A long time ago I used to do monthly updates here.  I kind of told what things I was doing in a month- a sort of update on our homeschool life, food life, my writing and book life, and more.  I'm not sure that I'll get back to that, but what I thought I would do since books are such a big part of my life (as should they be for all of us!) is share what I'm reading. So we'll see how this goes.  Maybe I'll make it a monthly thing.

Goodreads

I keep track of a lot of what I read on Goodreads.  And you'll see I usually have a LOT on my list at a time.  I used to be worried that this was strange.....then I started reading about Charlotte Mason and her methods and realized I must have been Charlotte in another life.... lol!  Just kidding!  But really, her homeschool methods teach about taking just small bits at a time from a book and giving the child time to think it over and ponder, if you will, and let it all soak in.  And she would have them read from various books each day - history, literature, nature, poetry, etc.  Some books a few pages or chapter a day, some only once a week.  So pretty much I've been doing 'Charlotte Mason' with myself all along.

Find me on Goodreads  HERE.

What I'm Reading

Adrenal Fatigue:  The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson  -  This book is instrumental in understanding the reality of adrenal fatigue.  How one's health can be affected by stressors and the importance of how our food, environment and things we do to cope with stress are all important facets to adrenal health and all of this and more are discussed by Dr. Wilson.  It is written by an expert but also  it a way that is easily understood by the layman without talking down to the patient.  It is a good read thus far.

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Tikhon Shevkunov   This is quite the lengthy read and I've been working on it for some time.  I'm about halfway through.  There is a great number of stories in this work that you will find inspiring and occasionally humorous.  And you will certainly know that miracles do happen even today.

Thirty Steps to Heaven:  The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life by Vassillios Papavassilliou  I've actually referred to this book several times in recent posts.  I can't say enough about it.  I personally feel that even non-orthodox would benefit greatly from this book as it talks about all of the virtues we must all strive towards as Christians.

A Beginner's Guide to Prayer: The Orthodox Way to Draw Close to God by Michael Keiser   I started this book before Lent and actually wrote a few posts in regards to prayer before Lent.   Being that I've promised myself to read my bible readings and a few pages of Thirty Steps to Heaven each day before reading anything else and my consumption of adrenal fatigue and other health related selections, I haven't had a lot of time for this one but it remains in my morning devotion pile and will be included in my morning readings again soon!

Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home by Elissa D. Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker    This is the selection my husband and I are reading together.  Blueprints discusses how we are to involve our children in the life of the Church from birth onward both in the church and at home.

6 Secrets to a Lasting Love: Recapturing Your Dream Marriage by Gary Rosberg  I read another book by Rosberg recently and I really enjoyed his style of writing about very intimate personal issues in a non-threatening manner and with a Christian perspective.  I have found some very good guidance in this book.  I really think every couple should read marriage books throughout their lives- always keeping discussion of the marriage and the marriage itself front and center to their lives.  My husband and I aren't currently reading this one together but I do mark spots and read them to him for discussion along with other books we read together.

The Ancient Faith Prayer Book by Vassilious Papavassiliou -  you know I didn't even realize it was the same author as 30 Steps to Heaven until I was writing this out.  I'm enjoying using this prayer book.  I think it may move into one of my favorites.

The Ascetic Lives of Mothers, a Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms by Annalisa Boyd  -  I read this book awhile back and even wrote a book review.  I just felt that while I often use this as a resource, it was time to read it through again.  Books like these always offer more every time

Delicious Blogging:  The Ingredients You Need To Create a Better Blog by Debi Stangeland  Debi is a book on my Kindle (I seldom use the kindle as I just can't resist a paper copy but it does come in handy ) some great ideas for bloggers, especially those starting out or with smaller blogs who want to have more success with finding readers and interacting with their public.

 

What I'm Reading With My Son

My son is 7. (Wow- that's the first time I've written that- he just turned 7 last week!).  He's techinically in first grade-  but I don't go by that.  We read what we think is fun and what I think he will be interested in or what I deem important.  I don't consider grade level.  It's more about age, interests and abilities.

Little Town on the Prairie (Little House #7) by Laura Ingalls Wilder  -  Actually, we just finished this one last night!  My son has been loving the Little House series.  And I still have my set from when I was young! We just started with them at the beginning of this school year.  Only one or two of them was on the Ambleside list for this year - a source I used last year and the beginning of this year.  But while I find their book lists as a handy guide, I find their style too restricting.  So while they only have a few of the books listed for this year-  I let my son's enjoyment and enthusiasm to read more lead us.  These books have lent so many lovely discussions.  We have also introduced the TV series-  we don't do a lot of TV here, but this is one series I encourage and enjoy right along with him.

