Saturday, December 10, 2016

Finishing Books: the 2016 Reading Challenge

Last year around this time I came across a post by Tim Challies that encouraged people to read more in 2016 by following a reading challenge.  I was so intrigued.  I had gotten into a really bad habit of starting books, but not finishing them.  I even have a shelf on my Goodreads account that is called, "Started But Not Finished".  Yuk!  

As a result of this terrible habit and that inspiring post I set out to finish 26 books in 2016!  I say "finish" because I was already reading some pretty great books that I didn't want to abandon.  That would still challenge me to finish a book every other week.  I copied the lists below into my bullet journal and kept track of my "every other week" goal on my monthly spreads. Here are the results:

The Light Reader 
  • A book about Christian living - "Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands" Technically I still haven't finished this one, but it is on my list for this month!  This is an excellent book and should be required reading for all believers.
  • A biography - "Out of the Depths" A good, hard read that was recommended to me by a church friend.  
  • A classic novel - "Uncle Tom's Cabin" - started, but never finished. To be continued in 2017.
  • A book someone tells you "changed my life" - I tried to read "Interrupted" by Jen Hatmaker because several people recommended it, but I couldn't get past page 8.  
  • A commentary on a book of the Bible - "Because the Time is Near" This was an excellent book on Revelation that I enjoyed very much!
  • A book about theology - "Delighting in the Trinity" Hoping to finish this one in December.  It is a really good book that explores the relationship between the three persons of the trinity.
  • A book with the word "gospel" in the title or subtitle - "What is the Gospel?" Our church hands these out in their visitor bags and I can see why.  It really lays out the Gospel in an approachable way.
  • A book your pastor recommends - "Your Child's Profession of Faith"  So many books I read have come as recommendations from my pastor.  This one is great for parents.  Whether or not you have a child that has already professed faith this book is super helpful when thinking about how to talk to your child about their own profession.
  • A book more than 100 years old - "Emma" This was my first Austen read.  I'm not gonna lie, it was hard to get into, but after halfway I really enjoyed it.
  • A book for children - "Red Wall" Ethan has read so many of these books, but I hadn't read any yet so we listened to this on audio book this summer.  The audio book is a full cast of actors and was really engaging to listen to. All the kids enjoyed it, although most of it was over my four year old's head and I had to explain some to my six year old.
  • A mystery or detective novel - "Hounds of Baskerville" I really enjoy the new Sherlock show from the BBC and I wanted to see what the original novel was like.  This book did not disappoint and I loved all the changes that were made to modernize the story, yet the heart of it all was kept in tact. 
  • A book published in 2016 - "Do More Better" I cheated on this category since it was technically published at the end of 2015.  I would say if you've read Tim's productivity posts you don't need to buy the book as it was largely and expansion of those.  He does include how to set up digital tasks, but I found them to be tedious and I went back to just using my bullet journal.
  • A book about a current issue - "Hands Free Mama" I want to be more present with those around me and this book challenged me to do just that.

