Thursday, December 10, 2015

Back to the classics challenge 2016

I have never taken part in a reading challenge before but I'm going to attempt one for 2016 - The Back to the Classics Challenge.  I think it's important for me, as a homeschool mom who plans to educate her children with beautifully written books full of great ideas from great minds, to continually get in touch with those minds myself.  Hopefully this challenge will help me stay disciplined to actually finish the books I start!

I copied and pasted the categories from the above link (the official rules are listed there).  My books choices are in bold, although I'm having a hard time deciding on a couple of the categories!

Many of these are free for kindle (score!), and I've linked those.

1.  A 19th century classic
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - I've never read Dickens (wait...maybe I read Great Expectations in school at some point?) and picked this up recently at a library book sale.  I've heard it's a good first Dickens read.

2.  A 20th century classic
The Space Trilogy books by C.S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) - I've been wanting to read these for awhile.  Our library only has the 2nd one (?).  Sooo, hopefully I'll be getting these for Christmas. *cough*

3.  A classic by a woman author
Persuasion by Jane Austen - I've only read Pride and Prejudice by her, but several people have mentioned that Persuasion is their favorite Austen so I figured it would be a good one.
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter - I have this and have heard great things about it.  Actually I read a review somewhere about how the book made the reader want to become a better mother, so that seems appropriate :)

4.  A classic in translation
The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) by Alessandro Manzoni - This is a scheduled book discussion on the AO forums and a lot of people are excited about it, so I thought maybe I'd join in lurk.

5.  A classic by a non-white author
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin - I don't know much about this book, but from reviews, it looks to be very powerful.

6.  An adventure classic
Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves by Edmund Spenser - Another book discission book.  This is book I of The Faerie Queene, which I had never heard of before this year, but it has come highly recommended, especially for Christians, and I am soooo intrigued!  I'll have to come up with a copy.  (Maybe this could be a Christmas present, too??? *cough, cough*)

7.  A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic
Utopia by Thomas More - A third book discussion book, plus it's short, so it'll cancel out I Promessi Sposi!
Phantastes by George MacDonald - I just want to read more of MacDonald.

8.  A classic detective novel
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - I've always wanted to read Sherlock Holmes, and I own all of them, so what a perfect time to dive in!

9.  A classic which includes the name of a place in the title
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - A classic I missed in childhood (along with many, many others!).  I read somewhere that this book was written for all ages, but only in the last century has it been considered a children's book.  So hopefully it'll count.

10.  A classic which has been banned or censored
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe - Apparently this is one of many banned books that shaped America.  I've heard it's really good.

11.  Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - I haven't read it since high school.  It's been sitting on my shelves and I've been eyeing it.

12.  A volume of classic short stories
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger - I had a hard time finding a collection of short stories.  I found a decent list here, and our library has this one.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury - I've heard great things about this book, but I would have to find a copy.

Anyone else joining?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

On indifference

The one church out of the seven in the book of Revelation that Jesus had nothing positive to say about was the church of the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:14).

This church was neither hot nor cold.  These believers were indifferent.  Basically, they were satisfied with where they were.  They believed they had "need of nothing."

I keep thinking how dangerous this is, to think that we are in a good place.  To think that because things are going well, we are good to go.  To think that because we understand something, we understand everything.  To come to a place where, whether we realize it or not, we stop seeking the Lord with all our of our being - a place where there's no passion for God, no zeal.

We will be vomited out of His mouth.


Jesus basically tells this church to "be zealous and repent."

Be zealous:  Seek the Lord with our whole being.  Be on fire for Him.  Desire Him to be the center of our lives.  These are things we must actively do.  This is not a passive way of living or thinking, it's an active way.

Repent:  This begins with humility and acknowledging that we need God.  We are nothing without Him.  We know nothing without Him.  There is always more to learn.  There is always more growth to be had.

May we always seek first His kingdom and righteousness.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas hodgepodge - advent, books, and handicrafts

I thought I would share some of the things we are doing during this Christmas season.

Morning Time

Our morning time in December is centered around Christmas.  I keep it simple and only do 3 things.  First, we read a Christmas-themed poem. You can find some here and here.  I also have a book called Favorite Poems Old and New, from which I sometimes read.

