The Reading Report, Vol. 3

Welcome to the August edition The Reading Report! Even though I am in the midst of some pretty unpredictable days what with starting the moving process and all that entails, I have been finding a decent amount of time to read lately. Actually, I may be reading a bit more right now to distract myself from thinking about the myriad details over which I currently have no control! I just read an article online that cited a study in which researchers found people felt more stressed by moving house than they did by going through a divorce. So let's just call any extra time I spend reading this month "therapy," okay?

What I am currently reading…

I finished two(!) books yesterday, so my "currently reading" list just got shorter. I am still working my way through The Brothers Karamazovand I am getting deep into the action now, I think. There has been some blood and a lot of ranting and raving and a late night ride across the country. But that is as far as I have gotten. I am anxious to find out what happens next! The characters in this book, or I should say, at least in the Karamazov family seem to have a fatalistic view of themselves. They often say things that imply they feel they cannot help their actions because they are Karamazovs, or they were just drawn into an action by some unseen force they could not resist. I am curious to find out if any of them overcomes this fatalism, particularly the one brother who is introduced as the heroic character in the story.

Also still on my current reads list are these three parenting books: Heartfelt Discipline, Grace-Based Parenting, and Triggers. I mentioned before that I struggle with non-fiction, especially the more self-help variety, so I have not been cracking these titles open as often as I probably should be! If you have any tips to help me become a better non-fiction reader, or how you keep books rotating more evenly, please leave me a comment. I need some ideas how to keep these going even when I don't FEEL like it!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

Last week I was delighted to receive a package of books in the mail from an Instagram giveaway hosted by the lovely Amy Bennett of Abiding Ministries and the Feathers: Faith in Flight podcast. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of titles she sent, and I immediately started reading the one that stood out to me the most: The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron. I had perhaps heard of this new book once before but did not know anything about it. After just a few pages, I was sucked into this riveting memoir of a woman who was the daughter of a polygamist cult leader and convicted murderer, Ervil LeBaron. I had never heard of him or his cult, I think because I was too young at the time that most of the drama played out on national television. Reading Anna's heartbreaking stories of childhood abuse and neglect made me really think of how little we really know about the people we pass by in the store or on the street each day. To a passerby on the street, Anna probably would have seemed like any other little girl living in poverty, but the realities of her life at home were not things most of us would imagine happening in modern America. Her conversion story was definitely uplifting, but not without its own share of struggles. This book made me think a lot–about gratitude, about faith, about real hardship, about grace, about compassion, about forgiveness, about redemption, about healing and about God as a true Father to the fatherless.

The other book I finished was Brideshead Revisited. I have yet to listen to the final Close Reads podcast about the last few chapters. This book was truly beautiful from beginning to end. It did not end quite as I might have expected, but when I finished I realized it had ended just exactly as it should have. It also was a story of conversion, but not at all in the same way that The Polygamist's Daughter is. The conversions that take place in Brideshead are quieter, more private, happening off-screen, so to speak. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read it again one day. I do think it helped me get more out of it by having listened to the discussions of David, Tim, Angelina and Andrew. I am sure there was still much that was lost on me, but at least their insights brought many ideas to the surface that I would never have had the eyes to see myself on this first reading. I can hardly wait to see what the next Close Reads selection will be!

What I'm reading next…

I might be pushing myself a bit here, considering what I said earlier, but I am going to try starting another non-fiction book! Since I have this lovely stack of brand new books from Amy, I want to keep reading them! (Plus, I think I will be having a giveaway or two in the near future to "pay it forward" and give someone else a chance to be blessed with some new free reads!) I just have not quite decided which one to start next. So, any opinions? If you have read one or more of these books already, please let me know what you think and if it should be added to my current reading list!

Your Powerful Prayers by Susie Larson (Thinking this one would be a nice devotional read since chapters are packed with Scripture and include study questions at the end.)

Josiah's Fire by Tahni Cullen (This one is about a boy with autism, written by his mother. It sounds really captivating, and would be a nice story-based balance to my self-help nonfiction list!)

Come with Me by Suzanne Eller (This one sounds great for me where I am right now in the midst of transition and uncertainty about the future!)

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (Again, this sounds like a good one for my current situation. Moving can seem very un-lovely at times!)

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu (This is probably at the bottom of my list right now. I probably could really use the message, though, since I do tend to self-medicate with food. Ahem. Moving on…)

Well, that's it for Volume 3 of The Reading Report! Here's hoping that the next issue is written from my new space in Tennessee! In the meantime, tell me what you are reading right now in the comments below! Happy Reading!

