February 16, 2018

Here we are, the week is almost up and my dear friend will be returning tomorrow. We are so excited and ready to have hubby and daddy home. From this end when I look back on the week, it went quickly. But the days certainly dragged, especially the nights. First of all, I was struck with strange aches and pains that literally kept me from falling asleep a few of the nights he was gone. It felt as though I was fighting a bug of some sort that was trying to grab hold of me. My legs were tired and crampy, my arms hurt, and even my sides and back ached at times. So that was tiring and worrisome at points. I tend to jump to worst case scenarios in my head far too easily, which only compounds things for the worse.

On the up side, I got a lot of reading done! While I rested sore legs, I read books. The kids carried on with school Monday through Thursday, and by the time Friday arrived I felt more like myself and decided it would be a day off (except for math and piano.) To the kids' dismay however, we did a thorough tidy-up of their bedrooms. After a few hours resorting the boys' mountain of Lego, and I mean mountain, a full trashcan of papers and broken items, books pulled out of corners and taken back to our home library, we were able to vacuum and everybody was feeling so good about being able to see their floors clearly! How amazing! Once my girls caught the cleaning mood, they even re-organized their own book shelf and were also so excited to find hidden treasures under piles of papers and odds and ends.

Tomorrow we will continue to get ready for Dad's return. The upstairs school and tv area has been neglected this week, so it will be organized and vacuumed completely.

On My Side Table

I have enjoyed Linda Sue Park in the past, she wrote A Single Shard, and A Long Walk to Water. This book, Forest of Wonders is the first in her middle-grade fantasy trilogy about a young boy trained in apothecary who is faced with hard decisions. A journey in seeking independence and responsibility.

This was the second mystery in Katherine Woodfine's "Jewelled" series. I actually preferred this one over the first. It uniquely weaves two storylines together and its setting is a balanced mix of high class debutantes in 1930s London and the poverty stricken east side.

February 9, 2018

Everywhere I turn around somebody seems to be sick, or recovering from a long bout of flu. Thankfully our family hasn't been affected too much. We've suffered the odd headache, and a bit of sinus troubles. But mainly, we've stayed well. When my oldest was battling the worst of it a couple of weeks ago, we all turned to some homemade remedies:  ginger tea, elderberry syrup, good old fashioned garlic.

So far so good.

Flu season never fails to coincide with my husband's yearly trip to mainland Africa. With the kids being older now, though, single-parenting it for a week seems much less daunting. I still dread this week of the year, having my best friend going away. But I'm also thankful for those feelings. <3


I think this year can go on record as being our best homeschool year thus far. I feel like I have written that before. Somehow we have landed in an academic sweet spot. A well-balanced load. Perhaps also, with some experience behind us, I really have peace about curriculum choices and pacing this year. I'm okay with stretching curriculum over a few grade levels, for the first time in my homeschool. I'm actually enjoying NOT feeling rushed to get to week "whatever" in the schedule. I'm writing this all to revisit on those days when I start to doubt what we're doing.. because I know, inevitably, they'll come. :)

On My Side Table

This book was a quick Sunday afternoon read. It had me laughing throughout. I also just love that era--the 1920s and 30s. I find it fascinating, appreciate simpler lifestyles, and love how people were thankful for things we have long forgotten to be.
 Loved how this book started off. I was excited to read a book about books.  :) The titles this main character mentions in the book were so fun and reminiscent of a well-read reader, of course. A lovely story about a shy, no-risk-taker girl who actually comes out of her shell and ventures to create a travelling bookstore. Taking place in the Scottish countryside, this former city-dweller discovers a quieter and more isolated life in Scotland. The descriptions are lovely and had me travelling there in my mind. I just wish the last half of the book was as captivating. Sadly, the writer had to weave a corny romance into it, which in my opinion, took away from the greatness it could have had.

February 3, 2018


Our kids love video games. Especially my youngest son. He loves anything "screen." We have always operated with a timer regulating tablet or PS3 in our house, only because for that particular little boy, he never tires of these kinds of games! If left to his own, time could go by without any breaks or any other activities happening. For the last couple of weeks we have operated on a "tablets and video games only on the weekend" rule. At first I thought this was going to be really hard to keep up, because I kind of looked forward to that quiet in the later afternoon. I have been pleasantly surprised that once everyone got used to the idea, the asking for tablets and video games has basically stopped. The new trend in our house however, has become this game called "Typer Island." It's a keyboarding tutor, and my youngest (once again) seems to be using it as a way to fill his apparent need for screens, in the name of education. haha. For the most part, our weekend video gaming/tablet apps is working, and I'm thankful for this. There are so many other things we can fill our time doing. I'm not by any means against gaming, but I really want to offer a well-rounded feast of activities at this point in their young lives. While my children's interests and skills are developing, I feel the need to guide this area. As well, we all need some direction when it comes to learning wise time management.


