The Reading Report, Vol. 8: Reading in the New Year

Welcome to the first 2018 edition of The Reading Report! I hope that you are off to a positive start to this new year. I can hardly believe that it is already the middle of January! Here in Middle Tennessee we are enjoying a beautiful snowy day, which is a bit of a rarity around here, I think. We have already chuckled just a bit (sorry Southerners!) at the speed at which everything gets cancelled when a little snow is falling. But, homebody that I am, I guess I don’t mind the added excuse to stay home and enjoy the extra time playing in the snow, drinking hot tea, and (of course) reading good books. Which leads me to the main point of this post–what I’m reading in the New Year!

What I’ve finished reading…

If you read the last installment of The Reading Report for 2017, you know that I have taken on the “Back to the Classics Challenge.” That post outlined the 12 (or more) books that I plan to read to fulfill each category for the challenge. I do, however, plan to read other books as well, and I have set a goal to finish 30 titles this year. I have already made a small dent in that number in just 2 weeks, which is good because I actually have been so busy with other things that I feel like I haven’t spent as much time reading as I should.

First, I finally finished Triggers! This book was so packed with good spiritual insight and practical help for me in my parenting struggles. I really think I need to read it again, focussing on just one chapter every week and intentionally trying to improve in that area. If you have any anger issues at all as a parent, I highly recommend this book!

The kids and I listened to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland together on Audible. We enjoyed it so much! I had read this book years ago, but it was delightful to get re-aquainted with the story with my children. We listened to this one for free on Audible Channels, which is a feature for Amazon Prime members. They have several classic audio books, both for families and adults only, as well as newer releases. If you have Prime and haven’t used Audible Channels, you should give it a try! And if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you should! Ha! 😉

Another great book I finished (also via Audible Channels) was The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. It was so good! I am finding that Christie’s mysteries make a really good “break” from heavier reading or non-fiction.

What I am reading now…

The first book I am diving into from my Back to the Classics list is Howards End by E. M. Forster. It is also the current selection being discussed on the Close Reads podcast. I knew nothing about Forster or Howards End before I started reading, but so far I am thoroughly enjoying it. Several thought provoking passages have jumped out at me, as well as many humorous lines. I still am not sure where the plot is going, but the characters I have met so far are delightful!

One of my goals for this year’s reading is to work my way through at least one of Charlotte Mason’s volumes. Since I still have young children, it made sense for me to start at the beginning and read Home Education. I am taking it very slow, only reading a few pages at a time, because I want to absorb the ideas and make lots of connections as I go.

The third book in my basket right now is Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu. I started this one as a companion to the 40 Day Sugar Fast devotionals. Although I am only a chapter in, I can already tell it is going to be good! The focus of both the book and the fast is not food as much as it is on breaking free from bondage to food fixation and other sins so that we can find our satisfaction in Jesus. I am looking forward to talking more about these concepts as I go through this journey over the next month.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I also am listening to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Since this was one of the books that I said I was “afraid” to read on the Back to the Classics list, I decided to get an early start on it. The first several chapters have been fine so far, just a little slow, perhaps. It is a lot of character set-up. But I think listening to it on Librivox has been a good way to get into it. I will probably start reading it in print, too, and go back and forth between the two.

That’s all for now…

I have been interrupted so many times while writing this post, I certainly hope it doesn’t sound as scattered as I feel! If it does, and you still made it this far, thanks for hanging in there with me! By the way, if you are a regular reader of my blog (or hope to be one in 2018), would you mind filling out this quick little survey for me? I am looking for some input on what you all would like to see more of in this space, as well as how I can best connect with you in the future! It is just 3 short questions, so if you can give me just a minute more of your time, I will be so grateful.

 

The Reading Report, Vol. 7: Back to the Classics Challenge 2018

Welcome to the December edition of The Reading Report! I can hardly believe that Christmas is only two weeks away! The holidays feel a little different this year since we are in a new location, but we have been enjoying the local festivities. We will also get to see some family during Christmas break, which will be very nice!

My reading life has been a little off lately. I got a bit overwhelmed with life a couple of weeks ago and stepped back from a lot of things to give myself a mental break. During that time, I realized that I had succumbed to a bad case of start-itis, especially where books are concerned. I have started a lot of books recently and then lacked the motivation or focus to finish them. As I thought over what I want 2018 to look like, I came to the conclusion that I need to simplify and narrow my focus in several areas, one of those being my reading habits. And just at the moment I was thinking about how to do this, I stumbled upon some posts by fellow AmblesideOnline moms about the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Perfect timing!

