10 Great Summer Read-Alouds the Whole Family will Love

Monday, June 27, 2016

We absolutely LOVE reading together as a family.

It is seriously just part of our family culture.  We read.  That's it. Whether is it Summer or not is irrelevant because the kiddos don't think of reading aloud together as 'school' in the slightest.  It's just what we do.  In the morning, at lunch, under the tree mid-afternoon, at night... we read.  It's pretty awesome.

In fact, I find we sometimes get MORE read-alouds in during the Summer months because we are doing a more relaxed 'school' schedule and make more time for just lounging and reading!  So, since we love to read in the warm breezes of Summer - I'll share with you some suggestions for great read-alouds for the whole family!

10 Great Summer Read-Alouds:

Charlotte's Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Stuart Little by E.B. White

Alright, I must confess, I love E.B. White.  His books are engaging, inspiring, endearing, and memorable classics.  The characters are ones children will remember with fondness, as if they were their good friends.  Who can read Charlotte's Web without falling in love with Wilbur?  Or cheer for Louis and laugh out loud at his antics in The Trumpet of the Swan?  And who can forget the little mouse named Stuart's wild adventures in wide open spaces?

These three titles are favorites in our home and have actually been read more times than one.  We also found each of these on audio book read by the author, which was so wonderful!!!  In my opinion, these three books are some of the best Summer read-alouds out there, especially for family's with young to early elementary kiddos!

Centerburg Tales and Homer Price by Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey is one of our family's favorite authors of children's books.  (Think, Make Way for Ducklings and One Morning in Maine...)!  We just got back from a little mini-vacation at a cottage about an hour away.  We had five children with us ranging from 7 to 12 (almost 13).  All the kids sat silent and entranced by my husband's lively readings from The Centerburg Tales.  

Both books center (no pun intended!) around Homer Price's life as a young boy (about 12?) and all the fun and mischief he gets himself into.  These are books filled with many hilarious short stories all kids will love. 

The Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

We read this book together this year as part of our study of early modern history.  It was one of our favorite read-alouds from the year.  It is the story of 12-year-old Mary Jemison who was kidnapped by natives in 1758 and separated from her family.  She then spent years of her life living with the Seneca natives in the area which is now New York.  This is a bit of a longer read, but so worthwhile!  I would say it reminded my quite a bit of the Little House series.

Sarah Whitcher's Story by Elizabeth Yates

This title was also part of our early modern history readings.  It is a pretty quick read with lots of sketches throughout the book.  It is the retelling of a folktale from New Hampshire about a little girl who goes missing and is kept safe by a wild bear.  When a mysterious man appears during the search and tells every one he has a had a dream and knows where to find the girl, things get really interesting!

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla

This was a great little historical read!  Most of us have heard about Squanto and how he helped the Pilgrims survive early settlement.  This is an easy to read, easy to understand living book about his life and specifically how he assisted the Pilgrims and maintained a relationship with them.  I love that it is from Squanto's perspective as so many books about natives are told from the 'white man's' perspective.

The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill

This is a quirky, up-beat story about two young friends and how they make millions from an idea that was never meant to launch a business!   My son read this for a free read and loved it.  It would make a great family read-aloud for children of all ages.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

We found this one on audio book and really enjoyed listening to it in the car.  I highly recommend looking for it on audio if you can find it.  This is classic book about brother and sister, Claudia and Jamie and their adventures hiding out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It is a unique read - part mystery, part comedy, part historical and geographical fiction.  A fun Summer read.

Now, get reading!  *smile*

The Plan Your Year Promo you should definitely know about...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hey guys!  So, I've talked about PlanYOURYear and Pam Barnhill's resources many times before.  I absolutely love her stuff. The PlanYOURYear book and resources are so hands-on, so practical.  They have helped me in many ways already and will continue to be a great resource for putting together our vision, goals, and plan for the coming 'school' year in our home.

For the next few days (until July 3rd), Pam is offering a FREE copy of her new ebook, The Homeschool Organizational Challenge with every purchase of any PlanYOURYear kit.

From my Review:

Honestly?  Pam has thought of everything we need to know to put together a fantastic homeschool year and put it in this extensive Plan Your Year Homeschool Planning Kit.   The kit includes the Planning Book (78 pages of step-by-step inspiration), over 40 printable planning pages to go along with the steps in the book, audio interviews with two lovely homeschool Moms and top bloggers/writers in the homeschool world.  For $24 - it is worth every penny as you can use the resources again and again.
I've been planning homeschool for seven years now and yet I'm still learning a ton and gleaning so much from the Plan Your Year Planning Book.  And as I'm reading through it and actually working through the steps (or action items, as Pam calls them), I'm realizing how great it feels to actually HAVE a well thought out plan.  A plan that is prayerfully considered.   A plan that places a priority on peace in the home and progress towards long-term visions and goals.