The Avid Reader
  • A book written by a Puritan - "Mortification of Sin" - Unread, on my list for 2017.
  • A book recommended by a family member - "Teach Them Diligently" Actually started this one with a friend who is like a family member, but we didn't finish.  It is a serious parenting book that you can't just breeze through!
  • A book by or about a missionary - "William Carey"  This book took me the longest to finish!  It was inspiring to read about such a godly man and the struggles he went through in ministry, but I did think it could have used some better editing.
  • A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize - "Germs, Guns and Steel" Unread, it is at the top of my list for 2017.
  • A book written by an Anglican - Never found a book that fit this category that I wanted to read, but I'm open to suggestions.
  • A book with at least 400 pages - "Seveneves" 880 pages of great science fiction!
  • A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien - "Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe" Technically, I've read this before but the kids and I listened to it on CD and really enjoyed it.
  • A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title - "The Hardest Peace" This was one of the hardest books to read, but I'm so glad I did.  I even read another book by this author because I enjoyed this one so much.
  • A book with a great cover - "Ready Player One" If you are a child of the 80s (or close) and played any video games, you are going to love this book.  They are even making it into a movie in 2017.
  • A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers - "The Martian" I saw the movie before I even knew there was a book. Even though I knew what was going to happen, not only did I enjoy this book, but it had me on the edge of my seat at the end!
  • A book about church history - "Church History" Unread, on my list for 2017.
  • A graphic novel - "Drowned City" I grew up in Louisiana and watching Katrina unfold from Knoxville was so hard.  This was a personal look at what happened the the great city of New Orleans.
  • A book of poetry - Never found one for this category
Other books I finished: Even though Tim supplied great topics on the challenge, there were still books I wanted to read outside of the suggestions above.
  • "A Life of Principled Obedience" Technically this is just a pamphlet, but it is a great one!
  • "Harry Potter" I had read this already, but this summer I wanted a really easy read and this answered that need!
  • "Simply Your Spiritual Life" This was a great book!  I read it on the Kindle and I really need to transfer all of my highlights to my Evernote so I can make some tasks from them for 2017.
  • "Just Show Up" This was a follow up book to "The Hardest Peace" and I really enjoyed it.
  • "Green Ember" and "Ember Falls" I really enjoy reading fiction before bed and I loved these books.  My 9 year old also ate them up and we are excited for the author to continue the series.
  • "Mr. Popper's Penguins" This was a cute novel that we listened to in the van this summer.  All the kids (4-9) enjoyed it.
  • "Jurassic Park" and "Lost World"  Especially in the summer months I just want good books that I can read and enjoy.  I remember Jurassic Park being one of the first novels that I read as a young girl and loved so I read through it again this summer.  This year I also read the sequel and found it equally exciting.  
Other books that I've started, but haven't finished yet:
  • "12 Years a Slave" As I'm reading this book I can't believe it's a true story!
  • "Heart of Anger" Philip and I are reading this great book as a result of some discipline issues that came up this summer.  It is super helpful in helping parents help their kids walk through their anger issues.
  • "The Peacemaker" This book is so excellent.  Right along with "Instruments.." it should be required reading.
  • "When People are Big and God is Small" Looking forward to finishing this book as soon as possible.
  • Books finished: 25!  Only one away from my goal and I have three weeks in the year left.
  • Books to finish in 2016: 2 I'm going to try and finish "Instruments..." and "Delighting in the Trinity"
  • Started, but haven't finished: 8  This is a large number, but with a plan I think they will all be finished this year or next.

Even though I haven't finished this challenge yet this was a huge success for me.  I can't believe I've read this many books this year!  To continue with my pace I do plan to 
to write my own reading challenge for 2017.  This year the categories will be based on my areas of responsibility and roles in those areas.  I'm going to read books that pertain to my personal growth, Biblical counseling, parenting, diabetes, etc.  I'll post that list in a future blog post.

What did you read this year?  If you want to read more in 2017 I highly suggest making a plan and then sticking to it!

Friday, August 12, 2016

University Model School - Tips for having a smooth homeschool day.

This is our fifth year at River's Edge Christian Academy. RECA is a university model school, which means that my kids go to school three days a week and I homeschool them two days a week.  Although teachers do all of the lesson planning and most of the grading for me on "in-school" days, I have struggled through the years to make my homeschool days be efficient and run smoothly.

Here are a list of tips I have found to be helpful:
  • Make the most of your space. Some families have the space to have a dedicated school room.  We don't really have the room, and since we only teach at home two days a week we don't feel the need to remodel, or drastically change any one living space into a school room.  
    • We do homeschool at the dining room table on Tuesdays and Fridays.  We eat breakfast and lunch on those days on a rug in our dining room, or outside if the weather is nice.
    • The only toys in the dining room are quiet toys that kids who are having a break can play with quietly.  Right now we have foam blocks, dry erase books and Zoobs available for kids who are having a break.

