YA Book Review: Enter Title Here

YA Book Review: Enter Title Here

If you only read one YA book this year, make it this one. I know, it’s only June (July?), and I will read and review over 20 more books by year’s end, but this one has the stuff, my friends.

In spades.

You can order  Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia on Amazon right now and it will be magically whisked to your Kindle on August 2.  And you want to do that.  I promise.

It’s a fascinating read just because it is written like an original manuscript.  Not the prettied-up version you find in a published book, but the version written by a teenage overachiever who lands an agent before she even considers writing a novel.  It’s written more like her first or second draft.  Honest.  Raw.  Exposed.

If you only read one YA book this year, make it this one.

That is cool enough, but the story line is Amazing. A. maz. ing.  See, Reshma is a high school senior and valedictorian at her posh high school, and all she wants out of life is to get into Stanford.  And she believes wholeheartedly she will do Whatever It Takes to get in.  But she needs a hook.  So when she writes an article for Huffington Post and gains an agent who wants her to write a novel, she knows she has her hook.  Published Teen Writer and valedictorian?  Yeah, that’s the hook.

Because her SAT scores?  Well, they were pretty average.  All three times.  How does a girl who works harder than anyone else, is top in her class, and has an agent get average SAT scores?

What Reshma reveals about herself throughout her story will make you question the entire system.  And yourself.  Because you will not understand how you could possibly feel sympathy for her.  But you will, indeed, sympathize.

This book touches so many things, not the least of which being how a person Should Not behave in order to reach the top.  And how family dynamics play into our lives on a daily basis.  But it also touches on prejudice, and how even those who think of themselves as being open-minded can carry a seed they don’t even recognize.  I think, though that was a subplot, it was my favorite part.  We should always question ourselves and those around us, ensure that we are not letting those seeds take root.

I loved that seeing the story through the filter of Reshma’s mind meant that I couldn’t quite trust everything I was reading.  Even when I thought I felt one way about a plot, I found myself questioning how true that plot was and how it might have played out in another character’s reality.  Reshma is a bitch; there is no doubt of that.  But she’s a kind of lovable bitch, even when you aren’t sure what’s really going on.

Yeah.  Read this book. Question Everything.


Love wins,


$20 Dollars and a Wish

Making a wish from losing $20

I have a story to share with you today, my lovely readers, but it’s not a Story Time story.

Rather, it’s the story of a Saturday morning with the family and a $20 bill.  We took everybody out for breakfast, including Big and his Sweet Girlfriend.  Afterward we hit a couple yard sales. We were having a lot of fun just being together and blowing a Saturday morning when I suddenly realized I was missing $20.  Big offered to retrace our steps and look for it, but I knew there was no way he would find it.  For a split second I wanted to be upset.  $20 is $20, and for us that means something.  I’m not in the habit of throwing money away.

But then I paused.  Because I’m always talking about kindness and paying it forward and I believe wholeheartedly that it makes the world a better place.  So I could be mad at the Universe or myself because I lost a little money.  Or I could do something else entirely.

Here’s what I did.  I let that $20 go.  With a smile.  Because I realized that someone out there was going to find it and feel like the luckiest person in the world that day.  So I made a wish for the recipient of my $20 gift.  A wish that whoever found it got something good with it.  The wish went something like this:

If it was a

  • Young mother I wished she would take her littles out for ice cream with her newfound money
  • A homeschooler I wished she would be able to buy a couple of books or some school supplies
  • A homeless person I wished he would buy himself something cool to drink and a meal
  • A teenager I wished she would put the money in her gas tank and drive her friends out to the lake
  • A weekend dad I wished he would take his kids to the movies
  • An elderly couple I wished they would treat themselves to some kind of fun meal or activity
  • A bibliophile I wished he would find 4 books for $5 each or a ton of books at a yard sale
  • A child I wished his mama or dada would take him to buy a new toy
  • A movie buff I wished she would go buy herself that new DVD she’s been eyeballing
  • A student I wished he would take the money and give himself a break from his studies
  • A struggling family I wished they would use the money to buy a couple meals’ worth of food or put it toward their electric bill
  • A rich person I wished he would open his heart and pass the $20 on to someone who could use it more than he

I had so much fun imagining how the person who found that $20 might have used it that I completely forgot how I could have used it.  It didn’t matter anymore that I need that money; it mattered that someone else was going to get a great surprise–an extra $20 to spend however they wished.  Or however they needed.