Within these sections there is a TON of information and encouragement for tackling each topic and the planning and evaluating tasks that go along with them.  There are also very specific "Action Items" that prompt you to actually do something.  (Oh, how I love this as it gives me the shove I need to actually PLAN and not just read books about planning...)

Yes, so - you will read through the section on Determining a Course of Study (for example) and at the end you will be prompted to use the Course of Study form (which you get for free with the purchase of the Plan Your Year Kit) to actually start putting pencil to paper and plan that course of study for your child.

This layout/format is so fantastic for busy Moms who want to work through a book and get results.  By the time you finish working through the Planning Book, if you've actually followed along and worked through the Action Items, you will have planned a FANTASTIC homeschool year.  I'm sure of it.

So, the layout of the Planning Book is awesome.  SO easy to follow.  Each section covers topics like: creating a vision, setting goals, determining a course of study, scheduling options, planning a week, evaluating and purchasing resources, building a booklist, organization, records, planning your day, etc. 

Read my full review of PlanYourYear right here.

The Homeschool Organization Challenge is a simple book that walks you through 28 days of challenges.  These range from how to organize paper, how to purge curriculum and books, how to organize art supplies, dust, use baskets... you name it. 

This would be a wonderful resource for those of you who struggle to organize your homeschool space even in spite of all your best efforts and intentions!  Pam has a wonderful way of making things so doable and practical and this ebook is no exception.  

I really wanted to share this promo with you all because it really is worth checking out, especially if you've already been considering purchasing the PlanYOURYear.  


Read my full review of Your Morning Basket right here.

This post contains affiliate links.  :)

{Homeschool Planning} The Importance of Starting with your OWN Bookshelves

Monday, June 20, 2016

Are you familiar with Scotia Bank's slogan?

You know, the whole, 'You're Richer Than You Think'  thing?

They say it is one of the most successful branding strategies any bank has ever launched.  Maybe its because we all want to be richer than we think.  I never understood it personally, because I'm almost always poorer than I thought.  *chuckle*

Anyways, I digress.  The point I'm getting at is this - think of your personal bookshelves with this slogan in mind.

You may not think you have what you need for next year - or that you have to research and order a whole pile of new curriculum, books, etc... but do you?  Really?

If you're anything like me you might already have most of the books and 'curriculum' you need for next year right on your own bookshelves.   

When it comes to books - you just might be 'richer than you think'. 

Let's be honest, us homeschoolers LOVE to buy books.  (If you've hung around here for any amount of time, you know I'm as guilty as any!)  I love to add great books to our growing bookshelves and I do this periodically throughout the year and usually in the Spring at Used Book Fairs.

Here's the challenging thing though - I need to make sure we actually READ the books (or USE the resources) that I buy.  One great way to be sure you use the stuff you've already got is to start with your own bookshelves every year.  That's right - when you are planning your 'curriculum', look to see what you've already got.

It sounds so simple, but for a long time I didn't do this.  I would buy stuff, use some and abandon most, pile it up and buy more stuff.  When I started really looking at my own shelves,  it made a HUGE difference in our homeschool (and in my bank account).  We actually use the cool stuff I've already purchased and we save on buying things we don't really need.

Since Charlotte Mason was ALL about books - I thought I'd share these tid-bits for Charlotte Mason Monday...

Some Thoughts for Starting with your own Bookshelves:

Start with prayer.

I'm really feeling it lately, this need to bring my homeschool concerns/thoughts/decisions to the Lord.  I shared my heart about this with regard to planning a few days ago.  I just think, when you are choosing books and resources that will be read and used in the home - asking the One who knows our family best is a powerful starting point. 

Ask Him to show you what you already have.  Ask Him to lead you to the resources you might have written off or the books you didn't think of reading.

Start where you left off.

What didn't you get to this year?  We read a TON, but there are still quite a few read-alouds that were on our reading list that we didn't fit it for various reasons.  Just because the 'school year' is done doesn't mean I will scrap these books and move on.  We will most definitely still read the books we were planning on reading last year unless we feel led otherwise.

For us, this means we will be reading books that fit in the 'early modern' era (which we covered this past year) while we study the 'modern era', our time period for 2016-2017.  And that's ok.  Because life happens and it all blends together in the end anyways.  

Great books are great books and there is something satisfying about finishing what you start.

Start by searching for books that fit the time periods you'll be covering.

Alright, so on the flip side of finishing what you start - you can also look forward to what you'll begin anew.  We do much of our learning around a historical rotation of about 6-7 years.  (We go from creation and ancient civilizations to modern history and flow through these year by year - ish).  So, this gives us a great springboard for read-alouds.

