our current books

Jan 15, 2015 by

We are spending lots of time snuggling and reading. There isn’t much else I can do right now, so it is a season of books. Annesley and I have started reading Little House in the Big Woods. I have my old, tattered, yellow set from my girlhood days. Then I have a complete other, still old, but not quite as tattered, blue set I picked up at a thrift store. We also have a few hardcover copies of the beautiful, artwork-on-the-front ones. But, when we decided to embark on this new adventure, I decided to pull out a big, beautiful, five-novels-in-one, gold-leafed edition I was saving for either Blythe or Keziah. She loves fancy things and fell in love with the gold pages and tinsy illustrations.

Little House Cover

Fisher likes to listen in and he is often found building some lego creation nearby while we read about Laura’s life with her family in the big woods of Wisconsin.

Last week Blythe drove me to physical therapy and then to run a few errands. We were able to go to the library and with the help of the scooters, I was able to zip around all three floors of the library and get a pile of fun books to explore. We have a new author on our list of favorites – Andrea Beaty. She has written Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer which we already knew about and loved (and seriously, you should read them!), but when we got to her shelf at the library, we found another gem! Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau is a fun, rhyming story about a hat maker in France who designs fancy, exotic hats for all of her customers and is deeply lonely for a friend. Annes keeps asking us to read it over and over and even asked Miss Sheri to read it to her when she stopped by for a visit.

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett is pure genius. It is Fibonacci’s famous rabbit problem – “How many rabbits will you have in one year if you start out with one?” – portrayed with hilarious illustrations, calendars, carrot recipes, and a glorious pop-up of hundreds of rabbits on the 12th month. Really, go get check it out and laugh yourselves silly as you and your children learn all about Fibonacci numbers.

Another new favorite is The Art Collector by Jan Wahl. It is about a little boy who loves art, but isn’t adept at making the art he sees in his mind come to life (yes, I identified with little Oscar!). So, he decides to collect art so he can look at the pieces he loves so much. His collection grows and he has a museum built to hold his collection and share it with others. Such a delightful story.

Fisher and Keziah have both listened to Little Britches this week and Fisher has been listening to The Lord of the Rings. Blythe is reading Pride and Prejudice again and I have been reading Call The Midwife and To My Friends: Messages of Counsel and Comfort. Richard just finished The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics.

Our family read-aloud right now is still The Wingfeather Saga. We are on book four, The Warden and the Wolf-King, and have about 250 pages left. Our reading time at night is quite limited because of the big girls’ schedules and we are in the middle of play month for Blythe. She will be performing for the next 9 days and has had a heavy rehearsal schedule the past couple of weeks. That along with her work and symphony schedules puts her home late several nights a week. I think this will be the last read-aloud we do as a whole family because her schedule is too difficult for the rest of us to work around {tears}. On the nights she is home, I try to read to everyone for an hour so we can continue to make some progress. At the rate we are going it is going to be March before we finish! I am hoping for some long Sunday night reading sessions over the next few weeks so we can get to the exciting conclusion.

Kat really wants me to read Quiet so I can understand sensitive souls like her a bit better so that is on my goal list for the year. I think Annesley and I will keep reading the other Little House books for the next few months and I have a whole stack of books I need to be reading for my Worldviews and How To Talk classes. So my next 5 months of reading is pretty planned out and I haven’t even made my book list for the year for my colloquia group! What are you reading? Do you have any suggestions for fabulous books for my monthly book discussion group?

In other news, my knee brace is here and working well. Finding pants that will fit over top of it is proving quite challenging so it looks like I will be wearing knee length yoga skirts for the next several months. I totally overdid it yesterday trying to shop for a pair of pants, so all the muscles in my leg are pretty unhappy today, but my knee feels super stable in the brace and I am thrilled to have it and to be done with the tape that has been holding me together for the past five weeks.

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book bonanza: when mindy saved hanukkah

Mar 4, 2014 by

My biggest strength as a homeschooling mama (well, aside from my absolute determination) is my love of reading out loud to my children. They love, love, love me to read to them. I guess I have all sorts of voices and zest that make it fun. I don’t really try to read in voices, it is just how I read…full characterization all the time. Fisher and Annesley will sit for hours and have me read to them which is pretty fortunate since I have spent so much time in bed the last two years. Snuggling in bed with them and reading the afternoon away is a common activity. When my voice or energy level give out, we stop and pick up again the next day.

Tonight we read “When Mindy Saved Hanukkah” for the first time. I must have picked it up at used book sale at the library some time ago, but I have never looked at it until Annesley brought it in and begged me to read it to her. Oh my goodness, it is so darling! All of you Jewish lovers out there need to find this book and savor the delightful story with your little ones. It is about a family of teensy people…really teensy, like the Borrowers…who live in a Synagogue and do not have any candles for Hanukkah. They need to sneak out to the Synagogue to get a big candle to melt into little candles. When the dad goes out, a cat attacks him. So then the girl of the family decides she is the one who must go and with great courage she ventures out to find a candle in spite of the possibility of being eaten by the cat. It is so, so cute!

It looks like it is out of print, so check out your library and used book stores to see if you can find a copy.

p.s. Sheri you must borrow it!