There was no room to be upset at anybody when I pictured how exciting it would be for someone to spot that bill laying on the ground somewhere.

Sometimes bad things to happen to us, but sometimes they aren’t so bad.  I mean, I love going through a drive-thru and arbitrarily buying lunch for the person behind me.  I try to do it whenever I can afford it.  Maybe someone did just that with my $20.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  It’s like Chaos Theory–Did something good happen on the other side of the world because I dropped a 20-dollar bill?

Oh, I do hope so, my friends.  It is my wish for this week.

You  know what’s funny?  I’m kind of glad I dropped that money.  It made me realize that there is a different way to handle myself when something ‘bad’ comes along.

With a wish, I can make it into something good.

Love wins,




10 Steps to Help You Prepare to Homeschool

10 steps to help you prepare to homeschoolIf you’ve considered homeschooling at all, or you’ve decided to homeschool, you’re probably now wondering what steps you can take to help you prepare to homeschool.  I remember what it was like, looking down that long tunnel at the full school year ahead and wondering how in the heck I was going to even get started with the planning phase, let alone the teaching part.

It’s freaking scary.

I feel ya.

So I thought about what I did to get ready for that very first homeschool year, and I thought I’d share it with you.  You know, since we’re staring down that long tunnel again.

1.Get support

Find a friend or neighbor (or even a blogger) who can tell you her own story, lead you through some of the trickier parts, and just be there to support your struggle.  My mentor in homeschooling is the sweet lady next door (and by next door, I mean 3/4 of a mile away) who has homeschooled 9 kids, 3 of whom have graduated.  She really encouraged me when I was doubting whether I could do this thing, and I will always be grateful.  I would not have known where to start without her.  Finding another homeschooler to walk you through the beginning, and to be there when you need advice, is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

2. Learn your state laws

I wouldn’t even have known where to start doing this if it hadn’t been for my neighbor; that’s why it’s second on the list.  But every state has their homeschool laws listed on their government website.  If there’s something in them you don’t understand, fall back on your veteran homeschooler–I’ve never known a homeschooler who wasn’t thrilled to help someone get started, and no question is too frivolous.

Many states have testing and/or paperwork that must be filled out each year, or certain requirements you have to fill.  Indiana isn’t one of them.  I love the freedom my state gives me to homeschool my boys as I see fit.  As long as I keep them at least at grade level and school them for 180 days a year, I’m golden.  But the law is I have to keep attendance, so I do so diligently.  You should be diligent about the laws your state has in place, too.

3.Set a budget

You know what your family can afford.  You can spend as little or as much on homeschooling as you want, so now is the time to decide if you want to do this as frugally as possible or if you are more comfortable shelling out more cash.  Many of the steps that follow are going to depend on your budget, so keep them in mind when you’re deciding how much you’re willing to spend.

4. Gather supplies

I’m a bibliophile, but you know that.  So I already had an entire library worth of books when we started.  What I didn’t have was paper, pencils, scissors, glue, notebooks, crayons, paints, all the basics you need for your littles to learn everything at home.  I hit the back-to-school sales and Stocked Up.  Over the years, I’ve added to our craft bins whenever I see something that might prove interesting some day.  My favorite additions have been air-dry clay and chalk pastels.  We also keep spare journals, sketchbooks, binders, and three-pronged folders on hand.

All of the paperwork for each class gets three-hole punched and put in either a binder or a folder.  We keep those when we’re done, so the boys have an entire class worth of notes and worksheets to look back at if they want to.  We have lapbooked, notebooked, took notes, filled in worksheets, drew pictures, written stories, and everything they do goes in that class’s binder.  It’s a great way to keep track of what you’ve done.  It also keeps paper from scattering all over your workplace.  Win!

Another supply I keep on hand and really love is freezer paper.  We use it for large art projects (one side is waxed so paint doesn’t leak through), making charts, all kinds of things.  It’s cheaper than art paper and sturdier, and I always make sure there’s a roll handy.

These are basic supplies that will get you started.  I promise it won’t end there.

public school vs homeschool

5. Decipher your children’s learning styles

My boys learn in very different ways.  Middle is a reader and a retainer.  He would rather read about and discuss a subject than anything.  Littlest likes a more hands-on approach.  He gets a little bored reading nonfiction and listening.  He wants to get his hands dirty.  Because I come from a public school background, and my oldest graduated from public school, and the Littles went to public school for at least a year, I didn’t know starting out that there could be such a difference.  In public school, we’re taught to learn the way they teach or we fail.  At home, we must teach the way they learn so they can succeed.

