Easter Traditions Pep Talk

13 Apr

 

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Happy Palm Sunday! I’m reposting from last year’s Easter archives. Here’s the article from last year. It’s a pep talk to get you ready for being purposeful and celebrating Christ with your family this week. You can do it, and have fun!! :)

Praying that your family will have a wonderful week celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection. He is risen!

 

Friday Favorites: Favorite Places to find FREE Audio Books

11 Apr

FRIDAY Favorites

I’m wrapping up my last post about audio books today in my Friday Favorites series. In the previous 2 posts, I wrote about an apologetic for incorporating audio books into our children’s (and family’s!) lives and a laundry list of my boys’ favorite audio books divided into three age ranges: Preschool, Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary/Middle School. As promised, I am writing today about my favorite places to find FREE audio books.

Free Audio Book Resources

LibrivoxThis is an online resource that contains audio versions of public domain books. Anytime you see the phrase “public domain,” it is safe to assume that these books are old and the majority of them are in the Classics genre. Copyright stays with a book for a specific length of time, and once the said length of time has transpired the book becomes “public domain.”  Public domain books, therefore, can be used as you like. photo 1
On Librivox’s website you can search through-literally-hundreds of free audio books. Once your selection is made, you can simply listen (aka “live stream”) to the audio files via Librivox’s website or download the files to your computer or iTunes. Librivox’s website contains detailed, “how-to” instructions  for downloading the audio book files. Once downloaded onto your computer or iTunes, you can burn the audio book onto cds and enjoy in your car, or your child can use the CDs in his/her room at naptime/restime. By downloading to iTunes, you can use an MP3 player/iPod/iPad/iPhone to listen to the audio books. I especially enjoy having this audio book-on-my-iPod option for exercising. I listened to Stepping Heavenward (by Elizabeth Prentiss) thanks to Librivox, and it was great motivation for exercise. I only permitted myself to listen to the book while exercising. I was so enthralled and drawn in by the book that I easily made exercise a priority because I wanted to listen to the next chapter! :)

There is an expansive list of genres available on Librovox: Children’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Poetry,  just to name a few. Best of all–the books are FREE! (I love free!!!)

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Books Should Be FreeThis is another website similar in concept, access and functionality as Librivox. In fact, some of Books Should Be Free audio books are accessed via Librivox. There are a few distinctions to note on Books Should Be Free. This website makes available audio and eBook versions of books. If an eBook version of a book is available (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, .pdf) in addition to an audio book version, it will be indicated on the specific page dedicated to the book. If your kiddo enjoys following along in the Kindle version of the book while he/she listens to the audio book version, Books Should Be Free will be a tremendous resource for you! you can download both audio and eBook versions from the same page!

Another distinction with Books Should Be Free boasts itself as “a primarily visual browsing experience.” This evidences itself when perusing through their website. Instead of listing book titles in alphabetical order with pages of text, text, text to sort through, Books Should Be Free includes a photo of each book’s cover. The visual images of the books make navigating through their website simpler. Searching for a specific book becomes less of a wild-goose chase filled with frustration and more of an attainable goal with a happy ending.

Books Should Be Free mirrors Librivox in that you have the option to listen to the audio book online via live streaming or to download it to your computer, iTunes (including via Podcasts), or MP3 player.

Library–Don’t forget one of the most accessible places for FREE audio books is your local library. Our library’s children’s section has a vast expanse of audio books available for checkout. At any given moment, you’ll likely find 3 or 4 different audio books from our library in our home. All 3 of my boys (currently ages 8, 6, and 4) usually have about an hour of rest time each day in their rooms (and consequently, me, too! Woot!). The boys LOVE this time of day because 99.9 % of the time this one hour of rest includes an audio book! Another plus, thanks to audio books, is that they rarely complain about rest time; they’re eager to listen to the next chapters in their current audio book!

If your library has a limited, small, or non-existent audio book collection, don’t be discouraged! Talk to your librarian! You may have these options:

  • Audio Book downloads via your library’s website–With advances in technology, many libraries are expanding their online access for digital and audio versions of books. Through our library’s website, I can download audio books from my library’s collection to iTunes for a specified length of time.
  • Petition for audio books to be purchased–Most libraries add to their collection each year. If your library’s audio book section is less than ideal, communicate your desire to see their audio book collection expanded. Most libraries are eager to hear input from their patrons.
  • Make Interlibrary loan your BFF–Just hearing the words “interlibrary loan” (ILL) makes me think of my college library. ILL is a program allowing a library patron to borrow a book that is unavailable at his/her library from a partnering library. I was continually ILL-ing books during my undergrad and graduate years. I never thought of a local library having ILL; I had only associated it with college libraries. However, when my quest to find a classic, well-loved children’s book at our local library left me striking out, I mentioned this to the librarian, and she suggested using interlibrary loan. I gladly obliged. (As a note of encouragement to the previous bullet regarding suggesting books to your librarian, I noticed several months later that the book I borrowed via ILL had been ordered and added to our library!) Your librarian can assist you with the interlibrary loan process at your local library.

