Living Books in the Large Family: A Chat with Amy Roberts

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It’s time for another Living Books Consortium video, this time with special guest Amy Roberts! Tabitha and I have had the pleasure of knowing Amy in real life in addition to gleaning tips and inspiration from her blog RaisingArrows.net over the years. We were thrilled to have her join us and to get to catch up a bit.  🙂  We hope you’ll join us for a few laughs and be blessed to hear from Amy about how she has incorporated living books into her family’s homeschool from the beginning, seeking to encourage a love of reading and learning in her kids at every age and stage.

Enjoy!

For easy navigating: 

00:00 – 02:53  Intro and Inspiration
02:53 – 04:24  Curriculum and Living Books
04:24 – 12:02  Wide Range of Ages and Fitting in Read Aloud Time
12:02 – 13:44  What the Big Kids have Taken with Them
13:44 – 19:30  Tips for Enticing Young Readers and Keeping Voracious Readers in Books
19:30 – 31:55  Potpourri: Hard Books for…Babies?!? Science, History, Messes, and Gaps
31:52 –  End   Where to Find Amy Online

Be sure to check out Amy’s latest post on How to Choose Read-Alouds.

Books Mentioned: 

Wind in the Willows

Watership Down

Paradise Lost

Basic Economics

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Curriculum Mentioned: 

Tapestry of Grace

Peaceful PressThe Precious People and The Peaceful Preschool

Mystery of History

Story of the World

Ambleside Online

Apologia Science

Godly Homeschool Planning

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This post contains affiliate links. 

It’s planning season for many homeschool moms, myself included. While there are a lot of wonderful practical posts and resources out there to help with dreaming and scheming for the coming school year (and a couple excellent resources I’ll recommend at the end of this article), it’s easy to get focused on the logistical side of things and forget that even the most perfect planning system can fall short if it’s not humbly oriented toward the Lord.

Godly planning, of course, requires more than considering our children and taking stock of our resources. It requires considering our Creator and taking stock of our hearts.

That’s the essence of godliness–being mindful of God and aligning our hearts and lives to Him, for His glory. 

But how do we do that? How are we to be godly as we plan for the future?

Let’s dive in by first looking a little more closely at our definitions and purpose. Why before How (I promise the How is coming!).

Why: Two Kinds of Righteousness

It’s important to remember the difference between godliness and righteousness and how these terms apply to our planning process. Godliness is a life-altering devotion to God. Consider these words from Christian author Jerry Bridges: 

For the godly person, God is the center and focal point of his or her life. Every circumstance and every activity of life, whether in the temporal or spiritual realms, is viewed through the lens of this God-centeredness. …Everything we do is to be done to the glory of God. That is the mark of a godly person.

Righteousness means justice, or more simply doing what is right. It’s a good, noble, and necessary goal. But there also exists this thing called selfrighteousness, which ought to soberly remind us that the motivation for our right actions, or our right plans, makes a big difference. Godliness ought to be the source of that motivation. 

When we Christian homeschool moms make plans for school, we’re often aiming for righteousness. Often motivated by convictions about what is right–both before the Lord and for our families. This is good.

But if we pursue that righteousness as an end in itself, we can easily begin to operate solely in the practical outworking of our convictions, forgetting why we came to them in the first place. We risk swapping God-centeredness for work-centeredness, which can easily become a kind of self-centeredness.

My children. My plans. My time. My results. My reputation. My … glory.

It was supposed to be about God’s reputation. His glory. But righteousness without godliness becomes self-righteousness.

Let’s say that again: Righteousness without godliness becomes self-righteousness.

Planning without God-centeredness becomes self-centeredness. If we’ve gone down that path we know we need to repent, turn around, turn to God.

Jerry Bridges continues:

…Such a God-centeredness can be developed only in the context of an ever-growing intimate relationship with God. No one can genuinely desire to please God or glorify Him apart from such a relationship.

The first “step,” if you will, in godly planning is being in right relationship to God and growing in God-centeredness. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you know the gospel or “good news” of what Jesus has done to save you from sin is what puts you in right relationship with God. Keep coming back to that. Rest in that. Rest in grace. If you’re not really sure what all of that is about, please check out this simple and straightforward presentation here.

To sum up our WHY, we must be oriented toward God in our planning if we are to truly honor Him. The best-laid plans can either be tools for God’s glory or temptation toward our own. Keeping our hearts in check is essential to maintaining the good intentions of our convictions.

plans godliness home education

How: Looking Up and Following Through

At the risk of creating yet another checklist, here are five “steps” from my own reading and study to encourage you in godly planning–whether you’re just scratching down the first details or are about to tie it up with a pretty bow (or custom cover).

When Planning, Look Up:

ONE: Trust God’s goodness.

It’s difficult to align your priorities with someone you don’t trust. Now, we probably don’t wake up and say, “God isn’t good, I’m not going to trust Him today.” But we may find ourselves forgetting God is good, which can land us in one of two ditches along the path of godly planning: self-sufficient overconfidence and anxious worry. The remedy for each is to remember God’s goodness is still there and look up

The weight of our responsibility as moms and educators can overwhelm us. Real challenges may weigh on us. We think we’ve got to shoulder it ourselves, and we don’t feel up to the task. Enter anxious worry.

The lure of shiny curriculum can distract us with exaggerated promises. The act of making plans can make us feel like we’re in control. Like we have some power over the future. Like we have this thing whipped before we start. Enter self-sufficient overconfidence. 

We can even find ourselves hopping from one ditch to the other in the midst of the same planning season. Anxiously despairing of our situation turns to confident expectation that these new plans or new curricula will solve all of our problems. When things don’t go according to plan, we jump ditches again.

Without a good and sovereign God in view, we tend to celebrate our sense of control or else mourn the lack of the same. Looking to ourselves, we’re unstable, swinging from one ditch to the other at the whim of our circumstances or emotions as they waver from day to day or season to season.

But keeping the faith by remembering the goodness of God will steady us for the long haul.

The book of James has a surprising amount of continuity when it comes to the goodness of God. Look at this line up from chapter one:

We are to “count it all joy” when we face trials. They test our faith, but they’re also for our growth and endurance. This is the good that God intends in the trials He allows.

We are to ask for wisdom in faith that God “gives to all generously and without reproach.” God is a generous giver. He isn’t stingy with what He knows we need. He’s good.

There is a crown of life for those who persevere under trial–God has promised reward to those who love Him. He’s good.

We’re to recognize that temptation springs from within us–not from God. He doesn’t tempt anyone. In fact, every good thing given comes from Him. He’s good.

The anger of mom doesn’t achieve the righteousness of God–His ways are better. He’s good.

Behind James’ every call to repent and endure is a deep confidence in the goodness of God. Let’s make our plans with that same confidence, climbing out of the pitfalls of overconfidence and anxious worry to stand on solid ground. 

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
    He gently leads those that have young. [1]

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust. [2]

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord. [3]

When we see that God is good, we’ll want to seek His wisdom and aim for His glory

TWO: Seek God’s wisdom

Many homeschool parents recognize that education ought to be more than filling our kids’ minds with information. We want them to know how to properly sift through and apply information, whether in an academic setting or real life. What we really want for our kids is wisdom. And we’re bold enough to think that we can give it to them. But this is a tall order. Anyone who’s been at this parenting gig for a little while knows that children push the limits of what we thought we knew.

If we desire to raise silly kids into wise adults, we need to model the wisdom we wish to pass on. We need the wisdom of God.

