Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sickness and Taking Medicine

Everyone deals with sickness differently.

Some people want to be left alone and never asked about it.
Some don't.
Some people think that medicine is bad.
Some people will push for medicine thinking it will make everything better.
Some people think that things will go away if you don't go to the doctor.
Some people go searching for health issues when there aren't any.

Last year, when I visited my mother's hematologist with her, she told me to only search as far as I had to--and then to stop.  I was given the same advice by a rheumatologist.

We live in a complicated time.  Women are getting double mastectomies because they have a certain gene.  In a time when people think that doctors want to prescribe everything and do every procedure they can--that is not what I have experienced.

What I've experienced is:
+ One specialist telling me that I'm not sick, but that I do need to take Vitamin D (blood test showed it was low and it's very important to bone health) and exercise daily so that my shoulder doesn't get frozen (because it was well on its way).
+ Another specialist asked me why I went to see him in the first place.  I explained that I'd had some strange test results--which he then kindly explained to me--and explained that I wasn't sick.  He told me never to have my kids ANA tested and he wouldn't have recommended it to me.  From his perspective, there is no reason to live your life for the shoe to drop if there's only a 15% chance (or less) that it will!
+ My children's pediatrician doesn't want to give them antibiotics unless they really need them.
+ The allergist my son sees didn't recommend taking foods out of his diet unless we discover (through experience) that he really is allergic to them.

My general experience is that doctors will prescribe medicine if you really want it.  The urgent care doctors I have seen are usually the ones to more quickly prescribe.  But, what I've learned as I've listened to people is that people who want doctors to prescribe a lot of medicines find doctors that will do that.  The doctors my family sees don't.

I remember a story from an acquaintance years ago.  She told me about how she wasn't sleeping so her OB prescribed her a sleeping aid when she requested it.  She was prescribed this medicine eventhough it was a riskier medicine, she'd taken it during a previous pregnancy, and her baby was born blue (but recovered).  Many people might assume it was the doctor's doing that she would take this risky medicine, but that wasn't the case at all.  It was the woman who pushed for it and chose to take it.

On the other hand, I never had an OB (of the ten different providers I saw--several were in group practices) that offered me a sleep medicine or even asked if I wanted one!

We live in a cynical culture, so many people go to the doctor believing that a doctor is automatically going to prescribe medicine--medicine that you likely may not need.  This is unfortunate because I've known several people to shy away from the doctor or from medicine prescribed from them because they don't believe that the doctor will only prescribe it if they need it.  What this really boils down to is not trusting one's doctor.

When I didn't trust my son's doctor, I went looking for another one.  It was empowering.  I learned that I didn't have to see a doctor who didn't care enough about my son to look at his chart and know that we're there for an annual checkup.  I asked around and couldn't find any recommendation, so I went with the hospital that folks I knew recommended and picked the first doctor off the webpage that I saw.  I was trusting that the Lord would direct me to the right doctor--and he did!  My son now sees a great specialist who knows exactly who he is--even though we only see him once a year.

We are blessed to live in a place and a time when we do have choices when it comes to medical care.   Medicine is a blessing.  I know that it is wise not to take too much and not to overmedicate, but I do get concerned that just as a phobia developed about vaccines (leading to various outbreaks of these diseases), that people who really need medicines may not take them when they need them.  I hope that this won't happen.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hope and Voting

Recently, I was talking with two friends about a YA book I had recommended.  Neither of them connected with the book, though they had enjoyed other books I'd recommended before in the past.  I couldn't explain exactly what I had liked about the book because it had been several years since I'd read it.  So, I headed for the library to check it out.

The book was Hope Was Here, but Joan Bauer.  The book is recommended for ages 12 and up (7th grade).  I have found with other books by Ms. Bauer that I usually think the recommended age should be two years above what it is.  The story is about a teenage girl named Hope.  The story begins with her traveling to Minnesota with her Aunt Addie, who is essentially her mom.  They are leaving their restaurant where her aunt was cook and she was a waitress.  Addie's partner stole their money and they were forced to close up shop.  The story follows Hope's journey in this new place.  Much of the story centers around G.T. (the owner of the restaurant where they go to work) and his campaign for mayor of the small town where they live.

Yesterday, I sat down and reread the book, seeking to understand what had made me like it in the first place.  My friends' main comment was that they couldn't connect to the story.  As soon as I read the first page, I knew why I had like it.  The main character Hope reminds me of my best friend from high school.  She lived a life that had commonalities with Hope's.  She was even a hostess and waitress, like Hope.  My friend was an independent, no nonsense girl.  She wasn't a super emotional girl, but was extremely level headed and took care of herself.  Her relationship with her mom, stepdads, father, brother, and other extended family members were similar as well.  Even the advice about waitressing that Hope shares over the course of the book is advice that I can imagine my friend giving to new waitresses.

The mentality that Hope has about being responsible for herself and making her own way, yet being thankful for the roof over her head and food on the table is one my friend shared.  I find that in many books teenagers are portrayed in extremes.  Either they are coddled and totally dependent on parents, or they are neglected by parents and have to scrape by.  But, some teens do have a family member who steps in and cares for them--when they are abandoned by their parents like Hope is in this story.  Hope recognizes that she has always longed for a father, but she's thankful to not be completely abandoned and adrift.  She has only seen her mom 3 times prior to this book in her lifetime.  Every visit is a bittersweet reminder of the blessing of her Aunt Addie's love.

Hope doesn't talk to Addie about what she's trying to understand about the world, but neither did I nor any of my friends when we were teenagers.  On the other hand, the relationship I have with my daughters is completely different.  We talk about everything and when they're trying to understand something they talk to me in a way that I didn't talk to my parents when I was in middle school.

So, why do I like this book?
First, I resonate with it.  I was independent and making decisions like Hope did in high school.  I had a part-time job from the time I was 14 years old on.  I applied for the jobs myself and my parents didn't have a hand in me getting the jobs or in even suggesting that I apply where I did.  Secondly, until I had children, I was not particularly emotional.  I was pretty matter of fact about life--just like Hope--and like my friends in high school.  Third, this book conveys the importance of voting to teens.  I want my children to vote and to value voting.  This book has some unexpected twists and turns that could feed cynicism, but instead it dispels them because the good guys win out.  Lastly, this book reminds me of my best friend and why I respect her so much. She was the one who taught me what loyalty means--when she called me very single day from several states away while I was pregnant, very sick, and my husband was deployed overseas.  No one else did that.  In fact, no one else called.  But, she did.  She cared--just like Hope cared.

