Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Book Series I Read As A Kid



If you are expecting this list to be populated with all the "children's classics", think again, my friends!  When I was in elementary school I mostly read a few series that captured my attention at the time.  I don't think they'd be considered great works of children's literature, but they did get me reading!  Just for fun, today I thought I'd share a few of the book series I remember reading as a kid.





The Saddle Club Series - These are some of the first books I remember being interested in, ever.  I think what drew me in was not so much the stories, but the collectible cards that came with each book.  Not to mention that I met my closest elementary school friend because she was also reading the Saddle Club series.  They were basically just stories about girls and their horses, and I remember very little of them now.  Like I said, I was in it for the cards.



American Girl Series - Did anyone in my generation not read one of the American Girl book series?  My favorite was always Felicity, because my favorite era of American History was the Revolutionary period, even back then.



Encyclopedia Brown - I used to love these books!  Each book had multiple stories - mysteries with clues! And it wouldn't tell you the answer at the end, you had to guess who you thought "did it" and turn to the back of the book to find out if you were right.  I was always so proud of myself when I picked the right culprit.



Grandma's Attic - Okay, this one is sort of a classic.  I mostly remember whichever book is the one where they pull an old quilt out of the attic, and each patch on the quilt has a different story.  Really cute stories.



American Adventure Series - I'm actually relieved to see you can still buy these!  Around the time we started homeschooling, my mom bought a couple of these American History books and assigned done of them to me for school.  I didn't get too excited about that one, but about a year down the road I got a hold of a book a little further in the series.  I was hooked.  Each book in the series follows the children of the characters in the previous book, so it's like one long family story down through all the eras of American History.  I used to save up my own money and march into the Christian bookstore with my $4 to buy the next book in the series.  Until a friend started loaning me the books, which I kind of regret now.  I wish I had kept buying them so I could have completed the series.  The ones I did buy are in a box under Gwen's bed, waiting for my children to get old enough to read them.




Nancy Drew - Obviously.  Gotta love Nancy Drew!


What did you like to read in elementary school?






What Made Me A Reader



I listen to a lot of homeschool and book-related podcasts, and a recurring theme seems to be the question "How do you turn your kids into readers?"  A lot has been said on the subject, most of it quite a bit more scholarly than what I am sharing here.  But whenever I hear this question come up, I start to think about my own childhood.  What made me love books?  What turned me into a reader?

I'm sure much of it has to do with some of those "right" things parents are supposed to do.  My mom always had an abundance of books around, and I used to love digging through the boxes of books she had hidden away in our basement.  I saw my parents reading frequently - usually when I came upstairs in the morning, my mom would be sitting at the table with a cup of tea, her Bible and devotional book stacked neatly next to her on the table (I could tell she had read God's Word first), and her nose in a book.  My dad would bring books when he knew we would have lots of leisure time (like on vacation), and it was fun to see him get involved in a good story.  

But one of my best book memories from my childhood is when my mom told me one evening that tonight was going to be a "reading night".



I didn't know what a reading night was, but I laid awake in bed as slowly all the lights in the house went out.  My brother and sister were in bed, even my dad was in bed, when my mom snuck stealthily into my room and told me to come with her.

We went up to the kitchen, and she pulled out two mugs and made us some tea.  She pulled out a Hershey's chocolate bar and gave me half.  We went to the living room and settled onto the couches with our books.  I drank my peppermint tea and savored my chocolate as we each read a chapter of our books.

Once I was finished with my chapter, I put my book down and looked up to my mom grinning at me. "What happened in your chapter?" she asked.  And I told her all about what I had read (I don't remember the book, but I am willing to bet it was a Nancy Drew mystery).  We discussed my favorite parts of the book so far, and what I thought was going to happen.  Then she told me about her book, and what was happening in her story.

We continued our occasional reading nights all through my middle school and high school years.  I was the oldest, so I got to start reading night first, but I know my mom did reading nights with my siblings too.

Whenever the question comes up of how to make your kids into readers, my mom's reading nights always pop back into my brain. I can't pin down exactly what made me a reader, but I can pin down those reading nights as one of the things that made reading fun. 

It's a tradition I fully intend to pass down.  I'm counting the days until my kids are big enough to be reading chapter books, and I can mysteriously tell them that tonight is going to be a reading night.

The Four Tendencies Review

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You get a bonus book review today!  As you all know, I've been on a personality kick lately, and one of the personality books I picked up was The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin.  I haven't read anything else by her, but I've listened to a couple episodes of her podcast, and I heard her talking about this concept.  It seemed interesting, so I was excited to read the book!

In The Four Tendencies, Rubin presents a theory of how different people respond to expectations, both internal and external.  We have the Upholders (who respond well to internal and external expectations), Questioners (who resist external expectations only), Obligers (who resist internal expectations only), and Rebels (resist both external and internal expectations).  She argues that a person's "tendency" affects how they respond to everyday situations and interact with other people.  If you know other people's tendencies, you can present things in a way that will make sense to them and let them respond positively.  If you know your own tendency, you can implement strategies that will make it easier for you to form good habits.

I am a little skeptical about some of Rubin's claims (like tendencies being part of our personalities from birth - I don't know that there is a way to prove that), but the more I read of this book, the more her overall points made sense.  She covers each tendency in detail and gives examples of difficulties and strengths related to each tendency, how to relate to different tendencies, and how to improve your own life by working with your tendency instead of against it.

