Remember Who You Are



Do you remember that classic youth group illustration, where someone stands on a chair, and then they try to pull someone on the floor up onto the chair with them?  Inevitably the person on the floor ends up pulling the person on the chair down instead, and the whole point is to choose your companions well, because it's easier for someone to pull you down than for you to pull them up.

I think there is some truth to that idea, but I find myself remembering that illustration now as I am reading middle-grade books this month.  One more reason why I enjoy reading middle-grade books that I didn't mention the other day is that it allows me to screen books for my kids to someday read.  And as I finished a book recently, I realized it was a great example of how a book can either lift up a child's behavior by inspiring a desire to be more respectful and gentlemanly and kind, or it can bring a child's behavior down by glorifying bad character or poor attitudes.

There are different ways that books can elevate kids, either by giving an example of how they should be, or sometimes by giving an example of how they should not be.  I just remember that my favorite books from my childhood are the ones that gave me that feeling of wanting to be nobler, kinder, and wiser.  As I try to decide what books I'd like to hand to my kids someday, I want to evaluate each book and decide - "Do I think this book will lift my child up, or pull them down?"


( I have to get full mileage out of all the pretty snow pictures before winter is over, so humor me!)

I recently finished reading Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt recently, and it instantly made the list of books I must read to my kids someday.  There are several great quotes I could share, but there is one in particular I wanted to expand on a bit today.

First, briefly, this book follows an American military family after an inherited Butler unexpectedly shows up on their doorstep.  He swoops in and changes many things right away.  From the first day that the Butler starts driving the kids to school, he tells them as he's dropping them off "Make good decisions, and remember who you are."

Toward the end of the book, as Carter (the main character) finds himself struggling through some difficult things, this exchange happens:

"'Have a good day, Young Master Carter,' said the Butler.  'Make good decisions, and remember who loves you.'

I looked at him. ' I thought it was "remember who you are?''

The Butler looked back at me.  'It is the very same thing.'"



As soon as I read that line it rang true, and I copied it down into my bullet journal.  I've been thinking about it since then, and realized I love that so much because it's exactly what I think my parents did for me, and what I hope for my kids - that they would know who they are because they know who loves them.

Their dad and I love them.  I love my kids more than I can even express to you, dear reader, and I'm sure you could say the same about your kids.  But I've also realized recently that in many ways I need to do a better job of showing my kids how I love them by giving them my full attention, instead of constantly be distracted by lesser things, so this idea was personally convicting to me.  I want them to know every minute of the day that they are gifts to me, not burdens, and that I love them not just with my words but with my actions.

Their siblings love them.  Promoting good sibling relationships is a constant effort, and sometimes I get exhausted by it all.  I often end up exasperated and shouting down the hall "Work it out!"  There are good moments too, but I'm sure you can relate to the struggle.  I have to trust that eventually, with all the instruction on sticking by your siblings, it will soak through. And this quote is another reason why I think it's important.  I want them to know they not only have their dad and me, but they also have their siblings to count on and to love them.

Their Savior loves them.  Eventually Derek and I will pass away, and who can say if my kids will live near enough or be close enough to be there for each other their whole lives?  I would hope for that, but no one knows what the future holds.  So more importantly than anything else, I pray for them that they would turn to Christ, and I always want them to remember who they are - fearfully and wonderfully made, redeemed, saved, made righteous through the blood of Jesus.  I want them to remember who loves them - Christ, their Savior, through whom and by whom and for whom all things are made, including them.  This is their anchor that will hold through every storm, this is what will keep them on track when the world seems to come down around them.

Remembering who they are.  Remembering who loves them.

I think teaching those two things is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their child.  



Who would have thought I would have picked up parenting lessons from a middle-grade book?  Another reason why they are worth reading, if they're good, I tell you!

What do you think about books elevating or worsening behavior?  What tests do you use for your kids' books?






How We Connect With Other Homeschoolers


How often do you connect with other homeschoolers? Are there alot in your community?