If we are to wade through the sea of educational advice and resources available to us today and choose what fits our family and convictions without being “driven and tossed by every wave,” we must practice discernment. We need the wisdom of God.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so we ought to start there. In simple terms, the fear of the Lord is being mindful of God as He is in all His attributes and responding to Him with appropriate fear, awe, wonder, and respect.

The practical fallout of such a disposition toward God is to recognize that this wise, good, and powerful God has ordered the cosmos such that there are consequences for our actions. Orderliness and cause-and-effect relationships are woven into the fabric of the universe. There is purpose, there is reason, there is beauty, and there is Truth by which we ought to live our lives. Failing to live in accord with this Truth brings on the one hand hard knocks in this life and on the other judgment in the life to come.

Remembering that godliness is being God-centered in our thoughts and deeds, it’s clear that the fear of the Lord, and the wisdom derived from it, is an indispensable part of a godly life. 

But we’ve got to bring this lofty pursuit of wisdom down to desk-level, don’t we? How does this touch my planning pages and curriculum guides?

Wisdom involves putting things in their proper place, in their proper order–differentiating between the things that are truly important and those that are enticing red herrings.

God has revealed to us in His word what is right and good in His eyes. What does He have to say about children? About discipleship? About marriage and family life? If you’re a wife and mother, there’s pretty clear instruction to consider your husband, your children, and your home in this process.

It’s easy to think that our children and our selves are the only people involved in this education thing. But be careful not to cut your husband out of it. Biblically, he’s accountable for the training of his children. Make room for him, see what he thinks–you may find a great source of wisdom (or at least a sounding board) and freedom from all the voices on the internet that make you feel like you aren’t keeping up.

The scriptures don’t spell out a particular method of education, nor do they prescribe any kind of schedule. But they do give us principles, goals, and boundaries upon and within which we can order our homeschools in freedom. We don’t have to all choose the same method or materials, but we do need to make sure that the ones we choose (and how we plan to use them) are informed and perhaps even transformed by scripture.

To circle back around to James, if we need wisdom, we’ve got to ask. God is good. He will give it as we trust and seek Him for it.

THREE: Aim for God’s glory.

Trusting God’s goodness is good. Seeking His wisdom is, well, wise. But even in these we may think the purpose of God’s goodness and wisdom is all for us–to make us feel better and to smooth out our lives. It certainly can do those things, but the trajectory isn’t inward on self. Rather, the goodness of God and the wisdom we employ ought to show that He is good and wise and glorious. Aiming for our own comfort and saintliness as an end in itself means we’re exchanging the glory of God for our own. 

Likewise, in our planning and in our homeschools, we do well to recognize that we’re not raising children to be trophies of our success but arrows for the kingdom of God.

We know we want to be that city on a hill, the light of the world. And sometimes we make plans that are so idealistic it’s as though we think that the way to glorify God is to have perfect Ivy League children, a spotlessly clean house, and gourmet meals on the table each night. Wouldn’t that be shiny?

But when we come down from our ivory tower with our plans, we find that we can never reach that goal. The kids … aren’t perfect. Who knew? The house … is just mostly maintained. The meals … well, somehow we eat each day.

Maybe the purpose of God is not to get glory from self-satisfied creatures. Maybe what really glorifies God is not a family that looks like it has everything put together, but a family that gives thanks and praise to God as they seek to honor Him in all the ups and downs of ordinary life.

Maybe we need to adjust our aim.

As we realistically work out the details of our year, our months, our days, seeking to choose books and activities that honor God and fit our family, we’d do well to build on our trust in God’s goodness with thanks and praise, glorifying God with heart and voice.

Thank you, Father, for the people you’ve put in my charge. Thank you for the home you’ve given us. Thank you for the opportunity I have to be intimately involved in the growth and learning of my children. Thank you for the abundant resources I have at my disposal. Thank you for your Word and Spirit to guide me.

You are a Good Father, a wise Creator. You’ve made me and those around me in your image and for your praise. You’ve infused the world with order and beauty for us to enjoy and explore and discover. You are good and do good. You establish justice and You are the definition of love and righteousness. You supply our needs and give grace unmeasured. You are bigger than I can imagine, and yet you care for little ol’ me. You have given your Son for my salvation. You are good and gracious and kind. 

A godly heart recognizes God is worthy of thanks and praise in the midst of a serious planning session. But it also carries those things forward. Here’s where our WHY rolls up its sleeves and meets the mess of life. Godliness greatly effects not just HOW we make our plans, but also HOW we hold and execute them.

Plans in Place, Mind Your Follow Through:

FOUR: Hold those plans loosely and humbly.

“If the Lord wills we will live and also do this or that.” James reminds his readers in chapter four that our confidence doesn’t need to be in what we think we can make happen in the future. Our confidence ought to be rooted in … wait for it … the goodness and sovereignty of God.

“God is good” and “God is in control” can almost seem cliche in modern meme-saturated church culture. But that’s only the case if we don’t stop long enough to actually consider these truths. If we’re not meditating on the goodness, wisdom, and glory of God, knowing that His plans trump all and that His plans are, indeed, better than our own, we will struggle miserably when things don’t go our way.

We’ll likely struggle anyway, to be honest, but we can only struggle well if we have a godly perspective.

When it comes to the plans in our hands, we need to do more than look at what’s slated on the calendar. We need to number our days “…so that we may present to you a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Our plans may be ideal, even godly, but our expectations must also be in line with reality.

James calls our over-confident planning “arrogance” and insists “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Those words might not make us feel good. But we have a choice. We can either take such conviction as a downer and ignore it, continuing to allow the clouds of emotion and pride to obstruct our view, or we can take it as the wind that blows them away so that we can see clearly.

If we see God ruling for our good and His glory, we can more easily clear the air, relax our fists, and halt our grasping for control. Once we take a deep breath and accept reality, we begin to actually rejoice that God is in control and we’re not. A truth that didn’t feel good at first can become one of our greatest comforts.

Remembering we are faulty and finite puts us in a position to move forward with humility and good humor

Imagine your life is a folk dance. The fiddle begins to sing. And you begin dragging your loved ones across the floor, steamrolling them if they get in the way of your carefully choreographed moves, and grumbling when one trips or steps on your toes. This is a likely enough outcome if you imagine yourself as the caller. As though they’re all supposed to keep in step with you.

But God’s the Caller and you’re just another one of the dancers. A dancer who steps out of line sometimes. A dancer who has little feet following behind her own.

You know a lot more of the moves than your kids. You’ve practiced them longer. You’ve even made plans to optimize the effectiveness and enjoyment of the dance. But when the Caller changes the pace, you’ve got to follow. Insisting on your own way will only make a scene and get someone hurt.

Imagine the same scene with a humble heart:

When a little one gets their right and left foot mixed up, you remember what it’s like to miss a step and help them set it straight–but you do it with a laugh and a nudge to get back up, listen for the Caller, and enjoy the dance.

The freedom to enjoy the dance, to adapt to each change in the music, comes when we hold our plans loosely and humbly–because we trust in God’s goodness and know that He’s in control.

FIVE: Execute those plans with kindness and gentleness, by God’s grace.

Holding our plans loosely doesn’t mean we never look at them or try to make them work, and it sure doesn’t mean it’s cool to be lazy or haphazard. Putting our plans into action requires intention and consistency. But as we march forward, plans in hand, we seek to implement them in line with the fruit of the Spirit and in light of the fact that our priorities as homeschool moms are ultimately relational and not mechanical in nature.

