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Self Education

Why I’m Reading Juvenile Fiction

You know what’s on my bedside table more often than not these days? Children’s books. No, I don’t mean picture books (which I’m already reading en mass to three little girls who beg me to from sun-up to sun-down), but what my children call “chapter books”.

Why would a grown woman, especially one who is striving for her own self education and growth, be spending so much time reading selections from the library’s Juvenile Fiction collection?

Shouldn’t I be investing that time reading the great books?

5 Great Reasons Adults Should Be Reading Kid Lit - Why I'm spending so much time reading books from the Juvenile Fiction collection at my library -

While I am trying to get through some pretty heavy books this year, more of my time lately is being spent on lighter reading in the form of children’s books. Here’s why.

There are SO many great children’s books that I missed out on as a child!

While I did read some children’s classics in my youth (L. M. Montgomery was a favourite of mine), I mostly only read what was popular at the time. I  spent the bulk of my reading time on The Baby Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High and more of the like.

If I stuck to only “adult” books, I’d never get the chance to enjoy such books as The Chronicles of Narnia and so many other wonderful children’s classics!

They are shorter and easier to digest for this busy, pre-occupied, homeschooling mama

My attention span is pretty short these days. Maybe it’s because I’m constantly being interrupted, or because all of my free time comes in brief moments salvaged between cooking, cleaning, teaching, and potty-ing, but I have a hard time focusing on the heavier, deeper, and more thought provoking choices.

So I can talk about them with my children

I have really been enjoying re-reading my own favourite children’s classics with my children and discovering new treasures, but a newly discovered delight for me is sharing books separately. By the time I was halfway through the first book in the Wingfeather Saga, I just knew my oldest would adore it. So I tossed her the book when I was finished and she devoured it in a matter of days. Now she is harassing me daily to see if I’m done with the second so she can have it. It’s such fun!

They provide me with a window into the life of a child and help me relate to my own

It has been a long time since I was a kid, and sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like. My own adult perspective is vastly different from that of my children, and I’m often so wrapped up in my own grown up concerns and priorities that I completely miss those of my children. When I read children’s literature, I’m transported back to my own childhood, and am reminded how important their concerns really are.

Because a great book is a great book, regardless of it’s target audience

This is the real reason. A good story, well written, is ageless. What you take away from the story at 12 can be so very different than what impresses you at 35.

Why do I read children's books?Because a great book is a great book, regardless of it's target audience.

A year or so ago I re-read Little Women and my attention was drawn to Marmee’s example in mothering her girls. I’m pretty sure she made little impact on me when I first read the book in my teens, I was completely pre-occupied by the sibling relationships, romance, ambitions, and adventures of the March girls. But now that I’m a mother myself and raising my own brood of “little women”, my perspective on the story has completely changed!

Are there any children’s works that you enjoy especially now as an adult?

This post is linked up on The Hip Homeschool Hop.

Booklists: Finding Great Reads for Your Children (and Yourself!)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often been discouraged and annoyed by the books my children bring home from the library. I’ve even hid some of them. And as much as I want to and believe it would be ideal to do so, I just can’t pre-read everything before handing it over to my children. So what’s a mama to do?

Well, the very best thing to do (next to reading them all yourself of course) would be to get book recommendations from someone you trust and who has similar values to your own. Families differ, so be sure to ask questions if you are at all unsure regarding content and age-appropriateness. Reading level, age suitability, and maturity vary greatly from one child to the next, and what is acceptable to one family may not be to another.

Another great option is to find a quality booklist and work from there. Now there are a lot of booklists out there that are riddled with junk. I’m not going to get into the “what is twaddle?” debate because everyone seems to have their own definition of twaddle, and even those who agree on a given definition may actually differ in whether or not they allow it into their homes.

The booklists I’m sharing with you today I believe will likely be considered by most, if not all picky readers as twaddle-free. I obviously haven’t read every book on these lists (I’m the busy mama who can’t pre-read her voracious 8-year old’s books, remember?) but they are from sound, trusted sources.

So fill up your library requests queue with books from these online booklists, and keep your kids so busy reading great books that they forget all about those captain underwear and rainbow fairy nonsense books!