Next, we sing a Christmas hymn.  Right now we're learning "Away in a Manger."  We either listen to it on youtube or just sing it ourselves.  We'll focus on this song for two weeks, then learn another one.  I haven't decided on the other one yet!

Last, we read a Bible story.  We've deviated from our normal plans and are focusing on advent readings.  We began with creation on December 1st and we'll read a story everyday, leading up to Christ's birth on Christmas.  I found a free advent reading guide from using The Jesus Storybook Bible, which we own.  (Although, you don't have to have this storybook Bible to follow this guide because it includes the passages from the Bible.)  The girls LOVE this storybook Bible.  I like it too, for the most part.  I'm not the biggest fan of the illustrations (I would prefer them to be more life-like, not cartoonish), and I sometimes have to edit what is written (for example, why couldn't the author write that God said, "Let there be light," instead of "Hello, light!").  But I do like how each story points to Christ.

The reading guide comes with lovely paper ornaments, which I printed off.  Each day, after we read the story, one of the girls will put the ornament on a little tree that we have in our extra living room.  (I actually put the ornament in an envelope and hide it somewhere in our real Christmas tree, and after we read the day's story one of the girls has to find the envelope - they think this is so fun).

That's it for morning time.

Christmas books

Another thing we are doing for the season is reading a Christmas story each night before bed.  I checked out a bunch of good Christmas picture books from our library and, along with some books we own, I wrapped them up.  Each night one of the girls picks a book and unwraps it, then we read it.  This is the first year we've done this and they are loving it.

So far we've read Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Some others in our stack are (off the top of my head, so I most likely won't include them all) The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg, Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant, I'll Be Home for Christmas (Toot and Puddle) by Holly Hobbie, A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schulz, The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, and Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

For our composer study, we're listening to The Nutracker by Tchaikovsky, and to go along with that we're reading The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman.  We're reading this at lunch time (my normal read-aloud time), every other day (the other days we're continuing with our current read-aloud, Mr. Popper's Penguins).

I've had this copy for a couple of years - I found it at a used bookstore for 2 bucks I think.  It's been sitting in my closet, just waiting until the girls were old enough to read it!  We're really enjoying it so far.

The illustrations are lovely.

We're still doing hand-stitching for our handicraft and we're stitching Christmas cards.

We are obviously not done with those :)

This isn't a handicraft, just a craft, but the girls also made a paper chain to count down the days until Christmas.  I remember doing this when I was growing up!  

(In case you're curious, the girls rotate days to *do* everything - hang the advent ornament, choose a book to unwrap, and tear the chain link.)

And now a couple of random pics.

She's such a happy baby!

Sweet sisters :)

That's it for now!  What are some things you're doing for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What I need

I've been on a reading kick lately.  Well, sort of.  A reading kick for me means that I actually finished a book in the past three months :)

I'm not writing today about the book that I finished (which was Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis - I pretty much gobbled that one up, it was so hard to put down!  I will definitely have to read it again.).  I'm writing about a little book by George MacDonald called Sir Gibbie.  MacDonald was actually a big influence in C.S. Lewis' writings.  I've only read one other book by him, At the Back of the North Wind.  However, of the little bit that I've read, I've quickly discovered that he is an author whose books I will continue to read.  He is so thought-provoking, very much like Lewis.  I've already filled up a page and a half (front and back) in my commonplace of quotes from Sir Gibbie, and I'm only beginning the fifth chapter!

There's a quote that I wanted to share, but first, a little setup.  Gibbie is an eight year old boy who pretty much lives on the street all day everyday.  He does have a father, but he's an alcoholic and neglects Gibbie.  For food, Gibbie relies on the charity of those with whom he comes in contact.
"These, the half-cookie, the turnip, and the dulse, with the smell of the baker's bread, was all he had had.  It had been rather one of his meager days.  But it is wonderful upon how little those rare natures capable of making the most of things will live and thrive.  There is a great deal more to be got out of things than is generally got out of them, whether the thing be a chapter of the Bible or a yellow turnip, and the marvel is that those who use the most material should so often be those that show the least result in strength or character."
I wonder why?  Is it because we, who have so much, take it all for granted?

