Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson

My sweet husband bought me Sally Clarkson’s (now) next-to-latest book just after it came out last year on a day when I needed some encouragement.  I’m a little embarrassed by how long it has taken me to read Own Your Life, but I finally picked it up right after Christmas while Steady Eddie was off work and I had leisurely mornings to spend with it.  Look!  I even began journaling as I read, taking time to think through her end-of-chapter questions and respond thoughtfully and prayerfully.  (This picture is from Instagram, by the way.  If you’re an IGer, you can follow me at hopeisthewordblog.)


That went well until Steady Eddie returned to work and life returned to normal.  However, I did glean a lot from this book.  I’ve read many of Sally’s books on mothering, and I can say that sometimes her message begins to seem repetitive.  That really isn’t a bad thing, as her message is one that needs repeating.  However, this book is really about looking at one’s life holistically, and would be an excellent book for anyone to read, no matter what stage of life she is in.  This book is divided into five parts and consists of seventeen chapters.  She discusses topics such as God’s training, priorities and commitments, spiritual disciplines, emotional health, home atmosphere, and other such topics. I especially appreciate her chapter on marriage.  I look at it as a sort of “life coach” book from a Christian perspective, and every single chapter contains wisdom that I really need to hear and heed. Sally encourages women to prioritize both serving others sacrificially and doing little things that feed their own souls, and my only quibble with her is that I’ve yet to figure out how to do both.  However, I do realize that now in her seventh decade of life, Sally has the benefit of perspective which I do not now possess.  It’s wonderful to have a mentor who gives that perspective.  I do highly recommend this title to women who are like I am and feel overwhelmed by the chaos at times and long to be a little more single-minded in their vision for their lives.

Perhaps Sally’s message can best be summed up in this short excerpt from the last few chapters of this inspiring and encouraging book:

Women are the heroines of life in my book.  Women rock.  Our very inheritance–being made in the divine image of God–gives us power to influence in many arenas.  When we embrace our innate heritage as civilizers, life artists, counselors, teacher, and musicians bringing song to life, our influence in glorious.  (209)

Sally definitely inspires me to reach beyond where I’m living now, and for that I find her influence invaluable.

Other posts about Sally Clarkson’s books here at Hope Is the Word:


Enchanted homeschool: first week of February 2016

I am a huge fan of Julie Bogart and the Brave Writer lifestyle (philosophy), and I have become a part of an online community via Facebook of mostly homeschooling mamas who encourage each other in their pursuits of a joy-filled lifestyle of home learning.  The amount of encouragement, enjoyment, and freedom I’ve gleaned from both Julie and this community is immeasurable.  It has been an a-ha! moment for me to realize that the vision I have always had for homeschooling really IS a thing, and it’s perfectly okay to do it our way, according to no one in particular’s vision or plan but our own.  (This is an idea that I picked up on in The Joy of Relationship Homschooling, too, and lots of other places–that relationships in homeschooling trump everything else.)  One of the topics that is always up for discussion in the group is the idea of enchantment in the homeschool.  (The best way to learn what this is is to watch Julie’s Periscope about enchantment in her homeschool.  You can watch that here.)  For me, enchantment has as much to do with me as it does my children.  I’ve learned that if I feel the enchantment, in all likelihood, they will, too.  Enchantment and engagement are pretty nearly synonymous for me.  Here are a few places we’ve found enchantment this week:

  • I knew Friday morning was apt to be a bit rough (though now I can’t remember why 😉 ), so I awakened the girls with the incentive that they could make breakfast while I bathed the boys.  Lulu LOVES to bake, and Louise has taken a shine to frying eggs lately (she cooks them for the picky discriminating DLM who, inexplicably, eats them).  I popped bacon into the oven and the girls did the rest.  Everyone was happy.  I call this enchantment because baking is enchanting to Lulu, and it seems to be catching on with Louise, too.  As the girls get older, letting them take the reins for their own passions is huge.  Making time for them to do this on an already full-to-overflowing day is huge for me.  Enchantment.  :-)