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, I may get a small commission at no extra charge to you. You can read my full disclosure statement here.

Here are some great, online booklists:

  • Five in a Row/Before Five in a Row: FIAR is a popular literature based unit study program. While I’ve never used or even previewed their curriculum, their booklists are full of wonderful children’s classics for the younger years.
  • Sonlight: Sonlight is a literature based complete package homeschool curriculum. I have no experience with their program at all, but I love their booklists. Full of rich classics with a strong emphasis on history.
  • Ambleside Online: Ambleside is a free, online, Charlotte Mason homeschooling curriculum. Great living book selections from the early years through to high school.
  • Mensa for Kids: The Mensa for Kids Excellence in Reading Program is pretty cool. Your kids can earn a certificate and t-shirt for working through their booklist!
  • 1000 Good Books List: This list, put out by Classical Christian Education Support Loop, is a real gem. The lists are arranged by from primary all the way through high school. I used this list extensively when looking for high-quality books for my oldest when she was a new reader — most of the selections commonly labelled as “easy readers”  and those “first chapter books” are drivel at best — and this list provided some great alternatives.
  • Classical Reader: This list is also available in print from Classical Academic Press and is a new favourite of mine. You can filter books by author, level, grade, genre, and even by medals/awards won! I love that this is a searchable list, and has been put out by such a trustworthy source.

Booklists: finding great reads for your children and yourself! These are my favourite sources for wholesome & classic literature selections for our family and homeschool

More booklists!

If you are searching for books that will be especially great as read-alouds (not all great reads make great read-alouds), Sarah MacKenzie from the Read Aloud Revival has put together a great list that is categorized by ages & genres. The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is also a great resource for this.

My absolute favourite resource for choosing books for my children would have to Gladys Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s Heart; it is so much more than a booklist! It includes books by topic, age, & genre from picture books all the way up to young adult. And it provides so much inspiration and encouragement for creating a reading culture within the home.

What about mom?

Don’t forget to get your own nose in a book! You certainly don’t want to be so busy feeding the minds of your children that you forget to set a feast for yourself too. Children learn by example above all else, so if you want your children to be lovers of good books, you need to be one yourself. There are tons of great booklists available for children’s books (my favourites are mentioned above), but what about mom? Well, you could explore the Senior Reading Level list from the Classical Christian Homeschooling Support Loop, or other high school aged selections in the above mentioned lists.

If you would really like to get started in earnest with self education but don’t know where to begin, I would recommend both Adler & Van Dorren’s How to Read a Book and Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. Both books contain excellent information on how to read challenging works from different time periods and genres as well as book lists to get you started.

The very best thing you can do though, is to find someone to explore books with you, like a friend or book club, where you can discuss what you are reading and exchange ideas. My greatest source of support has been an online book club full of true bibliophiles, and I get most of my book recommendations from them. I started the year by scanning the list of books that were going to be covered in the coming year and picked out for myself a modest number that I could be sure to get through.

Do you have a favourite source for booklists that isn’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments!

This post is linked up at Trivium Tuesdays.

My 2016 Reading Plan – Spring Update!

Educating myself while I educate my children has become increasingly important to me. Finding the time to do so however, while also being a busy (and distracted!) wife and home educating mother is really difficult — but I’ve committed to taking baby steps. My goal is to read for minimum of 30 minutes daily, which, with a little self discipline, has been very doable.

It has been almost 4 months since I began my 12 Books for 12 Months reading plan, and I thought it would be a good time to review my progress!

1/3 of the way through the year, I’m actually 1/3 of the way through my books! Yay!

These are the Books I’ve got checked off the list so far:

The Awakening of Miss Prim – I really wanted to love this book, but I didn’t. It came highly recommended by  my online book club, and it was filled with lovely quotes about education, but there wasn’t a single character I could like, and the “idyllic” setting it presented sounded stuffy, stifling, and pretentious to me.

Surprised by Joy – I haven’t really read a lot of Lewis yet, and this book filled in a lot of background information for me about his life and conversion. I really enjoyed it!

