Amanda’s July Reading Recap

In July I read two popular books, one middle grade, and two YA Science-Fiction books. I was most excited about Recursion, because I love Dark Matter. Many of my friends enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing so I picked it up. It’s fun to read a popular book even if it’s not a genre you normally choose. I hope this list helps you choose your books in the future.


Author: Blake Crouch

Published: June 11th 2019 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)

Pages: 329

4 Stars

Plot: Neuroscientist Helena Smith and New York City cop Barry Sutton make an unlikely pair, but they’re the world’s only chance of defeating a new affliction known as False Memory Syndrome — a mysterious illness that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

It’s an interesting time travel novel. I didn’t love it as much as Dark Matter, because I didn’t connect with the characters. But if you love Science Fiction then you should definitely read it. It’s difficult to put down once you start the book. The story has some interesting themes about memory which would make for a good book club discussion.

Gemina (Illuminae Files Book 2) 

Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Published: October 18th 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Pages: 659

4 Stars

Plot: This is the second book of the Illuminae files series and continues the story where there is an intergalactic war between mining companies. In Gemina another male and female duo are trying to defeat an invasion on a space station that surrounds a wormhole. It’s sort of a Die Hard in space.

Each book is written and illustrated as a file of emails, surveillance footage, and diary entries. You have to read the hardback to get the full experience. However, the audio production is incredible with different actors and sound effects. So I ended up listening as I read along with the hardback. It’s such a unique experience and I totally recommend it!

Fish in a Tree 

Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt 

Published: February 5th 2015 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Pages: 288 pages

3 Stars

Plot: A sixth grade girl, Ally, struggles with dyslexia and friendships over the course of a school year. 

I liked the main character, but there are many other storylines of characters struggling with being a bully, physical fights with other students, hunger, parents being deployed, immigration, and other hardships. Some of those storylines are resolved and others are not. I appreciated the dyslexia storyline, but I didn’t see the need to incorporate so many other problems. I did not recommend this to my daughter.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Author: Delia Owens 

Published: August 14th 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 384

4 Stars

Plot: A coming-of-age crime drama about a girl growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina. 

This is a combination of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and To Kill a Mockingbird. I  would not have read this if it weren’t so hyped. I am glad I read it and I can see why readers love this book. The audiobook and being able to hear the “magnolia mouth” accents are enjoyable. The descriptions of nature are fantastic, but I felt the story was unrealistic. It’s still an interesting book and it’s very easy to follow the plot.

Steelheart (The Reckoners #1) 

Author: Brandon Sanderson 

Published: September 24th 2013 by Delacorte Press

Pages: 386

3 Stars

Plot:  A burst in the sky gave ordinary men and women superpowers and they are called Epics. The Epics turn out to be bad guys and they take over towns. A group called the Reckoners are trying to defeat them in a city that used to be Chicago.

I love Brandon Sanderson’s books. He is one of my favorite authors. However, this one of my least favorite books of his. I love the concept of hero-type people turning evil with superpowers and creative things happening to cities, but the book moved too slow for me. It was a lot of talking and not a lot of action. The talking does help you relate to the characters. It really may have been the wrong book at the wrong time.

I’ve already started on my books for August. Which books have you loved recently? I’m always looking for suggestions!

Photo by Annie Spratt 

Faith, Homeschool

Planting Seeds of Grace

In 1963 a Harvard Professor named Robert Rosenthal conducted a study in an elementary school near San Francisco, CA. The children in the school were given an IQ Test and the results were kept secret. The teachers were only told that certain students, about 20% of each class, were considered to be “intellectual bloomers.” These students, the teachers were told, had extreme potential to do big things someday. The teachers went about their school year armed with this knowledge and at the end of the year the students were retested. As predicted, the students that had been identified as “intellectual bloomers” (especially those in 1st and 2nd grade) had a remarkable increase in IQ rate compared to their peers. 