I learned that I'm an Obliger, and I'm pretty sure Derek is a Questioner - so we keep each other on the straight and narrow!  I kind of hate being an Obliger, as the tendency that has trouble saying no and can tend to run ragged and get resentful of all the external obligations that "must" be kept.  I had started to recognize this about myself even before I read this book, and it confirmed to me that for my tendency, it's a really good thing to be setting boundaries around my time and energy (as I've been trying to do this year), so I don't go into "obliger rebellion" as Rubin calls it.

Anyway, if you struggle with setting good habits, have conflicts with those in your life about what "should" be done, or just want to understand yourself and others a little better, this book was interesting!  This is a secular book, so not everything in it is something I'd condone or agree with, but overall I thought Rubin had some interesting things to say.  I'd recommend it for personality junkies for sure.

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

A Book You Should Read (And Brief Thoughts On Gender Roles In Church)




How's that for a blog post title?

A few years ago, I discovered a podcast produced by Moody Radio called Up For Debate.  It's a podcast where Christians on different sides of certain issues come together and have a "debate".  It's about as friendly as a debate show can get, and though I usually pretty strongly agree with one guest over the other, it has been helpful to me to understand different arguments on "gray areas" within Christian circles.  The host, Julie Roys, always wraps up the debates by giving her opinion, and I've come to really appreciate hearing what she has to say.

So, I found out Roys had written a book, and I decided to pick it up recently.  This is one of those reviews that is going to be hard to write, because I am just not sure I have the words.  There is just so much in this book (in a good way).

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In Redeeming The Feminine Soul  God's Surprising Vision For Womanhood, Roys shares her own story in discovering more about biblical femininity, and more personally, how it applies to her own life.  Her story starts out with her struggle in not really understanding or accepting her feminine nature in some ways, and how that lead her into discouragement related to her spiritual gifts and dangerous relationships.  However, God lead her to read more about the unique ways that masculinity and femininity reflect the character of God, and her perspective began to change.  She eventually got to the place where she could see the true value in the feminine that she was missing before.

On the way she tackles so many issues, like gender roles in the church, misogyny (not what you think), gender identity, feminism...like I said, there is a lot in this book.  I have a bit of commentary on gender roles in the church below, but first let me say that I thought this book was very well-done.  Roys keeps a good balance as she discusses these issues, while also not wavering on biblical truth, which is a brave thing to do in this culture.  Overall, I thought her arguments were very well thought out and presented, and she supported so much of what she said biblically and also with research.

This book was not a light skim-over of these issues, she took a surprisingly deep dive in a short amount of pages, and I left with so much to think about. For example...

My (Very) Brief Thoughts On Gender Roles In Church 

At one point in this book, Roys shares her struggles in coming to terms with biblical gender roles within the church.  She shares her story of feeling called to preaching, but not being allowed to, and the internal conflict that caused her.  Eventually she comes to a complimentarian understanding of gender roles in Scripture (meaning God created men and women to fill different roles that complement each other), and how these roles (especially in marriage) are a symbol or reflection of the relationship between God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit within the Trinity - particularly how the Son (Jesus) submits to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to the Son and the Father.  Our relationships as men and women, our very genders and their accompanying biblical roles, are meant to be a reflection of those relationships in the Trinity, and that is how we should be framing the whole “submission” issue. 

I am pretty familiar with all that already, but the part I found interesting and that made me think was when she also applied this understanding of being a reflection of the Trinity to gender roles within the church.  She presents the concept that men's and women’s roles within marriage and the family are meant to reflect God’s character and relationship in the Trinity, and that the church also reflects that as well by reflecting the family (this is biblically backed up by the way Paul refers to himself as a spiritual "father" of different congregations, etc.).  

Here she argues that though the main leadership biblically should be reserved for men in order to maintain that very important symbolism, women can be allowed to preach and teach as spiritual “mothers” in the church as well, while submitting to the leadership of the spiritual “fathers”, so not having ultimate authority over men in the church. This is to be done from a position of mutual love and respect between the men and women in the church, while also acknowledging and honoring their respective biblical roles.  

I never really thought about it that way before.  I’m still mulling it over, though I will say that in general I think it is fine for women to speak in church occasionally, even to the men - I grew up in a (conservative) church which occasionally heard presentations from our female missionaries when they were visiting on a Sunday morning, and women in the congregation were welcome to contribute to the church service during prayer, testimony time, etc.  There was a pretty beautiful respect of each other as brothers and sisters in Christ there, and the older I get, the more blessed I think I am to have experienced church as I did growing up.  I am supposing that this kind of thing may not be allowed in some conservative churches, but since I grew up in that kind of environment, Roys's understanding of this makes sense to me.  I agree that these occasions don’t constitute women having “authority” over the men, so they don’t contradict 2 Timothy 2.  

The one thing I don’t agree with Roys on though is when she implies that she thinks it’s fine for women to be given the title of “pastor” under a head pastor - I think the very word “pastor” conveys authority, and would seem to put men in the church under the woman’s authority, muddying the gender roles again.  This was the one sticky area in the book where I wasn't always sure where Roys was going, but like the rest of the book I thought she did a pretty good job of staying balanced and seeking truth from God's word, even if I don't 100% agree with her application.

Back To The Book

So that probably gives you an idea of what I mean when I say that each chapter was a deep-dive into these issues...I really don't know how this book is not much longer.  

She does discuss "healing ministry" in this book as well, and I felt that might need a note because I think the term is confusing - from what I gather, when she refers to healing ministry, she's not talking about something hokey but about biblical counseling ministries to help people overcome wounds from their past, whether they be emotional, sexual, etc.  I get a little leery of putting too much emphasis on psychology, but the way she described the healing ministry from which she received counseling put me more at ease, which included Bible study/prayer, and personal application and discussion/counseling within groups.  I did feel the term could get confusing though, which is why I put this little explanation of my take here.

