10 Favorite Read-Aloud Christmas Books

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without good Christmas stories — here are 10 of our favorite read-aloud Christmas books:


The Christmas Story

The Gingerbread Boy

Gingerbread Baby

Gingerbread Friends

The Mitten

B is for Bethlehem

The Baby Born in a Stable

White Snow, Bright Snow

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

Great Joy

You should be able to find all or most of these at your local library!

What are some of your family’s favorite read-aloud Christmas books? I’d love to find new ones to add to our list of favorites!

top image via Bigstock

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7 Must-Read Books for Work-At-Home Moms (or those who want to be!)

I’m speaking at the Midwest Homeschool Conference on Saturday about Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom Without Losing Your Sanity. In the handout, I made a list of seven of my favorite business books and I thought some of you who couldn’t make it to the conference might enjoy seeing this list, too.

Now, mind you, three of these don’t even have much to do with business. Instead, they are about time management. However, I’ve found that it’s near impossible to successfully work from home if you’re not a good manager of your time. So I think books on time management are vitally important to read if you work from home or are considering working from home.

Here’s my list of seven must-read books:

1.  Quitter by Jon Acuff In his witty style, Jon shares a wealth of advice for getting from where you are to where you want to go.
2.  The Other 8 Hours by Robert Paglierini This book has page after page of helpful advice and suggestions for how to earn income outside of your day job. If you feel like you don’t have time to start something on the side because your plate is already quite full, this book will especially be helpful.
3.  EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey This book is packed with tried-and-tried information, practical application, and fantastic inspiration. As a small business owner with a few employees and sub-contractors, I’ve gleaned so much from this book.
4.  Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating by Brian Tracy This book has many practical ideas for prioritizing your time and life so that you make the most of your days.
5.  How to Have a 48-Hour Day by Don Aslett This book is filled with lots of practical advice and inspiration for making the most of each day.
6.  168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam Laura helps you rethink your “I don’t have enough time” excuses and shows you how you just may have quite a bit more time than you realized!
7.  Tell Your Time (ebook) by Amy Lynn Andrews This ebook offers step-by-step help for setting up a time budget — a concept that has revolutionized my time management!

 If you are a work-at-home mom, I’d love to hear what books you’d add to my list!

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15 Recommended Preschool and Kindergarten Resources

15 preschool and kindergarten educational and learning resources

In recent months, I’ve gotten email after email after email from people asking for me to write more about our homeschooling. Truthfully, it’s a topic I don’t feel ready to broach much as my children are only 7, 4, and 2. Maybe in 10 years from now I’ll have a lot of words of wisdom to share, but for now, we’re just enjoying our journey and learning much along the way.

For those of you who have begged, though, I wanted to share 15 of our favorite preschool and kindergarten resources. These are things our family has especially enjoyed and found beneficial over the last few years. I can’t guarantee that any of these things will work well for your family or child as each child is unique and has different learning styles. However, these are all resources I would definitely recommend looking into if you’re thinking of homeschooling.

1. My Father’s World: Kindergarten

We absolutely loved this Kindergarten curriculum! It is very simple, fun, hands-on, and easy-to-use. There are 26 units and each unit covers one letter of the alphabet and corresponding Bible, Character Development, Art, Math, Creative Thinking, Reading, Phonics and Science lessons. We’ve used this with both of our girls and I’d highly recommend it, especially if you are looking for a Bible-based curriculum with a mix of a Classical Education and a Charlotte Mason approach.


2. StarFall

This is an entirely free website has lots of fun interactive educational games and teaching tools for preschoolers and kindergartners. We don’t allow a lot of computer time for the girls at our house, but Starfall is a special treat that our girls get to enjoy on occasion. There are a few minor things on the website which aren’t in line with a Christian worldview, but overall, we’ve been very impressed with Starfall.


3. Letter of the Week Curriculum

One of my very favorite homeschooling blogs, Confessions of a Homeschooler, has a fantastic Letter of the Week Curriculum that has lots of printable worksheets that we’ve used to supplement the letter we were studying each week in My Father’s World. The curriculum is only $10 and an exceptional buy for all the amazing downloads and helpful resources which come with it. If you can’t afford to buy the curriculum or would like to check out some of the printables before purchasing, there is a huge list of incredible free printables available here. You can also find many free preschool printables available here.


4.Wee Sing Bible Songs

The girls have loved listening to this CD before they go to bed or while playing together. And they’ve learned so many great children’s songs as a result!


5. Come Look With Me: Enjoying Art With Children

These are the best books I’ve found so far for teaching art appreciation to young children. Each book in the series introduces children to twelve works of art and engages the imaginations and interest of young children by asking thought-provoking questions about the picture.


6. BOB Books

I love these beginning readers – and so have the girls! Some early reading books can be frustrating, but not the BOB books. They introduce new phonetic sounds so engagingly and at a pace that wasn’t overwhelming so the girls rarely even noticed they were adding a new concept.


