Stories shape culture. I have been influenced by stories my whole life so I know this is true. As I started having children and reading to them, I discovered that I loved finding good books that would influence the way they saw the world. My goal is that they will grow a heart of compassion, gratitude, contentment, and wisdom – all of the good things that make up a good life. I was asked to share some of these books with you, and it is my pleasure to pass on a few of the treasures I’ve come across over the years. Since Christmas has just passed, these special books have been on my mind!
Everyday Acts of Kindness
Papa Panov’s Special Day is a classic folk tale adapted by Leo Tolstoy. The version I love is retold by Mig Holder with illustrations by Julie Downing.
This book was gifted to me by my big sister, she remembered it being read to us kids and wanted this classic to be passed on to our children. I don’t know if I’ve ever read this story out loud and not had tears streaming down my face at the end.
It’s a story of an old shoemaker in a small Russian village who was alone during the holidays that year, and while reading his Bible he thought about how if baby Jesus were to come to his place he wouldn’t have anything to give him. Then he remembered a tiny pair of red baby shoes, the best shoes he’d ever made. He thought he could give him those. As he dozed off reading the nativity story, He heard a voice, it was Jesus telling him “ you wished that you had seen Me, that I had come to your little shop and that you could give me a gift. Look out into the street from dawn to dusk tomorrow and I will come. Be sure to recognize me, for I shall not say who I am.”
The next day which was Christmas Day, he spends the day looking for Jesus. In the process, he sees many needs and helps people through small acts of kindness. In anticipation of missing his visitation from Jesus, he tells the story to each of the recipients of his kindness. They thought he was strange for expecting a visit from Jesus but wished him well for being so kind to them.
Over and over, he was worried that while visiting with the others that he had possibly missed the One he was hoping to meet. At the end of the day, His heart was heavy and he wondered if it was only a dream after all. “ I wanted to believe it so much. I wanted Him to come” And at once it seemed like someone was in the room, through his tears he saw a long line of people passing across the little shop, all the people he had seen and spoken to that day. As they passed, they whispered one by one, “Didn’t you see me? Didn’t you see me Papa Panov?”.
“Who are you?” he asked. And he heard the same voice as the night before…” I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me water, I was cold and you took me in. These people you have helped today-all the time you were helping them, you were helping me!”… So He came after all. I’ll remember that whenever I read the Christmas story. The gospel story is so beautiful. I cry almost every time.
An Extraordinary Gift
Ordinary Baby, Extraordinary Gift by Gloria Gather and illustrated by Barbara Hranilovich is a simple summary of the whole gospel story; from the promise God made to fix the mess we made in the garden through the promise that he would come to us. This book focuses on our relationship with God and His plan to redeem what was lost. My favorite quote from this book is: “ who would have ever guessed it! God thought of the best way to have his friends back. He would be an ordinary baby. That’s the way He planned it, maybe, so that we would come to him and not be afraid.”
The first part of the book is that summary and the last part of the book is a poem, which is actually a song. The book originally came with a CD, but we lost it before actually listening to it and we don’t have a CD player anyway. It’s worth typing out- I think it’s beautiful!
He was just an ordinary baby. That’s the way he planned it, maybe, anything but common would have kept him apart from the children that he came to rescue. Limited to some elite few, when he was the only child who asked to be born, And now he came to us with eyes wide open, knowing how we’re hurt and broken, choosing to partake of all our joy and pain,
He was just an ordinary baby: that’s the way he planned it, maybe, so that we would come to him and not be afraid.
He was ordinary with the exception of miraculous conception; Both His birth and death he planned from the start.
But between his entrance and his exit was a life that has affected everyone who’s walked the earth to this very day.
With no airs of condescension, He became God’s pure extension.
Giving you and me the chance to be remade. He was just an ordinary baby; that’s the way he planned it, maybe, so that we could come to him.
So that we would come to him and not be afraid.
