Tag Archives: book review

Books Books Books!

Books books books

Hi Friends!

I have a stack of glorious reading for the summer here DownUnder and I’d love to share these with you.  Many of these are Christian titles, as I’m simply at a place right now where I’m wanting to feed my soul. 🙂 And the rest are history titles, my other great love when it comes to reading.

Multi award-winning historical fiction, The Chronicles of Iona is set in 563 AD and is the story of the two men who laid the foundations of the Scottish nation, an Irish monk, Saint Columba, and a Scottish warlord, Aedan mac Gabran.  Aedan is my direct ancestor, and I absolutely love this period of history.  What’s not to love?

Technically this is a homeschool title for my Fourth Grader, but no harm will be done if I read it too! This one takes a look at English history from  55 BC to 1611 (the year the King James bible was published) and how our language developed.

Hannah is said to have earned three reputations in her life: that of a playwright, a writer on moral and religious subjects, and a practical philanthropist.  She is said to have affected every level of 18th century British society.  I love a good inspirational biography.

A stunning introduction to this medieval book, with beautiful full colour pictures.  I bought this partly to accompany our homeschool medieval studies next year, but also because I love Celtic history!

It seems fitting to re-visit this treasure, and actually finish it this time, with the 200th anniversary of when Samuel Marsden first preached the gospel on Christmas Day 1814.  Keith has done a fantastic job of telling the story of our early history in this young nation of New Zealand.

Most know of William Wilberforce, the 19th century politician famous for the abolition of slavery. But few know of the other members of the group, known to us now as the Clapham Sect.  Hannah More was also part of this group, and others including the Reverend John Venn.  The Clapham Sect not only sought to abolish slavery but are also responsible for other endeavours (future blog post!).  I’m looking forward to reading more on this extraordinary group of world-changers.

I love learning about historical awakenings and revivals in the Church, especially those that have impacted all places of society.  This seems to be the one that is recommended on revivals, so I have this arriving in my mailbox any day now.  I also have a couple of Winkie Pratney’s on my wishlist, after hearing him speak on revival last Sunday. Brilliant.

Anything by Graham Cooke is going to be brilliant. In this book, the first of a three-part series, Graham packs this training manual/guidebook full of insight, examples, application and assignments.  If you’re a student of the prophetic, then this one’s for you.

Understanding the Seer gift of the prophetic is something I’m going after at the moment.  The seer dimension of the prophetic is simply a way of receiving revelation, it’s not scary weird stuff. 🙂 So since this is the recommended book by those that I look to for wisdom, so it’s at the top of my reading pile!

This book contains rare, never before published material of selected, transcribed, edited sermons delivered by A.W. Tozer.  I thought I should probably balance out all the modern Christian titles with a little of the classic.  This seemed like a good fit. 🙂

Undoubtedly I’ll be adding other books to my pile before the break even starts.  Do you have any recommendations for me?  What will you be reading over the holidays?

With joy,



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Tips, Treats, Topics and Treasures {January 2014}

monthly round up January 2014

Beginning this month, I’m going to do a round up at the end of each month of things that have grabbed my attention over the course of the month – things to make in the kitchen, things I’m reading or watching, something I’ve read or discovered in health and natural living, and perhaps something we’ve been doing in homeschooling that’s been a great experience or fun part of the journey.

I simply want to pass on things that have caught my interest and been of benefit to my journey, in the hope that you might also find something useful or inspiring too.

So here goes…

In the Kitchen

What I’m Reading and Watching

  • Crafted Prayer (e-book) by Graham Cooke
  • Why Stomach Acid is Good for you: Natural Relief from Heartburn Indigestion, Reflux and GERD – by Wright and Lenard
  • I’ve been enjoying Dr Caroline Leaf’s material for the last couple of years on the brain and faith connection, and strongly recommend you listen in.  She has a series online at the moment on TBN.  Here is the first episode.
  • Compelled by Love – the inspiring story of Heidi Baker.
  • Rend Collective: 10,000 reasons – Love this! Intimate, honest, inclusive worship in a community of kindred people.  Love the Irish folksy sound, and love the heart of these people to honour one another and honour their King.
  • I am really looking forward to watching this one coming out this year: ‘Heaven is for Real

