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    Books & Reading, Home Education, Other Thoughts

    Seven Quick Takes on Broken Toes, a Book Giveaway, Bonbons, and More!

    February 20, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    Seven Quick Takes

    :: 1 ::

    So I broke my toe. It was really very stupid. I was trying to kick a laundry basket out of a room, and I kicked the door jam instead. I have no clue how it happened. I mean, my aim was wildly off, which is strange, because I am in the habit of kicking laundry baskets. I put this in the category of freak accidents.

    I’ve been thanking God for Arnica montana 30! That stuff is better than Tylenol.


    :: 2 ::

    Enter below to win a copy of Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax. In 2011, a PaperBackSwap member mailed this book to me. Weeks went by, and it never came. The sender was not very happy, and sent me messages asking why I hadn’t yet marked the book received, what was wrong with me, and so on. I finally reported the book as lost in the mail, and PBS matched me with another copy, which I promptly received.

    Exactly a year later, the original book arrived in my mailbox! I have no idea where it had been for twelve months. The postmark was definitely from the previous year, so I know the sender wasn’t lying. Isn’t that crazy? I contacted the sender, marked the book received … and I’ve had two copies of the book ever since.

    I thought it’d be fun to give one away, seeing as it’s a good book and all. Contest ends at midnight on 2/23/15 and I’ll announce the winner in the entry widget below shortly thereafter.


    a Rafflecopter giveaway


     :: 3 ::

    We did our first handmade card project this week. I decided to go with something ultra simple like these. It seemed like a good place to start, and I already had cookie cutters that would work. Thursday was when we did our supply shopping, which, of course, took me forever because I’m not crafty, meaning I have no supplies to speak of at all.

    The biggest flaw I saw in my card plan is that you need to have a lot of different colors of thread or yarn, and I don’t have a stash. I was imagining having to spend a ton of money just to get enough colors to choose from.

    Lucky for me, I discovered the concept of bonbon sampler yarns. I’d seen these on Amazon, but forgot to order some, so I was glad my local craft store had a big selection. These were perfect because, honestly, I don’t want to store a ton of yarn in the house, at least not until I know we’ll really use it. This was a great way to feel like I had a stash, but all small enough to fit in my little craft drawer.


    :: 4 ::

    Speaking of crafts, some of you have inquired about my Pinterest boards. You can follow me on Pinterest, of course. For those of you who wanted to know about my boards specifically designated to craft ideas {not to be confused with boards for decorating certain rooms, which may or may not have craft ideas for those specific rooms of the house}, here they are:

    Follow Brandy Vencel’s board Handicraft Ideas on Pinterest.
    Follow Brandy Vencel’s board Handmade Cards on Pinterest.Follow Brandy Vencel’s board DIY Christmas Ornaments on Pinterest.

    If any of you have handicraft idea Pinterest boards, feel free to share links in the comments!


    :: 5 ::

    This week’s links collection:

    • How One Woman Makes Almost $1 Million A Year On Etsy from Fast Company.
      • So your daughter comes to you and says, “I don’t want to go to college; I want to knit.” I’m not saying this is what will happen if you agree, but it’d be nice.
    • The Republican Party is not Your Friend from The Federalist.
      • After the Republican victory, my father said, “Just keep in mind that this was a Republican victory, not a conservative victory.” Articles like this do not surprise me in the least. The history lesson was fascinating.
    • Don’t Vaccinate to Protect my Cancer Kid from The Thinking Mom’s Revolution.
      • It’s good to understand the concept of shedding and how it can threaten those who are weakest. I do think she’s speculating with her cancer hypothesis.


    :: 6 ::

    We started The Green Ember as our new lunchtime read aloud this week. So far, so good. The story is compelling. It makes us want to read another chapter, but doesn’t use that tiresome cliffhanger method {at least not so far}. Is anyone else reading it?

    My only complaint so far is that the characters are rabbits. I find it distracting, but we’ll see if I get used to it as it goes on. So far I get really into it, and then suddenly a breeze blows on the little girl’s {yes, I’m picturing her as a girl, which I know is a mistake} facial fur and I’m jolted out of the story.

    Part of this is probably because I actually own and raise rabbits. They are nothing like the story. Other books that employ this sort of method effectively tend to be respectful of the true character of the animals {here I’m thinking of Watership Down, Wind in the Willows, etc.}, even though they manage to personify them as well. It’s a hard balance to maintain, I think. So far, my take is that The Green Ember is an almost — that it would have been better to invent a people, like hobbits. But we’ll see if my opinion changes in time. We’re only four chapters in.

    By the way, I’m keeping this take to myself. The children are enjoying it, and I’m certainly not going to question it in front of them.