For this year, I scoured my bookselves for stuff covering the time period of about 1850s to present day.  Happy day - there is SO MUCH for this time period.  We could really camp out here for at least a year and a half.  And we just might.  

PS.  We use a ton of the resources from Simply Charlotte Mason.  We especially enjoy following their guides for family study through history, bible, and read-alounds.  Last year we used Early Modern History and Epistles, and this year we are using Modern Times, Epistles, and Revelation.   What I do to make these really work for us is that I approach them in a relaxed manor.  We leave room for flexibility and we add a lot of our own read-alouds.  We love the Simply Charlotte Mason yearly programs because they are so gentle and focus on family learning.

Start by looking for books you may want to revisit.

Alright, so, if you have a children who are a little older with younger siblings coming up behind - you might be able to revisit some favourites.  Some of the books we read to our eldest, Simon, we may now be able to read again with our youngest, Alex.  (It's so neat to do this... I love how Michelle at Delightful Learning has rowed nearly all of BFIAR twice!)

Also - there may be great resources, picture books, curriculum that you have looked at a bit before or read in the past that you could bring out again this year and enjoy or use.

Start with books you purchased a while ago for 'when the kids were older'.

This is huge.  Wanna hear something crazy about kids?  They grow.  Yeah - you already knew that because us Mamas can't keep up with how fast the kids grow... 

So, this is why it's important to remember to check your shelves for books you purchased before your kids were ready for them.  

Take a good look - you might be surprised what books are ready and waiting for your kiddos to devour!

Start with the curriculum resources you already have.

I think many homeschoolers struggle with buying curriculum they never end up actually USING.  So, I'm talking about Math, Language Arts, Science, etc... you know - that stuff we buy 'curriculum' for.  And then it just sits there. 

It's not because the curriculum (or resource) is bad.  It's not because the resource doesn't fit the child.  Sometimes, its just because we want something new and shiny.  Or maybe we've forgotten we even HAD that particular thing.

I have come back to resources time and time again.  For example, we had Learning to Spell through Copywork on our Language Arts shelf for over a year before we ever used it.  I just kind of forgot it was there and we also started using a different program.  In the past few months I was reminded of it and pulled it out for my daughter and she actually LOVES it.  The funny thing is, we are not using it for copywork but for dictation.   So, that's another thing - sometimes resources can be used in a another way as well.

Another example was with our Sonlight curriculum.  When our kiddos were young (I think my eldest was 5, second was 3 and littlest was 1), I purchased Sonlight Core A.  It was WAY too much for them at that time.  I got frustrated because it wasn't 'working' and had spent so much on it.  I almost sold the whole thing but felt led to just hang on to the books and teacher's guide.   It wasn't until nearly 2 years later that we returned to Core A and used it as a family and absolutely LOVED IT.  I realize now that the program was not the problem - the kids just weren't ready for that level at that time.  (IF you wanted to use Sonlight with kids that age, I would start them in PreK.)  We even went on to complete the next level of Sonlight all together and both years were very rich!

So, take a look and see what pricey curriculum you might already have.  You might be surprised by something that all of a sudden clicks. 

Also - don't forget about non-fiction!

We have quite the collection of non-fiction books on our shelves.  Tons of great Usborne history and science books, lots of great stuff for art and art history, geography, composer study, atlases, dictionaries, thesauruses, etc.  

Because they have because permanent fixtures on our shelves, sometimes, I forget how great they really are.  I forget how much these books have to offer!  So, I encourage you, don't forget to look at your non-fiction books when seeking out resources you might use this coming year.

Here are just a few of the titles I pulled off our shelf this week to use this coming year -

These are mostly books that were on our reading list this year but we didn't get to - so, they will be put at the start of this year's list.

Examples of awesome resources I didn't use this year but was easily able to pull off the shelf for use in the coming year.  (I think I'll have my eldest read from and narrate The Message...).

A mish-mash of books we didn't get to this year and books that fit in the coming year's time period.

More books that fit into the Early Modern to Modern History time period.

More read-alouds from our shelves that fit in with the 1850-present day time frame.

I hope this post inspires you to check out your own shelves and I also hope you find out you're, 'richer than you think'!


Why we really need to trust God's Hand in our Home(school)... and more Used Book and Curriculum Sale Finds!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I recently shared some thoughts and tips for buying at Homeschool Used Book and Curriculum Sales.  The post struck a chord with many homeschoolers (just like me) who struggle with knowing what to look for and what is worth buying at these curriculum fairs.  It's a zoo out there with SO MANY CHOICES and so many Mamas looking for the same things at the same time.  And with thousands of options, how do we knows what's best for our families?

