Systematic Theology and Ferdinand

My oldest child is heading into her senior year of high school.  While we always knew we were going to homeschool, I never imagined how quickly it would go by. This year I have seven children that are official “school age”. We quite easily cover grades from preschool to high school.

I suppose because as my older ones are getting, well, older, it makes days like today all the more precious to me. It is also a beautiful reminder to me on those challenging days why it is worth every sacrifice made to homeschool my children.

After the normal morning things that must be done like the making of beds and taking of showers, we all settled in the living room to read and discuss a bit on systematic theology. Yes, even the four year old was cuddled with me on the couch learning the importance and value of systematic theology.

But not only do the younger ones sit in on the older kiddos’ readings and discussions, it flips in the other direction as well. I gather up my little ones to enjoy The Story of Ferdinand and do a little craft. And who jumps in the mix? My 10 year old and 12 year old daughters. Yes, they were right on the floor with us. Why? Because who can pass the opportunity to sit with Ferdinand and smell the flowers? Of course there was glue involved. Even at my mature age, I do love using glue.

It goes deeper than just listening and gluing. It truly does. While a lot of what we read on systematic theology was too complicated for my four or six year old, they are hearing and understanding the importance of scripture. Of reading all of scripture, seeking to understand the Word, and knowing God better. Each and every day that we sit, read, and discuss, this truth sinks a bit deeper into their hearts.

And relationships, memories, and connections are being strengthened each day between my children that will stand against time. I see my little ones cuddled up beside my older ones sharing favorite picture books or gathered at the table all drawing and creating together. They garden together, knit together, explore the woods together with no thought to age segregation.

It is by far one of the greatest rewards of this homeschooling journey. Do not let me be deceptive. We deal with grumbling and complaining. People need quiet and space and a break from the chaos that is family. No rose colored glasses here, folks. But at the end of the day, I savor the moments with systematic theology and Ferdinand.

The Glass Castle – A Book Review

We are a family that enjoys a wide range of literature. Whether it is a picture book or a classic novel, we have stacks, shelves, and bags of books in just about every room. When Shiloh Run Press gave us the opportunity to read and review The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins, we were happy to add it to our list of current reads.

The Glass Castle is recommended for ages 10-14 and is classified under “action and adventure”. I had initially thought that I would have my 10 year old and 12 year old daughters read this independently. But who doesn’t enjoy a bit of adventure around the lunch table, right? So I chose to read this aloud during our lunches each day with it serving as my “younger people” read aloud. This meant that my main listeners were 12 and under. Just by nature of our home, the teens were often listening in as they joined us during lunch.

You can go to The Glass Castle website  to read the official book synopsis and even read Chapter 1 to get a feel for the story. However, for a more personal approach, I asked a few of my children to write their own version of a book synopsis. Here are a few book teasers for you:

“Avery, a girl who just turned thirteen, is kidnapped and taken to a castle. A castle that her dead mother told her stories about. Avery has lots of questions that she will uncover with or without anybody’s help. Avery figures out the king knows nothing about the kids who are running HIS castle.” Hannah – 10

“Thirteen year old Avery gets kidnapped along with her younger brother, Henry. She finds herself with a bunch of other thirteen year olds. All of them have to work as servants for the queen, trying to please her every wish. Avery’s only concern is her brother, Henry, who she has not seen or heard of since she got taken to the castle.”

Lydia – 12

“Avery was told tales of the Glass Castle by her mother when she was younger. She never thought she’d actually see it or enter it. When Avery and her young brother, Henry, are kidnapped, the Glass Castle is where Avery finds herself. Henry is missing and nobody will let Avery leave to find him. She is kept in the castle to work just like all the thirteen year olds. Avery is thrust into mystery trying to discover why she is there, where the king’s heir is, what the future queen is trying to do, where her brother is, and why is her missing mother somehow a part of the castle’s secrets?” Rebekah – 17

Our Thoughts on The Glass Castle

After reading the book synopsis, we were all ready for an exciting adventure as Avery and her friends discovered the secrets of the castle and fought for their freedom. Unfortunately, just a few chapters in, I realized that the pace of the book was moving a bit slowly. For us there wasn’t much action and adventure. The majority of the book is Avery making it clear that she wants out of the castle, making decisions with disregard for the effect they will have on the other children, and her growing feelings for a boy, Tuck.

