Reading Widely and Well (a reading update)

As a mother who educates her children at home I have the responsibility of keeping MYSELF well educated, tended and fed.

I’ve been posting bookish updates every few months.

This year my goal has been to focus on reading widely and well - from a variety of genres and authors. Specifically, I knew I needed to add a bit more nonfiction to my reading life, as well as books that might not appeal to me from the get go. (So much of teaching our big kids is modeling for them, so I am hopeful my spirit of inquiry is rubbing off on them!)

My oldest is graduating high school and my youngest is entering high school. I want to be able to discuss BIG topics with them, while at the same time tending to my soul (which is going through a bit of upheaval as I face one child leaving the nest).

Learning for the #Homeschool Mom: Reading Widely and Well

How Do I Find the Time to Read?

The answer is simple: I’ve become much better about using my time!

I use all of those little bits of time in between times and while I am doing household chores - to READ. We all know how much time we spend shuffling children to and from places in the car, so I use that time to listen to books with my children.

Audiobooks have become my friend (check out, and I also make use of Overdrive through my local library.

Where Do I Get Book Recommendations?

I love being in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club! I get so many recommendations from that group, as well as Anne’s What Should I Read Next? podcast and her new podcast - One Great Book.

It’s also been fun to take part in the #bookstagram community on Instagram. My book account, @homegrownbookpicks , is where I chronicle what I’ve been reading.

Following is my latest book update! I’ll give you my favorite from each category, so if you just want to pick a few books to get started you can!

Truly, I enjoyed almost every book you see here (with the exception of The Enchanted April and The Time Traveler’s Wife) - so I can recommend them to you without reservation.

Middle Grade Books

Hands down, Out of My Mind is my favorite middle grade book I have EVER read.

I believe that everyone should read this book - it’s a great one to read aloud with your kids and discuss. This book has been especially meaningful to me because I have a dear friend who has adopted a disabled child. We are reading this book together.

I love that books can speak to us on all the circumstances of life.

Professional Development for the Homeschool Mom

I led an online book club earlier this year using Beauty in the Word (access our recordings here). This book is a deep, meaningful read, and it was beneficial to discuss it in a group!

Education by Design, Not Default is a book I would recommend EVERY homeschooling parent read. Recently written by Janet Newberry, the book has inspired me evaluate my homeschool philosophy and make some changes as my youngest enters high school.

Super good stuff!


It’s hard to choose a favorite here, but if pressed I will go with The Warmth of Other Suns.

This book told the story of America’s Great Migration - the mass movement of African Americans from the south to the north and west in the 20th century. I found myself sharing so much from this book with my family as I read!

I enjoyed all of the books in this category, and look forward to reading more non-fiction in 2019.

Historical Fiction/Classics/Books about Books

One of my favorite audiobooks of all time is Parnassus on Wheels.

This little book about books has such a charming narrator and the story just speaks to the heart of a book lover! I found myself chuckling out loud as I listened to this in the car.

I also recommend Finding Dorothy. While it is a fictional account of L. Frank Baum’s life and The Wizard of Oz, there were many grains of truth in it that were fascinating. I had no idea what Baum’s (and his wife Maud) life had been like and how his residency in the Dakota Territories in the late 1800s shaped the story of The Wizard of Oz. Fascinating stuff.

Other Book Recommendations

If you’re looking for sweet escape, I would recommend the Supper Club Novels by Carla Laureano. I zipped through both of these and enjoyed a clean Christian romance.

Of course so many readers have loved Where the Crawdads Sing - my in person book club read this one earlier this year. I enjoyed it, but there were parts that seemed a bit unbelievable to me.

I’m not much of a thriller reader, but I must say that The Silent Patient and An Anonymous Girl had me hooked. (So… maybe I am coming to like this genre more?)

Again, with the exception of Time Traveler’s Wife, these all get a hearty recommendation from me.

I’m busy putting together a summer reading list. I would love to read more nonfiction this summer, with a few beach reads, too!

Beginning August 2019 my son will be in Challenge I and there are many wonderful American novels in his curriculum. I expect I will be reading many with him so we can discuss.

Do you have a book recommendation for me?

Is there a particular book from my recommendations you will choose to read next?

Let me know in the comments!

What We've Been Up To Lately: The Homeschool Road is NOT Easy (and a few other updates)

The homeschool life can be beautiful, but it can also be HARD.

If our perspective is eternal, then even the hard can be beautiful.

Last weekend I went on retreat with 15 other homeschool moms from our Classical Conversations community. The biggest takeaway from the weekend was this: We are doing something of eternal significance and joy through homeschooling our children. LIFE, however, doesn’t stop when you are homeschooling.

We still take on the regular burdens of any family - struggles with relationships, caring for aging parents, caring for our OWN physical and emotional health, meeting the needs of many different types of children, coping with job and financial stress. The list could go on and on…

Moms, it is imperative we take care of ourselves. Surround yourself with friendships and situations that lift and support you. Whatever curriculum you choose, it won’t be of any value to your children if YOU aren’t healthy, happy, and pouring love and grace into your children.