When I think of not just the planning but the managing of our days, one of my favorite places to find inspiration is that often-resented Proverbs 31 woman:

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

Here’s a strong woman who wears a smile, pays attention, and gets things done. But  those two lines in the middle point to something more. Her joyful hustle and bustle to the tune of productivity isn’t off in some corner where she can enjoy the solace of personal achievement free from smudgy fingers and untimely interruptions. Nope. There are other people in her household, and her words to them are marked by wisdom and kindness

Ooph. Does that knock the wind out of you, too?

Our buddy James echoes this Proverbial link between wisdom and kindness–and he introduces it with a surprising warning: “Let not many of you become teachers…”

Woah, wait. Too late. We’re teachers.

Ah, but that means we ought to pay even closer attention to what he has to say:

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

…Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

Show? Deeds? …Gentleness? Where’s the dispensing of wisdom with many words and lectures? James doesn’t seem to mention that. It would seem true wisdom is clothed in our friend from the last section: humility.

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Tall. Order. Sounds an awful lot like the fruit of the Spirit, doesn’t it?

Is our teaching characterized by kindness? Do we pause our reactions and consider how to answer with the gentleness of wisdom, according to the need of the moment, to give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29)?

Does our kind intention toward our children permeate not just our lesson plans but also everyday ordinary moments?

The two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. If we’re at home with our families most of the time, it’s pretty obvious who those “others” are. Maybe that’s why Titus two urges older women first of all to encourage the younger women “to love their husbands, to love their children.”

We ought to plan to love our own but still love them even when those well-meant plans are foiled. 

I don’t know about you, but I need some help in this department.

This is why we sought God’s wisdom to begin with, and why we won’t be done with that practice anytime soon.

To act on our plans in keeping with the rule of love, we need the fruit of the Spirit. We need kindness. We need the gentleness of wisdom. And for it all we need the grace of God.

If that doesn’t motivate your prayer life I don’t know what will.

Apply: Condense, Remember, and Be Ready to Troubleshoot

Let’s condense the big ideas we’ve covered so that we can remember them in real-life situations. We said at the outset that godliness means being mindful of God and aligning our hearts and lives to Him, for His glory. In keeping with that, I’ve outlined five steps or concepts:

Trust God’s Goodness
Seek God’s Wisdom
Aim for God’s Glory
Hold Plans Loosely and Humbly
Execute Plans with Kindness and Gentleness, by the Grace of God

The first three big ideas involve “looking up”—-there’s our being mindful of God. And the last two apply to our “follow through”—-aligning our hearts and lives.

As a memory aid or perhaps a motto: We can be mindful of God in our planning by trusting God’s goodness, seeking God’s wisdom, and aiming for God’s glory. An easy way to keep these in order is to recognize that they (intentionally) correspond to a very familiar and very relevant passage (Prov. 3:5-6):

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

To remember the specific outworking of the last two steps, imagine you have all your plans on a clipboard (or a smartphone or tablet if you’re techie like that).
What are you doing with them? You’re holding them.
What are you doing when you take a step forward and give marching orders to your minions? You’re executing them (the plans, not the minions, mind you).
If you can visualize holding the clipboard and marching forward with it, all you need to do is ask how?
How do we hold our plans? Loosely and humbly.
How do we execute those plans? With kindness, gentleness, and grace.

And so we have another motto: We can align our hearts and lives for God’s glory as we hold our plans loosely and humbly and execute them with kindness and gentleness, by His grace.

That may seem repetitive, but it’s how I’ve been able to use these ideas to keep my heart in check (or reel it back in) this planning season. I hope it’ll help you, too.

Mamas, we can make the loveliest plans, but when lessons don’t come easily, chaos ensues, or the February blues strike, those plans aren’t what will make us godly. Our focus and response to those things will be the determining factor.

Watch over your heart with all diligence as you plan, and watch over it with all diligence as you move forward (Prov. 4:23). So that whether your plans roll out smoothly or blow up in your face, you maintain the disposition of a sinner saved by grace, of a daughter looking expectantly and dependently to her Heavenly Father, giving thanks and praise to Him.

I’m praying toward that end. May He give us grace to do it.

Recommended Resources

If this article has resonated with you and you’d like to dig deeper into how heart attitudes intersect with everyday life as a homeschool mom, I highly recommend The Art of Homeschooling e-course (accessible through Simply Convivial Membership).

If you’re still chomping at the bit for very practical help with school planning, check out Plan Your Year–I’ve used this process for several years now. Plan Your Year provides a step-by-step guide so that you can take these godly-big-picture why’s and how’s and translate them into the particular-day-to-day why’s and how’s of your unique family situation.

This article was inspired by my study of the book of James and by reading Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. I heartily recommend both books. 😉

See more articles on this topic:
The Love Chapter for Homeschool Mamas
Wisdom in the Book of James

 

 

Living Books Meet Real Life: How to Let the Magic Happen [NEW VIDEO!]

In our last video, my friend Tabitha Alloway and I discussed what living books are, some of our favorite books, and how we choose and source them for our families. We mentioned a kind of magic that happens when the books we enjoy with our children spill over into their imaginative play and real life situations. No Pinterest perfection required.

Ever wondered how that works?

Want tips for making the magic happen in your home?

This video is for you!

Tabitha and I share specific examples of how we’ve seen living books come to life in our families, how we intentionally foster an environment for what Charlotte Mason calls the “science of relations,” how to model curiosity and connection-making for your kids, and what things might mess with the magic and keep it from happening. Particular subjects we touch on include history, geography, literature, work, play, poetry, scripture and hymns, and the importance of an integrated view of reality. Whew! We hope you’ll enjoy the conversation–we sure did!

Show notes below!

For easy navigating:
00:00 – 02:10 — Intro
02:10 – 05:20— What We’re Reading
05:20 – 23:08 — How Living Books Connect with Real Life
23:08 – 27:53 — Fostering the Environment / The Science of Relations
27:53 – 44:30 — How Do We Model This?
44:30 – 48:24 — What Gets in the Way?
48:24 –   End  — Wrap Up
We plan to have a special guest join us for our next video! Stay tuned! 😀 

Books Mentioned:

Pride and Prejudice

Little Britches

A Philosophy of Education (Charlotte Mason’s Volume Six)

Beauty in the Word and Finish (Reading these in book clubs within Simply Convivial Membership!)

Respectable Sins

Blueberries for Sal

Winnie the Pooh

Little House Series

Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing

Paddle to the Sea

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Where the Red Fern Grows

The Tales of Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit specifically)

The Chronicles of Narnia

Wind in the Willows

Aesop’s Fables

The Abolition of Man

Please subscribe to receive show notes for every new video we release (and other encouraging posts, too!). You can find Tabitha over at Musings and Moments. And don’t forget to request to join the Living Books Consortium Facebook Group. We’d love to have you join the discussion!

Introducing the Living Books Consortium (and a Video with Tabitha Alloway)!

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Friends, I am so excited to share this with you! About six months ago my friend Tabitha Alloway (of Musings and Moments) started a community on Facebook dedicated to living books–discussing the books we find, asking for recommendations, sharing reviews, and yes, even sharing some hilarious book memes. Sifting through all the books out there is a big job. But it’s a little easier (and more fun) if we do it together!

What is a living book? Well, that’s what we sought to address in this first video chat (below!) where we discuss the motivation behind the Facebook group, our own relationship with books, what living books are, and how we go about choosing them for our families.

Want to chime in? Request to join the Living Books Consortium group on Facebook.  Here’s the group description:

Welcome to the Living Books Consortium! We share a passion for books here–but not just any books. We’re interested in good books; books that fire the imagination, stir the soul, and challenge the mind and spirit. As John Milton said, “A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit.”