Song of the Stars
My newest Christmas book addition is a board book called Song of the Stars-a Christmas Story written by Sally Lloyd-Jones with paintings by Alison Jay.
I love this book! I’m especially fond of good board books both because they are a rare find, and because small children won’t rip the pages. And I love reading to toddlers. This is quick enough for some toddlers but moving enough for any age to appreciate.
The beginning says, “ the world was about to change forever. And it almost went by unnoticed…”
The back of the book has a wonderful summary of this beautiful rendition:
The entire universe is breathless with anticipation… the joyous news spreads out across fields, deserts, oceans—from stars, to trees, to robins, to flowers. Sheep tell their young. Angels sing to shepherds. And together they all join in nature’s great chorus of praise to the newborn King. The long-awaited child has come.
Towards the end of the book after sweet anticipation is built up for the grand finale, “the animals stood around his bed. And the whole earth and all the stars and sky held its breath…the One who made us has come to live with us!…and they gazed in wonder at God’s great gift. Lying on a bed of straw wrapped in rags— a tiny little baby. Heaven’s Son sleeping under the stars that he made.”
A Good Foundation
I’m pretty sure there is no greater task than to share what we know of God to our children, and hopefully, they will build their lives on the foundation that we give them. These types of books are a great start!
I love to share the story of Jesus! To communicate the meaning of the nativity and shape the culture and atmosphere in our home is a joy to me. I encourage you to drop the focus on material things that is typical of the Christmas season and the stress of starting a New Year and pick up a few good books that bring us back to the greatest story of all time: the precious story of Jesus and His plan to redeem the world unto Himself.
If your New Year’s resolutions include adding more reading or more read alouds to your homeschool, I hope you will add one or more of my beloved books to your wishlist. Include them and their joyful message in your holiday celebrations and everyday reading! And remember that we are what we read – stories can shape our culture and our hearts!
About the author: Becky Brunz is a homeschool mom of 7 and avid reader of literature!
“The generous will prosper, those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
A Heart of Service
I love the holidays because I love giving. I love considering what will bless people, and I love being able to give good things. Our family culture has always been one that recognizes that we have a responsibility to steward our time, treasures and talents. How do we encourage a heart of service in the lives of our kids?
Share Your Core Values
What drives your financial giving and volunteer hours? Talk to your kids about why you do what you. Have conversations about the values and passions in your life so that they connect your behavior with beliefs. They might not know that you tithe regularly to church. They might not know that you support a child in Africa financially. Include them in your giving.
Expose Your Kids to a Wider World
If you live in America, you are part of the blessed 5% in the world that has freedom, choice, and prosperity at your fingertips. The American Dream is just that; a dream, for a large percentage of the world’s population. Make sure that your kids don’t live in a bubble. Travel around the country and out of it- if you can. Talk to people wherever you go. Read extensively and study history. Donate to the food bank and serve at the shelter. The world is an amazing and beautiful place and while we should protect young minds and hearts from darkness, there is much good in going outside of our own neighborhood.
“Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.” Kathy Calvin
Practicing Good Stewardship
Give your kids three jars to manage their money with: spend, save, and give. We have known millionaires who have lost everything overnight and seen the impoverished go on to make fortunes. Teach your kids that money may come and go but the values of stewardship can become part of their heart- regardless of circumstances.
Volunteer as a Family
Service organizations in your very city are seeking generous souls to serve, donate, gather, and teach. Our local hospital is always looking for kind souls to rock babies. In the far north, coat drives are an important way to ensure health. There are many places, from half-way houses to literacy programs, looking for teachers to teach basic life skills, phonics, and English as a second language.
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank
Create Family Rituals of Giving
What can your family realistically manage year after year? Is it putting together a few shoeboxes or hygiene packs for the homeless each Thanksgiving, or serving at a food giveaway every quarter? Find something that you can all do together and then put it on the calendar. Plan on it. Teach your kids that serving others with your time, talents and treasure is an important part of life.
Serve as a Family
There are many service organizations around the world. Find one that speaks to your heart and serve as a family. We have friends who go to South America yearly for medical missions. Our family serves with an organization that raises support for the Persecuted Church; we’ve written letters, hosted speakers, raised money and gotten the word out about this important ministry. Find an organization that you believe in and invest as a family. Your kids will see you in a new context and realize that you are living what you value. This creates opportunities to talk about what’s important and what has spoken to your heart. This also gives them a new context in which to shine, allowing them to grow.
Join an Organization With a Strong Service Component
My daughter recently joined American Heritage Girls and she has already had several opportunities to serve others in her troop and beyond. Last month her unit served dinner at a half-way house for recovering addicts. While they served, they were blessed; by the many personal thanks they received, the laughter they shared and a wonderful conversation with the staff and residents about God and the importance of faith.
”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
Donate Money to a Cause Where You Can Donate Your Time and Talents
Adam Pruzan, who teaches for our True North Homeschool Academy, recently spoke to our Orienteering course about money and investing. He strongly encouraged the kids to give generously of their money, but at the same time, to donate to a cause that would appreciate their time and talents. Investing oneself in an organization or project can often be just as important as giving money.
Generosity starts with thinking about how others feel. As our talented Spanish teacher, who is momma, to a beautiful, disabled daughter, told her class before Thanksgiving: “swallowing, eating on your own and the simplest movements are not a given for some people”. We should all be grateful for the freedom we have through health. This gave all the kids something to think about.
Praise Generous Deeds
Children naturally do kind and generous things for others. Praise and encourage this when you see it, promoting your values of living a life of generosity and service.
“Selfless giving is the art of living.” Frederick Lenz
How do you promote a generous heart in your kids? Is serving others part of your life curriculum? We would love to hear about it!
Join our True North Homeschool Tribe on FB and take part in the conversation! As I mentioned, we love to give- so go to the link here to download our FREE Winter Bucket List and while you are there, opt-in to get our weekly e-news. The Compass is full of homeschool inspiration and free resources that help your education go in the right direction!
“The love of a mother is the veil of a softer light between the heart and the heavenly Father.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Mother’s Day is coming right up! Below is a crazy quilt collection of amazing Mommas who lived, worked and raised children in the last couple hundred years of societal and technological change. It is by no means definitive and reflects my own reading and areas of interest. But if you are looking for some inspiring Mommas to read about and learn from, this is a good basic list to get you started.
The longest reigning British monarch and the longest reigning female in history, beloved wife of Albert and mother of 9. She is called “The Grandmother of Europe.” The Young Victoria and Victoria & Albert are both delightful movies about an intriguing monarch who did not give up motherhood, despite her position as a world leader.
The original Cheaper by the Dozen Momma. Along with her husband Frank, she co-founded the Cognitive Psych program at Purdue University, author, efficiency expert, and mother of 12, all of whom went to Ivy Leagues. She combined engineering, psychology, and motherhood and was the first American engineer to synthesize scientific management and psychology. You’ll laugh out loud reading Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes. The 1950’s film version of the books is also delightful!
Ruth Bell Graham
Missionary, author, wife, a vital component of Billy Graham’s evangelistic ministry, mother of 5. Her headstone reads, in Chinese “Righteous” (her parents were missionaries with the China Inland Mission, where she spent her childhood). To add to your reading list: “Ruth, A Portrait.”
Wife of a governor, CIA Director and president, mother of a president, mother of 2 U.S. Governors, literacy advocate, Momma of six and witty author, Barbara Bush saw a lot of the world. George W was asked once what arguments with his mother were like. He replied, “You don’t argue with Barbara.” Check out “Barbara Bush, A Memoir.”