Joan Bauer is one of the better YA fiction writers in my opinion.  That's not a blanket recommendation to read all of her books--I posted earlier about Almost Home and a recommendation for teens not to read it until high school.  But, I like this book.  It was a Newberry Honor Book and I can understand why.  It isn't gushy and filled with romance.  It's not filled with vampires and darkness either.

Ironically, I think this book would be a great discussion starter for Christian teens.  Hope chose her name because she wanted a name that meant something.  Is she a Christian?  What makes you think she is or isn't?  What is her definition of "hope"?  What is a Christians' definition of "hope"?  Are they the same thing?  At the end of the book, she gets something she desperately had wanted.  Did she know that this was what she wanted at the beginning of the book?  How is she changed by getting what she wants?  Compare/Contrast this book with Son and the morals of the two books.  In Son, by Lois Lowry, the moral is that you already have what you really need--what you wish for may not be what you really want.  On the other hand, in Hope Was Here, the moral (I think) is that getting what you really want will change you--for the better.  It will fulfill you.  Which book do you agree with?

So, those are my thoughts.  Reading Hope Was Here was like putting on my Vans for me--it reminds me of who I am and where I come from.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas Thoughts

Yesterday, I shared a devotion at our church's women's brunch.  I thought I would post it here.  These are thoughts that have been on my mind this week, because it was such a crazy, busy, over the top stressful week for me.  But, it is done now.  The next week portends to be a stressful one as well, but it is Christmastime!  I want to focus on the Lord and remember Christ's birth, but it can be challenging when life is crowding in.  These were the thoughts I wrote down when I sorted through it all...

What are you dwelling on?

Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How? Yesterday, I was struck that these are amazingly simple questions that have enormous relevance to our lives. I'm going to tackle these questions today in a round about way and how they apply to Christmas and our lives.

The Who is the easy part of the picture—us.

Then we can move on to the
WHAT: What are you dwelling on?

The Past? The Present? Or the Future?

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. I loved the traditions that came with the season for my family. Thanksgiving was always at my Grandma's house with the same foods (divided up among the family to make). Then, came the wide extended family Christmas party
that happened with people that I wasn't even sure who was who. But, I was a kid, so I loved the yummy fudge that was always a dependable guest at the food table. On Christmas Eve, we had my grandma, great-grandma, and three families over that we knew. Every year they came and every year the menu was the same. Homemade noodles, meat sauce, bread, salad, and ice cream for dessert. Christmas Day brought presents under the tree and then dinner at my grandma's house with my aunt's family.

When I became a young adult, headed off to college, and my parents divorced, everything changed. I still came home and enjoyed Christmas with my mom, but it wasn't the same. Christmas Eve was the same, but at her home, and I had to leave her to go spend Christmas Day with my dad's family. And then I got married. And Christmas got complicated for many reasons. Chris and I began navigating which traditions we'd keep from each side of the family. Because it was my family traditions that I remembered most, it became really important to me to make new traditions for my own family.

As an adult, I realized that holidays in general are complicated. I think it's easy to focus on a lot of things besides what we're supposed to be focusing on at Christmas—Christ's birth.

So, what are some of these things?
They could be the past-- hurts, stresses, bad memories—or good memories that you miss and wish you could have again

They could be the present-- Christmas brings lots of activity and busyness that can be consuming. My week sure was! Your life might not be the way you wish it was, or there might be an unpredictable family member that you just don't know how they're going to act on Christmas—or you may love Christmas with your family and be focusing on presents, gift giving and your friends and family, but you know it is only for a time

They could be the future or near future-- what are your expectations? How will you react if they aren't met? How will you react if they are?

So, what do we do with all of this?

WHEN: When do we dwell?
WHERE: Where do we dwell?
WHY: Why does it matter what we dwell on?

Last Sunday, my husband spoke at the beginning of service of thinking of God throughout the day. I find that the room in my mind often gets crowded by some mixture of the past, present, and future and it ends up all muddled. All of these things are the cares of this world. This doesn't mean they don't matter. They do, but we have to be careful about getting lost in them and losing sight of Christ. We also have to be careful about dwelling on these things because we can start thinking more about what we think God isn't doing instead of seeing what He is.

I was listening to a 69 year old woman in a doctor's office on Wednesday afternoon tell me that she struggled for years—believing that God didn't care about her because her family wasn't at peace and her husband was still an unbeliever after 40 years of marriage. Just last January, her family found peace. Her husband is still an unbeliever, but there was reconciliation in her family and she saw that God cared. I understood how she felt because I had the same thought about God, “Does he care?” when I was 21 and had doubts.

The truth is that God is always enough. He does care. Sometimes the cares of this world can bog us down, though, and make us feel like he doesn't.

Cynthia Heald writes in her book, Becoming a Woman Whose God is enough, “God is always enough, but we have the choice of believing whether He is enough or He is not. The Bible encourages us to believe, trust, and let go of these cares.

Luke 9:23New International Version (NIV)

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Philippians 3:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:2New International Version (NIV)
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Romans 12:1-2New International Version (NIV)

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Luke 12:22-30 English Standard Version (ESV)

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[a26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,[b] yet I tell you,even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his[c] kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

So, HOW can we change what we're dwelling on?

I like this quote from The Renewing of The Mind Project by Barb Raveling,

“Our job is to open up the windows and let the light of God's Word in so it can transform us. That's different than opening the drapes and plopping down on the couch with a good book. But too often that's what we do as Christians....

We're starting from a point of already being accepted by God if we're his children through faith. We can rest in His love and walk hand in hand with Him, working on this project together.

How do we do this? How do we dwell on Christ in this advent season instead of getting lost in the cares of the world?

Last week I read an email that Marti Mylin had sent me just before Thanksgiving. In the Lord's timing, I read it in the middle of my muddle this week.

She encouraged me to read Hebrews 12 and here are a few verses that spoke to my heart from it.

Hebrews 12: 12-15
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 andmake straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for theholiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled

Barb Raveling lists in her book 7 things and explains each one that we should be doing after we're saved, if we want to be transformed.  Barb's book goes into each one of these in detailed, practical ways. But, I'm going to focus on one thing we can do that addresses #1 Renew your mind and #2 Hiding God's Word in your Heart.

How do we do this at Christmas time?

Well, around Christmas time, one of the quickest, fastest, and easiest ways for me to renew my mind and rethink my day is to sing a Christmas carol—either outloud or in my head. I watched a movie once about Fanny Crosby, the hymn writer, who said that people get their theology from Hymns. I remember getting upset about this quote at the time because I felt the Bible was where our theology should come from. Looking back, I see now that when she was writing hymns, many people couldn't read. Yet, they did know hymns. Today, we can read, yet it is worship songs and hymns that often stick in our heads easiest. Christmas carols bring joy to our hearts with their words and remind us of the hope of Christ's birth. It is this hope that shines the light into the darkness that comes when the cares of the world creep into our hearts.

Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time when we come together to celebrate Christ's birth. What a blessing it is that God sent his one and only begotten son to die for our sins that we might be saved and have eternal life!

I know there isn't a magic pill that I can take when I have a week like this one. Doctors appointments and tests, birthday parties, homeschooling, a car accident, and all the regular stuff of life to boot! I know I'm not alone in all of this—all of you have so much going on in your lives as well! But, at the end of the day, there is HOPE. The HOPE of Christ. We can savor and be thankful for Christ's birth, remembering the much bigger picture—that Jesus is the reason for the season.

I've made some bookmarks listing some common Christmas carols. I thought that maybe you could put one where you'll come across it and see the name of a familiar carol you can sing (outloud or even in your head) and remember the Hope that the Christmas season reminds us of.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Putting Books Down

Yesterday, I sat reading from two different books.  Both of which I put down.  Both of which I don't intend to pick up again.

The first book was a mystery by Dorothy Sayers, a Harriet Vane mystery titled Gaudy Night.  I made it through the first chapter and then was so overwhelmed by the cynical attitudes of the characters about each other that it made me want to cry.  I think I have considered cynicism a modern invention of the last thirty years, but this book made me aware that cynicism has a much longer history than I had realized.  This book was originally published in 1935.  Harriet Vane's life mirrored Dorothy Sayers' own life in many respects, according to my husband.

As I read the first chapter, I was struck by the wonderful and varied language Ms. Sayers used in her writing.  I loved that aspect of the writing.  In order to read the book, I had to think and consider the impact of the vocabulary she chose.

Heaviness began to permeate my heart as I read first Harriet Vane's view of herself, but then later her view of others.  She was the epitome of a true cynic.  Self-deprecating insecurity filled her thoughts, while boredom and disdain for what she saw as the worthlessness and ineptitude of others followed on the heels of the critical thoughts of herself.  The cynicism wasn't limited to the main character, though.  Even a character who was liked by Ms. Vane, Ms. Lydgate, who Harriet said was always kind in her words to others showed her true colors as she lambasted one of the other teachers as the most boring of bores (my words) to Ms. Vane.  Thus, Ms. Lydgate was nice to people's faces, but two faced behind their backs.

I set down the book, because I couldn't enjoy it.  Reading about two faced people talking about two faced people is not something I want to do.

The second book I sat down with is one that I've been reading for the past few weeks--a few pages at a time.  My pediatrician had recommended this book to me.  Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote a book titled "How to Raise an Adult".  I had enjoyed the first chapter because it traced the changes in our culture's view of how to parent over the past 30 years.  Since I was a kid during the 1970s and 80s, I wasn't aware of the factors that brought about major changes in how adults parented while I was growing up.  But, yesterday as I read, the message grew very redundant.  The author lives in Palo Alto, with her two teenagers.  She lives in a different world than I do--but it is the world that I grew up in.  I remember it well.  I still remember the disdain from a girl that I volunteered at the hospital during high school with when I explained that my family didn't regularly donate my money to my dad's alma mater.  I remember that world well and I As I read on, I knew that I never wanted to raise my kids in the world that she lives in.

The world Ms. Lythcott lives in is similar to my world in many ways, but also different.  She lives in the most expensive place in the US to live.  It is an upper middle class/upper class area.  I grew up on the "right side of the tracks", but as an adult have always lived "on the wrong side of the tracks" so to speak.  It's interesting that at one point she says "If you are among the vast majority of us who aren't wealthy".  I did look Ms. Lythcott up to make sure that I wasn't saying anything that is way off, but the houses in her neighborhood sell for almost $3m.  Hmmm.  That's not the world I live in.  I don't think she's like the majority of people I know.

This book is written to families with two working parents who have degrees (and likely advanced degrees) who make enough money to hover and enroll their kids in private schools and lessons.  There are some things that trickle down to the middle class like the tendency to do too much for their kids and not let them fall, to not teach kids life skills because there isn't time for anything besides homework, and to foster an entitlement mentality by giving kids everything they want (when financially feasible).

This is a secular book about parenting.  It is all about what you can do.  It's always interesting to read about how people want to instill good values and morals in their children--without God's guiding them.  Sometimes it is very discouraging for me to realize the answers that our culture gives people about the best way to live--without God.

I do agree with Ms. Lythcott-Haims about these things:  helicopter parenting, being involved in every activity, not letting your children fall, not teaching your children life skills, structuring all of their time--these things are not good for children.  These things result in children who can become adults who are thoughtless of others, think they are entitled to a certain living, look down on others with less education, and who inadvertantly communicate the idea that they are blessing their parents with their presence when they choose to be around.

I don't want these things for my children.  I want to raise grateful children who love others well, who think of others, who use the gifts that God has given them, who value the work God has given them to do, and who value the gift of fellowship.  Rather than reading Ms. Lythcott-Haim's book, I'd recommend Growing Grateful Kids by Susie Larson instead to Christians.

So as not to get even more bogged down than I feel this morning, I am putting down these two books.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Point of Christmas

This morning I finished reading Melody Carlson's annual Christmas novel.  This one has a funny name (as they usually do)--The Christmas Joy Ride.  The story follows an 85 year old woman, Joy, and her neighbor, Miranda, as they travel in a large motorhome decorated for Christmas.  They are
traveling from Chicago to Phoenix to deliver Christmas decorations to some that need cheer.

I enjoyed the first 3/4 of the book, but then it turned sour on me.  The last delivery was so unrealistic. I found myself actually wanting to sit down and rewrite the dialogue between the characters.  I had enjoyed the main character for most of the book, but then that disappeared.  She was presumptuous and unkind.  The ending was extremely unbelievable for me--much more so than the average "tied up in a bow" Christian fiction ending.

What's most interesting to me is what I realized after I finished reading the book.  Many Christians talk about how Christ is missing from the season.  People try to have joy--without the Lord in their lives.  This book emulates that idea.  God is mentioned in a crisis moment in the book once.  But, that's all I can recall.  Joy wants to share Christmas joy--for the sake of Christmas joy--not for Christ's sake.  This is how most Christmas movies are.   But, I was expecting The Christmas Joy Ride to be a feel good Christmas movie type book--with Jesus in it.  It's not.  It's missing the point of Christmas Joy.