There are actually a decent amount of homeschoolers in our community, and that helps a ton, but I think connecting with other homeschoolers probably requires some effort no matter where you live.  Over the last couple years, I made the decision to get involved in a few things for the purpose of helping us meet other homeschool families.  So now there are a few ways that we connect with other homeschoolers:

1) Play dates and field trips with homeschooled friends.  I am very blessed to have so many mom-friends that have also decided to homeschool their kids.  I always knew my sister would be in the homeschooling trenches with me, and so we will always have cousins to plan things with, which is a huge blessing.  Even having one other person in your life who is also homeschooling is a huge encouragement.  And then I was pleasantly surprised when my kids reached school-age and I realized that several of my close mom-friends were also planning on homeschooling their kids!  We plan field trips and playdates with our homeschooled friends about 1-2 times a month.

 (Pictures from a hike with our friends last fall!)

2) Co-op.  This year I joined a homeschool co-op (not Classical Conversations, someone always asks that - my thoughts on CC is another post altogether).  My kids are still so young, the co-op is not something I joined for academic reasons (thankfully it's a pretty laid-back co-op!).  I joined to make connections with some of the homeschoolers in my area, and to give us opportunities to do some things that we wouldn't do by ourselves (hello, frog dissections).  It's been nice for my kids to make other friends who are also homeschoolers, and I have found so many like-minded homeschooling mamas, many who are ahead of me in their schooling journeys.  I think it's a great advantage to get to know other homeschool moms who are just a little ahead of you - they have so many tips.

3) Community Bible Study.  We are actually taking a break from Bible study right now, for a few reasons.  But when we do participate in Bible study it's an opportunity to meet other homeschool families because our particular CBS has a homeschool program.  The homeschooled students study the same book of the Bible as us moms.  I think more CBS and Bible Study Fellowship groups have classes for the homeschooled students these days, so it's something to check into.  When I was growing up CBS is where I made many of my homeschool friends!

4) Online homeschool friends.  We live in an amazing time, when you can make good friends not just with people who live near you, but with people around the world.  In our family this is more useful for me than the kids; I do not let them use the internet or social media at this time.  However, for myself, I have made many homeschool mom friends through this very blog! We may not get to see each other or get our kids together, but we can text each other for encouragement, pick each others' brains about curriculum, etc.  Online friendships have been a huge blessing and encouragement to me.



My Tips On Finding Homeschool Friends

1) Connect with the homeschool families you do know about.  I'm assuming you probably know at least one other homeschool family in your area, and if you do, ask the mom if you can meet for coffee to chat about homeschooling.  You can get a lot of tips for groups and resources through other moms.  Don't be intimidated if it's an older mom, she probably can still help you connect with other moms in your stage, and she'd probably love to encourage you!

2) Connect with in-person groups by searching online.  I've also found that social media and online resources have been helpful for me to find different homeschool meetings, field trips, etc.  Check out organizations that have groups across the country, like Wild + Free.  Check with your state's major homeschool organizations and umbrella schools.  See if your town has a homeschool Facebook page.  You'll probably get some tips on where to connect with other families from one of these, so see what you can find and go from there.

3) Remember, friends who are not the exact same age as your kids still count.  It's great if you can connect with other families with kids the same age.  But friendships with kids a couple years older or younger are just as great, and I think it's actually good for kids to have friends from a wide range of ages.  To me, the most important aspect is finding families who are like-minded when it comes to worldview and have kids just somewhere in the vicinity of my kids in age.  It's a beautiful thing to see a group of kids of various ages playing together, taking care of the younger ones, and learning from the older kids.



4) Finally, pray for the Lord to send you some friends!  Pray that the Lord would send some homeschool friends for you and your kids that would be a source of mutual encouragement and support.  I've prayed this myself before!

Homeschool moms, how have you been able to meet and connect with other homeschoolers in your area?  Any tips?

Tea On A Tuesday Vol. 1



I'm a coffee person.  I always brew a pot when we have company, but frequently I'm the only one drinking it.  I don't really understand why so many people don't drink coffee, but if you came over I might brew a pot to help shed the chill from outside, or I might just put the kettle on and offer you a cup of tea instead.

