The Read-Aloud Family

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I was determined to only read the books that I already own this year (or at least the ones I can get from the library). But when The Read-Aloud Family was on sale for $2.99 on Kindle, I couldn’t resist.

In my elementary school teacher days, my favorite part of the day was read aloud time (and guided reading). Before lunch and at the end of the day, whenever we had time really, I would read aloud to my class. We always started the year with Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Even my more reluctant readers would beg for “another Wayside.” One year my class wrote the next chapter in the Wayside series, wrote a letter to the author, and only read books by the author, Louis Sachar. I have actually been looking forward to introducing Clarissa to the Wayside series since before she was born.

Reading has been a part of our routine from the beginning. Clarissa has always loved books, even if she was mostly eating them at first. We read multiple times per day and she even “reads” to herself. She has recently been adamant about starting kindergarten so that she can “learn to read for real.”

I have heard about Sarah Mackenzie on one of my podcasts, Cultivating the Lovely. I knew that if she was writing a book about reading to your kids, it needed to be on my wishlist.

  • She talks about reading books being the same thing as eating comfort food. “When we’re in a new city we’ve done nothing but meet new people, eat new food, have new experiences. And yet at the end of the day, whether in a hotel room or a tent or even on a plane, we can open up If You Give A Moose a Muffin or Blueberries for Sal or some other book we’ve read a hundred times, and it’s comfort food. It reminds us this is who we are. “
  • She talks about how reading with our kids gives them the opportunity to live vicariously through the storybook characters, giving them a more well-rounded childhood than we could ever accomplish in real life.”
  • “By the time our children leave our homes, we don’t want them to wonder whether their lives matter. We want them to know they do. If we tell them enough stories, they will have encountered hard questions and practiced living through so many trials, hardships, and unexpected situations that, God willing, they will have what they need to become the heroes of their own stories. “
  • “It is said that a person who reads lives a thousand lives, but a person who never reads leads only one. What better opportunity can we give our children than to live a thousand lives before they leave home?”
  • It is impossible to teach your kids everything they will need for life before they leave your house. You can help them to learn to think and process information by reading to them, even when they can read themselves.
  • ” A good education, then, is not one that results in high test scores, elite college acceptances, or the ability to read Virgil in Latin or War and Peace without Cliffs Notes. A good education teaches us – – and our children – – to love fully and to love well.”
  • If you read aloud to your children, just ten minutes every other day, it will add up to over 30 hours per year!
  • You don’t have to discuss every book you read. “Trust that a book can speak directly to your child, even if you never intervene with a conversation or discussion.” You still want reading to be enjoyable.

Sarah shares ideas for reading journals, conversations, and even reading lists for each age group in this book. Sarah Mackenzie also has a podcast where she regularly talks to authors about kids and books.

God Schooling Review

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Since Clarissa is in kindergarten, I am very new to this homeschool mom thing. As a former public school teacher, I am used to following curriculum or a pacing guide. But learning to go at my child’s pace is pretty new to me. I enjoy it but I always wonder if I’m doing it right. So when I had the chance to review God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn by Julie Polanco, I knew I would benefit from this book. I wasn’t disappointed.

God Schooling book

In the first section of the book, Julie really challenged my thinking about what homeschooling should look like. She makes some great points in the first chapter about curriculum as a tool and not as an end goal, teaching character before academics, and your relationship with your children. “If we are walking closely with the Lord, He will show us exactly what to do at exactly the right time. ” So as long as I’m seeking God,  Clarissa will be fine. “He loves Clarissa too much to let ME ruin her…” So it really helps to alleviate some of the stress of am I really doing this right?! 

In the second section of the book, Julie Polanco spends some time discussing how to teach children at different ages. Research shows that “the basic character of a child is set by age 7,” but a child can learn academics at any age. So especially when a child is young, teaching character and behavior is more important than learning facts. She thinks that children don’t really need formal academics until about age 8-10, but they will learn more quickly at that age because they are developmentally ready for it. She encourages readers to focus on life experiences instead like writing letters to Grandma or learning math through daily life (cooking, playing games, counting things, etc) instead of a formal curriculum. She also says that teenagers should be able to cook, clean, mow the lawn, run errands; basically to run a household. This totally makes sense if you are going to prepare them to be independent adults.

