Everyday Life, Reading, Reviews

Late January Decluttering Encouragement – More Wisdom from Books

A Gentleman in MoscowI mentioned in my quick-lit reviews that I was loving the book A Gentleman in Moscow but wasn’t finished with it yet. Well, I am finished, and I wholeheartedly endorse it as a great novel. It’s so much better than Rules of Civility by the same author. I couldn’t stop highlighting parts on my kindle; there were so many great quotes. One, in particular, struck me as just perfect for this time of year when everyone wants to declutter but may have lost some steam along the way, so I thought I’d share it with you today.

For eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends. We carry them from place to place, often at considerable expense and inconvenience; we dust and polish their surfaces and reprimand children for playing too roughly in their vicinity–all the while, allowing memories to invest them with greater and greater importance. This armoire, we are prone to recall, is the very one in which we hid as a boy; and it was these silver candalabra that lined our table on Christmas Eve; and it was with this handkerchief that she once dried her tears, et cetera, et cetera. Until we imagine that these carefully preserved possessions might give us genuine solace in the face of a lost companion.

But, of course, a thing is just a thing.

-Armor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

Yes, things are just things. So if you started out with a passion for decluttering this New Year that eventually waned, may this propel you forward to further  minimalist greatness. Or, simply ease our guilt about not dusting enough. Those things are just things, right?

Want more wisdom from novels? Check this post out

Children's Books, Everyday Life

A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool Family

I don’t write about our homeschooling journey very much. There are so many homeschool blogs available out there, who needs one more? But I have had several different friends and blogging buddies ask me about how we do homeschooling, and I always find it impossible to put it into words at the moment when I’m asked. Our philosophy and curriculum choice is a mishmash of Charlotte Mason ideas and traditional curriculum. The overarching idea is that we want our children to learn how to cultivate their skills in the things they’re good at and discipline themselves in the things they’re not. When it is all said and done, we want them to love to learn and know how to keep on learning when their school days are over. We also want to set their eyes on things that are beautiful and worthy of our attention. But how does that translate into every day life and curriculum choices, how much time we do or don’t spend on work books, what subjects we do or don’t do?

I firmly believe schooling in the early years should be simple. “Those things you learn without joy you will easily forget,” is a big part of my homeschooling philosophy. What it all boils down to in the day to day is really very simple, but I have a hard time telling people about it. So maybe I can just show you? With that hope, here is a day in the life of our homeschooling family.

 

Our Homeschool Day in 2nd Grade, Kindergarten, and Toddlerhood

6:00 – I get up to have some coffee and some quiet time. I love this morning time alone, but it will probably disappear in the next few months when Baby #4 arrives and I clutch every minute of sleep I can get. And please, do not let my early starting ways turn you off to homeschooling! This is just how I do things in this season of life. Lots of homeschool parents start their days later and it works just fine for them.

7:00 – The kids get up, we all eat breakfast, get dressed, do a few small chores like gathering dirty clothes and making beds.

8:00 – We start math. My husband’s work schedule allows him to be our math teacher about three days a week, which saves my life and the life of my children. That’s the main reason we start with math every day, not because I am a stickler for math before other subjects. We have used Horizons math curriculum from K-2nd grade. Our oldest two have done very well with it so far.

Break – After math, everyone takes a little break. I run a load of laundry, and do the breakfast dishes if I wasn’t able to do them earlier.

9:00 – Reading/Writing/Grammar/Spelling is all bound up in our Sing, Spell, Read and Write curriculum. It also includes handwriting. I love this program. Next year we’ll have to switch to something else with Ella (2nd grade) as it only goes through 2nd grade.

Break – Time to play a little, give Violet (age 2) some attention, switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer, etc.

10:00 – We all sit down at the kitchen table with a snack and I read aloud. If you are familiar with the morning time concept, this is where it fits in with us. And this is also the area of our schooling where the mishmash comes in. We always have Abeka history and science books going (I read from the 2nd grade level for both these subjects to Ella and Isaac(who is in kindergarten)), but we also have a natural science book (like this or this) and a read aloud based on the historical time period we are in. We also have a chapter book that I read aloud for literature, usually based on the wonderful Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast. We alternate science and history each day. Some days we will just read the Abeka book and do the craft or experiment that goes with it, some days we’ll only read our natural science book and do some sketching or artwork along with it, or some days we’ll just do our history read-aloud. Example: We just finished the Colonial Period in our Abeka history book and we read Felicity Learns A Lesson along with it. Now we are entering The Pioneers section and we are reading aloud The Cabin Faced West. When Ella was in first grade, we read The Story of the World instead of an Abeka history book, and both kids enjoyed that, too.