This week we finished our Canada's Natives unit. Because I'm not in a position to write a curriculum to teach these topics, I don't feel like I can be overly critical of the program itself, however, I certainly felt like the content could have been condensed. This was a long 10-week study. Even though there are differences between native groups in our history, it would seem they share more similarities. If we go through this material again when my youngest is a bit older, we will likely make some of our own changes. (Which is pretty normal in homeschool--adapt programs to fit your family's style.) As well the project book that I had each of my children make became redundant after a while. The project book consisted of creating 4 pages of information for each native group, covering these topics: Food, Shelter, Transportation, and a Region Map. What I really appreciated about this unit was each of my children became experts at making a title page (we made a section title page for each of the seven groups). They also practiced summarizing information in their own words. And finally, they enjoyed copying notes we brainstormed together from a whiteboard. 

My sixth grader and I just finished reading this book together. One reason why I love Sonlight so much, is that it really stretches us to read books we wouldn't normally pick up on our own. I read this book aloud to her, while the other kids kind of floated in and out of the room. Reading a book aloud together, can also completely change the way we feel about it, even if the story is a bit harder to follow, or not faced paced. The reading aloud experience, really adds to how we remember the book. For this, I'm so thankful.

I think I can honestly credit my children's love for reading to reading aloud with them. Oftentimes, they pick up harder books that we have already read together. Reading the book aloud, makes the story more approachable for them. They have the overall idea, and they want to revisit it themselves. And with those children who all too often judge a book by its cover, or the printing inside.... ebooks are the solution! You can increase the font size to make it less daunting, and many times you can find better cover art from other editions.  ;) And of course, there's Audible. Finding a good narrator, and listening together can change your reading experience completely! My oldest daughter has listened to books like Redwall, Treasures of the Snow, The Hobbit, Little Britches. My boys keep revisiting favorites like Homer Price, How to Eat Fried Worms, and Hank the Cowdog.

A new-found resource is RedeemedReader.com. This website is a collaborative effort of individuals reading and reviewing popular books of all genres.

On My Side Table

Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine was such a fun read---I finished it in two days. A quirky mystery set in the early 1900's in London with the emergence of the department store concept.

I can't say a book has ever really caused me to have troubles falling asleep!  ;) I chose Silver in the Blood because of reviews on books by this author on redeemedreader.com under the heading of fantasy. I was keen to change up my genre of fiction... this was the only ebook available by her on my public library, so I gave it a try. I'm not sure I will revisit Jessica Day George. This was a stretching read for me. But you may enjoy it if you like vampire stories and people changing forms.... This book I also read in two days, stretching as it was, it kept me turning the page.

January 26, 2018

I was remarking to a friend this week how right now I feel that our homeschool has become a well-oiled machine. In general, things are just working. We have reached a particular point in which I can give assignments and the kids are becoming more and more responsible for their work. Of course, reminders are necessary once in awhile, and I still have to stay on top of things. But everyone seems to know the expectations of our school morning, more or less. We continue to tweak and change things as needed, but I can honestly say that we are having more good days than difficult ones at this stage. Praise the Lord!

This is a reward, and not a reward earned without some hard work and diligent planning.

Each evening, while my husband and I are sitting down to relax, after the kids are in bed, I write out everybody's assignments for the next day. Taking this 10 minutes out of my evening really pays off the next day. As well, I've found it better than creating their entire week's schedule on Sunday night. Because as we go through each day, often times, certain things take a little longer than we expected, or perhaps shorter. By writing out each day's work the night before, I am also able to note special attention I might to give someone for any particular assignment that must get done the next day. It really helps me think about timing and anticipate who will need Mom more that day, or what-have-you.

Since starting school in September, we have gradually added more things to the schedule. For example, my 6th grader has started a Science H (from Sonlight). Rather than following the schedule that came with the program, however, I have suggested she set a timer and just work on Science for 30 minutes each day. This has worked brilliantly! She isn't getting bogged down by a set amount of work she must finish, and sometimes I even find her able to fit in extra. We have intended to stretch this course across 6th and 7th grade, so we don't feel as though we're rushing through either.  We are finishing up Module 1 at this time, and so far she's loving it. I also really appreciate that she's reached an age where science experiments don't need to involve me.  :) I'm not a science-experiment-loving-homeschool-mom... ... nope.

My son in 4th grade has also started Science E (from Sonlight) which focuses on magnetism, astronomy, and electricity, among other topics spread throughout. We are moving very slowly through this one. And it's been a nice way for the two of us to connect. It's very important to him that he has a special thing that only he gets to work through without the others. We are reading the material together, and he really enjoys the hands-on projects.

On My Side Table

January 19, 2018

The Unexpected

One of my friends and I were remarking to each other that all too often here, in Madagascar, we experience the unexpected. And the unexpected is usually negative in our human eyes. I'm talking about those trivial annoyances that seem to plague our everyday: things taking longer than we'd hoped, an item missing that we normally find in the shops, things breaking down the day it was purchased, or whatever.