I did like how she said not to assume that Clarissa would enjoy certain subscriptions or field trips. Ask her first. Sometimes she would rather stay home and play. I have found this to be true with my child. Several times in the book the author mentions “I have often found myself worrying about what other people think about my kids, rather than what God thinks about my kids.” I think this is probably true of most moms, myself included. It is just refreshing to hear another mom admit this. My main goal in homeschooling is for Clarissa to be who God created her to be and to be ready to walk in whatever He has called her to. So it is going to look different than what other parents are doing with their kids because their kids are probably called to something different than Clarissa.

I like many of the points that Julie Polanco makes in her book God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn. I think it would be encouraging for homeschool moms to read, just to see how another mom thinks and teaches her children. I don’t think I’m a true unschooler as I am not ready to throw away all of my curriculum. But I am learning to not demand that Clarissa completes a certain number of pages each day. I have an idea of what I want her to work on, but if she loses interest before then it’s okay. We’ll get to it eventually. She actually enjoys doing things in a set pattern or working through a book together. As she gets older I think she will have more say in what subjects we will study. For now we are going to focus on Bible stories, life skills, and learning to read.

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn {Julie Polanco Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Women in the Bible book review

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When the Ladies Bible Study at church decided to study The Incredible, Powerful, Inspiring & Engaging Story of Women in the Bible, I decided to join. I probably would have joined regardless of the study in order to get to know the ladies at church better anyway. But I really enjoyed this study.

I have been a Christian since I was a little girl, so I know a lot of Bible stories pretty well. I was pleasantly surprised that I learned a lot that I hadn’t realized or heard before.

For example, Adam was with Eve when she tasted the apple. He was with her for the whole serpent experience. It’s in scripture that he is right there, but I guess I always thought he was somewhere else. And can you imagine being Eve pregnant or giving birth? This had never happened before. There was nothing to compare it to. I bet nine months felt like forever if she didn’t know how long she would be pregnant!

Some of my other favorite quotes and thoughts:

  • “Like Mary, there are times in a woman’s life when she needs to step back intentionally and allow the Father to lead the man in her life, as he has the God-given ability to hear, heed and walk with the Lord, just as Joseph did” (27).
  • This idea of using your influence for good and not for evil. She talked about Queen Esther saving her people (at 14 years old!) and then in the next chapter talked about how Queen Jezebel used her influence for evil.
  • Talking about the woman at the well, the author says, “Our testimony belongs to the Lord and we never know how He might wish to use it” (77). I like the idea that this woman wasn’t looking for Jesus. She wasn’t looking for a miracle. But the change in her life, changed the lives of many in her town.
  • It was also very interesting to read about Naomi and Ruth and perspective of the responsibility of a mother in law because one day I will probably be one.
  • Or to be reminded of how many times that Sarai and Abram made mistakes and God still used them to be the father of all nations.

On a different note, if you have the opportunity to attend a Bible study, I definitely recommend it. It doesn’t really matter what the study is about. You will learn scripture and grow in your relationship with God. But it also gives you the opportunity to get to know some people in your world better. You will do life with people and pray with them. They can become your lifelong friends.

Kayla Jarmon Books Review

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Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog by Kayla Jarmon

Kayla Jarmon is an author who writes books from a Christian perspective. For this review, I was able to read three of her books: A Boy and His Dog, Don’t Forget Me, and Dying is Part of this World.

Clarissa was very excited about A Boy and His Dog. This is a great story about a day of adventures in the life of a boy and his dog. They wake up together, eat breakfast, play outside, take a bath, go to bed, and even dream together before they wake up the next day to start again. I like this book because it reminds me of Clarissa and Mittens (her cat) and all the things they do together each day. Clarissa said, “I liked it because they had fun.” She was frustrated when they played chase. She said, “It’s called tag, not chase!”

