Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Other Thoughts

    Thoughtworthy (End of the School Year, Summer Tops, and MORE!)

    June 8, 2018 by Brandy Vencel


    :: 1 ::

    Because it’s the end of the school year (TODAY is our last day!!), I’ve been finishing a ton of books — mostly pre-reading types of books. One of the books I finished signified a monumental moment. The book was Churchill’s The Great Democracies. You AmblesideOnline moms know exactly what I mean, just by seeing the cover of the book.

    In AmblesideOnline Year Seven — almost four years ago now — we began the first of Churchill’s four-volume A History of the English Speaking Peoples. They were so good, even if they were difficult reading, especially at first when we were learning how to read them. It’s been a steady journey, reading a chapter or so a week for the past four school years. To finish the whole series feels almost surreal! It’s hard to explain, but I felt like someone should give us a sticker or something.

    It was very satisfying. 🙂


    :: 2 ::

    You asked, and so I designed some summery Just Narrate tops for you!

    So much fun, if I do say so myself!


    :: 3 ::

    How are you all doing on your Mother Culture habit so far this summer? I think I’ll start a weekly check-in on Instagram. For today, though, we’ll do it here. Have you been consistent? Have you mixed it up, or only read from one category? What have you been reading?

    I haven’t done any novel reading yet, but this week I’ve enjoyed The Self-Driven Child (from the moderately easy pile) and The Intellectual Life (from the stiff stack) in addition to my regular reading for Things (you know: school, book clubs, etc.).

    By the way, I want to finish Les Misérables over the summer. Would you categorize this as a novel or a stiff book? For some reason I feel guilty calling is a novel — as if were just like any other fiction book.


    :: 4 ::

    Have you bought your books for the next school year yet?

    I know this post is three years old, but the advice is still sound. Word to the wise: if you want to save your planning till later in the summer (I do), it still pays to do the groundwork NOW.


    :: 5 ::

    This month in 2016:

    For really reals, this is still my favorite way to get the best prices for the rarer books on my wish list. Don’t just read that post; DO IT. You’ll be glad you did.


    :: 6 ::

    This week’s links collection:

    • New Harvard Research Says U.S. Christianity Is Not Shrinking, But Growing Stronger from The Federalist
      • Interesting. Sounds like the supposed “decline in religion” or “secularization of America” is actually just a movement of people from dead and dying mainline churches to other churches.
      • “The percentage of Americans who attend church more than once a week, pray daily, and accept the Bible as wholly reliable and deeply instructive to their lives has remained absolutely, steel-bar constant for the last 50 years or more, right up to today. These authors describe this continuity as ‘patently persistent.'”
    • Supreme Court rules narrowly for Colorado baker who wouldn’t make same-sex wedding cake from CNBC
      • The decision was 7-2, and the article is really CNBC’s attempt to justify their misleading title, proving they DO know what the term “narrowly” means, but they refuse to use it properly out of principle.
      • Feel free to (1) celebrate freedom reaffirmed and (2) roll your eyes at CNBC.
    • California Water Law Could Prevent Showering, Doing Laundry on Same Day from Breitbart
      • “According to the attentive folks at The Organic Prepper, this allotted water ration exceeds the amount required for taking a shower and doing a single load of laundry and excludes taking baths altogether.” Um I’m wondering about laundry? Washing dishes? Cleaning things? Watering my vegetables? Bathing our pets? Filling the bird bath? What about people who still have water coolers?
      • Alternate title: Incompetent Legislators Forget Water Storage and Impose Upon Citizens Instead. Or something. I am super annoyed right now.


    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Jayme June 14, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    I love your links. And comments on links. Thanks for taking the time so I don’t have to.

  • Reply Carolina June 14, 2018 at 6:03 am

    I looked through your list of read alouds and I noticed that you like to jump among different series. Is there a reason for this or is it just which series you are in the mood for? Do your kids have any issues confusing plots and characters between the series or is that not an issue?

    I am really inspired by the amount you read. Can you share more about how you accomplish all that reading? How do you fit in your read alouds and your personal reading? Im really struggling to just keep up with my sons reading. Thanks.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 15, 2018 at 9:40 am

      I don’t really jump around — it just looks like I do when I write down what we’re doing when we do it. The reason for this is because I always have two read aloud going — one that includes my husband, and one that doesn’t. So we’re actually reading two books — sometimes two series — at a time, if that makes sense.

