Thursday, January 26, 2023

Homeschool Update: November/December 2022

Group Activities

We finished reading aloud Those Miller Girls, then listened to By the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson and A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus on audio. Before Christmas, I read aloud A Christmas Carol, and during the twelve days of Christmas, my husband read aloud This Way to Christmas by Ruth Sawyer. 

The girls continued to work on their poetry memorizations. We've been delayed in recording their videos, but hope to get these done in early 2023. 

For Advent, we did our daily Jesse Tree readings from The Jesse Tree by Eric and Suzan Sammons and we used ornaments printed from Catholic Sprouts and other online sources. We also used The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion for the O Antiphons and the Christmas Novena. 

We continued reading aloud from A Child's History of Art and finished all the chapters about paintings and watched the relevant Smart History videos. We also continued reading poetry from the Poetry for Young People series, and we finished the titles about Edna St. Vincent Millay and Shakespeare. 

The girls started singing lessons with How to Sing from the Great Courses. All three practiced piano and recorder daily. 

For music appreciation, they finished the third part of The Ring of Nibelung, then switched to Handel's Messiah for Christmas. 

We started working on pronouncing the words of the Credo in Latin and picking out some of the nouns.


With E. I read aloud The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs and The Golden Book of Cavemen and Prehistoric People.  

With C., I read aloud these sections from A Picturesque Tale of Progress

  • The Glory of the Byzantine Empire (Leo the Isaurian, the Defender of Christendom; The Height of Byzantine Glory; The Coming of the Turk)
  • The Crusades (The First Crusade; The Kingdom of Jerusalem; Later Crusades; The Children's Crusade; Results of the Crusades)
  • Europe After the Crusades (Knights and Troubadours; The Growth of Towns; The Great Gothic Cathedrals; The Heretics; St. Francis of Assisi and the Gray Friars; The Fall of Constantinople
  • United Christian Spain Expels the Moors (The Magnificence of the Moors; How Minstrels Sang the Story of the Cid; The Conquest of Granada)
  • The Development of the English Nation (Early Britain and the Coming of the Anglo-Saxons; The Anglo-Saxon Tale of Beowulf; Ireland Preserves Culture; King Alfred and the Coming of the Danes; The Norman Conquest; The Development of Parliament)
We also read aloud some sections in Rulers Of Britain by Peter Somerset Fry, and she read many supplementary books on her own: 

  • Walter Dragun's Town by Sheila Sancha
  • Cathedral by David Macaulay
  • The Duke and the Peasant by Wendy Beckett
  • Mosque by David Macaulay 
  • El Cid by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Bayeux Tapestry by Norman Denny 
  • Magna Carta by Walter Hodges 
  • Good Masters, Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schlitz

M. continued moving through the twentieth century, finishing WWI and then focusing on the 1920s. She read: 

  • Guglielmo Marconi by Richard Tames 
  • Bring Out the Banners by Geoffrey Trease 
  • The Scopes Trial by Renee Graves
  • The Story of Albert Schweitzer by Anita Daniel
  • The Good Master by Kate Seredy
  • The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy
  • Homesick by Jean Fritz
  • Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis
  • Winter of Spies by Gerard Whelan
  • Katie's War by Aubrey Flegg
  • The Story of Scotland Yard by Laurence Thompson 
  • The Story of the Secret Service by Ferdinand Kuhn
  • The Golden Pharaoh by Karl Bruckner 

She watched Inherit the Wind, Days that Shook the World, Men Who Built America, and a little bit of Century of Flight


M. finished the review sections in Singapore 4B, and she continued working on Challenging Word Problems 3, Life of Fred: Mineshaft (which she finished) and 6th grade math on Khan Academy.

C. continued working in Singapore 2B and Life of Fred: Dogs.  She also worked on 3rd grade math in Khan Academy. 

E. continued working with the soroban and did a few pages of Singapore 1A. 


All three girls read independently throughout November and December. C. named the parts of speech in assigned sentences, and M. continued diagramming sentences in Rex Barks. 

