Category Archives: books

Indiana – By The Way ~ a Crew review

Indiana cover

By the Way is a fun and fact-filled series of books written by author Joy Budensiek. We have been enjoying one of the four newest books in the By the Way Book Series as we think about planning a trip before too long. Indiana ~ By The Way is the book we have been enjoying. The other new ones include New York City, Alaska, and Ireland. There are currently 10 books in this series.

Joy Budensiek began writing these books to help families have an interesting and fun way to discuss spiritual truths in everyday life. After hearing the startling fact that most Christian families do not intentionally discuss God’s hand in every day life, she created this series to lend a hand and lead the way for families. These geographically based books help parents teach a Christian worldview through a bright and exciting children’s book.

reading in the tent

Each of the books in the series is a hard-back book that is printed in full color. It contains pictures of the actual places and animals discussed, as well as drawings and other images to illustrate other ideas or things. The reading level is upper elementary and the book is about 50 page long. Each page is packed and we would read about 6 or 8 pages in a sitting. This allowed us to discuss ideas and talk about things that interested us. More than once, while I was reading aloud to Miss J (age 9), one or both of the older girls would come look at what we were reading about. Often, we ended up at the computer, looking at the places on a map or reading more about the place mentioned.

By the Way tells the stories of two children who explore the world around them, wherever they end up. Alex and Lexi find themselves immersed in the beauty of God’s creation and seeing God’s hand in the world around them. In the book about Indiana, they are visiting family at Thanksgiving. Their family explores the state and finds a lot of interesting places to visit, things to learn, and animals to see.

reading with kitty

Some of the fun facts that we learned while reading this book:

  • There are quite a few covered bridges in Indiana. And, we hope to see some when we end up visiting that state.
  • There is a lot of wildlife, including Monarch butterflies (Miss L’s favorite), cardinals (Miss J’s favorite), bats (reminding Miss E of a visit to a cave a year or so ago), deer, lots of other birds (more of Miss J’s favorites), bears, rabbits, and many, many more.
  • There are sand dunes! We know sand dunes from White Sands so it was interesting to learn more.
  • This state borders Lake Michigan and is MUCH smaller than Texas.
  • There are large Amish communities in the state. This was really appealing to Miss E and Miss J since it relates so well to another book series they are reading about a young Amish girl.

These are just the tip of the iceberg with what you will learn about Indiana in this book. It is so easy to extend this type of learning. Marking a map, adding additional animal research or sketching, creating artwork related to themes and ideas, looking up more on the plants mentioned (orchids!) and trying to grow them – the possibilities are as varied as your own imagination.

holding book

As wonderful as all of this learning about Indiana is, there is something much better woven throughout the story and the pages of this book – God’s hand in nature and life. Intentionally looking for ways to help the reader see God’s hand, Bible verses are woven into the story and into the lives of the characters. One of these places is when talking about the beauty of the changing leaves in fall and Psalm 90:2 is quoted. Another example is when they are talking about caves and bats. I John 1:5 is brought up. In the discussion about Thanksgiving and its history, James 1:17 is quoted to remind us that God gives so many good gifts.

By The Way pictures of book

In addition to this, the discussion between the adults and the children in the story models well how to intentionally bring up God’s plan, His hand, and His wonderful creation in every day discussions. Finding life lessons from God is modeled well in this series of books. In Indiana, we see this when having a thankful heart is taught. We see it when they are teaching about the Amish and they mention “Family and faith are most important to them. Anything which threatens these is rejected.” (p. 35) Billy Sunday is discussed and the adults teach the children about the worth of salvation in contrast to the salary he gave up. They also model this idea with nature – the animals are so perfectly created that the butterflies know exactly when to migrate, the bats know how to hunt, the farms are blessed by the rain and sunshine, and the variety of trees that exist.

By The Way books

This modeling is wonderful and reminds us of the important things in life. The By the Way series is fantastic at not only teaching about interesting places but in teaching about God’s perfect creation and our lives in it. Indiana is another fun book in this series. Want to know about more? We reviewed Colorado previously on the blog and have read the Washington book, also.

Blessings,
At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about the other books in the series that are being reviewed this time around: Alaska, Ireland, and New York City.

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A Tree for Peter ~ Book Club

A Tree for Peter

Kate Seredy is a newly discovered writer that I have fallen in love with. Her writing is joyful and exciting. It draws you in and brings you into the deepest parts of the story. Her writing allows you to feel what the characters feels and to move through the story with them. It is rich and deep and engulfing.