7. Homeschool Share

This free website has tons of great printables, educational resources and lapbooks. When planning our homeschool for the week, I often search for extra printables or fun activities we can supplement with which go along with our unit themes and have found all sorts of free goodies on this site.


8. Signing Time DVDs

Hands down, these are the one educational DVDs we’ve pretty much worn to a pulp. We got one as a demo a long time ago and enjoyed it so much that we asked Grandma and Grandpa if they’d buy the set for the girls for Christmas. Not only do I believe it is valuable to introduce your children to the deaf culture, but we’ve found that our children’s vocabulary has increased by leaps and bounds as a result of teaching them ASL.If you have a baby, I’d also highly recommend Baby Signing Time. Being able to communicate with your child at a young age makes life so much easier!


9. Explode the Code Series

We’ve fallen in love with the Get Ready for the Code and Explode the Code workbooks this past year. It makes learning phonics and practicing handwriting and spelling so much fun and the girls look forward to doing these books each day, often asking if they can go ahead and do more pages than what I’ve assigned them!


10. The Jesus Storybook Bible

We’ve searched high and low for quality children’s Bible story books — ones that are accurate, doctrinally sound, and not filled with nonsense and fluff are hard to find. I apprehensively ordered The Jesus Storybook Bible based upon the strong recommendations of friends I trust. It has since become our most treasured read-aloud. The girls would pick this over any other book any day.

11. PaperBackSwap

I know I’ve mentioned it over and over again here, but we love PaperBackSwap. We’ve basically built our entire children’s library through books from PBS and Grandparents. So we’ve ended up spending very little out of pocket to do so.


12. Magnet Boards

I don’t know that there’s an official name for these, but we call them “magnet boards” at our house. And they are one of the girl’s all-time favorite things to do! I got some cheap cookie sheets and these Power Magnets and we’ve used them for all sorts of educational activities.I often give the girls the Magnet Boards and a the magnet sheet from the Letter of the Week Curriculum (see an example below) and let them fill all the magnet holes on their board while I’m reading aloud to them. When they are finished, they can create shapes, letters or whatever else they’d like.


13. Read Alouds

Speaking of read alouds, books make up the core of our homeschooling curriculum. I think that there is so much value in reading a wide variety of books to your children. We’ve learned so many new things, explored so many fascinating cultures and time periods and had so many excellent discussions as a result of books we’ve read. You can see some of our favorite picture books here.


14. Do-a-Dot Art Markers

These markers are so fun. You can use them to create your own pictures, on the downloadable sheets in the Letter of the Week Curriculum (see #3 above) or there are also Do-A-Dot Coloring Books available. Just make sure to supervise the 2-year-old with them, unless you want Do-A-Dot Artwork all over the walls (ask me how I know!). These wash off of hands and clothing quite well. Walls, not so much.


15. ABC Scripture Memory Book

I used this for Scripture Memory as a young girl, so I especially enjoyed using it with the girls. We just read through it every day at breakfast for a number of months and the girls memorized the verses by that daily repetition. Plus, Kaitlynn (then 2) picked up on quite a few letters, too.


What are your favorite preschool and kindergarten resources?

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3 Encouraging Posts You Should Read

Here are three posts I read in the last day that I really enjoyed and wanted to pass along:

::How a Nagging Thought Left Me $15 Richer — “Just because it’s an amazing deal…doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for me.” Excellent words of advice from JessieLeigh.

::Turning Failure to Your Advantage — Michael Hyattshares five components for turning failure to your advantage. I loved his last paragraph: “…failure is inevitable if you are going to tackle significant goals. You have to learn to make it work for you. In doing so, you are planting the seeds of your eventual success.”

::There’s Beauty in Your Ugly Stroller — “Managing our money well to gift our family a debt-free life is a choice that has us frequently asking ‘How ugly is it?’. It’s a choice that encourages us to swallow our pride, look past the ugly, and see the beauty.”Amy’s post was spot-on.

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“I don’t want saving money to be what consumes me.”

Guest post by Lacey Wilcox at Live Loved

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re on this website because you have a desire to save money. I’m right there with you.

Like many people, my husband and I have made achieving complete financial freedom as one of our goals for the new year. Together we’ve created a budget, told every penny where it is going to go, fought to maintain “gazelle-like” intensity (you’ll only appreciate that if you’re a Dave Ramsey fan), and worked to see that it all happens.

I have loved how each of us has our own unique role in this goal. For my husband, that role involves working to earn an income, being our spiritual leader, and taking care of things that are above and beyond me (things like knowing when it’s time to rotate the tires, or change the oil).

My role, however, is a little different. I get the blessing of taking care of our home, and more importantly, our sweet baby girl. While my husband earns the income, I try to make sure we spend as little of it as possible. Websites like MoneySavingMom.com have become my best friend. Couponing is becoming an art form. And getting things at the lowest possible price is now, well, an obsession.