I really appreciated the chapters on our culture's misogyny (hatred of the feminine that is often perpetuated by women today), and the chapter on motherhood was so personally encouraging to me - I know I will be going back to read that one again.  I'm not saying this book won't step on your toes in some way, because it probably will, but if you are ready to think more deeply about these issues and God's original design for us as women, this book just gave me so much to think about.  And she explains everything so much better than I am doing here, so if something I said seems confusing, I'd just say check out the book yourself and tell me what you think! I definitely recommend it.

(Also, I can count this review as part of my memory-keeping 31 Day Challenge, right?  I shared a memory from my childhood church, after all!)

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






Before You Hit Send Review

Note: Affiliate link below.

I picked up Before You Hit Send by Emerson Eggerichs 1) because I think Eggerichs usually has interesting points to make, and 2) couldn't we all use a little more help when it comes to thinking before we comment?  In person and online?  I think so.

This book wasn't quite what I expected, but I still had plenty to think about while I was reading it.  

I would say the title of this book is a little misleading in that it doesn't actually talk specifically about social media.  I was all ready to be self-righteous and nod my head as he gave reasons against social media rants, but this book focused more on interactions with people in general.  There were no self-righteous head nods as I realized that yes, I do have some of my own problems with each of the points he listed, and it challenged me to think a little more carefully about how I am communicating.

His focus in this book is to remind readers to ask themselves four questions (that you've probably heard) before speaking: Is it true?  Is it kind? Is it necessary?  Is it clear?

He takes a section for each question and shares different ways in which people may not be true, kind necessary, or clear in their communication.  I thought he did a good job of breaking things down and getting you to think about different ways that you may be falling into less-than-helpful communication habits - including some that weren't as obvious.  I think we can all think of an interaction where someone else was less than true, kind, necessary, or clear, but Eggerichs made me think about where I need to work on those areas, which made this book really helpful.

My only complaint is that some of his suggestions for what to say to different types of people about their communication didn't necessarily come off as kind to me, but that probably depends on the tone in which it is said (or maybe it's just because my personality is different than Eggerichs).

This book is definitely helpful if you want to become a more constructive communicator, so if it sounds interesting, check it out!  (Just don't expect a lot about social media.)

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

Somewhat Unexpected Joys



My, the last few weeks have been busy.  I think the nesting is officially upon us, and I've spent a lot of afternoons sorting through long-neglected corners of my house.  I've been trying to get things in order before this baby arrives, finishing projects, and spending a lot more time at home than I normally desire.  I'm typically an on-the-go type of person, but this pregnancy is bringing out the homebody in me, and I've been enjoying all our quiet days at home.  Actually I need the quiet days at home, because even a few hours out of the house these days leaves me exhausted!

All this being-at-home leaves me with a little more time to rediscover some simple joys.  These are a few things I've been surprised to be loving lately.

Sounds of the kids waking up from nap time.

Don't get me wrong, depending on the day and how exhausted I am this isn't always necessarily welcome, but the longer I'm a mama the more I like hearing my kids waking up from nap.  Maybe it's the fact that Wyatt doesn't nap at all anymore, so I've begun to let the "nap time is me time" idea go.  But seriously, they are so cute.  Some days they spring out of their rooms, cram their shoes on their little feet, and run outside.  Some days they are especially sleepy and wake up with mumbles and whines, and it's a prime opportunity to get some rare snuggle-time in.

Today, the kids have just burst out of the rooms after nap time and are upstairs right now, decorating the house with "fall stuff"; paper leaf and turkey creations that Wyatt put together while the others slept.  I am finding it really adorable.  I love that we've had this time to stay home and let their little creative juices flow.

Leggings.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm just not a leggings type of girl.  You will probably never find me in a grocery store in leggings or pajama pants.  I like some structure to my clothes.  So it's somewhat surprising how often I find myself reaching for my leggings lately.  Maybe it's because I am so sick of tugging on baggy maternity pants that won't stay up, or rolling down the band of maternity pants that are cutting into my bulging middle, but bring on the leggings!  Today I started out in jeans (they say to dress like you are going to be seen and you'll be more productive, right?), but now I'm sitting on my bed, typing in some glorious gray leggings, a tank top, and a chambray shirt.  Going-out appropriate?  (Not to me.)  But while pregnant-and-staying-home?  Complete bliss.

Making play dough.

I mentioned this on Instagram the other day, but it bears repeating here.  This summer, I was curious about Zdough, which is a scented play dough brand that was popping up on all the homeschool preschool feeds I follow.  I ordered some, and brought it out for the kids to play with the other day, and something about having play dough that smells good was just really fun for all of us.  In fact, pretty much anytime some normal thing can have a scent, I'm all over it.  

I popped back on Etsy the other day because I was thinking about getting some smaller tins for the kids' stockings this Christmas...and I realized that Zdough is only offering subscriptions right now since the owner is having a baby.  Which makes total sense, but also totally foiled my play dough plans.

This seemed like a good opportunity to just try to make my own, so I grabbed this recipe and gave it a whirl.  Then I made another batch.  And another.  I may have gotten carried away.

There is something weirdly therapeutic about making scented play dough.

