Thinking about Thinking in 2017

It seems appropriate that this post go out in January; otherwise it doesn’t really feel like a New Year post.  The truth is, though, I’ve been experiencing a lot of ambivalence and indecision about the kinds of study I want to pursue this year and about the way I want to focus my time in general.  So let’s just say this is less of a plan and more of a trajectory, which could potentially change course.

We’ve got some categories:

1. Ambleside Online Year 11

I got attached to Year 11 when I was looking around for a Bible reading plan for myself.  Lamentations through the minor prophets looked especially appealing and challenging to me, and I’m making myself narrate every reading.  But the general theme in Year 11 (equivalent to junior year of high school) is that remarkable point in history when “the sacred canopy” fully disintegrated (post WWI), which is of particular interest to me.  I am a lover of modern art, especially abstract expressionism, and some of my favorite literature is that which squarely faces the despair of this time period.  So I guess I’m not your typicalsayers classical homeschooler!  I feel an almost desperate need to understand my own time–perhaps because we work with college students, or it could be that what was being expressed in the first half of the 20th century isn’t that far off from what’s being expressed now.  Year 11 offers me some fine options for exploration, especially from writers who were standing their ground for tradition, order and norms.

I’ve already read Brideshead Revisited, Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby and quite a few of the free reads, including 84 Charing Cross Road (so fun!).  Several of my all-time favorite books are also on that list: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Violent Bear It Away, Peace Like a River and The Chosen.  Why We Can’t Wait, originating from Dr. King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail, which is still frighteningly timely and was viral on MLKJ Day this year, is also listed.

I’m currently working on Ourselves and Christy, and I’m looking forward to reading The Mind of the Maker, Amusing Ourselves to Death and some Edna St. Vincent Millay. 

2. The Origins of American Conservatism

It’s probably fitting then that I am also planning to spend quite a bit of time with Russell Kirk and Marilynne Robinson, in an effort to understand our current political climate, especially the origins of conservatism in America, because I am completely in the dark.  eliotLiving in Detroit, I find myself asking questions that liberals are answering and generally unable to conceive of the questions conservatives are asking (and I’m not talking about Trump-supporters here).  I’d like to understand better, because honestly I feel a little alienated from the Christian homeschooling world at the moment.  Believe me, I come at this topic with fear and trembling and many many prayers for humility.

In this category also goes the poetry of T.S. Eliot–a volume of his collected poems is on its way to me right now!

3. The Leadership of People of Colorthe-warmth-of-other-suns

Lori Harris recently put out a list of her favorite books written by people of color, which I intend to read through.  One of my big goals for this year is to step deeper into community with people who are different from me, especially to allow their voices to speak into my life and lead me.  My favorite podcast right now is called Pass the Mic, put out by the Reformed African American Network, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for this purpose.


dante4. Group Discussion 

I’m facilitating discussion of Dante’s Purgatory and Paradise on the Expanding Wisdom Facebook group this year for sure.  Beyond that lurks the ambivalence.  I have opportunities to join two separate local CM book studies, but I’m not sure I will do either (see point above about diverse community).  I was looking forward to following along with Close Reads’ discussion of a Dorothy Sayers mystery novel, but just finally admitted to myself that I don’t have time.  Maybe I’ll jump back on for the next pick.


5. Piano

I sorta kinda play the piano and got back into it in a big way last year.  Am currently working on Moonlight Sonata.  Am amateur to the max.

There you have it!  I’m sure I’ll have a good laugh over this “trajectory” in December.  As a beloved tour guide once repeated ad nauseum in Israel: “We’ll see what the Lord has.”


2016 in Books 

Happy New Year, everyone!

It may very well be that I only started this blog so I could write annual book wrap-up posts.  I love them.