Homeschool Basics Series, Pt. 4: Homeschooling on a Budget

Welcome to Part 4 of my Homeschool Basics series! Missed the previous posts in this series? No worries! Part 1: Why We Homeschool is here, Part 2: How We Homeschool is here, and Part 3:Year-Round Schooling is here.

If you are thinking about homeschooling your child(ren), one of the things you will need to consider is the cost. Most families choosing to home educate are living on one full-time income, although I am hearing of a growing number of families in which both parents work full-time and still find ways to homeschool! Either way, you need to have a budget for your homeschool. If you are coming from a public school mindset, then the idea of paying extra for education may be a bit of a burden to you. But if you consider how much private school tuition generally costs, then you will likely be relieved! Homeschooling costs fall somewhere in the middle, and how you choose to home educate determines how much you will spend.

If you are anything like me, you need to cut costs and get the most bang for your buck in every area of your budget, homeschool included! Here are some ways that our family has drastically reduced our education expenses while still giving our children a fantastic learning experience.

  1. Use a free or inexpensive base curriculum. As I mentioned in previous posts, we use a free Charlotte Mason style curriculum available from AmblesideOnline.org. The booklists, reading schedules, parent resources and support, etc., are all completely free of charge! All you have to buy are the books, although even many of those can be found online for free (see next point). If you are not interested in a Charlotte Mason style education, I have heard many homeschool moms use and like the free curriculum from Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. If you know of other free or low-cost curriculum choices, I would love for you to leave a link to it in the comments!
  2. Get free books via Kindle, Gutenberg and Librivox. One of the things I love about AmblesideOnline is that the moms who created it were very careful to choose books that were widely available at a reasonable cost while still being high quality classics. This means that many of their choices are books that are old enough to be in the public domain. The AO booklists link to any book that has been converted into electronic format and is available for free online, whether via Gutenberg.org, Amazon Kindle, or in audio format on Librivox. I used these resources heavily when I was pre-reading for AO Year 1 before deciding to purchase in print books. Some people who have either serious space or budget limitations use these free e-books almost exclusively. This is a great way to have a great living books education without spending a lot on building a large home library.
  3. Make use of the library. Speaking of libraries, if you homeschool, you need to make your librarian your friend! No matter what style of homeschooling you choose, you can probably find most of the books, magazines, dvd’s and more that you need right there at your public library! Just be sure to return things on time so you don’t end up spending a fortune in overdue book fines!
  4. Shop for used books cheaper at thrift stores, library sales or online. Because I have 2 students that will be using the same books eventually, I decided that it was worth the cost for us to go ahead and purchase as many physical books as we can from the AO lists. However, I am rarely willing to pay full price for a new book unless I cannot find it cheaper used somewhere. I never stop in my local thrift stores without going over the book shelves pretty thoroughly. I have found some real gems for only $.50-$1! Another great place to find inexpensive used books is your local library’s book sales. Most libraries have these once or twice a year, and you can often find great titles at a fraction of the price you would pay elsewhere. If you prefer to shop online, I have had great success with finding used books via sellers on both Amazon and AbeBooks. You do need to check shipping prices and reviews, however.
  5. Use free reading and math curricula, at least for lower grades. If you do a little research, you will find a plethora of free or low-cost options for teaching basic phonics and reading skills, as well as math and handwriting. If I had known about these options my first year homeschooling, I probably would have saved a lot of money! Although I did not make use of a free reading curriculum, I have had a great experience using MEP math, a complete free math program from the UK. Amy Tuttle’s Discover Reading is a good, inexpensive guide to a Charlotte Mason method of teaching your child to read.
  6. Free or low-cost supplementary materials.  If you are going to do composer study, find free versions of the songs you will use on Youtube. Again, AmblesideOnline has links to videos of their chosen pieces for each term. Another choice, if you already have an Amazon Prime membership is to use the Amazon Prime Music app to find the songs for your composer and create a playlist for use in your homeschool. We will be trying this out in the coming year. For our artist study, we started out using the computer, but I soon decided I would prefer having physical prints for us to look at without staring at a screen. Instead I used document printing from our local Staples to get 8×11 prints of all our artwork and spent only $13 for the whole year. The same can be done at Office Depot.
  7. Cheap school supplies on clearance or at Dollar Tree. Of course, you will need some basic school supplies for the year, and the best time to buy these is when they are on clearance in the fall. You can also find some inexpensive school supplies at the Dollar Tree. Some of my favorite things to buy there for school are actually their little workbooks and flashcards that my toddler can play with and feel like she is “doing school” with her brother.
  8. Repurpose and reuse. When it comes to consumables, some things will just need replaced every year, like used up spiral notebooks and worn out folders. But if you can reuse more costly supplies like binders, page protectors, etc., do it! Most kids really don’t need completely brand new school supplies like pencils and crayons every single year. But when you do know your supplies are getting worn out or running low, try to plan ahead and buy when they are on clearance.
  9. Simplify. Even though there are some really wonderful options out there, you truly don’t need fancy curriculum to have a great education for your children. I know a lot of people like to decorate their school rooms and fill up their shelves with fun manipulatives, games and activities; but the fact of the matter is, you don’t need to do that. Read well-written, living books. Practice reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Go explore outside in nature. Listen to good music. Look at beautiful art. Teach your children how to cook and clean. Love on your kids and give them space to use their imaginations. Do these things, and your children will have a rich education. All the money in the world can’t buy what your children need most–your love and guidance.