Charlotte Mason was the nineteenth century British educator who coined the phrase “living books.” To her, a book was a living book (as opposed to dull and lifeless “twaddle”) if its text was engaging, its literary elements fine, its teaching qualities commendable, and its truths timeless.

She wrote, “As for literature – to introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child’s intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find.”

Here in this group we share with one another “the best that we can find.” This page is meant to be a tool and resource for those in search of good literature as we share reviews and exchange recommendations with one another: be it a children’s picture book, a classic, or a fine work of non-fiction, etc.

So whether contributing to this page or just browsing it, enjoy your time here and be inspired to pursue the treasure and pleasure that good literature holds–in the company of fellow book enthusiasts. Ultimately, whether we “eat,” “drink,” or “read books,” we desire to do all to the glory of God. 

We’ll be releasing a new video chat each month in the group. We hope you’ll join us!

Show Notes Below!

For easy navigating:
00:00 – 09:44 — Group History and Introduction
09:44 – 24:00 — Discussion of Some of OUR Favorite Books
24:00 – 33:00 — What is a Living Book? How Do We Choose Them?
33:00 – 35:04 — Handling Questionable Content
35:04 – 40:35 — Resources We’ve Used
40:35 –  End  — Preview Next Month and Wrap-Up

Books Mentioned:

How to be Romantic

A Gospel Primer

Trusting God

Sherlock Holmes

The Scarlet Pimpernel

A Tale of Two Cities

The Count of Monte Cristo

Les Miserables

Sense and Sensibility (Check out Close Reads podcast on this book now!)

Close Reads is covering Sense and Sensibility right now!

The Ultimate Living Book: The Bible
May we suggest this Bible Reading Plan?

Knowing God

Keep a Quiet Heart

Pride and Prejudice

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Resources Mentioned:

Lithographs (Sherlock shirt, Pride and Prejudice bag)

Ambleside Online (Much more than a book list, but a great reference for the book list it contains)

Honey for a Child’s Heart (Great list of children’s books by age)

Robinson Curriculum Book List (Actual curriculum website HERE)

Educating the WholeHearted Child (Excellent and thorough resource for Christian homeschooling, including a recommended books list)

Librivox.org  (Free audiobooks! Yay!)

 

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins … and Spills?

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I don’t know about you, but I’m sure there are moms out there that struggle with the seemingly never-ending task of cleaning up after the members of their household. Let’s at least imagine that you and I are like that. Hypothetically, of course.

It’s a Monday morning, a fresh start, or so it would seem. When you walk into the kitchen you’re actually kind of impressed that the kids managed to clean up as much as they did after making your dinner last night (a lovely assortment of leftovers). They were, after all, blessing your socks off when you were flat-out exhausted.

But then you notice the grease all over the stove, so you grab the washcloth and wipe things down without flinching. You usually do at least one thing to straighten up your kitchen while waiting on your coffee.

But then there are the dirty dishes that didn’t make it into the dishwasher, and the clean ones on the other counter that never got put away. And then you look over at the microwave. That wondrous instrument of quick cooking, the one the kids use the most–and with all the greasy fingers they can muster.

 

Just touching the buttons sends shivers up your spine.

You grab the washrag yet again, feeling the grumbles heat up inside you as the tap water heats to a similarly scalding level. Somehow you think this is what it takes to get the job done, especially when you see the inside of the microwave.

You begin to murmur to yourself, “This is cutting into my Bible time.”

And then the grace of conviction haults your thoghts. That was mighty self-righteous of you when you could just spend this time with the Lord anyway instead of grumbling.

Once disarmed, your flustered thoughts begin to retreat, making room for a scripture to charge into the battle: Love covers a multitude of sins.

Suddenly you realize that love is patient, and kind, and all that, not because you really have 1 Corinthians 13 running through your head right now, but because you are meditating on love covers a multitude of sins while doling out the elbow grease. I love those little monsters, so I don’t mind cleaning up after them. These messes are evidence that they are loving and growing, too. 

And the Lord is with me whether I’m kneeling in front of my microwave or sitting on the couch with my Bible.

The motto ora et labora–pray and work–comes to mind now, too, and you begin to pray for the members of your household, exchanging drudgery for intercession.

The coffee may be a bit cold, and your Bible might still be waiting for you, but you have indeed had quiet time with the Lord, by His gentle, refining grace.

And the microwave is clean now, so go heat up that coffee and sit down to the Feast. And maybe let the kids join you since they’ll be coming down the stairs any minute now.

Books Read in 2018: Theology Edition

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For several years now I have aimed to read at least one book a month and in most recent years I raised my annual goal to at least twenty. Each year my list of “books read” becomes a blog post with what I like to call “micro book reviews.”

Well, in 2018 I finished thirty books, far surpassing years past. So instead of asking you, my dear readers, to trudge through all thirty micro book reviews in one post, I have decided to break them up.

theology christian books reviews

Since I have read more and headier theological works this year than usual, and because my reviews on these works are more detailed due to the importance of the subject matter, this first installment covers just four books on theology. Lord willing, next week I’ll share other Mother Culture reads (books I’m reading for my own education and enjoyment rather than just for my children’s), and by the end of the month will also publish what I call Family Culture reads (books read with the boys for school or books we’ve read aloud as a family). I hope you’ll check back in for each one!

Theology reads of 2018

For most of the past year I followed a Bible reading plan for my personal devotions. It’s been wonderful to read larger sections of scripture this year, but I have also appreciated the “catch-up days” afforded in the schedule. These have mostly been taken as “off days”—and an opportunity to read from the books I’ve listed below. None of these should be elevated to the place of scripture, but they have been worthwhile to chew on about one morning a week. Maybe you’d enjoy them in such a manner, as well.

The Attributes of God by A. W. Pink (1886-1952)  We acquired this book when we purchased Shai Linne’s album by the same title (containing theologically rich and deeply encouraging rap music). I read slowly through Pink’s book, often looking up scriptures referenced, for my personal quiet time last spring.

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Each of nineteen chapters covers a different attribute of God and concludes with an application or encouragement to worship, trust, and adore God rather than merely chock up mental assent. These nuggets of application were some of my favorite and most quotable sections of the book. Here is a sampling:

He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, nevertheless, fixed His heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before Him!

When we trustfully resign ourselves, and all our affairs into God’s hands, fully persuaded of His love and faithfulness, the sooner shall we be satisfied with His providences and realize that ‘He doeth all things well.’

Gratitude is the return justly required from the objects of His beneficence; yet is it often withheld from our great Benefactor simply because His goodness is so constant and abundant.

A personal aim of mine in reading this book was to examine and solidify my own views. I tested not only the words on the page, evaluating to what extent they were true or false (finding only minor disagreement and largely in argumentation rather than substance), but I also tested my own heart as it reacted to these descriptions of God. Am I willing to let God be God? Or do I have a still-sinful attitude that is uncomfortable with His rule and providence? Meditating on God’s attributes, with this or another such book (and an open Bible!), is a wonderful opportunity to clarify to oneself the truth about God and honestly assess the soul’s response to it.

The Ology by Marty Machowski, Illustrated by Andy McGuire  I was thrilled to find this book at my local library after seeing it recommended by many friends. I list it here rather than with family reads because I pre-read it this year and haven’t read it with the kids yet. We now have our own copy (thanks, Mom!) and intend to go through it this year.

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The Ology seeks to explain “ancient truths ever new” in a simple yet beautiful format so that kids can learn and understand the basics of Christian theology. Scriptures are included on nearly every page spread and a glossary and list of discussion questions for each section are included at the back of the book. In terms of theological particulars, this is a kind of reformed theology for kids. The issue of baptism, however, is explained with care so that those who practice infant baptism and those that wait for their children to trust in Christ before being baptized can read and enjoy this book.

