Picture Books, Podcasts, and Building a Family Culture Around Books

I‘m over at Beauty of the Picture Book today, talking about how to build a family culture around books and sharing a few of our favorite picture books. Come hang out with me over there.
Favorite Picture Books

The Read-Aloud Revival airs episode 1 this coming Monday and I am really over the moon about it. I didn’t realize I would love podcasting so much! I should have known, considering I have loved listening to podcasts for a long time now.

I’m always a little surprised when people tell me they don’t listen to podcasts. What do you do while folding laundry? Or scrubbing toilets? Or exercising? Listening to podcasts is my favorite way to maximize times like those.

If you are new to podcasts (or if you aren’t, but want to streamline the way you’re listening to them), check out these helpful guides to get you started:

Listening to Podcasts: Tech Tips for Moms :: Everyday Snapshots

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Podcasts :: Gretchen Louise

8 Must Haves for the Perfect Podcast App :: Gretchen Louise

One Thing Well (the multi-tasking trap)

(This is part of the series First Steps Toward Teaching from a State of Rest. The series is almost over, but we’re not done talking about how to teach from rest. Read to the bottom of this post, because I have a little announcement!)

The temptation to multi-task is overwhelming. We go so far as to praise those who are able to multi-task, as though it is an ideal state to strive for. It’s true that becoming a habitual multi-tasker will mean that you check a lot more off your list at the end of the day. It also invariably means that you will have missed the whole point.

When you are reading a picture book to your small child, preparing dinner, or helping your child draw a map or tackle a math problem, are you also doing something else? The problem with multi-tasking does not lie in the doing of more than one thing at a time. The problem arises when you miss a “now moment” because you are wrapped up in some imaginary one that hasn’t happened yet (or won’t happen at all).

One Thing Well (the multi-tasking trap)

If you are like me, you may be helping your child add a picture to his history timeline, but you are also brewing what is coming next in history. You’re thinking about what you’ll add to the timeline next, which books might help you flesh out your history lesson, where you can go to get a good period map. You’re making your grocery list in your head while you read The Story of Ping for the millionth time. You’re boiling the pasta, checking email, and breaking up a sibling squabble, all at once.

In the meantime, you may have indeed gotten through the lesson, turned the last page of the picture book, fed your clan, cleaned out your email inbox, fixed (albeit temporarily) the discord between the kids. But you didn’t relish or truly attend to any of it.

I tend to want to squeeze everything possible out of every minute of my day.

It’s probably a personality thing. If I know the soup won’t be ready for 10 minutes, I try to squeeze in a reading lesson with one child while telling another to set the table. Oh, and perhaps I could nurse the twins while I’m at it. That would be 10 minutes well spent! Dinner ready, table set, reading lesson done, babies fed!

But there is no prize for the mama who checks the most boxes on her to-do list. Darn it anyway. (I would win!) There just isn’t a way to steep yourself fully in this moment if you multi-task your way through it.

By definition, to be efficient is to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. But relationships don’t flourish or grow that way. Relationships need time, spent lavishly. Homeschooling is all about relationships, and relationships just aren’t efficient.

This can be a real struggle for those of us who homeschool. We have so much to get to: the laundry, meal planning and preparation, housework, errands, running children hither and yon, making time and space for other daily efforts like exercise, our spouses, and our personal development. We want to be good stewards of our time, but maybe that time is best spent carelessly when it comes to people.

Today, as you go about your teaching and mothering, periodically stop. Ask yourself, “What am I doing right now?” If the answer is “helping my child diagram a sentence,” then diagram the sentence. Do it without making a to-do list in your head at the same time. If the answer is “cooking dinner,” then do it with everything you have. Don’t run off to check your email while the sauce is simmering. Let it simmer. Talk to your kids. Turn on some quiet music and just relax into the moment.

Today, do one thing well.


There’s only one more post in the series.

I hope the series has been helpful to you! It has really blessed me to write it.

Back in November, I started rising early in the morning to work on these posts. I would pray and then write and write and write. What I was writing was a bit unwieldy for a blog series- there was simply too much to fit here!