    :: 7 ::

    Some questions you’ve asked:

    • Question: How does CM differ from unschooling?
      • Answer: Well, that’s an easy question. Ha. We could probably discuss this all day, so I’m just going to try and answer here what I think the core difference is. The curriculum in a Charlotte Mason education is designed in a standard way. Miss Mason insisted that learning was personal, yes, and also that the child make his own connections — that the child himself build direct relationships with what he is learning. But my understanding is that in unschooling, learning is supposed to be child-initiated — the curriculum is child-led, meaning that it focuses on whatever the child was interested in. Miss Mason, when she wrote her curricula, chose to spread a broad and generous feast, covering a multitude of subjects and topics, and let the child take what he wanted to.
    • Question: CM add-ons for non-white children? Lol. I wish someone would write about this b/c I adore CM, but every book I’ve seen so far is about white children…with perhaps an occasional slave thrown in. Of course, CM wouldn’t have included this, but I’d love to know about living books with some heroines that my kiddos can identify with. Is there a way to “multiculturalize” some of CM?
      • Answer: I think this is an excellent question! I don’t have specific books to suggest, but I do have a strategy idea for you. We are Californians here, and I really want my children to understand the geography, government, and history of our state. I do different things along the way to make that happen. Sometimes, I substitute books. For example, I might take out an AO geography book and replace it with a book on California. I might take out a history biography and replace it with one that is California specific. Or, I add California-specific titles to the free reading basket. So while we do AmblesideOnline, it is definitely tailored to be Californian. I think you can do the same in your family, for sure! The hard part is finding the right books, of course. Maybe ask on the AO Forum to start? And then, naturally, you need to start a blog telling us about all the books you’re using! If anyone has good book suggestions, please leave them in the comments.


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  • Reply dawn February 23, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky are spectacularly beautiful books. Set in China. We listened to the audio of Moon and the reader was fantastic.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 23, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      Ooh! What ages would you recommend those for, dawn?

      • Reply dawn February 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm

        We listened and read them last year, the children were 7, 8, and 9 … and Jason and I loved them. So, over 8? The stories are a little complex and the language is beautiful. My youngest, R-girl, has been listening to books beyond her level for years, so it wasn’t too much of a challenge for her.

        Jason and I appreciated the craftsmanship of the book while the children loved the stories.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel February 23, 2015 at 12:35 pm

          Adding to my list… 🙂

  • Reply Melissa February 22, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Hey Brandy…so sorry about your toe, OUCH!

    I would love a copy of Why Gender Matters!! I have three girls (2 adopted through foster care and one by birth) and then two boys, which are a foreign species to me since I had one sister and no brothers 😉 I’m convinced our 9 year old ds will either rule the world or end up in prison…most days it’s hard to say. Maybe this book would give me some insight 🙂

    Blessings to you for a speedy recovery,

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 23, 2015 at 8:36 am

      I totally understand! I only had one sister, so boys {and even more than 2 children} are totally foreign territory to me. 🙂

      ps. Your 9yo sounds like my 6yo. 😉

  • Reply PaolaCollazo February 22, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Hope you are feeling better!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 22, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      Thanks, Paola! 🙂

  • Reply Sheri February 21, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    I think I need a copy of this book as I am completely outnumbered by the opposite gender. Its very scary some days in my house 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 21, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      Ha. You definitely need a copy, Sheri!

  • Reply Kortney February 21, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Sorry about the toe! There are so many crazy ways to hurt yourself…and so many times when you clearly should have been hurt and walk away unharmed. Three cheers for Arnica.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 21, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      “and so many times when you clearly should have been hurt and walk away unharmed.”

      Now isn’t that the truth. Wise words, Kortney. 🙂

  • Reply Susan Yang February 21, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Love this blog! God bless you.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 21, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      Thanks, Susan! 🙂

  • Reply Melissa February 20, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    “Why Gender Matters” sound very interesting. As a mama of four, count me into your drawing please. The vaccine/cancer article was very interesting to me as a mama to a boy currently in treatment for leukemia – thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 21, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Make sure you filled out the form to be entered! (That goes for all of you…ahem.)

      I will be praying for your son. That must be very difficult for you!

  • Reply Sheri February 20, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Laurence Yep has written several fine books that deal with Chinese characters.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Googling! 🙂

  • Reply Sharon B February 20, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    We are reading The Green Ember as well. We are around Chapter 8 or so. It has my children thoroughly engaged and speculating about various aspects of the story. I am with you on the rabbits and their characteristics. I’m getting more comfortable with as we read, I think.