As you may have guessed, the problem was how the “intellectual bloomers” had been chosen at random. There was nothing special about them. This enforced Rosenthal’s hypothesis that what the teachers believed would affect how they communicated with the children and the children would learn more than their peers who were considered unexceptional. Ouch. 

As a homeschool mom/teacher, this study sends all kinds of emotion through me. My first inclination was to be frustrated that experiments like this happen to traditional school students. Second, I’m grateful I can keep my kids from being guinea pigs in a social experiment. But then it hit me! What do I believe about myself, my kids and my homeschool and how does it flow through my fingertips on a daily basis?

Sometimes I say or think things like, “I’m not qualified to homeschool” or “My kids need more help than I can give them” or “We are not doing enough (fill in the blank) in our school day.” When these kinds of thoughts become the story I tell myself, I’m foolish to think that doesn’t affect me or the kids. Maybe I have less energy or excitement to get through my days. Perhaps my kids see me worried or frowning more than being peaceful and cheerful. 

We need to replace these lies with truth from God’s Word. Consider the parable of Jesus found in Mark 4:26-29:

“And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

If God has called you to homeschool, he will take your broken, sinful self and use you to complete a work in your children. Don’t hear me saying you can sit around and surf Facebook all day and your children will be educated. Planting seeds is hard work, y’all! God only asks for your obedience to plant your seeds and he will cause the growth! I hope this gives you as much peace and relief as it gives me! Because this is His work, we can be patient, humble and confident. 

“ And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”-Philippians 1:6

God’s timing is different than ours. While we are all wrapped up in the day to day, He sees a huge tapestry outside of time. Don’t give up! He finishes what He starts! Be patient with the process.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. – I Corinthians 3:6

The results of this work are in God’s hands. If we think it’s all about us, we will fall into one of two pits. Either we will be prideful and pat ourselves on the back for being so gosh darn wonderful or we will feel shame when our children fail and put unhealthy pressure on them and us. Believe me, they will fail! And so will you. And God will take that and use it as part of his big, beautiful plan for your lives. 

“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:11

You can be sure that just as the earth will automatically bring forth a plant from a seed, so the work of God in your children’s lives will be accomplished. In due time, the harvest will come. So, go about your days with cheerful confidence, not in yourself or your curriculum or your child’s abilities, but in your loving, Heavenly Father who holds you all. 

Photos by Kelly Sikkema,  Eco Warrior Princess, Kai Pilger 

Homeschool, Potpourri

Curiosity Lounge is changing to Graceful Homeschool

When I homeschool I like to take a break every six weeks and evaluate how things are going. During this break, I can make adjustments and change how we use our curriculum. I recently took a break from Curiosity Lounge while we moved and I reevaluated how this new blog is going. 

I love the idea of being curious about topics and other people but I found the website name to be too vague. Curiosity Lounge doesn’t specify who we are as writers and who you are as a community. I needed a name to accurately reflect our focus and the topics we want to write about in the future. 

The name Graceful Homeschool is inspired by the only magnet on my refrigerator. Last year a friend gave me a magnet that says, “Choose Grace.” At first I thought it was too sentimental, but over time this magnet has reminded me to calm me down and to have grace for myself and other people.

We need vats of grace in our daily lives and we especially need grace in our homeschools.

This blog is still in its earliest days and I didn’t feel like it was too late to make this tiny pivot. Thank you so much for having grace for me as I make sure this corner of the internet helps you along in your homeschool, find books you love, and inspire you when doubts and frustration arrive.

I’d love to know in the comments if you have any questions about homeschooling or books. I know there are a lot of resources available to homeschooling families, but we’d love to help answer any questions you have about this exciting and scary journey of educating our kids.

What would like to know more about in the world of homeschool?

