The Reading Report, Vol 9: February Edition

With February flying by, it’s time for another installment of The Reading Report! I honestly have not been reading as much this month as I might like, and I’m not sure exactly why. I have listened to some audio books, and I have been slowly dipping into a couple of non-fiction books.  Since non-fiction is hard for me, I am always pleased at every bit of progress I make through them! So, let’s dig in and chat about what I’m reading these days.

What I’m reading now…

Frankenstein— This was my selection for the “Classic that scares you” section of the Back to the Classics Challenge. I really don’t know why I was afraid to read it, except that I didn’t know anything about the book and thought it would be kitschy or boring or just plain weird. But, surprisingly, I have enjoyed it immensely! It has been very thought provoking, especially in terms of ethics, morality and justice. I am primarily listening to Frankenstein on Librivox, but sometimes I read a chapter on Kindle instead. I’m actually at least 3/4 of the way through, so I am sure I’ll finish it by the end of the month.

Full: Food, Jesus and the Battle for Satisfaction— I started reading this during the 40 Day Sugar Fast, and I have been using it as one option for extra devotional reading in the mornings. It is really an excellent companion for fasting. I would also recommend it to anyone who struggles with any kind of food battles from overindulging to under-eating and everything in between. Asheritah has a very conversational, encouraging voice, and the format of the book is perfect for individual or group study.

Hello Mornings— This book was on my list to read this year, and it came into my hands in a totally God-ordained way. I have only just begun reading this, but it’s already made me cry! Kat Lee has an encouraging and challenging way of writing, and this book gives plenty of opportunity for reflection as well as action. If you are tired of starting your days a frazzled mess, feeling like you are just along for the ride instead of really living each day with intention, I would strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Hello Mornings.

The Wreath— This was another of my picks for the Back to the Classics Challenge, under the “Classic in Translation” heading. I really didn’t know anything about this book except that it was Scandinavian, and that it is the first in a trilogy. I have only finished a few chapters, but it has definitely sucked me in with its hints at something mysterious and magical going on beneath the surface of normal daily life.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin— Another pick from my B2tCC list, Uncle Tom’s Cabin also happened to hit my radar this month due to a discussion thread on the AmblesideOnline Forum. The discussion group there is also reading the “companion” that Stowe wrote as a response to criticism that she painted a more grim picture of slavery than it really was. I can tell these books are going to be very frustrating reads on one level, since they highlight the mistreatment of human beings for no reason but the color of their skin. At the same time, though, I can also predict that I am going to really enjoy the character development and Stowe’s writing style.

What I’ve finished reading…

Howards End— I had to return my print copy of this book long before I was finished, but I was thrilled to find the audio version available to check out on the Libby app. And it was even narrated by one of my new favorites, Nadia May. She did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life. I know I wasn’t able to listen as closely as I would have been able to read, but all the same, I really enjoyed Forster’s prose. This is the current Close Reads podcast selection, so it has been enlightening to listen to some deeper digging into the themes than I could ever even imagine doing myself!

A Door in the Wall— This was one of our free reads for AmblesideOnline Year 2. Even though it is a short book, my son and I took our time reading through it together. I appreciated the way De Angeli wove in the themes of overcoming adversity and learning to serve God in whatever capacity we can without being heavy handed. It was also a great living book for looking at the daily life of a boy in Medieval times, which fits in very well for the period of history that we are studying in many of our other books right now.

What I’m reading next…

Better Together— Podcaster and blogger Pam Barnhill has just come out with a new book all about her specialty: Morning Time! I am looking forward to reading an advance copy since I am part of her launch team and picking up a few ideas and pointers to improve our own morning time and homeschool in general.

And now it’s your turn…what are you reading these days? What books have you finished lately?

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.

 

My Goals for GROWTH in 2018, Part 2: Personal Growth

Welcome to the second post in my Goals for Growth series! Last week, I wrote about my goals for developing stronger relationships. Today, I want to share my 2018 goals for personal growth.

Physical Growth:

In the area of my physical health my overall goal is to get in better shape so that I can have more energy and strength so that I can better serve my family now and in the long term. Since my pregnancy with my daughter three years ago, I have had very little energy and strength. I have largely neglected my physical health, at least in terms of getting the exercise and intentional movement I need on a daily basis. I am not a highly athletic person naturally, anyway, and since it has been a long time since I have asked my body to move in many different ways, I am intentionally starting small and being very gentle with myself. My action steps to achieve this goal are as follows: complete the Foundational 5+ course from Fit2B, exercise at least 30 minutes 3-4 times a week (also using routines from Fit2B), and go outside for 30 minutes every day for fresh air and sunshine.

My second goal is the area of physical health is to break my addiction to sugar. I have struggled with craving sweets for a long time, even though I know that sugar depletes my immune system and causes blood sugar spikes and drops that contribute to bad mood swings. My first line of attack in this sugar addiction battle is going to be following the 40 Day Sugar Fast hosted by Wendy Speake, starting January 8th.

Spiritual Growth:

Tied closely to my physical health battles, my spiritual health is going to be of paramount importance to the rest of my growth. Recently I have realized that the scripts that run through my head are normally pretty negative. This negativity spills out into every other area of my life. My goal in 2018 is to exchange those negative thoughts with the truth of Scripture. This will increase my joy and gratitude and decrease my anxiety and discontent. My action steps to accomplish this goal include waking early each morning to spend time alone studying the Word and praying before the rest of my family gets up. I will also be writing down at least 3 things I am grateful for each day.

Educational Growth:

My goals in this area are not really new but more of a continuation of what I am already doing. My goals for my personal education in 2018 are to continue bettering myself through wide reading and learning new skills. I want to always be learning and growing my understanding of the world, of God and of other people. I never want to stagnate and stop using my mind or lose my sense of wonder at the marvels of creation. As I mentioned in my last Reading Report of 2017, I am joining the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Of course, I also have other books that I want to read that are not on that list, and I am hoping to complete at least 30 titles this year. As for learning new skills, I am planning to study some basic drawing and watercolor techniques. I want to practice at least once a week, as well as using what I learn in my nature journal entries each week.

I will be back in a few days with the last post in my goals series, all about my professional goals for 2018. In the meantime, tell me about your personal growth goals for this coming year. What are you going to be doing to improve your spiritual, physical and mental health? 

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 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?