2017: more books, more love (and less of almost everything else).

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Something in me shies away from “New Years Resolutions”, I guess because I think it’s a little to only start something new on January 1st. If I want to be healthy, or start a new habit, etc, I’ll just do it at any time of the year. And I don’t want to make big promises that I’m not going to keep. My bonging goal, which has nothing to do with January, is continuing to simplify basically every aspect of my life and align my outward life with my inner priorities and values.

But… not too long ago a friend of mine shared that’s she was about to finish her 100th book of 2015- reaching a goal she’d set for herself in the beginning of the year. I was amazed and super inspired, because she is a mom of four and also a homeschooler. I thought, if she can read 100 in a year, surely I can shoot for at least a fraction of that.

I read 11 books this past year. Only 11. But I’m going to choose to see it as at least I read 11- even though I was navigating my first full year as a mom of three, with homeschooling and quite a bit of work and selling a house/moving to a new one. I read, but not nearly as much as I would have liked to or even could have. It’s easy to make excuses, but I would be ashamed to even try to calculate the hours I spend on Hulu and Netflix in the past year, or even just browsing social media. The point is, there is always time to read if I make it enough of a priority. So I decided to do just that.

I made a list of 24 books (and ended up adding a few more as fallbacks and because I just couldn’t leave them out) that I’ve been wanting to read, and I committed to reading at least two books a month on average for the next year. It feels like a doable goal- not too over the top, but requiring some level of focus an commitment. As an extra incentive, I am giving myself permission and budget to purchase the books on my list, in either Kindle or hard copy versions. I’m allowed to sub in other books if something comes up that I simply must read, but for the most part I want to stick to these titles. I canal so skip around on the list if I feel like it.

It’s December 28th and I’m about to finish Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle (an incredible and moving book, by the way), so I’m going to give myself a little head start.

Here’s my list:

  1. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindburgh
  2. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
  3. Walking on Water by Madeline L’Engle
  4. Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
  5. The Year of Living Like Jesus by Ed Dobson
  6. Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver
  7. Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman
  8. Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson
  9. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
  10. Essentialism by Greg Mkeown
  11. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
  12. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  13. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  14. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  15. Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  16. Radical Growth by Havilah Cunnington
  17. Home Grown by Ben Hewitt
  18. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  19. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
  20. Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
  21. My Name is Memory by Anne Brashares
  22. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  23. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  24. Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit by Donna Farhi
  25. Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning
  26. Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Madeline L’Engle
  27. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  28. Aleph by Paulo Coelho

I’ll keep you posted!

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Our Homeschool Life: June

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life skills

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our group now has our plot at a local community garden, which we started clearing out and will be planting seeds in this week.

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lessons in the value of hard work

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we finished Charlotte’s Web and the corresponding language arts lessons, and then watched the movie!

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our wild + free group!

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nature play

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keeping cool with beach days

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Frog and Toad! Seth’s reading fluency has been increasing dramatically–it’s so much fun to watch!

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an introduction to photography with a simple film camera. additional lessons in self control (because you only have 12 shots) and patience (because now we wait for processing)!

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we’re now in our interim month between 1st and 2nd grade, so besides plenty of Summer fun, we’re diving in and finishing our study of the solar system and space exploration. one day we read the book Starry Messenger by Peter Sis to learn all about Galileo!

I’m about to jump into planning out Seth’s second grade year. In an interesting turn of events, I decided to use a new curriculum, My Father’s World. This year we’ll be using their “Adventures in U.S. History” for our history, literature, science, and Bible. We’ll incorporate our early American history Beautiful Feet Books, and will continue with Brave Writer language arts, and Math Mammoth (supplemented with Khan Academy and waldorf math work). This is going to be my first year really doing more serious advanced planning, but I’m doing it in a way that still allows us a lot of flexibility. I’ll share my methods here in a future post.

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What We’re Reading

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May 2016 will go down in our family history as the month that Seth fell in love with reading. Before, he saw it more as work and rarely chose to try it outside of our school time. But all of a sudden something clicked and he has been enjoying it, and therefore getting substantially more adept at it very quickly. As a lifelong lover of books, this brings me so much joy. He turned 7 in February. I have no idea what the expected timeline is for reading in public schools. I’ve made a point of not really paying attention to it, because I know that there is so much evidence that early reading in no way leads to any advantage later, and in fact is likely to lead to more academic problems and less interest in reading for pleasure in later years. I knew that he would start when he was truly ready, since I provided plenty of material and opportunity. Seeing that actually happen, and seeing him choose to sit down with a book in his own free time, makes me so proud of us both. He is my first homeschooler after all- sort of my guinea pig- so it’s so nice to see that what we’re doing is working in a tangible, academic sort of way.

I too have been reading much more than I used to. I’ve made a habit of reaching for a book instead of turning on Netflix during my evening “chill time”, and this not only feeding my mind and filling my thoughts with such great things that are affecting my life in wonderful ways, but it’s also been so good for my sleep patterns. I’d heard for years that screen use in the last hour or two before bed negatively affects your sleep, but actually experiencing it has been so interesting. Last night Manny and I watched Game of Thrones together, and I had trouble falling asleep for the first time all week.