So, now that I’ve encouraged you to make audio book listening a part of your life and provided resources where they can be accessed for FREE, what will be your or your kiddos’ first/next audio book?!?!? If you have any suggestions to share with Suzanne Shares leaders, please comment and include them below!

Thanks for stopping by for today’s Friday Favorites!

 

What We’re Reading Wednesday: Installment #3

9 Apr

What We're Reading WEDNESDAYS

Welcome back for installment #3 of “What We’re Reading Wednesday.” See previous posts here. As always, please comment and share what you’re reading!

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The Field Mouse and the Dinosaur Named Sue (by Jan Wahl)–I was excited to find this book at Goodwill a couple of months ago. :) It’s taken us that long to read it. ha! :) Our family went to Chicago last year for vacation. We visited the Field Museum, so I wanted to read this with the boys and learn more about Sue. If you’re heading to Chicago and the Field Museum in the future, this book is a great way to introduce “Sue” to your kiddos before you meet her in person! Just a disclaimer that I had to do some “editing” on the fly as we read it. It tells of how many millions of years old the dinosaur bones were.

Time for Bed (by Mem Fox)–This sweet bedtime book is a classic that we’ve just now discovered! My parents were in town when we got this book, and my Dad was able to read it to my boys. My boys will always remember this book as “Pop’s book” that he read to them. :) I love how books create lasting memories with loved ones.

Books by Lois Ehlert–As I mentioned in the last installment of “What We’re Reading Wednesday,” I have introduced a principle into our family since reading Honey For A Child’s Heart. Once I discover a recommended author or an author my kiddos idolize, I check out copious amounts of books written by him/her. One of this week’s “clean off the library shelf” author selection was Lois Ehlert.  We checked out about 10 of her books! We have enjoyed Color Zoo, Color Farm, Pie in the Sky, Nuts to You!, and Snowballs this week. I enjoyed the nature themes in the books that we read, but most of all, I adored the vibrant colors, unique mediums used to create the illustrations. To say that they were pleasing to the eye would be an  understatement. These books are written toward a preschool audience, but even my school agers enjoyed them! We haven’t read it yet, but I’m hoping to read Leaf Man by Ehlert with them this week. We actually used leaves to make a man during Fall a couple of years ago. (Thanks to Pinterest!) Now, I know that the idea was probably inspired by this book.

The Moon Shines Down (by Margaret Wise Brown)–Our second “clean off the library shelf” author for the this week was Margaret Wise Brown. If you’ve read only one children’s book, there is a high likelihood that it was Brown’s Goodnight Moon, clearly a classic. We have read lots of Margaret Wise Brown’s books; she wrote heaps of books. I was drawn to The Moon Shines Down because the book’s cover indicated it was a lost work of Brown’s. The book is based upon the prayer, “God bless the moon, and God bless me.” A little koala embarks around the world, visiting various locations. The koala’s trek around the world was especially joyous to read with my boys because of the numerous connections with the Geography locations we learned this past year in Classical Conversations Cycle 2. So, so fun! Here is a list of other books by Margaret Wise Brown, including two others that we enjoyed this week–The Sailor Dog and Four Fur Feet.

Who Was….? Series (by various authors)–My oldest son has been devouring these books! He adores history, and he also adores reading on our family Kindle. He broke his arm last week, and it was his writing hand, which has impacted some of our schooling plans. :) Therefore, he’s had lots of free time on his hands, so he’s wanted extra time on the Kindle. When any of our boys ask  to read, we try not to squelch it! :) He has gotten into these “Who Was…?” books, and we can check out the Kindle version of many of them via our local library. Who Was George Washington?, Who Was Davy Crockett?, Who Was Paul Revere?, and Who Was Jackie Robinson? have been some of his favorites. If your child is eager to start “chapter” books on his/her own, these might be a good place to start.

Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother (by Carolyn Mahaney)–I am reading this with some younger women from my church. It is based on Titus 2 and walks through 7 virtues of a godly wife and mother. I read it 7 years ago when I was a young mom, and I loved it. I’m enjoying reading it as the “older” mom with the younger moms. This is a great read for any woman! If you are a young woman and desiring to be mentored, grab this book and an older, godly woman and read through it together. Or, if you’re an older woman and desiring to mentor younger women, this would be an excellent resource for you. There are study questions at the conclusion of the book that can be used to guide small group discussion.

Audio books that we’re “reading”

With the past two Friday Favorites posts (read them here and here) about our love of audio books, I thought I would include audio books in our “What We’re Reading Wednesday” series. Our boys are enjoying these books this week: How to Eat Fried Worms (by Thomas Rockwell) and two Boxcar children audio books: The Boxcar Children The Great Bicycle Race Mystery and  The Boxcar Children Collection Volume 43 (by Gertrude Chandler Warner).

