Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why We Don't Do Book Reports

When I first started into homeschooling, and especially as I began following various homeschooling blogs and Facebook pages, I was pretty amused at the things I found were controversial in the homeschooling community.  I once got wrapped up in a pretty heated discussion about whether or not kids should be taught cursive.  I won't tell you what side of the argument I was on, but I will confess to being very much in the minority!  I came out of it a little bruised, (in only the most virtual sense,) but no less convinced of my position on the subject.

The truth is, we all have our opinions about the best way to teach our children and encourage their love for learning, and I think a little healthy debate and disagreement on the details of it all can be a very good thing, so long as we are careful not to take our differences of opinion too personally.  Disagreements about the "right way to homeschool" can do much to open our eyes to new ideas and methods, or else confirm to us the rightness of our own homeschooling choices, both of which can be helpful to our homeschool.

I say all of that because I discovered early in my days of homeschooling that doing book reports was actually one of those sometimes controversial subjects among homeschoolers.  I do everything in my power to encourage my children toward good books, but are book reports a good way of testing a child's reading retention and comprehension, or are they really just needless busywork that discourages reading?

It's all in the eye of the beholder.  But in case you're interested, here are a few reasons why I'm firmly settled in the No Book Reports camp...

I don't think a book report is necessarily a good indicator of my child's reading comprehension.  In fact, it's not always even a good indicator that they read the book!

I say that mostly because I did a few book reports in school on books I never even read.  Or at least books I never completed.  (More about that in a second.)

It isn't hard to skim through a book and get enough of the gist of it to write a fairly sensible book report.  I can't tell you the kids I knew in school who never read an assigned book.  Cliffs Notes were invaluable when I was in high school, but today all a kid needs is access to a computer or smartphone and in a couple of minutes they can find out all they need to know about a book, including characters, plot, summary, etc.

Getting away with something like that in your homeschool may be more difficult.  Maybe.  But just because a child can produce a decent synopsis of a book doesn't really mean they comprehended it.  It doesn't even mean they finished reading it!

If all I'm looking for is a book summary, I don't have to assign a written book report to get it.

Doesn't an oral summary, (call it an oral book report if you want,) accomplish the same thing?  Why ask my child to spend an hour writing a book report when they could do the same thing orally in 3 or 4 minutes?

Not that I'm opposed to writing assignments to coincide with their reading!  That's not the case at all.  But I do believe writing assignments can be far more interesting than a plain ol' book report.

Personally, I like writing assignments like character analyses and thought-provoking questions about various events or themes of the book.  To me, they reflect better my child's comprehension of what they just read.

Book reports are...well...kind of boring.

Not that every assignment I give my children has to thrill them down to their socks.  I realize some aspects of school just aren't so fun no matter how you try to wrap them up and present them to your children.

But I also see a huge difference in my kids' response when I come up with a more interesting book-related assignment than a mere book report, like when I have them write a letter to Liberty from the Rush Revere series, or write a set of entries from Gertrude's, (Hamlet's mother's,) diary.  It's just a more creative approach to writing about the book.  And it's way, WAY more interesting than a boring ol' summary, which is all most book reports end up being.

But, believe it or not, I (gasp) don't even give reading-related writing assignments much of the time.  My kids will learn more throughout their lives from personal reading than they will ever learn from me as their teacher, so I want them reading as much as possible.  I never want to turn reading into a drudgery for them by always tying it to written work.  Especially where my little guys are concerned, if they start out associating books with work, they're less likely to develop a real love for reading.

I never want to do anything that rushes reading.  

Granted, as homeschoolers we have the freedom and flexibility to give our kids as much time as they need to read a book, but I'm not sure that always happens as it should.  Especially when people follow a stricter, more scheduled curriculum, and book reports are part of the daily plans, reading can be rushed so the report can be finished and the student can move on to the next assignment.

And here lies the reason I did book reports on books I never finished reading:  I am and have always been a slow reader.  Always.  And, no, I don't have a reading disability.  In fact, I've always read very well and with very good comprehension.

But I read slowly.  Chalk it up to a love for language, but I have always appreciated books not only for what they say, but for the way they say it, so much so that I read to myself only slightly faster than I read out loud.  And considering some of the articles I've read recently dealing with the disservice we've done our children in teaching them to speed-read and the awful way it hampers comprehension, I'm actually pretty glad it's something I never mastered!

In elementary school teachers would hand us a book and tell us a book report was due in one week and I would go into a panic!  I knew I couldn't complete the book that quickly and I was afraid to say so for fear I would either look really dumb or really lazy, so I would do the best I could and then skim the rest of the book well enough to scribble down a decent book report. In one English class in high school I had to read a certain number of books from a list of 100 classics.  Fortunately I could choose my own, so I went with plays because I knew they were the only books on the list I could finish in time and I didn't want to be dishonest by saying I read books when I really only skimmed them.  (It's NOT the same thing!)  While, granted, I read some very good plays that year, I wish I had had time enough to read some of the books on the list as well.

I want my kids to read.  But I never, ever want to push them to read quickly.  Book reports don't have to do that, but they certainly can.  


Maybe you feel like book reports are a great judge of what your kids are reading and comprehending as they read.  And maybe they don't mind doing them.  If so, that's great!

But for us there will be no book reports.  As far as I'm concerned, skipping book reports has done nothing but encourage reading around here.  And since reading is the door to learning, that's certainly a good thing!