“It was slowish and they were too young for romance. The only reason for me to finish reading it is because I started it. I like to know what happened.” Hannah – 10

We were a bit thrown off by the emphasis of romance in this book. Not only is there feelings between Avery and Tuck but another young man, Edward, makes it clear to Avery that half of the thirteen year old boys would love to be with Avery. Is any of the content inappropriate? No. But is it necessary? I think it actually pulled away from the potential to focus more on the “action and adventure” and would have been more suited to the targeted age range.

“I thought it was going too slow for me. The romance didn’t need to be there. All the kids were scared or happy to be at the castle. None tried to escape or fight back. They all accepted the fact they were prisoners. I did like the plot idea: kids kidnapped by an evil queen trying to get power.” Lydia – 12

The Glass Castle is the first of a series about Avery. Even with a series, you expect to end each book with a sense of completion and a hint of expectation. We finished The Glass Castle and felt dissatisfied with the ending. Other than Avery deciding to stay in the castle, there was no sense of completion to the story.

I do agree with my daughter, Lydia, that the plot idea was excellent. I think the story needed to focus more on the children actually attempting to change their fate instead of being so passive. More depth to the characters, not just Avery, would have helped to build some connections in the story as well.

Who Would Enjoy The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle is written in a manner that makes it appealing to children who perhaps are not strong readers or are not fond of reading. The chapters are short so it can be read in manageable chunks. For a child on the upper end of the targeted age range (14), the romantic aspect might be engaging. If you are compiling a list of easy, light reads for the summer, this could be a good addition to that list.

For parents who prefer to steer away from books containing magic, fantasy, violence, etc,  The Glass Castle is a “safe” read for them. About half way through the book, Avery begins to attend chapel (led by a fellow thirteen year old) and there are some references to God and scripture is quoted.

Other Crew Members also read and reviewed The Glass Castle. Take a moment to read a few reviews and see what other are saying about Avery and her time in the glass castle. Don’t forget you can read Chapter 1 online!

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
Crew Disclaimer

Ashtown Burials – N. D. Wilson

Up until the summer of 2015, my children and I were living under a rock and oblivious to the author, N. D. Wilson. The rock was rolled aside when I brought home Boys of Blur and read it aloud. We all enjoyed it and “Read a book, yo!” is still a favorite family slogan.

It has been a year since we spent time with Charlie and Cotton. We jumped right into The 100 Cupboards series and had quite the adventure with Henry York. It is continually brought home from the library to be enjoyed again and again. A little Crazy Berry Juice was called for after a reading of Leepike Ridge. We just recently finished the three books in the Ashtown Burials series.

Cyrus, Antigone, Nolan, Rupert, Niffy…they have become treasured friends. Reading the Ashtown Burials was a time of “read, read, and read because we have to know how this book ends” and “I don’t want this to end!”  While targeted at the 8 to 12 year old readers, this series is perfect for a family read aloud.

Ashtown Burials gives the perfect blend of excitement, adventure, history, family, and friendship. All of this brought together by a wonderful cast of characters that will soon be like old friends. Conversations about the Smiths happens regularly around our table.  There have been discussions on good vs evil,  immortality and death and what living truly means. We have laughed over the antics of Cyrus and love his relationship with Rupert.

Not to ruin this series for those who have not read it, but the ending of Empire of Bones (Book 3) was bittersweet for me. It was what I expected for one character but it still was tough one to take. It led to some of the above mentioned discussions.

Don’t ask my children to choose between Ashtown Burials or The 100 Cupboards. Some will groan in distress and other will refuse to answer such an unfair question. It gets even better if you ask them to choose between characters: Cyrus or Henry? Rupert or Uncle Frank? It is great fun as a parent to have this small moments of torture.

Across the board, Mr. Wilson has become a treasured author in our home. Wilson’s writing “makes you feel like you are right there watching everything happen”.  One of my teens has declared Wilson one of the best authors ever. We might be some of his biggest fans.

If you happen to live under a rock like us and haven’t read the Ashtown Burials, we highly recommend it. Hopefully it won’t be long before Book IV: The Silent Bells will be published.