So, that’s a wrap for Wednesday! Please comment and share with all of us what you’re reading this week!

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.

Friday Favorites: Our Boys’ Most Beloved Audio Books

4 Apr

FRIDAY Favorites

I had GREAT feed back from last week’s Friday Favorites post about Audiobooks and Children. Several of you indicated your shared love of audio books while others expressed excitement about incorporating audio books into your family life and/or home school. I was so encouraged that you guys were encouraged! A few of you contacted me and asked  for my family’s favorite audio books. I thought that topic would be a great follow up to last week’s post. In next week’s Friday Favorites post, I will share about my favorite places to find FREE audio books because, let’s be honest, these bad boys aren’t cheap!

In the list below, I have included some of our favorite audio books, and I have divided them into 3 categories–Preschool & Younger, Lower Elementary School and Upper Elementary School/Middle School Children. I also have included some pointers on tracking down quality audio books for the kiddos in your life. Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully, it will give you some initial direction for integrating audio books into your life and the lives of your children!       


Preschool and Younger
Brown Bear & Friends (by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle)-When our youngest son was 3,  not to be outdone by his older brothers and their audio book-listening-coolness, HE decided that he wanted an audio book for himself. I was excited to find the Brown Bear & Friends (read by Gwyneth Paltrow, I might add) for his listening enjoyment. This set contains Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?, and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, which are wonderful classic books for preschoolers. We had read these books to him before, and he enjoyed hearing them on his cd player in his room. (Mimicking his older brothers brought him much joy.) He listened to this one cd over and over and over and over. 

Children’s Bible on cd-I have written previously about Children’s Bibles that we love.  The Word and Song Bible on cd was our family’s first introduction to audio books, and it had a dramatic impact on our family (See last week’s Friday Favorites to read how.) If you have a favorite Children’s Bible that your preschooler enjoys, see if it has an accompanying audio cd. Your child can listen to it, hold the Bible and “read” it simultaneously. Two of our favorites, The Big Picture Story Bible (Book with CD) and The Jesus Storybook Bible (with cd) both have accompanying audio cds. Obviously, Children’s Bibles on cd can be used with your grade school children as well. I wanted to highlight it in the Preschool category because that was when we first introduced them and found great benefits from doing so at a young age.

Just a side note that a preschooler won’t be able to follow along with the Bible’s text, word for word, and that’s okay! The simple action of sitting down with a book and mimicking what he/she has seen you do with a book–observing pictures, turning pages–is a step forward in reading readiness.

Lower Elementary School Children
Frog and Toad Audio CD (by Arnold Lobel)-If your child hasn’t met Frog and Toad, please introduce them. My boys love, love, love Frog and Toad, so I was delighted to find the audio book at our local library. I loved hearing son #2 cackle like a giggly girl while he was listening to it; I couldn’t resist walking back and forth outside his bedroom to hear those sweet giggles. I quickly tracked down another Arnold Lobel Audio Collection CD with other Lobel classics, Owl at Home and Uncle Elephant, and it solicited the same bellows of laughter. Score for Mom!

The Boxcar Children (by Gertrude Chandler Warner)-We were driving around town today running errands and listening to the Boxcar Children-Henry, Benny, Jessie, and Violet-solve their latest mystery. I did not read this series as a child but read it to my sons after the recommendation of a friend. My boys love the mystery element of each book, and they love to try to out sleuth Henry, Benny, Jessie, and Violet by solving the mystery first. This series is marvelously wholesome and pure. I love that my boys can’t get enough of The Boxcar Children!image

Upper Elementary School/Middle School Children
The Chronicles of Narnia (by C.S. Lewis)-Our oldest 2 boys received this audio book set for Christmas from their grandparents when they were 4 and 2. Clearly, it was a little too old for them at the time; they were a little scared by Aslan’s roar. (We had asked my parents to buy it for them and didn’t think about them being a wee bit young. Just call us “eager beaver” parents! ha!) My boys are older now, and they thoroughly enjoyed listening to all of the books in the Narnia series. Sadly, it looks like the complete Narnia series is out of print, but you can buy the books individually. YAY!

The Narnia set that we have is from the Focus on the Family Radio Theater audio books series. I love, love, love the audio books in this series because they are radio dramas, which means actors and actresses play the characters in the story and dramatize the telling of the story. The book is performed rather than read verbatim by a lone narrator. This Focus on the Family series is excellent! We have A Christmas Carol  in the same series as well. The series also includes The Hiding Place (the story of Corrie Ten Boom), Anne of Green Gables , and the story of Squanto (which is one our favorite stories!) and many others! I can’t say enough good about these audio books!