Her life as a Mom was difficult and challenging; isn’t everyone’s, at some point or another? She did the best for her son, despite great personal sacrifice and went on to legitimize the murder mystery genre through her Lord Peter Wimsey book series, which is you haven’t read, you must. Start with “Clouds of Witness.” As as a way of introduction to Dorothy’s deep faith and great intellect, read “The Gospel in Dorothy Sayers.”
Born into slavery, she escaped at age 27 and over the course of her life, helped lead over 70 others to freedom. She became a spy for the Union army and helped free over 700 slaves during a raid. She and her husband adopted a baby girl name, “Gertie.” Check out the book, Harriet Tubman, Imagining a Life by Lowry and the T.V. mini-series, “A Woman Called Moses.”
Not only the first women to win a noble prize, she is one of the few people to win two Noble Peace Prizes in her lifetime (the first of which she shared with her husband) for her groundbreaking work in Chemistry (903, 1911) After her husband’s untimely death, she continued her work in Science while raising her two daughters. Her daughter, Irene, went on to win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with her husband, as well! Check out the movie: Marie Curie: Courage of Knowledge and the Book, Radioactive: A Book of love and fallout by Redniss.
I’ve love to hear who your favorite Mom is- besides your own, of course!
Mother’s Day is coming up and I’ve partnered together with a great group of bloggers to bless some moms BIG TIME this Mother’s Day! We are giving away FOUR Instant Pots! Instant Pots are quick, convenient, and help to make meal preparation so much easier; every mom or homemaker should have one. So if you are wanting to win one for yourself (or for a mother that you know would love one), use the Rafflecopter below to enter.
Now I know that the Rafflecopter has quite a few entries, but each of these bloggers generously chipped in their own money to bring you this giveaway, so I hope you will take the time to do all of the entries. And hey, the more entries you do, the better your odds are of winning!
Giveaway ends May 10th at 11:59pm EDT. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to email to claim prize. By entering this giveaway you will be added to the email lists of some of the participating bloggers (see the Terms & Conditions on the Rafflecopter form for the complete list).
(The following is a guest post from Jamie Buckland, Headmistress of Appalachian Classical Academy)
I present to you a review of Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins. May my reflections point you to the practical wisdom she so graciously shares.
I am not a reader. I said this once in an academic setting and realized how uncomfortable I had made the speaker who scrambled to form a response. I apologized and clarified that it isn’t for lack of ability, it is simply for lack of desire.
So when I, 18 weeks pregnant with my 4th child, was introduced to Cindy Rollins in the flesh, I remembered her as one of those readers, and promptly dismissed the thought that she, in her CiRCE prize-winning glory, would have something to say that would resonate with me.
Then I heard her address the audience of scholars as she received her prize. Aware that I may have resembled a blubbering whale, I thought that I had possibly dismissed her in haste.
I began the book that night, and finished it the next day. Just last week, after having loaned it out to more than half a dozen of my friends, I picked it back up. It’s only possible I was able to go almost three years without a refresher because I was blessed to get to know Cindy personally during this time.
One afternoon I sent my then 16-year old son to walk 4 miles in 30-degree weather to get to work. I refused to drive him as a punishment for his lack of submission- to what I cannot tell you – time has a way of doing that. About 10 minutes after he began this walk, regretting my anger, I pulled up beside him and told him to get in the van. He refused. I did all I knew to do. I messaged the author of Mere Motherhood and asked her if she would be willing to call me.
Her words were not formed by a hope of possibly solving my particular problem, as so many words seem too often be, but by a compelling desire to point me to the very Hope who has already solved my universal problem. Gentle reminders that my son’s soul was indeed not mine to save steadied my heart, slowed my breath, and sank me into my chair. The voice of a mother who has whispered the same defeat, threatened the same ultimatums, and pleaded for the same resolve was speaking Truth into my physical ear just as her written word had done to my scattered mind a few months before.
My parents certainly questioned my decisions that day. They may have even threatened to call and report me, but my son survived his chilly walk. And our relationship has done more than just survive. I want to give proper thanks to Cindy, for being the vessel that spoke God’s love to me on that frigid January afternoon. Thanks, Cindy.