 

The Reading Report, Vol. 2

Welcome to Volume 2 of “The Reading Report!” I am so glad to have you here to discuss books and reading with me! In Volume 1 I listed all the books I have read over the past year or so, but now I am ready to write about my current reads. So fix your favorite beverage, pull up a chair and let’s chat about books, shall we?

What I am currently reading. . .

First up, because it is the book I was reading most recently, is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I started this one to participate in a discussion group on the AmblesideOnline Forums, and it has been really helpful to read along with other people. We are reading it very slowly, just one “book” every month, which is good because it is pretty meaty. At first I had a hard time keeping all the characters and their relationships to each other straight, but now that we are halfway through, I feel a lot more comfortable with all that. I am still trying to figure out how I feel about this book. I like it, but not in the same way I like, say, Pride and Prejudice. The Brothers Karamazov is the first Russian novel I have read, and the pacing and structure is very different from my usual reading. I am finding that I do not always understand the deeper themes and ideas that are being developed in the conversations alongside the plot, but I decided that for my first reading, I don’t need to worry about that. I am just trying to enjoy the ride and see it through to the end, which should not be too hard since I really am curious to find out what happens to the various characters!

The other fiction I am actually really reading right now is Brideshead RevisitedThis is another read inspired by a group discussion, this time on the Close Reads podcast from CiRCE. I find it interesting that this is one of several books I have read this year that are either during or shortly after World War 1. This was a time period I have virtually no knowledge of, but reading fiction from that era of history has given me a desire to know more. The prose in Brideshead Revisited is truly some of the most beautiful I have ever encountered. Waugh is a master wordsmith. I have also really benefited from the podcast discussion as it has helped bring out a lot of ideas I would have otherwise missed because I am so new to the concept of reading closely.

In non-fiction, which is usually my weak spot, I am dipping into three different parenting books right now, all of which I have enjoyed and gleaned wisdom from thus far: Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson, Grase-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel, and Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. I will write in more detail about each of these later when I have gotten closer to finishing them!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

I actually FINISHED a whole book! And in just one short week, too! It has been a while since I read through something that quickly. I am on the launch team for a brand new book called More Than Just Making It by blogger Erin Odum of The Humbled Homemaker. I will have a post dedicated to my book summary and review, but suffice to say that it was an excellent read! Part memoire, part practical tips on how to go from financial frustration to financial freedom. If you are at all interested in getting the book, I highly recommend you check out the preorder bonuses because they are amazing!

What’s on the back burner. . .

So, I sometimes have a problem with a little “start-itis” in which I begin reading too many books at a time. Some of the books I was gung-ho to start in the winter and spring have had to take a back seat. I fully intend to read them in the very near future, but for now I just don’t have the bandwidth for them. Back burner books, in no particular order, are: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (I was mostly listening to this on audio, but probably need to switch to print because I was tuning it out too easily); Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (again listening on audio); Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (another audio book I haven’t had time for); The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain; and A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.

I was considering sharing a bit of my “To Be Read” list, but I think this volume is quite long enough already! What are you reading right now? Have you finished any great books lately? I wouldn’t mind adding a few more titles to my own wishlist! 😉

The Reading Report, Vol. 1

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through my links, I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps support my blogging efforts, so thanks in advance!