    Sorry about the toe. Not sure why that door didn’t move out of your way.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Ha about the door. That was funny. 🙂

      Thank you for affirming my anti-rabbit bias. I was starting to feel lonely and also mean. 🙂

  • Reply becky February 20, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I need this book because I start to get panicky if I don’t have at least three promising book in the line-up “to read next.”

    And, because I have to help one son learn to appreciate three very dramatic sisters.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      You are right. You NEED this. No one should suffer from such a short stack. 🙂

  • Reply Ivy Mae February 20, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I think you’re right about adoptive kids–they have a very unique perspective. We’re pretty sure our oldest ought to be either a pastor or a comedian when he grows up. I can just hear it: “folks, let me tell you about life growing up as a Black boy with a white momma and a Hispanic daddy. Oh, by the way, we raised livestock out in the country AND I was homeschooled!”

    But back to books: this is for a younger audience, but I just got the Lucy Cousin’s Book of Nursery Rhymes for my 7 month old, and it features drawings of diverse characters.

    Also, I think Leepike Ridge would make an amazing movie.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      That’s hilarious. Maybe he can be both! Either way, he’s got a lot of material. 😉

      And you are TOTALLY right about Leepike Ridge! That would be so great!

  • Reply Dawn Duran February 20, 2015 at 10:45 am

    1. Been there done that. But I can’t say I was trying to do anything, so my experience may be even more humiliating than yours. I turned around to pass through the arch between our kitchen and dining room when BAM. Everything went dark. I wanted to cuss. Loudly. I composed myself and went on with life. The next day my big toe was black. BLACK, I tell you. Good times. Sigh.
    2. I already own Gender Matters. Love, Love, LOVE this book. I won’t enter the giveaway in order to increase someone else’s odds. Whoever gets it is going to love it.
    3. AWESOME heart cards and great find on the material. Bookmarking both.
    4. So glad to have the links to all of these boards, Brandy. Thanks for sharing.
    I’ve got nothing on 5 or 7. But I will be curious to know your final impression of The Green Ember. Sadly, I missed the free for Kindle day.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      Well, about The Green Ember: we’ve read three chapters today (one at the breakfast table and two this afternoon because I said yes to “just one more!!!!” 🙂 ) and they were all really good and I wasn’t even distracted by the rabbit thing. In fact, a bad wolf threatened to eat them, which helped me with the believability issue!

  • Reply Ivy Mae February 20, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Glad to see some resources for diverse characters! We’re an adoptive family and every single one of us has a different ethnic background. We’re not to the point yet where I want to provide books that deal overtly with racism, but we definitely like diverse characters. Can’t wait until the boys are old enough to read N.D. Wilson’s books, just like a previous poster mentioned.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 10:24 am

      I have been very curious how adoptive families deal with this. In many ways, adopted kids are third culture kids, I think

      My daughter is almost 10 and she just read her first Wilson book last week {Leepike Ridge} and really liked it. 🙂

      • Reply SarahD February 20, 2015 at 10:30 am

        ND Wilson’s Ahtown Burials series also features kids from a diverse family as well. The father was white and the mom is Guyanese. My kids found that totally cool, because that is exactly how their cousins are–European dad and Guyanese Indian mom.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 3:34 pm

          Oh, that IS cool!

  • Reply Fern February 20, 2015 at 8:54 am

    As an educator, (beneficial) ideas surrounding child development and class management are high on my interest list. I just heard both Andrew Pudewa (IEW) and Debbie Harris (CIRCE) in separate web-talks/conferences reference Dr. Sax’s work. So now I want to know more about chilly, loud spaces for boys-who-study and warm, stable spaces for girls-who-study. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 10:21 am

      It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Dr. Sax really helped me understand the dynamics in my home, even though my boys are not only different from my girls, but very different from each other!

    • Reply SarahD February 20, 2015 at 10:24 am

      Yes! I first heard about Dr. Sax from Andrew Pudewa.

  • Reply Wendy February 20, 2015 at 8:40 am

    Need the book – would love to read it and, sometimes owning the book is cheaper than library fines…….$0.25/day really adds up ;0

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 8:45 am

      Ha. That’s true!

  • Reply Amy Marie February 20, 2015 at 8:39 am

    I need this book because I don’t have enough to read.

    *insert crazy laughter* 😉

    We are reading The Green Ember also right now…so far, the children REALLY love it. The author has an unique way of describing things that isn’t overly distracting, which I like. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 8:45 am

      I like the descriptions, too. You’re right! And I can’t get over how much I appreciate the lack of deliberate cliff hangers in each chapter. I know I mentioned that before, but I think it is harder to write well and use the more subtle endings that this author is using.