A very long time ago, Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  God gave his one and only son that we might live.  At Christmas, we celebrate his birthday--and the enormous, unfathomable gift that He gave us when He sent his son into the world.  The truth is that there is no Christmas joy without Jesus Christ.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Publishing for review.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fun, Wholesome (if a mystery can be wholesome) Mystery

In our house, the reader of mystery novels is my husband.  But, every once in a while, I do pick one up.  That was the case last week when I sat down to read Ann Gabhart's new novel, Murder at the Courthouse.  Ms. Gabhart's fiction novels are all written under the name Ann Gabhart.  In a new turn, she takes the name of A.H. Gabhart for this series of mysteries she has written.  I think it's a little funny, but I do understand.  I can imagine that it can be difficult at times for authors to break out of the genre mold when they have written one "type" of book for years.  "A.H. Gabhart" sounds a lot more like a mystery author's name (ie. PD James, GK Chesterton, PG Wodehouse).

As I opened up this book, I knew from the first page why I have enjoyed Ms. Gabhart's books over the years.  She is one of the better Christian writers whose books I have reviewed.

The plot of Murder at the Courthouse centers around a deputy sheriff, Michael Keane, and his
search for the murderer who's victim was found at the courthouse steps in the first sequence of the book.  Michael is an interesting character to see develop over the course of the book.  He was a big city cop who returned to his small hometown to keep the peace.  His Aunt Lindy is a teacher at the local high school, who is known by most, feared by some, but respected by all.  There is a bit of romantic interest in Michael's life, but hardly much to speak of, which is quite a departure from Ms. Gabhart's other books.  Anthony is a rough and tumble high schooler who figures prominently into the plot of the story.

All of the characters in the story were easy to get to know and likeable, save the murderer of course.  The plot moves along at a healthy pace, though about half way through I will admit that I figured out who the murderer was (no spoilers here).  The language is less flowery than Gabhart's other books--appropriately so since it is a mystery.  What I appreciated most about this mystery is that it isn't gory or extremely dark like many modern stories are.  Instead, the reader is left with a story that finds an end, but isn't entirely wrapped in a neat little bow.  I'll not say more than that, but let you encounter the story's end for yourself.

If you're looking for an enjoyable book that doesn't have questionable content, I'd highly recommend this book!  It doesn't get too romantic, has a great plot and interesting characters, and it's just fun to read!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Revell books.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Next up...

I'm nearing the end of my stack.  One more to go after the book I'm about to review.  Of the books I read this week, this book had the weakest writing.  It was a very interesting thing to sit down, open up a book, and feel that my middle school writing students could have written the essays in this book. That said, the reason people will read this book is not for the writing.  It is for the stories and the primary subject--Horses.

I have a daughter who loves horses.  Honestly, it is a love that I don't understand or grasp.  I decided to read The Horse of My Heart: Stories of the Horses We Love, edited by Callie Smith Grant, with the hope that the stories would help me understand my daughter a little better.  This collection of stories did impress upon my heart something I already knew--that there are many people who love horses.  They love them the way my husband loves dogs.  They love them the way I love to take pictures and capture God's beauty.

The stories collected by Ms. Grant are retold by adults of experiences they've had at various ages.  Horses hold a special place in each person's heart.  One story I read was about a mean horse who bullied the other horses until one horse stood up to him.  Another story focused on a mother's love for Secretariat and a shrine she had in her home for the horse.  Still another was about a man who spent a summer with the intention of doing construction and instead took care of the livestock all summer long.  If I were to sum up all of the stories into one succinct idea it would be a plea for people to understand that horses' lives have value.  

The writing is similar to what you'll find in an issue of Guideposts or Reader's Digest.  They are simple stories, with some description.  The tone of each story is very familiar as if the individual writers are retelling their stories to friends they haven't seen in a long time.  Standard transitions are used in a very standard grammatical form in each story.  If you are looking for a literature type of book about horses, this book is not what you are looking for.  If you are looking for a Reader's Digest type of book about horses, then this is the book you're looking for.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Revell Books.

Tackling a politically uncorrect topic

A few years ago, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield wrote a memoir.  Her book was about her journey from being a lesbian, women's studies professor in upstate New York to being a Christian pastor's wife and mom of four kids.  Her book was aptly titled The Secrets of an Unlikely Convert.  She was won over to Christ, not by man's words or by the four spiritual laws, but by Christ and the Word of God.  Her first book was intended to share her story--to encourage people to love instead of to preach.  There was a pastor and his wife who God used to encourage and walk alongside her quietly, listening in love, unwavering in God's Truth.  This book was not intended to be one given to someone living a homosexual lifestyle with the hope that it would convince them of the truth.

But, Ms. Butterfield has now written a second book with tackles sexual sin and God's Truth.  This
new book is one that can be given to one who is struggling.  It is one that addresses all sexual sin and the roots of that sin.  She writes in the same writing style--you can tell she was a college professor.  So, it isn't always an easy read, but rather a worthwhile read packed with nuggets of thought worth chewing on and mulling over.  I deeply appreciate Ms. Butterfield's commitment to God's Truth.

Concern has filled my heart as I've watched the changes in our culture at large and even within the Christian community at large.   Christians seem to be of two minds when it comes to homosexuality.  One camp says that it is not being homosexual and struggling with that temptation that is the sin, but it is acting on that temptation which is sin.  We are all tempted by different sins.  WE are ALL sinners.  This is true.  Another camp says that it is okay for a person to be in an actively homosexual relationship because loving another is glorifying to God.  This second camp relies heavily on the claim that parts of the Bible have been mistranslated or are only culturally applicable to the time in which it was written, therefore the scriptures (which are many) that say homosexual acts are sin are invalid.   Last year, a few years ago a Christian recording artist chose to tour with an lesbian singer and there was some concern deep in my heart.  A year and a half later, that recording artist got a divorce due to his infidelity.  I don't know if there is a connection, but I do know that when we decide we only want to live by part of God's Word we put up walls in our hearts as if we are saying to God, "This isn't comfortable and it doesn't make people feel good, so I don't want to agree with that part of the Bible anymore."  The problem is that the Bible isn't about making us feel good.  It is about God.  Life is hard and all of us should know that just because something feels "good" doesn't mean that it is "right".

Last Sunday evening, I was teaching my Sunday School class about Moses and the ten commandments.  I emphasized to them that God told the people not to touch Mount Sinai or they would die.  I put a fence up in front of my cardboard model to emphasize this point. One little boy asked with glee, "Well, what if I just throw something at the mountain?"  He thought he could get away with it--going around the exact rule.  I responded that the person would die, because God was concerned with their hearts.  Now, I know that isn't in the Bible, but I do know that Scripture tells us over and over that God is concerned with our Hearts.  (Proverbs 21:2, Matthew 6, 1 Samuel 16:7, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)  The little boy was shocked when I told him that he couldn't be sneaky and get away with it.  We need to live by God's terms, not ours.  He gave us the Moral law in Exodus 20 to help keep us safe--to protect us from harm.

