Saturday, July 22, 2017

When your goals change. . .

Doing the monthly book goal reading program with my daughters has been such a rewarding experience. I highly suggest it as a way to encourage yourself to read more, read more widely, connect with your children, and to practice self-discipline. However, there are many good goals in life, and there is a season for all of them. As Scripture says in Ecclesiastes 3 "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:" (NIV). I like to set goals in life, but my highest goal is to be sensitive to God's leading in all things and live according to my priorities. I feel like I am heading into a very busy time of life where reading outside of my area of research for my dissertation will need to be limited. I have finished my first year of coursework for my doctorate in Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology. I am beginning year two with an intense focus on finishing my internship hours of which I have very few. After that, I must pursue my dissertation research full force. This is on top of caring for my large family of nine children and a full time job as a second grade teacher. I have the help of my husband and oldest daughters, but my oldest two are in a band that is becoming busy with shows and traveling, and my husband works a lot to help them. This sucks the energy out of him (he has fibromyalgia) along with all the other care-taking he does with our large family. I say all that only to say this--I must pare down my life to the highest priorities for this season, so I will be stepping out of doing the monthly reading program full force as is. Do I still want to share the reading experience with my daughters? Yes, as I have opportunity to read, and as they share what they are reading with me. Two of my daughters read all the time; I will try to ask about their reading lives. Will I still seek to sneak in a fun book now and then? Yes, probably, for my own sanity's sake! Haha! But I must relieve myself of the overload my brain experiences when I try to do too much and have too many areas of focus. I must conserve mental strength, so I am rewriting my reading goals for the rest of the year. My new monthly book goal will be to read at least one book and one article a month related to my possible dissertation topic, and then if I find a book for fun, sneak it in as I have time, using it as a needed rest or "brain break." This still keeps me reading with my children, but helps me keep my priorities in check.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Books inspire us. . .

This month our category was our favorite category of non-fiction book. I love animal books, and so I chose the book "The Soul of an Octopus" by Sy Montgomery. It is about a woman's thoughts, experiences, and various first hand encounters of this unique creature. The octopus fascinates me, so I was looking forward to reading it. I cannot help but think about my daughter, Kat, who wants to be a marine biologist, as I read it. I think I will recommend it to her when I finish. It makes me want to visit an aquarium and go to the beach again. As I delved into my love for the natural world, Landree investigated her love of writing in her book choice of the month. Landree has finished her book on writing a novel, and I think she is now working on writing her first novel. She said two of the characters from her novels appeared in her dreams the other night. I love how books inspire and encourage new interests and curiosities. In fact, I think it was a book I read to kids at school about octopuses that sparked my love for the creature. Books have that power to help us see each facet of creation in a beautiful new way.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

When you reach a goal by not reaching a goal

This month of April, our reading goal was to read a book by an author you've read before and/or an author you haven't read before. We set these goals in order to challenge ourselves, give us some direction and guidance in our choice of reading material, and for fun. However, this month, many other things were on my mind other than our monthly reading goal. I was starting into a busy month of working full time, preparing for finals for my doctoral classes, and caring for a soon to be three month old. My oldest two daughters had several things going on with their band, Easter was coming, etc. . . So in order to pursue the things I needed to do to fulfill my first priorities--my family and career/education, I had to scale back on something. So instead of reading a brand new book, I merely decided to finish the second Harry Potter book I'd started back in March and my Leadership book by John Maxwell I had began for my final class project. They were both books by authors I'd read before, and I had started them back in March, so they couldn't completely "count" for my book goals, but sometimes we have to break our own "rules" in order to do the right thing. I used to give up on a goal when I couldn't reach my them to "perfection" feeling that it wasn't worth it anymore, but as I've gotten older and grown in maturity, I have realized that true "perfection" isn't what I'd imagined. True "perfection" is authenticity and wholeness; it is accepting circumstances as they are, striving for what is best, and being flexible in those things that do not matter. Obeying God's calling in each moment from a heart of love is the best goal. All other goals bend to that goal. So I can choose a new book for April realizing that the journey of inspiration in reading I am taking with my daughters is still a worthy goal. What is most important, though, is the peace from knowing that doing what God wants each moment can trump that goal or any other personal goal I set in the future.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March's Reading Goal