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fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Jan 14, 2014 by

fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Annes and I started our FIAR adventure again this week. We took December off and just got into the swing of things with FIAR again. I wanted to read All The Places To Love, one of my all-time favorite books, but she chose Humphrey The Lost Whale


This is the endearing, true story of a humpback whale who made a mistake and traveled under the Golden Gate Bridge, into San Francisco Bay, and up the the Sacramento River in 1985. Scientists, the U.S. Coast Guard, and people from all over the world worked together to help Humphrey get back out to the deep waters of the ocean.


Miss Annes thoroughly enjoying this book. The whole time we were reading it she kept asking, “He doesn’t die does he? He makes it back to the ocean, right?” Today we talked about salt water vs. fresh water, the Golden Gate Bridge, blowholes, different types of bridges, whale sounds, and the maps in the book.

Great times with my little one – so grateful I have this time with her.

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a new year of books

Jan 7, 2014 by

It is a new year which means more books on my nightstand to read, write, and discuss with my family, students, and book discussion group. I am swooning over all of these books and can’t wait to read them and gain all sorts of new insights into myself, human nature, courage, and how this world works.

Colloquia Books


I wanted to spend the month of December contemplating the life of the Savior and his role in my life so I selected The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for our first discussion of the year. My soul is hungry for the Savior and I want to spend this entire year (and the rest of my life!) drawing closer to Him. I especially love this music video because it demonstrates the real life changes that can occur when we follow the teachings of Jesus.


I am teaching a class for youth at iFamily and we will be reading, writing, and growing at breakneck speeds. We are reading nine books for Wake Up and Be AWESOME! and I decided to make my life easier by doing some of my WUBA books for my adult discussion group as well. A Place to Stand: The Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. is one of those doubled-up books. I am thoroughly excited to learn more about this man who stood so boldly against the strongest organization on earth in his time.


Resolved: 13 Resolutions For LIFE by Orrin Woodward looks FANTASTIC! It is a personal manifesto to change, keep your word, do hard things, and make a difference in the world. I can’t wait till my copy comes so I can devour it! I need all the help I can get to make even the smallest changes in my life.


I am a huge Ender fan and have read both the Ender series and the Shadow series in the past. Our youth are reading Ender’s Shadow for WUBA and now the adults will read it as well. I am not a huge sci-fi reader, but some authors in that genre really tickle my fancy and Orson Scott Card is one of them. I also want to read Pastwatch, but it will have to wait for another year (or be read in all my spare time, haha!). If you do decide to buy Ender’s Shadow, you might want to check out the Shadow and Ender’s Game box sets because I don’t think you will be able to stop with just the first book in the series!


We are studying William Wilberforce in WUBA, so this is another double-up month. Statesman and Saint: The Principled Politics of William Wilberforce is full of inspiration to tenaciously hold on to our ideals and do whatever it takes to implement them in our lives. The last time I studied Wilberforce was when I was pregnant with Annesley and I fell so head over heels in love with him I wanted to name our child after him. Instead, I named her Annesley after Susannah Annesley Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, another one of my heroes. Wilberforce’s passionate fight for the ending of the British slave trade gives me hope for humanity.


One of the statesman we are studying in WUBA is C.S. Lewis, my favorite author of all time. His words have deeply impacted my life and have helped guide me as a disciple of Christ. We are going to read “Why I Am Not a Pacifist” in my youth class and read the entire Weight of Glory with the adults.


When I read an interview with Muhammed Awal Momen about his conversion to Christianity, I couldn’t wait to learn more about him. We are reading his book My Name Used To Be Muhammed with the hope of learning more about both Islam and Christianity and most importantly, the courage it takes to live according to the dictates of one’s conscience.


A few years ago we read Rolf and the Viking Bow and it was a huge hit with our adult readers and many of their children. Our family loved, loved, loved it and waited eagerly every night for family read-aloud time. This year we are reading another book by Allen French, The Red Keep, and I hope families will take the summer to savor a bit of history and adventure together.


My friend Becky told me about A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman (not the same Emily Freeman who wrote Written On Our Hearts) and it looks so delicious! It goes right along with my several years long theme to discover how I am a creator and become a purposeful creator who blesses the lives of others.


Becky also tipped me off to this gem of a book, Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. This review convinced me we needed to read it and learn the lessons of courage, teamwork, and inner reserve these men have to teach us.

I have never rowed. I have never read a rowing book that I can remember. If all stories about rowing were written like Daniel Brown’s fabulous multi-level biography, I would read every one of them. This is a wonderful account, told with such detail and precision that I sometimes felt as if I were in this tale. Mr. Brown totally sucked me into his adventure. These young men who rowed for the USA in the 1936 Olympics faced huge obstacles. It was the Depression. Many were dirt-poor. They came from a small (then) and nondescript town of Seattle. They could not have had more difficult problems thrown their way. But by taking every sliver of hope, and mixing in superb craftsmanship (from George Pocock), excellent coaching (Al Ulbrickson), and these nine perfectly attuned young men learning together……..the result was perfection. This is a true Team sport. I learned that. It is nice to learn something you never knew, but is common knowledge to an entire set of other people. If you want to read a great, true story of success, this will fit the bill in spades…..and you will understand rowing to boot.

The research is mostly based on primary resources, including interviews with some members who were still living as the book was pulled together. Family members did supply additional information to make this undertaking feel solid and well thought out.