So now we have three containers in our fridge, scented like pumpkin spice, almond, and orange cream (basically whatever flavorings or extracts I had in my cupboards).  The kids love it, and I weirdly love squishing it between my fingers too.  I promise I'm not turning into one of those wacko snowflakes who needs a safe space with play dough and puppy dogs in order to cope with life!  But if you have kids, use the excuse to try making play dough.  It's just kind of fun.

Bath stuff.

A few years ago, I purged my linen closet of all my bath products.  I was coming off of a stage of life where bath stuff was the go-to gift, and I just had way too much of it.  I figured that instead of limping along 8-year-old bottles of shower gel, I should just start from scratch and buy the stuff that I would really appreciate as a grown-up.  I still haven't really replaced the shower gel, but a few weeks ago I got a free $10 to spend at Ulta, and I chose bath stuff.  

Pretty much every time I have purchased C. Booth bath products I have not been disappointed.  Right now I have the Egyptian Argan Oil Body Butter and the Foaming Dry Body Polish And Cleanser.  Let me wax poetic for a moment, because I love this stuff.  It makes my skin feel clean and fresh and healthy and like I smell good (which is nice when my pregnant nose is picking up every molecule of weird scent from every corner of the world which I inhabit).

First, the body butter - I hate body butters that leave me feeling greased or sticky.  Heavy body butters usually get assigned to be my hand cream before I go to bed at night, and that's the only way I use them.  This is the stuff I actually use all over, because it feels light and refreshing on my skin.  And the smell is perfect - it doesn't smell like anything to me except clean.

Next, the body polish - this was a new product for me, but I'm so glad I splurged on it.  My skin has been feeling itchy lately, like it needed some exfoliating.  This is one of the more unique scrubs I've used - it actually is dry, like a powder, and I was a little taken aback when I opened the container.  But when you add a little water and rub it over your skin it doesn't feel like scrubbing with sugar.  It goes surprisingly far and does seem to foam a bit, and I like the smell.  It exfoliates without adding a layer of oil onto my skin.  It's just really nice stuff!  

Our math curriculum.

I mentioned in my first grade curriculum post that we are using RightStart this year, and more than once I've gushed to Derek about it in the evening when he gets home.  It just makes so much sense to me.  I think some people might have a hard time seeing where the curriculum is going with some of the activities, but I don't because it actually reflects how I think about numbers.  I can already see how Wyatt is grasping general math concepts and visualizing the numbers in his head, and it's kind of exciting to me!  I'm not necessarily a math person (though I did alright with it when I was in school), so I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying teaching Wyatt math.

Personality books.

Since my little Myers-Briggs "What AM I?!" mishap, I've picked up a few personality books and I am excited to read them.  I'm in the middle of one right now, and I'm hoping to get to the rest as soon as possible.  Reviews probably coming soon (also keep an eye on my Goodreads), but this is the list I'm working with right now (these are affiliate links):

Creative You: Using Your Personality Type To Thrive by Otto Kroeger (Have yet to start.)
Please Understand Me: Temperament, Character, Intelligence by David Kiersley (Have yet to start. Also, this is apparently a link to the second edition, and my library has the first...)
Reading People: How Seeing The World Through The Lens Of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel (Listened to Anne read the first chapter on her podcast and am anxiously awaiting my copy in the mail.  Also, the Kindle version is only $3 right now, so if you are interested, grab it!)
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (Almost done with it, and while I thought it was a bit hokey at first, it is making more and more sense now that I'm 3/4 of the way through the book.)

Maple pecan iced coffees.

The one on-the-go joy on this list.  Everyone loves pumpkin spice in the fall, but this girl is recently on a stricter budget, and I just can't swing $4-5 every time I want a coffee.  However, I have this horrible habit of thinking I need a coffee every time I'm running errands or heading to a playdate with the kids.  It's like the promise of the coffee is what gets me out the door and fuels my uncomfortable pregnant self to go to all the effort of strapping four kids into the car, then out of the car, then back into the car (repeat x amount of times).  

I was driving along running errands the other day, and decided to get something at Dunkin Donuts instead of the expensive-coffee-chain-that-shall-not-be-named.  I'm so glad I did, because they had their fall flavors out, and I struck coffee gold!  If you need a more affordable, and arguably more yummy, alternative to pumpkin spice, get yourself over to DD and try the maple pecan iced coffee!  It is so good.  I think I like it better than PSL, which was a happy and unexpected discovery.

Candy corn.

Of course.  Because it's fall.  I feel there is really no need for explanation here.  So maybe this little joy is the one that actually wasn't unexpected, but it's fall, so I have to mention candy corn.

What kinds of things are you surprised to be loving lately?





Loving My Actual Christmas



A little confession: I've struggled for the last several years to really enjoy the Christmas season.  Maybe it's the extra pressure that comes from being a mom and having more people to juggle, maybe expectations outside our immediate family have ramped up...I don't know, but no matter how much I prepare, the season still seems to be more stressful than I would like.

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Knowing this about myself, when I saw Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra Kuykendall, I knew I had to grab it.  Because I am self-aware enough to realize that I do need to take some pressure off myself and learn to love the actual Christmas I have, even if it doesn't look the way I want.

This book is less a how-to, and more of a personal memoir of how the author herself managed to enjoy her Christmas even amidst all the hustle and bustle.  Each chapter is centered around a week of the Christmas season and focuses on a theme - hope, love, joy, and peace.  She writes about how her actual Christmas season pans out as she tries to keep her focus on these different themes each week.  

It might seem like reading about someone else's Christmas experience wouldn't be overly helpful, but I actually found this whole book really encouraging.  Because it wasn't perfect, and she was busy, and she cried a couple times, but in the end she found she enjoyed the season more because amidst the busyness she took time to focus on her themes, and how they relate to the reason we celebrate in the first place!  