11:00 – Play time. I believe so strongly that playing imaginatively is equally, if not more, important than work books and curricula in the early years. My children need to move their bodies and engage their imaginations throughout the day. There’s nothing that will set them up for success in life like a cultivated imagination, and nothing that will take away their joy more than a lost imagination. As you can see, we work in a lot of breaks. While the kids play, I do some housework, check email, maybe prep dinner if I’m really on top of things.

12:00 – Lunch, then outside time if it’s a nice day. A few times a week, I’ll read to the kids from our literature book while we eat lunch. (See list of read alouds we’ve done below!) We may have to do an errand or two on some days in this time slot, and once a week we have gymnastics at noon. In the spring, we’ll get involved in t-ball/softball again.

1:00 – Rest time – Our toddler naps and the bigger kids stay quiet in the schoolroom for an hour on their own. Ella does unfinished math or writing from the morning during this time, or reads her own book to herself. Isaac almost always plays with Legos, colors, or looks at books.

2:00 – The older two are headed outside again! If the weather is bad, they’ll usually watch a short video.

3:00 – Snack time and literature read-aloud time if we haven’t worked it in earlier.

Our school day is over!

There are a few subjects I would like to put in to our days more often, like music or art or foreign language. Right now, though, a simple approach is all we need and it’s working well for us. I know my world is about to get rocked adding a newborn in the middle of the spring semester! Our schedule will definitely change, but I’m glad we have some sort of structure in place. Maybe (fingers crossed!) it will help my children know what’s expected of them when I can’t be as present for every single part of their school day.

I’m still figuring this homeschooling life out and will probably be doing so forever, but if you do have any questions you’d like to ask me, feel free to in the comments! I’ll do my best to answer them.

Below is a list of some of the read-aloud chapter books we’ve done since starting homeschooling. They would be great fun for any family, whether you homeschool or not! We also do lots of picture books.

  1. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  2. B is for Betsy
  3. The Boxcar Children
  4. The Courage of Sarah Noble
  5. The Bears of Hemlock Hill
  6. Little House in the Big Woods
  7. Little House on the Prairie
  8. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
  9. Beezus and Ramona
  10. The Little Riders
  11. The Children of Noisy Village
  12. Kirsten’s Surprise
  13. Homer Price
  14. The Saturdays
  15. Phoebe The Spy
  16. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
  17. The Five Little Peppers
  18. Lady Lollipop
  19. The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook
Reading, Reviews

January Quick Lit- Winter Reading Update

It has been so long since I posted a book review! I’m excited to get back into some quick-lit reviews, and I’m linking up with many other reviewers at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

I read slowly through the month of December, distracted by Christmas movies and holiday goings-on. I don’t know that we’ll ever have a more beautiful Christmas season. It was purposeful and planned out in ways that gave us white space to be sporadic. We saw all of our family at one point or another throughout the month, and saw lots of each other, too. And I have to admit, it was so much fun to decorate our fixer upper. We didn’t do a whole lot, but a white house just lends itself well to my Christmas nostalgia. Even so, January came with a sigh of relief and putting away all the Christmas decor felt like giving myself permission to truly rest in this season. I got an electric blanket for Christmas and a huge box of tea from Amazon and now winter is the time for reading.

The Snow Child – If you are a lover of fairy tales written for grown ups, you’ll like this book. And I’m not talking about fairy tales written for the Young Adult audience, such as Cinder or Beauty. Eowyn Ivey writes about a couple who are older, beyond their child-bearing years, but still long for a child. I don’t think I would have appreciated this book at a younger age, but the tender aching nature of the main characters combined with their will to survive and love no matter what touched me deeply. Ivey masterfully writes about her home state and its beauty and pain. I enjoyed this book even more than To The Bright Edge of the World, and that’s saying something.

The Broken Way – Ann Voskamp’s deep thoughts and way with words demands a slow, thoughtful reading pace. This one took me about two months, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still feel like I need to read it again. Voskamp moves further into her ideas of communion with God through gratitude that she presented in One Thousand Gifts and explores the truth that suffering and brokenness is a path that everyone walks at some point, but that God can use to bring us to deeper beauty and oneness with other people and Him than we could imagine. Any description I write of this book will barely scratch the surface – it’s a must read.

The Baker’s Daughter – There’s got to be some D.E. Stevenson in my reading list every winter. This book was my cozy, post-holiday party pick. The plot is fairly simple – a wealthy but unhappy young lady (whom the rest of her acquaintance considers verging on being an old maid) becomes a housekeeper for an artist. She wants to escape the drudgery of life in her father’s and stepmother’s home. Of course, she does in some ways and doesn’t in others.  As usual, Stevenson’s character driven novels set in Scottish villages draw me into the lives she describes in her book. I always, always think of L.M. Montgomery’s characters when I read D.E. Stevenson. Their vim and vigor and no-nonsense approach to life combined with kindness and a thirst for more in life makes them pretty much my favorite type of characters. (Important: this book is not to be confused with The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy. Completely different books!)