The next book was fun as well. Clarissa really wanted to read Don’t Forget Me because it is about the conversations that God would have with a baby before he is born. My sister is pregnant with her first cousin right now so she is very excited about all things baby related. We were not disappointed with this story. I really liked that the baby was comfortable talking to God. The baby also recognized the voice of his mommy and daddy while in the womb. God kept reminding the baby not to forget Him once the baby was born. I liked that the mom and dad prayed for their baby once he was born. Clarissa thought it was funny though because she thought the baby kept interrupting his parents while they were praying. I guess you can tell we have been working on being quiet while mommy and daddy pray…I think this is a great book to talk to kids about what life was like before they were born. It would probably also spark great discussions about siblings as they grow inside of mommy’s tummy.

Clarissa would not read the last book, Dying is Part of this World, with me. It has chapters and very few pictures (plus the pictures are black and white) so my four year old was not interested. Each chapter has a different fictional conversation that you could use to talk to your child about a life event like death. There are discussion questions for every chapter. The first chapter is about a conversation with a child and her mother about being afraid of her mother’s death and her mother tries to comfort her by talking about heaven and Jesus. The second chapter is about a mother telling a child stories about when he was born and very small that he doesn’t remember about his own life. I think these stories were a little awkward to read out loud. They might be okay to hand to an older elementary school child to read by themselves but you would want to actually have a conversation about them.

Kayla Jarmon has some great books for kids. I think that her stories would spark some wonderful discussions for families. I like that they are also from a Christian perspective. I look forward to the next books in this discussion series.

Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog {Kayla Jarmon Reviews} 

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Princess Cut Movie Review

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Watchman Pictures

I love a good romance movie, especially one that doesn’t have any inappropriate scenes or themes in it. Princess Cut by Watchman Pictures, is one of those movies. The movie would be appropriate for elementary school students to see, but I think they would be bored with a love story. They use the word “intimate” instead of “sex” in this movie. There aren’t any kisses either. Someone tried to kiss Grace and she stopped him and said, “Not until you put a ring on it.” This is a movie that I definitely plan to watch with Clarissa when she is in middle school because it provides so many discussion points about relationships but also family dynamics.

Princess Cut The Movie

The movie is about Grace and her hard working, Christian family who lives on a soybean farm in North Carolina. At the beginning of the movie, Grace is kind of your typical college girl who just happens to be a Christian. She is so focused on her relationships with boys that she isn’t really paying attention to the people around her. She has two relationships before she realizes that something needs to change.

By this time, her dad has been encouraged by his pastor to study about the father’s role in his daughter’s relationships. He learns that the giving the daughter away during the wedding ceremony actually comes from Jeremiah 29:6. Grace and her dad have a conversation about how things need to shift so that they can do this God’s way. Her dad encourages her that “it’s not as much about finding the perfect person as becoming who God made you to be.”

During the second half of the movie you really watch Grace grow into this beautiful woman of God. She really wants to honor God and her family in the things that she does, including any romantic relationships. She goes to the library for some books about the subject and actually picks up some that I really enjoyed during that season of life, When God Writes Your Love Story and Boundaries in Dating.

A young doctor named Clint does get to know their family and asks for Grace’s parents permission to get to know her better before he even talks to Grace about it. When he talks to her he says, “Your heart is too precious a treasure to play games with.” That is the kind of young man that I would like to pursue Clarissa. I don’t want to give away the whole story. I will say that I really enjoyed it, which means it did have a happy ending.

There are so many good things that I will discuss with Clarissa when we watch this movie.

  • It’s not about waiting for the perfect guy. It’s about trusting God.
  • I want you to be able to talk to your dad and I about anything. God. Boys. Life. No matter how bad you think it is.
  • Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
  • Know what your boundaries will be physically before you start dating.
  • Not everyone believes that same things that we do, so you need to be careful about who you are receiving counsel from.
  • What kind of a friend do you want to be? What kind of friends do you want to have?
  • How should you treat your parents? siblings? How should they treat you?
  • What blessings has God given us that we can share with others?
  • How can we serve other people as a family?