Welcome to the first installment of “The Reading Report”! My hope for this series to keep not only a record of the books I am currently reading and have finished, but also to keep an ongoing conversation with you about your reading life! In Volume 1, I will only be sharing a list of what I have read over the past year, just to give us a jumping off point. It is pretty long, but I wanted to get these recorded someplace besides my old planner. So, let’s get started, shall we?

Books Finished. . .

I started keeping a running tally of books I finished in September 2016, so I am going to start my “Reading Year” there. At first I included on this list chapter books I had read aloud to my 6 year old son, but I have not been doing that lately since they are all on his school reading list. So I will not include them in this post, either. Goodness knows my list is long enough already!

September 2016:

October 2016:

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

For some reason I have no record of books I finished this month. I think I had started my slower reading at that point, and it was getting a little more difficult to get through as much. We also started our first year with AmblesideOnline, so I had a little more on my plate school-wise.

February 2017

  • Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers (read along with the CiRCE Close Reads podcast discussion)
  • The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (I listened to this on audio via Librivox and then read each act afterword. This was another book discussion in which I participated on the AO Forum.)

March 2017

April 2017

And that is where my list of books finished ends. In May we had a lot going on in our family. Plus, the weather was pretty much perfect for spending time playing with the kids outside, so there was less time for just sitting around reading. I also started adding some more longer term reading to my plate. But completing 25 books in about 9 months isn’t too shabby for a slow reader! I have not set specific goals for how many books I would like to read in a year, although I know a lot of people do. I am more interested in quality over quantity, at least at this point. How about you? Do you set goals for your reading? Do you track what you have read/are reading in some way? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Be sure to come back for Volume 2 of The Reading Report in which I will be talking about my actual current booklist! Until, then, go get lost in a story!

My Reading Life

I have always been a reader, not a voracious reader, mind you, but someone who always enjoyed getting lost in a good story. As a child, my mother took me to the library on a weekly basis, and I was fond of these trips and getting new books to read. As school got more intense and life busier, I gradually read for pleasure less and less. As an adult, especially, my reading life took a major hit from work and life demands, as well as the fact that we moved to Illinois. We found that because we lived outside of town we would have to pay for library cards, and that simply was not in our budget at the time. For several years I really rarely read anything more than blog posts and online articles. Sad, but true! We did have access to Kindle books, but for a long time I really did not even know what to read, so even that resource was of no use to me.

Then, 2 years ago a couple of things changed. First, I had our second child and found myself with a lot of time on my hands, sitting nursing a baby with nothing else to do. Second, I had found out about the Charlotte Maon philosophy of homschooling and her emphasis on living books. Pretty soon, I found the free curriculum at AmblesideOnline.org and started pouring over the booklists there. And oh, the free Kindle links were a feast for my poor, reading-starved mind to behold! Suddenly, I had a sizeable laundry list of time-tested literature that I had never read, all right there on my phone. I started reading as many as I could, and that went pretty quickly at first because I started with the first grade level books and just read through them one at a time. 

At the same time, however, I also started listening to several podcasts and reading more blogs about classical education. One of those podcasts was the Close Reads podcast from the CiRCE Institute. It was fun to listen to the hosts discuss books, but even more fun if I was reading along. So I added whatever they were discussing to my growing reading list! Then I joined the AmblesideOnline forums and discovered their book discussions. More books to read and talk about! Somewhere around this same time period I also found out about all the free classics on audio at Librivox.org! Can you see how this is going? I went from hardly reading anything at all, to reading ALL THE THINGS in a matter of two short years. Lately it has been feeling like I might have too many books going at once and that I should probably try to just get through a few to get them off my list. But when you only have a few minutes here and there between taking a toddler to the potty and reminding a 6-year-old to take his shoes to the mud room (for the 5th time in the last 10 minutes!) and trying to make sure the rice for dinner isn’t boiling over on the stove. . . Well, it is hard to get through a chapter of something, let along a whole book! Besides, I know that dear old Charlotte Mason advocated slow reading, and it seems that I am going very slowly indeed with so many books on my plate at once! 

But I am not complaining. I am loving my reading life right now, even though I would like to organize it a bit better, perhaps. I have almost wondered if I shouldn’t assign certain books to certain days just to keep them all going at a steady pace. How about you? What is your reading life like? Do you like to finish one book at a time, or do you keep a few (or several) going st once? Do you have a good system for keeping multiple books up at the same time? If so, do share! I’m all ears!