A Gentleman in Moscow – I’m still in the middle of this one, and loving it so much more than Amor Towles’s first book, Rules of Civility. Count Rostov is the main character, and his life in the grand Metropol Hotel in Moscow on house arrest starting in the 1920s is the surprisingly compelling setting. Philosophical yet humorous, the small setting does not limit the epic Russian nature of this novel. I am learning all kinds of things about Russsian’s evolution in the 20th century. If you have an e-reader, I highly recommend reading this book on it because being able to highlight and look up people and terms I am unfamiliar with has definitely enriched my understanding of this book and of Russia. I can’t help but compare this book with The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but with much more likable characters and sweeping scope. The characters who populate the Metropol are so real to me as I get close to the end of this book. I suppose I can’t truly recommend it until I read the end, but so far, it’s wonderful.

Up next is a huge stack of holds from the library that all came in at one time. I love/hate it when that happens. But at least it means lots of new reviews will be going up soon! Until then, I hope you enjoy some winter reading and tell me all about the good books you discover.

Children's Books, Three Book Thursday

Children’s Books We Love – January 2017

Hello, readers ! It has been too long! As so many people say, I didn’t mean to take such a long holiday break…but I did. The good news is I have lots of books to share about in the upcoming months and a new look to reveal on the blog soon (as in, the blog is getting a new look…not the blogger, unfortunately). Today, let’s talk about some fun books my kids are into.

Picture Books

Noodle

Um, how has this book escaped my attention my whole life? It’s written by none other than Munro Leaf, the author of Ferdinand, and illustrated by…drumroll please…Ludwig Bemelmans (yes, the creator of Madeline). Talk about a dynamic duo. It’s a warm and fun, somewhat offbeat, story about a Daschund named Noodle who is given the opportunity to change his shape into whatever he’d like. He looks long and hard for a new shape, but no one seems to understand what he wants a new shape for: to dig better holes. Obviously, this hasn’t made the classics list of children’s books despite its author/illustrator combo, so lower your expectations a bit from the greatness of The Story of Ferdinand, but it is still well worth reading and enjoying.

Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon

Molly Lou Melon is a tiny girl with a cheerful determination to have fun her grandmother’s way. When her grandmother says classic grandmotherly things like, “When we were your age, we didn’t have TV; we watched the clouds,” Molly Lou Melon does, too. She takes all her grandma’s recommendations to the furthest degree and brings a friend along on the old-fashioned fun way. The illustrations are really what make the book. A bit outlandish and Dr. Seuss-ly, they are the kind that strike you as simple until your five-year-old-son says, “Look at how this cloud looks like…” and then you realize this book is so perfect for children. We were introduced to it on Christmas by an aunt with great book taste, and promptly found its companion, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon at the library the next week. We highly recommend both!

Motor Dog

Product DetailsFive-year-old Isaac picked this library find out and I have since read about a million times. A little boy orders a robot dog off the internet (by himself! what in the world), and finds it too be way too fancy after a near death experience involving a helicopter back pack. Yes, it’s pretty obvious why a little boy would think this book is the best. It’s one of those books I include on my lists because of the vast love my children have for it, not due to any fondness I have for it. Sometimes, whatever books get your children glued to reading is whatever you’ll read (within reason).

Chapter Books

The Kingdom of Wrenly Series

Seven-year-old Ella is currently devouring this early reader series. She can make it through one book in a day or two. Featuring a prince named Lucas and his best friend Clare, and set in a medieval make-believe world, the books are full of adventures with dragons, giants, and other page-turning fun. I read through the first one, but can’t keep up with Ella’s pace! These books remind me of the TV series Sofia The First in their content and setting, but are definitely geared more evenly to both boys and girls. Thanks to www.maybematilda.com for the recommendation!

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg (Fairy Dust Trilogy Book, A) by [Levine, Gail Carson]Yes, we’re still reading lots of fairy books here. Our latest favorite is one of the earliest in the Disney Fairy expansion. I continue to be impressed with the quality of these fairy books, and shake off any book snobishness when it comes to Tink and her pals. Gail Carson Levine is the author of this particular book (famed for Ella Enchanted), but it’s written for a younger audience than her other books and features many adorable illustrations of little-girlish fairies.

That’s about it from us this week! What great books for kids have you found?

Thanks for joining us for Three Book Thursday! This blog feature is all about our favorite children’s books of the week, and celebrating those moments when we can say, ‘Yes, we’ll read just one more book.’ See all the posts in the category here. And check out our other series about children’s book’s, Friday Favorites, here

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