Books are food for the intellect. Just as there are many sources for physical nourishment (i.e. fast food, daily bread, and fine dining), so there are many genres for a diverse feeding of the mind. This has been my experience and I have noticed that a regular diet of contemporary young adult literature (much of which I read for the purpose of being informed about my students’ reading preferences) leaves me craving something solid and sustaining. Perhaps this is because my mind has grown accustomed to rich literature because I was raised on biographies, classics, rich historical fiction, and the Bible. It leaves me wondering if parents and educators should be as intentional about what children read, as they are about what children eat.
This page is dedicated to my reading list: past reads, current reads, and future reads.
Is it possible for a scarecrow story to move a reader to tears? I didn’t think so until I read this poetic tribute to a representative of harvest. In The Scarecrow’s Dance, author Jane Yolen and illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline weave a rhythmic narrative about a scarecrow who is inspired to dance one windy autumn night.
An autumn eve, the moon was high…out in the field, stiff and forlorn, the scarecrow stood and watched the corn…the wind blew high, the wind blew low…his feet of straw began to prance, his knees of straw to bend and dance…
He becomes swept away in his harvest dance of delight and suddenly springs from his pole! Leaping, twirling and pirouetting, he passes through the cornfields, explores the barnyard, and slowly makes his way to the farmhouse that is settling down for the night. He is drawn to one of the lighted windows and eases closer to peer inside.
He pressed his nose against the glass…and watched a child on bended knees begin a prayer by saying, “Please…”
Intrigued, the curious scarecrow listened closer as the child prayed a prayer of blessing for the entire farm.
“And bless tonight our old scarecrow who guards the fields and each corn row…”
The faithful scarecrow was deeply touched by that simple prayer; so touched, in fact, that he crept away from the window and danced his way back to the empty pole in the vast cornfield. There, he knelt and prayed a simple prayer of his own. What did he pray? We are left wondering – about the content of his prayer and at the fact that after he finished he leaped into the air with all of his heart …
And…“Slid back onto his wooden pole, which – tall and straight – just fit his soul…
What about this story is so moving to me, a city girl who has never depended upon a scarecrow’s vigilant watch? Perhaps it is the fact that I can identify with the weight of responsibility upon his straw shoulders; perhaps it is the fact that all which he seeks to embrace with his outstretched arms is simply too vast and this reminds me that sometimes my heart desires the impossible as well; perhaps it is that we both share the desire to dance and embrace the beauty of the world that surrounds us; perhaps it is the understanding that the responsibility we have to those depending on us is far more valuable than the tantalizing lure of shirking that responsibility.
This season, as you grab your pumpkin spice drink and curl up to read a fall story, take a moment to be inspired by a scarecrow.
“For anyone can dance,” thought he, “But only I can keep fields free.”
The Homeschool Experiment Motherhood can be overwhelming; there are days when I feel like I don’t even enjoy my kids because I am so immersed in caring for their basic needs. It’s difficult to imagine adding formal education into the mix. In fact, the book cover alone was something with which I could identify before even reading the introduction.
Charity Hawkins knows how to write a good story. I kept double-checking the introduction to verify that it was indeed a novel: Julianne Miller, the protagonist of our story, seemed so real, so authentic, so ME! I found myself laughing, crying and yearning right along with her as she learned the rhythm of mothering and teaching her three young children while also donning the hats of wife, daughter, sister and friend. I know I have read a good book when throughout the day I find myself thinking about the new friend to whom it has introduced me and wondering how she would approach the situations I am facing. Charity’s authentic character refreshed my outlook on motherhood and all it entails.
As I progress through the day-to-day, I now remind myself:
That childhood should be lived slowly. Our fast-paced, goal-oriented society puts a lot of pressure on moms to keep their kids going all the time. Simply being at home is rarely viewed as enough. But childhood only happens once and it’s a rare and valuable time that children need to experience fully. It is a time for them to grow comfortable in their own skin, cultivate their imaginations and build a defined character. “We sit in the field, as the kids run and tumble and laugh, while we twist clover crowns for them…This, I can give my children, I realize. This, they need. In an age of electronic toys and standardized tests, of hurry and stress, we all need this. Time to sit and be quiet…The clover crowns will break by this evening and life will move on. Babies will grow up; children will grow tall. But right now, we have childhood and lengthening shadows and quiet moments and clover crowns.” (203)
To pause as needed. There is always more to do: dishes, laundry, errands, meal prep, housework, and all the teaching and training that comes with kids. Sometimes I feel like I never get ahead in anything! Those are the very times when I just need to snuggle with my kids and read them a book or maybe two or three. Snuggling and reading together is always a good idea; the housework will wait for another hour or day, but there will come a time when my kids won’t be within arms reach and ready to read, “just one more story.” Or maybe we all need to go out for a play date with friends so they can run around with other little people and I can have nourishing conversation with other moms. Or maybe we will just lay in the grass in our backyard and find shapes in the clouds.