A Tree for Peter is a book that I got for a review for The Old Schoolhouse website. (Check them out if you are looking for, well, anything related to educational resources. There are thousands of reviews there.) It came from the publisher Purple House Press. This company is resurrecting wholesome, solid, well-written stories that teach character, value, and understanding. A Tree for Peter was originally written in 1941. The language is engaging and thoughtful and rich. Even if I didn’t like the story, I would love the language and writing.

Summary:
Shantytown is a dark, dingy, scary, shadowy place and Small Peter feels it. Lame and alone, since his mother is working hard to pay off debts and his father died, Small Peter is scared and lonely in this place where each person looks after their own self and no one else. One of his favorite things, though, is to watch the train that goes by Shantytown. During one of these times, he catches the eye of another young lad who shares a smile with him. That smile brightens his life and things begin to change when combined with the arrival of King Peter.

Not really a King, this other Peter teaches Small Peter how to face life and to face his fears and to dream. Small Peter takes a hold of these lessons with both hands and dives into his life, resurrecting life and hope among many.

This story of Small Peter and his changing life will bring hope and joy to your world as you watch it grow and bloom in his.

Thoughts:

I have now read this book about four times. Once by myself and another time to write the original review for TOS, once to my youngest, and once as a read aloud. Each time, I find myself smiling in the hope that grows in the darkness of the world of Shantytown. Each time, I revel in the joy of the language and the way Kate Seredy has put words together to bring to life the world of the story.

I have shared about this book with a number of people and wanted you to know about it as well. I highly recommend this story and the hope that will come through it.

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

Book Club Update:

I would really enjoy it if you all would visit Wendy’s blog, Ladybug Dreams. She will likely not have a Book Club post as they have had some wonderful things happening in their family, lately. Perhaps she will have shared about it on her blog. Either way, I know she would appreciate some love on her blog. And hopefully, she will be back in a situation where we can begin working on the same book again before too many months go by.

Blessings,
At Home.

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Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women In Their Own Words ~ a book review

Homespun

How pleasant it is to just wile away the hours with a friend, chatting, enjoying, sharing. Editor Lorilee Craker has brought us just that joy in this book, a collection of true stories – Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women In Their Own Words.

Inside the covers of this soft back book, you will find the writings of a number of women who share the nitty-gritty, downhome honesty of their lives. Some of it is humorous. Some of it is rough. It will surprise you with hope and joy and laughter and tears. It is life – out in the open – for you to relate to and sympathize with.

Within six different areas, these 28 women share life with their readers These six areas – Welcome, Abide, Testimony, Wonder, Kindred, and Beloved – are parts of each of our lives. We live these things, too. Because of their backgrounds, their stories are rooted in truth and God and love. Each of these articles will encourage you to step out in faith and act on the impulses of your heart. To understand that life isn’t all roses but that roses can come from the hardships that come your way.

Some of my favorite stories were about the hospitality. I struggle with this area since it is so often expected to be a big, fancy invited thing. But I found hope for my struggle in the stories found in the section titled Welcome. I was reminded to “offer generously what you have” (p. 18), that a kitchen isn’t made up of appliances and tables but rather the love and welcome shared, and tips on cultivating the art of conversation. These were helpful articles for me to read and encouraging to me on just stepping forward to be a part of sharing a meal with others, no matter what it looks like or where it is held. Stepping out in courage is sometimes required and I found some of the necessary courage in these stories.

Lorilee CrakerAbout the Editor

Lorilee Craker is the editor of Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women in Their Own Words. She describes herself as a simple Mennonite girl from the prairies and didn’t know there was anything “peculiar” about being Mennonite until she moved from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Chicago, Illinois for college. It was then that she realized most people outside of Mennonite communities assumed she had come from buggy-driving, bonnet-wearing, butter-churning folk. Everyone seemed to think that being Amish or Old Order Mennonite and being her kind of Mennonite were one and the same. The experience of explaining the differences led her to writing the book, Money Secrets of the Amish (an Audie Awards finalist which she also narrated). A freelance journalist, blogger and speaker, Craker was an entertainment writer for The Grand Rapids Press for seventeen years. She has been featured in many media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Time and People. She is the author of fifteen books, including Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me, My Journey to Heaven with Marv Besteman, and the New York Times bestseller Through the Story with Lynne Spears. The proud founder of a writing day camp for middle schoolers, Craker lives in Grand Rapids, MI with her husband and their three children.
Learn more about Lorilee Craker online at lorileecraker.com. You can also find her on Facebook (@LorileeCraker), Twitter (@lorileecraker) and Instagram (@thebooksellersdaughter).