  • After lunch and while Benny was napping, I crawled into the blanket-fort I, in a futile effort to redirect some of their noise and energy, had hastily helped my boys build on Friday morning.  I read a chapter of Mr. Popper’s Penguins aloud to the DLM and played Boggle, Jr. with him.  Oh, yeah–and played a few hands of an invented Pokemon card game with him.  He’ll play games all day long, but sitting for a formal reading lesson is not high on his list of enjoyable activities.  Enchantment here is letting go of what I did with my girls when they were five and being okay with the DLM’s attention span and interest (or lack thereof) in table work. Enchantment for me is finding what he enjoys, doing it, and being okay with it.


  • Poetry tea time never fails to bring out the enchantment for us, even when it’s rushed, as it was this week.  The joy the DLM expressed when he was able to read his own poem from his All About Reading reader was heartwarming.  I’m so glad I decided to stop for poetry tea time (which meant giving up on doing a freewrite when I realized we simply didn’t have time for that).


  • This was our second week to participate in the Mystery Class from Journey North.  This real-time learning has been such a breath of fresh air this winter, and it’s one of the ways I’ve felt the most engagement and enchantment.  This picture is from our first week; now we have another bar on our graphs.  (This is an admitted un-enchanted wall, isn’t it?  It used to be a kitchenette area in our basement.)


  • Reading aloud is almost always enchanted for me, though lately I’ll admit that due to stress and fatigue, I haven’t always felt it.  It came back in bushels this week with the reading of Fair Weather.  I don’t know when I have enjoyed a read-aloud more!  Also, we finished Anne of Green Gables this week, and we decided to continue with the series.  I hope to blog more about this soon, but right now I’ll just say that I’ve christened this The Year of Anne.
  • Last but certainly not least, we got out of the house this week two times more than the we usually do.  For my girls, especially my eldest, this is pretty big.  They enjoyed a bookclub with a gaggle of their friends at a local bookstore (which certainly made them feel grown-up) one afternoon, and then the very next afternoon we headed out to play laser tag with a some of those same friends and a bunch of others.  Enchantment.

Our schedule isn’t nice and regular (like I used to like it 😉 ) in this season of life, and honestly, with the age span of children we have, it probably won’t ever be again.  I’m realizing I have to let go of what I think it should look like and go with it, taking the moments of enchantment and letting them be.  What a gift.


Fair Weather by Richard Peck

We kicked off February with a new history read-aloud at lunchtime, and what a joy this one is!  I’m a huge fan of Richard Peck, so when I was considering read-alouds for the turn-of-the-twentieth-century time period, Fair Weather came to mind.  I read this one years ago and enjoyed it, and I felt pretty certain that my girls, at ages 11 2/3 and 10, were ready for the subtle and sarcastic humor of Richard Peck.  I was right!  This novel, set mostly in Chicago during the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, is just a hoot.  Truly–I’ve never laughed so hard when reading a book aloud as I did while reading this one.  For those uninitiated to the genius that is Richard Peck, let me offer a brief synopsis of this story:  Rosie Beckett, her older sister Lottie, her younger brother Buster, and their grandfather (along with his beloved canine companion, Tip) leave their farmhouse on the Illinois prairie after they’re invited by Aunt Euterpe to visit her in  Chicago for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the exposition.  While it is a case of country bumpkins come to town, Peck writes it in such a witty and slyly sophisticated way that it raises a rather familiar plot line to a new level of hilarity.  The humor in his stories is the result of his deft characterization, creating characters that are annoyingly lovable. With an unexpected twist of phrase, Peck can leave me laughing to the point of tears.  Peck’s humor is very Mark Twain-esque, which is high praise indeed.  I will always remember this book as the first one that I myself was so fully engaged with, even as a read-aloud, that I almost completely forgot my children and just enjoyed the experience myself.  The smiles on their faces were merely the bonus of an already hilariously enjoyable experience.  That is good stuff.  (Dial, 2001)

Other Richard Peck novels I’ve reviewed at Hope Is the Word:


Newbery Through the Decades: 1930s

newbery through the decadesHappy February and welcome to this month’s Newbery Through the Decades Challenge!  If you’re new to the challenge, check out this post.