The World's Worst Fairy Godmother by Bruce Coville   This is just a humerous story by one of my favorite children's authors. We are starting this tonight. I don't necessarily like all of Coville's books, but some of them have been favorites.  We recently read Jennifer Murdley's Toad.

Misty of Chicoteague by Marguerite Henry  We just started Misty.  While fictional, I chose to read it as part of our history type literature as it does talk about legendary history and the story behind the wild ponies of Asateague Island (where I spent my honeymoon incidentally).  I wanted to introduce him to the Marguerite Henry books and selected this one to see if he would like them.

Red, White, Blue, and Uncle Who? The Story Behind Some of America's Patriotic Symbols by Teresa Bateman and John O'Brien     This is a charming little book to introduce youngsters to the symbols of our country including the Statue of Liberty, The Liberty Bell, The Lincoln Monument and more. I've chosen to use picture books for the most part in our American History studies thus far but am looking to start on some nice biographies soon.

What My Son is reading TO ME

Yes-  he has started reading to ME now.  This is his choice- his desire and I love it!

The Mystery at the Taj Mahal (India) by Carole Marsh    My sister got him about ten of this series for Christmas.  I selected to allow him to read them to himself at night while I sit and read in bed. He has read one on his own, is reading another and reads this one to me every now and then.

He also reads from his Children's Bible Reader to me on the way to our Schole class every Tuesday and at other times when I'm cleaning up the kitchen before we start our short lessons for the day.

 

So--  that pretty much sums up what I'm reading.

How about YOU?

 

 

I am eager to get back to doing book reviews again and have soooo many wonderful books to do!  But alas, I know I won't get around to doing too many very soon so picking one to start with was hard but not too hard because this book (the first we read in the series) was so utterly fantastic and my son and I both absolutely adored it-  so here we go!

Title of Book: Poppy  (Tales of Dimwood Forest)


Author:  Avi

Illustrator:  Brian Floca

Genre:  Fiction; adventure

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages:  176

Suggested Age Range:  8-12  but can certainly be a read a loud for a much younger age.  My son is 6 and has been enthralled by this series!

Why I Chose This Book:  This book came as a highly recommended read-aloud by Sarah Mackenzie.  I'm a big fan of Sarah's Read Aloud Revival and just about anything she's put out.  You can see some posts on her book Teaching From Rest here and here.

A Bit From The Back Cover:  At the very edge of Dimwood Forest stands an old charred oak.  A great horned owl, Mr. Ocax, waits there. With his piercing gaze, he surveys the lands he calls his own, watching for the creatures he considers his subjects. None dare disobey him, until the night a courageous deer mouse named Poppy, boldly defies him, only to find herself in terrible danger. To lead her family to a better life, will Poppy battle Mr. Ocax to the end?

My Review:  My son and I were quickly taken in by this fanciful tale about woodland creatures!  Poppy is a sweet, timid dormouse who suffers a great loss at the beginning of the story but, being protective of her family, gathers her courage to embark on a dangerous quest.  The story was simply irresistible.  The book is full of action and chances for discussion of how to handle various dilemmas.  Our favorite character was actually NOT Poppy, the heroine or the antagonist, Mr. Ocax, but the ever so funny Ereth, the porcupine!  He was a hoot!  My son just laughed and laughed at all of Ereth's antics and sayings.  It was so much fun to read a loud to him. The book not only held my son's attention captive and begging for more, but added to his desire to learn more about animals and add creativity to his drawings of such creatures!  If you love whimsical animal adventures, you will love this series.  I want to read it again!

Other Books by this Author:  Ragweed, Poppy and Ereth, Ereth's Birthday, Poppy and Rye, Poppy's Return (all from the Dimwood Forest series).  Crispin- The Cross of Lead (Newberry Award Winner), The Good Dog, Old Wolf, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and many others.

 

Book Title:  Free to Learn:  Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier,More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

Author:  Peter Gray

Genre: Psychology

Publisher:  Basic Books (A Member of the Perseus Books Group)

Why Did I Choose It?  I chose this book after asking a friend to give me her favorite resources on unschooling as I have become more and more interested in this type of education for my youngest son.  She recommended any book by Peter Gray or John Holt.  This was the book title that intrigued me the most in my brief search of the authors.

A Bit From The Back Cover:  In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that to foster children who will thrive in today's constant changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, he demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient...

Review:  This book was amazing.  Absolutely amazing and I'm sooo sorry I didn't read it 12 years ago when we first pulled out daughter out of the public schools to homeschool.  I think I was in the right mindset then, to let her be and learn in a less structured way but let the years of public education and judgments of others cloud my thinking and raise my self-doubt and anxiety to the point of basically doing 'school at home' for a several years with only a bit of freedom here and there.  But enough about my failings...  here's the thing about this book!

