Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our Christmas Reads

Our Streak, begun Thanksgiving Day, has awarded us many hours of lovely read-aloud time.  We always celebrate the Christmas season by reading aloud from our collection of Christmas titles.  This year we have enjoyed many treasures together. 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - Would you bellieve I had never read this book?!?  I had seen movies, heard retellings, but I decided this was the year we were going to read Dickens own words.  We all loved it.

I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge - I listed this book last year as a future favorite and it is now a present favorite.

A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy - This book is a beloved yearly tradition in our home.  One of our favorite gems of all time.  What makes it so special this year is knowing that more families have been able to enjoy it!  It has recently been reprinted!  I call this a "don't even think about missing it" book.

The Christmas Stove by Alta Halvorson Seymour - This was also on my future list last year.  This is a tender book full of hope, giving and sacrifice.  Seymour wrote many Christmas titles and we've enjoyed them all.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Amelia Houghton -  We are currently reading this one.  I hesitated on reading it since our children have never been taught that Santa was real but so many families in my library have loved it.  My boys balked at first but it is such a well-told story, we are all enjoying it tremendously.

I don't think we've read so many books for the Christmas season! Granted these are all relatively short so if you haven't begun yet, there is still time to pick up any one of these and create a memory.

May the God of our Salvation bless you and keep you during this season and throughout the year to come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Streak

We have begun a new challenge in our home.  Recently I began The Reading Promise:  My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma.  I discovered this book from a podcast called Read-Aloud Revival, hosted by Sarah Mackenzie.  This is an inspiring podcast which encourages us to "build our family culture around books".  She has interviewed many wonderful guests, one being Alice Ozma.

Alice is the daughter of a children's librarian.  When Alice was a young girl, she and her father decided to see how many days he could read aloud to her without missing.  They set a goal of 100 days.  The rules were simple.  He would read aloud to Alice for at least 10 minutes by midnight.  Occasionally conflicts would arise and they would find themselves up late reading but they met their goal.  Over their celebration meal of pancakes, they decided to set another goal.  One thousand nights. They called their reading challenge The Streak.  The Reading Promise is filled with fun and often poignant anecdotes of the life they shared around the books they read.

The Streak finally came to an end...3,218 days later...when Alice left for college.  In those 3,218 days, Alice and her father cemented a bond that could not be broken.

Our family has decided to have a Streak of our own.  Now we obviously already have a family culture built around books being that we live with nearly 18,000 of them and we rarely miss a day reading aloud.  But sometimes we do allow conflicts to interfere or we decide to head off to bed after a busy or stressful day without reading.

To give us a reachable goal, especially around the holidays, we decided to try to make it through the end of the year.  We began on Thanksgiving and we will see if we can read aloud every single day until December 31.  (Of course, I have every intention of starting again on January 1 with the goal of the full year.)

I have found that, even though we already read aloud most every day, we have become more intentional about our reading.  It has become even more of a priority to enjoy books together as a family.  It would be a beautiful thing if my boys have a bond with us that cannot be broken because of the books we've read.

As this year draws to a close, consider building your family culture around the books you read in the coming year.  Maybe even consider starting a Streak in your family.  At the very least, share a book together today.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Wrong Books

"Something was crawling.  Worse still, something was coming out.  Edmund or Lucy or you would have recognized it at once, but Eustace had read none of the right books.  The thing that came out of the cave was something he had never even imagined - a long lead-colored snout, dull red eyes,  no feathers or fur, a long lithe body that trailed on the ground, legs whose elbows went up higher than its back like a spider's, cruel claws, bat's wings that made a rasping noise on the stones, yards of tail.  And the lines of smoke were coming from its two nostrils.  He never said the word Dragon to himself.  Nor would it have made things better if he had. 

Most of us us know what we should expect to find in a dragon's lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books.  They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons."

The Voyge of the Dawn Treader
C.S. Lewis
Books serve many purposes.  I read to learn a new skill, learn a new fact, uplift me, challenge me.  I travel to distant lands, make new friends.  What, then, would be the wrong books?  The books I choose to read to my children should prepare them for life.  The way they cope depends largely on the books they've read.  Often we look to realistic stories--non-fiction, biographies, historical fiction, etc., to give them the tools necessary to find their way in the real world, and while these are wonderful, one type of book we tend to neglect and even shy away from is fairy tales.  How can we possibly learn to deal with what life challenges us with through fairy tales and fables. 
Quoting C.S. Lewis again, "Perhaps I had better say a few words in its defense, as reading for children.  It is accused of giving a false impression of the world they live in.  But I think no literature that children could read gives them less of a false impression.  I think what profess to be realistic stories for children are far more likely to deceive them.  I never expected the real world to be like fairy tales.  I think that i did expect school to be like the school stories.  The fantasies did not deceive me:  the school stories did.  All stories in which children have adventures and successes which are possible, in the sense that they do not break the laws of nature, but almost infintely improbable, are in more danger than the fairy tales of raising false expectations."   (From an essay entitled "On Three Ways of Writing for Children")