In the same way, Ms. Butterfield writes about our hearts.  She wants to challenge us to look at not just our actions, but what is inside our hearts.  It isn't the act of throwing a stick that would alarm God, but the heart behind it.  God is calling us to live on His terms, not our own.

I deeply respect Ms. Butterfield for writing this second book, Openness Unhindered.  But, I respect her more for walking a tough road than for her writing.  That is what is toughest.  I was shocked to realize how some Christians have treated her over the years.  Her stories challenged me to look at my own heart.  On page 32, she says, "It is sinful to write people off because they sin in ways that offend you."  Wow.  She's right.

This book tackles important topics that I think we all need to think about community, loving sisters in Christ that you disagree with about this issue, repentance, sexual orientation, and self-representation. The ideas she introduces can be applied to other areas in our lives.  For example, on page 133, she insightfully explains that "Our tendency is to find others who sin just like we do, so that we won't be alone.  We search for role models, so that we might minimize the sinfulness of our sin.  We enlist others to help us in calling our sin a sanctifying grace.  But we ought to quake in fear when we find ourselves traveling that path.  Because without intending it, such "covering of sin renders us enemies of God, and not friends."  That nugget of truth applies to anger, gossip, lying, cheating...  not just to sexual sin.

I grieve to think that there will be Christians who attack this book and the author.  Please pray for her and for those who attack it.  There are many Christians today who are buying into the belief that we all have a right to be "happy" and because of this, they are absorbing ideas that include thinking that the Bible has been mistranslated and misinterpreted.  Yes, it is hard when people we love are declared sinners by the Bible and that they will go to Hell when they die if they don't believe in Jesus.  I have people in my own family who have outright denied God and attacked Him and His Word.  Should that change that I view the Bible as the infallible, inerrant Word of God?  No.  I am sad for them, but God's Word is the Truth.

If you are struggling as a Christian to know how to think about homosexuality, how to respond and love people well, how to stay strong in the Truth that you read in God's Word about homosexuality, and get mind around what is changing in our culture, then I highly recommend that you read this book.  It will give you an enormous amount of food for thought.  I know that it is going to give me much to think about for a long time.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher, Crown and Covenant Publications.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


My oldest daughter is in that tweendom stage and my middle daughter is entering that time as well.  On Sunday as she was getting ready for church, she told me that she has her own style.  She said it sweetly with a smile on her face.  I looked at her in skinny jeans and a grey blousy shirt and agreed.  New territory.

A friend of mine recently shared that her daughter and her friends--fifth graders are looking forward to the school dance that will be held at the end of the year.  Her daughter isn't into boys, but this is a girl ask boy, or boy ask girl situation.  New territory.

Last week at lunch during our co-op day, I talked with the middle school girls, which included my 7th grade daughter, about what their families talked about at dinner.  We often have very humorous conversations at our table, so Autumn and I explained how my husband was interrupting Autumn's story with "in a volcano", "by a volcano", "under a volcano", "inside a volcano", etc.  The other girls talked about how their parents often talked about the bad things that happened during their days, or how they all talked at once if they had had good days.  I watched and realized that the girls hadn't developed the skill yet of learning how to ask each other questions--of valuing what their friends had to share more than what they wanted to say.  New territory.

The book in front of me is about that New territory.  Peter and Heather Larson have written She's
Almost a Teenager, with the help of David and Claudia Arp.  Peter and Heather Larson have experience counseling, but their daughters are in the tweendom time right now.  So, I began reading this book feeling a bit unsure.  I prefer to read books written by people who have lived through what they're talking about and are several years down the road--so they have had time to reflect on what they walked through.  Things always look different when you step back and get a bigger picture of things.  But, I have been pleasantly surprised by this book.  I am glad they have the Arps input.  The Arps do have those years under their belts already.  Additionally, I liked the many, varied stories from other families that the Larson's include.  Those stories give me ideas and they are what I value most.  Every family is unique.  For example, the Larsons are big on daddy/daughter "dates", as are the Arps.  This isn't something that works for our family--it doesn't fit our family's personality.  But, the Arp and Larson families do fit with that concept.  On the other hand, the subjects talked about at our dinner table are likely not the same as many other families.  As I learned last Thursday, telling stories about a motorcyclist named Sally who goes to Mars and passes by a dragon eating up princess dogs is more than a bit unusual.  Oh, and the story was, of course, "by a volcano".  The end of that story was that the Princess Cerberus came and attacked the dragon.

The book covers a lot of topics that I'm finding come up during these years:  boys, academics, faith, friends, money, tech, and their bodies (including how they dress and sex).  Each chapter gives some thoughts about the topic and some questions at the end that could be discussion starters.  I like that the authors acknowledge that every family has different feelings about dating, but the authors aren't extreme in their own views.  It felt very balanced.  They even referenced one of my favorite authors, Cynthia Heald, in the discussion of how to dress.  That tells me who these authors are listening to and receiving encouragement from.  The discussions are food for thought--they are not a legalistic list of you should do this and not do that.  I would always say to anyone reading a book like this--take from it what fits you and your children. You have your own personality and so do your children.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, I think I would.  It's a place to start.  Even if you disagree with the Larsons and Arps, it will give you food for thought.  Iron sharpens iron.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishing.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Growing in Grace

Grace.  We are saved by God's grace.  And the Word calls us to show grace to others.  It is one of the most beautiful and wonderful, yet difficult words.  Over the years, I've several books about grace that I have learned from and enjoyed.  The Discipline of Grace is probably my most favorite.  A second place would go to Becoming a Woman of Grace by Cynthia Heald.  Lastly, What's so Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey is full of challenges to Christians about what Grace looks like and should look like.

In front of me, sits another book about grace.  It is titled Grin With Grace by Kathy Carlton Willis.
 Ms. Willis writes from her heart in this book.  It's full of stories of her life and what the Lord has taught her.  She writes with a very casual tone as if she was talking with a group of ladies at her church.  The tone of her book sounds like that of talks I've heard at various women's retreats I've gone to over the years.

If you enjoy books by Women of Faith conference authors or from Lysa TerKeurst's ministry, then you may enjoy this new Bible study about grace.  This book is more book than Bible study.  There are reflection questions, but they aren't questions like the ones in Ms. Heald's study about Grace.  If you're looking for a Bible Study about Grace that will get you into God's Word every day, I'd recommend Becoming a Woman of Grace.  If you're looking for a lighter study filled with life stories and reflection questions, this may be what you're looking for instead.