Concepts from Daniel Brown to consider that are mixed into the story to teach all of us: 1) One of the fundamental challenges in rowing is that when any one member of a crew goes into a slump the entire crew goes with him. 2) There are certain laws of physics by which all crew coaches live and die. The speed of a racing shell is determined primarily by two factors: the power produced by the combined strokes of the oars, and the stroke rate, the number of strokes the crew takes each minute. 3) To defeat an adversary who was your equal, maybe even your superior, it wasn’t necessarily enough just to give your all from start to finish. You had to master your opponent mentally. When the critical moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know something he did not – that down in your core you still had something in reserve, something you had not yet shown. 4) The things that held them together–trust in one another, mutual respect, humility, fair play, watching out for one another–those were also part of what America meant to all of them. There are other great ideas to ponder in this epic almost 400 page, could-not-put-down story.

I am not giving away anything by telling you that they DO win Gold at the 1936 Olympics. It is HOW they did it that is so darn exciting. Even knowing the end result does not diminish this bigger than life adventure. This is a must read, period.

By Wayne Crenwelge VINE VOICE on May 5, 2013


How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence has been on my to-read list for a long time. Growing up in Wyoming, I often heard tales of Gerry Spence’s effective courtroom tactics and have been curious as to how he has been so successful in presenting his arguments. This book breaks down the art and science of communication into small skill sets that if implemented will help each of us learn to communicate more clearly, with less offense and more influence.


Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a new book to me…another one of Becky’s recommendations. It is about a disfigured boy and how he learns to interact with the world and the world with him. On a more global level, it is about how each of us choose to interact with one another, how we choose to connect or disconnect with those who are different from ourselves. I can’t wait to take these lessons into my heart and become a more giving, loving, connected person.

Don’t those seem fun and inspiring! Over the past many months of injury and exhaustion I have often considered if I should give up my colloquia group, but after much pondering throughout the month of December I decided I need the intellectual stimulation these books provide and the subsequent discussions feed my soul in immeasurable ways. The relationships I have with the books we have read in the past eleven years are precious to me and have shaped and formed me in ways that I will always be grateful for. Just as precious are the dear friendships that have developed between members as we have discussed, debated, and grown together.


My Wake Up and Be AWESOME class is also studying Patrick Henry, Abigail Adams, and John Brown. We are reading Give Me Liberty: The Uncompromising Statesmanship of Patrick Henry by David J. Vaughan and studying his famous speech at the Virginia Convention in 1775. I wanted to read My Dearest Friend: The Letters of Abigail and John, but we decided it was too long for our youth to read when they already have so much on their plate and I decided I couldn’t squeeze any more reading time into my life to do it for the adult group, so we are going to read Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie Bober. Maybe next year I will get their letters read. Our John Brown book is Fiery Vision: The Life and Death of John Brown. I studied his Harper’s Ferry raid in detail in my AP History class 20+ years ago, but I never learned about his life as a father or community leader and I am excited to delve into those aspects of his life and how his abolitionist viewpoints developed into the guiding force of his life.

Our C.S. Lewis biograpy is from the same Leaders In Action series as the Luther, Henry, and Wilberforce books. Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis by Terry W. Glaspey will give us a broad overview of Lewis’ life and impact. We will finish out our semester with the Chaim Potok favorite, The Chosen. I am silly excited to tackle these books with some of my favorite youth!

Personal Reads

Our scripture study this year at church is the Old Testament and I am reading several books to go along with it. Written On Our Hearts by Emily Freeman is so, so good. I am savoring it and reading little bits of it each night before bed. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

“People often ask me why I love the Old Testament so fiercely. I always respond with the same answer. There will come a moment in your life when you or someone you love will struggle with a challenge so great you will wonder how you will make it through. In that moment you will long to better understand the Savior’s role as the Deliverer, and to do that you must go to the book of scripture that describes that role the best – the Old Testament…We live in a world that pleads for deliverance. We may not be called upon to cross the Red Sea, find ourselves thrown into a pit and left for dead, or face armies whose strength is far greater than ours. We may not be led into captivity, be compassed on every side by the enemy, or be called upon to testify knowing it might lead to our death. However, there will be days when we face danger, oppression, and injustice. There will be great obstacles in our way and times when we feel surrounded by those who are intent on destroying us. We will face evil, overwhelming health challenges or perhaps the captivity of sin. In these moments we must remember that, just as The Lord delivered the children of Israel, He has the power to deliver us from any trouble we must overcome in our life. He is, after all, the Great Deliverer.”

Doesn’t that make you want to read not only this book, but the Old Testament as well? Oh, how I love the lessons from Old Testament. They have connected all the dots for me in God’s great plan and have been a foundation of hope for me throughout my life. The stories of Enoch, Isaac, Gideon, Abigail, Jacob, Joseph, the Children of Israel, Jericho, David, and many others have taught me deep down in my soul that the God I believe in is more powerful than any other force and that with God all things, ALL THINGS are possible.

I am also reading 400 Questions and Answers about the Old Testament by Susan Easton Black and so far it is quite interesting. I love stocking my mind full of information, but right now my mind is full with my focus on healing. I knew I wasn’t up to doing a deep, detailed verse-by-verse study of the Old Testament right now and this book is the perfect way to fill my need for information without overwhelming me with hours and hours of study. Once again, by reading little tidbits once or twice a day and by the end of the year I will have learned quite a bit more about the ancient world.

I believe pretty firmly in reading the actual words of scripture to my children and we usually do, but I didn’t feel right about reading the Old Testament to Fisher and Annes. The thought of it overwhelmed me and I knew I wouldn’t last more than a few days in the effort. I wanted to bring the stories of the Old Testament alive for them and to help them love it as much as I do. So, instead of reading the OT to them, we are reading Illustrated Bible Stories for Latter-day Saints and the kids are eating it up. I promised them we would read two stories each morning, but inevitably we end up reading more – we are already past Noah & the Ark and we only started yesterday!