Teaching from Rest – This was a quick and easy read that I enjoyed very much. There is a lot of encouragement here for homeschooling moms!

Jo’s Boys – This was a great little ending to the Little Women and Little Men books which I have read & re-read so many times. I can’t believe I hadn’t ever read it before!

In progress are:

Jane Eyre – This one is not on my reading plan at all, but I’m planning on attending a stage performance with a group of homeschooling mamas in a little over a month. I can’t believe I had never read this classic! I’ve been an Austen lover for years, and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think this is better than her works! I love it!

Mere Christianity – This is a re-read for me, but it has been many years so it is still seeming mostly fresh to me.

Plutarch’s Lives – This one is NOT going well! I’m not sure if I am going to keep slogging through it or put it aside for some future date when my reading skills and education have progressed enough to absorb and enjoy this classic work. I’ve also been hearing about Anne White’s study guide to Plutarch at Ambleside Online and I may check that out and see if it helps.


I’ve also gotten myself this lovely new notebook to replace my trusty and now full Hilroy spiral notebook 🙂

2016 Reading Plan Update

Additional reads:

In addition to the books on my personal list, I’ve of course also been reading with my girls. We’ve done these so far this year, either as read alouds or audios in the car. I’m not counting the picture books though, because I just can’t be bothered to keep track of those, and because Lama Lama Red Pijama would show up about a million times.

Understood Betsy – This is easily one of the dearest books I have ever read! If you haven’t read it before, you need to!

Stuart Little – This is a re-read for Big Sister and I, but was new to Little Sister and we really enjoyed this classic together.

The Family Under the Bridge – Another nice story my girls enjoyed

Shiloh – I wasn’t that fussy for this one, and I found myself editing for language in some places while reading it to my girls. Not that it was terribly vulgar or anything, but some of the language was not quite the type we use in our home.

Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery is one of, if not the, favourite author from my own girlhood, and I’m so happy to be enjoying these now with my own little girls!

Emily of New Moon – The Emily books are another of my favourites of Montgomery’s works. I really enjoyed listening to them again, but they were perhaps a little too dark and mature for my girls.

Nurse Matilda – Very similar to Mary Poppins (which my oldest adored a few years back).

Do you have any reading or self education goals? What have you been reading lately?




>Living and Learning at Home

Set of 5 Watercolour, Literary Inspired Bookmarks {PRINTABLE}

I’m well on my way with my 2016 reading plan! This past week I had the pleasure of starting in on two of this year’s selections: Teaching From Rest and The Awakening of Miss Prim. I really like to have at least two books on the go — a fiction and a non-fiction, or a “heavy” read and a light read. This week has been a bit of a treat because both books are such easy going page turners!  Although it is a short book, and charmingly written, there is still a lot of meat and inspiration in Teaching from Rest; it is giving me much encouragement regarding my children’s education and my mothering.

And since I’m chugging along full steam ahead with my reading commitments, I thought I would refresh my stash of bookmarks with a good supply of motivational bookmarks to keep me reading all the year through!

So here they are, the are intended to be thought provoking and to inspire self education and a literary lifestyle! Each bookmark features beautiful watercolour flowers and contains a quotation on the subject of reading and books from such writers as Hemingway, Emerson and Thoreau. So go ahead, print them off for yourself and enjoy!  You can print them off on regular paper or cardstock, and even laminate them if you want to make sure they last. Or punch a hole in the top and tie a ribbon on, and tuck one into your next book gift or when you loan a book to a friend!

Free Printable, Literary Inspired, Watercolour Bookmarks!

The beautiful watercolour clipart is from  Angie Makes.


Download your bookmark by clicking here or the image above. Please don’t host these files on your own site or link directly to the file, but please do share by referring friends to this page! Happy reading 🙂

What are you currently reading?



12 Books for 12 Months — My 2016 Reading Plan!

Earlier this year I began my journey into becoming more a “learning mama” by getting intentional about my own self education. My journey began with just one simple step – a commitment to read daily for just 30 minutes. Just one simple thing to begin setting the example of lifelong learning to my children and to feed my own mind and spirit.