An Interview With The Editor

Q: You describe yourself as a simple Mennonite girl from the prairies. Can you share a little bit about your childhood?
My childhood was deeply rooted in the Mennonite culture. Growing up, I witnessed my two grandmothers with their hair in a bun and always wearing dresses or skirts. I thought this was normal! None of my grandparents spoke English—all four of them spoke German or Low German. At family gatherings we would eat Mennonite food such as borscht, varaneki (pierogies), platz (fruit strudel), and pluma moos (cold plum soup). We also ate those things in my home, so again, this was all very normal. We were also bound by similar values of faith and peace, and by stories of where we had come from.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your new book, Homespun? How did you collect the stories included in the book?
Herald Press approached me about being the general editor of a collection of writings from Amish and Mennonite women. I collected the stories from mainly two sources, Daughters of Promise magazine, a beautiful and beautifully written literary journal done by conservative Mennonite women, and Ladies Journal, a much more spare periodical by Amish women. It was thrilling for me to discover new writers and incredible writing from mostly unknown writers! These women have a lot to say and I was fascinated by their take on modern life. To hear from women specifically appealed to me, as a feminist. Sometimes in conservative subcultures, their voices are silenced or muted. This book gives them space and grace to speak.

Q: What themes did you notice emerging as started compiling the stories? How is Homespun organized?
As I read stories for the book, a number of themes arose, so I arranged the stories by those topics and wrote a brief introduction tying them together.
Welcome. A deep sense of hospitality is fundamental to these women. Yet it’s not hospitality in the HGTV, your-house-needs-to-be-perfect kind of way. As one of the writers shares, it is easy to overthink hosting, but Jesus made it look quite simple, and
his hosting style can be described in one word: love. 
Abide. Hospitality is sacred and spiritual, but it doesn’t mean these writers don’t want to have an appealing home space in which to dwell. They want to abide in an abode, if you will, that nurtures them and feeds their spirit. The writers here expound beautifully on what home means to them.
Testimony. Story makes the world go round. When we hear the stories—the testimonies—of others, we are better able to understand our own story and our place in the world. These narratives stirred different emotions in me.
Wonder. The blazing faith of early Anabaptists is evident in the openness of these writers to all things wondrous. These are true stories of miracles, phenomenal happenings that don’t make sense from a human perspective. They highlight the possibility of the miraculous happening all around us, in big ways and small.
Kindred. A core value of both Mennonites and Amish is the preeminence of family—kinfolk, whether they be kindred or not. Our kin shape us in ways both known and unknown, good and bad. These essays and stories speak to the tremendous
influence of family.
Beloved. These essays enthused my soul, and I came away feeling as if I had just been to church. My cup had been filled. There is something wonderfully elemental and childlike about the devotion expressed here, devotion even in doubt. These pieces
drew me closer to the One who calls all his daughters “beloved.”

Homespun tour stop

In Closing

I have really enjoyed sitting down with this book, early in the morning after my Bible reading, enjoying a cup of hot tea and the stories of these women with the sunrise and cool morning air. As I read through these true stories, I found myself identifying with so many of the emotions shared and hopes spoken of, the heartaches and sadnesses, the difficulties and joys. But through it all, the hope that comes from a deep, abiding faith shines through and each woman writes of continuing forward to what comes next.

If you are looking for your next enjoyable read that will offer hope and encouragements, take a look at Homespun, edited by Lorilee Craker. It will warm your heart and bring a smile to your face.

Blessings,
At Home.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through I Read With Audra and the publisher Herald Press in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

 

Julie Polanco’s book God Schooling ~ a Crew review

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When you are making decisions regarding the education of your children, no matter the course you choose, there are questions and moments when you hesitate and ask yourself if you are making the right one. God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn is a book that will encourage you to continue the endeavor you have chosen if you are home educating your children. Julie Polanco has written this book from her own experiences and research.

Mrs. Polanco and her husband have home educated their four children, with nearly 15 years experience in this realm. She is the author of this book, as well as being a contributing writer for The Old Schoolhouse magazine and the Homeschooling with Heart blog. She is active in her local homeschooling community and the online homeschooling community.