  • Reply Catherine @ A Spirited Mind February 20, 2015 at 8:33 am

    I read Gender Matters while pregnant with my first baby–a girl. She’s 9 now, and was followed by a brother and two more sisters. I remember thinking it was a really great book, but I have to imagine that my perspective might be a bit different now that I actually deal with real, live, non-baby children on an hourly basis! Homeschooling (and parenting in general) my son is very different from homeschooling and parenting my girls. I’d love to win a copy of the book for our library!

    By the way, I bought a copy of Nature by Nurture after your review. Myers-Briggs typing has been so helpful for me personally and also in the way I understand my husband, so I’m eager to get that insight into my kids. It didn’t take an actual year for the book to arrive, but it felt like it. I’m excited to start reading it!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 8:43 am

      So exciting! Typing our children was so much fun, and it has been interesting to observe them being “true to type” as three of them began tennis lessons last week. Our ESFJ came home knowing everyone’s name. My INFP came home complaining that the tennis coach dared to say that they should grow up to be leaders. “I don’t want to be a leader; I just want to play tennis!” And then my ISTJ thought leading sounded great, as long as he didn’t actually have to have a relationship with the other players. 🙂

      • Reply SarahD February 20, 2015 at 10:22 am

        That is too funny. I want that book too.

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 20, 2015 at 8:14 am

    There’s a whole “new” campaign for more diversity which has pulled together lots of resources. Here’s the list of lists of diverse books organized by identity:

    Not all of these books are living books and many of the “identities” are probably not ones all the readers here would encourage (e.g. diversity in s–uality is included). However, most of these lists have brief synopses or notes that would help you filter those out pretty quickly.

    One of my favorite chapter books on Africa is Chike and the River. I’d say it’s about a third grade reading level but with enough depth that multiple ages will glean much from it:

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 8:41 am

      Ooh! Thanks for the resource, KM! 🙂

  • Reply SarahD February 20, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Oh, I feel your toe pain!!! I broke my right pinky toe two summers ago, walking barefoot in the living room past a child sprawled out on the floor. My toe snagged the side of his foot and I heard a snap. Talk about a freak accident. Very strange circumstances.

    I love the book, why gender matters. It was very foundational for me in early parenting and homeschooling.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 7:09 am

      Ew! I bet that was horrible! That *was* a freak accident. I didn’t realize toes were so dangerous. 🙂

  • Reply Angie February 20, 2015 at 6:45 am

    So glad to see the question about diversity in books! This is something that has been on my heart lately. I’ve decided that my summer reading will be devoted to reading and finding gems with a broader range of characters. Just read an article on Story Warren with suggestions, and more in the comments:

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 7:03 am

      Ooh! Great!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 7:08 am

      Okay, I just read the link, Anige. I LOVE this gal’s goal of finding books that aren’t specifically dealing with racial issues, but where the main characters are non-white. It’s easy to find books that focus on the issues, but not easy to find the books with well-written, noble characters. I hadn’t heard of the Wilson title Boys of Blur, but we’re definitely getting it. 🙂

  • Reply susan in st louis February 20, 2015 at 5:49 am

    I need this book because we’re currently organizing our new built-in bookshelves and I think it’d look fabulous there. 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 7:02 am

      Nice answer!

  • Reply Sara McD February 20, 2015 at 3:25 am

    Brandy, I can think of a couple of books that MIGHT answer that last question – at least for the younger set. I don’t know if they strictly adhere to the living books criteria, but I like them. They are short books for young children that don’t overtly address race issues but the characters are non-white. The first is A Chair for My Mother and the other is Cherries and Cherry Pits. Oh! And The Snowy Day is very good. All of these books might speak more to people who grew up, currently reside in, or just understand city life. I grew up in an outer borough of NYC so the scenes in these books are like magic to me.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 6:52 am

      Thank you, Sara! I’m going to see if I can find any of those at our local used bookshop. If not…there is always Amazon, of course!

  • Reply Katherine February 20, 2015 at 2:03 am

    Need the Gender book! A close family member recently came out with gender issues and I’m a little bewildered by it all at the moment. If I don’t win, I’ll probably buy a copy. But first to read “Consider This”. Just got that in the mail yesterday……

    Thanks for your blog! Love the CM articles plus the once-a-week post with interesting articles linked. Very fun.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 6:51 am

      Oh, yes. Consider This first! 🙂 Of course, that is one to read again and again over the years, I think.

  • Reply Jennifer February 20, 2015 at 1:18 am

    Lost in the mail for a year?! I know gender matters. Will this book tell me how to get my son to want to do chores?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 20, 2015 at 6:50 am

      Ha! I wish. 🙂

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