I loved how she ties it all back around to the nativity, and how God became a man in order to save us.  It wasn't preachy, just reflective, and it gave me hope that maybe this Christmas season I can find time to prepare my heart too.  That's really what I think I'm personally missing during December, the focus on Jesus's birth.  I've usually blamed it on not enough time or space to really reflect, but I have tried preparing early and the busyness still gets to me - I need to find time to focus on Christ in the midst of all the Christmas tasks, and this book encouraged me that it's possible.

(I also just have to say that I LOVE the idea of Christmastide that she includes in this book - i.e.. extending the Christmas celebration and reflection beyond the actual holiday.  I think this might provide me some of that space and time that I want so desperately at Christmas.)

The line that really got me was in the last part of this book:

"...I wondered if that's the point of this Christmas.  The over and over.  The message on repeat.  In all circumstances. Whether we acknowledge it or not, this message of "I love you" this love note of a Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes - more importantly, wrapped in skin - is to be the wave over us every year. "I love you."  And again, "I love you".  And a year later, when we've had a heck of a go at life and things aren't looking as we thought the would or should, "I love you" again." pg. 91

Isn't that a beautiful way to look at the Christmas season?  As a yearly reminder, a yearly "I love you" from the Lord.  I hope to take that attitude with me this year and leave some of the stress behind.

Overall, I recommend this book if you are consistently finding yourself stressed out every Christmas season - it encouraged me, and I'm hoping to take some of her ideas into the season in a couple months!

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

Recent Reads




I had every intention of doing a reading update every quarter this year...and that obviously didn't happen.  I've been meaning to write this post for the last six months.  Whoops!  I've been really enjoying reading everyone else's book round-ups lately, so I finally felt inspired to write up my thoughts.  These are a few of my most recent reads...excluding the books that I've already posted about on this blog.  To see everything I've read in 2017 so far, you can check out my Goodreads shelf (I write full reviews for every book I read on there).

Fiction

I've found that I typically can't handle really heavy or depressing fiction since I found out I was pregnant...so I've felt myself drawn to middle-grade fiction lately.  I think I've discovered a new favorite genre!  Not only can middle-grade fiction be surprisingly deep, but there is no danger of inappropriate language or situations, which I also have little patience for these days.

(Some affiliate links below...to help support my reading habits, you know!)




Flipped (5 stars) - If you've never seen this movie, GO RENT IT FROM THE LIBRARY RIGHT NOW!  It's an adorable coming of age/ middle school crush plot.  And I think I've mentioned before how I'm a sucker for coming of age stories.  The book is basically the movie in written form - they stuck really close to the book with the movie, so you could really read the book or see the movie and not miss much.  Needless to say, I loved every minute of it.




Wonder (4 stars) - This is coming out as a movie soon, so there's been some buzz around the book...and the audio was only $4, so I decided to try it.  I really enjoyed this story, about a boy with a facial deformity, and how he copes with it as he starts at a new school.  I totally fell in love with the characters in this book, and I thought it struck a nice balance between addressing more serious topics (like bullying) while still being fun to read (listen to), and not too painful for my pregnant sensibilities. I took off one star because of some references to reincarnation, which I thought parents should be aware of should their kids read this book.



 

Austenland/Midnight In Austenland (4 stars) - Total fluff.  I know it's total fluff.  But I loved every minute of these books too!  The plots of these books are based around a secretive vacation spot where women can go live for two weeks completely immersed in a Jane-Austen-era experience - included actors who romance them, so they can be just like an Austen heroine.  Some sexual innuendos in these books, but generally pretty mild compared to most secular fiction.  The plots were just too fun, I laughed out loud several times, and the endings were cute.  I liked the second one even better than the first, but start with the first.


 

The Ark Plan/Code Name Flood (4 stars) - These novels are set in the future, after biologists bring back the dinosaurs, and the dinosaurs take over the world, forcing mankind underground.  If that plot synopsis doesn't suck you in, I can't do anything for you.  Nothing too meaningful in these books, and some evolutionary references, but I could hardly put them down.




The Secret Keeper (5 stars) - I read grown-up fiction too, really!  This was my first Kate Morton book, and I'm kind of scared to fully dive into another one now, because I loved this book so much.  I'm not sure any of her other novels will compare.  The thing that really drove this up on my list of favorites this year was the way the book ended.  There was a twist, and I loved the way it all turned out.  I don't do sad endings.  See Goodreads review for full content disclaimers, but I really liked it.




The Husband's Secret (1.5 stars) - I keep trying Moriarty books because I liked What Alice Forgot so much, but I've generally been disappointed.  Nothing can measure up to Alice.  I really didn't like this one.  A lot more inappropriate content than some of her books, and I didn't like all the cheating.  It left me regretting the time I spent reading it.  Bleh.


Non-Fiction

I've read some pretty stellar non-fiction this year, and several of those books already received their own review on the blog, so please check them out here!   Here are a few more though.




Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide To Unshakeable Peace (5 stars) - I listened to the audio of this, and I thought there was a lot of encouragement and practical advice for homeschool moms here.  I'll probably re-read this one again, to catch some of the stuff I missed on audio, but I found it really helpful to gear me up for starting homeschooling this fall.




Boundaries (4 stars) - This is practically a classic, but I've never read it before a couple months ago.  I picked it up because I've recognized that I am one of those people that often has trouble saying no, and I've been trying to get better at it this last year.  This book is about setting boundaries in your various relationships, and also with yourself.  I didn't agree with everything in it, but it was still an interesting read!  If you're into psychology at all, you'd also probably find this one interesting.