(And by we, I mean me.)

It makes me think of Little House in the Big Woods when Laura gets her first doll for Christmas.  It's the only real toy she has.  And she cherishes that doll.  She loves it and appreciates it.

It makes me think of people in other parts of the world who have never had or seen a Bible, maybe because they've just never heard the gospel or because Bibles are forbidden.  But when they do get one, there's so much joy.

Is it because we, who have so much, do not stop to think about why we do the things we do?

(Me again.)

Is it because we, who have so much, do not slow down?

Okay, I should share another quote I wrote down (and then I'm going to bed because it's 10:30 pm and I don't know when baby girl will wake up!):
"Hardy through hardship, he {Gibbie} knew nothing better than a constant good-humoured sparring with nature and circumstance for the privilege of being, enjoyed what came to him thoroughly, never mourned over what he had not, and, like the animals, was at peace.  For the bliss of the animals lies in this, that, on their lower level, they shadow the bliss of those - few at any moment on the earth - who do not 'look before and after, and pine for what is not,' but live in the holy carelessness of the eternal now." 
I've been thinking a lot lately about slowing down.  I don't have to do it all.  I don't have to have it all.  I just need to be where I am.

I need to be mindful of my choices and get as much out of them as I can.  I need to slow down and not rush through life, trying to cram in more and more.  I need to be grateful for what I do have, what I'm given, and not take it for granted.  I need to be humble in my thoughts and actions.  I need to have an ear and a heart for guidance.

I need to pray.

I need to trust.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Only good things

I've been chewing on the following idea I came across when I read this article written by Andrew Kern:

You become what you behold.

This is why I want my children to engage with books.  Books and stories have a way of opening our minds to that which is worthy.  They take awhile to digest, allowing time for ideas to sink in.  They make you think.  They develop imagination.  (As opposed to say, tv.)

I read a great book recently called Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson.  It's a book about books, which may sound boring, but it was far from it.  It's a book about the why behind books.  Why are books and stories so important for our children?

In her book, Clarkson manages to draw you into the world of stories by telling a passionate and enchanting tale about stories.  She inspires you to engage your children with books so that they can understand what it means to live a life of courage and love.  (I was inspired myself!)
"Stories are a powerfully formative force.  They furnish children with rich vocabulary, broad imagination, and the spirit of possibility necessary to purposeful living or heroic action.  The great tales of literature both inspire heroism and demonstrate what actions must be taken if the world is to be conquered or creation accomplished. 
The great tales of the ages confront us with the narrative quality of our existence; they remind us that every choice has meaning and that strong hearts, evil or good, determine the fates of whole kingdoms.  Stories remind us that we work for a purpose, we hope and learn and endure because a good ending is in store."
But not every book or story inspires noble character.  There's plenty of twaddle out there - books that lack depth and are just not worth the time (the comments in the linked article are great).  I'm choosy about the books that come into our home.  When we go to the library, I'm the one who picks out the books.  I'm terrible, aren't I :)  That's not to say my kids never get to pick out a book, but I pick out the majority, because they don't know which stories are worthwhile and lovely and which are not.  Hopefully, someday when they're older, they will know because that's what they will have been used to.

"What manner of book will find its way with upheaving effect into the mind of an intelligent boy or girl?  We need not ask what the girl or boy likes.  She very often likes the twaddle of goody-goody story books, he likes condiments, highly-spiced tales of adventure.  We are all capable of liking mental food of a poor quality and a titillating nature; and possibly such food is good for us when our minds are in need of an elbow-chair; but our spiritual life is sustained on other stuff, whether we be boys or girls, men or women.  By spiritual I mean that which is not corporeal; and which, for convenience sake, we call by various names - the life of thought, the life of feeling, the life of the soul."  (Charlotte Mason, School Education, p. 168) 
I want my children to engage with goodqualitywell-written books.  Books that will help form their souls.  Books embodying worthy ideas - goodness, truth, and beauty.  Books like Charlotte's Web, with the ideas of true friendship, loyalty, and self-worth.  Like Pinocchio, with the idea of choices and consequences, but also of spiritual growth and forgiveness.  Like Little House in the Big Woods with ideas of the importance of family, hard work, and contentedness.  (Can you tell we're in AO year one?)