It's stressful.  I know.  Take a deep breath.  (Have you read my other recent post about the importance of prayer and rest in homeschool planning?)  That's kind of the theme here too...

Want to hear some truth?

The Lord knows what you need and He will provide.  

If we are Christ-followers, we know this.  I mean, we should know this.  But do we REALLY know this?

I had to remind myself of this truth a couple nights ago as I sped (sheepish grin) my way to a Used Book and Curriculum Sale.  I thought I'd share a little story with you...

So, this sale... it is the kind of place you need to be on time.  I've been for the past five or six years.  I always find TONS of great stuff.  Usually I can find most of the books and resources I need at a fraction of the retail price...  but - it is always packed.  Like, absolutely lose your mind if its your first time there, packed.  And the Mamas are fiercely competitive over those good book and curriculum finds.  (Honestly, I SAW one Mom completely snatch a Five in a Row guide from another Mama...!  *gasp*)

So, with this in mind, I had my whole day planned out.  My husband was off so I would have PLENTY of time to drive the 40 minutes to the sale and be there early.  Well, little did I know that in the morning, my grandpa would ask us to take him to the doctor's office that afternoon.  So, while we all piled in the car at 2:30pm with my sweet 93-year-old Gramps, I was already thinking about the curriculum sale and my plans to arrive early.

Annnnd... of course, we hit traffic and got delayed and everything took way longer than we thought and, guess what?  I ended up leaving late with no dinner and a house in chaos.  And... I let myself get all flustered and worried and started thinking things like: how am I ever going find the stuff I need now that I'm running so late!  I'll be stuck in a big line up and I won't get in and...

And then I got lost, delaying me even further.

Isn't that the way?

But worry makes waste.  Worry in the moment, waste the moment.  

And not only that - worry in the moment... sin in the moment...

Ironically, worship music was blaring as I grimaced at yet another red light and asked some random pedestrians where on earth the Civic Centre was...

I got there eventually.

But as I drove in traffic, I heard the reminder loud and clear:  "Why do you worry - worrying can't add a moment to your life or fix any of this traffic or find you any more book deals... you of little faith..."

Right.  I told my husband today that the Holy Spirit actually tells me to "chill".  He chuckled.  But, it's true.  Because, well, it's affective.  What can I say?  The Lord knows me well.

I heard it in the car - "Cass, just chill.  I've got this.  Stop all your worrying - it won't help you one bit.  Don't you trust me?  I will provide."

I know this.  

But why do I forget?  Honestly...  I know it is maybe a bit of a silly example, being all flustered about getting to a book sale, but it is in the everyday ordinary life that we hear the Lord's whispers.  That still small voice that so patiently guides and loves us in our chaotic imperfection.

And that's what I needed - a good reminder that worry wins no battle and when I give in to worry I'm only rejecting the truth that God's got a good grip on every single situation in my life.

Yep.  Even which books I find at a homeschool book sale.  (And I did end up finding a ton that I needed, by the way... of course, I did... He is faithful.)

Friends - because He knows the plan and He has it all in the palm of His mighty hand... we don't  need to worry.  We don't need to speed or wonder if we'll get my hands on the right resources because He already knows all our needs and He's already got our back in ways we can't even imagine.

Isn't that so comforting?

To know that it isn't up to just us?

That He already has the big picture and we are just playing a part in His Masterpiece?

What a great, big exhale.

And you know what else happened that same day?

We got a call from our Fostering Agency.  A call that sounded (by the message) fairly urgent and possibly a call with a child who needs us.  We've been waiting for a call like that for over a year.  But guess what?  

We missed the call.  

We were with gramps at the doctor's office (remember?).   And we don't have a cell phone.  Usually, I am home, or my husband is available at work - but this ONE day, we were unreachable.  (This literally almost never happens...)  So, when we got home and listened to the message it was too late.


Here was another opportunity to just bow our heads and Be Still and Know.  

He is God.

Not us.

Not worry.

Not planning.  (Let's be real, our need to know the plan and create the plan and LOVE the plan can be just like a idol in our lives...)

Nope.  He is God and He knows.

So, yes, we missed the call.  And that's okay.  Because He already knew.  And He already knows.  Tomorrow, and next week, and next year, and forever more.

And yep, I was late for the sale and fretted about a whole lot of nothing because my King already knew my needs and He's already taken care of it.

I don't have to think about all this and worry about all that because HE knows.

He knows books.  He knows foster babies.  He knows the interruptions.  He knows the outcome.  He knows all things that will be and all things that shouldn't be.  

My job is just to listen, obey, and rest in His leadership, His Kingship over my life.

And that, friends, is the Peace of Christ which surpasses anything the world can give us - and that is His gift to His children... if we will only surrender and accept it.