Faith, Homeschool, Parenting

Be Thou My Vision

I will never forget that day. We were sitting at a very routine eye doctor appointment, not suspecting that anything was wrong. When my very bright and precocious 9-year-old says, “I know the top letter is an E because it’s always an E. But I can’t see it.” It was as if time stopped. Wait, what? He’s kidding, surely…. “No, mom. I really can’t see it.” 

Thoughts came flooding in. The boy who always had a book with him had recently stopped reading in the car. He said he just didn’t feel like it. And then there was the baseball game last week where he begged to play catcher, FOR BOTH TEAMS. He spent the whole game in mask and pads squatting behind the batter. I guess it feels better to be wearing all those protective measures when you can’t see the ball coming at you. 

I felt like a terrible parent. How did I not know my poor boy was struggling to see? 

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June Reading Roundup

My June reads included non-fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and a mystery. I didn’t love everything I read and I’m already changing up genres for July’s books. I hope this helps you pick up something new or save you time on books that aren’t right for you.

To Stop a Warlord: My Story of Justice, Grace, and the Fight for Peace

Author: Shannon Sedgwick Davis

Published: April 2nd 2019 by Spiegel & Grau

Pages: 352

Rating: 5 Stars
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Homeschool, Potpourri

The Parallel of a Project and Parenting: Ten Steps to Sending My Son to College

Last year on my birthday, my oldest two boys bought me a DIY Wooden Sign project at The Board and Brush studio. My oldest was out of state doing an internship, so my second oldest came with me to help me make the project. We were having a great time and the project was coming together when about halfway through, the thought hit me that this project was an almost perfect parallel to parenting. 

The feeling was so powerful it almost took my breath away. I stood for a moment and stared at this 18-year-old young man who I clearly remembered as a scrawny little infant and the tears welled up. He knows this look in my eyes well and came over to give me a hug. We were both anticipating the upcoming goodbye as he was heading out of state to college in a few weeks. I pulled it together and we finished a beautiful project that hangs proudly over my fireplace. The entire time I was making mental notes and taking it all in and silently praising God for this precious gift. 

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I'm Curious About...

I’m Curious About Internet Security

“I’m curious about…” is a series exploring subjects we want to learn more about. Curiosity can lead us to learn more about different kinds of cheeses, find a new favorite author, or seek to understand another culture from your own. We can begin to find answers to our questions even when we don’t feel qualified.

In this edition, I’m curious about Internet Security.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I am a part of the Oregon Trail Generation and I grew up with the internet. I’ve always been curious about computers and how they talk to each other. In the late 1990s, movies like Sandra Bullock’s The Net, Antitrust, and Enemy of the State made me wonder which storylines are plausible in real life. In high school, I gained a basic knowledge of computers in an AP Computer Science class and then I took a  college-level Information Systems class.

In the mid-2000s, armed with my very basic computer knowledge I started reading Bruce Schneier’s blog, Schneier on Security, and Slashdot to get the latest security news. I didn’t understand all the technical lingo, but I could understand why someone or a corporation would want private information.

Now I’m still interested, because data leaks are often in the news. Two years ago Target stores had 40 million credit card numbers stolen, because of a vulnerability in their air conditioning system! Last year the detailed private information of  50 million Facebook users were exposed because of a few software bugs. The crazy scenarios from the movies have become real and it is fascinating.

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Give Me a Break!

I’ve been homeschooling for 16 years and I have noticed a couple of funny things about homeschoolers.

1.   There are no true sick days. 

When I was a kid in public school, there were days that I was truly sick and others when I was just “sick of it.” My mom was kind and wise and she occasionally let me stay home from school. On those “sick of it” days, we would go to Swensen’s for a ginormous ice cream sundae and maybe cruise the mall. I’d be all better about halfway through the sundae. On the truly sick days, I would binge watch PBS, Gilligan’s Island, and Dick Van Dyke. Guess what? Those days off didn’t make me fall irrevocably behind, fail to graduate or become a lazy adult. I’m actually pretty okay, and I have great memories because of those days.