Story of the World-Volumes 1-4 (by Susan Wise Bauer)-I mentioned in last Friday’s post that we started out using Story of the World as our history curriculum. However, as staple school subjects like Math, Phonics, Reading and English Grammar began requiring more of our family’s homeschool day, I began feeling my personal limitations and began to consider stopping our history studies. However, when I discovered Story of the World audio books, my boys were able to listen individually to the chapter readings and continue their studies. This curriculum covers history from the ancient civilizations to fall of the USSR. The title Story of the World says it all; it is written in the narrative form and truly reads (or listens!) like a story. It has given our sons a breadth and depth overview and understanding of history. I truly marvel at all they’ve learned through these audio books! They tell me little history tidbits and factoids all the time. I have no idea where they’ve learned it, so I’ll ask them, “Where did you learn that?!?!” Their answer always  seems to be the same, “Story of the World, Mom.” (There might be a hint of sarcasm when they answer!)

Finding Beloved Audio books
These audio books above are ones that we enjoyed. Some were so loved that we bought them! How did we stumble upon these? How can you find quality audio books? Here are a few tips:

1) Choose books that your child already knows, has read, or loves-The repetition of hearing a book over and over and over again is beneficial for your child. If your child is a preschooler, just know that is typical and expected for children that age. (Yes, you may scream at hearing Brown Bear, Brown Bear fifty times, but remind yourself that it is good for your kiddo and so worth it!) Let your child have fun with literature!

2) Follow your favorite author-Does your child like a particular author? Find audio books for the author’s works and introduce them to your child in audio book format. Need new authors? Use Honey For A Child’s Heart as a resource for discovering new ones.

3) Introduce classics-My boys have “read” way more classics than I have, and we have audio books to thank for that. Our family usually has one or two “read aloud” books going on at a time. However, if I depended on “read aloud” time alone to introduce them to the classics, we will run out of time. This is where audio books have become our BFFs. My boys have “read” books like Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Huck Finn, Black Beauty and many, many more thanks to audio books. Yes, the books in paperback might be 400+ pages, and no, my boys would not be able to sit through those as a “read aloud.” However, they can easily tackle them in audio book format. So, don’t be afraid to “stretch” them (and yourself!) with the audio book versions of classic, stood-the-test-of-time literature; they can handle it and will love it!

4) Ask for recommendations from others-Many of the books that we’ve stumbled upon were highly recommended from dear friends. Do you have a friend who loves books (as much as I do?!?!)? Ask him/her for a list of favorites. Do you know the children’s librarian at your local library? If not, get to know him/her by name. When I am “stuck” and don’t know which book to throw in my book bag, I stalk  track down the children’s librarian at our library. I guarantee he/she will have a few (or a few hundred) endorsements for you!

Have fun introducing your children to quality literature!

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.

Friday Favorites: Audio Books For Children

28 Mar


FRIDAY Favorites

In this 3rd post in the “Friday Favorites” series, I’m continuing with the literary theme. To read past Friday Favorites, click here.

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When our oldest son was about three, my husband and I were on a mission to find an age-appropriate children’s Bible. Our hunt led us to many favorite children’s Bibles, but one, in particular, left an imprint on our family that we weren’t anticipating.

I still remember the day that we were in our local bookstore. Our beloved friend worked there, and we had solicited him for our mission. (He chose to accept it. :) ) We were desirous of a children’s Bible that had an accompanying set of CDs with it. This book introduced to me the idea of having a child listen to the Bible while following along in his/her corresponding paper copy. So, the mission commenced, and our friend directed us to The Word & Song Children’s Bible , which had a Bible and coordinating cds. We immediately bought the Bible and cds and began letting our son listen to them during afternoon nap time and at bed time.

To say that my husband and I were flabbergasted as we discovered how much of the Bible our son was comprehending would be….an understatement. For example, one morning he wakes us up, all decked out in warrior fashion with his homemade weapon, which consisted of a cell phone charger cord tied around a yard stick. “Dad, I need to kill the people who don’t worship God.” My husband, the sage that he is, begins explaining to our son why, according to Scripture, it is wrong to kill other human beings. Our son quickly retorts, “But Dad, God had to destroy the Edomites because they didn’t worship Him.”

My husband knew that our son was referring to the story from the Minor Prophet book, Obadiah. Who had been teaching him stories from the Old Testament?!?!? It wasn’t us, and it wasn’t his Sunday School teachers. After a few minutes of racking our brains, we remembered the Word and Song Bible cds. Yup, that was it; the culprit was the Bible cds. He had soaked up the story of Obadiah by listening to it on a cd. In that moment, we didn’t consciously vocalize the decision, but from then forward, we began using cds as a means of exposing our oldest son (and, now, all three of them) to literature.

I write often about books that we read aloud as part of school or together as a family. If it were up to me, I would read aloud to my boys all day longHowever, the piles of laundry, mounds of dust bunnies, and stores of uncooked food in my fridge thwart my read-all-day plans. Sigh. Wish that I may, Super Mom, I am not. As we learned from our oldest son’s early years, audio books can be used to “read” to my sons, even when I am not able. As a result, audio books have become a significant medium in the life of our sons, and our entire family, frankly, whereby literature is introduced. So, today, for this edition of Friday Favorites, I share this family favorite, audio books, with you and why we love them so much!