Free to Learn is the most comprehensive and convincing book on how children (naturally) learn that I’ve ever read, and being a dedicated homeschool mom and former public educator, I have certainly read quite a few books on how children learn!  Gray includes an extensive amount of research in this book. Actually, the beginning which focused on hunter-gatherer cultures drove me a little batty...but I stuck with it and I'm glad I did.  Really , I totally get why he included it all and it is relevant and very important to his overall message. Dr. Gray also included an abundant amount of other research as well as well as  his personal experience as a parent and experiences with Sudbury Valley - a highly unconventional school but one with idealistic standards! Free to Learn explains, and includes the research that proves it, how we can work with a child's natural drives to learn and not using the compulsory education system which forces lessons, standardized tests, and activities that crush a child's innate drives to learn.

The overall message of this book is that children must play and explore to learn (and that the way children are taught in most schools today denies that to a harmful effect). He presents overwhelming scientific evidence that play and exploration, self-directed learning, and being in mixed age groups (something most public schools restrict)  permit children  come to their full potentials and enable them to grow, learn and develop positively and naturally. “Children need freedom in order to be happy, to learn how to be responsible, and to develop the character traits needed to deal with life’s inevitable dangers and setbacks.”

“Nothing that we do, no amount of toys we buy or ‘quality time’ or special training we give our children, can compensate for the freedom we take away. The things that children learn through their own initiatives, in free play, cannot be taught in other ways.”

If you want an understanding of why schools today are failing and we are not finding the results we seek from our standard system, or simply why 'schooling at home' (mimicking the public school system at home)  is still  not the most beneficial answer and  what can actually be done differently with success, I  strongly urge you  to read this book. I sincerely believe that the overall message of Free to Learn has the potential to direct our culture toward a better system- whether public or private or at home.

"...self-directed learning and free play permit children to realize their optimum abilities to learn, grow, and develop naturally and positively..."

Notes About The Author:  Peter Gray, Ph.D.,  is a research professor in the Department of Psychology at Boston College and author of the college textbook, Psychology, now in its seventh edition.  He writes the Freedom to Learn Blog for Psychology Today.  Peter Gray is a well-known critic of the  standard educational systems. He speaks often to groups of parents and educators about children’s needs for free play and the detrimental effects of the current methods of schooling, Mr. Gray, along with other concerned citizens, has created a website titled AlternativesToSchool.com.

With Great Lent coming up, I always try to pick a particular book that is connected to my Orthodox Christian faith.  This year I've selected Thirty Steps to Heaven by Vassilios Papavassiliou.  It directly pertains to understanding the Ladder of Divine Ascent and applying the lessons of the monastic text to our everyday lives.

I don't know whether it's because I homeschool or because I'm an Orthodox Christian mother or both--  but I always think 'what can I do for my child during this season?'  as well.  It's probably more just the mother in me than anything.  My older children are old enough now to decide for themselves.  They have an understanding of what Lent is about and know what things we have done in the past during the season to prepare ourselves for Holy Pascha and place extra focus on our relationship with God during this season- even more so than usual.  They know Lent gives us a chance to enter fully into that relationship and focus on the upcoming Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. They know it's a chance to get back on track and remind ourselves of what we should be doing all year. They know it is a season filled with extra church services, prayer and fasting.

But my youngest is six.  So he needs more guidance. And while he will of course be going to those services, I've  pondered over thoughts of what we could do this year to make the Lenten season more meaningful to him and focus on his own relationship to God, I came to wonder what books we could use - if you know me in person or by my blog- you know I have a tight relationship with books!  I view them as friends and they are a wonderful way to deepen our children's knowledge and begin a wonderful conversation about what is important in our lives!    I wondered what others use.

Below is a list of books I have found on my internet searches, on my own shelves and what others have shared with me as good sources/books to use during Lent.  Of course, many of these, if not all, can be used any time of the year and should be.  But if you are wondering what some good books are to add to your collection or to use during this season in preparation for Holy Pascha, perhaps this list can help you.  I'd love to add to it-   so if you know of others, please share with me so I can add to the list !  I have tried to order them in terms of age, interest levels, etc.  Of course, you know your child or children better than me or anyone else.  So review the links (I'll provide them if I have them) and make your decisions accordingly.  I will mark with an * those that I have indeed read for myself.  Hopefully , at some point, I can add some book reviews on these for your use.

Happy reading and God Bless!