But this week the unexpected was an amazing gift! I had the opportunity to go and see the world renowned Avenue of the Baobabs. This avenue has been endlessly photographed by professionals, tourists, adventurers, you name it. These trees, the baobabs, are among the top 10 most famous trees in the world. Standing enormously tall, strangely plump, with this spread of branches at their very tops, they are unique.


On My Side Table

 Speaking of experiencing the unexpected, in the negative sense.... I'm realizing that a lot of my anger/frustration stems from unmet expectations. Despite my natural bent to think that the "glass is half-empty," I also have a tendency to think idealistically. Which can set me up for disappointment. Only one chapter into this, and I'm convicted. I have a feeling that I will take my time through this one. I need to digest each chapter and the reflection questions.... 

This is the first Ann Patchett book I've read. I heard her name on the Modern Mrs. Darcy podcast, What Should I Read Next. I'm only three chapters into it so far.

January 12, 2018


I appreciate the extended school break to evaluate the past term, the flow of our days, and to re-prioritize material.

This second term, for the first time ever, I'm using a strategy I've heard other moms do called "Looping." I want to cover so many great things, but it's overwhelming and impossible to try and cover everything to the extent we may want! But I can help touch on things I feel are important and rich for us in this season if we loop.

The idea of "Looping" is simply taking turns with the non-essential subjects each day, rather than trying to follow a strict, Monday-we-do-this, Tuesday-we-do-that schedule. Instead, simply take turns doing one activity each day, regardless of the day of the week. Sounds novel doesn't it? In this way, if we miss a day we just pick up next subject in turn, rather than feel like we have to catch up somehow.

Individually the kids will "loop" things like typing lessons, Reading Eggs, Sketch-up activities, and World Kids for our current events studies.

Together, we will loop through activities like, picturebook storytime, poetry, music/art appreciation, and missionary stories.

  • Picture book story time is something that has been kind of lost in our day-to-day with the kids getting older. I want my youngest, who is only in first grade, to also reap the benefits and have memories of good picture books being read to him. Keeping it on my "to do" helps it not get forgotten so easily.
  • Poetry is something we have always enjoyed together. Now that everyone is reading, all of the kids like choosing poems or nursery rhymes to share as a group activity.
  • Music/Art Appreciation in our home is not as complicated as it sounds. We have collected some beautiful children's art books over the years that have thought-provoking observation questions. As for music, it's important to me to expose the kids to orchestral classical music (and all types of genres), and to hear short biographies of composers.
  • Missionary Stories are also a rich source of life lessons, cultural information, and developing a heart for the lost and an appreciation for people who have risked much for God's calling.
With this "looping" strategy, we can touch all of these areas every week, or at least every two weeks.

In the Life

This past week Cyclone Ava made landfall on the eastern side of Madagascar from the Indian Ocean. We experienced a lot of rain in the city, and high winds at times. And of course, some power outages.

For us, who live in the city, on the high plateau more in the center of the island, cyclones on the coast bring gray gloomy days. Reminiscent of endless rainy days in BC.... how did we survive that? It's amazing what you can get used to.. both ways, right? The kids were asking me all weekend, "When is this rain going to end?"

When we woke up on Sunday morning, and the rain was still coming down in buckets, none of us felt like venturing out to church. When the kids asked if we would go, we said, "Of course! If we let rain stop us in BC, we would never go."   :)

On My Side Table

These two books aren't technically on my side table anymore, as I finished each of them in a day. I couldn't put Wonder down last Saturday, it was that good, and we will definitely see the movie that just came out in November. And I really liked the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, so I thought I'd try out another book by the same author. This was historical fiction about how the Mona Lisa came to be painted by Leonardo da Vinci. It was also very interesting and a fun little middle-grade novel I read on Sunday afternoon.


January 5, 2018

2017 in Books

This is the first year that I've logged all of my own reading, and I have to say---It's really motivating! I'm surprised at how many books I was able to get through. Looking at this list also makes me more aware of my choices, and wanting to choose better this year. Mostly, I feel like the time was well spent, but there are a few titles here that I can't even remember, or weren't worth sticking with.

Not included in this list are our read alouds! That could be its own post, easily. These are just books I read on my own in 2017.

Going into 2018, books currently in progress:

Where Do I Get Book Recommendations?

Periodically I try out books from "The Most Popular" lists from my public library. Most of time, I'm sorely disappointed. Usually it has to do with a weak storyline, or really bad language... So I don't usually waste time making guesses from that list.

Mostly, I enjoy books recommended by Sarah Mackenzie on amongstlovelythings.com. She also hosts a really great podcast called Read Aloud Revival, and often I hear about books that would interest me there.

Sometimes I go over to Modern Mrs. Darcy to find a good book. 

If I'm on many reading blogs, or places where there are booklists and I repeatedly see the same titles, then I might choosing a book that way.

I read many books recommended by Sonlight.

Finally, I'm choosing books from a Recommended Reading List from the Institute of Biblical Counselling and Discipleship--where I'm currently working my way through their online training program.

Here's to a new year reading!