the philosophy elements that I like right now, but that very likely might change as my kids grow and I figure out more about their learning styles.  We will adapt as we need to.  When it comes down to it, that is really the beauty of homeschooling - the flexibility.  We get to do what works for us - for me as a teacher, for the kids as students.  And no one falls through the cracks because I am their only teacher, and I am going to make sure they know what they need to know, no matter what methods we end up using.

What philosophy do you use in your homeschooling?  Or do you take bits and pieces like I do?



Kindergarten Goals (With Grit & Grace)




This week we are starting kindergarten with Wyatt!  What? Didn’t I just write his birth story two days ago?

I can’t believe my big boy is starting on his school journey already, and I am so excited about homeschooling!  I was homeschooled, and I have so many good memories associated with homeschooling.  I am excited to start on this stage of life with my own sweet family.  I have a big post tomorrow coming about my homeschool educational philosophy, but today I thought I would keep it simple and share a few of our goals for kindergarten this year.

My main goal for September is to get into a homeschool routine.  Developing good habits is going to be important for the kids to learn what to expect, but let’s be honest, good habits are going to be huge for me as a homeschool mom!  Up to this point our days have been largely unstructured.  We do whatever strikes my fancy that day.  This month I want to get into a routine, and that is going to require me to be consistent with our daily tasks.  It’s also going to require me to learn to say no, not just to outside events and requests that will mess with our schedule, but to my own impulsiveness too.

But if there is a year to work on this, it’s kindergarten!  People who do not have a background in homeschooling sometimes don’t realize right away that just because your child will be in a public kindergarten for 4+ hours a day, that does not mean it will take that long to do your schoolwork at home.  Everything that truly needs to be covered in Kindergarten can be done in about an hour a day - in a school environment a lot of time is spent just organizing children, distributing snacks, play time, rest time, etc.  I will share an update and give you more specifics on how much time we end up taking for school each day, but even if it takes us a couple hours, we will hopefully have at least half the day where we can still get out of the house if cabin fever hits.

So beyond the initial goal for the first month, my goals for the entire year include the things below.

Homeschool Kindergarten Goals

1. Teach my son to read (or at least get him well on the way to reading).  I am pretty flexible on this - if he isn’t reading independently by the end of the year, I’m not going to fret.  I have no doubt he will pick it up at some point, and a major goal for me within teaching him to read is to present reading as fun.  I love to read, and it’s very important to me that my kids learn to love reading as well, so I’m not going to push to the point that it’s no longer enjoyable for either of us.

2. Teach him to write his letters and spell his full name.  Writing comes after reading, so I’m not concerned with anything but his name at this point.

3. Number recognition (hopefully up to 100), telling time, and basic addition and subtraction.  If we cover all this for math I’ll be pretty happy.

4. Learn three Bible verses per month.  I would love to cover one Bible verse a week, but I am giving us a little wiggle room.  This is a prime age to work on memorization, and I’m looking forward to helping my kiddos hide some Bible verses in their hearts!  We will be doing this as a family, so the younger kids will participate too.

5. Read one chapter book together a month.  I want reading aloud to be a big part of our homeschooling, so I am hoping to get through one children’s chapter book a month.  If we read a chapter a day I think this is entirely doable.

6. Do one simple craft a week.  Maybe.  This is purely because my kids enjoy crafts, and I am not a crafty mom, so I need to set goals.

These goals are all flexible to me - if we don’t accomplish something, we’ll just work on it again next year.  That’s one thing I love about homeschooling - teaching your child is not a checklist, it’s a continuum.  There are great advantages to having the same teacher (me), because we can make sure we don’t inadvertently skip anything he needs to learn.  We will cover everything over time, and nothing will ultimately fall through the cracks like it potentially could if Wyatt had a different teacher every year.

Some of you overachievers may be thinking that your child has known how to do many of these things before Kindergarten - and that’s great!  But I will tell you that Wyatt doesn’t do all of these things now because of an intentional decision on my part.  