  • Wake up early. It is such a temptation for me to sleep in on homeschool days, but nothing will sabotage your day like getting started late!
  • Recess! We all need breaks.  Last year, no matter what we were doing the kids played outside from 10:30-11.  This year we have a recess after everyone has had their math and english lessons.  Unless it is pouring or below 40 degrees they must go outside. This break really helps us break up the day and the fresh air is so good for them.
  • A place for everything and everything in it's place.   This may sound weird, but before school starts I draw a map of the table and label where everyone will sit, where they will have their supplies and where I will be.  It helps me visualize how things will go and I even make name tag tents for the kids to mark their seat - the kids think these are so neat.
  • Have a master lesson plan just for Mom.  I print off individual lesson plans for the kids' binders, but then I also print off "all" the lesson plans for me.  I go through and highlight the things I have to do and put a box next to the things that need to be in the school folder before they go back to school on homeschool days.  I keep this on a clipboard and keep it with me throughout the day. As I am about to put the yellow folders back in backpacks I double check that I've got everything.
  • Papers, papers, papers!!  One of the most important things to decide when you have elementary kids is where will all the papers go? Make your system as simple as you can!  
    • When we get home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays the kids put their school folders on a stool in the kitchen.  That way I can look through them right away and we can do any homework they may have before moving on to afternoon activities.
    • On homeschool days I have each kid pull out their lesson plan and all the pages they will need for the day and they put these on their "board".  These are just the sides of binders that have been cut off.  You could also use clipboards.  The nice thing about these boards is that when they are empty we know their school day is done :)
    • During homeschool days I have three piles in the middle of the table.  One basket for completed work, one basket for graded (but needing corrections) work and the pile of yellow folders.  My kids "turn-in" their work to the first bucket and after I grade it I use a colored clip to put it in the second bucket if they need to do corrections.  If no corrections are needed the work goes straight into the third pile where it can be placed into the yellow folder at the end of the day.
  • One-on-one teaching time. 
    • In years past I would sit down one on one with the youngest child and we would try to finish as much work as we could until they needed a break.  During that time the oldest kid would work on independent work.  When the youngest needed a break I would take that time to teach the oldest a math or english lesson, or help them where they were stuck.  Inevitably the youngest would finish way earlier than the oldest and we could use the rest of the day to finish up anything else they needed help with.
    • This year I have three school aged kids and so I have invented the "Student One" chair.  Basically each child takes turns in the "Student One" chair and I just cycle through teaching the subjects.  First I teach math to the oldest while the younger two finish their Bible craft.  Then as the oldest works on finishing math I teach the middle child his math lesson, etc. I made a spreadsheet of our schedule so that I could keep track of what everyone should be doing.  If anyone finishes before their next turn in the "Student One" chair they can have a break.
  • Involve Dad. If you can, involve your spouse!  Kids love to read aloud to their dads, so you can save that portion of the lesson for after dinner.  I also find my spouse to be great at any big projects that are assigned.
  • Think outside of the box. If you are having trouble getting work done on Tuesdays and Fridays try doing some of the work on Monday and Thursday nights.  If you have younger kids it is really helpful to use those nap times to instruct the older kiddos.  It might make for slightly longer days on Mondays and Thursdays, but hopefully your Tuesdays and Fridays will go smoother.
I hope you are encouraged by this list and you have found some of the points to be helpful.  What are some things that you do to make your homeschool day run more smoothly?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

It's Not a Horse

Image credit:

One of our favorite types of games are those that don't need a table and even more special are those that don't need any equipment.  We learned this game from a fellow Physics undergrad student at UL.  I believe he was from Russia.  Basically this game is a Russia version of 20 questions, one person thinks of a word and the rest of the players try to guess what the word is.  We really like it because as soon as your kids are old enough to spell words (1st-2nd grade) they can fully participate in this game.  Here's how you play:

  • Player One thinks of a word.  It can be any noun.  Then they tell the other players the first letter of the word they have thought of.
    • "The first letter is H."
  • Now the rest of the players (in no particular order) ask questions of the first player that all have answers that begin with the letter that has been given.  The goal is to eventually figure out the word the first person is thinking of. 
    • "Is it a farm animal?"
  • Player One must now think on an answer that begins with the given letter and answers the question.  They begin with the phrase "No, it's not a...."
    • "No, it's not a horse."
  • Players continue to ask questions and Player One continues to try and answer without giving up the word he/she is thinking of.  If at any time the players stump player one by giving them a question he/she can not answer Player One must supply the next letter of the word he/she is thinking of.
    • "Is it the capital of Botswana?" 
    • Player One: "I don't know the capital of Bostwana."
    • "The capital of Botswana is Gaborone."
    • Player One: "Okay, the next letter of my word is "O"."
  • Player One doesn't have to answer the question exactly like the player thought it should be answered.  If Player One still supplies an answer that fits the criteria they "survived" that question.  The player then must rephrase the question before asking it again.
    • "Is it a show on Netflix?"
    • Player One: "No, it's not Heroes."
    • "Is it a Netflix original show?"
    • Player One: "No, it's not 'House of Cards'."
  • Eventually the players will stump Player One so many times they will be able to ask a question who's answer is the word Player One was thinking of all along.  The player that asks the winning question gets to go next.
    • "Is it a place you live?"
    • Player One: "Yes, it is a house! Now, you get to think of a word."
  • We have little house rules too - Player One must answer the question within a reasonable amount of time.  Maybe as long as it takes someone to sing the Jeopardy song?  
If I've missed anything or is these rules are unclear please let me know.  I hope you enjoy playing this game with your family.  Our favorite is to play the game around the fire or a road trip since you don't need any equipment to play.


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