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn is an easy-to-read, soft back book that is about 160 pages. It is broken into two parts. First is a discussion she titled “Dispelling Myths.” Part Two is titled simply “Practice.” With information from many experts interspersed with her own observations about how her children learn, there is much practical information.

Book cover 1

The purpose of Mrs. Polanco’s book is to encourage you to continue down the road of educational exploration and child-led learning. While I believe that much of what she does with her own children falls under the umbrella of unschooling, this is not the main thrust of her book. Following the lead of your children’s interesting and taking time to guide them in their learning is where her heart seems to be.

The first part of the book looks at what the Bible has to say about children, education, and parents. She also introduces the ideas of motivation, exploration, and how excellence relates to these ideas.

In the second part of the book, you will find age specific ideas about how to approach learning. There is a chapter about teaching children under age eight, teaching ages eight to twelve, and working with teens in their education and growth. There is information on different learning types, how to encourage them, and some ideas on how to get started. She has a chapter on questions and answers and one on structure and record keeping.

This second part include a lot of readily applicable practical ideas. Many of these are good thoughts to ponder and decide if they might work for you family. Regardless of whether they work for you or not, they have ideas worth considering. Each chapter also has study questions at the end that can help you formulate your own thoughts about the ideas in the chapter and gather them into a helpful structure.

MY THOUGHTS:

I did find that there are many very forceful statements in the book that can be discouraging if you did not choose the same path she did for her family. This can be very off-putting and I struggled to read the book. Not because there wasn’t good information but because Mrs. Polanco seemed to speak as though there were no other decent options that won’t harm children. I disagree; remember, there are all different ways to teach your children and every child needs something different. Take those statements at face value and move on. There is a lot of encouragement to be found in this book for the parent, reminding why you started the road and how to continue along it.

A SALE:

I received a note from Mrs. Polanco just a few days ago informing me that she is offering a sale on the purchase of this book until August 22, 2018. The cost of the book will be half-price until that date.

Blessings,
At Home.

A number of other ladies with a variety of learning styles in their homes have read this book in the past few weeks. I encourage you to go visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog and read what several of the other ladies thought of this book and find out what encouragement their received from it.

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Paddington Bear from Branch Out World ~ a Crew review

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Branch Out World is a company that we were gifted a study from several years ago. So when the chance to review their Paddington Bear – a literature based unit study in their Picture Book Explorers series – came available, I was very happy to volunteer.

Miss J may be in 4th grade now but we never out grow picture books, especially of beloved characters such as Paddington Bear. When we can connect that book to learning across several disciplines, it becomes an even more treasured experience. Branch Out World makes this possible through the studies they create.

Branch Out World is a company that is run by a home educating family. Their studies grew out of their own experiences in teaching and their love of books. Each of their literature based studies has a connection to the UK – author, setting or illustrator – as that is where the company is based. It is fun seeing those connections. They offer the Picture Book Explorer series but they have additional products in their online catalog. From the literature studies to lapbooks, they have much to offer.

Paddington Bear study

About Paddington Bear 

We received a PDF download of the Paddington study and got a copy of the book from the library. I thought we had the book but when it came time to pull it off the shelf, we had a different one. The one from the library worked just fine.

The study is written to cover all subjects in five days. Each day, were you to do all of the activities, would take a couple of hours. The study covers the following topics:

  1. Exploring the Setting – London, Peru, maps, flags and more
  2. Exploring the Words – author, vocabulary, some grammar work, and more
  3. Exploring the Pictures – illustrator, design, architecture, and more
  4. Exploring Science – bears, steam, foam, and more
  5. Exploring Math, Crafts, & More – activities, recipes, numbers, lines, and more

There are multiple activities in each of the sections and it is very easy to pick and choose what works for your learners. This study makes it easy to work with multiple levels of learners, as well. Adaptations occur easily.

For instance, we were working through the part on immigration, doing the work and talking about what one might take with them. Miss J took a look at me and asked if we could make a suitcase for Paddington and keep all the pieces in it instead of making a traditional lapbook with folders. Worked for me so we detoured (or rabbit trailed) and created a bright red suitcase, just like Paddington carried with him to London. Some of our papers had to fold to go into the suitcase but it is now a nice compact record of this study, keeping all of the papers and booklets in one place.

suitcase

After that detour, we popped right back into what we had just finished talking about and continued on.