My Preschool Philosophy

My preschool philosophy is really simple - let them play.  

I have heard some kindergarten schools these days want kids to be practically reading when they start, and I don’t mind telling you that I think that’s ridiculous.  

I don’t push kindergarten skills on my kids when they are preschool aged for a few reasons:

1. There is very little time in childhood for children to play with no expectations.  I don’t want to put expectations on my children too young and steal that precious time from them.

2. Kids teach themselves a lot through play, especially in the early years.  And if my kids express an interest in learning something in the preschool years, I’ll do what I can to help them.  Wyatt has often asked about different letters or animals, sang the abc’s, and requested crafts or books before now, and I oblige; but mainly I just let my kids explore through their own play, and we learn as we go.

3. An early start doesn’t ensure excellence later.  We like to think it does, but kids who develop some of these academic skills early don’t necessarily do better than other kids when you look the course of their entire academic careers.  Things have a way of evening out.

4. It’s more important to me in the preschool years to focus on the Bible and character.  This doesn’t stop at kindergarten, obviously, but most of my teaching during preschool is about Bible stories, right and wrong, memory verses, and who Jesus is.  In the long run, having a strong foundation on those things is much more important that getting a jump start on reading.


So there you go, my preschool philosophy in a nutshell and our kindergarten goals!  Check back tomorrow for my post on different homeschooling methods and what we will probably be doing, and keep an eye out over the next couple months for posts on our curriculum choices and schedule.

Also, if you have any questions for me about homeschooling - now is a great time to ask!  I’ll incorporate some of my answers into future posts!




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My August goal was to get everything ready for Clarice’s first birthday party - and I think I am pretty prepared!  I just need to send out invitations and work on the menu - and take her one year pictures.  So I guess that sounds like alot, but trust me, it’s all under control.

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Time for the linkup!  Share YOUR goals below. 





Welcome to With Grit & Grace  – a monthly goal link-up focused on supporting each other as we work towards our goals! Please join us on the first Wednesday of each month at 7:00 a.m. EST to share your goals and progress for the week, month, or year. We are all about building a positive community; please remember to read, comment, and share the posts of others – and let them know you found them at With Grit & Grace!
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What You Need To Volunteer At A Pregnancy Resource Center





It was a little over a year ago now that I sat down and actually watched one of the videos from the Center For Medical Progress.  Up to that point I had just read articles about the videos, describing the callous behavior and illegal actions of Planned Parenthood officials.

But for some reason, that day I decided to click open the video and watch myself.  I watched an interview with an abortion worker.  Then the video changed, and they were walking into a lab.  And I put my hand over my eyes and peeked through every now and then.  I saw a bloody tray.  I saw the backs of Planned Parenthood employees as they worked.

And I peeked through my fingers and felt my baby kick right under my heart as one of them proclaimed "it's a boy!".

That baby boy would have been born a couple weeks after Clarice.

The tears started then, rolling down my cheeks as my girl rolled over in my womb.   I cried for that baby boy, whom some have named Emmett, who never had a chance to kick his mama, or cry, or laugh, or have a first birthday, or start kindergarten.  I cried for that mother, who will never know the joy he might have brought into her life.

I still want to throw up just thinking about it, and even though I have been pro-life as long as I've known about such things, I knew it was time to stop pretending this wasn't happening.   It was time to stop forgetting about it unless it was an election year. 

So a few months later, on New Year's Eve, I made a secret resolution.  This was the year I'd get involved.  This was the year I'd do something.

You'll see me talking a bit more about my pro-life beliefs on here as I get my thoughts together.  I have a post with ideas on different things you can do, including telling you a little bit more about the shirt I'm wearing (hint: donate here), but today I wanted to share one way I've tried to get involved in stopping abortion - volunteering with a pregnancy resource center.  It hasn't looked like I thought it would, and I have a bit of advice for those of you who have considered volunteering yourselves.

Head over to the Save The Storks blog to read about the one thing you should know before you offer to volunteer at your local pregnancy center!





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