M. finished a story called "Hildegarde" and C. finished writing "The Unicorn and the Wolves." 


C. and E. covered all the lessons in BFSU Volume 1 about energy and did some worksheets and watched some related videos from Crash Course Kids.

M. did these lessons in Middle School Chemistry: 

  • Changing State - Freezing
  • Changing State - Melting
  • What Is Density?
  • Finding Volume - The Water Displacement Model
  • Density of Water
  • Density - Sink or Float for Solids
  • Density - Sink or Float for Liquids
  • Temperature and Density
We finished our read-aloud of Romance of Chemistry.

Physical Education

While the weather stayed warm, the girls rode bikes as much as possible and played on the playground. They got a basketball for Christmas and had a little lesson on dribbling, passing, and shooting. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

2023 Reading and Writing Plans

Writer First, Reader Second 

I've been easing into this new year and getting a sense of what I really want to focus on before making too many plans. After several days of thinking it over, I've finally decided that what I really want to do this year is to think of myself as a writer first, and a reader second. This is a big shift toward a mentality I haven't had in 20 years, but I think it's necessary if I want to carve out time for writing projects and not feel guilty about it. 

There is no chance that I will not be reading this year. Given that I read 325 books last year in the midst of writing and submitting multiple pieces of fiction, I think it's safe to bet I will read at least 100 books in 2023 (which is my Goodreads goal) and that there will be weeks where I still read more than I write. But if there is a choice about where to put limited free time and energy? This year, writing will take the priority. 

Analog Tracking 

In the interest of freeing up time to write, one thing I'm doing differently this year is tracking all my reading and writing in my Bookworm Life planner that my sister gave me for my birthday. Instead of keeping graphic trackers on Instagram and text-based trackers on my blog, and also trying to keep up with both Goodreads and Storygraph, I'm going to focus on just the planner and Goodreads. I also want to start posting a weekly reading and writing update to Instagram. I follow a couple people who do that, and I really enjoy seeing what they share each week. I will keep monthly statistics for myself, and I will still wrap up each month here on the blog for An Open Book, though perhaps the posts will feature fewer books. 

Reading Goals

In terms of reading goals, I'm trying to keep things simple and open-ended. I'm going back to the Unread Shelf Project this year, along with the Buzzword Reading Challenge and the Read Your Bookshelves Challenge. I'll also be reading along with Close Reads and the #WorldFullofBooks group on Instagram. All the prompts for these are on my challenges page for this year. I expect books for these challenges to comprise the bulk of my reading. 

I also want to be more intentional about reading with my eyes and not just always defaulting to audiobooks, and I'm planning to read more short stories as research for writing as well as for my own enjoyment. I'm also bringing TBRs back into my reading life in 2023, but instead of a monthly stack, I'm planning to pull out ten books per season and make a goal of reading those ten within a three-month span. 

Finally, along with Father Mike's wonderful podcast, I'll be reading The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Writing Goals 

I think I'm starting a novel this year. 

I've been dragging my feet, trying to decide what I want to work on, and then I started the year by writing 800 words about two of my favorite characters that I've created and I realized that if I'm ever going to write a novel, this is the one I will write. I don't plan to start immediately, and I don't have any expectation that I will finish it this year, but it's probably going to happen. 

On top of that, I have a couple of other loose goals I want to work toward. I'd like to write one short story of a more substantial length during each quarter of the year, and I would like at least one of those to be a mystery. And I want to try to participate in Flash Fiction Magic every week, or at least enough weeks that I don't fall out of the habit.  Ideally, I will also submit to Spark and Havok again, and maybe to an anthology or two, but that will depend on the themes and the ideas that come to me. 

I am going to track my daily word count in my planner, but I don't have a target word count goal in mind. 