The Story of Easter by Patricia Pingry  -  a lovely picture book for small ones, ages 2-5.

*Getting to Know God by John Kosmas Skinas  - another lovely picture book for small ones, ages 2-6,   that accentuate the sense we use in our Orthodox Faith.

*Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco  - a lovely folktale picture book telling of Ukrainian eggs for 4-8 year olds.

In The Candle's Glow  by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson  -  A beautifully illustrated picture book tells of Felicia taking the fruit of the bee and the beekeeper's efforts , lighting her and how she prays.  This story is for ages 2-8.

*The Hidden Garden by Jane G Meyer - A picture book parable encouraging children to open the gate to Christ and tend to the garden their heart.  It is suitable for ages 4-9.

The Blackbird's Nest: Saint Kevin of Ireland by Jenny Schroedel  THis lovely book tells of Kevin who learned an unforgettable lesson from an unforgettable teacher.  This book is suited for ages 6-10.

*Catherine's Pascha by Charlotte Riggle  With delightful intricate illustrations and a lovely tale, children will learn much about the celebration of Pasch with this book geared for ages 4-10.

*The Miracle of the Red Egg by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson  For ages 4-10, this picture book shares the story of St. Mary Magdalene and the miracle that occurred in the presence of an unbelieving Roman emperor.

*Pictures of God:  A Child's Guide to Understanding Icons by John Kosmas Skinas  A lovely picture book for ages 5-12, explaining in simple  terms what each icon means and the importance of these people and stories in our lives.

Holy Week and Pascha by J Euphemia Briere  The book takes will take the child, ages 5-12,  through the period in the life of Christ starting at the raising of Lazarus to the Resurrection, as reflected in the Divine Services of the Church.

Lent! Wonderful Lent! by Debra Sancer  This book offers a summary of the weeks of lent for children, ages 4-10.

Glorious Pascha by Debra Sancer   This book offers a nice summary of the days of Holy Week. for ages 5-12.

*From God to You:  The Icon's Journey to Your Heart by John Kosmos Skinas     This book, a nice addition to the library of 6-12,  is a nice follow-up to  Pictures of God,  introducing children to ancient icon archetypes and encourages children to "mindfully consider icons and their stories as windows of inspiration and doorways to prayer."

St. Seraphim's Beatitudes: Blessings for Our Path to Heaven by Priest Daniel Mar  This book contains short sayings patterned after the Lord's Beatitudes  in clear, memorable phrases.

*From I-ville to You-ville by Mersine Vigopoulou   Wonderfully written and appropriate for ages 6-12, this best selling Orthodox Christian children's book of Greece, is a Christian allegory reminiscent of Pilgrim's Progress.  A young man makes his way from I-ville to the unknown, long-for kingdom of You-ville, a kingdom where humility and kindness have their home and people put the good of others first.

*Journey To Pascha: An Explanation of the Holy Week Services by Ayman Kfouf   This book was recommended to me as a lovely guide to older children as it offers a simplified explanation of the theological and liturgical themes of the services of the Great and Holy Week.

The Zacchaeus Tree: A family guide through the season of the Great Fast by Lynne Wardach   While seemingly written for Byzantine Catholics from what I can tell,  it seems to offer a nice prepatory discussion of the season and daily meditations for children and adults for throughout Lent.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wrapping it Up:  November

The year is just flying by!  I can hardly believe that December is upon us bringing with it the end of 2015!  My oldest son will be turning 17 and I will be....um....well, older than I was last year!

My Writing World

It's PiBoIdMo 2015- have you signed up??

This was the month of PiBoIdMo - the month where aspiring picture book writers check in with Tara Lazar's posts on her blog to see the day's guest writer's post to find inspiration on our craft and attempt to come up with at least 30 ideas for a picture book.  You can check out my posts about the month starting with this one and ending with this one with a few in-between.  Other than reaching most of my much smaller goals for PiBoIdMo this month (I didn't actually get to work on a manuscript), I did get a few other blog posts out and thus have done better than the last few months.  But I really need to figure out a way to work on some manuscripts.  Sigh.  In time, I guess.  If you want to check out some of the other blog posts, here they are:

My Commonplace Book - this is something that I hope will also improve my writing skills; it will certainly lead to more writing topics!

Peaceful Reflections

Book Review Wednesday: Ishtar's Odyssey - finally- the first book review I've done in ages! Hopefully I will get back to at least doing one a month....fingers crossed!