I find that I don't have a lot of time these days for this kind of Bible study.  My life has been crazy busy the past two months.  As a result, I need go through a study that just gets me into God's Word right away.  That's where my head and heart need to settle right away.

But, I respect Ms. Willis' honesty in her book and her heartfelt admissions about the lessons she's learned over the years.  On her website,, she shares a great deal of information about herself--you can quickly get to know her.  I admire that she can grin with grace after all that she has walked through in this life.  She's gone through a lot, so she knows first hand what she's talking about.  If you read her website and resonate with what she's gone through, you may really be encouraged by her book.

One quick last note, I did think this book would be for younger women--even teenagers, but this book is really for women in their 20s and up.  There were a few stories that I think teenage girls might cringe at and not connect with--I'll say no more.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the author.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Renewing our minds...and hearts

Last year around this time, I commented to one of my sister in law's that I hadn't been reading much Christian non-fiction.  I had enough on my plate simply keeping my head above water.  Heavy nonfiction was not where I wanted to be spending my time.

So, it is quite a surprise to me that the majority of the books (all but one) that I have to review and read right now are nonfiction.  Over the next week or two, I'm going to be plowing through them.  I'm starting with two that are a little similar.

The first is by Barb Raveling, The Renewing of the Mind Project.  I often have authors email me and ask me to read and review their books.  That's the case with this one.  After emailing back and forth with Barb, I decided to read her book.  I'm glad I did.

There's a whole jargon that we use as Christian.  Words we take for granted without exactly defining.  Forgiveness is one of these.  I think "renewing your mind" as the Scripture tells us to do is another one that is vague--there's some direction in the Word, but many questions are left.  We know to read God's Word, to put on the armor of God, to write God's Word on our hearts.

Barb's book tackles this topic with great grace and understanding.  She is a woman who has lived her life, raised her kids, and has become that older woman that we "younger" women can be blessed by learning from.  As I enter my 40s, I find that I'm in that in between age now.  I'm not fresh out of college.  I'm in the middle of my life-- raising my kids and serving at Church alongside my husband, teaching Sunday school, homeschooling, and just living.  It is tough many days to renew my mind and stay strong.

I appreciated Barb's insight and walking the reader through how to renew our minds.  She tackles how to fight the wrong thoughts in our head.  A few years ago, I read The Silent Seduction of Self Talk, which is one of my very favorite books.  Ms. Raveling's book is just as honest and encouraging.  I think my favorite part of her book is the questions and Bible verses she includes for different struggles, emotions, and habits.  I thought these were wonderful and challenging!  She tackles topics like anger and annoyance, lack of confidence, loneliness, and boredom.  In this book, she really covers the gamut of struggles that women have!

I'd highly recommend checking this book out if you've been looking for an encouraging book like this one.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Stinky Toilet

Tonight I walked into my kids' bathroom and I was thankful...  to not have a stinky toilet anymore.  

We have lived in our house for almost 4 years and the toilet has always smelled.  I've cleaned it.  I've cleaned all around it--the walls, the floor, the tank!  Still, it stank, stunk, stinked... I know that doesn't make sense, but it really smelled!  None of the guests in our home ever mentioned it to me.  My kids admitted to me today that they were immune to it.  They hadn't noticed.  

I did.

Yesterday, we got a new toilet!  Now, I have a white toilet (rather than a turquoise blue one that was installed in 1958).  Now, I can sit on the toilet seat cover when it's down because it's strong and isn't thin plastic that will cave in if you sit on it.  It's such a little thing, yet I'm very thankful for it.  It's hard to pull a splinter out of a child's hand and have them sit on the floor or the edge of the bathtub.  It is so much easier if he or she is sitting on the lid of the toilet!  Strange as it might sound, I am thankful that my children will be able to now sit on the toilet.  

Life is hard.  It's busy and full of work.  But, I try to remember the blessings so that I can stay afloat.

In my case, that blessing today is a toilet! 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Commitments--saying yes and saying no

We just got back from vacation.  I enjoy the long drive because it's usually a chance to catch up on some reading (and book reviewing).  I only read one book on the way home this time, because I was working on the class I'm teaching this year.

The book I read was Your Sacred Yes by Susie Larson.  I wanted to read this book because of the author, not the subject.  Susie Larson wrote one of the parenting books I regularly recommend, Growing Grateful Kids.  Your Sacred Yes focuses in on the subject of overcommitment and priorities.  Ms. Larson wants to challenge women to think about their commitments and priorities in light of walking with God.  Our focus should be on Him, not on what we want to do.

This book didn't resonate with me--which I think has to do with its timing my life rather than the book itself.  I do think it's a good book.  There's a lot of great food for thought.  For example, on page 56, she says "we need to develop a disntinction between our hill-climbing days, our sprint days, and our recovery days."  Agreed.  She elaborates on this idea and what this looks like.  Right now my life is filled with putting one foot in front of another to meet the needs of my family.  You've probably noticed that I blog a lot less now.  That time in my life seems to diminishing.  I still get a few opportunities to read and review books that I really want to read--like this book, but they are fewer and farther between than they used to be.  I'm not struggling with my yes's and no's right now--so that is why it didn't resonate and draw me in.

Even so, I suppose it's good for all of us to be reminded of this message and stake stock of our lives.  Ms. Larson's ideas in this book are good ones to hear.  Our world is a crazy busy place and it is wise to consider whether we are filling our days with busyness because of things we want to do or because it is what we have peace that God wants us to do.  Are the things we're doing about Him or about us?

If you're looking for a book on this topic and some encouragement, this may be the book for you.  I'd consider it.  Ms. Larson has a very easy to read writing style and she shares personal stories from her heart.  She is vulnerable in what she shares, which I appreciate.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Old School = Cloze Activities

A funny thing about education is how people come up with new words for old practices...  For grades 1-3, I use Harcourt Trophies and the corresponding workbooks for the base of my children's literature curriculum.  In the workbooks, there are many pages that require students to fill in the appropriate word from a word bank at the top in a blank within a sentence so that the sentence makes sense.  These are called "cloze" activities.

I've been noticing the use of the word "cloze" on many teaching resources over the past year, including many print books, and have puzzled about this word that I didn't use 15 years ago when I was getting my master's degree.  I just didn't bother to look it up.  Yesterday, I was looking at a book from fifteen years ago--that used that word and I asked my friend about it.  She explained that it's a practice that helps a child develop the skill of learning what sounds right together in a sentence.  Ah, that totally makes sense.