      In the summers, I read aloud after every meal every normal day. This has been our habit for about 12 years, so it’s just something we do. During the school year, I only read aloud after lunch and dinner — breakfast is for Circle Time. 🙂

      I wrote a blog post once that you might like: How I Find Time to Read. During the school year, I don’t read much outside of pre-reading for school and keeping up with my book club.

  • Reply Crystin June 11, 2018 at 8:57 am

    It’s by Andrew Hacker, who also wrote a book on higher education. It’s about the obsession of our culture with STEM instruction, and the myths that drive that obsession. I’m only in chapter 1 but it’s so thought provoking! He is currently making the case that by making math instruction a barrier to education, we are depriving culture of a variety of talents and passions.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 11, 2018 at 9:59 am

      Wow that is so interesting! I was just reading somewhere … I can’t remember where … a woman complaining (and rightly so, I think) that the emphasis on STEM has pushed out the true intellectuals for the most part — because philosophy and theology (NOT math, science, and engineering) are the highest form of thought. She also made a good argument that intellectual women are more likely to be drawn to philosophy and theology than STEM. It was fascinating. Sounds like this book might dovetail with her ideas quite nicely.

  • Reply Crystin June 11, 2018 at 6:14 am

    I am loving the habit tracker. It is reminding me daily to alternate. Instead of putting a distinction for Light, ME, or Stiff, I’m using that column to indicate which categories I read from that day. I already use reading categories (theology, nature, parenting, Shakespeare, education, etc) to alternate my reading, so I figured that would work better than trying to adjust to a new system.

    I just finished Notes From a Blue Bike and The Read Aloud Family.

    I’m currently reading: Miracles by Lewis, still trying to finish the last two chapters of Liturgy of the Ordinary, The Horse and His Boy, The Math Myth, In Defense of Food, Love Languages for Children, Romeo and Juliet, Treasures of the Snow, In Memoriam, 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology, Keeping a Nature Journal, The Garden in Winter, and Volume 5.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 11, 2018 at 6:55 am

      I love that you’ve adjusted your use of the tracker to your own needs. ♥

      Tell me about The Math Myth — I haven’t heard of that one!

  • Reply Carol June 9, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    I think I need to cull my MC list. I have 3 stiff books going – mind you, some of them I’ve been reading over a year or more, plus books from the other two categories. We’ve had sad news over here regarding books. As from July 1 we won’t be able to buy from Amazon in the USA & other online bookstores such as Book Depository, will be adding a 10% GST. ☹️ Takes a bit of joy out of the planning process.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 10, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      Oh, Carol! I am so sorry! I just recently heard about this — it is tragic! Is there anything you all can do to get this changed? 🙁

      • Reply Carol June 11, 2018 at 4:03 am

        I wouldn’t think so. It’s been in the pipeline for some time.

  • Reply Debbi June 9, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I laughed out loud, as did my husband when I told him why, about The Self-Driven Child being considered moderately easy. I cracked it open last weekend and it has changed our lives. While the boys are working on improving their manners this summer, Mama will be working on reigning in her own anxiety and letting them have more control over their lives. I have been shocked by how ridiculously difficult it has been for me. And yet we have already seen improvement in behavior and attitude. Our oldest just got his driver’s permit as well which was also a challenge on the first and second practice drives. I had a great list of books to read thi s summer. But then decided I needed a light, easy, beach read for the time being to alternate with The Self-Driven Child.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 9, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      Isn’t The Self-Driven Child amazing?? ♥ I’m so glad it’s been a blessing to you, too!

  • Reply Rahime June 8, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    Gotta love our grand state….ugh. 🙁 I seriously feel like we already use as little water as we are able…IDK how we can cut back more!

    Congrats on finishing the Churchill books!! They’re on my to-read list, but haven’t cracked one open yet. Thus far this summer I’ve been enjoying a variety of audio books, mostly novels. I’ve recently finished: All the Light We Cannot See, The Wright Brothers, Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin series, the complete works of Sherlock Holmes, Anthony Esolen’s Defending Marriage, and Educated.

    Currently I’m working on How Children Learn (and hoping to track down his previous book, How Children Fail), 10 Books That Screwed up the World (thanks for the recommendation a few yrs ago), Out of the Ashes (another Esolen book), How Not to be Wrong, and Clementine (about Churchill’s wife…this is the only non-audio one that I’m working on, and it’s going VERY slowly as a result). I am about to start McCoullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris and The Book Thief. I’m super interested in the Feynman physics book you recommended too, so I’m hoping to track down that one soon too. Physics has always been a weak point for me.