New Discoveries

  • iHerb.com – a great place to get over 35,000 supplements, health and beauty products at great prices.  Best of all, they ship to NZ for just $4, and only $8 for 2-day delivery (on average).   I’ve already put through 2 orders – love cheap international postage!
  • See the Light Shine Art DVD series – just got bumped up my homeschool wishlist.  We can’t wait to get started next month!
  • PureSante –spend months or years trying to get to the bottom of your health issues (like I have!), or consult with someone like the amazing Rachael who can help lead you into greater health. For folks in the Bay of Plenty, give this fantastic gal a call – she is amazing!

On the Homeschool Front

Online Treasures (great reads on the web)

  • I participated in a blog hop with my friends at the TOS Review Crew on the ‘Homeschool Essentials’.  Here’s a few I enjoyed:
  1. Wildflower Ramblings Content with my Role as Mother
  2. Delightful LearningMy Children’s Essentials
  3. FinchnWrenLove
  4. Every Bed of Roses Art and Music Appreciation Resources
  5. At Home: Where Life HappensPaperbacks

A Few of my Favourite Things

Quote of the Month

“When the key element of your identity comes from a negative, then your experiences will always be negative. When you see yourself as a sinner, then you will be preoccupied with sin. When you know that you are a saint, then you will be occupied with righteousness because a saint is one of the holy ones. You were a sinner that has been saved by grace to become a saint. You are a child of light beloved of God walking in newness of life. That makes you a completely different person!”

From MIND OF A SAINT – Graham Cooke

Have a great month!


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The Essentials Of Our ‘WholeHearted’ Homeschool

Essentials of our wholehearted homeschool

Some years ago when I was still navigating my way through all the various approaches to homeschooling, a book was given to me to read which, to this day remains my ‘mainstay’ in how we stay on course on our homeschooling journey.

‘Educating the Wholehearted Child’ by Clay and Sally Clarkson is comprehensive resource for home educating families, providing all the necessary insight and guidance for “educating and nurturing your children’s hearts, minds, and souls”.  At the heart of our children’s education, we want a home and family life that supports and equips them to grow into wholehearted adults – isn’t that the desire so many of us have?

I was excited to get the new edition into my hands recently, which reflects an additional 15 years of wisdom and experience from the Clarksons, and it far surpassed my (unrealistically high) expectations!   It is still quite simply the best homeschooling resource ever written.  Inside the 376pp of this latest edition are 4 sections – Home, Methods, Learning, and Living – which are further subdivided into 18 chapters.

I love how this isn’t a book to tell you exactly what to do, but it is full of principles and insight so you can create your own vision and plan for your family’s journey.

What is ‘Wholehearted Learning’?

According to the Clarksons: “The WholeHearted Learning model is a natural, home-centred way to nurture, disciple and educate your children to raise each on to be a wholehearted child”. (p xi)

Wholehearted learning is not a program or a curriculum, and in fact the book even states: “How we express wholehearted learning in our home will be, and in fact should be, different from how you express it in yours” (p15).

For us, a wholehearted approach to our children’s education is about setting an environment in our home where our children:

  • Know their value and purpose;
  • Know and experience God’s love;
  • Have opportunity to develop a living and vibrant relationship with Him, out of which they encounter His love, and love others extravagantly;
  • Enjoy the adventure of learning and discovering their gifts and talents;
  • Enjoy rich and satisfying relationships with each other and with us, their parents.

We partner with the Holy Spirit in tailoring our children’s education to co-operate with the purpose he has for their lives.  At a practical level, we can also consider each of our children’s learning styles, and their unique personality, giftedness and creativity in designing a plan for an education that is rich and alive, and that equips them to live their lives in fullness and abundance.

With Christ at the foundation of our lives, and home at the centre of nurturing, discipleship and education, we then set up a structure and environment that will incorporate our methods and programs.  We seek to bring in worthy thoughts and ideas, cultivate healthy relationships with others, and to raise well-rounded whole hearts that are ready to live purposeful lives.