There’s also a CD to accompany the book: The Ology by Sovereign Grace Kids. Encouraging songs and stylistic variety. I love it!

The Reasonableness of Christianity by John Locke  I must have stumbled upon this little gem at a used book store before later finding it on my bookshelf and making it a part of my devotional reading. John Locke (1632-1704), better known for his political theory based on natural rights and characterized by limited government, argues in less than 100 pages that Christian belief (particularly that Jesus is the Messiah) is in fact reasonable. The charge he must have been responding to was this: “Is it really reasonable to embrace Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, when he didn’t speak often or very explicitly about this in the gospels?” The other less contentious question Locke seeks to answer seems to be: “If salvation is by faith and not by works, what is it that must be believed?”

reasonableness of christianity review john locke

While I don’t necessarily agree with Locke on every point of theology (his opening remarks about original sin are…interesting, for example, and there is some debate as to whether he held to an orthodox view of the Trinity, though that is not in view in this book) I thoroughly enjoyed following him through the Gospels and Acts as he makes his case—that everything points to the need for people to believe in Jesus as the Messiah as the central tenet of Christianity and the essential element of saving faith. Especially interesting is how Locke explains the wisdom of Jesus’ reservedness during his ministry and trial:

But he [Jesus] would not be seized for anything that might make him a criminal to the government: and therefore he avoided giving those, who, in the division that was about him, inclined towards him, occasion of tumult for his sake: or to the Jews, his enemies, matter of just accusation, against him, out of his own mouth, by professing himself to be the Messiah, the King of Israel, in direct words.
… This preserved him from being condemned as a malefactor; and procured him a testimony from the Roman governor, his judge, that he was an innocent man, sacrificed to the envy of the Jewish nation.

To sum up, The Reasonableness of Christianity is, as I see it, two things: 1) an explanation of Jesus’ rationale for not clearly stating who He is, and 2) a kind “mere Christianity” summed up in the words: “Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God” and therefore (and reasonably) to be believed and obeyed.

Where modern American Evangelicalism might reduce the gospel to a process or the Roman’s Road, Locke is “reducing” it to a Person and a call to personal faith and allegiance. While there are other important truths to mine in Scripture (and Locke affirms this), Locke does an excellent job of pointing to the main thing, the main Person: Jesus Christ Himself.

The 17th century English, complete with Roman Numerals used for scripture references in the text, make this a challenging yet rewarding read. If you’re interested, give it a go!

Future Grace by John Piper (link is to a revised edition–my copy is the first edition)
I bought this book when on a trip to Boston in my early twenties and regretfully didn’t get past the introduction at that time. Over a decade later I picked it up and have thoroughly enjoyed it (using my old plane ticket as a bookmark! Ha!). This book has 31 chapters and is intended to be read through in a month, but you could easily enjoy it at a slower pace like I did, fitting it in where my Bible reading plan allowed and completing it over the course of a few months.

The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace, as its longer title suggests, isn’t just a theology book. Piper seeks to demonstrate the powerful, sin-forsaking effect that faith in God’s future grace has on the life of the believer–and to encourage you, the reader, to live by such faith.

This is an empowering read. Not in a “you can do it” sort of way, but in a “look to Christ” sort of way.

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I loved on this book quite a bit…pencil, pencil everywhere.

Each section contains a few chapters defending, defining, and discussing the nature of faith in future grace and concludes with one chapter to “apply the purifying power” to a particular sin or disposition. The practical application chapters cover anxiety, pride, misplaced shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency, and lust. Piper’s aim is the heart, and the way he deals with such deep-seated struggles and sins in these chapters reminds me a lot of Jerry Bridges’ excellent book Respectable Sins.

On touchy subjects like anxiety, depression (despondency), and shame, Piper speaks biblical truth with much personal understanding and gentleness. This is not a book to beat you up for your mental and emotional problems, rather it seeks to see them clearly (and see Christ clearly) so that they can be dealt with rightly and with hope. 

With the last chapter finishing up on page 399, Future Grace is a commitment, but the return on investment is high. I’ll let Piper’s own words take us out.

Unbelief is a turning away from God and his Son in order to seek satisfaction in other things. Pride is a turning away from God specifically to take satisfaction in self. So pride is one specific form of unbelief.
covetousness is turning away from God, usually to find satisfaction in things. …lust is turning away from God to find satisfaction in sex. …bitterness is turning away from God to find satisfaction in revenge. Impatience is turning away from God to find satisfaction in your own uninterrupted plan of action…. Anxiety, misplaced shame, and despondency are various conditions of the heart when these efforts of unbelief miscarry.
…Every turning from God–for anything–presumes a kind of autonomy or independence that is the essence of pride. …pride is not so much the root as it is the essence of unbelief, and its remedy is faith in future grace.

 

Wait! New Feature!

What’s my top pick from this stack? I have to say Future Grace by John Piper. I’ll be revisiting this one for sure, and who knows? It may join the ranks of my “re-read every few years until I die” list along with Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot and Knowing God by J I Packer.

Have you read any good theology books this past year? What’s your favorite?

 


 

Want more book reviews? Please consider subscribing. And check out these posts from past years:
2017
2016
2015-2016
2014-2015

Goodbye, Grinch Mama

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There’s this thing that happens when you read a story out loud to your kids. It hits you in a different way than it ever would had you been reading quietly to yourself.

Sometimes the blow is a rush of emotions that makes you tear-up against your wishes. And sometimes the blow comes with the stinging pain of conviction.

Take, for example, a recent Christmas read-aloud.

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Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown,
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.

…he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming!”
For Tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE!
NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

I have to admit, I can relate.

There’s something about December that seems to stir my children up to a level of hyper-activity unknown the rest of the year. Maybe it’s the sugar. Maybe it’s the seasonal excitement. Maybe it’s the lack of sunshine … or a lack of training.

Whatever the cause, I recently found myself growling and nervously drumming, eager to squash the noise, noise, noise from my boys, boys, boys at our homeschool group’s recent visit to the local nursing home.

We come to play instruments, we come to spread cheer,
We come to sing hymns to the folks gathered here. 

Like the Whos down in Whoville, we’re a jovial lot,
But the Grinch Mama among us most certainly is not. 

Her children are happy but she can’t rejoice
Because of their bouncing, their climbing, their noise.

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It’s easy to characterize my children’s behavior as “horrible” when they have been nothing but jovial, albeit a bit careless and wild. It’s the careless and wild part that I know needs wise attention and careful training in the long run, but in the moment it gets my evil eye and sharp repremand, throwing gentleness and patience to the wind.

All I lack is green fur to adorn my furrowed brow.

I’m not against correcting children in public, mind you, but what really needed correcting in this case was my attitude.

Maybe I should just go get the T-shirt, because that is apparently a thing.

Let’s hold that thought.

While it may be hip and humorous right now to wear our worst attitudes on our sleeves, or even boldly screenprinted on the front of our shirts, these tendencies we (cough, cough, I) have toward grumpiness, selfishness, and stinginess are not acceptable. Let’s call it like it is: sin. That may sound harsh, but it’s actually quite hopeful.

But before we get there we have to recognize that mere authenticity isn’t a virtue. We have to bring Truth to bear on the mess in which we find ourselves. This is why the Scriptures are compared to a mirror–God’s Truth shows us what’s in our hearts (and more imporantly, what’s in His) so that we can, by His grace and in the power of His Spirit, deal with it.

No Mama I’ve ever met finds a rat in her kitchen and decides to make a comfortable bed for it on the counter. Eeew.