This challenge is hosted by Karen at her blog, Books and Chocolate. (Sounds like a great combo, right?!) What I like about her challenge is that it will give me a chance to narrow down just exactly what I want to read in the coming year, with a creative twist. I have a specific goal to shoot for, and a timeline to do it in. It also will challenge me to read some things I might not otherwise have the courage to crack open. Some these prompts made me think of more than one book that I might like to read, so I am writing down both options and will see what mood I am in when it comes down to the actual reading. Now, without further ado, here are my proposed titles for the Back to the Classics 2018 Challenge:

1. A 19th Century Classic: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
2. A 20th Century Classic: Howards End by E. M. Forster
3. A Classic by a Woman Author: Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
4. A Classic in Translation: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert or The Wreath (book 1 of Kristin Lavransdatter) by Sigrid Undset
5. A Children’s Classic: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Heidi by Johanna Spyri
6. A Classic Crime Story: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
7. Classic Travel or Journey Narrative: Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
8. Classics with a Single-Word Title: Utopia by Thomas More or Walden by Henry David Thoreau
9. Classic with a Color in the Title: White Fang by Jack London
10. Classic by a New-to-You Author: The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray
11. A Classic that Scares You: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
12. Re-read a Favorite Classic: something by Jane Austen (because I just have to read an Austen ever year!)

At the end of the 2018, I will report back with the complete list of finished titles. I really do hope I can discipline myself to focus in on this list and not get distracted by too many other books I could read. In 2017 I finished 16 books, not including numerous children’s classics we either read aloud or listened to as a family. In light of that, 12 classics should not be too much to ask, even if some of them a bit long. I also am very slowly working my way through Charlotte Mason’s Home Education Series, but I just read a few pages of one of those each day or two and let the ideas simmer.

Do you have any reading plans for 2018? Are you joining in the Back to the Classics Challenge? I’d love to hear what you are going to be reading in the New Year, so leave me a comment below!

 

 

 

This post is linked up with Books and Chocolate: Back to the Classics 2018. 

The Reading Report, Vol. 6: Picture Book Edition

Happy Almost Thanksgiving, readers! I am excited to be entering into this holiday season in a new place this year! My parents and my brother and sister-in-law will be coming in for Thanksgiving, and we are looking forward to their visit. In light of the beginning of a busy season for most families, I thought I had better go ahead and get this month’s Reading Report written up so that it isn’t lost in the holiday shuffle. Besides, as promised last time, this edition is chalk full of favorite picture books, all of which would make great gifts for the children on your list! Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list, just the most recent favorites the kids and I have been enjoying together. Many are classics, but some are newer books. All are well-worth a spot on a child’s bookshelf!

Picture books we’ve been loving:

            

                     

             

    

     

What I’ve Finished Reading:

I can’t publish this month’s Reading Report without mentioning a few of my own books, of course. I certainly cannot skip over my thoughts on finishing GileadI turned its final page just a couple nights ago, and I have still been thinking about the book ever since. It did take a while to get into, and I will admit that for a while it seemed to move so slowly and quietly that it nearly put me to sleep a couple of times. However, the pace of the storyline and tension between characters picked up later on, and the ending was very moving to me. I actually honestly cried big fat tears at the end. The book had so many themes woven through it: grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, family relationship, generational heritage, aging, youth, beauty of creation, small town life…I could go on! It is more of a fictionalized memoire than a plot-driven book, which may not be for everyone. I seemed to me very much a chronicle of a man coming to peace with himself and his fellow man near the end of his life. And I loved it.

Also, if you are looking for a fun fantasy sort of book to read with your kids, Edith Nesbit’s Five Children and It is a great read aloud or audible choice! The kids and I listened to it on our car rides recently, and we fell in love with these ordinary children who have extraordinary adventures (and learn some good lessons) thanks to finding an unusual mythical creature who can grant their wishes!

What I’m Reading Next:

The Penderwicks: I saw this one while browsing at the library today and decided to pick it up for my own light reading. If I think it is appropriate, I may read it aloud to my son once I am finished.

I also just started in on Last Child in the Woods. This book has been on my radar for a long time, but I never had a chance to actually sit down and read it. Seeking to spend more time outdoors is always a goal I have for myself and my kids, and I know this book is just going to drive home the point. But so far I am finding the statistics and other information in the first few chapters very interesting.

The next Close Reads podcast pick is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. My son and I just read the E. Nesbit synopsis version in Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, so I am looking forward to reading and watching the play next!

What I Shelved:

The Explosive Child: Since I mentioned this book in the last Reading Report, I thought I should let you all know I ended up returning this title to the library after only reading the first few chapters. There was just too much emphasis on the psychological and developmental theories from a secular point of view, not taking into account the sin nature of the child. I do not know if I would have found some helpful tips later on in the book, but I decided it was not a book for me right now.

And that is probably enough from me for now! Happy Reading, friends!

The Life-giving Habit of Mother Culture

Mother culture

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth.

from “Mother Culture” by “A.” in The Parents’ Review, vol. 3, no. 2, pgs. 92-95

I had never heard the term “mother culture” until about two years ago when I was listening to Leah Boden talk about it in one of her Periscope broadcasts. At the time, I was knee deep in the duties of caring for a young infant—diapering, nursing, feeding, bathing, soothing, and all the rest. I was also in the infant stages of homeschooling our son, and that in itself felt like a full time job. The rest of life did not stop, either, just because I had many demands at home. There were outside commitments snd situations that also depleted my physical and emotional energy. I was definitely feeling “used up” in those days!