Let’s consider our homeschoolers. Raise your hand if you have ever said, “I know you’re not feeling great, but you can read two chapters of your book today, right?” Or “It’s just a mild sore throat, have a Tylenol and we’ll start math in 30 minutes.” We wring our hands and worry if we let them bounce between the tablet and TV all day. We think it somehow reflects poorly on us, like we are failing them in some way. We feel this because of all the articles we read about technology being bad for our kids. Spoiler alert! There’s a lot of good in the technology available today.

2.   Monday Holidays, Spring Break, and Summer give us anxiety.

How many times have you been asked, “Are you taking Labor Day/MLK Day/Spring/Summer break off?” Only other homeschoolers ask these questions. The rest of the world assumes we are taking those breaks. Why wouldn’t we? We tend to see taking breaks as weak, lazy or backsliding. We feel guilty for resting! Need I remind you that God Himself considered rest so important that he dedicated an entire day every week to it? 

Every homeschool family will have their own rhythm and routine and that’s great. Some of you want to school through the summer for all kinds of reasons, go for it!

If you do school through the summer or holidays then promise me two things:  

Don’t look down on those taking breaks. Encouraging your kids to always be curious, and in that way, value learning all year round is awesome. Requiring a certain amount of bookwork or something you see as “actual learning” before you allow the kids to have “free time” could be crushing their desire to learn and be curious. Think outside the box and try to see the value of learning in your child playing with Legos or even a video game.

Don’t fear “getting behind” so much that you push math on your sick kids. Let them have the occasional day where they build a “nest.” That’s what my kids do when they don’t feel well. They drag a big blanket, a few pillows and some stuffed animals in front of the TV and settle in for a day of watching TV, drinking water and napping on and off.

Planned Breaks

This year my family instituted scheduled weeklong breaks every 6 weeks (or less). Some of them corresponded to holidays or vacations, others were just a week off at home. Basically, we never did more than 6 – 8 weeks of school without taking a week off. We could use that week to do some make up work if we felt we needed it, or we would just take the whole week off.

I used those weeks to plan the next block of schooling, which gave me the freedom to expand what was working and remove what wasn’t. It was such a blessing! We were much less stressed, and we still finished more than 75% of the math book by the end of May! Did you know you don’t have to finish the whole book? 

A typical school year should last between 32-36 weeks, depending on the age of your students. What you do with the remaining 16-20 weeks per year can make or break your homeschool. Give those kids and yourself a break! 

How do you handle sick days? Do you take regularly scheduled breaks throughout the school year?

Photos by Daiga Ellaby 


Currently Reading Podcast: Sci-Fi & Fantasy Deep Dive

In episode 43 of The Currently Reading Podcast I had the privilege of leading a deep dive into Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. One of my goals was to help their listeners find new books for the Currently Reading 2019 Reading Challenge. I hope I convinced readers to pick up a novel they wouldn’t have previously considered reading because it is shelved in the Science-Fiction or Fantasy section.

If I had covered every book on my list then the episode would have been 4 hours long so I compiled them all here at Curiosity Lounge.

I’d love to hear in the comment section below which books I missed and if you have thoughts and opinions about the books listed here.

Science Fiction Set in Space

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury


The Martian Chronicles tells the story of humanity’s repeated attempts to colonize Mars.

Why you should read it:

Ignore the weird cover. It’s a short classic first published in 1950. What makes this book fun is that it is told in short stories. Each of the stories are written in a different style, but they all contribute to one story. Some are in the style of Edgar Allen Poe and another one is a comedy.

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A Summer Homeschool Refresher: Teaching From Rest

“God doesn’t call us to this work and then turn away… He promises to stay with us, to lead us, to carry us.”

– Sarah MacKenzie, Teaching from Rest

Are you crumbling under the burden of providing the “perfect” homeschool experience for your children? Do you lie awake at night evaluating your performance each day and finding that you just don’t measure up to your own expectations?

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