If we pursue authenticity as a “righteous” end in itself we risk becoming people who glory in our shame on principle–as though the right response to a bad attitude is to give it a pat on the back. Instead we must recognize that being honest with ourselves is just an initial step toward repentance and growth in Christ.

Acknowledging there’s a rat in the kitchen is just an initial step to removing it and disinfecting.

If we are honest about who we are, Grinch and all, and meet that honesty with the Truth, then we can have hope of both forgiveness for sin and strength for the fight. Then we can know not just ourselves in our futility and weakness, but God in His sovereignty and strength.

This is why I’m saying, “Goodbye, Grinch Mama,” even if I have to say it daily (or perhaps on the hour). She may be at times an accurate depiction of my selfish heart, but she isn’t welcome to stick around. By the grace of God, she’s shown the door as I seek the Lord to produce the fruit of His Spirit in her place.

It’s time to put off the Grumpy T-shirts and put on the Lord Jesus Christ.


 

The Grinch in our picture book comes to see that Christmas isn’t about all the materialistic things he had taken away from the Whos. The joy and celebration still comes despite his efforts to the contrary.

“Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

His small heart grows three times bigger as a result, and yet, somehow I don’t think it works quite that way for me. My problem isn’t the size of my heart, it’s the content and focus.

Dr. Seuss was on to something, but heart change, perhaps, means a little bit more.

I’d like to say goodbye to her once and for all, that Grinch, but I know it’s a day-by-day, moment-by-noisy-moment repentance and God-oriented faithfulness I need.

The children kept bouncing, and scolding she gave them
‘Til she saw that her anger indeed woud not save them

‘Twas grace that enveloped her more than the sound
Of jubilant voices and greetings all ’round

Grace that proved greater than sin or her goal
Of well-behaved children and a sense of control

She yet could not muster a match for their glee
But a heart now contrite was a sight for to see

“Merry Christmas,” she offered, remembering the One
Who loved a Grinch Mama by sending God’s Son.

 

These boys… So much joy, so much hustle and bustle, so much noise. It’s the way of children.

This time of year… So much joy, so much hustle and bustle, so much noise. It’s the way of celebration.

Do I make room for such as these? As we welcome the Lord Jesus as a child, am I welcoming my children in His name? Do I make room for the celebration of the Lord, be it a bit more rowdy at times than solemn?

I can’t hold on to my Grinch Mama and answer positively. She’s got to go.

Remember and Rejoice: Thanksgiving Meditations from the Book of Deuteronomy

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I’ve had the pleasure recently of reading through Deuteronomy as I follow my Bible reading plan.

Deuteronomy? Pleasure? you may ask. Well, yes.

While it’s sometimes hard to slog through the books of the Old Testament, there are gems to be found, and I discovered that Deuteronomy had some relevant passages for this season of Thanksgiving.

In fact, the many references to “rejoicing” in the book surprised me! Sprinkled throughout much of the book are commands regarding the feasts that Israel was to celebrate–and celebrate with gusto!

remember rejoice thanksgiving celebrate

It’s not my intention to give a detailed overview of the feasts mentioned here, but rather I hope to express the elements of God-centered celebration that I have found helpful as we head into the holiday season.

In America, we have only one feast-day that harkens back to agricultural times: Thanksgiving. And while “giving thanks” isn’t really mentioned in Deuteronomy concerning the Jewish feasts, the purpose of these celebrations is clear: to remember and bless the Lord for His provision.

So whether it’s First Fruits (celebrated in late spring) or the Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles (celebrated in the fall), the heart of each is expressed in Deuteronomy 8:10, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.”

When you enter the land for the first time, bless the Lord. When you reap its goodness each year, bless the Lord.

We moderns find ourselves a bit far-removed from this kind of dependence upon the land. Not that we don’t eat its produce, but we rarely experience an actual harvest without going out of our way to do so.

I found myself reading about the Offering of First Fruits within a few days of harvesting our first ever (and completely volunteer) pumpkin patch. Nevermind the different time of year and different crops they would have had in Israel (olives, figs, etc), this passage resonated with me.

Here’s what Deuteronomy 26 says about First Fruits:

The Israelites were to bring their offering before the Lord and announce, after recounting the history of God’s provision for their people, “Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.” And then they were instructed to “set it down before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD you God; and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.

Now, when I read about the Israelites giving the first of their produce to the Lord, I can’t help but think of that one, solitary, beautiful, orange pumpkin we picked. Sure, we picked 14 green ones. But that first, ripe orb was our delight! And that pumpkin, and no other, would, in another time and place, be offered to the Lord. It would be His, not ours.

This vivid picture of the pride of our harvest belonging to the Lord began to expand in my mind. Not just fruits of the land. Fruit of the womb, also. The first born son would be the Lord’s (Exodus 34:19-20).

Just like that first pumpkin is the Lord’s and is intended to remind me that all of our pumpkins are His, so too my first child is the Lord’s–and by extension any further children are.

“The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains.”

I’m beginning to get it.

Deuteronomy 26:16 continues: “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances [immediate context is the feast of first fruits]. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and all your soul.”

What did the statutes and ordinances in this passage involve?

Remembering God’s goodness and covenant
Bringing the first of your produce
Worshiping before God
Rejoicing (with the Levite and alien!) in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household–there is a community giving thanks!
Sharing with the Levite, stranger, orphan, and widow–there is a community being cared for!
“I have not eaten it while mourning”–just in case you missed it, rejoicing is emphasized here by negatively stating its opposite.
Praying for God’s future blessing on His people “Look down and bless”

The Israelites were to do all of these things with all of their heart and all of their soul! “Soul” in the bible usually denotes your whole being, including your body. So, everything within us (heart) and all that we are (soul) ought to go into this remembering, rejoicing, worshiping, sharing, blessing…

Is this not the essence of thanksgiving?!?

The Feast of Ingathering (Deuteronomy 16:13-15) has similar instructions:

You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

So much rejoicing! Again, this is a feast not only remembering past blessings (the things gathered in) but also awaiting with expectant joy the future provision of the Lord.

I can’t help but think of the Passover, which also looked back at past deliverance and forward to the Messiah. And of the Lord’s Supper, by which we remember and “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” It seems the pattern of biblical celebration looks both backward and forward. It’s a pattern of remembering and rejoicing!

celebrate thanksgiving remember rejoice

All of this imagery and idealism is wonderful, but what if I’m heading into Thanksgiving with a nasty cold and way too many servings of responsibility and stress on my plate? And what if this is the first major holiday without a dearly loved family member?

This is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? There are things to begrudge and mourn. A lack of health, a lack of peace, and an empty chair at the table.

For an Israelite to swear, “I did not eat it while mourning” they would have had to push pause on, well, life. Because life is hard and we experience loss and disappointment often. Even in times of abundance.

I don’t have a remote with a quick-and-easy-fix button to literally pause pain so that rejoicing is effortless. But I can remember the Lord’s goodness and provision–past and present, in times of abundance and in times of need.

And I can rejoice. Because I know the One who will “guide the future as He has the past.”

As I went for a walk today (for the first time in what seems like forever) I had to deal with my grumbling attitude that had become my more-often-than-not companion in the past few days. The sunshine and fresh air helped to remind me that the world is still a beautiful place and God is still on His throne–even if I don’t get everything done, even if I’m carrying around my own personal storm cloud.

And as it turned out, being sick forced me to push pause today. I took a nap. In the quiet of a walk, in the quiet of my couch, in the midst of a busy, noisy, frenetic season, the Lord calmed my heart and reminded me of His care and provision.