Fisher and Annesley were given Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims for Christmas from their grandparents and we are thoroughly enjoying it! I had never heard of this book as I don’t often (ever?) listen to Rush Limbaugh and I wasn’t quite sure what to think about reading a book from him to my children, but it is fabulous. Fisher and Annes beg for it every day and we are having wonderful discussions about the Church of England, having the courage to follow your own beliefs, leaving all you know to go to a new place, and what price is freedom worth. The time-travel aspect is super fun is bringing this time period alive for my little ones. Snuggling up with my boy with his head on my shoulder is the best part.

I hope some of these book pique your interest and you read them and share your thoughts with me! Also, what books are on your nightstand? What are you excited to read/study this year?

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some new favorite books

Nov 12, 2013 by

some new favorite books

Enough hip, connective tissue, and passing out talk! Let’s talk books! Anyone who knows me at all knows I am book lover. We have found some fabulous gems at the library recently. Annesley and I are loving our FIAR books and yet, I haven’t taken the time to blog our adventures. Along with all the reading with the children, I am in the middle of choosing books for next year’s colloquia group and trying to make them all dovetail with the books I am reading for the scholar class I will be mentoring at iFamily next semester.

Here are some of our recent library finds. Alphasaurs is absolutely delightful! Each page sports a dinosaur made up of the first letter of its name.


Scattered around the page are facts about the dinosaur’s size, weight, eating habits, and other behaviors. Fisher and Annesley love, love, love this book.


It is definitely going to be one we purchase and we added the author’s other books, Bugs By The Numbers, and Alphabeasties to our wish list as well.

Fisher and Annes love this cute little book, Little Owl Lost.


It is a similar story to Are You My Mother, but the illustrations are much more adorable and have my kids giggling the whole way through.


The Circus Ship is super cute as well.


It is a rhyming story about a mean circus owner and his animals that escape his violent temper in a storm off the coast of Maine. They find refuge in the town and the townfolk hide the animals when he comes looking for them. The finding of the disguised animals is fun, especially for Annesley. She cracks up every time she sees the monkey in the baby carriage.


I have been mentoring a WWII class this fall. It has been loads of work and loads of fun. Some of the fun has been learning more about the stories of men and women who did what had to be done. We Die Alone is fabulous!


I am not done with it yet, but I am amazed at the human spirit. We have more courage than we know.

My co-mentor, Jenn, read Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon in preparation for her lecture on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and she has been raving about it. It is definitely on my must-read list.


Last night we discussed the story of Tito Momen, a man who was imprisoned for 15 years in Cairo for converting from Islam to Christianity. We read this fascinating news article and are looking forward to reading his book, My Name Used To Be Mohammed.


We discussed taking Christ’s name upon us and how that doesn’t always look the same in different parts of the world and different eras of time. We talked about having enough conviction of your Savior to be willing to give up your whole world and even your life if state publicly that you believe in Him. Doesn’t the book sound amazing? I definitely want to read this one in my adult book discussion group.

In my scholar class next semester we are studying John Brown, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther, and we would like to study a great woman, but don’t have her selected yet. We need to read one biography and study one document about each of these people. Do any of you have any suggestions?

Any suggestions for my adult group? I have an eensy-weensy amount of time to get all twelve books selected for next year and I want them to be powerful, inspiring, though-provoking reads.

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book bonanza: the giraffe that walked to paris

Jul 2, 2013 by

book bonanza: the giraffe that walked to paris

Oh my goodness! Guess what just arrived at my house?

The Giraffe That Walked To Paris!

Yes! You heard (read?) me right! It is back in print! After years and years and years of being out-of-print and being impossible to find for under $100, it was reissued on June 21 and is now available for a mere $13! This is one of our favorite books and is used in the FIAR Vokume 2 Literature Guide that I am using this next school year with Annesley. Miss Annes and I are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves!

If you have not heard of this delightful book, here is a review:

In an attempt to improve relations between Egypt and France, who were on opposite sides of the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, the pasha of Egypt presented King Charles X with a giraffe, the first in Europe in over three centuries. But in the days before aircraft, how do you send a large, ungainly animal such a long way? The answer is depicted in this book–a sea : voyage to Marseilles, and then a six-week march to Paris. The brief text is written in a chatty style that deals effectively with the logistics of the move and its historical underpinnings. It also includes details that will appeal to young readers: the custom-made giraffe raincoat necessitated by France’s cooler climate, the need for a cow in the entourage to provide La Girafe’s daily rations, the unusual way a giraffe moves its legs in walking. The illustrations are attractive pastel cartoons and one full-color photograph of the giraffe’s stuffed remains, still on display at La Rochelle. The book concludes with a historical note briefly outlining the background of the story. A charming illumination of one of history’s more obscure footnotes. –Barbara Hutcheson, Greater Victoria Public Library, B.C., Canada

We love checking books out from the library as it is always an adventure to go and find new treasures, but for our FIAR books I really like to own them and be able to pick them up at any time without having to make a library trip. This year I am attempting to collect all the Volume 2 books and put them on our kitchen bookshelf so Annesley can keep them all together all year long on her very own special shelf.

I am also considering doing Beyond FIAR with Fisher this fall. Have any of you used this? If so, what was your experience like?