I have seen a few “Christian” movies. Often you can tell they are lower budget than something that comes out in the movie theater. The actors were pretty good in this one. There was one scene that Grace was supposed to be crying and it wasn’t super believable. There were a few times when the camera angles were odd. For the most part, the acting and the sets were great.

Princess Cut {Watchman Pictures Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Carole P Roman Children’s Books Review

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Clarissa has always loved books. She has several in her bedroom and we go to the library on a regular basis. She has her favorites but is always excited to get something new. I had never heard of Carole P Roman before this review, but I thought we would enjoy reading her children’s books and collections anyway.

We were able to choose three books from a very long list. We chose Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?, If you were me and lived in… South Korea: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures around the World, and One to Ten: Squirrel’s Bad Day. Clarissa was so excited to receive them that she HAD to be in the picture with the books.

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Clarissa’s favorite book of the three is Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?. The book has two sisters and an adult but you only ever see the adults legs so we can’t figure out if it is the mom or the dad. Clarissa really wants a sister so that is one reason that she likes this book. The story itself has a great message. The girls like to dress up and play princess and so they want to know if they have to stop being a princess when they grow up. The adult assures them that they will “always be a princess to me.” I also really like that the adult tells the children that when they grow up they should choose a job that they really enjoy and that it is okay to change your mind or do more than one career. As a mom, I want Clarissa to grow up to use her gifts to serve others but also to do something that she loves to do. I also like the message that you can change your mind or choose something new in a different season.

The next book we chose was If you were me and lived in… South Korea: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures around the World. Obviously, we chose this one because we have lived in South Korea for the past three years. I wanted a book for the house that would remind Clarissa about this culture when she is older and we live in America again. This book did not disappoint. It is written is a very conversational manner so that there is information but it doesn’t seem like a reference book. Clarissa really enjoyed the pictures. I was happy to see that some of our experiences are included in the book. For example, my favorite tourist site that we have visited is the Korean Folk Village in Yongin (you can read about that trip here). When we got to the page on Korean barbecue, Clarissa said, “We’ve done that before!” Each page also listed a few Korean words and their meanings.

 

There are twenty books in this series and I am sure we will order more. There is one on China which we will definitely read if we head to China before we leave. I was disappointed to see that she doesn’t have one on Japan or Hong Kong which are places we have already visited. If we move to Europe, there are several choices though.

The final book, One to Ten: Squirrel’s Bad Day, wasn’t our favorite. Squirrel drops his acorns and thinks it’s the worst thing ever. His friend Rabbit wants to help him with perspective by assigning a number from one to ten to the problem. I appreciate trying to teach kids perspective but Clarissa really couldn’t get into the book. I don’t think she enjoyed the illustrations. She is probably a little young for the concept as well. I do feel like as Clarissa gets older we can have some conversations about keeping things in perspective though so elementary school kids might enjoy this book.

I enjoyed the books written by Carole P. Roman. You can find both the print books and kindle versions for sale on Amazon. Because she has written so many books, you may want to read posts from the other reviewers if there is a different story that you are interested in.

Carole P. Roman books and collections {Carole P. Roman Reviews}

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Parenting Made Practical Review

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parenting made practical
This review is a little different. Most of the products that I have received to review so far have been for Clarissa to use. This time, Parenting Made Practical sent parenting resources for me. They sent me a DVD called Navigating the Rapids of Parenting and a book titled Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think. Both are great resources.