Read-at-Home Mom Report: December 2022 Wrap-Up

Books of the Year

If you like end-of-year favorites lists, don't miss my top 25 books of 2022

My Month in Books 

I read 44 books in December! 44! This is not at all a normal pace, even for me, and it will probably never happen again. I'm not going to be able to say much of anything about each book if I want to get this post done, so this month's wrap up is basically just a list, organized by star rating.

2 Stars

  • The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones 

3 Stars

  • To Get to the Other Side by Kelly Ohlert 
  • The Other Family by Wendy Corsi Staub
  • Eight Winter Nights by Liz Maverick (Audible original)
  • Sun of York by Ronald Welch 
  • The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch 
  • Merry Ex-Mas by Courtney Walsh
  • The Upside Down Christmas by Kate Forster (Audible original)
  • Resting Scrooge Face by Meghan Quinn 
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis 

4 Stars

  • A Holly Jilly Christmas by Emma St. Clair 
  • Later On We'll Conspire by Kortney Keisel 
  • Let It Snow by Michelle Stimpson (Audible original)
  • Foster by Claire Keegan 
  • The Pursuit of the Pilfered Cheese by Haley Stewart 
  • The Curious Christmas Trail by Haley Stewart 
  • A Not-so-Holiday Paradise by Gracie Ruth Mitchell
  • A Newport Christmess by Jess Heileman 
  • Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris 
  • A Christmas Spark by Cindy Steel
  • This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy 
  • A Quiet Life by Ethan Joella 
  • Faking Christmas by Cindy Steel 
  • Evil Woman by Julie Mulhern 
  • Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena 
  • Once Upon A Christmas Carol by Karen Schaler (Audible original)
  • Christmas Baggage by Deborah M. Hathaway
  • Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney 
  • Look Closer by David Ellis
  • Find Me by Alafair Burke 
  • Musical Tables: Poems by Billy Collins 
  • The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue by Karina Yan Glaser
  • The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found by Karina Yan Glaser

5 Stars 

  • The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken 
  • A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas 
  • The Romance of Chemistry by Keith Gordon Irwin
  • Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan 
  • The Jesse Tree by Eric Sammons 
  • Twelve Great Books by Joseph Pearce 
  • Host for the Holidays by Martha Keyes 
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 
  • The Vanderbeekers Make A Wish by Karina Yan Glaser
  • The Vanderbeekers on the Road by Karina Yan Glaser 
  • A Jury of her Peers by Susan Glaspell 

As for the rest of the family's reading....

A. (girl, 2 years 9 months)

  • All Better, Baby by Sara Gillingham 
  • Santa Mouse Bakes Christmas Cookies by Michael Brown 
  • I'm a Little Snowman by Hannah Elliott 

R. (boy, 2 years, 9 months)

  • The Animals' Santa by Jan Brett
  • Countdown to Christmas by Roger Priddy
  • Bizzy Bear: Snow Sports by Benji Davies 

E. (girl, 5 years, 2 months)

  • A Very Mercy Christmas by Kate DiCamillo
  • Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
  • The School for Cats by Esther Averill 
  • Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay

C. (girl, 7 years, 3 months)

  • The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder 
  • Our Little Norman Cousin of Long Ago by Evaleen Stein 
  • Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz

M. (girl, 9 years, 1 month)

  • The Great Depression: An Interactive History Adventure by Michael Burgan
  • The Dust Bowl: An Interactive History Adventure by Allison Lassieur
  • Kathleen's Shaken Dreams by Tracy Leininger Craven
  • Kathleen's Unforgettable Winter by Tracy Leininger Craven 
  • Kathleen's Abiding Hope by Tracy Leininger Craven 
  • Leah's Pony by Elizabeth Friedrich 
  • Hannah and the Perfect Picture Pony by Sara Goodman Zimet 

My husband 

  • The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea
  • Sun of York by Ronald Welch
  • Pirates of Samarkand by Rita Ritchie 
  • Tom Whipple by Walter D. Edmonds
  • Emerson Lake & Palmer by Carl Palmer
  • Keith Emerson Classic Edition by Chris Welch

Up Next For Me 

I've had a slow start to the new year, but my current reads are Arabella by Georgette Heyer (paperback), The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker (digital ARC from Edelweiss+), and The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis (audio).  