I kept writing anyway and assembled what I wrote into an eBook, which is a much easier format to read. That eBook is in the final stages of design right now and will be available next month:Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie (eBook available May 26, 2014)I need the message as much as anybody, which is why I’m a little baffled to be the one writing it.

I’m in the process of recording some conversations that I’m having with Andrew Kern, Dr. Christopher Perrin, Cindy Rollins, and Brandy Vencel, and those conversations will be compiled into an audio companion to go with the book. Do you have a specific question you’d like me to ask any of them? Let me know in the comments here and I’ll do my best to ask.

Oh! And if you still haven’t joined my email list, now would be a good time to do that. I’ll be giving my email subscribers the first heads-up (and a discount code) when everything is ready and available.

Easter Daybook

Outside my window…

A little chilly, but at least it’s dry!

Giving thanks…

For spring. For our new home (we move in 9 days!). For hot coffee with half & half and babies who giggle incessantly when I nuzzle their necks.

I am thinking about…

a little something I’ll have to share with you very soon. I’ll tell you more about it Wednesday.



(That’s Shape, Model & Mold)

In the Schoolroom…

We took a week off for spring break and then another for our annual required state testing. Now we’re back at it, in a we’re-moving-in-9-days sort of way. Math and reading, basically.

From the kitchen…

Whatever we can find in the freezer and pantry.

I am creating…

Stacks of boxes.

I don’t ever want to forget…

how Posy adds a “y” to every word. It’s not a nap, but a “nappy;” not a walk, but a “walky;” not a cat, but a “catty.”

I am working on…

not multi-tasking. Which is almost impossible to avoid doing, but I’m trying not to do it when I can help it.

I am reading…

I’m not (sob). Did I mention what a good idea of mine it was to move our family of eight on a whim? With no family in the area to coerce into helping us? I fall into bed and can’t keep my eyes open to read a sentence, and all day I’m go-go-go to get this house packed up. The kids are reading, though! They’ve been poring over the books tucked into Easter baskets: Favorite Poems Old and New (Prim), The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (Tulip), The Adventures of TinTin (Snap), Are You My Mother? (Posy- but this book has proven much too intense for her, LOL… she about has an anxiety attack while she waits for the little birdy to find her mother, poor thing), and Little Blue Truck.

I am praying…

For my brother.

I am struggling…

with my to-do list. Whose idea was moving, anyway?

I am hearing…

my own podcast. :) I just put the final touches on it and if the stars align and I can figure out the last few technical details, I’ll have the first episode of the Read-Aloud Revival ready for you in the next week. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming first!

Clicking around…

Around the house…

Boxes everywhere. Though sometimes they have surprises inside. :)

Boy in a box

One of my favorite things…

Podcasting! Oh my heckity heck, I thought there was nothing in this world that I loved more than writing. There is. I’ve recorded a couple of episodes now and I am s-u-n-k. Crazy love.

A few plans for the next week…

Pack and clean and pack and clean and pack and clean and pack…

The news in twins…

Nine months! Huck is crawling (and boy howdy, that’s going to turn my life upside down, I think!), but Dewy can’t quite figure it out yet, so he mostly rocks back and forth and watches enviously as his sidekick digs through the potted plants and eats the leftover cereal smooshed on the floor. Both of them babble quite a lot. Dewy is just cheerful as all get-out (well, Huck is too- though he’s maybe just a smidge more serious). They are happiest, calmest, sweetest boys you could imagine.


Scenes from Easter Sunday

1 Resurrection. 6 Children. 2 Babies. 1 Toddler. 6 outfits from Nana. (cue ominous music and deep low voice) Will they manage an Easter photo?












The babies aren’t wearing shoes (or socks!), the 8 year old’s shirt is untucked, but.

He lives! Happy Easter!

P.S.  This is my new WordPress site- what do you think? Things are still a little wonky now and then- I’m just learning the ropes. Oh, and I (finally) wrote an F.A.Q. page- you can see it here. That was pretty fun to write!