Escape (4 stars) - Prepare to be disturbed if you pick this one up!  Carolyn Jessop tells her story of escaping the fundamentalist Mormon church.  I found a lot of the (pretty graphically described) abuse in this book disturbing, but it was also hard to put down because I wanted to see how she finally escaped.  It ended on a bit of a hopeless note though, which didn't help with my general level of disturbedness (that's a word, right?) - but I did learn a lot about Mormonism, and it made me add Jessop to my prayer list.



Why Men Hate Going To Church (3.5 stars) - I've heard this author speak on a couple of my podcasts, so when the audio of this book went on sale, I grabbed it.  He brings up a lot of interesting points about why church (as in church services on Sunday) is not appealing to a lot of men.  The thing that bugged me about this book was that a lot of his points were supported by personal anecdotes...I thought the book would have been a lot stronger if he could have provided some research to back up his thoughts.  However, it did get me thinking about how churches are generally more geared toward women (which is pretty undeniable), and what to look for in a church if you want your man and/or sons to feel at home.  It came in pretty handy since we've been in a position of looking for a new church recently.




Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church And What You Can Do To Stop It (5 stars) - I read this book for free online, and you can too!  Or you can buy the Kindle version for only $3 right now.  We are young earth creationists and Ken Ham fans in this house - if you aren't, your toes may be stepped on with this book, I'm not going to lie.  Ham argues that a big reason many young people have left church is because they do not take a strong view on the authority of Scripture (including Genesis) - and he presents evidence that they are picking this up because of a weakened view of Scripture in our churches (and homes).  Unlike the book above, this one was really well supported by a survey study, and Ham breaks down the results and gives his opinion on where we are going wrong.  I found it really fascinating, and once again, the points he made were good to think about as we were picking a new church.




Currently, I am reading World Religions And Cults: Volume One by Bodie Hodge (really interesting and informative so far), Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra KuyKendall (I need as much help as I can get in this area), and More Than Just Making It by Erin Odom (financial stuff, which I could also use help with since our budget is a lot more restricted this year).  I've also abandoned many books that just weren't doing it for me this summer (maybe those deserve an extra post).

Have you read any of these? What have you been reading lately?

Homeschool Curriculum Picks For First Grade



I’ve been gearing up for this year of homeschooling for months now, and I’m happy to report that I finally have all my curriculum choices ironed out!  

I wrote last year about different homeschooling styles, and if you are familiar with homeschooling philosophies you’ll probably guess that my style (so far anyway) is an eclectic Charlotte Mason.  I like learning through real books, but I do use some workbooks and texts too, which is where the eclectic side of it comes in.

Without further ado, here are my choices for the first grade!  I have high hopes for this school year and am curious to see how all these choices work out for us!

(Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links.)

Science

For science this year we are working through Apologia Zoology 1: Flying Creatures Of The Fifth Day.  I did Apologia science in high school when I was homeschooled and I LOVED it. I read through my science book just for fun sometimes - it was that good.  I was really excited to see that Apologia had a science curriculum for elementary school as well!  I love how it not only teaches solid science, but is written from a biblical worldview.  It points out where science and the Bible intersect, and I love that!  Wyatt is also very interested in “flying things”, particularly birds, so I think he’ll soak this science book up.

Some of the assignments/concepts are probably a bit much for a first grader, so we are just going to work through as much of it as we can, and I plan on keeping the book to repeat in a few years.  This science curriculum is really rich, so I think he’ll get a ton out of it even if we do it in a future year.

Since we will be doing a lighter version of Apologia to fit our level, I am also planning on alternating and incorporating some lessons from Building Foundations Of Scientific Understanding.  I’d say this book is more of a guide for teaching science, but I really like how the lessons are laid out to build on each concept and teach the scientific method.  I think this will be a great guide to use especially in the middle of the winter when birds and insects become a little more scarce.

Math

For math, I decided to go with Rightstart this year.  Over the last year I’ve started to figure out Wyatt’s learning style a bit, and I think he will do well with the manipulative and games that are used in the Rightstart curriculum.  A lot of friends use Math-U-See because of the manipulatives, and I was considering that one because I really like Steve Demme - but I’ll be honest, sometimes the way he visualizes the math in that curriculum confuses ME (and I already know how to multiply/divide, etc).  I went with Rightstart because it looked a little more doable for ME as the teacher, and because I think Wyatt will really enjoy the games that reinforce the concepts. I also like that Rightstart is a bit of a “spiral” math curriculum (as opposed to a “linear” curriculum like Math-U-See) in that it circles back to concepts, because I think we will all need the review to really tie everything together.  

If you know anything about Rightstart though, you know that it is NOT cheap.  I would have paid the full price because I am really thinking this will work for Wyatt, but I was so blessed to find it used at a used curriculum sale for about a quarter of the price!  

I also got a math workbook, called Math Lessons For A Living Education, because I think in those couple months after the baby comes this will be a great fill-in.  It’s a book that introduces math concepts through stories, and will be an easy thing to do with Wyatt sitting next to me on the couch while nursing Baby or whatever.  I wanted to get this just to make things a little simpler on myself until I can get back into a regular routine again after the baby.  This book can be a full curriculum itself, but I think we’ll be using it as a fill-in/review this year since it’s an odd school year for our family - and I’ll hang on to it for Gwen, because she is definitely a workbook girl!