Sunday, January 1, 2023

2022 Reading in Review


This year, for the second year in a row, I tracked only novels and children's chapter books (and some short stories and novellas for adults), no picture books or board books. I set my Goodreads goal arbitrarily at 52 knowing I would surpass it, but having no inkling that I would complete it more than six times over. In a lot of ways, this was an odd year, because I spent a lot of time walking the twins in the stroller to keep them from destroying the house. I was also able to increase my listening speed for most books to 3x, so there were weeks where I was completing more than one book a day. I don't expect to keep this pace in 2023. 

I averaged 27 books per month. My slowest reading month was June, in which I read 17 books. I read the most books (44) in December. 

I read 235 books for adults, 18 for teens and 72 written for children.

The adult books included: 18 literary fiction, 83 romance, 32 nonfiction, 43 mystery, 21 classics, 5 poetry collections, 5 plays, 5 fantasy, 7 historical fiction, 2 comics and graphic novels, 9 women's fiction and 5 general fiction. 

Among these 325 books, there were: 
  • at least 188 audiobooks, including 16 Audible originals
  • 5 short story collections 
  • 27 read-alouds with my kids 
  • 37 from my physical TBR
  • 13 from my digital TBR
  • 56 from Hoopla
  • 42 from Scribd 
  • 19 from Kindle Unlimited 
  • 27 review copies from publishers 
The breakdown of star ratings was as follows: 
  • 5 stars: 121 books
  • 4 stars: 108 books 
  • 3 stars: 83 books
  • 2 stars: 13 books
  • 1 star: 0 books 
 I marked 24 books as DNF. 

Goals Review 

Goal #1: Re-read 40 books before I turn 40. 
This was really fun and fairly easy to complete. I made it last right up until the week leading up to my birthday and got them all read. It was really interesting to see how my opinions of each book changed or didn't.  

Goal #2: Read 22 classics.
I did this relatively easily for the second year in a row, but after reading along with a lot of older Close Reads episodes (and some newer ones about classic books) I burned out a bit on classics, so for 2023, I'm not going to devote a specific goal to them. 

Goal #3: Read 6 historical fiction books.
This was really touch and go all year, but with the help of one middle grade title, I made it! I actually found a bunch of historical fiction I'm interested in through The Book Bumble podcast, and I have a feeling it will become one of my regular genres in 2023.

Goal #4: Try 12 new-to-me authors.
This wasn't a challenge, so I'm not sure why I bothered making it a goal. I think what I might do next year is what Krista from Books and Jams on YouTube does and choose a few authors to focus on in 2023 instead of leaving the goal so open-ended.

Goal #5: Finish 2 series.
I set this goal with some longer series in mind,  (Armand Gamache, Scarpetta, Mitford) but while I made progress on those, I ended up completing (or catching up to the most recently published title of) some shorter ones: 

  • Vanderbeekers series by Karina Yan Glaser
  • Maple Falls series by Kathleen Fuller
  • Bird Face series by Cynthia T. Toney
  • Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris
  • Library Lover's Mystery series by Jenn McKinlay

I also made huge progress on the Country Club Murders series, and the only one I have left just came out on audio this week, so I will probably read it to kick off the new year. 

Goal #6: Write something 4 days per week.
I mostly did this, but I don't think this goal will serve me well going forward. I'm working on figuring out what will motivate me to write in 2023 without becoming overwhelming. 


I wound up participating fully in three challenges hosted elsewhere, and I created two challenges of my own for a total of five. 