Year One Homeschooling & Orthodoxy

Foster The Good (actually posted at the end of October)

My Book World

Photo by Kregel Publications
Photo by Kregel Publications

It's been a slow month for reading.  I really haven't been doing much of it at all.  I didmanage to complete For The Children's Sake and worked here and there on The Living Page.  And, if you've followed, I read all of Ishtar's Odyssey in time to do the blog post for Kregal Publications.  It wasn't my favorite book by Arnold Ytreede, but still a quality book for family reading during the advent season.

 

 

 

Our Parenting/Homeschool World

This has also been a slow month for completion of homeschooling.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I have determined that it's okay to stretch out a week of schooling (according to the Ambleside Online 'curriculum' that I'm using) into two or more weeks...but I'm not okay with days going by in which we don't do much of anything for school.  Unfortunately there were a few stretches like that this month.  I don't necessarily think that was a bad thing, but I don't want it to turn into habit.  SO - I just need to juggle this around in my head and figure out how to still get a half hour or hour of school into most of our days, even when really busy.

I've also been thinking over twaddle vs. living books as I mentioned in some of my PiBoIdMo posts (yes, even my Writing World intersects with our Homeschooling World).  I'm thinking more and more these days while there can be a huge difference between twaddle and living books, there can also be some overlap.  What's more- perhaps rather than focusing on eliminating 'twaddle' completely, it's just more important to make sure that better quality Living Books make up the majority of your child's reading time.

Homeschooling aside, I've struggled with parenting in general. Nothing surprising. We ALL struggle when it comes to a method of how to get our children to be obedient without killing their spirit or doing it in a non-loving manner.  My son is struggling with following directions without doing his 'growling' thing or actually attempting to push me or protesting by putting his face right in mine with the dirtiest face a five year old can give.  We read recently, my husband and I, Peaceful Parents Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham.  We believe entirely in her theory but putting it into practice isn't always easy.  His behaviors definitely push my buttons whether I recognize his need for guidance in how to display feelings or not and , well, it's a challenge.  So we are working on that. This afternoon was a difficult task - telling him no, he can not go to the neighbor's house as his behavior after church was not of the quality to earn privileges such as that.  While it was difficult, it was manageable, but only because I was able to prepare myself for it.  I knew , getting into the car at church, exactly what was going to happen when we got home and I had 20 minutes to prepare my own set of mind for carrying through.  It's not so easy when a situation presents itself necessitating an immediate response when we are needing to go somewhere or get a list of things done in a short amount of time.  Those cases don't always go the way  I'd like. But I'm sure I'm not the only one in that boat, am I?

Our Food and Health World

My husband continues his health goals in losing weight and becoming more conditioned. doing-the-w30-fb-cover-660x244Have I mentioned since doing the Whole30 during Lent this past year and sticking to a paleo eating style (at least 95% of the time) he has lost over 100 pounds?  The man is amazing as far as I'm concerned!  While I used to be the one doing the attempts at motivation, he is the one trying to motivate me to start exercising now....sigh... the vision is there....finding the time to do it and everything else needs some work!  I'm at least starting to walk a bit more again...if only I can figure out how to keep it up during the winter!  I have a HUGE aversion to cold weather!

This month we started the Nativity fast that is practiced by Orthodox Christians. I'll admit, we've never been ones to follow the nativity fast as well as we do the Great Lent fast.  But this year, my husband decided he wanted to do another Whole30 for the fast.  While my love for sugar was reluctant, I assented to his wish....well, for the most part.  He's doing a whole30 which I help with by keeping completely compliant for the meals (with a few minor exceptions on Thanksgiving) and I'm doing my own modified whole30- while not whole30 approved, is certainly a step up for me as I remain about 95% paleo,  I'm not adding sugar to my teas, keeping my meals whole30 compliant, sticking to non-processed snacks for the most part (at least at home) and attempting to increase my water intake.  And I'm doing my best to keep Wednesdays and Thursdays as days we not only observe the Whole30 rules, but stick to abstinence of meat products as well in accordance to the Orthodox fasting rules.

Our Faith World

Again, the nativity season is upon us.  I'm trying hard to keep up with my morning bible time, adding an Orthodox Advent Study to my materials. I purchased this last year through Sylvia Leontaritis at Orthodoxmom.com.  Unfortunately, I never got past the first week last year.  This year is still a struggle to keep up but I am sticking with it thus far.  I have actually learned a few extra things about the Theotokos I hadn't known before and I always like reading passages from the Old Testament that were prophecies of the birth of Christ.

We were disappointed to know that my husband has been scheduled to work both the nights of Christmas Even AND the night of Christmas Day.  He will be forced into missing both church services.  It's a struggle to not want to pout and think ill thoughts of those in charge of his schedule....  but we are trying to stay positive and be grateful he has a job and, really, other than church - which is of course the most important part of celebrating the holy day- we can do the other celebrations any time...and have planned to do just that.  Yes, Santa is such a NICE man, that he's decided to wait a few days to visit- so we can all open presents together....  cool dude, isn't he?