 This past summer I was blessed to hear Nancy Kelly on the topic of imagination. The importance of cultivating an imaginative nature in our children cannot be underestimated. In fact, I will be so bold as to say that, without imagination, it is impossible to have faith. "For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) Many of the things we ask children to believe from Scripture are pretty fantastic-- parting of a sea in which millions of people walked across on dry ground, a talking donkey, a man rising from the dead. Could it be that the rise of athiestic belief might be linked to the wrong books? When we only give our children books such as those Eustace had...exports, imports, governments and drains...but not books on dragons and their ilk, we end up with materialistic pragmatists who cannot recognize the miraculous. They will never understand that there is a difference between real and true. The best stories may not be real...but may reveal truth.

Give your children the gift of imagination through books. As C.S. Lewis said, "Although fantasy might not help a boy to build a boat, it would help him immensely if he should ever find himself on a sinking ship." (The Taste for the Other)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bookmark Saying

Outside of a dog
a book is man's best friend.

Inside of a dog
it's too dark to read.

Groucho Marx 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Extraordinary News!!

I am SO excited to share some news with you!  Believe me when I say that this has been the hardest secret I've ever had to keep.  :)

If you have been in my library or known me for any length of time, you know that two of my most treasured books are by the wonderful author/illustrator Kate Seredy (pronounced Share-edy.)

The Chestry Oak has been enjoyed by many of you, some returning with tears and saying, like I, that it was one of the most beautiful books you have ever read.  This book impacted me very profoundly.  When I found my first copy, I was in desperate need of a new winter coat.  I bought the book instead.  I now own three copies, one for each of my boys.

A Tree for Peter has been called by my friend, Emily Kiser, The...Perfect...Book.  Enough said.  I also own three copies of this magnificent treasure.

FINALLY, thanks to the tireless work of the Cottrill's, owners of Living Books Library, these books are being brought back into print!!!  Purple House Press is reprinting these gems in paperback.  A Tree for Peter will be released in early November in paperback for $10.95 just in time for Christmas giving as it is the perfect Advent reading.  The Chestry Oak is due out in January in paperback for $12.95.  (IOU's for Christmas gifts?)

One note about paperbacks.  I know many are disappointed that these books are being reprinted in paperback.  However, it is VERY expensive to print in hardcover AND modern methods of printing are extremely inferior to the old days.  Hardcover books are now, for the most part, glued rather than stitched which causes them to easily crack.  Hardcover books are very susceptible to this since the cover is not flexible like the soft covers are.  There are many times that I will choose a soft cover over a new hardcover.  At least these books will be able to be enjoyed by many more children.

A Tree for Peter is now available for preorder on the Living Books Library website at a discount!

Don't miss this chance at sharing this treasure with your family.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Flood Waters

We are a busy people.  As I type...not at laundry is piled, dishes unwashed, and a mile-long list of things to accomplish.  Pressures of life seem to crush us.

Charlotte Mason, in her wisdom, advised all of us to purposely schedule time to be.  Her students did their studies in the mornings, leaving afternoons for leisure, meditating, ruminating, handicrafts, projects and growing. 

Many times we homeschool moms feel pressure to keep up with academic demands that push our children beyond their means of accomplishment.  I've been guilty of trying to work in just one more subject...then just one more.  Before I know it, the day is gone and I have a list of things we have accomplished, but no real learning, no life-changing ideas.

Even the books we read can become a stumbling block to the ideas we are to savor.  We are thrilled when our children love to read.  However, could it be that always having a nose in a book could stand in the way of gleaning ideas from those books?  Where is the time to just think on these things? 

I think when we consider what a Charlotte Mason education is, we assume we are to always be engaged in some subject in a living way.  However, Charlotte intentionally cautioned against over-extending ourselves and planning every moment.  Leisure time and time spend outdoors is critical to our physical, emotional and spritual well being.

We are to seek after knowledge and wisdom.  Knowledge comes from the books we read, the things we see and do.  Wisdom comes from meditating and pondering on what the books are things are teaching us.   Often mindless tasks such as washing dishes are my thinking times.  I use those snippets of the clock to let God's Spirit bring those ideas together in my heart and mind to make them part of me. 

Flooding our schedules with activities and studies, even good ones, is not beneficial.  I'm speaking to myself when I say, "Slow down.  Erase the events on the calendar.  Put down the book.  Be."

Friday, September 12, 2014

From my commonplace book

"I should have thought," said Gilbert, "that life in a bookshop would be delightfully tranquil."

"Far from it.  Living in a bookshop is like living in a warehouse of explosives.  Those shelves are ranked with the most furious combustibles in the world - the brains of men."

The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley