My Favorite Family Read Alouds {For Cold Winter Days!}

three boy read book indoors

We love to get lost in books around here. I’m always on the hunt for titles to read to my whole crew…and I mean my whole crew. With four kids spanning the ages of thirteen down to six, I have to keep hunting for books we can all chew on and sit still for. We love to cuddle up on couches, on the floor or under the covers with big cups of tea and a great story. It is really the sweetest moments we make together. As the cold weather gets colder, we need this time more and more.

If you’re looking for books to warm the hearts in your home too, here is my list of favorite Read- Alouds that children (and adults) of every age will find captivating!

1.  A Wrinkle in Time- I used to imagine myself into this family as a child. Meg and her brother Charles Wallace must search for their father through space and time in order to save him and the Universe from a deep blackness. This book awakens something new in my soul every single time I read it.

2.  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle- This sweet lady has a  very unorthodox (ahem) remedy for every childhood ill you may be facing in your home. If whining, not sharing, laziness or bickering ever pop up in your house, you may have found a new favorite too! It has been the best way I have found to address bad manners in our home and we never read it without a complete giggle fit.

3.  Little House on the Prairie- I become captivated by the daily life and immersion into a childhood on the prairie every time I read this book- and the recipes are amazing! This series always makes my children count their blessings, want to bake and imagine just a bit more.

4.  The Chronicles of Narnia- I  cry every time we read this series. It is an allegory to our faith and world view, but it is also literature that awakens the best of our character, our longing for valor and courage to be real in our lives and quite literally opened up a whole new, quite cherished, world to our family.

5.  The Railway Children- This was one of the most pleasant books I have ever shared with my children. Three siblings loose their father to a false-imprisionment and head to the English countryside to live a simpler life, finding a sheer love for the railway and all those connected to it in their vicinity… and end up solving a mystery too!

6.  The Mysterious Benedict Society- Four very gifted and out of the box children are called upon to rescue their town and become under-cover agents for the Mysterious Mr. Benedict. My children are captivated by the adventure in this story and I love the loyalty and comraderie of the characters.

7.  The Saturdays- Four siblings in turn of the 20th century New York City determine to pool their allowance and each take a Saturday to do what they have always dreamed of. Each chapter highlights a respective adventure that is beautifully woven into the whole of the story of this family. It is lovely!

8.  The Burgess Animal Book- Peter Rabbit discovers his neighbors and gives you a naturalist’s education as you read and truly get to know the characters of the forest well. My children ask for this one again and again and even with higher language use, my little ones are in love and learn so much!

9.  Mr. Popper’s Penguins- This was my favorite as a child and I was so thrilled to read it to my own children. They loved the story of Mr. Popper, the unkempt house painter, his special Antartic penguins, and all their shenanigans, just as much as I did.

10.  The  Trumpet of the Swan- This is the story of a boy and a swan and the latter’s migration and struggle to be reunited with his family, all the while he overcomes an inability to “talk” learning to play the trumpet. This book made us laugh and learn and soak in the seasons all at once.

11.  Understood Betsy- Betsy is a frail girl who is sent to live with relatives on a farm in the country. They gently spur her to independence with love, extraordinary faith in who she truly is, and by requiring more of her than she thinks is possible. She soon begins to find her own inner strength and fortitude and leads young readers to do the same.

Ok, now it’s your turn! What is one {or more!} of your favorite read alouds? My library basket is waiting!



Relaxing in Your Homeschooling


I have been homeschooling my children for 11 years now!  Wow, I can’t even believe that!  I actually have a 10th grader and I’m still plugging along.   Homeschooling has brought me so much joy over the years.  It will truly be one of those things when I look back over the years of my life, where I know I will have no regrets that I did it.  The time I was able to have at home with my children has been priceless to me and I will forever be grateful for the memories it has created!

If I had to give advice to younger moms who are thinking about homeschooling or the ones in the middle of it with small children I would say. . . RELAX!    It really doesn’t have to be as near as stressful as we make it.  Your children are learning so much just doing life with you. When you see them older you are going to be amazed at the knowledge they have that didn’t even come from the curriculum that you put so much time into!

I have three children.  I would say a gifted one, special needs (dyslexia), and a creative one, and every one of them just blow me away.  I really thought my second child would never read and never count but I now have an almost 6 ft tall boy who reads on level!  It will happen!  Maybe not in the time slots that traditional school gives, but it will happen.

Isn’t that one of the reasons you chose to homeschool anyway?  So you wouldn’t feel you had to keep up with the standard system?

My fear for younger homeschool moms is that they will spend so many years worrying and stressing that they will forget to enjoy the moments. The moments you first hear a child read to you, the moment your child decides to devour a book in one sitting because they can’t get enough reading, the moment they spell every word right on their spelling list or when they write their first letters.  Don’t let those moments pass without savoring every one!

If you are struggling right now find some ways to make learning simple for a little while:  Here are some ideas:

*Writing letters- this is a great way to help children with their handwriting skills, I have them write to friends and family. You can also have them write poems or stories to grandparents and relatives; I even have my kids illustrate them.

*Read, Read, and Read some more- Reading books to your children is NOT just for your younger ones.  You create wonderful memories when you read great classics to your older children. It creates great conversations and bonding time, some of our fondest memories are reading great books together.

* Field trips- There are so many places to visit locally such as the zoo, aquarium, museums and much more.  We like to take a day trip every six weeks or so where we travel a couple of hours away to see a historic place or museum that is not in our area.  These places are so educational and it gives your kids a love of learning when they get to go somewhere fun.

Educational websites & Apps- This is a great way to bring learning into the house with the new electronic age.  They have apps for everything from multiplication tables to phonics. Some special needs children learn best this way!