Audio books

Why I Love Using Audio Books With My Children

1) Audio books expose my sons to great stories that are above their reading level.

In the book, The Core, by Classical Conversations founder Leigh Bortins, she recommends that children read consistently on three different levels: below, at, and above their reading level. One way that I have my boys “read” above their reading level is by listening to audio books. Of course, my heart’s desire is to read every book known to man to my sons, but time does not always permit that. Audio books have helped me stretch the amount of time each day that my boys are being “read to” above their reading level. The audio books that I select for them fall into that category 99.9% of the time. They could not independently read the book they’re listening to, but they can easily comprehend it. An audio book gives them the opportunity to “read” classic literature now at ages 8, 6, and 4. They would have to wait 5-10 years to be able to read such books independently, but why make them wait that long when they are fully able to understand them now? Audio books assist significantly with this.

2) Audio books expand the “Mosley Homeschool” classroom.

Two years ago, we started The Story of the World as a history curriculum. With additional subjects that had to be completed and adding a second child to our homeschool “classroom,” the time that I had to read aloud our Story of the World chapters was diminishing. I checked out one set of the Story of the World audio books from our library, and my boys devoured it. They listened to the entire book in a week! This was the same book that was taking us months to read through together. I eventually bought all 4 volumes of Story of the World audio books, and my boys have listened to them multiple times. The audio books allowed my sons to independently take on a segment of their school, which freed  me up to focus with them individually on the subjects that only I could teach. If you are a homeschooling family, perhaps an audio book is available with curriculum that you are using or one can be used in a strategic way with an existing subject that you are teaching.

3) Audio books increase fluency and vocabulary.

A dear friend is a public school teacher, and she introduced me to the Barnes and Noble Online Story time website, which has 16 books being read aloud with simultaneous video footage of the book. She used the website in her classroom and was the first person to explain, from an educational perspective, the benefits of audio books. Audio books aid a child in increasing his/her fluency, which is the ability to smoothly, correctly read while simultaneously comprehending what he/she is reading. Audio books also expose a child to new vocabulary and introduces it within the context of a story, which increases his/her grasp of the new words. I, naively, assumed that audio books were handicapping my sons’ reading ability when in actuality they work just the opposite! To read more about this, peruse this article or this article.

4) Audio books make free time constructive.

Most afternoons in the Mosley casa, you will find our 3 sons enjoying some quality rest time in their rooms. Though nap time is long gone for my sons, the need to quiet themselves and have some time alone is still a reality. (There Mom needs this time too!) Rest time is also known as “audio book time” in our home. The bulk of my sons’ audio book listening occurs during their afternoon rest time. We may not be sitting at our school table plodding along through a school subject, but rest time in our home is wonderfully educational. This is the time that my boys have listened to the Story of the World audio books and other classics like Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Charlotte’s Web, and (a family favorite!) The Chronicles of Narnia.

Beyond rest time in our home, our family enjoys a good audio book while on a long trip. When we plan to travel an hour or longer, I make a special trip to our library to stock up on multiple audio books before we depart. Because our boys have grown accustomed to listening to audio books (remember, it won’t happen overnight!) for entertainment, they enjoy passing the time in the van with an audio book. On such occasions, I, personally, enjoy that we are listening to the same thing, which affords us great conversations as a family based on the book. I love how books can be used to create unity in our family. (Thank you, Honey for a Child’s Heart for letting me in on this little secret!) Of, if my husband and I want to have a conversation, a “date” in the car if you will, we turn the speakers to the back of the van. They listen to their audio book, and we enjoy time “alone” together. :)

5) Audio books cultivate a love of  literature.

“Readers are leaders,” was a quote my Dad preached when I was a young girl. It has always stuck with me. I think about it often with my sons. Exposing a child to a vast expanse of literature ensures that he/she will find stories, an author or genre that the child enjoys. The child begins to associate positive sentiments and associations with reading; thus, a love of literature is being cultivated. I have no idea what God will call my sons to do, but I know one of the best ways I can prepare them for their unknown future is to cultivate within them a love of literature. To accomplish this, I read aloud with my boys…a lot, and I let them listen to audio books.  Audio books, as a parent, have enabled me to introduce my sons to a variety of books that I may not have been able to read to them otherwise. In doing so, I have observed, first hand, their eyes dancing with joy and their talking-so-fast-I-can-hardly-understand-them summary about a book’s hero; they love books. As a disclaimer, this hasn’t always been the case! However, their love of books has grown through the intentional exposure to and the investment of time with books–being read by me and my husband or by a narrator on an audio book.