If you’re not sure how your child learns best, spend some time studying her.  There’s a cool quiz on Education Planner that you might consider giving your littles to start off.  I took it, and the downside is that it is geared toward older kids, but you might be able to discuss the questions with small littles to get at their answers.

Oddly enough, it turns out I’m an auditory learner.  I would have told you visual.  Apparently I would have been wrong.  Who knew?

If you have no faith in quizzes, Teach.com has a great overview of different learning styles and how to teach to them.  Once you know what you’re looking for, watch your children carefully to see which style is best for them.  Keep in mind, no one has just one learning style, but there will be one that stands out as the best way to reach your little.

6. Decide your teaching method

Even with several different learning styles in your house, you can pick a single teaching method and apply it to all of them.  There are so many and one is sure to fit your homeschool.  A few of them are

  • Montessori With this method, children learn at their own pace.  The tools for learning are provided, but the teacher does not intervene.  Rather, the child goes to a shelf, picks what she wants to do, and works with the materials.  The teacher is mostly there for guidance.  It is a brilliant method for teaching lower elementary.
  • Charlotte Mason This method is based on beauty and real-life situations.  Nature walks, living books, and field trips are major components of Charlotte Mason.  It is very popular among homeschoolers.
  • Classical This approach has been used by scholars for centuries.  Its 3 stages are followed in this order:  Prep includes basic reading, writing, and math.  Grammar stage includes compositions and collections.  Dialectic stage involves reading, study, and research.
  • Unschooling Also known as child-led or delight-directed, unschooling involves following a child’s interests and letting him learn what he wants when he wants.  It is a much more natural approach to learning than most of the others and can help your little find his passion earlier than he otherwise might
  • Unit Study This method takes a single interest and expands it into many subjects.  When we studied Asia, we studied its geography, geology, history, animals, gardens, poetry, religions, and art.  Pulling all that from one topic is what makes a unit study, and you can teach anything in that way with a little imagination.
  • Eclectic This is our approach.  We pull from every single one of the above methods and more to make our homeschool as lively and interesting as we can.  With an eclectic approach, you can use the ideas from different methods to tailor to your child’s learning style with ease.

7.  Pick a curriculum

Once you know how your child learns and how you want to teach him, you can start looking at curricula and decide what is right for your homeschool.  I’ve read about and talked to lots of mamas who have chosen a curriculum and found it wasn’t right for them, so don’t pick the most popular or the most expensive because you assume it is the best.  Pick one that will suit your family’s need.  Do your research, then do it again.  Read reviews.  Talk to other homeschoolers.  You don’t want to throw money away.  That would suck.

There’s a great list of different companies that offer curriculum on the HSLDA website.

If the idea of choosing a curriculum scares you, you can branch out into my world, and write all your curricula yourself.  I have a free ebook for subscribers that will be available this Sunday, June 26 that tells you how to homeschool without buying curriculum.  And if you have any questions, you can always email me or get with me on social media.  I’m a nice gal; I will help you out.

8. Get Organized

Now you have all the basics in place.  It’s time to plan.  Find a planner (you can purchase one or search for free printables on the interweb).  In fact, there’s a planner pack in my Subscriber Freebies that can get you started.

Before you start writing, think about the kind of schedule you want to have.  Do you want to have a traditional year?  Or do you want to homeschool year-round?  We school all year, taking long breaks at either end of summer and during the holidays, but you may find that a more traditional August-through-June calendar works for you.

Now think about the best time of day to school.  Morning?  Afternoon?  All day with breaks?  You can tailor the schedule to your littles.  When are they most alert and engaged?  Have school then.  Do they nap?  Plan school around their nap time.  I have found that learning takes place so much in our house that even with our morning school schedule, we continue to learn throughout the day.  I decided on our schedule by calculating the number of hours students spend actually learning in public school.  We have to be up early to do our farm chores anyway and morning is our best time, so we school from 8-12 or 1.  That may not work for your family, and that’s ok.  Do what works for you.

The great thing about homeschool is that no two look alike because every family is different.