(Linking this post up with Pam’s April Project Snapshot)

A beautiful journal, a migration to WordPress, and a move in real life (in 7 Quick Takes)


The blog will be quiet from now through Holy Week. At some point during that time, I’ll officially migrate from Blogger to WordPress. I’ll still be at this address and nothing else should change on your end really- just make sure you’re subscribed by email in case my blog disappears off the face of the planet (gasp!) and I need to get in touch with you. :)

If you read by RSS (like Feedly or Bloglovin) I will most likely fall off your feed, so keep an eye on that. You’ll probably need to add me back sometime after Easter.

Things will very likely look a little wonky for the next week or so as we iron out the wrinkles. Just a heads up.


This picture makes me laugh. :)


Mystie did a quick interview with Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary about making time to do work that brings you energy and renews you. I really enjoyed it! I’ve read my copy of The Family-First Creative (which you get for free when you pre-order Jennifer’s new book to be released later this month: Something Other than God). The eBook is packed with great tips, and there isn’t a way to get your hands on it any other way, so I would definitely suggest preordering.


We’re moving! Not just to WordPress ;), but in real life! Out of the blue, an opportunity popped up for us to move to a home with a fully fenced backyard, raised garden beds, a homeschool room with a blackboard, and more room to spread out. I’m giddy. I’ve already ordered the vegetables and flowers we’ll plant in our gardens from St. Clare Seeds (thanks for the gift certificate, Sarah!). I am really excited to have a workable garden space again. I’ve missed my old garden, and Tulip has been downright starved for a good place to grow things.


Here’s something I’ve been loving lately- my Bound by Hand hand-crafted leather journal.

Originally I thought I’d use it for a writing project I have going, but instead I’m using it as an end-of-day recap in an effort to zoom in mentally on each of my kids. I got the idea from a friend. I’m writing down each of my children’s names each night as I climb into bed and noting one simple thing that I want to remember. I might write down something funny they said, a dream or goal they shared with me, a favorite book they discovered, or the fact that it’s they’ve seemed whinier than usual and I ought to try to head that off with a little more one-on-one. I figure I can use it to mark accomplishments as well as notes on how we are doing with particular habits we’re working on.

It’s really easy to fall into batch parenting when there are lots of kids to tend to. This simple practice is helping me remember that each of my children are individuals and they need my energy in unique ways. Having to come up with something for every single child every single day helps me look actively throughout the day for things to write. That means I’m paying closer attention to them than I otherwise would. That’s a good thing.

The journal itself is utterly fantastic. I love the smell of binding, the weight of the paper, the smoothness of the cover. Stephanie’s work is really beautiful. Her journals would make rather lovely Easter gifts (take a peek).


Don’t forget that the coupon code from Classical Academic Press is good through the 21st, and you can listen to the Morning Time talk I referenced on Wednesday without needing a coupon code at all by going to CiRCE’s audio library page.


Chestertonian friends, let’s take the next two weekends off (Palm Sunday, Easter) from Weekends with Chesterton and then we’ll meet back. I got my first issue of Gilbert from the American Chesterton Society, and I’m really excited to dig into it.

See you after Easter!

(for more quick takes, visit Conversion Diary)

On Morning Time

UPDATE: If you were one of many to get error messages while you were trying to download the audio talk I linked to in this post, head here instead. The fabulous folks at CiRCE put it up as part of their free audio library so that you would all be able to hear it!

(This is part of the series First Steps Toward Teaching from a State of Rest. New posts in the series publish every Wednesday. Did you miss any? Get caught up here.)

Is there something you want to get to in your homeschool that constantly gets shuffled out of the day? Something like art appreciation, nature study, music, poetry, Shakespeare? It’s the delightful stuff that tends to take a backseat, unfortunately. I hate that.
In my home, I find even worse happening. By the time everyone has completed the basics for the day (you know- math, reading, writing… that kind of thing) we’re all tired and ready for a change of pace, the house needs some attention, and it’s late enough in the day that we need to move on to one of the many other parts of life.