I'd pull out my little specialty tins from David's Tea that my dear friend Felicia sent me for a late Christmas present, and I'd probably mentioned that I first met her through letters we started exchanging as 12 year olds.  How we still have never met, but we still manage a letter every six months and cross our fingers that one of these days we'll meet for real.  How she's a longtime, dear friend of mine even though I've never seen her face in person.

Not many people have had pen-pals these days, so you might think it's cool or you might not quite get it, but I'd probably mention how I wish snail mail wasn't such a thing of the past, and how I wish I was better at it myself.  All these words that we pound out and send off into the space of the internet are so...intangible.  There is something about a letter that you can hold in your hand, how you can see what kind of pen and stationary the person chose, see what their handwriting looks like, hear the words that people won't put out there for any person to see but that feel safe to write in a letter.  There is something special about that.



I'd pause and listen to your thoughts on the subject, and who knows where the conversation would take us, but I'm sure it would come back to a couple other things I've been thinking about lately.  

I might tell you how I've put myself on a 15 minute a day "Instagram diet".  I'm serious about it, and I had my husband put a passcode that I don't know to enforce my 15 minute limit.  

You might care less about all this because you aren't on Instagram, or you might look at me askew and say "wow" because you don't see why I'd take such measures.  And I'd explain that I realized how often I was escaping a boring day with mindless scrolling, and how I could see it was distracting me from my kids.  Distracting me from consistency in my Bible study, from things that are eternal, and from the legacy I want to leave (it's never too early to start thinking about your legacy).  And well, something just had to be done.  If I died tomorrow, I wouldn't want my kids to remember my face glued to my iPhone.  

Then I'd probably ask you if you print up pictures of your kids, and it would seem like a change of subject, but it's really not.  Because with all of this talk about tangible things, I'd probably mention how I want my kids to have pictures they can hold in their hands.  I'd talk about how I can never seem to get my act together with creating photo books, and I take an excessive amount of pictures so it's always felt like an insurmountable task to sort through them and print them all up.  You'd probably commiserate with me, because its probably a huge project for you too.  Then I'd tell you how I decided to print up my one favorite photo of each kid from each month.  Just one.  And how I'd like to accompany each photo with a short letter with my favorite memory of them from the month.  I'd tell you how I grabbed a basic composition book and wrote the rough-drafts of my five little letters already.  

Because printing some pictures is better than printing none.  And it's harder to blink and miss a childhood when you are keeping an eye out for a memory to record.



Then maybe I'd get away from all this heavy talk, and I'd ask you what you thought about the Bachelor, or whether you've been able to get outside with all this snow.  I'd ask what you've been up to lately, if you've read anything good.  

And we'd sit, and enjoy our tea, and visit face to face instead of through a screen.  And it would be lovely.

I wish I could have you all over for tea on a Tuesday.

---

Shoutout to Amanda for making me want to write a "visiting over a hot beverage" post again with her coffee date posts.  And feel free to steal the term "Tea On A Tuesday" if you like it, and write your own.  I lifted the phrase from a long-ago blogger that is no longer writing.  I don't think she'd mind if we bring it back.

Why We Keep A Traditional School Schedule




Do you take frequent breaks or stick to a fairly strict schedule?  Over the year, not daily.

Since being back in the homeschool world as a mom, I've noticed alot of homeschoolers doing "year round" homeschooling.  Instead of homeschooling during the fall and winter and taking the summer off, they take smaller breaks spread out over the whole year.  I totally understand why some homeschoolers choose to do this - you can get all the good vacation spots when they are cheaper, you are less likely to get tired and burned out because you are getting more frequent breaks throughout the year.  I think it's a really good option!

For our family though, we stick to a regular, traditional school schedule, with a mid-year break at Christmas.  Here is why.



1) It's how I grew up.  I was homeschooled from 4th grade through high school, and we always stuck to the traditional school schedule, so it's just what I'm used to.  Actually I'm used to the traditional school schedule with longer winter and summer breaks (no teacher in service days or snow days makes this possible).  Since it worked for me when I was growing up, and we don't have any particular reason o change it, I just haven't.