I enjoyed the Goldberry Books Reading Challenge, but I didn't love some of the very snobby posts I read from other participants, and it made me feel like I had to choose books that were "good enough" for the Close Reads audience instead of what I wanted to read. I ended up reading: 

  • Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
  • The Patron Saint of Second Chances by Christine Simon
  • Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
  • Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
  • The Clock Winder byAnne Tyler
  • The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
  • The Hero of this Book by by Elizabeth McCracken.
I haven't heard whether this challenge is happening in 2023, but if so, I think it's unlikely that I will participate.

I think the Buzzword Reading Challenge was my favorite because the prompts were so fun and open-ended so I could always find somethig to suit my mood. For this challenge I read:
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon
  • The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
  • Up Island by Anne Rivers Siddons
  • All in Good Time by Carolyn Astfalk
  • How to Write a Mystery by Lee Child
  • Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • Under the Lights by Abbi Glines
  • Sleeping Tiger by Rosamunde Pilcher
  • The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe by Tricia Springstubb
  • Eight Winter Nights by Liz Maverick
I am planning to join this one again in 2023. 

For the Read Your Bookshelf Challenge, I didn't always own a book that matched the prompt, so I did supplement with audiobooks and ebooks from the library. Here's what I read: 

  • The Other Side of Silence by Margaret Mahy
  • Must Love Books by Shauna Robinson
  • In Bloom by Fern Michaels
  • Thankful for Love by Kristen Ethridge
  • The Treehouse on Dog River Road by Catherine Drake 
  • Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson
  • The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe 
  • My Big Heart-Shaped Fail by Cindy Callaghan
  • Morse's Greatest Mystery and Other Stories by Colin Dexter
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Broken Spine by Dorothy St. James
  • Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
This challenge is doing something different in 2023, and I'm planning to join in again!

My big personal challenge was to re-read 40 books before I turned 40 in mid-November. These are the titles I chose: 

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  3. The Rainmaker by John Grisham
  4. A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton 
  5. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
  6. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  7. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo
  8. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead 
  9. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  10. T-backs, Tee shirts, COAT, and Suit by E.L. Konigsburg
  11. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
  12. Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
  13. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
  14. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  15. Nothing But the Truth by Avi
  16. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
  17. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  18. That Summer by Sarah Dessen
  19. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  20. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
  21. Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson  
  22. On Writing by Stephen King 
  23. The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer 
  24. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger 
  25. The Library Book by Susan Orlean 
  26. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  27. The Professor's House by Willa Cather 
  28. One More Thing by B.J. Novak
  29. Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey
  30. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  31. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 
  32. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
  33. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  34. Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass
  35. There's a Girl in my Hammerlock by Jerry Spinelli
  36. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving 
  37. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury 
  38. Book Girl by Sally Clarkson
  39. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 
  40. The Rose Round by Meriol Trevor
My other personal challenge was a collection of different categories of books I wanted to read from. I read: 
  • 3 Book of the Month books
    1. Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott
    2. Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez 
    3. The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd 
  • 3 books about reading and/or writing
    1. Three Simple Lines: A Writer's Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku by Natalie Goldberg
    2. Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink 
    3. Word by Word by Anne Lamott 
  • 3 Catholic books
    1. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
    2. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
    3. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • 3 books in the same series
    1. The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell
    2. Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell
    3. Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell
  • 3 Newbery medal winners
    1. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
    2. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
    3. Amos Fortune Free Man by Elizabeth Yates 
  • 3 books under 200 pages.
    1. I Can't Complain by Elinor Lipman
    2. Alexa, What is There to Know About Love? by Brian Bilston
    3. The Seven Last Words by Fulton Sheen
  • 3 books published in 2022
    1. Made in Manhattan by Lauren Layne
    2. Must Love Books by Shauna Robinson
    3. Looking for Leroy by Melody Carlson 
  • 1 book over 500 pages
    1. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 
I'm still working on my plans for 2023, but I expect to have them up in a day or two!