And just for fun, and because I know you're all book nerds like me... Here's the stuff I still ended up finding at a great price...  *wink*

My little pile... why do piles of books make me feel SO happy... it's just weird.  It felt like I got a lot  more that this, but, this is it - combined with what I got at the other used sale last month, I'm more than stocked with great books for the coming year and beyond!

A whole lot of Living Book action - many of these are classics, and/or on reading lists for classical and Charlotte Mason educators.

This is a huge collection, nearly 300 pages.  No illustrations really, just classic, well known poems.  I absolutely LOVE the name of this poetry book!  

Books I was looking for - Hungry Planet will go with our geography from SimplyCharlotteMason.com, and the Christian Liberty Reader was $1!  Audrey loves them.  Abraham Lincoln's world fits in with our time period this year of Early Modern to Modern History and Simon will used this for history narrations.  Story of the World is a classic history read and we didn't have this volume, so I grabbed it for $5...

Spelling needs to be a focus this year - we do dictation, but I wanted to add some more structured spelling for my analytical thinker - thought I'd try Sequential Spelling a bit.  We really like Writing Strands - needed Level 2...

We won't need this until next year for my youngest, but only $20 - new!  Great find. We love Teaching Textbooks and because we already own the CDs for the computer, all we needed was the books.  

Thanks for reading, as always... and love to you, wherever you are!

And remember....

The Importance of Reflection, Prayer, and Rest in Homeschool Planning

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Alright, so, I don't know about you - but I'm an A-type, go-getter kinda girl.  So, as a homeschool Mom, it is so tempting to just jump from one 'school year' to the next.

You know, it's June - shouldn't I be gearing up to start again in a few weeks with next year's plans?  (laughs)

I have done this so many times - I would go all year, never stop, and be continually implementing new plans as I went along.  Rarely did we take more than 2 weeks of a 'break' from homeschooling.  It is exhausting, even if you implement a more relaxed, gentle approach.

As the years have passed though, I've learned more about the importance of pausing.  There is so much waiting for us in a time of pausing between 'years'.  (Even if this is only a for the month of July, like us!)

It is so important to take time to acknowledge the year's accomplishments, pray for direction, and rest in body and spirit as you plan for the coming months and year ahead.


Just like all homeschoolers, I often struggle with the feeling we just aren't ever doing enough.  

In fact, I can even find myself wondering what we actually DID accomplish in the school year.   You know, those haunting (lying) feelings that whisper: Man, did we do ANYTHING this year?  What did we actually accomplish?!   

Let me tell ya- many, many months can easily cloud together and we lose sight of all the wonderful things we did do!  The memories we made together, all the learning that took place, all the wonderful and engaging books we read, the conversations we had,  and all the growth and discipleship that happened under our roof.

Honestly, before you barrel into planning for next year, take time to think about and reflect upon the year you are still wrapping up.  Whether you 'school' all year long or don't prescribe to the traditional Autumn to Spring academic year - that's ok.  Any time is a good time to still reflect on what you have and are still accomplishing in the home.

Looking back on all you've achieved, helps you gain motivation to keep moving forward!

For me, this includes looking through our children's Notebooks, and reading through my past year's homeschool planner.  In these I can easily view so much of the wonderful learning that took place academically.  I also just spend time thinking through the months and some of the special learning we did together.

Of course, accomplishments and growth don't only come in the form of academics!  There is so much more to consider.  In fact, for us, there are more important things to consider!  Was there spiritual growth in our family - ourselves, our children...?  What their development in character and habits of my children (or myself!)?  Did we learn new things together that we ended up really enjoying?  What kind of special memories or traditions did we establish?  What kind of friends did we make or how did we invest further in family and friends?  How did we see God moving in our lives?  How did God use our family to impact the world around us?  How were we blessed this year and how did we bless?  What challenges did we face and overcome together?

These are all so important to consider and remember, and even document!  (Of course there is an endless list of possibilities for growth...)

If your children are very young and are not yet doing formal 'homeschooling', you can still reflect upon all the ways they have grown this year too!  What milestones did they hit?  Did they learn to sit up?  Crawl?  Walk?  All three?  Did they start talking or show an interest in reading books together?  Did you read through a children's Bible Storybook together?  Learn a simple prayer or hymn?  What about siblings forming bonds?  Learning how to stack bricks or pick flowers...?  There are so many ways a child can change and grow.

Without an intentional pause, a breath, a time of reflection - it is so easy to lose sight of all the wonderful growth that took place.  It is also much easier to burn out.

Give yourself time to actually acknowledge that you and your children ARE learning and growing and things are going to be just fine. It's so important to ponder where you've been so you can see clearer where you need to go.  To thank the Lord for all the work He is doing and ask Him to help you move forward into the coming year.