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june’s book gems

Jun 11, 2013 by

Ack! I still haven’t posted about Annesley’s first lost tooth, our hike at Cress Creek, or our swimming adventure and now it is time for me to be off again. Tomorrow I am taking Blythe to Present Yourself, a class on learning impactful public speaking and mastering one’s body language. She earned a free ticket back in November by writing an awesome essay about her mission in life.

Before I go though, I wanted to share a few of our newest book finds!

The Serpent Came To Gloucester is so fun! The entire book is written as a poem and reading it out loud to Fisher this morning was a treat. I could read it all day! It is a long, meandering poem told from the perspective of a little boy who wants the sea serpent to live and frolic while his fellow townsfolk hunted it across the sea. Fisher identified immediately with the little boy and kept hoping the sea serpent would escape.

By the way, after his itsy-bitsy snake he adopted at Swim Camp escaped, he found a new one in our yard a few days ago. It is about five times as big and he loves it with all his bug-loving heart. We even found him sleeping with it in his sleeping bag! Thank goodness he was outside! I don’t think this boy is scared of any creature out there. He is sure he can tame them and make them his friend.

We are huge Anno fans over here and Anno’s Alphabet is one of our latest delights. If you are looking for a new spin on the old alphabet book, here are some we are reading with Annes right now. The City ABC Book is full of pictures of big city objects that have letter shapes in them. It is super fun to see my little one’s eyes light up when they spot the elusive letters. ABC Bunny is a treasure from 1933! It looks just like a vintage book should and is written in a sing-songy prose that is quite lovely. My children love the nature pictures and I love the unique story they tell.

Last but not least, 13 Words by Lemony Snicket is a gem. I am not a Series of Unfortunate Events fan, but The Conductor is Dead and now 13 Words has made me rethink my first impression of this author. This book is built on the foundation of thirteen words (bird, despondent, cake, dog, busy, convertible, goat, hat, haberdashy, scarlet, baby, panache, and mezzo-soprano) and the magic is in how they are brought together to develop an entire story. The vocabulary and humor are simply delectable!

As for our family read-aloud we are still plugging away on Freckles. Papa, Mama, Blythe, and Fisher are loving it. Keziah and Annes, not so much. I am on the lookout for our next read-aloud. Please share your suggestions for a great story sure to be loved by children from 17 – 5.

Richard and I are on a World War II kick. I am reading The Longest Day and have to force myself to stop reading and get some sleep each night. The story of D-Day has always fascinated me and this collection of eyewitness accounts is superb. If you have any interest in WWII, pick this one up! Richard is reading Unexplained Mysteries of World War II and is always surprising me with amazing anecdotes and little-known facts.

I think I need to hook up a hammock so I can spend the hot afternoons lazing around in the shade of my yard reading a book and napping. That, my friends, is something I dream of often – I think it is time to make it happen.

Happy Reading!

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conquering a poem

Oct 25, 2012 by

I have this daughter that blows my mind away. She has so much truth and goodness and power inside of her. She has a depth to her thinking that continues to surprise me even after sixteen years of mothering her.

She is taking a class right now called Sword of Freedom. It is about the Civil War. They have studied Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Across Five Aprils, The Dred Scott Decision, Abraham Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation, Amendments 14, 15, and 16, The Gettysbug Address, and To Kill A Mockingbird. They write papers each week, have movie nights to watch Red Badge of Courage, Gettysburg, Gone With The Wind, and other era-specific films, and last Saturday had a simulation of a battle over at the city park. Her mentors are amazing. They inspire these youth to work hard and put in hundreds of hours of study.

Last week, Blythe was asked to write a poem for her class. She loves to write and create stories, but she believed this assignment was out of her league. She hemmed and hawed for days. She said she couldn’t do it. She said she didn’t know how to write a poem. I gave up on her ever getting it done. And then, on Monday, she came into my room and asked if I would listen to her rough draft.

Blew my mind away.

Her words were so powerful.

She did it. She conquered a fear. She did hard things.

And it is beautiful.

She said I could share it with you.

The Brothers

My brother left that early morn,
He did not say to where.
He walked away along the road
And the sun shone in his hair.

Before too long I’d left home, too.
We marched away so strong.
The drums did beat so loud and clear
As we sang a Dixie song.

We’d beat the Yanks, we proudly said.
Our hearts were filled with cheer,
And in our haste for battle days
There was no room for fear.

But when guns roared
And I saw men die,
My foolish pride was turned,
And hatred took my cry.

We stormed across the battlefield
And swept into their band,
Heedless of the men that fell
And died on every hand.

But in the end we could not tell
Who’d won and who had lost.
There was no glory in the day,
No joy for those who fought.

And afterwards a silence fell,
And in my heart there seemed to ring
A deadly chapel bell,
Yet no mourners there to sing.

There seemed to be a serenity
As I walked among the dead.
Their faces twisted in agony
Did not seem of such hatred bred.

And then I saw a scene so real,
That I cannot forget.
A sight that stays in memory,
Far worse than mortal threat.

It was a Southern boy in a Union cap.
My brother lay there dead.
His blood was red upon his coat.
Dark blue was every thread.

In anguish I did cry aloud.
My tears did soak the dust.
I prayed it had not been my gun
That laid his heart to rest.

My cries did mingle with the groans
Of countless injured men
Scattered over the battlefield,
Some to never rise again.