    I’d lean towards categorizing Les Mis as a novel, but it’s certainly a stiff novel…lots of books cross categories, right?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 9, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      What a great reading list!

      And I know about the water — I keep thinking how this is going to end up an environmental travesty. When I thought of how families can save water, it dawned on me I could switch to cleaning with disposable towels instead of my rags, switch to disposable diapers (if we still had littles) instead of cloth, etc. All of the easiest ways to save water involve creating more trash!

      And then I can only imagine how hot this valley is going to be when people stop watering vegetation and there is nothing green left. 🙁

  • Reply Jessica June 8, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    I’ve enjoyed the Mother Culture Tracker so far, and even passed your post off to a great friend of mine who was visiting from out of state. She and her husband are both doing it!

    I have read every day, I have also noticed that I’m mostly only reading from the ME category (how children learn). In part that is because it is a library book, but I’ve noticed that my attention can get that way. Now that your post has made me think about it, I’ll work on switching it up. So, I may occasionally have more than one category per day and add multiple letters. I think that will work fine.

    For the record my husband says he would place Les Miserables into the ‘Stiff’ stack. His reasons: “Though it is an engaging book, it deals with numerous subplots, symmetry, interlocking symbolism, etc. To truly appreciate Le Mis for the incredible literature that it is, it requires more than passing attention. It should be read in the manner of a stiff book.”

    The struggle for fitting books into these categories is real! I noticed that right away. I wanted to read multiple stiff books at once and was sulky about choosing one.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 9, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      Please thank your husband — I now feel confident calling Les Mis Stiff! ♥

  • Reply Melissa Greene June 8, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Congrats on the Churchill books!

    Yeah, you’re reading Les Mis too! My Schole Sisters group will meet for the first time this summer on Sunday to discuss Fantine. It’s a fabulous read so far!! We have tickets to see the Broadway musical in Dec. I can’t wait!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 8, 2018 at 1:35 pm

      The musical! Oh, it is so amazing. I saw it once in college when it was at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. It was fantastic. I’m so happy for you that you get to go! ♥

      • Reply Melissa Greene June 8, 2018 at 5:58 pm

        Thanks 🙂

        Which translation did you settle on for reading?

  • Reply Sarah June 8, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    I have 220 pages left of Les Miserables. (Yes, I am counting down the pages until I am done!) It is the longest book I have ever read. I have been counting it as a stiff book. I have been wondering if others would do the same. It is a very difficult book to read. He goes off on long tangents that have nothing to do with the plot. One of them lasted for 40 pages or so. It is worth reading, but I’m not sure that I would ever read it again. I am using the Wilbour translation because I was hoping to get the least abridged version. I really like the plot, but struggle with his theological and philosophical deviations. How are you liking it?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 8, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      I’m enjoying the story, but honestly the description of Waterloo almost KILLED me! I know I am in good company, hm? 😉

      • Reply Sarah June 8, 2018 at 2:28 pm

        I hate to admit that I skimmed that part a bit! I couldn’t believe how long it was.

  • Reply Kelly June 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

    You definitely deserve a gold star for the Churchill series! When I finished The Faerie Queene last fall, I marked it as a life event on my Facebook page. 😀

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 8, 2018 at 11:01 am

      I should do that! I just don’t know HOW to do that!

      • Reply Kelly June 8, 2018 at 11:04 am

        On your own timeline where it has the “What’s on your mind?” box, look in the bar just above that. The far right corner has a flag and it says “Life Event.”

        • Reply Brandy Vencel June 8, 2018 at 11:08 am

          Thank you! I totally just did it. You are a genius! ♥

  • Reply Amber June 8, 2018 at 10:31 am

    You know what is even better than AbeBooks? :-). They search AbeBooks and a whole bunch of other booksellers too.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 8, 2018 at 10:36 am

      Ooh! Sounds like I need to check it out! Can you save a search and have them email you when new listings come across? That’s the function I love on Abe. 🙂

      • Reply Amber Vanderpol June 8, 2018 at 10:47 am

        Not that I know of… but I didn’t know you can do that on Abe! I’ll have to check that out. 🙂

        • Reply Brandy Vencel June 8, 2018 at 11:21 am

          That is what my post is about — how to save a “want” so that Abe shops FOR you! ♥

          • Amber Vanderpol June 8, 2018 at 12:09 pm

            LOL – my brain!! I know I read that post when you first wrote it…


          • Brandy Vencel June 8, 2018 at 1:34 pm


    Leave a Reply