I’m going to try to kick it up a notch in the new year by planning my reading. I’ve never even kept a record of my reading before, let alone laid it all out in advance, so this is new territory for me! I’ll also be keeping a bit of a reading journal or “Commonplace” to help me digest what I’m learning, keep a record of what I’ve read and jot down anything I think I will like to remember.

12 Books in 12 Months! - My 2016 Reading List!


My list for 2016 contains light reads, those of a practical nature, some with spiritual significance, and some with much literary merit. Some of these are my own choices and some I will be reading along with an online book club group.  A few I already own, others I will borrow from the library, and at least one  I will need to purchase. Its not much, and I know some who read a book a week – but I’m trying to be realistic here, and for me, this seems achievable while also leaving a little wiggle room for some impromptu selections along the way.

Here they are!

The Awakening of Miss Prim (Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera) I know nothing about this one but it is a January selection for my online book discussion group. [spacer height=”20px”]

Surprised by Joy (C. S. Lewis) February selection for online book discussion group.[spacer height=”20px”]

Mere Christianity (C. S. Lewis) April selection for online book discussion group.[spacer height=”20px”]
The Four Loves (C. S. Lewis) June selection for online book discussion group.[spacer height=”20px”]
The Abolition of Man (C. S. Lewis) August selection for online book discussion group[spacer height=”20px”]

Teaching from Rest (Sarah Mackenzie) I have been wanting to read this one for a while.[spacer height=”20px”]
History of the Ancient World (Susan Wise Bauer) This one I started almost two years ago but had to return it to the library before I was even close to finishing it. I’ve got my own copy now, and I ‘d like to read it and the next two books. So far my education in history has consisted of reading SOTW with my children and I should probably have a deeper knowledge of history than that of a grammar stage child![spacer height=”20px”]
Jo’s Boys (L. M. Alcott)My online book discussion group is currently doing Little Men which I have read several times (as well as doing the audio currently with my girls) and I realized that I have never read it’s sequel![spacer height=”20px”]
Plutarch’s Lives This one is also for my online group. I admit that I had never even heard of Plutarch until somewhat recently. We will be doing two lives every two months starting in January. It is my understanding that this is very heavy, so I hope I will be able to keep up![spacer height=”20px”]
Margin I have heard this one recommended from many different sources, so I snagged a copy from Thrift Books.[spacer height=”20px”]
For the Family’s Sake I’m interested in this one mostly because I absolutely LOVE For the Children’s Sake and recommend it to everyone.[spacer height=”20px”]
Heartfelt Discipline (Clay Clarkson) I already own this one and started it last year. I figure I should get around to finishing it![spacer height=”20px”]

So there you have it — 12 books for 12 months! Hopefully I will be able to keep up and still have room for whatever comes across my path as I go along! What are you hoping to read in the New Year?

Living and Learning at Home

Our Must Read Books for 2016 {Dad & Mum's Book Stand}

5 Great Podcasts for Classical Homeschoolers

I’m a newbie when it comes to the world of podcasts.  Up until recently, my only experiences listening to podcasts had been a handful of unwilling exposures to my husband’s sports or political commentary subscriptions. But now that I’ve found my own subscriptions, I’m hooked! I have found them to an invaluable source of inspiration, encouragement, and practical help in mothering/teaching my children. I often listen while doing chores or driving in the car, and it is proving to be quite an effective method of “professional development” so to speak!

Read Aloud Revival

The Read Aloud Revival podcast was my introduction to the wonderful world of podcasts — there were probably about 20 episodes already released when I first found it, and I gobbled them all up as fast as I could. It is hosted by Sarah McKenzie of Amongst Lovely Things, one of my favourite blogs. She has had Andrew Pudewa, Jim Weiss, Julie Bogart,  Susan Weiss Bauer and so many more great guests! The goal of the podcast? To help you build your family culture around books, which is right up my alley! There is also a membership site, where all kinds of freebies are available as well as live author events and classes and a Facebook Group.

The Homeschool Snapshots

This is Pam Barnhill (of’s podcast and it is also excellent. She interviews various real life and well known homeschoolers about topics relating to family and education. Her guests have included Jamie of The Unlikely Homeschooler, Kris Bales of Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Mystie Winkler of Simply Convivial, and Tsh Oxenreider of The Art of Simple.