These Yankees were not strangers here,
Not monsters like we’d said.
Every man, a brother was,
Our blood, like theirs, was red.

I am so proud of her! I can’t wait to read the next poem she writes.

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fiar: down down the mountain

Sep 19, 2012 by

What a sweet story! Hette and Hank want some shoes, some special shoes that go creaky-squeaky-creaky-squeaky, but Papa and Mama say there is not one single cent to buy shoes. They don’t give up though and ask Grandma who tells them to plant and grow turnips and then sell them down the mountain in the village.

The two children work hard all summer and grow the biggest turnips anyone has ever seen. At harvest time they make the long journey to the village. Along the way they run into people who are hungry and need some of their turnips. They end up giving all of them away except for one giant turnip. Now they can’t buy their special shoes! Hette and Hank are determined and find another way.

I love the gumption of these two kids and how they are willing to work hard for their dreams. The illustrations are top notch and make the story come alive. I love that my children are learning how much they have and what it has been like living in other time periods and in other places. Such a wonderful story of family life, courage, and hard work!

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fiar: the glorious flight

Aug 28, 2012 by

fiar: the glorious flight

We are having a wonderful school week so far. I think my kids are so ready for some order in their lives (and more importantly, for me to be fully present with them) that they are eating up our learning time. We started our Five In A Row read-aloud yesterday and thought The Glorious Flight has been on my shelf for years this is the first time I have read the famous story of Louis Bleirot who flew across the English Channel in 1909.

I am in love with this book.

1. It is so French. The sentence structure screams France (and while I don’t love France, I love books that exude a culture so thoroughly you can feel it).

2. Louis had gumption and determination and courage. My children need to be surrounded by examples of people doing hard things and not giving up the first, second, or gazillionth time.

3. Louis’ dream to fly became a family project.

Yesterday we read it and loved seeing Louis succeed at the cliffs of Dover. Today we read it again and found the English Channel on the map and talked about how Louis and his family could have given up when his first plane couldn’t fly at all or his fourth that moved around in circles on the pond or his sixth that got snagged on a rock. He could have given up after he finally got a plane in the air, but after just a few minutes would come crashing down, often injuring him.

But he didn’t. He persevered. He stayed true to his dream. He kept working and thinking and experimenting and DARING to do something no one had ever done.

Courage…we all need more of it.

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book bonanza: lots of audios

Jun 26, 2012 by

book bonanza: lots of audios

We are spending a lot of time cleaning these days. Having a mama be out of commission for months on end has done a number on this already cluttered house. My children have tried hard to fill in the gaps for me, but quite frankly, what this house needs is ME! So, the last several days we have cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. We have rearranged the school room in our seemingly never-ending quest to find the most functional arrangement, we have started on the sewing room, are getting ready to tackle the storage room (do I have the courage?), and then the garage. Oh my, SO MUCH WORK! Yes, you should read those all-caps as screaming because that is just what I am feeling.

Anyway, during all this cleaning we have been listening to some great books and thought you might enjoy them if you are doing any big projects or taking some summer drives.

This morning we listened to Only Passing Through which is the story of Sojourner Truth. What a woman! I hope my children learned (once again) that God calls us to a mission and it is our privilege to step up to the plate with faith and do what He asks us to do. This story also comes in a picture book version if you would rather read it aloud.

Saturday we listened to Amos Fortune, Free Man. We must be in bit of a freedom mood, eh? Must be the time of the year to think about liberty and working for it for all of God’s children as was stated so strongly in The Declaration of Independence that was being drafted right about now 236 years ago. We loved the strength spirit Amos demonstrates again and again and his determination to make the best of his situation.

Now we are listening to The Land of Oz. I read the whole series to Blythe years ago, but haven’t revisited it since. Fisher decided he was interested in it and Blythe wanted to hear it again, so now we are immersed in Mr. Baum’s classic series of conquering our fears, serving others, and believing in goodness.

I can’t wait to listen to The Time Pirate which is the sequel to Nick of Time which was a huge hit with all of us a few years ago.

You can probably find these at your local library, but if not, they are all available on Amazon. What are your favorite audio books?

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new read-a-loud

Mar 31, 2012 by

A couple of weeks ago someone on an email list recommended The Wonder Book For Girls and Boys by Nathaniel Hawthorne as a great read-a-loud for a wide range of children and that boys will especially love it. Since I have a wide range of children and a boy I was looking for a new read-a-loud for since his Spies book was putting me to sleep, I thought, hmmm, I will check it out. I quickly found it for free as a Kindle download and sent it my way in seconds. Then I started reading it to Fisher. Then, I said, “Fisher, go grab Keziah, I think she will love this.” So he did. And we read. And we loved it.

Now Fisher, Keziah, and Annes hang out on my bed drawing and working on handwriting while I read to them the adventures of Perseus, Midas, and Pandora’s Box. It is exciting enough to distract me from the pain in my hip and it is written in a way that appeals to each of them. We have never spent much time on Greek Myths, although Blythe had a phase where she was slightly obsessed with them and I own and LOVE the D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

So, if you are in a reading rut, check out Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Wonder book and see if you fall in love as we did.

p.s. To all of you who are wondering, yes, I hobbled downstairs and typed this on my big computer. Perhaps a mistake, but I had a ton of emails to get out for gymnastics and the 3rd Annual Homeschool Read-A-Thon and it seemed a much better use of my fingers and brain to do it here. I’m hoping I won’t pay for it in the hip department.