I’m ready to move past the Newbery disgrace of last month (not a single Newbery title did I read!) and get started on a brand new challenge!  This month it’s the 1930s.  These are the titles:

1939 Medal Winner: Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

Honor Books:

1938 Medal Winner: The White Stag by Kate Seredy

Honor Books:

1937 Medal Winner: Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
Honor Books:

  • Phebe Fairchild: Her Book by Lois Lenski
  • Whistler’s Van by Idwal Jones
  • The Golden Basket by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • Winterbound by Margery Bianco
  • The Codfish Musket by Agnes Hewes
  • Audubon by Constance Rourke

1936 Medal Winner: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Honor Books:

  • Honk, the Moose by Phil Stong
  • The Good Master by Kate Seredy
  • Young Walter Scott by Elizabeth Janet Gray
  • All Sail Set: A Romance of the Flying Cloud by Armstrong Sperry

1935 Medal Winner: Dobry by Monica Shannon

Honor Books:

  • Pageant of Chinese History by Elizabeth Seeger
  • Davy Crockett by Constance Rourke
  • Day On Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic by Hilda Von Stockum

1934 Medal Winner: Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs

Honor Books:

  • The Forgotten Daughter by Caroline Snedeker
  • Swords of Steel by Elsie Singmaster
  • ABC Bunny by Wanda Gág
  • Winged Girl of Knossos by Erik Berry, pseud. (Allena Best)
  • New Land by Sarah Schmidt
  • Big Tree of Bunlahy: Stories of My Own Countryside by Padraic Colum
  • Glory of the Seas by Agnes Hewes
  • Apprentice of Florence by Ann Kyle

1933 Medal Winner: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis

Honor Books:

  • Swift Rivers by Cornelia Meigs
  • The Railroad To Freedom: A Story of the Civil War by Hildegarde Swift
  • Children of the Soil: A Story of Scandinavia by Nora Burglon

1932 Medal Winner: Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer

Honor Books:

  • The Fairy Circus by Dorothy P. Lathrop
  • Calico Bush by Rachel Field
  • Boy of the South Seas by Eunice Tietjens
  • Out of the Flame by Eloise Lownsbery
  • Jane’s Island by Marjorie Allee
  • Truce of the Wolf and Other Tales of Old Italy by Mary Gould Davis

1931 Medal Winner: The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Honor Books:

  • Floating Island by Anne Parrish
  • The Dark Star of Itza: The Story of A Pagan Princess by Alida Malkus
  • Queer Person by Ralph Hubbard
  • Mountains are Free by Julie Davis Adams
  • Spice and the Devil’s Cave by Agnes Hewes
  • Meggy MacIntosh by Elizabeth Janet Gray
  • Garram the Hunter: A Boy of the Hill Tribes by Herbert Best
  • Ood-Le-Uk the Wanderer by Alice Lide & Margaret Johansen

1930 Medal Winner: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
Honor Books:

  • A Daughter of the Seine: The Life of Madame Roland by Jeanette Eaton
  • Pran of Albania by Elizabeth Miller
  • Jumping-Off Place by Marion Hurd McNeely
  • The Tangle-Coated Horse and Other Tales by Ella Young
  • Vaino by Julia Davis Adams
  • Little Blacknose by Hildegarde Swift

My titles for the month are

  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.  I’ve already started reading it aloud to my boys, and it’s a sure-fire hit.  This is a re-read for me.
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer.  I LOVED Sawyer’s Maggie Rose, Her Birthday Christmas so much, I knew I had to read Roller Skates when we came back around to the 1930s.  I can’t wait!
  • The Good Master by Kate Seredy.  My friend Chantelle recommended this one to me as World War I era novel, and if I can find a copy, I plan to read it.