The WholeHearted Learning Model – Four Essentials Of Our Family’s Homeschool

In “Educating the WholeHearted Child”, the four key components that define the “WholeHearted Learning homeschool approach” are: home, learning, methods, and living. (p16)

Over the next four days, I’m going to write on how each of these are expressed in our family, and how we have/are tailoring our homeschool (and essentially our family life) to journey in this direction.  For the purpose of this series, I am calling them the ‘four essentials’.

We are still growing into this and far from perfect in how we live this out. But without a vision, we would be walking aimlessly, without direction and clear purpose, and our homeschooling would be ‘built on the sand’ as such.  The Clarkson’s book has given us a basis for understanding how we are to build our family life, so we can raise those whole hearts I mentioned above.  I pray God will grace us to live out the vision we have for our family.

Whether you’re new to homeschooling, a veteran, or somewhere in between, it’s my hope that this series re-energises and renews your purpose and vision for homeschooling.

Wholehearted homeschool

NB.  These essentials are not laid out in this manner in Clay and Sally’s most excellent book, ‘Educating the WholeHearted Child’ nor are they a summary of the books content. But rather this is what I’ve understood from reading their approach, and have used their words of wisdom and insight to develop our family’s own ‘wholehearted’ approach to our homeschooling.

You might also be interested in the other posts in this series:

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Why We Read Together

Why we read togetherI love books.  Both of my parents were avid readers and passed this love onto all three of their children.  And now I have the joy of instilling a love for the written word in my own children.  I love it that now I can see that love growing in them also.

Here are some reasons why I believe filling your home with family story-times, and stocking your shelves with plenty of quality books, is worthwhile:

  • First and foremost, the time that you spend together huddled up around a good book being read-aloud is what making joy-filled memories is all about.   One-on-one times reading to your children, as well as family story times altogether, will leave an imprint on your children’s hearts of quality time with Mum or Dad where everything else can wait and they are the most important priority in that moment.  Priceless.
  • Reading regularly will develop a love of reading in your children.  Reading is where they’ll discover other worlds, cultures, people, slices of life, and all kinds of knowledge that will enrich their life and teach them things that you alone cannot.
  • Exposing your children to well-written literature will expand their vocabulary and widen their understanding at so many different levels.  They will gain greater use of language and stretch their minds to develop their own thoughts and ideas.
  • Reading a variety of stories and great books will widen their worldview and create an unquenchable hunger for learning.
  • Reading about the different lives of people from all walks of life, both fiction and non-fiction, will create moments of opportunity to teach and guide your child.
  • Reading for a length of time will eventually lengthen your child’s attention span and teach them listening skills.

If you are unable to buy every book that you would love to read, consider making frequent use of your local library.

I’ve recently updated and added a number of book lists that I hope will give you some ideas of some titles to add to your home library.  Many of these we have, and others we hope to add soon.

You might also find this reading log useful.

Finally, here’s a great book that we are hoping to add to our bookshelf soon that provides more than a thousand worthy titles of wonderful stories for children of all ages:

Read for the Heart cover

Grace Based Parenting – Tim Kimmel

Grace based parentingI think this book has revolutionised my thinking in parenting like no other book I’ve read.  Or maybe it’s grabbed me at just the right time, when my heart is primed to be navigating this journey with a different paradigm and set of tools in my backpack.  For whatever reason, it has reasonated with me to the point where it has instantly changed the way I relate to my children.  And for the better.  YES!

I’ve read more philosophies and perspectives on parenting than I can count.  So why this one?

Tim Kimmel doesn’t wade into strategies and techniques.  He doesn’t give a breakdown of what to do in any given situation.  There are no rules and checklists.  And, unlike some books I’ve read, he doesn’t express what is more or less a cultural paradigm and call it ‘biblical’.  Rather, he outlines how to, above all, create an environment of grace in which your children can cultivate their own faith and learn to lean into God to empower them to overcome sin and live out their purpose on the earth with intentionality and not passivity.