2)  We live in a fairly cold state.  Where we live, and at the altitude we live, summer is when it's nice and you want to be outside.  Winter lasts from about November to May, with a few weeks of muddy spring in between Winter and Summer.  I figure we might as well be doing school during the months when we are all stuck inside, and keep the summer months free for all the fun stuff.  If we lived in a more temperate climate, or somewhere where the summer months are unbearably hot, we'd probably rethink this.

3) I like having my kids off when public school kids are off.  This may or may not be an actual problem, but in my head, I'd hate for my kids to see other kids off for the summer when we are still plugging away at our schoolwork.  If we actually tried year-round schooling, we might feel like having breaks during quieter times would be worth the trade off, but back to point number two, summer is when it is nice around here. I don't want my kids to think that public school families have it better off when it comes to summer break, because around here, summer is when you want to be outside.



I usually try to work it out so we have a couple extra weeks at Christmas (our Christmas break is usually around four weeks), and we try to finish up by mid-May so we have a couple extra weeks of summer.  If we have a vacation in the middle of the school year, we usually try to make it up by planning to start school a week earlier in August, or by doing school on a few Saturdays, so that way we are still able to take trips whenever we'd like.

If you homeschool, do you homeschool year-round, or follow a traditional schedule? I think there are definitely advantages to both!







The Problem With Instagram



In case you live in a part of the country that lost power yesterday (not unlikely - we had a bomb cyclone here and many people lost power), let me fill you in - Instagram went down for about 8 hours yesterday.

I do actually go days without posting to Instagram, but I was in the middle of uploading a photo when Instagram went down.  Lots of people on the internet freaked out and didn't know what to do with themselves (I know this because I visited Twitter to confirm that it was actually down).  Some took the opportunity to perhaps ponder how dependent we have become on social media.  What if Instagram went down forever?  Lots of insta-celebrities would be nobodies once again, and many modern bloggers would lose their main source of income.  But for someone like me, who has enjoyed writing for so long and has spent the last couple years trying to bring old school blogging back, when I contemplated Instagram being lost forever, I was most saddened by the thought of all those lost words, lost stories - not lost Instagram stories, but lost stories from my life.

And that has made me rethink how much writing effort I am putting in on Instagram.

Yesterday reminded me that Instagram is not bulletproof, and it's not my website.  It could go belly-up tomorrow, and all that insta-effort that countless people have put in will have been for nothing.  And maybe that can be said of any online effort, even blogs, but blogs seem somehow more sturdy.   The time spent here seems more sturdy somehow, more real, more thoughtful, than anything I've done on Instagram.  The form of media does shape the content.  And I do wonder if the "instant" in Instagram means I'm spending too much time on a platform that in the end doesn't encourage depth in the first place.

And despite the best efforts of some of the accounts I follow, it really doesn't encourage depth.  I follow some who write long, well thought-out posts on Instagram, but if I'm honest I don't often take time to read them through on that platform.  I really appreciate a good quote, but I'd like to hear the quote with some more expansive personal thoughts even more.  And I can enjoy pictures just as well on a blog as on an app.

All that to say, I want my blog to get the best of my writing, and I want blogland to get the best of my browsing time.  I'll still pop on Instagram some, but I'd like to be on there less.  There is alot of noise on Instagram.  I'd like to take my effort back to an online space that encourages slow reading, that encourages more thoughtful posts, and more thoughtful reading. A platform that despite all the "blogging is dead" alarmism, still feels pretty sturdy to me.

 (The gorgeous, winter wonderland aftermath of our bomb cyclone!)

Did Instagram go down for you yesterday?  

(Also, I fully recognize there are many other problems with Instagram, and many good things too, so if you have other thoughts, please share!)


How To Be Opinionated In A Good Way



"I think Callie is smart, and has alot of good things to say, it's just hard to get it out of her!"

A friend told me this last week, referencing another conversation she had with our mutual friend.  I smiled and laughed, and thought it was a sweet thing of her to say, but I've been mulling it over since then.