History

I am probably most excited about teaching history to Wyatt this year, because I decided to go with Beautiful Feet Books!  I got a big box of beautiful REAL books to read to the kids, with all kinds of wonderful stories about people and events from history.  Beautiful Feet Books sends all the books I need along with a study guide with a schedule, questions and assignments for the students, etc.  This curriculum can be done in one year or two, and we will definitely be stretching it out for two years.  We’re doing the Early American History 1 course, and I’ll do another vlog soon to show you all the books.



Reading/Writing

For reading and writing we are continuing on with Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons until we finish it  - though we’ll see how it goes.  I loved the first part of this book, but I find myself getting annoyed the further into it we get, because a lot of it is really repetitive, and my Type-A side is irritated that we’re already moving on to two-syllable words and consonant blends before we even cover all the basic consonant sounds.  It makes it tricky to incorporate most early reader books using this curriculum because a lot of basic sounds/rules aren’t covered until later.  I’m adding in phonics rules and sounds as I deem appropriate.  We are also working in some Bob Books for days when Wyatt (and I) get sick of using the same old reading book.

Either way, we will finish this book before the end of this semester, so we’ll roll into Rod and Staff’s first grade reading curriculum after that.  Rod and Staff incorporates workbooks and readers, but what I really love about Rod and Staff is how Bible-focused the curriculum is. Wyatt has also enjoyed their preschool and kindergarten workbooks in the past year, so I think he’ll like that aspect.

For writing practice I ordered Teach Your Child To Read, Write, And Spell 100 Easy Bible Verses to use as a companion to the Teach Your Child To Read Book, because I love how the whole point of it is to get your kids memorizing and writing Bible verses.

Language Arts

I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do for Language Arts, because a lot of grammar can’t really be covered until a kid can, you know, READ (and write).  However, I found First Language Lessons For The Well-Trained Mind at the homeschool conference with basic language arts concepts that I can start to introduce now, even before the kids are independently reading and writing.  These lessons are simple and quick, and I think it looks really doable.

Bible

I agonized a bit over what to do for Bible this year, because in a way Bible is incorporated into every subject.  Everything can be related back to Scripture and our faith in Jesus, and I intend to teach that way.  However, I did want something more specific particularly for myself, to make sure I won’t start to neglect spiritual instruction in the midst of the busyness of all the day-to-day subjects.  

I went to Cathy Duffy’s site and started looking through Bible curricula, and I landed was interested in Bible Treasures, which covers Genesis to Ruth in the first grade year, but after ordering it and looking through it, I decided against it.  I didn’t like how it explained salvation (it almost made it sound works-based).  I could have worked with it and explained things better to the kids as we worked through it, but I have a tendency to get irritated when books geared toward children don’t explain these concepts well.  So I sent it back and now I have no Bible curriculum to work with after all.  

We are currently reading through some of our Bible storybooks, reading from scripture, and learning catechism questions, which is great, but not exactly the well-organized plan I was hoping for.  If anyone has any suggestions for a Bible curriculum, I’m all ears!



Extras

I'm planning our Fridays to be the day for extras - including poetry, cooking lessons (with Usborne's Start To Cook), crafts and art lessons, and maybe some music/composer exposure (using Spotify and My First Classical Music Book).  I'm planning to loop schedule all these different things, so we won't be doing each thing every week.


So there you go!  Our curriculum list.  you may have noticed that for several of the subjects I bought two resources instead of just picking one - which, I’m going to be honest, may be a mistake.  I’ve heard it said that you should specifically NOT buy extras, because it is likely that you will never use them.  However, for the subjects that I bought two curricula it was either because one of the curricula will only take us through half the year, or because I needed something less fussy to use in the couple months after the baby is born.  The exception is science, but we’re just going to play that one by ear and see which curricula sticks (if our jump-start this summer is any indication, it will be Apologia).  I do think that between this year and next year we will end up using all this curricula though, and I’m excited about our choices!

Homeschool moms - what curriculum are you using this year?


Books For Littles - Night, Night Train Review



 
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I am preparing a post for next week about homeschooling and all our curriculum choices - it's exciting having older kids and introducing them to some of the books I loved as a kid!  I am loving that we get to dip our toes into chapter books, and when my kids recognize a literary character my heart is just so happy.

However, one thing I am trying to be cognizant of is that while I am a mom to an elementary school kid now...I am also still a mom to toddlers and preschoolers.  And they need some books geared toward them too.  I'm trying to make sure I make time to read books that are on their level during our homeschool day too!



Tommy Nelson has so many adorable books for younger kiddos, and my recent favorite is Night Night, Train by Amy Parker.  This book goes through different night-time routines as the characters prepare to board the train to "Sleeptown".  All in rhyme!  (I am particularly fond of books that rhyme.) If that doesn't give you an idea of how cute this book is, let's look at some pictures, shall we?




Not only are the illustrations adorable, but this book is about trains!  Trains are Clyde's current favorite subject, and one of the transportation words that Clarice has latched onto, so this book is perfect for our family right now.  We'll definitely be incorporating it into our nighttime routine!

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


Praying For Girls Review



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I wrote a couple months ago about verses I want to pray for my daughters, and I mentioned in that post that I wish someone would write a book about praying for girls - well, little did I know that book was in the works!  I snagged Praying For Girls by Terri Lynne Underwood as soon as I saw it, because it seemed so timely.

This book covers 20 different prayers to pray specifically for our girls.  Each chapter starts with a personal story and commentary from the author, then moves into fill-in-the-blank prayers (a pre-written prayer where you can insert your daughter's name).  Each chapter closes with a section for moms (since we often struggle with the same things we are praying for our daughters!), and a practical suggestion section, with activities for opening up the conversation with our "little", "middle", and "big" girls.