The foundational premise of this book is that we are all born with the same condition and the same need for a Saviour.  Our children are no different to us in this regard.  It is our job to point our children to Him and to draw from the power and presence of heaven, as they struggle through their natural bent to sin to overcome.  They will form an inner strength and character to overcome circumstances if we teach them to do this.

The Father relates to us with gentleness, unconditional love, and by laying a strong sense of purpose and hope in our hearts.  What a model for us to look to, as we emulate His ways as parents!

“Grace Based Parenting” also provides a matrix which serves as a useful summary – what your child’s three driving inner needs are, and the four basic things you need to do to maintain a grace-based environment.

I feel equipped with a way of approaching parenting that I can naturally and intentionally run through my own filters as we seek to create a grace-based environment that works in our family’s particular circumstances.

My favourite portrayal of Jesus played by Bruce Marchiano in the Gospel According to Matthew.

** Photo credit at bottom of page

What grace-based parenting IS about: empowerment; forgiveness; boundaries; responsibility; grace to make mistakes; freedom to be vulnerable; freedom to have open and honest communication; and, allowing the freedom for your child to be uniquely different.

What grace-based parenting IS NOT: fear-based; legalistic; overly permissive; highly controlled.  Most of all, it’s not about fear!

I feel myself becoming more and more free from the terrifying fear of damaging my children’s perspective of the Father, to the point where they do not eventually choose Him.  We all want to see our precious ones on the other side. Trust me, I have anguished over this too.

But whether we get the strategies right or wrong, what we should perhaps focus on foremost is that our children are immersed and raised in an environment of grace; I love how Tim puts it:

He chose you to assist Him in a miracle.  He gave you children and then said, “Now go, and give these precious lives meaning.” … This is where many parents panic.  When they realise that their job is to raise up children to love and serve and God, they wonder how on earth they will do that.  The answer isn’t on earth.  It’s found in heaven.  It’s sitting on an eternal throne.  He has many names, but among my favourites is “The God of Grace.”  You wonder, How am I to raise up children to love and serve God?  The answer is actually not that difficult. You simply treat your children the way God treats you.  He does it in His grace.  And here’s the good part.  If the only thing you get right as parents is His grace, everything else will be just fine.

Purchase “Grace Based Parenting” from Book Depository (free worldwide postage).

** Photo Credit: My favourite portrayal of Jesus is by Bruce Marchiano in the Gospel According to Matthew.  This stunning picture has touched my heart for years.  Visit Bruce’s website here.

Apologia Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day

Apologia Zoo 1We are about to start Apologia Science’s Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day after having thoroughly enjoyed Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy last year.  I sure learned a thing or two myself. 🙂

The textbook is written in a Charlotte Mason narrative style which we love, and comes with an accompanying notebook in which your child can complete the assignments in the main textbook. We are going to use the Junior notebook version which is recommended for grades K-3.  It doesn’t have as many writing activities, has dashed writing lines, and each section has colouring pages which your child can do while you read the textbook.  Perfect.

What It Covers

There are 14 lessons that cover birds, bats, pterosaurs, and insects.

The recommendation (but feel free to do what suits you) is that you spend about 2 weeks on each chapter, giving plenty of time to complete the reading and assignments, and completing all 14 chapters over 32 weeks.  We found last year this was a good pace for us (with a 7 year old) and we also chose to add in a lapbook for each chapter as well.  We used A Journey Through Learning, but Knowledge Box Central and Live and Learn Press also do a similar product.  The lapbooks are not necessary to use unless you want to do a little extra to reinforce what your child is learning.  I haven’t decided if we’re going to do the lapbook as well this year – it seems like the course content might be enough. 🙂

Why We Love Immersion Science

The first year we introduced science to our year’s program 2 years ago, my daughter found it incredibly dry, difficult to retain anything of value, and attempting to cover such an enormous range of topics in a skimping way just didn’t suit us.  As a result, science faded out of our program mid-year along with the enjoyment.

Then we discovered Apologia, which takes the approach of immersing a child in one topic for the year and hence developing a love of the subject and a deeper knowledge of the world in which God has created.  We ‘re-started’ science at the beginning of last year, and plan to use Apologia right the way through elementary/primary school.  We love it!