Our reading goal for March is to read a book or books from a series. Katriel is continuing to work on the Chronicles of Narnia series (which is one of my favorites!), and she is currently in the book "Prince Caspian" after having read "The Magician's Nephew," "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," and "The Horse and His Boy." Landree is reading the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. She enjoyed "The Hobbit" and thought she might enjoy those. I look forward to her being exposed to this classic series. As far as my goal. . .well, Landree has been begging me to read the "Harry Potter" series, so I began, and am currently in book 2. You would think as a teacher that I would have already read this series long ago. Well, when the books first came out, I heard all about how wonderful they were by many, but then heard how dangerous they were by the Christian community. As a dedicated Christian, I wanted nothing to do with witchcraft, and wanted to do the "right" thing, so I steered clear of them. Well, age and maturity has a way of showing you that things are not always so "black and white." In fact, how many times did I enjoy "The Wizard of Oz" with my children despite the presence of witches, good and bad? I also began to see how much damage the Christian community did in the world by judging things harshly that were not a big deal and batting an eye at things much more damaging. Not only that, but I had seen too many Christians judge books and movies without every having watched or read them, and so had little chance to discuss them intelligently. There is a time to steer clear of entertainment that might draw us away from the Lord, and a time to not indulge in that entertainment if it will cause others to stray, but I believe there is a time to view books and movies through the lens of redemption (see this blog for clarity as what I mean by that: Using godly wisdom in these things takes maturity and discernment. So as a mom, when my third daughter (who received permission from dad to read the books) begged me to read them, I consented. What a better way to open up the discussion about a variety of things, including the real nature of witchcraft (as opposed to the fantasy based world of Harry Potter), friendship, bravery, obedience, etc. What did I discover and what are my conclusions of this series so far, based on my Christian worldview? Though I would hesitate to recommend it to a child not grounded in the faith, since a fascination with the books could possibly lead to a curiosity about real world witchcraft, I find that for a believer grounded in their faith or someone with no curiosity of the occult, it appears to be a harmless fantasy world. I would rather the story not include so much occultic terminology, but the story is not centered on the magical as much as it is upon the friendship and adventures of the characters. The magical that it does contain has a fantastical childlike quality about it. Real witchcraft is based on the manipulation of others and nature through demonic power and self-will so as to thwart the good will of God and the free will of other humans. These books does not appear to encapsulate the essence of true witchcraft so far (though many things in the books go by that name.) Overall, there are lessons to be learned, such as in the first book, where Harry had to take the existence of platform 9 3/4 on faith, where Ron sacrificed himself for his friends and the greater good of the school, and the mirror and Dumbledore taught Harry that being truly happy means being content with life as you have it. Now, granted, I have not finished the series, but this is my perspective so far. Does this mean I think these are books for everyone or all Christian families? And do they compare to the depth of Christian teaching contained in the Narnia series? No, but we must use discernment, wisdom, and a view of redemption in all we do, and not jump to conclusions out of spiritual pride or without intelligently and wisely considering things.

How is the family reading plan going?

My oldest two daughters, due to their band commitments have mostly dropped out of our reading program. I am sad by this, but it is understandable. Their band, Crossing Fire, is doing well; their first song is #1 on, and my oldest daughter is trying to prepare for the ACT. I suppose they are doing well in how to handle multiple commitments (especially when being a "one track mind" runs in your family genetic pool). How? They have learned it seems to "choose your top priorities and focus on them, letting other things go." Music is their ministry right now, and their age demands they focus on preparing for college. Not only that, but living in a large family, I am a happy momma that they consider helping out around here and developing relationships with their younger siblings as priorities. Does this mean I do not think they should make reading more of a priority? Not necessarily, but it is important to me not to meddle too much in their volition to think, pray about, and then choose for themselves these kinds of things at their age. I want them to learn to depend upon God in making choices and not push upon them my own self-chosen agenda. Every now and then, I am sure I will encourage them to not forget the important part in ones' life reading can play, and see if they want to join in again.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Where are we now in our reading goals?