Why is it hard to get "it" out of me?  And is that a good or bad thing?

---

I am a rather opinionated person.  I don't think it's bad to be an opinionated person - having an opinion means you have thought a topic through.  If someone doesn't have an opinion on something, they may have reached a neutral position, but I think more often they haven't researched the information enough or haven't thought through an issue.  When you do those two things thoroughly, you usually do form some sort of opinion.

But I think there is a difference between being opinionated in a good way, and being opinionated in a bad way.  When someone is opinionated in a bad way, they will give their opinions too much, anytime, anywhere.  When someone is opinionated in a good way, they know when and where is the right time to express their opinion.  The difference between them is a matter of wisdom.

This is something I'm constantly trying to work on, to be discerning about when something must be said, and when to stay quiet.  It's tricky business, but these are some things I usually try to keep in mind.

Also note, I'm mainly talking about conversations between believers in Christ about secondary issues.  Conversations with unbelievers would ideally be ultimately directed on pointing them to Christ, not arguing secondary issues like politics, parenting methods, educational choices, etc.  And it's never a bad time to tell someone the truth of the Gospel of Christ!



When To Speak

When Someone Asks Your Opinion

If someone is asking, they presumably really want to know.  I think it's still important to express any disagreement in a tactful and kind way, but if someone is asking, that's an obvious green light.

When Someone Needs Encouragement

There are times when we all get bogged down in how we think we should be doing things, or how we think things should be.  There are times when we want to do something that might seem crazy.  There are times when we get caught up in our own heads and start to think things are worse than they are.  There are times when we are trapped in a bad pattern, and don't know how to get out of it.  It takes some insight to be able to recognize these things in another person, and wisdom to know when it's the right time to speak.  But when you see that someone needs encouragement - to change something, to act, to be courageous, to be wise, to fight despair, to turn away from some sin - it might be time to speak up, risk stepping on some toes, and give that encouragement.

When Someone Is Saying Something That Is Contrary To Scripture

If you are speaking to a fellow believer in Christ, and something is said that does not line up with Scripture, I think it is a good thing to (gently) point that out.  As believers, we are meant to be discerning and sharpen each other in this way (Proverbs 27:17) - it's part of being the body of Christ. Of course to do this properly you need to know your Bible!

When You Trust The Person To Know Your Intentions And Appreciate A Friendly Discussion

For me, this category most often involves my immediate family and family of origin.  I know they are going to think the best of me, and that our relationship will survive, and even be stronger, after a lively discussion.  I do also give encouragement or my opinion about important matters to others, but my closest family and friends are the ones who get my opinion and input about smaller matters, because I can trust that they won't think the worst of me if we disagree about something small.

When Someone Is Giving Harmful Advice

There are times when someone is saying something that could potentially lead others into some sort of harm, and if that is the case I think it's in order to speak up.

When To Stay Silent

When You Think Someone NEEDS Your Advice

If you are thinking that a friend or family member needs to hear your advice on something, I'd proceed with caution.  The Bible warns us about trying to take a splinter out of our brother's eye when we have a log in our own (Matthew 7:3-5).  We need to make sure we are not acting out of pride or self-righteousness, but truly and lovingly considering the other person as better than ourselves and looking after their best interests (Philippians 2:3-5).

When You Know You Would Be Speaking From A Desire To Show Off

I do this.  Sometimes I insert my opinion when it's not really needed because I want to show that I also have some knowledge on the subject.  I've gotten better at recognizing this pride in my heart and keeping my thoughts to myself when speaking up would mainly be from a desire to show something off.  No one wants to listen to a know-it-all anyway!  It is not glorious to seek one's own glory (Proverbs 25:27).  I struggle with this when it comes to sharing my opinions, but this could apply to conversations about possessions, experiences, your appearance, even your own good deeds - if there is even a little part of you that is saying something just to try to look good, rethink that comment.