 Navigating the Rapids of Parenting is a DVD by Joey and Carla Link with two 45 minute sessions. The first session covers birth to middle school. The second session continues with middle school and goes through college age. They were easy to watch together in the same sitting.Navigating the Rapids of Parenting DVD

I appreciated this DVD series because it talked about how to parent children from a developmental standpoint but also used scripture to explain the Biblical perspective. I also liked how it progressed across different ages so that I can see what I should be working on now and what the goal is by the time Clarissa is 18. It provided several discussion points for Tim and I so that we can really talk about what we want Clarissa to learn before she “graduates” from our home as a young adult. I also appreciated how they encouraged parents to anticipate your child’s behavior, rather than just react to it. It takes some planning, but it will make life better for your family.

The main goal of the first phase of development (birth to 5 years old) is discipline. I want Clarissa to obey me and recognize my authority because then she will be able to obey God and recognize His authority. They talked about first time obedience. I want to work on Clarissa stopping what she is doing and coming to us when we call her. Then, we can give her an instruction. We tend to just start talking and get frustrated when she doesn’t do what we ask her to. Sometimes the problem is that she is busy playing and doesn’t hear the instruction. But if she has to stop what she is doing to come to us, she will definitely hear the instruction and be more likely to follow it. After we master this, we can move on to the attitude that she follows the directions. The Links said that at this age, the attitude isn’t as important as the obedience.

The goal of the second phase of development (the elementary school years) is training. This is the time to teach Clarissa our values and character. We should focus on things like the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and stewardship. They talked about how you teach these things in elementary school while they are still young and impressionable. If I wait until Clarissa is a teenager to teach her about modesty, she will have other influences fighting for her attention. But at this age, she is more likely to listen to me. I also need to explain why we believe these things so that she can understand them as well.

Once a child reaches middle school he starts to form his own belief system and question the authority of his parents. Carla and Joey recommend having your child read Growing Up Christian during this time to make them think through their beliefs. They also stressed that when a child enters middle and high school, youth group does not become a substitute for parenting. We should still be very involved with our children.

The goal of the third phase of development (high school/college) is coaching. This is a time for asking Clarissa questions instead of just teaching. We can have great discussions about what she is learning in church or her own quiet time. It may also be beneficial to be serving somewhere as a family or doing a mission trip together instead of just sending her on the youth group mission trip. This is a time to find ways for Clarissa to serve in ways that she is naturally gifted in. Some kids will exit this stage after high school. Some will be in it longer.

The Links said that once you become friends with your child, you have lost your authority. Don’t move them to friendship level with you until they can support themselves financially.

Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think Book

I started Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think by Joey and Carla Link on the flight home from Hong Kong. I realized on the plane that I do lecture Clarissa a lot and she does tune me out. So I was eager to read this book. I actually really enjoyed it and finished it the evening after we returned.

One main point of the book was to ask kids questions about his thoughts and behavior instead of just giving a lecture because it gets to the heart of why a child is doing a particular behavior. Another point was that giving an actual consequence (like taking away a privilege) instead of a lecture was more effective at changing behavior. The book also stressed modeling so that a child would know exactly what was expected of him.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “Pointing out what your kids did wrong makes them feel like failures, and they lose their confidence in their ability to do anything right” (19).
  • “Teaching your kids to do what is right is one thing. To hold them accountable is quite another… Giving your kids consequences is holding them accountable for their actions” (28-29).
  • “Trying to talk kids into the right thing doesn’t work because your words aren’t going to motivate them to change. Lectures aren’t consequences” (88).
  • “Ask God to remove our blinders where our kids’ weaknesses are concerned and help us see the areas we need to work on… Plan to proactively teach your children how to turn a weakness into a strength” (91).
  • “Reminding your kids to get their stuff done is the flip side of lecturing” (137).

Some of the specific ideas in the book are geared toward older kids (age 8 and above), so I won’t be able to use all of these ideas yet. But I plan to try a few. The book also referenced another of their books Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave? so I may need to read that one next as it is geared toward younger kids like Clarissa.

In previous reviews, everyone on the review crew has reviewed the same item. This time, are many products available for review from Parenting Made Practical so I would recommend checking out some of the other posts so that you can see all of the resources that they offer.

Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}Crew Disclaimer