Thankfully, since I had so much time to sit while nursing a baby, I started to read during those many hours each day. I don’t remember how intentional I was about it at first, but I knew I needed to give my mind something more nourishing to chew on than Facebook, Instagram and random blogs. I am not sure I had read Brandy Vencel’s wonderful post on Mother Culture then, but if not then, I know I read it sometime not too much later. She does a great job of pulling the meat from that article in the PR magazine from which I quoted earlier and distilling it down to give us a good working definition of this thing called “mother culture.”

Basically, mother culture is another way of saying that we as home educators, and arguably, even parents who do not keep their children home for their schooling, must continue to education ourselves even as we teach our children. If we do not, our minds will certainly stagnate, and lapse into unhealthy patterns of thinking. I do wonder if I had developed this habit of mother culture when my first child was born, perhaps I would have lessened the degree of my postpartum depression. We will never know, I guess, but I certainly believe it helped keep me out of the doldrums with my second baby! And now that my children are older and learning and growing in their education, wide reading and other habits of self-education are important for me to continue feeding my mind and growing as I pour out to teach and train them. Perhaps this will become even more crucial as they enter the high school years and are encountering books and ideas that I never had the chance to explore in my own formal education (Latin, for example).

There is no education but self-education.

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.

Charlotte Mason

If the above statement about self-education are true for our children, how much more so are they true for us as adults, when we are no longer under a formal course of study? It seems that as mothers we must form habits of tending our own minds and hearts as much as we help tend to those of our children. Also, even though the original article on Mother Culture only mentions wide reading, I do think that these habits of self-education extend to other areas of study. I have found for myself that it is equally life-giving to practice handwriting, drawing, nature study, and watercolor as to read a book. It is refreshing to my soul when I listen with attention to an opera or symphony, when I knit or crochet or do needlework, and when I commonplace quotes from my own reading. The important thing is to do something which is expanding my mind and my skills, not mention my own habit of attention, so that I do not stagnate or drain myself dry.

So now I want to encourage you, whether you are in the toddler years, or the teen years, do something that gives life to your mind and soul. Read a stretching book to challenge you to think deeply. Learn a new skill to do with your hands. Take in a piece of art or music, paying close attention to the beauty in its details. Walk out in nature and take notes on what you find. Whatever small habits you can begin to cultivate your own education, I do believe that developing your own mother culture will be well worth the effort! What will you do to fill yourself up today?

More Than Just Another Money Management Book: Review and Giveaway!

Scroll to the end of this post to enter the giveaway and win a copy of More Than Just Making It!

When I signed up for The Humbled Homemaker, Erin Odum’s book launch team, I figured that this would be a good book to give me some encouragement and pointers on money management during a financially stressful time. And it was! What I did not count on was that it would get me thinking about so much more than just making ends meet. But then, with a title like More Than Just Making It, I guess I should have!

In her book, Erin shares very openly about her family’s struggles during several very financially challenging years, so difficult, in fact, that she finally came to the point of needing some government assistance just to put food on the table for her growing family. Having grown up in average middle class American culture, Erin discussed how humbling and eye-opening that experience was for her. In reading More Than Just Making It, I identified a lot with Erin’s preconceptions and prejudices about those who use government aid programs. Around the same time I received my advanced copy, my husband was just coming off a period of serious underemployment, and if it had not been for the savings we had built up over the past few years, we would have been part of the “working poor” just like Erin and her husband were.

Along with the memoire portion of the book, Erin also has a lot of practical financial advice on everything from saving money on healthy food, to making wise decisions when looking for a home. More importantly, though, she shares practical spiritual advice on how to find hope in the midst of your financial frustration. One of the greatest things she and her husband learned from their challenging situation was how to trust God for their everyday needs to be met, and then to be truly grateful to Him when He did provide.

One of my favorite chapters in More Than Just Making It is titled “Redifining the American Dream.” In this chapter, Erin discusses the need for a change in our mindset when it comes to how we in America think of financial success. I think this chapter resonated so much with me because of where our family is at right now. Yes, my husband now has a full-time income that is livable for us now, but we are moving to a very affluent area with a higher cost of living than we are used to. It would be very easy for us to look around at all the big, beautiful houses and become envious and strive to attain that for ourselves. But lately we have felt the desire instead to simplify and downsize. If there is one thing packing for a move teaches just about everyone, it is that we have too much stuff! My new hope for our family finances is that we will have enough to take care of our needs and then be flesible enough to give generously above and beyond our tithe. I want us to be content with what we have and to be hospitable and welcoming without self-consciousness.

All that to say, I highly recommend More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated to anyone, not just those of you who may be in need of money managment tips. This book will encourage, inspire and challenge you to be a wise steward of what you have, to look for God’s provision in unexpected places, and to seek to be a blessing to others who are hurting. I hope you will check out the book webpage for all the amazing pre-order goodies Erin is offering if you purchase the book before the release date of September 5, 2017! And, finally, I have a special chance for one lucky reader to win a print copy of the book! You can enter the giveaway below, or click here to be taken to a new page and enter. The giveaway will close on September 4, 2017 at midnight, so don’t delay! I will contact the winner by email for your mailing address. Enjoy!

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