When It Is A Difference Of Opinion That Is Not Of Eternal Importance

There are some things that are just not worth dividing over, because in light of eternity, they will mean nothing.  For the record, I do think alot of things that are common discussions DO have some eternal implications, and deserve some careful thought and discussion!  But things like breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, essential oils, eating organic, wearing makeup or not, etc. - not so much.  Those are just my pet examples, but use some discernment before you enter a discussion.  If it's not something God is going to specifically ask you about when you reach Heaven - probably not that important. 2 Timothy 2:23-26 warns us against foolish and ignorant disputes.

When You Would Be Speaking From Anger And Frustration

If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated about a topic, and you aren't sure you can discuss it in a calm, kind way, it's probably best to stay quiet.   Send a well-thought out (and kind) letter later if it's a topic that is really important.

When You See That Someone Is Being Stubbornly Foolish

There are foolish people out there, and when someone is being stubbornly foolish, don't even bother discussing topics with those people.  Proverbs warns us that we might look like a fool when we answer a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:4), which is almost unavoidable with people who are stubbornly being foolish, so I usually just stay away from those discussions.



And of course we should always make sure all these conversations are seasoned with grace and humility,  and realizing that Christians are allowed to have different opinions about issues that are not specifically addressed in Scripture.

I tend to think the wisest position is often to remain quiet (Proverbs 17:28 - probably why my friend thought I was "smart" ha!), so that's where I most often default, but the comment from my friend makes me rethink that a bit.  Because maybe sometimes people want my opinion.  I think I could probably benefit from remembering my own guidelines for situations when it's alright to speak up.  We aren't meant to get into fruitless discussions as fellow believers, but we are meant to sharpen each other on the things that matter and encourage one another.  I can't do that if I remain silent too often.

Of course, it might be hard to get my thoughts out of me in person, but you all are privy to my innermost thoughts and opinions on this blog all the time!  But this is my space, so I assume if you are here, you actually want to know.

What did I miss?  Any other rules of thumb you consider when deciding whether to insert your opinion or not?




How Do You Balance Homeschooling With Toddlers?



I received so many good questions about our homeschooling journey on Instagram recently that I decided to turn it into a little series!  I'm going to answer one question once or twice a week until we are done.  If you have any to add, please comment below!

How do you balance teaching one kid and managing other kids that are too young for school?

I get asked this question quite a bit.  I was honestly a little nervous myself about how to balance older kids and babies before we started homeschooling, but I've found it to be not as big of a deal as I thought it would be.  I touched on this question when I wrote about our routine in my mid-year homeschool update, but these are some things that have been helping us quite a bit.



1) I include the younger kids where possible.  For things like our daily Morning Time, Bible, and History, we do those subjects all together. The little kids love to sing and memorize just as much as the big kids.  Our history curriculum is made of picture books, and the little ones enjoy hearing the stories as well (I only make the big kids narrate back to me).  And Bible time is something I always want to do all together.

2) We do all-together subjects during mealtimes.  The little kids are alot quieter when they have food to keep them occupied.  I've also considered implementing play-dough mats, coloring books, bead-stringing, and other hand-busying activities for the little ones while I read, but I actually haven't had to resort to that yet because mealtimes have worked so well.



3)  We do one-on-one instruction during the little kids' nap/quiet time.  I've tried doing reading lessons and math while the little ones play in a different room - while possible, I've found it's a little more distracting to my big kids when I do that.  They wonder what fun they are missing out on.  I've mostly done individual instruction while the little ones are napping in the afternoon.  It extends our school day longer than if we did all our work in the morning, but having a quiet house and a more focused child is a worthy trade-off to me.  I imagine this will shift as the kids all get bigger.



4)  I know we don't need a four-hour chunk of time to do school.  I think I might have a little bit of an advantage here as a homeschool graduate myself, because I knew ahead of time that one of the perks of homeschooling is that you can get the work done whenever it works best for you.  This isn't public/private school.  You aren't running a school at your home - school is just incorporated into your life.  We do history lessons during mealtimes, math lessons on the couch, reading lessons in the car.  We break subjects up into bite-size chunks, take lots of breaks in between for playing and cleaning up messes, and put subjects off to the next day if everything gets too crazy and falls apart.  You are allowed to do that!  I wrote a while back about why I do not make daily plans - I make weekly plans, and that takes a ton of pressure off.  Instead of only having this one day to finish this one thing, I know I have the whole week.  That helps alot when you are trying to homeschool with little ones underfoot.