So, the next time you find yourself at your local library, ask the children’s librarian to direct you to the children’s audio book section. Let your child pick out a couple of audio books and  create time in his/her life to listen to them. Remember that it may take several books for it to “click” with your child. Let them have some alone time in their rooms, listening to an audio book and building with Legos or playing Barbies. Pop in your child’s favorite book on cd in the car rider line at school or en route to soccer practice. Look for creative ways to incorporate audio books into your child’s life. You’ll be glad that you did!

What We’re Reading Wednesday: Installment #2

26 Mar

What We're Reading WEDNESDAYS

It’s Wednesday! Time to take a peek at “What We’re Reading” around our Casa! I hope that you find some books to pick up for yourself, your kiddos, or your family! You can view past “What We’re Reading Wednesday” installments here or click on the tag cloud on the right side of the blog.

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A Tale of Two Cities (by Charles Dickens)-I read this book my junior year of high school with my amazing English teacher, Mrs. Wilhite. One of the history statements that my boys (and their mom! :) ) learned in Classical Conversations this year was about the French Revolution. When I hear “French Revolution,” I always, always, always think about this book, and all year I’ve wanted to re-read this book. After finishing Anna Karenina, I decided that A Tale of Two Cities would be my next book. I got it as a free Kindle book a year or so ago and had forgotten about it. I was glad to make this discovery on my Kindle a couple of weeks ago when perusing through its contents. I am glad to be re-reading it after ______ years (No, I’m not going to confess how many years have transpired since my junior year of high school. ha!). I’m surprised at how much I remember…as well as how much I’ve forgotten. 11th grade was a long, long, time ago. :)

The Word Became Flesh (by Faye Maynard)-Our family is continuing to journey through this devotion for Lent. This is our 4th year to use it, and we love how it puts our family in the Word, reading together about the life of Christ, culminating in the joyous celebration of Easter morning! To read more about this book and how to use it with your family, see my previous post.

King of the Wind (by Marguerite Henry)-My dear friend and fellow book lover, Whitney, told me about this book. She loved horses as a girl and enjoyed this book as a child. I, not loving horses as a girl, did not read this as a child. :) I found it over the weekend for $1 at a used bookstore. After Whitney’s rave review, I picked it up. After all, if it was a dud, I had only spent $1. :) Once I started reading the book, though, I couldn’t put it down. The story is about Sham, a horse from Morocco and Agba, a young boy who was Sham’s caretaker. Sham and Agba have many adventures–both tragic and exhilarating–that lead them from Morocco to France and finally England. Their adventures drew me in, broke my heart and made me smile. This will be a book that I read aloud and share with my boys. I also reveled in this book because of its setting. After college, I lived in North Africa for a year and spent some time in Morocco.  The accuracy of Henry’s description of the culture, language and people was spot on. The story transported me back there and made me homesick for a place I grew to deeply love.

A Fly Went by (by Mike McClintock)-This was on my middle son’s reading list from Sonlight.  The story is about a fly who went by a little boy, and each page gives you a greater understanding of why the fly…went by. It is in the Dr. Seuss Beginner Book series, so I was surprised that that we had not heard of it. I wanted to highlight it here because you might be like me and not heard of it either. It’s delightful! Plus, it was published in 1958, and I just love old books that have stood the test of time. :)

A Big Ball of String (by Marion Holland)-This was also on my middle son’s reading list and is another Dr. Seuss Beginner Book that was unfamiliar to us. It, too, was published in 1958 and appears, sadly, to be out of print. Maybe you can find a copy at your local library. The little boy in the story finds many creative uses for his big ball of string. It reminded me of how the simplest things–like a ball of yarn–are often the most entertaining for my boys. I love how such simple things breed their creativity.

The Berenstain Bears (by Stan & Jan Berenstain)-As you’ll notice there are 4 different Berenstain Bears books in the pictures. Those 4 books were only about a third of the Berenstain Bears books that we checked out from the library last week. This is a principle that I follow thanks to reading Honey for A Child’s Heart. Here’s my principle–When I find an author that my kiddos enjoy, I check out any and all books that he/she wrote or has written. I created this principle which our family adheres to during library visits based on—logic. :) If we enjoy one book by a particular author, surely we will enjoy other books that he/she penned, right? Since initiating this principle, my logical conclusion has been right more often than it has been wrong. There have been a few duds along the way, but the majority of the time we have enjoyed multiple books by the same author. Plus, it’s really fun to go to a shelf at the local library featuring a particular author and empty its contents into your library bag. (At least that is really fun for me. ha!)

Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World (by Douglas Wood)-We have been continuing in World War II readings since it was highlighted for a couple weeks in Classical Conversations. FDR and Churchill were two WWII leaders highlighted one week, so I picked this book up when I noticed it at the library. My boys eat, sleep, and breathe history, so I thought they’d enjoy learning more about these two men. This book was a fun read. Churchill ‘s fireball personality was displayed in one of the stories the book recounts from his visit to the White House the Christmas of 1941. Upon first speaking to the press after arriving in D.C., Roosevelt and Churchill sat behind a desk in a room filled to overflowing with members of the press. Roosevelt told Churchill that he wished the media could see him better. Churchill responds by climbing on his chair and standing upright in it; the media immediately embraced this memorable man. After reading the book with my boys, it became evident to me why the British unwavered in their opposition of Germany during WWII–Winston Churchill. His determined will to oppose the Axis Powers became his country’s will. I think I’m going to have to add a Winston Churchill biography to my “to read” list. Any suggestions?

What are YOU Reading this week?

 

HeartFELT Truths Easter Banner (& a Coupon Code!)

18 Mar

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Whitney from HeartFELT Truths graciously gave our family an Easter Banner to use last year. Awwwwwwwwwww, we love it!

The Easter Banner is for use during Holy Week. Day One begins on Palm Sunday, and the Easter Banner concludes on glorious Easter Morning! For more detailed information, aka “the girl version,” read my review of the HeartFELT Easter Banner.

Here’s the finished product with all pieces on the banner:

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Whitney has multiple options for her Easter Banner.

Option #1: You can download FREE instructions for her Easter Banner on this blog post (Scroll to the bottom of the post to see “Free Instructions” in a downloadable .pdf form.)

Option #2: You can order the complete Easter Banner or a DIY Easter Banner kit from her Etsy Shop. Suzanne Shares readers get 10% off when you use this coupon code (expiration: 3/27):

EASTERSHARES

If you have problems with the coupon code working, mention it in the “Order Notes” box and Whitney will refund them the difference after your purchase.

I love having this wonderful resource to purposefully engage our family with Scripture during the Easter season! I’m excited to share this resource with you!

Cutting Up A Pineapple: Thank You Pampered Chef!

17 Mar

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When I had my Pampered Chef online party in January, I had a few friends ask me if the Pampered Chef Pineapple Wedger was really that magnificent and easy. Of course, I told them it was because, in my honest opinion, it is. :) Since I a few friends purchased one, I felt a duty to show them how to use it. Since I can’t be in their kitchens with them, side-by-side, demonstrating how to use it, I thought I would post pictures of the process.

This post, in particular, is for and dedicated to my friend, Bethany. She was slated to come over to my house last week. The goal of our get together was not pineapple slicing. However, I had a fresh pineapple in the kitchen, so I told her that I would show her how I use my Pineapple Wedger while she was over. These plans quickly vaporized when our youngest woke up in the middle of the night puking his guts out. Yes, that was awesome. So, Bethany and my other Pampered Chef Pineapple Wedger purchasers, these pictures are for you!

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1) Using a chef’s knife, I cut off the top, aka “the sharp poky leaves.” (Be careful, those things are dangerous.) Next, I cut off the bottom of the pineapple. For this step, only a minimum cut is required; this simply is useful for making the bottom level. At the conclusion of this step, you have 2 halves of the pineapple remaining. See the two circles in the upper left hand corner of this picture.

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2) Locate the pineapple’s core. Do you see the dark yellow circle in the center? That’s your core!

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3) Line the circle of your Pineapple Wedger with the pineapple’s core…and press down. I usually gently rock the Pineapple Wedger back and forth as I press down.

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4) Viola! Now, I pull the 4 pieces of pineapple peel away from the Pineapple Wedger.

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5) I remove the two halves of the pineapple from the Pineapple Wedger. All that is left in the center is the core.

image6) Then, I slice and dice the fruit. I repeat these steps for the other half of the pineapple.

7) I practice oodles of self-control and do NOT eat an entire pineapple by myself.

Be cautioned, fresh pineapple will not last long in your house. So, you may want to buy 2, 3, or 50 at a time! I especially like to purchase them when Aldi has them on sale for 99 CENTS!

Friday Favorites: Honey for A Child’s Heart

14 Mar

FRIDAY Favorites

Last week’s Friday Favorites was about a devotion book that our family uses during Lent to focus on Christ. I decided to keep this second edition of Friday Favorites in the literature genre as well. Today, I am delighted to share about a book that has helped me to love books and to unearth quality literature–for my children and myself–from the thousands of books on the library’s shelves. Enjoy!

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One day I almost turned in my library card. Yes, you read that correctly. The gal who writes profusely about books that she adores almost gave back her free library card to the librarian. This same gal almost vowed to never darken the doors of a library again. At the time, I was a mother of two wee ones, ages 3 and 1, and I was doing what I thought all “good” mothers did. I took them weekly to the library for storytime, and after storytime, we would check out books. Again, all “good” mothers read to their children, right? So, I followed suit and let my boys pick out books. I remember one of my college roommates had an entire class on Children’s Literature. Being the social work major that I was, that class wasn’t on my radar. Since my extent of children’s authors included Dr. Seuss and no one else, I wasn’t very instrumental in their selections. Plus, I thought letting my sons pick out the books that they wanted was so very gracious of me.