So this leads me to the next part.  Prayer.  

I write about this from a state of brokenness.  Because friends, PRAYER still needs to be such a bigger part of our homeschool, my everyday, my life!  I know this because the Holy Spirit has been whispering this truth to me over and over again.  Oh, what a world of distraction we live in!!!

We are winding up our year in the next couple of weeks.  July will be a month of rest- we will be stopping most 'academics' (so to speak).  We will continue with a modified Morning Time, which will most-likely include: Bible, Scripture Memory, Prayer, Poetry, and History Read-alouds.  We also always spend time in some kind of really relaxed Nature Study.  This is the kind of stuff the kids do not consider work, however.  *does dance*

What a break does is it gives Mama some much needed time for reflection and prayer for the coming 'school year'.   And through this prayer and reflection will come more of a plan.

Abba Father knows what these little ones and our family will face this year and the next and the next.  He created each of our kids so unique in all their gifts and quirks.  He knows them better than I ever will.  I desperately need to seek His guidance to achieve success in leading them. 

Yes,  He is my King and my Shepherd.  The Shepherd of my heart and the Shepherd of our little home school.  The One I desperately NEED to show me how and when and why and where and what.

And yet, there are times I completely neglect to ask for His help.  When I just do things on my own and make my own decisions in my own way.  

Even when there have been so many times when God has led me and our little imperfect homeschool.  Ways He has directly answered prayer about which programs to use, which topics to cover, what books to read, what to really focus on.  

There have been countless times I've planned one thing only to find the Holy Spirit leading me in another direction.  This happens both in a daily setting and during the planning process.

And I still have a long way to go in being intentional about prayer for our homeschool and also attentive to the Spirit's guiding.  I long so much to be completely in tune with Christ's whispers - to walk in step with the Spirit every moment... but oh, I'm far from that reality friends!!!

Despite all our imperfections and lack of listening, however, He stands closely by our side, doesn't He?  Yes... he does.  He's a good, good Father.  (Go ahead, click on the link and listen to a tune of truth...)

Do not (for one second!) underestimate the love of the Father, friends.  He is an intimate Saviour.  He cares about your life and my life and He is abundantly rich in grace and mercy.  

Our Lord Jesus cares about the details.  Even the choices that seem small in the grand scheme of life.   ("Which language arts program do we use for this child, Lord?")  

Don't hesitate to bring these decisions to the Lord in prayer.  He is a loving and caring and present Shepherd.  Oh, where I would be without His loving hand upon this broken, messy Mama...!!!???

These are some of the prayers I'm humbly whispering right now...

Lord, show me how we can read and absorb more and more of YOUR WORD in our every day learning...

Oh, Father, what books should we read this year?  Which ones will honor you and inspire my children?

Lord, show us the materials in our home that do not honor you.  Lead us to study in a way that brings glory to your name.  Don't let me be a sheep - just following what other people do... help me to test everything and lead me to know what you would have us read and learn.

Show us, Lord, what Fruits of the Spirit we need to focus on... what character and habit training will be needed this coming year... ?

Help me find reading material that will help my two youngest fall in love with reading for themselves...

Lord, how can I better cultivate peace in our home?  Help me to be a peacemaker among my children and give them kindness and love toward one another.

Father, fill me with passion for what is pure and beautiful and good.  Show me these things.  Help me share these also with our children in a way that fills them with the same passion.

I could go on and on and on...

but He is gracious to hear us when we call.   So don't hesitate to just start talking... He is waiting and He is the Pearl beyond Price... the most Perfect and Wonderful Shepherd.  How is it that the Lord of the Universe hears me?  ME!?  

When I ask Him about our little homeschool?  

He hears.  

He cares. 

He answers. 

I'm speechless...

and I'm a fool not to bring all things to Him so He will ultimately give me rest in all things and in all decisions.


So, this idea of rest is something I really want to reflect on and well, 'rest' in this year.

Yes, I desperately want to dwell in peace.

Pretty soon my full review of Teaching From Rest will go up at Hip Homeschool Moms.  I absolutely love this book.  It is truly one of the best 'homeschool' books I've ever read and if I could, I would give a copy to every single new homeschooler I meet.  Sarah Mackenzie is a wonderful mentor and such an encouraging comrade for Moms on this journey of homeschooling.

Here's a quote from the book:

"Unshakable peace does not come from getting through a certain amount of material over a specified amount of time, but it also doesn't come from throwing in the towel and giving in when things get hard.  Peace comes from recognizing that our real task is to wake up each day and get our marching orders from God.  It comes from diligence to the work He hands us, but diligence infused with faith, with resting in God's promises to guide and bless us... Rest is trusting that God's got this, even if I'm a mess, even if I'm not enough, even if I mess up every day.  Because I do."