9. Plan for fun

No matter what teaching method you choose, fun activities and field trips should be part of your homeschool.  Field trips can be such wonderful additions to history, geography, literature, and science lessons.  Trips to the zoo, the museum, the planetarium, and historical sites will enrich your littles’ educations exponentially.  At home,  you make crafts, do art projects or science experiments, go for walks and study nature.  Just make sure to include all this yummy goodness in your yearly plan and your budget.

You might decide to join a homeschool co-op or have your littles take music or dance lessons.  Even extracurricular activities count toward their education–they are learning something just by being there.

My Littles are always telling me how glad they are that we homeschool because they have so much fun and learn so much.  That’s the point, so I can’t stop grinning when they show their appreciation.  Makes me feel like I’m rocking this thing.

And believe me, there are plenty of days when I question that, so I’m grateful to them for saying it.

10.  The most important step you can take to prepare to homeschool?  Breathe.

Relax.  You got this.  I know you don’t want to hear that word right now because How Can You Relax When Your Children’s Education Is The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Be In Charge Of?

Yeah, that’s how I felt for the first two years.  I smirked or growled at people who told me to relax.  I would not relax, I was on a mission.

Mm hmm.

Let me repeat myself:  Relax.

Your littles want to learn.  It is part of human nature.  Don’t put so much pressure on yourself (or them) that you don’t enjoy this precious time you have together.  Because these years are fleeting.  You don’t want to look back one day and think, “I wish I had just enjoyed being with my kids.”

Be with your kids.  Teach them from your heart.  It will be good.

Love wins,




YA Book Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

YA Book Review of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Books like this are the reason I love doing a YA book review for you every week.

Looking for a rousing adventure to entertain your little ones?  Look no further than On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson.  This book includes everything–young protagonists who are brave, bad guys who look like lizards, a nameless overlord named Gnag, dragons, swords, and mysteries.

Peterson hooked me in the first few pages.  Mostly because he wields an amazing sense of humor.  The irony with which he describes the world around the Dark Sea of Darkness is exquisite. I mean, come on, how funny is a sea called the Dark Sea of Darkness?  Because it can’t just be the Dark Sea or the Sea of Darkness–that doesn’t describe it well enough.   The world is called Aerwiar, because when the first man woke up on the first morning and saw where he was, he said, “Well, here we are.”  That phrase passed down through all the generations until ‘here we are’ got bastardized into Aerwiar.


Unlikely Heroes

Enter the Igiby children–Janner, 12, is the eldest boy, and he’s tired of being responsible for his siblings.  Tink is 11, and he’s hard to look after because he’s so adventurous.  Leeli is the youngest, and though she has a twisted leg that causes her to walk with a crutch, she is a handful in her own right.  When their grandfather charges Janner to look after his brother and sister during Dragon Day, Janner is supremely annoyed.   Dragon Day is a big festival, the one day a year when dragons rise up from the Dark Sea of Darkness to sing and fly.  He just wants to enjoy the festivities.  People come to their little village from miles around to witness the event, and the festival atmosphere feeds Janner’s longing for something bigger.  But his annoyance turns to terror when he loses Leeli in the crowd

Danger Everywhere

The Fangs of Dang, lizard-like soldiers, delight in frightening and torturing the locals.  They make the laws for Gnag the Nameless and carry out the punishments and generally cause a ruckus among the village folk.  So when Janner finds Leeli in an alleyway fighting a Fang, he and Tink jump into the fray.

And the real adventure begins.

Mystery upon Mystery

Janner and Tink find more trouble in more places than seems possible in the following days.  They find a treasure map.  They learn about the Jewels of Anniera, which may well hidden in their little village.  They follow Peet the Sock Man, a loony old man who wears socks on his hands and lives in the dangerous forest.  They have run-in after run-in with the Fangs.  And as the whole family gets drawn into the troubles, they learn more about themselves and their history than ever could have imagined.

This book has the stuff, my friends.  Your littles will be clamoring for one. more. chapter.  Or reading late into the night because they have to know what happens next.  I mean, I’m a grown woman, and I couldn’t put it down.  I can just imagine how the magic that is this book would drag a child along after it.

I suggest getting this one in paperback.  There are maps at the beginning of the book, and poring over them is much more fun if you can go back easily and look at them on paper.  Also, it seems to me that this is the kind of book that should look well-loved and worn  over time.  Because of course they’re going to want to read it more than once.

Then they can get the sequel.  So cool.  I’ve not read it yet, but with a title like North! or Be Eaten, how could it not rock as much as the first book?

Love wins,


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