I'm choosy about picture books, too.  There are a ton of beautiful, worthwhile picture books out there, and a ton of senseless ones.  Why bother with the latter when there are so many better options?  Yes, some books are fun and silly and we enjoy the humor, but for the most part we choose worthwhile books and stories because my children deserve the worthwhile books and stories.  Just like they deserve good, nutritious food.  A little bit of junk is okay, but the majority must be healthy.  And I'm not about to allow my kids to decide what they get to eat everyday!  :)

"In childhood, we form foundational ideas about what is possible, what dreams are in our grasp to accomplish.  We form our ideas of which ways are right, what actions are moral and even desirable.  In childhood, we form the habits of study or activity, imagination or creativity that help us to weave a tale of beauty in and through our lives.
Terms such as 'courage,' 'kindness,' 'good,' 'evil,' or 'heroic' are abstract concepts for a child.  In order to learn what it means to be 'good,' a child needs to be shown, not merely told.  In all honesty, I think that is true of the human race, adults as well as children.  It is one of the vital reasons that God gave us the great story of Scripture, a book crammed full with concrete, embodied examples of good and evil, love and hate...We grow and form great character in children mostly by putting them in the presence of excellent characters whose goodness breathes and laughs and glows.  We have to make goodness delightful, and this is exactly what the best children's books have to offer.  From Winnie the Pooh to Treasure Island, children's literature is crammed to bursting with a menagerie of people who vividly embody the good and the bad."  (Caught Up in a Story - emphasis mine)

There is so much in this impious society that will pull our children in the wrong direction.  So it is up to me and my husband to put in front of our children books that inspire honorable character.  Books that develop their imagination so that they can see a world filled with God's love and goodness and beauty. Because they will become what they behold.  What they see and hear and read will influence them more than we think.

Only good things.
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things."  (Philippians 4:8)

Monday, November 9, 2015

The girls

Day 5!

(Except it's November 9.)

(Oh man, I'm so behind.)

(I will make it all up at some point.)

(This is why I shouldn't commit to blogging challenges.)

How blessed I am to be the mother of these two girlies.  They are so sweet (most of the time) and so much fun (most of the time) - they make me laugh everyday.  They are best friends (most of the time) and I am so thankful to be with them each day, watching them grow into beautiful young ladies.  

Yes, they dressed themselves.

They are wonderful big sisters - so helpful - and love their baby sissy so, so much.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

{Nature} River visit, and guess what we saw!

Day 4!  (Although I'm a day late.) 

We went to the river the other day and had a lot of fun.  I'm so thankful to live in such a beautiful part of the country.  We are surrounded by lovely landscapes - all attesting to the glory of our awesome and creative God.  I'm also thankful for time spent together as a family, enjoying each other and the outdoors.

I think this is a great blue heron?  We can never see them up close.

There's nothing like spending time together throwing and skipping rocks.  Simple pleasures :)

Who says you need toys?

We saw something that I've never seen before in real life - TWO bald eagles!  Can you see this one in the picture below?

They were on the other side of the river so we didn't get to see them up close.  My camera won't zoom very far, but you can tell what they are.  So, so cool!  And then, of course, this week's bird selection from the Burgess Bird Book had to be the bald eagle :)

Making mud pies.

Two beauties :)

And another one, fast asleep :)

The perfect place to climb.

Ahhh, ladybugs :)

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.

(Psalm 95:1-7)

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Day 3

Day 3!

I'm thankful for:

Addy's sweet voice singing in the other room.

Izzy's face when she scored a goal in her soccer game.

Holding a precious sleeping baby in my arms.

Fall walks down dirt roads.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The hubs

Day 2!  (I'm on a roll!)

I'm beyond thankful for my awesome husband!  I am so blessed to have him because I've heard of husbands out there who just don't help out around the house.  That is not the case with this man!  Even though I stay at home, he never hesitates to help - he's great at doing laundry, the dishes, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, taking care of the girls, and most of the time without my asking.  (I know what you're thinking...what do you do all day?  NEWBORN.  'Nuff said.)

Izzy and Addy adore him, and so will Paige (and so do I).

We love you!!