Passing on the faith to my kids- arguably the entire reason I do this home education thing in the first place- gets squeezed out of the schedule. Those experiences that shape my children’s souls and order their affections get back-burnered.
What to do?
Two words: Morning Time.
On Morning Time

Cindy is the go-to lady on Morning Time, and she wrote a whole 31-day series on it last fall that took our own morning time practices to a new level. If nothing else, I gained the impetus I finally needed to prioritize it.This is what she writes:

“Over the years Morning Time became the structure on which I built our school. I started our version of this by using the time to cover the things that I loved and the things I did not want the children to miss out on in the everyday stress of schooling.  I was basically following my heart. Only later did I come to realize that the successes of our homeschool were almost entirely rooted in Morning Time.

(Read the rest here.)

What I find so helpful about Morning Time is that it places first things first. It’s a liturgy of love. When you are trying to teach from a state of rest, employing a Morning Time routine helps you place the emphasis on loving, going deep, and relishing rather than on “getting through.” We all know that nothing stirs up a mama’s anxiety more than pressure to “get through.” It’s also a brilliant way to simplify both the curriculum and the schedule.
First Steps Toward Teaching from a State of RestCindy gave a talk at the 2012 CiRCE conference on this topic, and they’ve put the talk in their free audio library because they knew we were going to be talking about it today. It’s the first on the list at that page, called The Long Haul: On Morning Time.

Head there to give a listen! (And they did that just for us, so maybe tell them “thank you” while you’re there.) :)

Sponsored Giveaway :: Song School Latin

When I decided to make Latin a foundational part of our homeschool, I had no idea how I would go about teaching it. We’ve used a few different Latin programs now, but this one from Classical Academic Press has me the most excited.

Song School Latin is a lighthearted and joyful program. Lessons are peppered with songs, enjoyable vocabulary, illustrations, handwriting practice, stories, games, and engaging activities. It makes Latin accessible to young students (usually grades 1-3, though I think it would be well received by most 4th graders as well).

If your Latin regimen needs a fresh burst of energy, or if you’re just about to launch into Latin for the very first time- you’ll want to check it out!

Classical Academic Press is offering one of my readers a complete set of Song School Latin 1 (an $82.95 value). Use the Rafflecopter tool to enter- the giveaway will run through Saturday the 12th and the winner will be announced within this post.

Get 20% off everything at Classical Academic Press with the code “SALT20″ (S as in Sarah, ALT as in Amongst Lovely Things, 20 as in 20% off your whole order except online courses and Singapore Math). :) The code is good through April 21.

And you know about Headventure Land, right? That’s the fun (free) place for your kids to practice all that Latin (or Spanish, Greek, Logic, or Bible) they’re learning. Go check it out to liven up your studies for the spring! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chatty Monday — Spring Break!

Tulip has been painting rocks nonstop this spring. She had a little rock sale to raise money for the rice bowl offering at church. Love that girl.

We haven’t seen a single bulb sprout yet, but no matter- the sun shining is enough to delight. Posy wants to be outside all day long, as you can see. Snap got the privileged duty of carrying her inside for her nap. :) The twins love being outside, too, but really they just want to eat fistfuls of grass. :)

We’re on spring break! Are you? I’ve got some other projects to plow into this month, so I’m grateful for the hard stop in our schoolwork. 
One of those projects is the process of switching the backend of this blog from Blogger to WordPress. I’ve got enough posts and pages going on here now that I’ve basically maxed out everything Blogger can handle. Also, the upcoming podcast will run much better on a WordPress site. 
It shouldn’t look any different to you when the switch happens, but word on the street is that RSS feeds don’t transfer well. If you read this blog in an RSS reader like Feedly or Bloglovin, you should probably go ahead and sign up for email updates instead. You can do that here. If you don’t like blog updates by email, you can always unsubscribe later, after the RSS feed has transferred successfully.
In the meantime, if you see anything wonky going on here, it’s because we are doing the sometimes clunky and laborious work of the transfer. Any wrinkles will be ironed out as we can get to them.
I’m getting ready to chat with Andrew Pudewa for the first episode of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast. We’re going to be talking about why reading aloud is so important, especially for kids who are old enough to read to themselves. Do you have a specific question you’d like me to ask him? If you do, leave it in the comments of this post and I’ll try to work it into our conversation. :)