What’s on your Newbery list this month?

Happy reading!

Reading Report::January 2016 (plus a Read Aloud Thursday announcement)

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I thought I’d try something new this year.  Up until last spring, I was a fairly faithful participant in What’s on Your Nightstand, and I always enjoyed the community.  However, what I did not enjoy was the fact that because this event happens on the fourth Tuesday of the month, sometimes there is a week or more of the month left until the true end of the month, so it always felt premature to me to say “Attention, bloggy world!  This is what I read this month!”  Sometimes it takes the looming last day of the month to get me to buckle down and really read.  Thus, this year I have decided to report in on my reading on or around the last day of the month.  This post will help me keep up with that end of year list I’m so fond of sharing, but which I oh-so-often forget to update mid-summer and then scramble to update at the end of the calendar year.

What I read:

  • All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor–The only thing I disliked about reading this sweet, sweet family story is that I didn’t read it aloud to my girls when they were a bit younger.  It’s okay, though–they’ve already read it.  😉  I’m glad to have read this one and to have marked it off my languishing Classics Club list.
  • The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge–This yet-unreviewed title, which I finished just today, will most likely make my Best of 2016 list.  I hope to share more about it next week.
  • The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr–This was our lunchtime read-aloud for most of the month, and we enjoyed it quite a bit.
  • The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting–I read this one aloud to the boys, and we all enjoyed it.
  • Genesis, Old Testament (see below)
  • 3 John and Jude–for my Community Bible Study lessons

What I listened to:

  • The Chimes by Charles Dickens–I started this free Christmas download from Audible back before Christmas, but just about the only time I listen to audiobooks is when I walk alone.  Thus, I didn’t finish until after Christmas.   I never feel like I quite catch enough of an audiobook to do it justice in a review (I am not an auditory learner!), but I did enjoy this one, for all the reasons I always enjoy Dickens:  characterization, as well as the attention he draws to the plight of the poor.  Recommended.
  • Henry and the Clubhouse by Beverly Cleary–with the DLM in the van (others were present of course, but I think they were trying to ignore it 😉 ). I can’t say we listened to it in its entirety, but we enjoyed what we listened to.

What I’m carrying over to February (but hope to finish soon!):

Ongoing titles:

  • The Songs of Jesus by Timothy Keller (family devotional)
  • Ninety Days of God’s Goodness by Randy Alcorn (my devotional)
  • The Narrated Bible–This is a chronological Bible, and I am attempting to read it through this year.  I’ve done it once before (though not chronologically), and I’m finding the discipline to be a needed challenge.  I did it 5 1/2 years ago, and I’m really trying to do it again.

Of course, this is by no means everything I read.  I’m forever-and-always reading online (which is a joy and a curse), and I’m a part of a homeschool coaching community called The Homeschool Alliance where we have articles to read and lectures to listen to and discuss.  These are about parenting and homeschooling and personal growth, and I’m finding them vital to my vocation of learning alongside my children.

And now for the promised announcement.  It saddens me a little, but I have decided to discontinue Read Aloud Thursdays.  For the past year or so posting it has seemed a wee bit redundant since I very rarely had anything new in the way of picture books to share.  It occurred to me on Thursday as I thought about it that I could easily just include my read-alouds in my own monthly wrap-up, especially since I read them as much for me as I do for my children.  Read Aloud Thursday is truly one of the main reasons I have kept blogging all these years, but it is time.  Thank you all who have participated!

And now for February–


I’ve decided to read one book a month for spiritual and personal growth, so for February it will be Hands Free Mama by Rachel Stafford.  I’m delving back into my Birthday Project from last year (which was mightily derailed by life and a move) to read A Severe Mercy by VanAuken.  February seems like a good month to read that.  I’ll also be enjoying some 1930s children’s literature for my Newbery Through the Decades Challenge.  Come back tomorrow to find out more about that.

How was January for you?  Did you read a lot?  I’d love to hear about it!