(All five of my babies, listening to Wyatt read in the playroom.  My heart just melts.)

Homeschool moms with babies - what do YOU do about the little ones while homeschooling?

Stuff I Like | February 2019


Can you tell my succulents are fake in this picture?  If you remember, I asked you all to help me figure out what to do with the ledge in this post, and I found these succulent planters.  They are still pretty even if they are fake, right?



A few things I enjoyed in February!


Herman Who?

As an average person, I have never taken a class in hermenuetics (the art and science of biblical interpretation), but after watching this DVD I feel like I have!  Todd Friel put out this mini-course on hermenuetics, and it's basically a college-level course condensed and brought to the average Christian in an entertaining way.  I love the different examples he gives of why hermeneutics is important, and I basically wish I could give a copy of Herman Who? out to every single Christian I know.  If everyone understood proper hermeneutics and took it seriously, we'd have so many less Christians caught up in false teaching and silliness.  Highly, highly recommend this course.  Derek and I have been watching it together in the evenings, and we have learned so much.  You can grab a physical or digital copy here.

I also have to note that pretty much anything Todd Friel puts out is gold around here.  They have one of their resources available to watch for free right now called "What Hath Darwin Wrought?" - just click here and go through the steps (donating is optional).  If you don't know the connections between darwinism, racism, and eugenics, you'll want to check it out.

The Greatest Gift 

This is a kids' book that my dear friend and penpal from childhood, Felicia, sent me  as part of her Christmas present.  I read it to the kids yesterday, and all of us LOVED it!  The illustrations are perfect, and the story is a retelling of the story of the widow with the two copper coins, from Mark 12.  It even has discussion questions in the back, so it was perfect for our Bible time!  I kind of want the next book in the series now.  Felicia's husband illustrated this book too, and wow, I was impressed.  It wouldn't be nearly as cute without the beautiful illustrating work!  You can check it out here.  I'm basically going to share too many pictures now, because I enjoyed the illustrations so much.










Serial Reader

This app is just the thing my reading life never knew it needed.  It serializes classic books.  You pic the ones you want, "subscribe", and it sends you a 10-15 minute reading "issue" each day.  Before you know it, you've read a classic book!  I love this app for so many reasons - it makes the classics feel more attainable, and I think it's so clever since many classic books were actually originally published as serials in magazines (including one of my current picks, North And South).  I am also reading The Secret Garden, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Our Mutual Friend, and The Wind In The Willows through the app right now.  I want to tackle Democracy In America next.  Have I mentioned all this is free?

The Astronaut Wives Club

I was at the library a couple weeks ago and spotted this TV mini-series on the wives of the first astronauts.  I have been watching it and it is so interesting!  The stories of these women sucked me in.  It leans a little feminist here and there (I am not a feminist in the modern sense), but overall I have really enjoyed it!  I also started listening to the audiobook, and it's just as good as the show.

This Article On Homeschooling

I don't know how I ran across this new blog, but Jane's article on 9 Reasons Why Homeschool Is A Blessing To Our Family - well, basically I could have written it myself.  I think often families are running away from something they don't like in the public school environment when they choose to homeschool, which is entirely valid - but I also love to hear from someone who, like me, is not just running away from something but running toward something that we see in homeschooling.

The Minimalist Home 

One more book!  Full disclosure: Once upon a time I was supposed to be on the launch team for this book, and I received my free launch team copy in the mail right after we moved.  I greatly underestimated how much I would NOT want to declutter right after moving and remodeling, so I did not read this book as quickly as I wanted - out of guilt, ha!  I'm slowly getting back into gently minimizing though, and this book is the perfect inspiration!  I am enjoying it so far.  If you need some more minimalist inspiration after your "tidying up" purge (am I the only one who didn't watch that special?), I'd recommend this one!  I'm finding The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker helpful and inspiring while also being realistic.  Full review coming as soon as I finish it (I've been listening to part of it on audio as well and the audiobook is great).