My reply?

Oh, so they're Mad Libs that make sense.

Yep, she chuckled.  They're Mad Libs that make sense.

The funny thing to me is that my kids have been doing this type of exercise all along, but I didn't have a technical name for it.  It's also funny to me how catch phrases get popular.  The book I was looking at yesterday was in print 15 years ago, it just wasn't a book I was aware of.  Somehow, the word "cloze" started getting attention.

The lesson I learned?  Solid reading instruction from fifteen years ago is still solid reading instruction today.  What seems new isn't really all that new!

If you want to work on this skill with your children and aren't using a general language workbook like Harcourt's, there are many worksheets online.  I found some great free ones HERE.  Just scroll down the page to get to them...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Super Fun Doodling Pages!!

Last night, I came across a coloring book, but then discovered that the author had a website with tons of fun stuff on it!!

The author is Samantha Snyder.  Here's a link to her main page:
She has tons of free coloring pages on it--for the older child (like me) who loves to color!  She also has a classroom doodles page where she has a page for each subject and some really cool ones for noise levels!  I'm going to use these with the writing class I'm going to teach this year.  I love the idea of "spy mode" and "ninja mode"!

Oh, and if you have a child who likes Harry Potter, there are a bunch of pages on the main page that she did for Harry Potter Quotes!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Music History Notebooking Plans

A few days ago, I posted two links to some music history composer pages.  I spent part of this week putting together my plans for studying music history/appreciation for the next... however long.  We usually study this together as a family once a week for 30-45 minutes.  I realized after I put all of this together that this is my way of notebooking.  I know many moms collect resources through the year as they move from one topic to another, but I am not able to stay on top of that amidst my school year, so I have to have everything assembled before the year begins.  That's one reason I like textbooks--everything's all together!

I read another post by a homeschooling mom that wrote a notebooking curriculum and labeled it as a high school curriculum.  The difference was that she required students to write a report on 2-3 composers from each music period.  I think the way I've set up my notebook, it can easily be adjusted to any grade (3-12).  For elementary, listening and learning how to take 2 column notes would be enough.  I am going to require my 4th/5th grader to pick one composer from each period when we finish and write a paragraph about that composer.  For my middle schooler, I am going to ask her to write a more detailed biography report for one composer.  I'm going to use this worksheet from Better Lesson: for her outline and then follow the writing process.  (If the link doesn't work, go to better lesson and create an account (free) then search for biography report outline worksheet.)  For high school, I would require a longer report for 2-3 composers plus add the music appreciation log sheet from practical pages  (scroll down).  This is what the other notebooking post I read recommended doing for high schoolers.   The amount of work from the high schooler and the time spent should be logged in an hourly sheet.  On youtube, ClassicFM had some great clips on specific pieces and specific composers that aren't listed below.

In any case, my notebook looks like this:

Music History Resources

Notebooking pages:  I assembled these pages in order:
Written History of Classical Music:
Composer Pages:

When we start with a new period, we are going to watch these videos on youtube and then study the composers for each period.  We will listen to the shows on classics for kids for composers that are there and for others we will listen to samples of their music on  I'm going to use this opportunity to teach my kids about how to take notes.  We'll mainly take two-column notes (at different levels since my kids are going into 7th, 4th/5th, and 2nd.     Autumn is going to be completing a study skills curriculum that I put together this year this will an opportunity to practice the different note taking approaches from that curriculum.  

Early Music History

Baroque Period
1. Simple:
  1. Complicated Talk:

Classical Period
  1. Simple:
  2. More Complicated:

Romantic Period
  1. Simple:
  2. More Complicated:

Modern Period
  1. Simple:
  2. More Complicated: Impressionist:


For all Composers:
Listen on Classics for Kids to shows for composers with a * in the corner.  I went through and drew a * on the composers that had shows on classics for kids so I would know which ones were there.  
For all other composers, listen to:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Helpful Graphic Organizers

Yesterday, I finished writing my daughter's study skills curriculum for this year.  I needed a VENN Diagram.  I have a binder for each subject that I stick resources in, but I couldn't easily find one, so I just opened up Open Office and made my own.  

Just now I found a simple file online that has 10 graphic organizers in one place.  YIPPEE!  Here's a LINK.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This Year's Music Study

Last school year, I posted HERE about my music study plan since my oldest daughter stopped taking piano lessons.  I was excited to find some free notebooking pages to use along with our studies this year as we go through the historical periods of music.  Classics for Kids allows you to go through the composers by period to get a sense of what the music during that time was like.

Here is a link to the great and FREE :) notebooking pages that I found: HERE.  The site is

I like the composer pages as well as the music appreciation pages.  I suspect I will use a combination of the two over the next two years in our music studies!  I am going to have my kids listen to the talks on Classics For Kids and take notes.  There is also a short printable biography for each composer on that site that you could print instead.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Updated Kids' Reading Lists

My kids read a lot.  A lot.  I can't read everything they read.  It's impossible.  I do have a few sources, but aside from those I keep looking and looking... I am constantly searching for good books for them to read.  I try to find good series I can trust.  But, I've also found some great novels along the way.

Here's a few sources I go to:
1.  Honey for a Teen's Heart, great discussion of reading and gives both maturity and reading level for books, as well as world views of authors
2.  Heart of Dakota, Sonlight
3.  My book review opportunities (which are mostly done now)
4.  Books from when I taught middle school--I have to go back and review these though, because I am finding that I no longer subscribe to the idea that it doesn't matter what kids are reading as long as they're reading.  Instead, I want good stuff to go in their heads and junk food isn't always beneficial.  A lot of books have the potential to plant dangerous ideas that I feel I have to be careful about when they are introduced to my kids. 

I also keep running lists of the chapter books I find for kids of different ages on one of my other blogs here: 

If you have any suggestions that I can add to my lists, please let me know!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Free Way to Study Vocab

My daughter is entering 7th grade this year.  Wow!  Wow...  Wow.  All sorts of emotions flood my head.  She's a tween.  Her academics will be changing this year.  She'll be taking 3 classes at co-op (though 1 of them will be taught by me).  I have most of her curriculum in place, but I needed a plan for her vocabulary notebook.  I use a combination of things because I'm a cheapskate.

1)  For grades 6-8, she does 30 pages (1 page per day) from the book 101 Vocabulary Words in Context each year.  Then, she works in a vocabulary notebook...