How much do I love that?

Sarah's words invoke a deep exhale from the depths of my very soul.

When we seek the Lord's guidance for our homeschool and follow His direction, we can grab hold of this crazy peace and settle right down in it.  I mean, instead of stressing and striving and constantly feeling like we aren't doing enough or the right thing or that other thing - no.  We can just STOP the chaos and be still and know that the Lord of the Universe is guiding us and showing us what is best for our family and our children...

That no one's standards but His matter.

That our life doesn't need to look like any one else's.  

That our life shouldn't look like the worldly lives surrounding us.

That 'school' is secondary to Spirit.

That He is in control and if we seek His Kingdom first,  ALL the other things will be taken care of - seriously... we don't need to stress.  Stress is an absence of peace, and we serve the Prince of Peace - so we are daughters and warriors of Peace, Mamas!

We don't need to stress because our trust is in the Lord and we just know that He's got all things under His control and in His mighty care.

That is REST, friends.

Resting in His peace, curled up in the palm of His hand.  And showing our children that He is a close, kindred Lord - an ever-present help in times of trouble and in the everyday ordinary.

And yes, even in our little homeschools.

I pray this post has whispered encouragement and the truth of God's love and care for you today, wherever it finds you.  


Plan Your Year Ad

Planting, Growing, and the Wonder of the Well-watered Garden...

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Well, hello there!

It's Spring.  *does dance*  Here in Southern Ontario, Winter is LONG.  Like, 6-7 months of cold, wind, snow, ice, muck, very little sunshine but lots of grey days - long.  Over the past years I have worked hard at embracing Winter and being thankful IN it - but boy, am I happy when Spring finally comes.  When the sun comes out and the grass grows green and its planting season again, I am just giddy.

When we moved to the country five years ago, I was determined to have a big ol' country garden.  And we did for a couple years - with moderate success.  What can I say, I'm not at all a gardening expert. I was totally green.  Pun intended.

Big harvest or not, it has ALWAYS been worth it to at least try to grow a veggie garden because of the value for the children AND for me... it is such a rich and wonderful thing to reflect upon the glory of God's creation.  How does one tiny little seed sprout and give a bountiful harvest of delicious, nourishing food for our bodies?  It truly is mind boggling.  

How the Lord planned and designed each and every seed and plant and created this amazing system of soil, sun, water - I'm awed at it all.  I am filled with wonder at His glorious works - at the gift of food and growing food.

So, yes, gardening has been a rich part of our little country life.

But...  then we got this crazy whim to hatch chicks one spring and ended up with pet chickens who LOOOOVE to eat every living green thing a garden can sprout, so gardening became more of a war than a pleasure.

"Oh... look at that lovely cucumber plant sprouting up right there!" says Gloria Hen... and CHOMP, that baby plant is GONE.  Yea... so we dropped the garden... out of a sheer need to preserve my sanity.

Gloria claiming the Tomato patch.  Sadly, she was killed by a wild animal last Spring....  What I wouldn't give to have her munching our greens again!  Such a hilarious and sweet friend, never in a million years did I think I'd miss a chicken, but I do.

Last year - we didn't plant anything at all either.  We had just been accepted as Foster Parents in the Spring and were confident we would have a baby or toddler with us within a few months and I didn't want the extra work to worry about.  Well, to our surprise, Spring, then Summer, came and went and we still did not have a new little person in our home.  Then  Autumn AND Winter passed and still we did not have a foster child.  Now, as Spring is here a year later - we still pray and know that God has everything in His mighty hands and it will all go according to His plan, not ours.

Man, I'm 32 and  I still haven't truly grasped the truth that God's ways are SO much better than my plans and I really need to stop thinking that I know how things are going to go down - because I never do...

So, this year, we decided to try something new - container gardening.   There are a few reasons for this.  First, it is easier than digging up mounds of garden space and weeding and tending, etc.  Secondly, (and probably more importantly) it keeps the chicken girls away.  We literally use a BABY GATE to keep them off our back deck and all the potted veggies will be one the deck.  Ridiculous, I know, making such accommodations for a pack of 4 free-ranging, bossy hens... but this is my life.  *wink*

As usual, I have no idea what I'm doing with regards to container gardening and I'm learning through heaps of library books and a mix of random YouTube videos and Pinterest.  The kids are helping (sort of) and sharing the excitement... my eldest is looking on with his usual good-natured scepticism.  And rightfully so - it is totally possible that this project will end with just very large buckets of soil all over our deck for 3 months.  Let's hope not.  But...