To grow with the season. Since I am a mom with young children it means that this is still a new stage in life for me. It means that the ‘me without kids’ was not that long ago so it’s easy for me to compare that me with the ‘me with kids.’ Oh my! That me could jump out of bed and have personal devotions with bright eyes! That me could exercise every day, stick to my weekly cleaning routine, and remember what I ate for dinner the night before. This me hits the snooze button on my alarm several times before struggling out of bed, has almost forgotten what it’s like to take walks at a normal pace, has a perpetually messy, grubby house and struggles to remember what I had for breakfast. Even though I often feel like I’m falling apart I’m learning that this is a type of growth I’ve never before experienced. It’s the kind of growth that is helping me define my intangible priorities – that I’m walking slowly because I’m accompanied by little legs; my house is messy because I’m not alone during the day; I’m tired because I am making time for my husband after the kids are in bed; I can’t remember some things because I’m focusing in on others.
That children are people and not tasks. I often make the mistake of planning into my day time with my kids. This often leaves me feeling rushed and flustered because I feel like I need to get through it in order to move on to the next thing. In the course of reading this book, I observed Julianne incorporating her children into everything she did, from housework to errands to serving others to making gifts for family members. Not only did this help her accomplish all of her daily tasks, it also provided an endless number of teaching opportunities and conversation topics with her children. Ultimately, that is what mothering and homeschooling are all about: preparing our children for lives as adults. Children learn best by example and when they work and live with us they learn from us.
Julianne’s story might be a novel but the truths that permeate its pages are relevant to every mother seeking to live nobly. As she so eloquently stated near the end of the book, “We think we value ease and luxury, diamonds and crystal, but we don’t. We value fulfilling work, truth and honor, family and friends, lives well lived, love freely given.” (226) Cherish being a mother, my friend!
“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” I sometimes have days when I feel like I have only heard my own voice repeating the same instruction a hundred times. Other days I feel like I am truly negotiating with terrorists: trying to find the most tactful way to get my kids to do what I want without inciting a rebellion. So when I picked up this book with its catchy title, I was eager to learn new tips on training my children in a biblical manner; I was not disappointed. Ginger Hubbard soaked in Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart and sought to put it’s concepts into practice with her children. Her main objective was to parent not just according to Scripture but with Scripture. In her book, she details the why and the how-to of training one’s children in righteousness. Here are a few highlights that I gleaned from this practical little book:
- Do not separate the rod from reproof. Training means children shouldn’t simply be told they have done wrong and then punished for it; it means they need to understand why they are being disciplined and how they could have behaved differently. They should be shown in Scripture why their actions were dishonoring to God and their parents and then led to practice the correct form of behavior. Scripture always partners the rod with reproof: one without the other can lead to anger and bitterness in a child’s heart.
- “Obey all the way, right away and with a happy heart.” It is easy for moms to think that giving second (and third) chances or numerous warnings is kind, loving or cool. We often reason that maybe our child didn’t hear us or fully understand us the first (or second) time. Sometimes we are busy with something or someone else and it’s simply not convenient to discipline the first offense. However, delay is harmful to moms because it allows emotions to escalate, resulting in our disciplining out of frustration or anger rather than as a built-in consequence to disobedience. Delay is also harmful to our children because it teaches them that immediate obedience is optional, not required. They must also learn that complete obedience must be done cheerfully and not begrudgingly for this will eventually transfer to their relationship with God.
- Biblical discipline points to Jesus. Training my children in righteousness is so much more than simply creating little minions who do my bidding so that my life is easy. Ha! As if that would ever happen! Rather, it is my calling to lead my children to Jesus by raising them to obey immediately and joyfully. Showing them that obedience is in Scripture also creates in them the awareness that God expects to be obeyed in all things; anything less will result in discipline from Him. I am obeying God when I train my children to obey me and their father.
The above points are just a few of the many thought-provoking lessons I learned from this thorough book. She details the gentle verbal reproofs we can use to guide our children along with the verses from Scripture that we can share with them to validate our reasons for disciplining. She also presents daily scenarios we may encounter and how to handle them in a calm and consistent fashion. If you only have time to read one book in the next few months, I would urge you to choose this one. It has the potential to transform your disciplining strategies in a way that will bring you much peace of mind. I will definitely be reading it again!
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is probably a familiar title to all of you, but when did you last read it? The last time I read this book was about 16 years ago; now my husband and I are reading it together, and it feels like reconnecting with an old friend with a hint of reading it for the first time. The adventure and intrigue are as fresh as ever, but my grasp of the deeper meanings is richer. The fantasy has not lost its powerful grip on my attention, yet now I found it almost comforting to have my eyes nestled in the pages of this timeless classic. Courage in the ordinary heart has taken on a new meaning for me as I need it more than ever before as I raise my children to be ready to take on the world outside our door.