Perhaps I can leave that storm cloud behind. Remember the Lord. Rejoice in His provision. And share that with those around me this Thanksgiving.

How about you?


Here are a few hymns that refreshed my soul on my walk today as the Lord brought them to mind. Looking to the Lord as a good, sovereign Provider is necessary if we’re to give Him thanks, isn’t it? I hope these songs will bless you as they have blessed me.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way (with added chorus in the video):

 

Be Still My Soul:

 

And, finally, one that actually gives thanks, rejoicing: For the Beauty of the Earth

The Homeschool Review: A Fall Confessional, 2018

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Get this. Our homeschool life isn’t all sunshine and roses. Nor is it always a grand adventure.

Especially when in the midst of a busy season (is there any other kind of season?) I tell myself that we’re doing great (which was true) and that we can just roll with sickness and projects taking up break week and move into a new term without resting on the pillars of review–weekly or otherwise (all of which was not true).

Spurn the rhythms of life and you will find them scowling back at you–or in less personified and more metaphorical terms: you might just regret your choice to skip all the rests in the score of life when you find you have rushed ahead and are now out of step with the music, not knowing where to jump back in again.

Those are my melodramatic thoughts for you anyway.

At any rate, here I am on the other side of that break week that didn’t happen, crashing and burning after an insanely busy weekend where my weekly review didn’t happen.

Lessons are being learned, friends. And not just by the kids.

My body can’t really handle running hard two days in a row without a break in between. I could attempt to will through it, but I might just land myself in bed for a week.

Neither can I power through two terms without a real break in between.

On the plus side, I’m recovering now from that crash-and-burn. And fall is here for real, which makes me happy.  🙂

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See? FALL!!!!!!!!!  😀

And, as it turns out, we have had a pretty good past few months of school (there has been some sunshine and roses even if they haven’t been all over the place). Here are the highlights (or perhaps I could say rose petals):

My firstborn turned 9 and my baby turned 7. We enjoyed celebrating them on their special days: my husband took off work for each and we enjoyed one day at home playing Legos and another trapsing around Little Rock. Nope, no school on birthdays around here. Since there are only two of them, we can get away with this without our attendance record suffering.

We continued schooling through the summer following an interval schedule. For our family that looks like schooling six weeks out of an eight week period year-round (with a four-week term for Advent). I try to allow five of our days off to float on the calendar (to be used where needed) and keep the other five reserved for “Break Week” at the end of the term. That has worked pretty well, though the reason “Break Week” didn’t really happen last term is because it coincided with sickness and me preparing for my first-ever three-hour presentation.

Yeah, I should time those kinds of things better.

Math and Language

C-age-9 continued working through Right Start Math Level D (finishing up with a lot of fun drawing lessons!) and has recently begun Level E.

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We’ve switched to the second edition for this level, and I’m quite pleased with the new layout and organization! It’s also gradually working toward more independence for the student, so our lessons are consistently shorter than in past levels, making it easy to just jump right into them without balking at how long it might take (an issue I had previously).

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D-age-7 is making his way through Level C. He thoroughly enjoyed the drawing section (where the T-square and traingle tools were giddily introduced to him for the first time), and now we are getting into the section of the book that I found the toughest for my oldest son. I’m prepared to supplement if necessary as we tackle adding SEVERAL three- and four-digit numbers and then move into mentally subtracting two-digit numbers (with borrowing, no less).

It’s agressive, but I’m going to let D-age-7 attempt these “jumps” and see how he does. This second time around I’m just better armed with the expectation that it is difficult and meant to stretch him. My expectation is that he won’t master it right away. It’s taken some time to realize that trying and failing is ok in the learning process. The goal isn’t to get a good grade on every worksheet. Our goal is to learn. So in these difficult lessons, our focus is on trying, correcting, and practicing some more.

Math is character-building for sure.

UPDATE: Adding several numbers has been a successful learning process spread over about three days (kind of like my writing this post is getting spread out over about three weeks). Not without struggle, mind you, but with much more patience from me as a teacher than the first time around. Win!

We recently took a break from our First Language Lessons to prepare for the local spelling bee. D-age-7 won third place in his age group!

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In other language news, we’ve been working through Foreign Languages for Kids‘ Spanish courses online. The videos are fun and the quizzes are a great way to review. We paid for a one-year subscription last year on Black Friday, so we’re working to get the most out of it before it expires. This program is quite expensive if you want to purchase it complete with DVDs, workbooks, and all. So subscribing to it for a year has been a great, affordable option for us (though I have looked longingly at the printed workbooks–they’d be much easier to work with than the online version!).

Books, Books, Books

What have we been reading lately? Well, in Morning Time we recently finished Story of the World Volume 2 (covering the Middle Ages) and have just begun Volume 3. We’ve also enjoyed Archimedes and the Door of Science (just finished it today!) and Trial and Triumph (so far a great read on church history).

In the evenings, my husband has read aloud The Bronze Bow (a story taking place in the time of Christ), which we finished last month, and most recently On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (the first book in his Wingfeather Saga). I can’t express how much our family has enjoyed both of these books. Check them out, though be aware they each contain some scary or violent elements that very young children (younger than 6, perhaps) might not be ready for.

The boys are each doing some of their own bible reading, and we go over the Proverbs of the day at breakfast (my husband usually shares a couple verses and thoughts related to them before he goes to his office/room for work). When we can, my husband also reads the bible to us after dinner.

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C-age-9 is a voratious reader–hard to keep in books! Some of what he’s read lately includes: By the Shores of Silver Lake, Heidi, Treasure Island, The Long Winter, The Story of Dr. Doolittle, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, This Country of Ours, Our Island Story, Otto of the Silver Hand, The Sugar Creek Gang series, The New Way Things Work (a big one to slow him down a bit! muahahaha!), and a book on Marco Polo. Whew!

D-age-7 has happily read through Sammy and His Shepherd (a story book study of Psalm 23) as well as some Boxcar Children books. He’s currently in Paddle to the Sea, Our Island Story, Fifty Famous Stories Retold, The House and Pooh Corner, and James Harriot’s Treasury for Children. Most of these selections come from Ambleside Online’s Year One curriculum. I have found Year One to be a great starting point for my boys once they are pretty solid readers, though I am by no means following it in its entirety or even as scheduled. I did this with C when he was 7 and found he could do the readings independently, and they were the right length for training his narration skills (which were non-existent if I let him just sit and read a whole book in a day).

We of course read many things from AO’s list (among others) out loud to our children, but in terms of things assigned particularly for them, I prefer to have them read independently as soon as able. After Year One, we kind of spring into our own book list which we are building as we go with my oldest and in reference to several lists out there: AO, Robinson (which my husband grew up with), Honey for a Child’s Heart, and the Clarkson’s Whole-Hearted book list (which we are referencing here), to name a few.

My husband likes the boys to write reports on the books they finish, so that is a part of our routine as well. Having narrated to me orally about the smaller sections of the book over the course of several days or weeks, and seeing as how we do their first book reports orally with my writing out their narrations, the boys are doing pretty well with the process of learning to summarize a story at the meta-level. C-age-9 has now graduated from using a book report form to simply writing his thoughts out on blank lined paper (complete with fancy lettering for the book titles!).

All the Other Stuff (Including some Adventures)

We’ve also dabbled more in playing our bells, poetry, composer study, hymns, folk songs, geography, health, nature study (our luna moth finally hatched! and observing and drawing changes in the trees), art study, scripture memorization, US presidents, science experiments, etc. I say “dabbled” because we haven’t been particularly consistent with any of these, but they HAVE been happening. Exposure breeds taste, right? So this is at least accomplishing something even if it’s not all I have idealized in my head. 😉

Our Archeology and Plant Use History Class continued to meet once a month through the summer and we enjoyed our last day on the mountain in September. My favorite moment from that last day was getting to throw atlatls.