Anyway, I thought I’d share the books we’ve been enjoying lately, because I know I always love hearing what others are reading.

me:

One thing that has always been true about me is that I can’t just read one book at a time. Maybe it’s some sort of reader ADD? There are just so many interesting books, that any trip to the library (or to Amazon.com) leads to multiple books at once. But each eventually gets its time in the spotlight.
My main squeeze over the past week has been The Way of the Happy Woman by Sara Avant Stover // This book has been so timely and so, so good for me. It’s about health, and connected living, and doing the things that are good for you and make you happiest and most balanced. Which is so necessary because it means more to give to those who need us. I’ll probably write a whole post about this book eventually.
And now I’m about halfway through Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert // Creativity beyond fear—need I say more. I love Elizabeth Gilbert.
And these, I’m gradually making my way through, picking them up here and there for short bouts of inspiration:
Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
How to Be a Wildflower by Katie Daisy // lovely visual inspiration
The Parent’s Tao Te Ching by William Martin // I read a page or two at a time for some quick conscious parenting inspiration. It’s so full of widsom.
and
Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle // One of my favorite authors of all time, writing about faith and art. I’ve been reading this little by little as a devotional of sorts.

 

homeschool and family read alouds (for Seth, age 7 and Isaac, age 4):

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman // a beautifully illustrated guide to nature
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White // our language arts and literature book at the moment, guided by Brave Writer
The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook by Clare Walker Leslie // a great month-by-month guide to observing nature
The Action of Subtraction by Brian P. Cleary // I love this “Math is Categorical” series for bringing math concepts and funny poetry together. Seth enjoys them and they make a great supplement to our math. We found them at the library.
Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late by Laura Overdeck // Another way to add some fun to math, and encourage critical and mathematical thinking. We do one of the word problems together every week or so.
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey // this was a childhood favorite of mine—I love McCloskey!
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
(countless other picture books get pulled from our shelves daily, but these are some recent favorites)

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seth (age 7):

Frog and Toad Together
by Arnold Lobel
The Solar System by Emily Bone
A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
The Magic Tree House (book 4) by Mary Pope Osbourne

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What are you and your kids reading right now?

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The Process of Simplicity

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I think I’ve held back from writing here very often because I haven’t known where to begin. There are so many topics I want to write about, and yet none that I have polished and totally figured out. I’m curious about so much, but rarely an expert. But rather than getting overwhelmed and running away (again), I’m going to just pick one thing and talk about it. And then another, and another, without having to map out some kind of organized game plan ahead of time. (That’s probably what most bloggers do anyway. I most likely overthink it.)

So today, simplicity is on my mind. I feel like it’s become a somewhat overused term. It’s thrown around a lot—”live simply” or “I’m simplifying”—but what does it mean? Personally, when I consider the idea of simplicity I picture an all-encompassing lifestyle, steeped in an appreciation for the beauty of everyday moments. I envision a home that is fairly minimal, but more importantly, contains only what is useful or beautiful (and hopefully both). I desire to carefully consider what we bring into our home, and what we keep here. I want quality over quantity. In a culture as materialistic as ours is, possessions are definitely one of the biggest obstacles to a simpler life. But there is so much more to it than only stuff. It applies to the way we spend our time, the way we eat, the way we treat illness and what we clean our homes with. My goal is not only to declutter, but to create an atmosphere in my home that is simple and peaceful and makes space for joy, creativity, movement, and the pursuit of knowledge.

We have come a long way in this area, but still have so far we can go. It is a process, and happens on a continuum. Every time we’re faced with the option to bring another new thing into our lives, we can exercise simplicity. Do I need this? What will it add to my life? Will I still want it in a week? a month? a year? Is there a version of this item that will last longer, work better, or be more aesthetically pleasing? How was it made—where, and by whom? These are all questions I aim to consider when making purchases.

This has meant moving away from plastics and disposable items, and choosing to pay more, once, for something that will last rather than opting for a cheap item that will break or wear out.

Along with seemingly everyone and their mother (am I right?) I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by Marie Kondo last year. In case you aren’t familiar, this book takes you step-by-step through the process of editing down the things you own, based on the simple question “Does this spark joy?” So I read this, and then proceeded to “Konmarie” our home, and over the course of a few weeks we carted off about two pickup trucks worth of stuff to the local non-profit we donate to (which gives directly to the families of farm workers in the area—I prefer this option over Goodwill/Salvation Army because I know these things are being used by people in need). We also discarded several large black trash bags of unusable items like broken toys, clothes worn to rags, and so so many bottles of expired or half-used cosmetics and toiletries from under the sink. It was absurd. It was rather shocking to see that we’d been holding on to so much that we didn’t need, want, or use anymore.

That whole process definitely made an impact on me and caused me to consider our habits of consumption. But I’m still training myself, and unfortunately I’ve still purchased/accumulated some things since then that ended up being mistakes. Like I said, it’s a process. Every few months or so I get the “declutter” itch again, and I sweep through the house collecting items to get rid of. As the seasons change, some toys stop getting played with, some books are outgrown or could serve someone else much better, some clothes are just not getting any love and therefore not earning their place in the drawer or closet.

I recently thoroughly enjoyed reading Simple Matters by Erin Boyle. I think every once in a while I need a good infusion of simplicity inspiration in book form. This one is just beautiful, and has me thinking all over again about the beauty and quality of each thing we own, and the social and environmental impact of it’s production and eventual discard. And so the process of creating a more peaceful and minimal home and life continues. I’ll keep you posted.

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