2)  Vocabulary Notebook
I was talking with my husband the other day about the Economist.  We have a student subscription (which is much cheaper than a normal subscription).  He asked if the girls could use it this year as part of their curriculum.  And the idea clicked!  I am going to have Autumn read 1 article per week.  She will highlight the words she doesn't know and then complete a vocabulary worksheet.  From that list, I will pick several words for her to complete different vocabulary diagrams for through the week.  I will also put a tab in her notebook where she can write down words from other readings for other subjects that she doesn't know.    (I tried this out and it turned out that she knew 13 of 15 words I pulled out from 2 articles... so we're going to also have her use Wind in the Willows which is heavy in vocabulary this year.)

(You could use another source that you have in your home besides the economist that is full of rich vocabulary.)

Here's a link to my weekly schedule with the notebook:


I downloaded a few free sheets from Teachers Pay Teachers.  I couldn't figure out how to link to them, so here are the names of them:

1) Words Worth Knowing Sheet
You can find it here:
The pdf has 2 pages--only print page 1 when you go to print.

2) Vocabulary Squares by the Idea Cubby  This is the only page I'm using from Teachers Pay Teachers after all.

3) Vocabulary Notebook Page:

So, that's my plan!  I'm excited that her notebook is now organized and ready to go.

As a side note, last year, she worked through 240 words every 6th grader needs to know (which she really liked).  She also completed the 5th grade book because we discovered this curriculum just this past year.  My younger kids also work through these workbooks to increase their vocabulary and the prefixes and suffixes books by practice makes perfect ($5 each and reproducible!)  I'm all about less expensive, reproducible books.  That's why I've had a hard time swallowing the cost and jumping into Wordly Wise, Word Roots books, or Vocabulary from Classical Roots books.  All look nice and if I only had 1 student to purchase books for, I would consider going that route.  But, I have 3 and it all adds up...

Added Note:
I had this idea next year to add on another chart and way for her to study vocabulary.
I downloaded these charts:
plus the Greek and Latin Root Charts from here:

If you want a VERY thorough list, you can go HERE.
Another good List.

Here's the worksheet I made to use with the lists:
I am going to use this worksheet for the words I want her to break apart and figure out.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Essential Math Manipulatives

When Autumn was 2, I found a great set of math manipulatives in a bag at a garage sale for $3.  That was when I started my collection.  I knew I wanted to homeschool, so I just started keeping an eye out.  My youngest is now entering 2nd grade and my math manipulatives have been used a lot over the last 9 years (beginning when my oldest was in PK3).

Here are the manipulatives I've found most helpful (and that I would buy at retail price if I hadn't gotten them at a garage sale)....

1.  Unifix Blocks  

A set of 100 is very helpful.  I store them in a tupperware, rather than stressing about getting them all back in color coded stacks of 10 each time we use them.  I had the other type of cube at one point that look like this:  
But, I found them harder to link together and I wasn't as pleased with them, so I gave them away.

2.  Scale
I found this at a garage sale and had no idea how often I would need it in the future for math and for science.

3.  Some type of counters.  I have several types, but I've found that everyone has personal preferences.  For preschool, I like these:
My favorite math book for PK is Developing Number Concepts by Kathy Richardson and you need counters and unifix cubes for that book.  I like these as opposed to beans or other counters from your house because you can support by color as well as number.  I have vehicles, bugs, and animals, which let me have my children practice sorting in several different ways.

for K-5, I like these counters:
They are called two-color counters and they come in handy when dealing with addition and subtraction as well as beginning equations.

4.  A teaching clock.  I wish I had known about this clock when my kids were younger:
A Judy Clock
The hour hand moves with the minute hand.  I don't like the Melissa and Doug clock.  I have a small four inch clock like this one from Learning Resources and it does the job, but I would have loved to have a big one like the normal size Judy clock.

5.  Base Ten Blocks
You could start with just 1 hundred, some tens, and ones, but eventually--you'll want several hundreds and a thousand.  

6.  Play Money
But, the set on Amazon costs $10.  I think you could just use Monopoly money for the dollar bills, and real dimes, quarters, nickels, and pennies--and it would probably cost less.  I found a bag of coins at a used book store for $1.  Dollar Tree probably also has play money in the toy section.
I've found that my kids need tangible manipulatives in PK-2 and that's when they learn about money.

7.  Dice  I ordered a set from for $3 that had a variety of 6 different dice.  But, I can't find it anywhere else and the shipping to buy 1 item would be silly.  Instead I found just a pair of dice on for 35 cents.

Pair of 6-Sided Dice by Shillermath  

you can also just save dice from old games that you're getting rid of.

8.  Spinners 
This is one of the less common ones, but it is one that I've used with every probability chapter my children have had in their math books.  

9.  3-D shapes.  This is one that I couldn't find at a garage sale and had to buy for full-price.

I did find a scratch and dent set for $20 (instead of the retail $35), but it still was a very expensive purchase for me.  It is good to have some type of 3D geometric shapes, whether it's something like the set above or below...

This is the Learning Resources Power Solids set which is only $11--a much better price!  They will be much smaller, though.

I know many families choose to print paper cutouts of the shapes and assemble them.  If you have time, that's an option.  But, for me, I need to be able to grab my manipulatives and teach right away.  I have very little preparation and planning time.

10.  Timer  Any kitchen timer will do.  I bring in the timer I keep in the bathroom when we need it.  Some people use a stopwatch.  I keep a timer in the bathroom because we don't have a big hot water heater and if my kids let the shower go and go, there won't be any hot water for anyone else!

11.  Some type of fraction manipulatives.  I have both the fraction bars and fraction circles.  I tried to make my own fraction circles and laminate them, but they never worked that well.  They were too flimsy and hard to keep track of.  
Math manipulatives are an investment.  It's easier to spread it out and pick things up as you need them, I think.  I looked at a couple of kits, but felt that they had a lot of extra things in them.  I use Harcourt HSP math and these are all that I've needed plus some 1" foam squares (set of 25).  I think in all over time, I've spent about $100.  That's shopping at homeschool used bookstores and garage sales, primarily.  I only bought the unifix cubes, fraction bars, and 2 sets of geometric shapes new.  The rest I was able to find.  

The thing I wish most that I hadn't wasted money on (and didn't include in that $100 total) was flash cards.  I accumulated a lot of flash cards and they never worked for me or my kids.  I was given a bunch by another teacher when I started out fifteen years ago.  Then, I picked them up at garage sales for 50 cents or a dollar here or there.  Flash cards take time.  If you have the time--and patience, then they can be great.  I used instead when my kids were old enough to use it.  

I store my manipulatives in $1 plastic shoebox size containers.  I put a label on the front to let me know what's in each one.  They stack and store very easily.