Quiddity (CIRCE Institute Podcast Network)

The CIRCE  (Consulting and Integrated Resources in Classical Education) Institute produces several great podcasts. Quiddity is their original podcast, and features interviews and ideas of interest to Classical Educators. Guest include Andrew Kern, Andrew Pudewa, Sarah MacKenzie. The content of this podcast is really good, and requires some time for me to digest!

The Mason Jar (CIRCE Institute Podcast Network)

The Mason Jar is CIRCE’s newest podcast, featuring all things Charlotte Mason. This is a great podcast for you whether you are a Charlotte Mason or Classical homeschooler (or a little bit of both!). Hosts are David Kern and Cindy Rollins.

Your Morning Basket

Your Morning Basket is Pam Barnhill’s newest podcast, focusing on the homeschool practice of “morning time” or “circle time”. There is discussion of memorization, reading aloud, and rituals. So far, there have been interviews with Cindy Rollins, Christopher Perrin and Andrew Pudewa. Whether you have been doing some form of Morning Time all along, or are new to the practice, consider this podcast your guide and encouragement as you seek to begin each day with truth, beauty and goodness.

Have you been inspired by any podcasts lately?

Classically Homeschooling

Thoughts On Self Education

One of my great goals and aims in educating my children is that they develop self discipline and become life long lovers of learning. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? We want to see our children grow in knowledge and develop a passion for some subject or other.

But what do we know above all about how children learn? As the old maxim goes “children learn what they live”, and our children are watching us. What kind of example for learning and self education am I setting? Do my children see me pursuing my interests? Do they see me struggling to learn or master something new, trying again until I get it right?

There have been a few things I have been interested in learning in the last few years. When my oldest was quite young, I wanted to be able to make decent, homemade birthday cakes for family celebrations. This was “pre Pinterest” so I took a few classes and can now whip up a nicely decorated buttercream cake for my girls’ birthdays. Then, I wanted some basic sewing skills. I took a weekly, evening class and can now (usually) correctly thread my sewing machine. I truly hope my children see that adults are still learners as they are!

One area I do believe I have been neglectful both to my own personal development and in setting an example to my children is in keeping my mind fed. Before becoming a mother, I was a voracious reader. I spent HOURS each day reading. I lost track of time reading. If in the middle of a good book, I could read all night without even noticing the passage of time.

As the years have passed, I have been reading less and less. These days it seems I am constantly checking books out of the library only to  return them several weeks later unfinished. I still LOVE books. I love booklists. I love book reviews. But actually sitting down and getting through a book has become a real challenge to me.  Add to this the desire to be able to read the classics and the great literary works, and I have been feeling pretty defeated.  Is it possible that I am no longer able to really READ a book anymore?

This past year, for the second time, I checked the book,  The Well Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had out from the library. I really wanted to read the books listed. I really wanted to read those classics in each genre. But I knew I just couldn’t.

It’s time to model that growth mindset, that perseverance, and that love of learning to my family! Surely I can spare 30 minutes a day to build the habit of reading back into my life! Starting today, I commit to reading a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Will you join me? Follow along with me on Facebook, and I’ll post each week what I’m working through! If I don’t, you can give me a nudge!

Here is what is currently on my stack:

What's on my stack! /Learning Mama @

How to Read a Book

I had this one out from the library a few months back and returned after having only read the introduction. It had a request on it and couldn’t be renewed. I’m on chapter 5 now, and I’m hoping it will make a better reader out of me. I’m taking notes!

The Story of Art

This title came highly recommended to me when I was searching for a way to chose and organize my own art curriculum for our homeschool. My knowledge of art history, art, and artists is really lacking and so far this book is really interesting!

The Bible

This book is always on my stack! I can remember the first time reading through God’s word when I was about 16-17 years old. I really felt my eyes opening as truth was revealed to me so freshly for the first time. I truly hungered for it!  I confess that it hasn’t been so in recent years.

What are you reading? Do you have a hard time fitting reading and self education into your busy days?

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