Other Parts of My World

Hmmm....what haven't I covered?  My son's girlfriend came up from Florida for a few days and visited.  She was able to watch him in one of his last football games of the season.  It was really nice to have her here.  Of course, it was really sad to watch his sadness in the days following her trip back home.  But they are able to at least count the days to the next visit which isn't terribly far off...though I'm sure it seems a terribly long time to them.

Thanksgiving was spent here at home as it usually is.  We had a quiet day- my husband  worked the night before so he slept for a number of hours during the day after he came home and prepped the turkey and chicken (long story that one).  The kids and I lounged in the living room watching the parade and dog show.  It was nice that I didn't have much cooking to do since I was inspired to do the majority of it the day before.  THIS is something that I plan on doing again!  I was sooooo thankful for a low stress day on Thanksgiving!

The days continue to get shorter and a bit colder though I can't complain about temperature just yet, especially for October.  And we've found an excellent 'handy man' to help us with cleaning gutters and other household/outside tasks that makes prepping for season changes all the  more easier.  We also installed a new pellet furnace in the basement and a pellet stove insert into our fireplace.  Between the two, we expect our electric bill and the hassles of last year's woodstove to be a thing of the past.  Time will tell but we are hopeful and feeling warmer already.

It's now 4:08 in the afternoon as I write this and I can see the color changes of the sky in the west already. This indicates to me as the day is nearing an end that I really should be thinking about ending this post and starting the evening meal.  So, until next time- take care and drop in and say hi sometime!

What did you do during November?

I haven't been getting out any book reviews lately...but I do hope to get some more up soon.  In the meantime, I was blessed to receive an invitation from Kregel Publications to take part in their Blog Tour to introduce Arnold Ytreeide's new Storybook for Advent-  Ishtar's Odyssey.  I was selected, I'm sure, because I have reviewed one of Arnold's books in the past:  Jotham's Journey- still my favorite book of the series!

Book Title:  Ishtar's Odyssey  A Family Story For Advent

Author: Arnold Ytreeide

Illustrator: Ryan Hill

Genre: Fiction Storybook, Christmas

Publisher:  Kregel Publications (2015)

  • ISBN-10: 0825443938
  • ISBN-13:  978-0825443930

Pages: 176

Age: 8 and up

Why Did I Choose It?  As stated above, I was asked to take part in Kregal Publications Blog Tour.  But really, as soon as I had found out about the new book to this wonderful advent series for families, I would have bought the book to read it.  I just love this series!!!

A Little Bit From The Inside Cover: Ishtar, the ten-year-old son of a Persian wise man, will soon join a caravan following that star across the desert.  The slightly spoiled prince would just as soon stay in the predictable comfort and safety of the palace, but slowly he learns that there's much to see, do, and learn in this world that can't be experienced with tutors.  Disasters and dangers challenge his courage and confidence but Ishtar finds strength he never knew he had.  He eventually meets Jotham, Bartholomew, and Tabitha as he follows his father and uncles in their search for a newborn king.

My Review: All of Arnold's advent books have helped families to create time during advent to enjoy a special time of reading during this blessed season of the nativity as a family. As the other three books in this series, the book's story is broken down into daily readings with the standard cliff-hanger endings that thrill its readers as well as a brief devotional type summary and questions at the end of each reading.  I love this set up as it truly gives an easy structure to follow to allow for a reading all through the advent season.  Of course, the Orthodox Nativity starts before Advent, but could easily be adapted to start at the beginning of the nativity- or start the readings later or finish early.  It's certainly adaptable. As a lovely addition for enhancing the experience, in the beginning of this book, the author also makes suggestions on how to connect Ishtar's experiences with foods for your own children, explaining what the foods are and easy substitutions you can make if you are not able to find the exact food experienced by Ishtar.  This is a nice way to incorporate other aspects of cultures to the story.
Ishtar's Odyssey is a  wonderful story that will behold a child's attention and encourage thoughtful reflection through the season leading up to the day we celebrate the birth of our savior.  Reflection topics include how the future often looks scary to us and our need to trust in God, our need to not let what others might think of us to prevent us from doing the right thing, and that Jesus died for each and every one of us. The story itself was that of the magi-  an obvious fiction laden story as there is not really any historical documents telling us any more details of the magi or their journey other than what is in the scriptures themselves - but left us with an intriguing perspective of what that journey may have entailed and how all of our journeys to meet our Messiah (even today)  are filled with challenges. As a parent, I like the way the author ties the readings with Scripture or challenges us to think about our own walk with God. These books have been a wonderful way to help us as we prepare to celebrate our Savior's birth!