I think about it constantly, read tons of websites and ads throughout the day and cut coupons like crazy. (Please tell me I’m not alone. If I am, just don’t let me know.)

It’s a noble obsession. I mean, who doesn’t want to help their family save as much as possible? What could be wrong with something like that?

Nothing is wrong with it. Not one thing at all.

In fact, I think such a desire shows responsibility, diligence and good stewardship. For me, I feel it is a part of fulfilling my call as wife and mom, one that I am so humbled and honored to receive. So I repeat, there is nothing wrong with wanting to save money, and doing what is necessary to carry out that desire — unless it becomes an obsession.

The very definition of an obsession is something that eventually consumes you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want saving money to be what consumes me.

And so, I find myself already tweaking my New Year’s resolutions (Okay, to be honest, I had never really set official resolutions to begin with, but you get what I mean).

I want to save money. I mean I really want to save money. But with everything I do toward that, I’m going to check my heart and mind constantly to make sure that my motives are coming from a pure heart, and not one that is consumed.

My guess is many of you have already been at this place. What suggestions do you have to help keep a right perspective on saving money, without making it an obsession?

Lacey Wilcox lives in the Panhandle of Texas with her husband, Kade and sweet baby, Selah, where they manage Panfork Baptist Camp. Lacey writes about adventures in marriage, mommy-hood, and camp life at her blog.

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Books Read in January: 168 Hours, Calm My Anxious Heart, Today Matters

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think is definitely one of the best time management books I’ve read. And that’s saying something, because I’ve read a lot of books on time management. It was right up there with Tell Your Time.

The principles and real-life examples very much resonated with me. I often get emails from people asking, “How on earth do you do all you do?” This book basically lines out how I do it: I choose not to do many things so that I can do a few things well (or, at least, attempt to do a few things well!).

We all have 168 hours in every week. When you think of it, that’s really a great deal of time. So why are so many people completely overworked and out of time? Well, 168 Hours would argue that not only are you trying to cram too much into your life, but you’re probably also not wisely using the hours you already have.

If we prioritized our life (i.e. sat down and really determined what we want our main priorities to be) and then we lived life according to those priorities, we’d be less tempted to get so distracted with non-essentials. Priorities give you freedom to say “no” more often.

One of the biggest takeaways from this book for me was to focus on my core competencies. It’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up if we’re not doing everything (or most everything) that we see others doing.

For instance, I could feel guilty that I don’t make homemade tortillas. I could beat myself up for this, constantly feeling like a failure if I feed my family storebought tortillas and wasting hours of time trying to perfect the art of tortilla-making when it’s just not a skill I possess. Or, I could guiltlessly buy tortillas at Aldi for $0.99 deciding that making homemade tortillas is not something I’m gifted at and is something which takes much more time than it’s worth.

All of life involves choices. When we say “yes” to one thing, it means we say “no” to something else. Using our time wisely doesn’t mean that we never have margin in our life and run around like chickens with our heads cut off so that we can get 331 different things done every hour. No, it means that we are choosing to use our 168 hours every week in a way that gets us closer to our goals and priorities.

This book gave lots of practical outside-the-box ideas. It is written more for those who work at least 30 hours each week, but even if you’re a stay-at-home mom, I think you will find it encouraging and applicable.

Also read in January:

Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment — Loved this book and would whole-heartedly recommend it to any Christian woman who is struggling with anxiety, fear or worry. Very thought-provoking.

Little House on the Prairie — Finished reading this aloud to the children. We’ve already read Farmer Boy, so we’re jumping ahead to On the Banks of Plum Creek. I’m so excited because they are really getting into chapter books these days and will sit and keep begging me to read another chapter and another chapter. I love the questions and discussions that books spark, too!

Today Matters — This was my first audiobook ever to listen to and it was excellent. I’ll likely be using some of the things I picked up from it in later posts, but I loved it and would highly recommend it for anyone who could use some inspiration in their life.

24 Books I Plan to Read in 2011

Business and Financial Books I Plan to Read and Review This Year:

January — 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think
February — Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living
March — Becoming a Person of Influence
April — Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking
May — Life on the Wire: Avoid Burnout and Succeed in Work and Life
June — Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
July — Have a New You by Friday: How to Accept Yourself, Boost Your Confidence & Change Your Life in 5 Days
August — Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
September — America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money
October — Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
November — Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet
December – Personal Investing: The Missing Manual

Other Books I Plan to Read This Year:
January — Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment
February — Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
March — The Possibilities of Prayer
April — The Blessing of Boundaries
May — Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time
June — Honey for a Child’s Heart
July — One With Christ
August — A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning
September — Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit
October — The Rose Conspiracy
November — Disciplines of a Godly Woman
December –Benjamin Rush: Signer of the Declaration of Independence

What books have you read recently? Any you’d highly recommend?

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