Each day, we did several activities but we never completed an entire day’s work in a single day. We were doing other things and this was a large chunk of time. However, if this was the entirety or majority of the school work we were doing, I would have completed a full set of activities. Again, though, there is no need to complete every single activity, nor will ever single activity fit every child. So pick and choose and make it fit your learner’s needs.

maps and Paddington Bear

What I Think

I really enjoy this series of literature studies. As I mentioned before, we have done the working on a mini bookstudy on I Took The Moon For A Walk. It was a fun read and study and I was very pleased with it. These are great for learners from very early elementary up through middle school, though you might need to add some difficulty or research to it for the upper end of that. It would be easy though – the middle school student could do the research for steam, for example, and then make a presentation to younger learners.

Paddington Bear was a fun study and we were able to make so many connections – immigrants and stories we had read, London and maps we had done before, bears and comparing with Smokey Bear, and lots more.

It is easy to forget how adaptable these types of units are but I was reminded again how much I enjoy doing them.

Blessings,
At Home.

Other families with learners of different ages also reviewed Paddington Bear. Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about their experiences.

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The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse ~ Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

I picked up this new book by Alexander McCall Smith at the library a couple of weeks ago. I have read many of his books over the years and enjoyed them. So his name caught my attention. I turned it over to see what it was about and my intrigue was caught.

This is a story about a young lady in WWII England. She has joined up with the Women’s Land Army. This was a group for young women to join and they were sent to help in places where they were needed – mainly working the land on farms and businesses that needed manual labor now that the male workforce was fighting in the war.
Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse

At about 20 years of age, Val starts work on the farm. She helps Archie with anything he needs now that he is getting on in years and his son was off in the war. She learns quickly and is a good companion for Archie, as well as a hard worker.

One day, a man from the local US air base comes looking for fresh eggs. He arranges for Val to bring eggs to the base a couple of times a week. While there Val meets Mike and they fall in love. During their courtship, Val and her cousin Willy rescue a dog that was being abused. Willy had named the dog Peter Woodhouse. When the dog could no longer be safely kept at Archie’s farm, Mike takes him to the base and he becomes a mascot there. The whole base loves him.

Peter Woodhouse becomes such a good mascot that the men begin taking him along on their flights, as good luck. Until one day, when they are shot down. Mike and the dog are both presumed lost. How does Val continue on? What is to become of her now that she is expecting a baby?

This is a very good look at yet another way the war affected the normal people of the world. Often we hear about the way the cities were endangered during the war with all the bombings and lack of food and such. But the farms in the country were affected, also. And The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse, while a fictional story, was an easy read that helped bring another perspective to the war. Especially after some of the unexpected turns that happen in the story come about.

It is a great read and I definitely recommend it.
Head over to Ladybug Daydreams to see if Wendy has a new book to share about for our August Book Club.

Blessings,
At Home.

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Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader ~ Book Club

 

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happensYears ago, I read the Mitford book series and really enjoyed getting to know the down-home characters who lived a small-town life full of the small-town joys often found in books. In fact, so much of the appeal was that it portrayed life so accurately – the joy, the hope. the hardship, the friendship, the neighbors, the help. the disagreements, the holding onto hurt and the innate ability to forgive. Neighbors become friends, and so do those who you just aren’t sure about. Yes, it is somewhat idyllic – what with the gorgeous setting and all – but it was such a joy to read those books.

July Book Club

I found the same enjoyment reading through Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader. If you have read much of the series at all, you know food plays a large role in the interactions of the people in the books. So Jan Karon took those interactions and placed them in this Kitchen Reader alongside the recipes for the foods that are part of the story.

You will read an excerpt from one of the books in the series and then it is followed by the recipes for the food that was mentioned. It might be one recipe and it might be four. There are lots of yummy looking recipes (such as Esther Bolick’s Orange Marmalade Cake) and some that I can dream about but would never dream of making (Cynthis’a Leg of Lamb).

There are plenty that I am going to try including Cynthia’s Toasted Pecans, anything that features new potatoes (there are tons of these and they all look good), Cynthia’s Glazed Rosemary Onion, and Father Tim’s Christmas Morning Casserole.

Throughout there are sprinkled little statements that Jan Karon writes about things that she wants to share thought on: aprons, dishwashing, her spice cabinet, kitchens, the last meals of different people, and more. Everything is interesting and well-written. This was a cookbook that I enjoyed reading.

Blessings,
At Home.

My co-host, Wendy from Ladybug Daydreams, is hoping to post about an interesting she has read this month. For the next couple of months, we are going to each share about what we read. So head over to Wendy’s blog to see what she read this month.

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