Adding In Some New Zealand Resources

The following is a list of resources that we will be referring to, as things are a little different here Downunder.

1.  Websites (birds)

2.  Websites (bats)

3.  Websites (insects)

4.  Books (birds)

5.  Books (insects)

{You might also be interested in Flying Through “Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day”}


The Jesus Storybook Bible

“The Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.” – from Chapter One of The Jesus StoryBook Bible

 The Jesus Storybook bible is a one-of-a-kind bible storybook for children.  As soon as I read the introduction, I was completely hooked.  It starts with Psalm 19:1-2 paraphrased, and then follows: “God wrote ‘I love you’- he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea.  He wrote his message everywhere!  Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror – to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing”.

I love the concept of helping children (and adults) see the Jesus-centred story line of the Bible.  Sally Lloyd-Jones successfully takes the reader on a journey, weaving the story of Jesus through every chapter.

Rosie enjoying our rather tattered version of The Jesus Storybook bible

I love this part of the first chapter, which shows how the author intends to bring the bible to life for children: “The Bible is most of all a Story.  It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves.  It’s like a most wonderful fairy of fairy tales that has come true in real life!  You see, the best thing about this Story is – it’s true”.

The language beautifully speaks into a modern cultural context that is somewhat obsessed with fairies and heroes, but instead of watering down the beauty of God’s love story and turning it into another make-believe story, it brings life and song to the truth of God’s love in a way that children can hear and receive.

I love the inclusion of stories that don’t normally make it into children’s story bibles, such as the books of Psalms and Revelation, and a rich telling of some of Isaiah’s prophecies.

The author takes some creative license in the re-telling of the stories, which for a children’s storybook for 4-7 year olds, you can expect a degree of.  I personally don’t mind this and don’t believe it falls outside the bounds of what you would expect from a children’s storybook.  I’ve read some reviews elsewhere that lists off the ‘inaccuracies’ – for example the lack of emphasis on repentance, holiness, and other key Christian doctrines.  I would say to this that if the intent of a bible storybook at this age is to introduce exact theology to your child, then you might want to look at a different children’s bible.  But if you’re looking for an engaging experience, which demonstrates the beautiful of God’s story of reaching out to rescue His beloved, then you’ll be thrilled with this.

An example of the author’s creative licence in ‘The Song of Creation, from Genesis 1-2 ‘: “Like a mommy bird flutters her wings over her eggs to help her babies hatch, God hovered over the deep, silent darkness.  He was making life happen.”

And do we really know if the lost son got that homesick feeling in his stomach?  Or if Jesus really said ‘get this little girl some breakfast’ after he raised her back to life?  Or even if the Wise Men really did ride their camels across endless deserts, up steep mountains, down into deep valleys, through raging rivers, and over grassy plains?  Of course not!  But the author paints a beautiful expressive picture to engage the mind and heart of a child into a love story that has Jesus at the centre, and in language and concepts that children can understand.

My daughter had two other bibles previously which we purchased through early Sonlight Cores, and they didn’t engage her interest much at all.  Or mine for that matter.  After having the Jesus Storybook Bible for about 2 years now, she has completely become taken with knowing the Creator of the Universe who is also her loving Heavenly Father who thinks she is one special and fantastic kid.  She quite literally fell in love as the bible storybook invited her to see the Bible, and its Author, through the eyes of every story whispering his name.    Now at 7 years old, we continue to read this bible alongside her Discoverer’s Bible and the hard work of capturing her interest and engaging her heart is done.  Thank you Sally.

If you are looking for an exact translation, or something that adheres to the look and feel of the Bible text closely, then this is not the storybook for you.

But if you are looking for your child be captivated with the Story at the heart of all the stories, to hear the heartbeat of the Father as he reveals his Son throughout his Word, and best of all in language that a child can understand, this may well be what you’re looking for.

See The Jesus Storybook website for downloads and audios.  The book comes in hardcover, deluxe hardcover edition with audio, e-book, and there is also a 50-week curriculum available.  About to be released is a collector’s edition that includes DVD’s of all 44 stories.