2016 was an intense reading year for me.  I wrestled with a lot, challenged some long-held beliefs and assumptions and refined my understanding of what it means to be a human being created in God’s image.  Here are some of the highlights (asterisks refer to the number of times I’ve read something, if it was a re-read):

Favorite Family Read-Aloud

A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne   51srx2kzbjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

A dreamy combination of New England country living and vivid Greek mythology, this book is an AO Free Read, but I think it has fostered some of the most discussion, connections and spontaneous narrations of anything we read this past fall.  I relished the imagery and several passages made it into my commonplace.

Most Spiritually Impactful Read

the-broken-way-ann-voskampThe Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

I knew I definitely wanted to read this book when I got around to it, but one day in November I felt an almost overwhelming need to find a copy right away.  I was in a terrible mood, so it’s hard to say confidently that it was the Holy Spirit, who knows, but from the first page, it was an almost instant correction, call to repentance, call to something more, and the truths it preaches have gotten me through a very difficult holiday season.  I don’t usually ask my husband to read my favorite books, because we have very different tastes, but I’ve been begging him to read this one.

I’m also thinking this will become an annual read for me, a ritual I’ve never practiced before but often admired.

Biggest Reading Challenge

Norms and Nobility by David V. Hicks

This book 6b9b5b4270c1d2a6fc8d19ccff9a5b2ajust required such slow, careful, researched reading, but it was worth the time and effort.  The chapter on Christian paideia cleared up some significant questions I’ve had for the last three years about the Christian classical education movement.

Honorable Mention: America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis (this one I labeled a challenge because it addresses some very painful issues in our country that are much easier not to acknowledge, but I found it a very helpful, clarifying read when I pushed through the discomfort).

Most Pleasurable Re-Read

wind-in-the-willows-kenneth-grahame-ernest-h-shepardThe Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame***

This book came alive for me in a big way the third time through, and I absolutely loved reading along with the Close Reads podcast and discussing further on Facebook–one of my comments even got mentioned in an episode!  I developed a new admiration and affection for Mole this time.

  • Honorable Mention: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis** (I read this immediately after finishing a year-long study of Revelation with BSF…a perfect conclusion)

Favorite Fiction

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson**housekeeping

I’m SUCH a Marilynne Robinson groupie and am moving on to her essays in 2017.  This is her first novel, published way back in 1980, long before she breathed life into the inhabitants of Gilead, Iowa (aka, my family…I think they will be in heaven…just kidding, but possibly?).  Anyway, Housekeeping is difficult (I read it twice in a row) and haunting, and it speaks deep truths about the homelessness all humans feel in this life on earth.

  • Honorable Mention: Lila by Marilynne Robinson (the third of the Gilead novels, also about home, homelessness and transience)

The Rest of the Books of 2016

Novels: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer and Barrows, Doc and Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell, Possession by A.S. Byatt, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen***, The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Short Stories: “Fidelity” by Wendell Berry, “Revelation,” “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” and “Parker’s Back” by Flannery O’Connor, “The Chief Mourner of Marne” by G.K. Chesterton

Epic Poetry: Dante’s Inferno

Nonfiction: Generous Justice by Tim Keller, The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie, Minds More Awake by Anne White, Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins

AO Years 1/2 (with Ellary): Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney, Tree In the Trail by Holling C. Holling, Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling**, The Door In the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli, Pocahontas, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Buffalo Bill and George Washington by the d’Aulaires

AO Year 11 (for my own education): Ezekiel, II Corinthians, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff,  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (on audio). 


Coming Soon…my reading plans for 2017!


This poem has been getting to me lately.


If I envy anyone it must be
My grandmother in a long ago
Green summer, who hurried
Between kitchen and orchard on small
Uneducated feet, and took easily
All shining fruits into her eager hands.

That summer I hurried too, wakened
To books and music and circling philosophies.
I sat in the kitchen sorting through volumes of answers
That could not solve the mystery of the trees.

My grandmother stood among her kettles and ladles.
Smiling, in faulty grammar,
She praised my fortune and urged my lofty career.
So to please her I studied—but I will remember always
How she poured confusion out, how she cooled and labeled
All the wild sauces of the brimming year.

-Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, v. 1