Some deals for you this week:

Still need some ideas for Easter baskets? Use the code “sweet20″ at Holy Heroes through the end of Lent to get 20% off your entire order. We especially love their Glory Stories (you can get a free sample CD by clicking here and build your own cd pack here) and The Treasure Box books.
Pam is offering my readers 30% off everything in her store this week only. Use the code “LOVELY30″ at checkout from now through April 13th. She’s got some great Latin printables as well as an awesome expansion pack for her free planning pages. (Heads up: if you liked the loop scheduling we talked about recently, Pam created a planning page to dovetail nicely with that. It’s part of her free pack!)
See you Wednesday for the next post in the series, and then we’ll have another giveaway from our friends at Classical Academic Press. :)

A Day Late and a Dollar Short :: Weekends with Chesterton

Oh. That’s not Chesterton?

Well, I’m a day late because I try to get these up on Saturday mornings, and a dollar short because I didn’t read a bit of Chesterton this week! Instead of contributing a snippet, I thought I’d answer a question I’ve been getting a lot lately:

“Where should I start with Chesterton?”

Specifically, where should a mother of young children start, who may be sleep-deprived, time-deprived, but hungry to feed her intellect and see what Chesterton has to say to her?
I recommend beginning with Father Brown. The Father Brown stories are delightful, smart, witty, and they smack you with Truth like a 2×4 when you least expect it. This audio book by Ignatius Press is done particularly well, and it’s only five bucks. The mysteries are short- you can listen to a whole mystery in an hour or less, which makes them good companions for when you’re cleaning up the kitchen.
Another recommendation would be to start with some of Chesterton’s essays, like Tremendous Trifles. I have this collection of 34 books by Chesterton for Kindle (only two bucks!), and it contains some of his essays as well. Essays are easier to dip into than his books and novels, and they are just as insightful.
If you want to ease in, another good idea is to let Dale Ahlquist from the American Chesterton Society lead the way. The Apostle of Common Sense is a very good place to begin.
You can get lots of Chesterton free on Kindle, of course, but I’m finding that I much prefer to read Chesterton in hard copy. I need to write in margins and underline all the way through. A highlight or typed note into my kindle copy just doesn’t do it for me.


Weekends with Chesterton: cultivating the intellectual lifeEvery weekend in 2014, we’re digging into the prolific work of G.K. Chesterton here at Amongst Lovely Things. Join us! All you need is a snippet- a short quote taken from anything he’s written. Blog it and link up below, or share your snippet to the comments on this post.

You can add commentary or photos if you’d like (you know I can’t ever resist adding a photo, myself!), but all you need is a snippet. Let’s keep this thing simple! Reading even a few lines of Chesterton every week is bound to be profitable.

Meet April’s Sponsors

I am honored to welcome the CiRCE Institute as a sponsor here at Amongst Lovely Things. I am passionate about the work that the folks at CiRCE are doing for the renewal of the culture and education. If you long to make truth, goodness, and beauty central to your homeschool, you need to pay attention to what they are up to!

Make sure you check out their blog (I write there!), their free audio library and media center (you need to watch Andrew’s newest video series on Teaching from a State of Rest), and pop into their store to see how else they can challenge and inspire you. I have heard nothing but praise for the Lost Tools of Writing and I’m eager to get my hands on it.

Please also visit my returning sponsors:

I love connecting you- my awesome readers- with companies that are doing beautiful work in the world. I only represent those that I am sincerely excited to introduce you to. These companies will inspire, encourage, and bless you!
If you have a business or service that would bless the readers of Amongst Lovely Things, click here for details about working with me. Ad space is limited.