I really liked the idea of this book and the way it was organized.  I thought the author brought up a lot of specific things to pray for girls that I wouldn't have thought about.  Though I was a girl once, I often forget just how many emotions and struggles I had as a girl - and this book was a good reminder for me to try to put myself back there when I'm raising my daughters, so I can remember the kind of things they are likely going through and pray for them!

Still, I kept having mixed feelings about this book as I read it.  At times I really appreciated what the author was saying thought this was a great guide.  At other times, I felt like it was missing...something.  I think in a lot of ways this book focused so intently on struggles girls may have in their growing-up years, and part of what was missing for me was a more wide-angle view of not only their current struggles, but praying for the kind of women we want our daughters to become.  Maybe not everyone will agree with me on that, but it's the closest I can get to explaining what wasn't quite working for me.  I wanted focus not only on the feel-good prayers for our girls (ex: knowing she's loved, loving others, having an undivided heart for the Lord), but also for qualities of character (love for truth, courage, honesty, etc).  I felt this book was a little more focused on the former, which are certainly important things!  But when I think about the women I hope my girls will become I also largely think about praying they will be women of character, so I would have liked more character-qualities addressed here too.

I also thought the author shared an awful lot about her daughter's struggles in this book, and I found myself wincing at times and hoping that she got her daughter's permission to share certain things!  She probably did, but I can't remember if she spelled that out for the reader.  

Overall, I would recommend this book, but I think a more general praying-for-children book would be a good companion read as well!

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

The Lucky Few Review



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I'm not sure what made me pick up The Lucky Few by Heather Avis.  I didn't follow her Instagram account, and had never heard of her before.  But I am so glad I grabbed this book!

In The Lucky Few, Heather tells her motherhood story - how she struggled with infertility, finally decided on adoption, only to discover that God was leading her and her husband to adopt a little girl with Down Syndrome.  

The author really tells this story well - even when she was describing the more ordinary bits of motherhood I found myself completely caught up in the book.  This is not only an interesting story, but also a powerful testimony of the beautiful things God can do with someone who is willing to take the gifts He is offering, even when they may not look they way we thought.

This book was a quick read, and uplifting and encouraging.  I highly recommend it!

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

The Most Misused Stories In The Bible (Highly Recommend)



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I saw this book, and the title intrigued me.  I wanted to know "The Most Misused Stories In The Bible"!  I am so glad I picked it up because this book exceeded my expectations.

Bargerhoff tackles so many issues and misinterpretations in this book, some that I was not even expecting.  However, the part that I was really pleased with is how he incorporates principles for proper biblical interpretation while sharing these stories.  He not only tells you how and why they are misunderstood, but how a proper Bible study method and interpretation of Scripture can help us avoid similar mistakes.

Everything in this book was biblically sound, the author shows the biblical support for his arguments about how certain Bible stories are misused, and he really got me thinking about new things with some of the stories he presented.  He also is not afraid to shy away from controversial topics, taking a strong stand on the truth of God's Word.

The drawback of having literally no complaints about a book is that the review ends up being rather short - but it's a pleasant problem to have.  This book was excellent, and I'd highly recommend it.  I think I'll be picking up the other book by the author, The Most Misused Verses In The Bible as well!

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

Sweetbriar Cottage Review



2.5/5 stars.

Whenever I see a new Denise Hunter book up for review, I have to snag it because I always enjoy how her books are quick, easy reads.  She has a way of sucking me into the story, and even when I think I can't take the drama anymore, I somehow can't help myself from turning the pages!

In this Sweetbriar Cottage, Noah and Josephine thought they got a divorce 18 months ago - only to realize that a paperwork glitch resulted in them still be married.  Through the book we find out more about how their relationship started, how it ended, and glimpses into Josephine's troubled past.

I have to say, this wasn't my favorite book by Hunter.  The main character's past was pretty dark, involving r.ape, and subsequent promiscuity, all that she hid from her husband while they were married.  I thought Hunter handled it all in a tactful way, but it was more than I was expecting and the subsequent problems in Josephine and Noah's marriage got all psychological, more so than in her other books.  Hunter also has had a tendency in all her books to focus on the physical attraction between her characters too much for me, and it seemed especially pronounced in this book - I'm assuming because of the sexual sin in the character's past, and remembrances of previous intimacy in her marriage to Noah.  Like I said, it all ended up being too much.

Also, we find out a lot about Josephine and her past, but hardly anything about Noah's.  He didn't seem to have as much of a backstory, and I wish he had.

My final complaint about this book is that the salvation message was really weak.  Josephine asked Jesus "into her heart" as a child, but obviously turned away from Him.  She has a renewal of "faith" in this book, and "the cross" is briefly mentioned, but it is never clear what she is being saved from.  She is plagued by the guilt of her past sins in this book, but her sin is never called sin (neither is Noah's, as he acknowledges his lust several times) and it's never clarified that that's why Jesus died in the first place - to cleanse us of our sin when we repent and put our trust in Him.  He didn't die for us so we could feel less guilty about our sin, He died so He could take our sins away from us and give us His righteousness.  This wasn't communicated well at all, and that troubled me.  The message seemed to be about Jesus's "unconditional love" for us, but didn't address sin and repentance really at all - and that's pretty much crucial to salvation.  So I was disappointed in that.

All that said, I did shoot through this book.  Like I said, she always keeps me turning the pages to find out what happens.  But this book wasn't my favorite.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
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