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fiar: hot air

Feb 14, 2012 by

fiar: hot air

This week we are reading Hot Air by Marjorie Priceman. It tells the mostly true story of the first hot air balloon ride in Versailles, France in 1783. A chicken, sheep, and duck were sent up in the air and stayed up for eight minutes traveling about two miles. This particular book gives the background events and then makes up what could have happened to the three animals as they flew across the city. Fisher thinks it is hilarious and we think you will as well.

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to destroy you is no loss

Dec 6, 2011 by

to destroy you is no loss

Do you know over 3 million people died because of the actions of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979?

Do you know nearly 2 million of those were murdered in cold blood?

Do you know many, many more lives were cut short or irrevocably changed?

Do you know the Khmer Rouge’s mantra that played daily on the radio was “To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss.” and that people were told they were less significant than a grain of rice?

Do you know people were clubbed on the head with hoes and then pushed into rivers, ponds, and reservoirs?

Do you know that people who had any education at all were killed while those who could not read or write and often did not think for themselves were promoted to leadership?

This is one reason why I am a defender of liberty, an advocate of liberal arts education, and most importantly, a mother who spends her days teaching her children.

My Worldviews students and I are discussing this book this week and it has touched them deeply. My hope is that they take with them a commitment to freedom and an understanding of the methods of a communist regime. If you have not read Joan Criddle’s book, To Destroy You Is No Loss, read it…it will change your life.

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stories of the pilgrims

Nov 21, 2011 by

stories of the pilgrims

We love Jim Hodges’ audio recordings and listen to them often. One of our annual traditions is listening to Stories of the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving time. The first time I listened, I learned so much about these stalwart people who were determined to worship their God in freedom and to raise their children according to their beliefs. They give me courage to live my beliefs more fully, to pray more fervently, and to love more purely. You can order his MP3 disks or get an audio download here.

Here is the description from his site:

Beginning with Queen Anne’s visit to Scrooby Inn, Stories of the Pilgrims tells, in story form, the everyday life of the Pilgrims in England and Holland, of their voyage on the Mayflower, and their adventures in the New World. The Brewster children and other Pilgrim boys and girls are the center of interest. This is a wonderful recording for a family to listen to together in the weeks before Thanksgiving.

I think we will start listening to ours today during art time.

If you would rather read it yourself, you can find it online for free or you can buy the book from Yesterday’s Classics.

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genevieve foster

Nov 16, 2011 by

genevieve foster

This woman’s work is amazing.


If you don’t already own her books, you need to know you are missing out.

Her maps are oh, so lovely. Her stories are lively. Her illustrations are the perfect blend of whimsy and simplicity. We have been reading The World of Columbus and Sons and have already learned so much. Did you know Spain wasn’t even a country when Isabella was born? Did you know she had a corrupt older brother? Did you know she had integrity at a very young age and would not accept the queen-ship when her corrupt older brother was still king, even when the Archbishop begged her to. Did you know Columbus was named for St. Christopher who was given the job of carrying people across the sea?

I can’t find many of her illustrations online and my camera batteries are dead, but here is a taste of what is inside:

One of her maps…oh, I wish I could draw like this!

Through Herculean efforts we are going to try to read three of her books this year, The World of Columbus and Sons, The World of Captain John Smith, and George Washington’s World. Keziah is doing The Beautiful Feet Early American History program and somehow it covers The Vikings to the Civil War…a very long time period, so we are going to try to cover the same eras in Foster’s books. But each book is about 400 pages, so we will just try our best and see how far we get.

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fiar: how to make an apple pie

Oct 24, 2011 by

fiar: how to make an apple pie

Our FIAR book of the week is How To Make An Apple Pie and See The World by Marjorie Priceman. Fisher and I are in love.


The market is closed so the girl must travel the world to find her apple pie making ingredients. She traveled to Italy to find wheat for the flour, France for elegant chickens to lay the best eggs, Sri Lanka to find kurundu bark for the cinnamon, England for a cow with the creamiest milk, Jamaica for sugar cane, and Vermont for apples. What a trip!

Then we finished off the day by eating a real apple pie and carving pumpkins (no, I didn’t make it today…I made it a long time ago and froze it and Keziah thought it would be a fabulous idea to bake it for our Family Home Evening treat.)

Fisher giggled all the way through it, told papa all about it when he got home, and he can’t wait to read it again tomorrow. This one is a keeper!

p.s. I am on a posting spree…I don’t know what is up with that! Pictures of the pumpkin carving will be up soon.

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fiar: who owns the sun?

Sep 20, 2011 by

fiar: who owns the sun?

Who Owns The Sun?

Before I started Five In a Row with Fisher, I had never heard of this book. We put it on hold at the library and waited for our name to come up on the list. We were finally able to check it out and we read it yesterday snuggled up on my bed.

Oh. My. Heavens.

I MUST own this book.

I am so in love with it.

The problem? It is going for around 100 buckaroos because of the whole scarcity-grows-demand-grows-prices issue.

If I wasn’t an honest person I would just keep the one from the library and pay the fee…but who knows, maybe even their replacement fee would be in the three digit range? I am just going to have start telling everyone I know to keep their eyes peeled for it at used book stores!

This book was written and illustrated by a fourteen year old girl named Stacey Chbosky. The art work is so lovely. In fact, all of us are going to try to paint a sun like hers this afternoon because Fisher and I are so completely in love with her sun. I guess there is a yearly contest for students to write and illustrate their own books and then if they win their book is published. This book won the contest back in 1988. All of my children want to learn more about the contest and enter their books this year.