Do you have any new finds from February?

Why I Read Middle Grade Books (And You Should Too)



It's Middle Grade March!

If you have never watched the bookish corner of Youtube - affectionately referred to as "Booktube" - then you might not know that March is the month to read middle grade books!  All the cool kids are doing it.

I had actually not read many middle grade books since..well, middle school, until a couple years ago. I discovered Sarah Mackenzie's podcast, Read-Aloud Revival, and was inspired for the first time in many years to pick up a middle grade book, a book written for the 8-12 age group.  The one I picked was The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, which I read in the wee hours of the morning on my phone, when I was awake nursing Georgie after she was born.

After reading that book, I wondered why I ever stopped reading middle grade.



So I'm here today to tell you, if you haven't picked up a middle grade book in a while, you might consider finding a good one!  Here are a few things I appreciate in middle grade books as an adult.

1. They are generally clean.

If you have picked up any recently published adult fiction books that aren't Christian, you know of which I speak.  Some things I can overlook in my fiction, and some things I can't.  It's a bummer to get part way through a book and then have to put it down because they crossed the profanity/violence/sexual content line.  It's not good for my soul, as a believer in Christ, to be constantly immersed in things that are not pure, lovely, admirable, etc (Philippians 4:8).  Sometimes I just want a break from wading through smuttiness, and aside from Christian books which can generally be trusted, middle grade is a nice place to turn.

2. They deal with relevant themes (if they are good), while remaining hopeful.  

Just because a book is written for a younger age group, doesn't mean it's not going to have meaningful content.  Alot of the middle grade books that I've read have given me alot to think about.  They often deal with themes that even adults can relate to, like grief for example, but they more often retain a sense of hopefulness about them since they are written for kids.

3.  They are quick to read.

If you are struggling to get through books as an adult with a busy life (that's all of us, right?), middle grade is nice because middle grade books are quick to read.  If you are in a reading slump, middle grade is the way to go.

4.  They bring back memories!

So many middle grade books take me back to memories of a carefree stage of my life, when I was a kid figuring out who I was.  I have a weak spot for a good coming of age novel, and alot of middle-grade books have coming-of-age themes, while keeping it light and fun and inspiring (and clean).

5.  They give me a head start on screening books for my kids.

I try to write really thorough reviews of the middle-grade books that I read so I can remember any themes or content that I'll need to discuss with my kids when they eventually read these books.

All that to say, I love middle-grade, and give middle-grade a chance!  Middle Grade March is a good month to start.



Here is my reading list for Middle Grade March:

(Some affiliate links here.)

Pay Attention, Carter Jones and Lizzie And The Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt - I'm pretty much there for anything Schmidt writes after reading The Wednesday Wars.

Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos - I heard this one was quirky and fun and had a Schmidt-like flair to it!

Louisianna's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo - I read Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo a couple years ago, and this book is about one of the side characters.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall - Am I the only one who hasn't read this?  It feels like everyone has.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - I heard this book is like the game of Clue, so I obviously have to read it.

Famous Mistakes: Nancy Drew Diaries by Carolyn Keene - I have an abiding love for anything Nancy Drew, so I obviously have to see what this new series is doing with her - they better not mess up Nancy!  I'm also reading this to screen for Gwen to potentially read it someday.

Sweep: A Story Of A Girl And Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier - I'm not really into books that have anything to do with monsters, but this is the read-along they are doing on Booktube for Middle Grade March, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Inside Out And Back Again by Thanhha Lai - The first book I'm ever going to attempt that is written in verse (also potentially my last?  I'm not sure about this).

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia - I bought this last year at a library sale and need to see what it's all about!


If I focus I think I can definitely get through all of these in March - I told you, middle grade books are quick reads!

Have you read any of these?  Do you read middle grade books as an adult?  What is your favorite middle grade book?



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