I will be honest, this particular book did not quite strike me as well as the others have (my favorite is still Jotham's Journey).  I really can't put my finger on just why that is.  Perhaps I just feel it was more of a stretch than the others- the story line itself of the magi and the ten year old son of one of these Persian wise man. Yet I still enjoyed the story and have no doubts it would be enjoyed by children of all ages (though the publisher suggests age 8, I feel certain there are many children ages 6 and up that would still be able to follow the storyline and enjoy the adventures of Ishtar).

I would love to hear your own reactions to Ishtar's Odyssey or any of the other books in this series!

Other Books By This Author:

Disclaimer:  I received this book through Kregal Publications Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

 

See More Book Reviews Like This:  See a list on My Book Review Page.

It's PiBoIdMo 2015-  have you signed up??

Well, the week was NOT productive in my writing....but pay a babysitter for an hour and a half today and ....  WOW!

I got to read the whole week of posts and this week they were AMAZING!  I have several pages of notes, a list of activities to work on (buy a notebook for my purse, purchase some index cards and index card boxes, rethink my daily goals, etc.), and added some actual picture book ideas to my incredibly short list (no, I do not even have a list of 14, but I have quite a few more than I did when I woke up this morning).

So I've decided the babysitter thing just may need to be a habit.  My son had a blast.  My only restriction to them was no TV.  I can plug him in front of that brain killing machine myself if I need to.  But a mere $8 got him total undivided attention.  While a little distracting since I placed myself in the dining room (in the middle of the rooms where they were) I also got to listen to him be creative and laugh- a LOT - which is music to a mother's ears and pretty inspirational for a writer to boot!

I can't decide on my  favorite post for this week like I did last week.  But I would say that the words of Janna Matthies, Denise Fleming and Julie Gribble were the most helpful to me at this point in my writing.  All for various reasons, though perhaps it's the insight of Denise Fleming that might keep me going for the long haul....  she reminds us that not only for every good idea are there probably about 50 'stinkers', but that we really should keep EVERY IDEA-- even the ones we think are bad or totally ridiculous.... because you never know where even years from now, that ridiculous, bad idea may lead to the inspiration of your best idea ever. So hold onto them- and keep going back to them to revisit and you may just be surprised one day.

I've been thinking more about the whole twaddle vs. living books as I discussed again in last week's post.  I spend much too much time on Facebook, and have been gradually cutting back (I do not want the most vivid memory of me by my children to include me holding my phone to check Facebook, Words With Friends, or even PiBoIdMo) on using my phone-  but if I do find myself on Facebook, it's usually to check out what's going on at the Ambleside page.  So many really good discussions. One constant discussion topic is the whole twaddle vs. living books debate.  Obviously this is tied into my writing life.  As I discussed last week- I worry about the children's market being so much more geared to twaddle and 'entertaining' kids rather than truly filling their minds with living books - quality books that feed the mind and ignite their passions.

Always on the Ambleside Online page there are questions posted stating , "Is this book twaddle?  What should I do if my child loves to read twaddle?  Should I let my beginning reader read these books she loves if it's twaddle?"  I am always a little shocked at the tone of those telling these mothers to take all the twaddle away.  These kids, they say, will not develop good taste for real literature or a sound vocabulary if they fill their minds with twaddle.  But personally, I'm thinking, why would you take away a book that makes a child WANT to read???  Why would you risk killing that desire to read a book by FORCING them to only read the books that YOU consider LIVING?  Isn't one of the concepts of a living book is that it entices the mind of the child?  If a book is enticing your child to read....makes them hunger for more words on the page....why would you ban it?  If it's not filling up the mind with something immoral, why would you take it away?  Wouldn't it be better to make sure you are reading them living books and giving them choices that include living books rather than insisting they never read something that YOU consider twaddle?

I will not read Scooby Doo to my son.  But I will allow him to bring one home from the library for him to look at himself (or allow someone else in the family to read it to him once in awhile).  Nor will I  buy a book that I consider to be totally twaddle...well- there might be an exception here and there. But if there's a book that makes my child WANT to read on his own (and it's not immoral in any way) then I WILL allow him to read it.  It does not mean that's all he's ever going to read.  I'm not going to go through my bookshelves and immediately throw out all that might be considered twaddle by the ladies on Ambleside.  I think they mean well....but I also think they are missing the point.