This beautiful story is a conversation between a boy and his daddy. The boy asks questions about who owns the sun, the stars, the birds, the wind, and the flowers. The dad gives answers that speak right to my soul, teaching his son that no one can own those things, they are too big and powerful for anyone to own them. They are for everyone to be blessed by. Then, the boy overhears a Mr. Finley saying he owns Big Jim, who is the boy’s father. The boy is angry and hurt and scared at the thought of anyone OWNING a human being when no one can even own a flower or the wind. His daddy teaches him about slavery in such a poignant way I could barely make it through the reading of it.

He says “A man is a beautiful thing, a very beautiful thing. But some men forget this. And sometimes they try to keep other men captive. They buy and sell people, as if human beings are no more than cattle. But only a fool believes he can really own another man, and only a fool will try. Mr. Finley may own my body, but I have a heart and I have a mind, and he can never own these. Inside of me, I’m too powerful to be owned by anyone. Inside, I am like the sun.”

Our family is pretty passionate about freedom for all of God’s children. We talk about different customs, cultures, and government forms often. We discuss which forms create the most freedom and which create the least. We have studied the lives of great men and women who have given everything they have to help others have freedom. This year, Keziah and I are studying American history from the Vikings to the Civil War and I can’t wait to recreate an Underground Railroad experience for her and her friends. I read several books about William Wilberforce during my pregnancy with Annesley and desperately wanted to name the child inside me after him (but she turned out to be a girl and so we named her after Susannah Annesley Wesley instead).

So, when I read this book yesterday, thinking it was just a lovely book about nature and how the world works, my heart soared when I realized it was really about slavery and freedom and the greatness of the human soul. What a great story!

Let’s all write to the publisher and beg them to re-issue it! In the meantime, I will buy it from anyone who finds it at a thrift store and throw in a foot massage as well!

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fiar: papa piccolo

Sep 12, 2011 by

fiar: papa piccolo

Papa Piccolo

This week for FIAR, Fisher and I are reading Papa Piccolo.

Last week we read Madeline (which I had somehow never read before!) and Fisher loved it. He loved counting all sorts of things throughout the book and memorized most of the story well enough to recite it back to me. We have the whole collection, so last night Richard read him a whole host of the other stories. Keziah has had a Madeline doll for several years and Fisher and Annes have had a ball dressing her and playing with her for days on end. They loved the doll’s appendix scar and have had to show it to everyone who has come over. Then our friend, Jennifer, had her appendix removed on Wednesday and while it was sad for Jennifer, it was exciting for Fisher and Annesley who feel like they are now experts on the whole surgical process!

Anyway, this week we are starting Papa Piccolo. We lucked out on Friday and found it at the library book sale for ten cents and Fisher has been begging me to read it to him ever since. But I made him wait until today and I know the minute he wakes up he will be ready for me to read it with him. The magic of making a child wait a little bit never ceases to amaze me!

I have never read this book either, but I know it is about a tomcat who learns to be nurturing to some orphaned kitties. I want my children to know men can be nurturing while also being strong and protective. I am looking forward to some great discussions with my little guy about manhood!

p.s. Now we have read it…and he loved it. We learned about gondolas, Venice, loneliness, family, love, service to others healing our hearts, and papa-hood. Fisher is such a gentle soul, I’m sure he will be a wonderful papa someday…and he has the most wonderful papa to teach him how.

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book bonanza: why don’t you get a horse, sam adams?

Jun 22, 2011 by

book bonanza: why don’t you get a horse, sam adams?

Sam Adams

I was up early this morning working on creating bylaws and forms for iFamily Leadership Academy and Fisher came down and brought me this book to read. I told him I wouldn’t be able to read it all because I had so much to do, but after we got started on it, we read it clear through.

What a fun story! I never knew that Sam Adams didn’t know how to ride a horse! This delightful tale shares the story of the colonists and their growing opposition to England’s policies and what part Sam Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, George Washington, and Paul Revere played in the eventual War of Independence.

We love all of Jean Fritz’s books and are always on the lookout for them at used book stores. Some of our other favorites are Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?, Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?, George Washington’s Breakfast, Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution, and The Cabin Faced West. They are fabulous for introducing young people to the events of history and sharing details that are often overlooked in more advanced history books.

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thanksgiving book

Nov 27, 2009 by

A few weeks ago we checked out a few Thanksgiving books from the library and because of the pencil roll project I have not had time to read them till today.

The children and I snuggled in for a short evening read and found a classic. We will definitely be purchasing this book!

thank you sarah

This is the story of Sarah Hale and her determination to have America celebrate a day of thanks on the same day. The illustrations are charming and tell the story with exaggerated pen sizes, distorted President’s faces, and her children sleeping on piles of letters. She spent 38 years on her cause and finally succeeded when President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

Sarah was a remarkable woman who was determined to change society for the better. She fought for playgrounds for children and education for girls and against spanking, corsets, dull stories, and slavery.

Trust me, you will love this book…go find it at your library today…but then, like me, you will be wanting to buy it!

My favorite line:

Thanksgiving needed a real superhero, someone bold and brave and stubborn and smart. Thanksgiving needed Sarah Hale. Now, I know what you’re thinking. She doesn’t look like a superhero. She looks like a dainty little lady.

Never underestimate dainty little ladies.

I concur…

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