My confessions were often matched by realizations from Cindy’s book. Below I’ve written out some of my own struggles and how Cindy addresses them in her book (bolded).
I struggle with validation,
“The Real story is that when we seek validation from any source other than Christ we are going to be disappointed.”
I struggle with pride.
“To my relief, Alex was alert and responsive after all those drugs and I would never be an obnoxious mother-in-law bragging that I had ALL my babies naturally.”
I struggle with guilt.
“In fact, one of our sons turned twelve twice. When what we thought was his thirteenth birthday rolled around we had to sadly explain to him that he was going to have to be twelve again since we had miscalculated his last birthday. This was a crushing blow.”
I struggle with knowing my place.
“When I was younger if I talked to young mothers we shared experiences. Now, if I share an experience with a young mother, it seems like I am a know-it-all and young mothers don’t want to hear any advice. I understand that. I was like that too. I was confident. But it would be nice to be able to share my experiences now, mother-to-mother, without feeling like I am interfering. What I am really doing is commiserating.”
I struggle with defining classical education.
“The ‘ages and stages’ model of classical education had left me hopelessly confused.”
I struggle with Charlotte Mason purists.
“Although Charlotte Mason was not a fan of children’s picture books, I am, proving I can think for myself sometimes.”
I struggle with reading. And sin.
“There are three things that cover a multitude of sins: reading, reading aloud, and written narration.”
I struggle with regret.
“We all have faults. Some periods of life bring those faults to the forefront, making it seem that we are only our faults.”
I hope that in the midst of your busy homeschooling life, you take time to read soul-filling books. Mere Motherhood is just such a book. You will be encouraged, exhorted and challenged to stay the good course of intentionally parenting and raising your children.
Are you looking for some amazing resources just for the Classical Homeschooler? Check out our Classical Homeschool group on Facebook!
Jamie Buckland lives in southern WV with her husband and 4 children. Jamie is Executive Director and Headmistress of Appalachian Classical Academy, a tutoring program for homeschoolers. She also works with homeschool group leaders as the Classical Program Consultant. With a heart for the homeschooling mother, she is passionate about connecting this new generation of homeschoolers with veteran mothers who have walked this walk and lived to share. She will graduate her eldest this year, her youngest in 16 years, and a couple in between! You can find Jamie at www.jamiebuckland.net
For our second podcast on Teamwork at Soft Skills 101: Life Skills for a Digital Age, I recount an amazing month-long backpacking trip I took to the High Unitas Wilderness Area in Utah the summer before I started college. Camping is such a great way to build team-work as we find ourselves in situations that are free of normal distractions and have scheduled fun and different activities like backpacking, canoeing, and cooking over an open fire.
Camping often takes us to places of breathtaking natural beauty, re-orienting us to the fact that God is an amazing Creator, who delights in simple beauty.
For this post, we’ve rounded up some great camping tips and tricks, writing prompts and easy snack and meal ideas! Why not plan a camping trip sometime soon!
Camping Printables & Tips
Maybe you can’t get out in the wilderness right now but would still love some camping fun. These camping printables are just what you need! These can even be printed and used on the trip there. You will also find some amazing camping tips and tricks.
(I have been blessed to participate in the Homeschooling through the Holidays series over on LifeofaHomeschoolMom.com, be sure to visit the entire series!)
The holiday season is just around the corner! Gift giving is an important part of our Holiday tradition, along with stringing miles of lights and decorating multiple trees, filling our large 4 x 4 farmhouse with holiday cheer! If you are in a rut with gift-giving or feel like its materially oriented and has lost the joy of giving and gratitude, consider giving gifts that will contribute to experiences and that you can share together.
What hobbies, skills or crafts grab your kids’ interest that you could encourage? Is there a local guild or artisan around who could mentor/ help them? What about YouTube links in a card as part of the present?
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