Well- enough of my ramblings on twaddle today.  I need to throw out my cold coffee and get some things done (including revisiting my PiBoIdMo notes and my idea page) now before my Movie Night with my youngest son today.  It will be the first time he'll get to watch The Wizard of Oz - my desire to offer him classic movies rather than the twaddle of today and reinforce his infatuation with tornadoes!  Pray with me that the green faced witch and flying monkeys are seen as funny and not scary!

Wrapping It Up:  October

I've only been able to get a few extra stolen moments downstairs in my "office" and while away on vacation to try to get out a few posts this month.  I  again would love to say this is my new habit but I have no idea what each day or week to come will hold for me so I'm just taking it one day at a time....and hoping for the best- whatever that may be.

My Writing World

Once again it has been sparse, but I've still managed to work on blogging a bit.  Have you seen this month's posts?

Peaceful Reflections - October

Cold & Flu Season

Reflections on Homeschooling

Vacation In Florida

I did manage to catch up on critiques for my writing group while on vacation, but I still have not touched a manuscript of my own - not even on vacation- but an idea for one certainly sparked in my mind just today as I sat reading to my five-year old. And since I haven't even thought about a single idea for at least a month or two,  that's really something!

I had ignored the reminders on Facebook that PiBoIdMo 2015 is coming up. I just don't see myself being able to commit to the time at all. But once that idea sparked in my mind this morning for a  picture book, I thought about it.  Maybe I can take part? Just not to the full extent I have tried in past years. I guess there's no harm trying...except for the possibility of getting my hopes up and then frustrated.  So I really need to reconsider my goals. ...continue reading "October Wrap Up"

I've been reading several homeschooling books as of late and they have me doing much reflecting on my past and current methods of homeschooling.

In short, the three books are these:

                

All of the above books really are must have's in my personal opinion.  ESPECIALLY if you are looking at wanting to educate your child in a relaxed setting with high standards.  If you need to learn about teaching from rest, look no further than Sarah's book.  Her insight on what true rest is, is uplifting and spot on.  And if you are looking to understand the methodology of Charlotte Mason and the why's behind  this methodology, thus far (I admit, I haven't finished this one just yet) Susan Schaeffer Macaulay  does well in explaining that our education that we give our children really CAN be a joyous celebration of life and prepare them for life in a fashion that will far exceed what most are able to procure from the public school setting.

While I have finished the first two mentioned above, I am torn between wanting to tear through "For The Children's Sake" as I thirst for more (I'm in the third chapter of 6) to going back and rereading  what I have covered thus far and just let it simmer.  There is much to glean and reflect upon.

I have a feeling I will do both.  I am eager to see what else she has to say... and then, I believe I'll go back and use Charlotte's own methodology and just read ten to 15 minutes... reflect, perhaps do a written narration and just let it soak a few days before moving on.

In the meantime, I'll share with you what I have highlighted so far (well, some of it... I have gotten a bit carried away with the highlighter in this one!).

"Parents need to evaluate their priorities.  They need to consider why they respond, "We wouldn't have tie to read a book together every day.  We don't have time to hike/camp/paint/talk with our children."  What is really important?"

"Look well at the child on your knee.  In whatever condition you2015-10-12 10.32.39 HDR find him, look with reverence."

"Charlotte Mason rejects the utilitarian view of education and the conventional standards of her day.  She challenges us instead to identify the child's actual needs and capacities; to serve him as he is, on the basis of what is right and good for him as a person."

"By being allowed to learn at their own speed, the children taught by Charlotte Mason were happy with their mastery of skills.  They did not 'fail' or 'pass'.  They learned how to read and write accurately.  A high standard was expected, but at a level appropriate to the child's ability.  It was like climbing one's own private ladder.  It was not to be like a race."

There's much more I could share  but I will leave it as this for now.  there is much more highlighted words  I'd like to write about but have no time to write a novel today!  Okay, maybe it won't be a novel, but I'm sure I have many more posts waiting to be written in the back of my mind....but I must reflect a bit more before writing them.  So for now... read over what I have written above.  Mull it over and then share with more your reactions.  What are your own thoughts about Susan's words above?  In the meantime... I have more reading to do!

 

 

 

Wrapping It Up:  September

2015-09-24 12.39.22

I've been able to get a few extra  stolen moments downstairs in my "office" to try to get out a few posts this month.  I  would love to say this is my new habit but I have no idea what each day or week to come will hold for me so I'm just taking it one day at a time....and hoping for the best- whatever that may be.

My Writing World

It's been sparse but it has occurred, at least in my blogging world.  I haven't touched a manuscript, though they still linger in the back of my mind.  I haven't conversed with any of my writing critique friends either and that does weigh heavily on my mind.  But I'm ...continue reading "September Wrap Up"