Last but not least:

Kids need time to play- there is so much that can be done by just getting dirty in the sandbox, swimming in the pool, using their imagination in their play forts and being with family and friends. In our culture, every hour is structured for kids and studies show that it hasn’t made a big impact on learning, and maybe has even hurt the learning process. Kids need time to be kids; it opens their minds and gives them a love for learning.

Remember, you want to raise children who love God and will have strong integrity more than a high grade point average.  Many times we SAY that, but our actions prove differently.  Great questions to always go back to are: “Why did I start homeschooling?  Why was I so excited about it in the beginning?”  Don’t lose sight of your calling or your reasons, because if you do, you will blink and the years will be gone.  Instead enjoy every moment!!


Angela, Together with Family

Dinnertime Discussion: A Timeline Review {Plus a Timeline Giveaway}

Homeschool in the Woods Logo

As a former high school English teacher and now a homeschooling mom, I love all things school.


Nothing makes me happier than a basket of fresh office supplies, the cracking open of a blank  notebook, the smell of a newly-opened box of crayons, the opening of a package of untainted curriculum.

That’s right, I was the kid, the teacher and now the mom who loooooves the back-to-school time of year, so you can imagine my excitement when I received the assignment to review timeline materials published by a company called Home School in the Woods.

First, I was impressed with the selection of themes offered regarding timeline topics:

Creation to Christ
Resurrection to Revolution
Napoleon to Now
America’s History

For this review, I chose to work through the Creation to Christ timeline with my 12-year-old daughter, and I used the “Timeline Trio” which means I received CDs with all of the timeline figures (which included all four of the themes listed above) ready to print from my computer; the “Suggested Placement Guide” that provides instruction on possible timeline figure placement; and the “Record of Time” timeline binder-type notebook that neatly houses all of the timeline figures.

In order to make this an authentic review, I enlisted the help of my daughter, a typical middle-school student, meaning that — in all honestly — she was less than enthusiastic about doing something even remotely close to schoolwork in the summer. :)

That said, however, we actually had a good time together; she even admitted to enjoying it! (*gasp*)

Girl Working on Timeline

Best of all, the first few timeline figures we placed sparked excellent dinnertime discussion. For example, our whole family talked at length about the differences between “young-earth” and “old-earth” creationism as well as the merits of Darwin’s theory of evolution — and why they call it a theory.

Ultimately, isn’t that what we want?  For our children to be actively engaged and thoughtful about what they’re learning?  For them to question for understanding?  For them to understand the ramifications of history’s happenings on their faith lives today?

I’m genuinely excited to complete this timeline with my daughter, and I’d venture to say that she is excited to finish it, too.  (However, she’d rather work on it during the school year as opposed to during summer break – haha!)

Which leads me to a side note: these timelines are chock full of information!  They are designed as ongoing projects to be pieced together a little at a time over many weeks or even months.

If any of this intrigues you at all, Home School in the Woods is giving away TWO Creation to Christ pre-printed timeline figures! To enter, just follow the instructions below.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy learning!


Disclosure: This post is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. See full disclosure here.

Why I’m Glad I Was Homeschooled

stories made it possible

The smell of ancient paper still makes me want to sob, the way spines line up like soldiers on the wooden shelves of small-town libraries. I know they would defend me if they could, those armies of words.

I grew up in second-hand clothes and mushroom-cuts and plastic glasses. I grew up homeschooled until the age of 9, with my nose in books, stories of Pippi Longstocking and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables. Books whose characters were as real to me as every-day, as the few friends I made the houses between, for we moved fast and far, my father a pastor and so, I clung to these characters and they, to me. I could count on them to be there, when nothing else was. We became a family of sorts.

And Mum, she taught me the Queen’s language. A language lost to this texting generation. She taught me when to use “which” and when to use “that”; she saluted the apostrophe and shuddered when it was put in the wrong place. She set every word reverently in its place, in a sentence, and taught me the feel of a pen between my fingers.

I learned the art of penmanship, but not only that—I learned what it means to know a language inside and out, backwards and front, and to hold it in awe.

Throughout high school Mum pulled me out of the English classes and taught me herself because she knew what I did not: that with the age of computers we’d lose the craft of a noble speech. We’d add slang and acronyms would become actual words and kids would trade the romance of a hand-written letter for the convenience of a text message.

my goal since those days

Not only did Anne and Pippi and Laura befriend me; they paved the way smooth for an awkward girl. They made it possible for me to believe on days when my heart seemed to stop working. On days when I yelled at my parents and slammed doors and slipped dark into anorexia, on those kinds of days, only the story could reach me. Only the story could save me.

It pulls you deep, this literature, deeper than any technology could. It introduces culture, countries, religion and history and it whets the soul for learning. The story creates sympathy for a world full of characters, and provides boundaries for good and evil. It sheds light on people’s unspoken suffering and creates a longing for justice, for truth.

I will never understand the intrigue of a book-less library, of the e-book, of the Kindle, for the very charm of the silence and the old stuffed chairs lies in a library’s walls of literature. In the dog-eared page, the margin-scribbled-notes, the smell of dusty intrigue, the quiet hush of pages turning.

And my goal since those days has been to write a story that draws people in so they forget where they are, so they too befriend the people they are reading about, so they too, don’t have to be lonely, anymore.




Friends? I’ve written a story (a memoir) and it’s releasing next month.

It’s called Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (—and all proceeds are going towards a non-profit which TBM contributor Joy Forney and I have founded in the slums of Uganda: The Lulu Tree ~ “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.”

Atlas Girl_700x175_2

Pre-order your copy of Atlas Girl HERE and receive a FREE e-book on How to Write Inspirational Memoir!




This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

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