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You better believe this mama got in on the action! Even if there isn’t any photo evidence…

The boys have also taken a cooking and culture class with our local co-op. They aren’t meeting more than once a month, but it’s still been fun to make Ratatouille while learning about France and then lassagna in a class dedicated to Italy.

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Socialization is totally a thing among homeschoolers (just in case anyone needed a reminder). We’ve attended park days, skate days, gymnastics, and birthday parties.

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And a lovely fall nature hike.

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In my homeschool-mom world, I had the pleasure of giving an intensive on Homeschooling the Early Years (yep, that three-hour thing I mentioned above), and our local Schole Sisters group has recently begun reading through Charlotte Mason’s Volume 6: Toward a Philosophy of Education, gathering at a coffee shop to discuss. Both of these have been fun oportunities for me to dig deeper in study and produce more in writing–with the amazing blessing of getting to hash-out ideas among sharp, godly mommy-friends.

Really, that’s the best part.

I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful it is to connect with other ladies in your area. Meet in person. It doesn’t have to be very often–for us it’s once a month with kids in tow and once a month with books and no kids. 🙂 It’s such a blessing to have this fellowship–around homeschooling/education, yes, but also in the Lord.

Heart = Full

Now that fall weather has pretty well settled in and the amazing colors along with it, our family is venturing out a bit more to enjoy it. We’ve done a bit of hiking already and hope to do some backpacking in the near future. You know I’ll report on that next time.  😉

I’ll sign off with a scenic view we enjoyed at the end of October (fall colors just setting in).

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And since we’re a week into November now when I’m actually publishing this, here’s an updated picture from that same location (and at a way more interesting angle, right?).

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What’s going on in your homeschool world? Enjoying the colors? Gearing up for the holidays?

 

 

Learning to Enjoy the Journey

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Are you one of those people that gets so focused on the destination that you forget to enjoy the journey?

I sure am.

There’s something to be said for determination and focus, but when it comes to living life well and joyfully these would-be virtues can sabotage the whole thing if they’re allowed to put the pedal to the metal without some reasonable restraint.

Sometimes that restraint comes from a fellow passenger encouraging you to stop and smell the roses with them.

And sometimes that restraint is a child in the backseat who has to pee. Right now. Or, closer to my experience of late, who happens to be puking.

I think we all know there are fun ways to “slow down” that we would do well to implement before the more catastrophic pauses are forced upon us.

But what I’ve been learning lately is not just to stop and smell the roses, and not just to slam on the breaks to care for a sick child.

What I’m learning lately is that if the destination is worth it then the steps it takes to get there are worth it, too.

A couple weeks ago my husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. [Insert shouts of jubilation!] We had two nights at home without the kids.

It was glorious.

But we stayed up late the first night watching a movie. And this after being rather low on sleep for the past several weeks.

I don’t function very well on low sleep.

And the next morning my husband had to drop his truck off in town a bit early while I took a little longer at home to get ready for the ballroom dancing class we took that day.

Because when you’re close friends with the lady who teaches the ballroom dancing class, you can do things like have it scheduled for the day of your anniversary. Yep, she’s a good friend. 😉

Anyway, I have this history of getting stressed about having to get ready to go somewhere. Especially when I have to get little people ready to go somewhere. Our anniversary was different, of course–no kids!–but the anxiety still threatened to steal my joy. I worried about what to wear, changing outfits about five times. I worried that I would be running late and that my husband would be upset with me.

I think I was able to identify what was going on with me on this day, however, partly because it was such a special day that I knew I ought to just enjoy, and partly because I’d just read a chapter on anxiety in a book called Fututre Grace.

I didn’t think I had an issue with anxiety until I read that chapter and found it quite convicting. Quite.

My tendency to overplan? That’s just me trying to maintain control, which stems from fear rather than faith.

My tendency to run through all possible outcomes and plan for every contingency? Yep, anxiety. I might flatter myself that I’m just some kind of planning mastermind (that would be called pride), but God’s word tells a different story when I come face to face with its call to live by faith, casting all my anxiety on Him because He cares for me.

This concept of living by faith in future grace helped me to see things more clearly on a temporal level as well.

As I drove into town, mulling over these things in my heart and mind, clear thinking finally broke through.

I’m going to enjoy my anniversary with my husband. He’s not upset with me, he’s happy to be with me. Even if I am running a little behind (which it turned out I wasn’t!), I’m the one who signed us up for the ballroom dancing class. Not him. He won’t be embarrassed if we’re late. He’ll just go with it. I’m the one putting this pressure on myself. 

If I’m excited about what I’m getting ready for (a date with my husband) why shouldn’t I enjoy getting ready??? 

This was a pretty defining moment, concentrating a lot of big ideas and messy struggles down into something I could remind myself of when stress builds in places it shouldn’t:

If I’m going to enjoy the outcome then I ought to appreciate the steps it takes to get there.

A new Bible reading plan has me reading rather large passages in the Old Testament in one sitting. I have to admit, some mornings it’s been a little hard to feel up to it. But I love the result of having taken in much of God’s word and seeing it in a sweeping movement of history and redemption. And so the day-to-day plodding through it is worth it. I can even take joy in it.

Similarly, I’ve managed to set myself up with several deadlines for projects that require a lot of reading, research, writing, planning, and people-coordinating. And these each are culminating in social engagements.

I’m doing a lot of extroverting for someone who is such a die-hard introvert.

While I often enjoy reading, researching, and writing in their own right, I usually do them on my time, my whims. Adding the time constraint and the social aspect to the mix makes for more demands on my time, energy, and mental resources than I am used to handling.

And my husband has been out for work travel these past two weeks.

And the past two days there’s been the puking.

But again, in each of these cases, there’s an end goal in mind that is worth the discomfort.

I love getting together with my sweet friends for a book study. The refreshment it brought made all the preparation for leading it so worth it. And seeing this ahead of time helped me to enjoy that process (and the resulting refreshment!) all the more.

I love getting to share what I’ve learned with others, so the presentation I’ve been working on, though it has been challenging, especially given the timing of craziness in our family right now, has been one giant exercise in learning to enjoy the nitty-gritty work and headaches that are just a part of producing something worthwhile.

And as a mother, oh, as a mother, the “interruptions” of sick kiddos are also worth it. So, so, so worth it. Because I love them and responding to their needs is just one “stop” along the road–a road that culminates in, well, not so much a destination as in a story. A story of learning to love them the way God loves me.

It’s a story that involves a lot of mistakes and repentance, but I think you get the idea.

In the past I’ve just done the grit-my-teeth-and-bear-it thing telling myself somehow it will be worth it in the end, all the while giving in to complaining and anxious, faithless worry. I’m learning that not only is this sin that needs repented of, it’s also not that effective in the long term, either. Go figure.

If I take no joy in the journey, will I be able to fully enjoy the result? Won’t I still be begrudging much of the discomfort it might have cost me if I have allowed myself to indulge in the habit of kicking and screaming through the whole process?

Yep. Better kick that bitterness at the process before it steals the joy of the end result.

I’m thankful that the Lord has been at work to convict me and bring growth through what could have been an utterly overwhelming and stressful couple of weeks. He’s good.

The refining that He ordains for us isn’t always easy, but we can take joy in it, too, knowing that the result of being made more like Christ and bringing glory to Him–well, that is certainly worth it.