The Homeschool Life is Hard - Why It is Important to Have Community & Friendships

The Homeschool Road is NOT Easy

Can I be completely transparent with you today?

Life is HARD.

Being a mama in my late 40s brings about its own set of physical and emotional changes. Add to that death of parents, caring for parents, chronic pain struggles of my own, raising teens, running a business, and a myriad of other demands on my time, and life gets overwhelming.

Add the responsibility of my children’s education on top of this, and sometimes it feels that it might be easier to crawl into a little hole and escape for a while.

I am, however, seeing the FRUIT of homeschooling. I see two teens who are kind, responsible, personable, and compassionate. As I’m reading Beauty in the Word I am learning that educating our children for BEING, not DOING, is the goal.

Homeschooling has allowed me to teach my children how to BE - and this skill will take them far as servants in God’s kingdom.

We all need a support system.

All moms need a #homeschool support system!

I love the ladies in our homeschool community.

Each of the ladies in the above picture have their own struggles. They each also have their own special way of encouraging and supporting others, and their unique ways of pouring into other homeschool moms.

We need each other. We laugh, cry, pray, and love each other.

I couldn’t do this homeschool thing without community.

Three days with this community of women (plus 10 more not pictured here!) have equipped me until next year at this time, when we will do it all over again.

#Homeschool Moms need community!

How appropriate that we could end our retreat with worship time and visiting a chapel on the property of the farm where we spent our weekend.

In a world that seems to be going a bit wonky, this was a slice of heaven on earth. Truly.

A Bookish Update

Another thing that keeps me sane is reading… reading to my children and reading on my own. Below are the books that are laying on nightstands, coffee tables, and fire places right now:

I’ve been trying to read a bit more widely in 2019, so you will see more nonfiction and spiritual reading.

A lot of people ask how I can read so much. My answer is this: I love Audible and listen to A LOT of audio books!

Homeless BirdBeauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of EducationThe Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt OutDefiant Joy: Taking Hold of Hope, Beauty, and Life in a Hurting WorldGhosted: A NovelPrivate Peaceful (After Words)One Summer: America, 1927An Anonymous Girl: A NovelMiss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics)Next Year in Havana


Curriculum & Graduation Update

We made the decision to move Grant into Challenge I (Classical Conversations) next year.

Our community is so very strong, and he will be in a class of 12 wonderful peers.

I know there is often a lot of reevaluating and decision making when a child enters high school, and we did wrestle with whether or not to send him to a fully accredited homeschool hybrid school or keep him in Classical Conversations. In the end - community won out! Plus, I also believe in the CC model for the Challenge years.

We will be adjusting - adding and subtracting - curriculum pieces as we move along, so I will keep you updated on that.

Right now he is busy preparing for Mock Trial, digging into Logic and Latin, and really enjoying his switch from Saxon Math to Shormann Math.

Anna graduates May 17 and is ready! Would you believe she already has her first semester college schedule already? And, she is rooming with a friend of hers from home, so I think she’s feeling good about going to college.

See what I mean about homeschool paying off? I’m so so happy I decided to follow her lead in these high school years and make a huge change when it was needed. It all worked out for the best.

We’re learning a lot of life lessons here. Things like managing money, time, and relationships are valuable life skills!

It’s an interesting mix of letting go and reigning in at this age. I spend a lot of time praying about how best to handle certain situations, and I’m relying a lot on my husband, who is DEFINITELY the most patient parent!

We have a lot of family coming for Anna’s graduation - what a blessing that will be. In our hearts we will be missing my mom and my husband’s father, but I know they see it all and are so proud of the young lady she is becoming. I find myself overcome with tears several times a week just missing them, but it’s ok to be sad - and then I move on.

Being Spontaneous

I’ve never been very good at spontaneity. It is, however, my children’s love language.

They LOVE surprises.

On Tuesday a friend of mine posted on Facebook “Who wants to see The Piano Guys tonight?” I jumped on it! (It didn’t even matter it was 2.5 hours away - I snagged the tickets, rented a hotel room, and told my kids to pack a bag!) Dad was on a business trip to California during our Winter Break, so I decided we needed to take a little trip, too!

What an amazing concert!

I have used so many of their videos in my SQUILT curriculum; I figured this was “business research” for me.

Surprise Trip to See the Piano Guys

We’re full steam ahead until the end of the year.

I go back to the emphasis of our retreat weekend: God is always there in the midst of ANY circumstance. He loves us so much and rejoices and cries with us. We are NEVER alone. He wants the best for us and often times has us in the valley so that we must struggle to reach up for HIM.

I’m thankful for this online community of homeschooling mamas, and pray that I can be an encouragement to each of you.

#Homeschool is hard, but if our perspective is eternal, then even the hard can be beautiful.

If you feel led, please share a struggle and/or joy from the past week in the comments below.

Let’s encourage each other!

You might also like:

How to Reach Your Teen Homeschooler’s Heart

Homeschooling Your Teen: Are You Missing the Most Important Thing?