So I ended up choosing Tom Sawyer as my classic book. Landree began reading it for fun, so I thought, "Hey, maybe we can discuss it if I choose it as my classic book!" She actually chose a different book for her classic book (which I fail to remember because she reads so many books outside the categories of the month), but she inspired me in mine. I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn last year and thought it was a well-written adventure. I have to say that although the orneriness of Tom bothered me at first (I am a schoolteacher after all, and didn't find his antics as amusing as a child might), the genuineness of Mark Twain's characterization and his childhood simplicity appealed to me greatly. His adventures and outlook were enjoyable, and as the book went on, I enjoyed it more and more, just like with Huck Finn. I also liked being exposed to a story so connected to my American/Missourian history and heritage. I think it is a valuable part of one's education to know the stories connected to your own heritage; I think it helps us better understand ourselves. Multi-culturalism is important, because we need to understand others, but understanding ourselves is the first step towards understanding others. Maybe this is why I am saddened that European-American and early colonial and pioneer stories are being forgotten as we focus in on stories of Native and African Americans. We need both, and each child should be able to celebrate their own even as they learn about others.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Our February Family Reading Goals

Last year, we really enjoyed choosing a book for each new month's category. However, a problem we sometimes ran into was that one of us (my daughter usually--who had more time), would finish their book within a few days and then have no new goal to focus on the rest of the month. So this year, except for the first month--which was a challenging book--we chose two categories per month. We did this with the expectation that there was to be no pressure if one of us only got one of the categories read that month. Nevertheless, it allows early finishers to choose another book goal, and it also gives us more exciting categories per year to read from. So February's book goals are a Bestseller and a Classic. When choosing the categories for the month, we tried to choose two categories that would somehow complement each other. When choosing this duo we thought, "a popular new book" and a "popular old book" or the best of old and new. Well, seeing that I finished "Crime and Punishment" a little early (I am on maternity leave. Normally, a book like that would take me the whole month), I began my bestseller at the end of January. It was so good, and it was an easy read, so I actually finished it before February. That's okay, though, because I know I will get busy come April and May, so if I get ahead on all my categories, that would be a good thing. So what did I choose? I chose the book, "Ghost Boy" by Martin Pistorious. It is an international bestseller and an autobiography (one of my favorite categories) about a boy who comes down with a mysterious sickness that causes him to lose memory of his childhood, but also control of his body. People think he is a vegetable with little brain function, but he is completely aware and intelligent, just unable to communicate at all. Finally, one person believes in him enough to realize he can communicate by staring at pictures, and through time he finds ways to communicate with technology and regains some control back of his body. It was a great story of someone who overcame a great obstacle and the importance of treating all people with dignity no matter what we perceive their level of awareness or intelligence. My girls are choosing their books now too. My third daughter chose a bestselling book of Christian encouragement and began reading it as soon as "War and Peace" was finished, my oldest, Faith, chose a bestseller non-fiction book about octopuses, Kat chose the book "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" which is popular enough to have a movie out about it right now, and Arwen chose the new "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book. Savannah is choosing to take her time with her challenging read from January, "Jane Eyre." It is a classic anyway, so hey, it fits into one of February's categories anyway. Landree and Savannah (in honor of Landree finishing "War and Peace") are watching the History channel "War and Peace" mini-series. I just love to see how reading is becoming a normal part of our family life and how our books give us something new to discuss and share with one another. I am not quite sure what book to choose for my classic read. Hmmm. . . what am I in the mood for? Feel free to comment your suggestions below.