book report: chapter 1 (january)

I ended last year with some very specific goals for myself in 2015. One of those goals was to read more. Instead of waiting until the end of the year to make one gigantic list, I am going to post a monthly book report of what I’ve been reading. And instead of just listing the titles, I wanted to give my two cents while the books were still fresh on my mind.


a title here

Ordinary Grace (Krueger)

I almost never read books like this one. But I needed about $4 to qualify a Barnes and Noble order at Christmas for free shipping and this book was highly rated and $4. I loved it. The characters were well developed, the story and time period were fascinating to me. Above all, I loved the point of view from which this mysterious story was told. Great novel and a quick read.

When Homeschooling Gets Tough (Johnson)

I got on a little kick in the homeschooling section of our local library and I think the timing of checking out these books as we began a new school semester was just the shot of encouragement I needed. I don’t feel like it’s getting tough for us per se, but I was curious to see what Johnson suggested. This book was full of practical ideas on not getting too overwhelmed with “the grass looks greener” the way someone else is homeschooling. She advocates knowing yourself and knowing your kids and staying the course when you need to and also being okay with changing things up as needed. Not rocket science, but some interesting chapters.

Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook (Montessori)

I love the ideals of the Montessori method. I have utilized some of those strategies in my own kids’ learning when they were much younger. As a huge lover of all things Charlotte Mason, I realized even more that the two couldn’t have been more opposite in their educational viewpoints. Where CM says let the children be wild and free and explore nature and the arts, MM says structure, disciple, rules and format. Montessori was a genius and pioneer in her field, but I was reminded again that her philosophy is pretty far from where my own falls. I did enjoy all of the photos from the NY schools where her methods were implemented in the 1950-60s. Tiny kids, tiny everything.

Homeschool Methods: Seasoned Advice on Learning Styles (Suarez)

This book of essays is full of many leading homeschool advocates and experts in various methods of homeschooling. It was a fun read, very conversational in tone and again, reinforced that I truly believe we have chosen the right method for our family (Charlotte Mason focused). I particularly loved two essays by Sally and Clay Clarkson. They are wonderful Christian role models of successful parenting, educating and ministry minded pursuits. I photocopied a chapter from this book to keep in my “inspiration” folder. The chapter written by Clarkson focuses on “whole hearted education,” and presents the importance of the foundational principles of the discipling we do with our children being paramount.

Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook (Baines)

It’s no secret that Ryan and I love Downton. We don’t miss an episode and I’ve been known to make some scones for us to eat while we watch. (I use the world’s easiest recipe.) And yes, I do enjoy reading cookbooks. #ubernerdstatus Anyway, this is a fictional cookbook and the author has taken serious liberties with speculative information. She presents recipes in a fun way as though they were each based on the fictional characters of the show. I think there were maybe two recipes I thought we might actually eat. One was a roasted chicken and the other a chocolate truffle. Otherwise, many of the ingredients were just not practical. Roasted pigeon anyone? Turtle soup? Nah. I don’t think so.

Small Victories (Lamott)

This is by far the best book I read this month. First of all, Anne Lamott…I’ve been reading her since college and pretty much love every word she writes. She is irreverent but spiritual. Real and inspiring. She is like the hippie, dread-locked aunt I’d love to visit in California and travel with just so I could hear her stories. Her essays are like poetry to my heart. I don’t think my words will do her justice, so just read this book. Or if you aren’t at all familiar with AL, start with Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies. Or Imperfect Birds or Plan B. She is funny, sad, happy, heart-breaking and uplifting all rolled into one. An orator of life, she will quickly become one of your favorites. She’s a writer’s writer for sure.

To the Shore of a Child’s Ocean (Manning)

This book was a bit quirky. It was written like a nautical manual on the whys and hows of homeschooling though age nine. I found that I already have done or do most of the things suggested here. The information was good. The delivery was a little hokie for my taste. I believe the author could have gotten the message across just as clearly without overdoing the seafaring metaphor and running it aground. (<—–see what I did there…)

The Well Adjusted Child (Gathercole)

This book was really good. Again, not that I need justification for our educational choices for our children, but this book takes on all of the social benefits of homeschooling. I like the format. The author takes a widely held misconception about many specialized social issues with homeschooling and then provides not only statistical research but also outside anecdotes from actual homeschooling families as evidence of why that misconception isn’t true. Things like civic involvement, how children socialize themselves, how various ages of kids need various settings to stimulate their social development and on and on…Again, no new information for me, but a good perspective of some things we homeschoolers often hear and have to react/defend against.

The Power of Habit (Duhigg)

Oh wait! This was actually the best book I read this month. In the same vein of Outliers (Gladwell) this book puts a narrative spin on some cool statistical data. I am very intrigued by the idea of how we form habits. I learned a lot in this book. I love the ideas of keystone habits and also the cycle of cue, habit, reward. I love that there is in fact, a science to this. It has already helped me in thinking about some of the things I do on a daily basis. I could write an entire blog post just on this book, but I will refrain. There were many interesting chapters on the ways in which celebrities and well known persons operate within their habits as well as chapters to devoted to the ways popular businesses and industries utilize their knowledge of OUR habits to market to us. This book is great for any audience. Pastors, business moguls, stay at home moms, teachers, leaders of all sorts would be intrigued by Duhigg’s findings.

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