You know, can I just say - sometimes, simply modelling the act of trying something new- being willing to learn - is a powerful thing for kids to observe.  They won't always help.  They won't always join in, they might not even seem interested - but they are watching.  They see what is worthwhile and meaningful for you and they do take it all in.  So often, I've seen my passions and interests 'plant seeds' in the hearts of my children and all of a sudden, they are just as excited as I am or have developed an appreciation for something new.  

The kids also helped choose and plant tons of new perennials around the front and back of our property.  We've been meaning to do this for a few years.  So, that's been the past few weeks.  Buying plants (yikes...), digging up, splitting, moving, transplanting, replanting, watering, and watching plants, flowers, vines, seeds, veggies... you name it.  The inside of the house is a total disaster, but the outside is nicer!  

There's something so wonderful about getting your hands right in the soil and working the earth.  

It is therapeutic - and in many ways, spiritual.  Think of how many scriptures talk about soil, seeds, plants, pruning, growing...  there are so many metaphors to these things in the spiritual realm.  Just like taking a walk through a wooded path brings us closer to His breath of creation, so can getting our hands in the soil and working hard to grow something beautiful out of His breath-taking design.

I love to see the kids get excited about seeing plants sprout, grow, and change as well.  There is nothing cuter than a sweet 7-almost-8-year-old following you around with his own little watering can, watering every plant in sight.  *melts*

Here's something we read this week and I wanted to share it with you guys.  Because it struck me and really made me think about the truth of God's creation.  Check out the first paragraph under Seed Design:

(from Understanding God's World text from A Beka)


How much do I love this?

The PRIMARY PURPOSE of a plant is to 



Why have I never reflected deeper on this truth?

When a pea vine sprouts flowers, it is glorifying God.  When our Tomato plant pushes higher and starts forming tiny little green spheres, it is glorifying God!  We plant these plants and give them the opportunity to glorify their creator by doing what they were designed to do.  And IN THAT process they also bring joy to us, food to us, and food to the insects and animals.

God is Amazing.

Amazing isn't even enough of a word.  There isn't a word...

"I know a bank where the Wild Thyme blows..."

The Well-Watered Garden...

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Isaiah 58:11

So... what is this Well-Watered Garden thing all about?

Have you ever seen a plant or garden completely dry up?

A few years ago, when we had a much larger garden in the backyard, I randomly placed a small bean plant in a pot along the fence.  I had one seedling left over from my planting, so I thought, 'why not just put it in a pot with some soil and let it grow there?'

It was a good thought - but then, I forgot about it and forgot to water it. For way too long.  I continued to water my larger garden, which was growing beautifully and full of rich, dark soil and lush green plants.  The little bean plant in the pot had completely withered to a pathetic, limp, hunched over stem of nothing.  The soil was parched, cracked, and dusty.  That poor little plant would never revive - it would never produce anything.   It was numbered with the many, many plants I've killed in my destructive horticultural life...

Plants that get no water are a sad sight of, well, death.

But - then, have you seen a garden that is well watered?

Have you turned on the hose and drenched a veggie patch with good, cool water in the stillness of a Summer evening?  Have you seen the way a piece of land can be completely transformed with seed, sun, and lots and lots of watering?  Growth.  Health.  Green leaves.  And... fruit.  Or veggies.  Or beautiful flowers.

This is a biblical metaphor to our very souls.  Without Jesus - without the Lord God in our lives and His Spirit breathing into us - we are like that dried up bean plant... withered, bent over, scorched by the weight of the sun and the heat of this world.  Dead.  But with Christ, we are like that healthy, lush garden, the Living Water quenching our every thirst and causing us to grow strong with firm roots and spiritual fruits for His glory.

It is an incredible thought to reflect upon during this beautiful season of sowing, watering, and watching.  Growth comes when the Water is poured out... oh, how desperately this 'plant' needs that Living Water... without Him, I would wilt and wither.  But WITH Him and THROUGH Him, I am alive, I am full of joy, I am stretching upwards and outwards - by His grace.

A Couple Books that have really been surprising us lately:

Ok, so, this is an A Beka Book Science text.  I bought it for something like $2 at a Used Curriculum Sale 5 years ago and have never wanted to part with it because it just has so much great information in it.  I never thought we would use it much but it is actually written very conversationally and we all really like it.  The content is fantastic and so God-centered, which is so rich for Nature Study and Science.

These are OLD classic bible story books.  My Mom and Dad had them from when I was a child.  Our kids LOVE them.  Like, absolutely love them.  It is bible accounts written in living story format.  I have heard random things about them possibly straying from scripture - but I have not found that to be the case.  Let me know in the comments if you have found this to be true!  

Have a lovely weekend, friends.


The Faithfulness of the God of Spring

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