We took the books home and read them, week in and week out, but one day I finally had enough. The books that I had been reading to my boys were dull, seemed to all involve jokes about bodily functions, and were were simply lacking. Deep down I felt there had to be something more to this “reading to your child” activity. My heart yearned for more, but I didn’t know what or how. I was frustrated and unsure of what to do with said frustration, so I decided….to just be done with the library. I envisioned marching into the library, slamming down my library card and marching right back out again. Reading with my sons was a chore, a chore in the same vein with laundry, dusting, and changing dirty diapers. I did those things out of duty; there was no delight. Reading to my boys had become just that–duty with no delight.

Honey For A Child's Heart

As I was having this internal conversation, my mind recalled the title of a book that I had read about or that someone had mentioned to me previously, Honey for a Child’s Heart. Thankfully, at this point I had not marched into the library and relinquished my library card. I did what any good library patron would do when intrigued by an unread book. I scoured the card catalog for it. Good news; my library possessed a copy of it. I checked it out and devoured it. (Whew! Glad I still had that library card!) This book was just what I needed as it gave me list after list of book recommendations for children. Greater still was its gift to me in this–a vision for the active role that books can play in the life of my children and our family.

“Children have two basic needs…milk and honey from their parents. Milk symbolizes the care given to physical needs…. Honey symbolizes the sweetness of life, that special quality that makes life sing with enjoyment for
all it holds.”– Honey for a Child’s Heart

Gladys Hunt helped me identify what was missing with my interactions with my sons. There was much milk being offered by me on their behalf, but the honey was missing. I knew not how to get there, but thankfully, Hunt guided my steps with each page of the book. “Good books are rich in honey…” she wrote, so that was where I would begin. Instead of marching myself into the library to return my library card, I marched myself into the library with Honey for a Child’s Heart in hand. I would, literally, open it to the first page of the book lists and pick those books off the shelf. It became my BFF as through it our whole family was introduced to marvelous stories, unforgettable characters, timeless authors. No longer was reading to my sons drudgery; it was my delight. We were feasting on honey together, and it was uniting our hearts in a manner that was joyous.

Fast forward 6 years, our little brood now includes a third son, and we are half a decade in to the Honey for a Child’s Heart experiment. I count and measure my life by books, ones that have marked me, set my life on a different trajectory. This is, indeed, one such book. A diet of honey, drinking deeply from it, has introduced us to Charlotte and Wilbur, children who lived in a boxcar, a courageous Olympian and missionary, Eric Liddell and countless other people and tales that have left a little piece of themselves in our hearts.  The greatest imprint of Honey for a Child’s Heart on our family has come in what Hunt calls, “the pleasure of a shared experience” through literature. This particular chapter, upon first reading the book, drew me in. The idea of books creating shared experiences, drawing a family together made my heart want to explode out of my chest! This was my greatest desire, and so we jumped in to read alouds with school and together as a family. What started as an experiment our family has since become a reality. Feasting on honey has created commonality, laughter, shrills of “one more chapter, please, Mommy,” and joy. Just thinking about the memories of varied books that we’ve consumed together over the last 6 years, literally, brings tears to my eyes. What a journey it has been; so thankful.

So, if you’re wavering back and forth about whether or not you should turn in your library card, pick up Honey for a Child’s Heart. May it inspire and instruct you as it did me and our family to intentionally fill our lives, hearts, and minds with quality literature, honey, as Hunt calls it. The last half of the book is filled with page upon page of book lists including various ages, authors, genres. Use it to guide your book selections on your library storytime days, as I did and still do. (Yes, I still take my copy with me to the library to direct my steps! Or, even better, buy the Kindle edition and take it on your phone or tablet to whip out in the middle of the library! All the cool kids take books to the library. You didn’t know?!?!?) As I have begun adding honey, quality children’s literature, to our family’s diet, it has increased my appetite, personally, for rich literary prose. This led me to pick up Honey for a Woman’s Heart over Christmas. I’m looking forward to the unknown adventures and worlds to which it will introduce me. I’m sure it will mark me in the same manner the “kid version” has done. Come, join me in this journey; you and your family will never be the same.

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.

The Word Became Flesh–WINNER

12 Mar

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And the winner of a copy of The Word Became Flesh and coordinating ornament set is…

Dianna  (March 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm)

Dianna, congratulations! You have until March 13 to contact me at suzanneshares AT gmail DOT com.( If I do not hear from Dianna, a new winner will be chosen.) I will connect you with Faye Maynard so that you can receive your goodies! Thanks to all of you who entered! Wishing that I could give all of you who entered a free copy. :( Go here to order a copy. Thanks, again, to my friend Faye for penning this book and for sponsoring the giveaway!

Stop back by on Friday to read the next “Friday Favorites” post.

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.

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