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The SIN Cover

Around here, we don't get big snows very often.  It snows every winter...usually...but an inch or two at a time is about as much as we can expect, and it doesn't generally hang around for very long when it comes. 

But we got real snow earlier this week, about 10 inches of it, and with the frigid temperatures that have set in since, plus a little fresh snow added just yesterday, the white stuff is sticking around much longer than usual.  

Kentucky is blanketed in white. 

Our normal snows do well to fully cover the grass, but a snow like this covers everything and covers it fully.  The world looks so incredibly different; even the worst of its imperfections are hidden from view.

And given some of the imperfections in our yard, I'm especially thankful for that.  Like the landscaping stones in front of the house that aren't level and never stay stacked the way they're supposed to.  Right now they're covered in snow, so what does it matter?  Nobody can see them anyway.

And there's the unsightly ring in our back yard where the former owners of our home had a pool they weren't kind enough to leave behind for us.  It's there, but if you come over, you won't be able to see it.

And my boys tried to dig their way to China last kidding...right in the middle of the back yard.  We never filled in the hole and it isn't pretty.  But you can come look for it now if you want.  Believe me, you're won't be able to find it.

Those imperfections are hidden.  The blemishes are covered.  The evidences of past misdeeds are forgotten.

And of course the glistening white brings to mind this scripture:

"...Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..." 
Isaiah 1: 18

Is there anything purer white than fresh snow?  And yet even the darkest of sins can be covered in white.  Forgotten.  Buried in a blanket of grace so deep as to hide the worst of imperfections from the eyes of a holy God.

Not because of anything I have done, of course.  Because I can't do anything to earn that kind of favor.  The ugliness of sin is there.  Faults and failings and imperfections are ever-present with me, and even in my absolute best state I will never escape them.

What the apostle Paul said of himself, I, too, can say.

"...In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing..."

I know it better than anyone.  There's nothing good in what I am or what I can make of myself and my efforts to alter that are humiliatingly feeble at best.  

How fortunate, then, that the covering of my sin is not dependent upon my own goodness!  If it was, there would be no hope for me, because my righteousness looks an awful lot like the fallen and unlevel landscaping stones in front of my house:  While they are an attempt at beauty, they are still glaring evidence of my ineptitude as a landscaper.

But cover all that up in a thick coat of white and the best groundskeeper in the world will be hard-pressed to know the difference between my work and his own.  Because the flaws have been covered up.  

My sin is covered, too, cloaked in grace bestowed upon me by the Savior of the world.  Through simple faith in the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am pure and white and clean in the eyes of God.

The sin.  The shortcomings.  The failures.  The inadequacies.  His grace covers it all.  It is cloaked in a blanket of white -- His righteousness, placed on my account, because of faith in what He has done for me.

And what a beautiful, remarkable thing that is.

"When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne."
--Edward Mote

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lessons from a Dying Dishwasher (The Appliance Kind)

My dishwasher is still functional.  Kind of.  I mean, it still disinfects my dishes and semi-washes them, provided I fill it about half-full, wash nothing but smallish items, and give each dish plenty of wiggle room.

But I know the truth:  I know that this lovely modern convenience I've depended on so heavily for nearly a decade now is dying a slow and painful death.

I couldn't have asked for a better dishwasher in the beginning.  It could power-blast the worst of caked-on food gunk in those early days, but it has cleaned less and less well with every passing year until sometimes now it not only cleans poorly, but it leaves behind this gritty residue that reminds me of play sand, which might make sense if I was feeding my family sand for dinner every night, but since I'm not, I'm mostly just confused by it.

And I can't forget to mention the freakish, unpredictable, completely untraceable leakage of water.  It doesn't happen often and doesn't leak much when it does, but obviously that's not supposed to happen.  

I tried to do a little 'dishwasher doctoring' last summer and thanks to a fascinating video I found on YouTube, I managed to dismantle my dishwasher and clean out it's internal filter.  It was clogged with interesting things like bits of plastic, corroded rubber, and even pocket change, plus lots and lots and LOTS of nauseating soap goo.

I cleaned it all out.  And it helped.  Some.  For a while.

Meanwhile, my dishwasher's silverware basket started falling apart and had to be thrown away.  The soap dispenser stopped latching, too.  And I'm not sure the rinse aid dispenser has worked in years.

So why am I writing this rather than shopping for a new dishwasher?  Believe me, a new machine is in my plans for the very near future, though I was hoping very much to hobble through till spring when my husband's work begins picking up a bit more.  We'll see if we can make it that long.

But there are some things I've learned, particularly in the past 2-3 months of nursing my dying dishwasher.  And I hope the lessons I've been taught will stick with me even when I am blessed again with a healthy, fully-functioning dishwasher.

First of all, I've learned that...

1.  Having a really good dishwasher can turn you into a really messy cook.

If you cook often and if you cook things from scratch, you're bound to dirty more dishes.  That's just the way it works.  But I realize now that I was developing some pretty rotten habits even years ago, all because I had a powerful dishwasher that took care of most of my mess for me.  Those bad habits have come back to bite me in the last couple of years.

When you can load up most of your mess in a good dishwasher, it can be a whole lot easier to be careless and uncalculated and really, really messy when you're cooking.  That wasn't a problem when my kids were very small and when a couple of them were in school.  We often ate quick, grab-and-go breakfasts and I was packing lunches, so the only meal I really cooked was supper.  Making a mess and dirtying lots of dishes one meal per day really wasn't so big a deal.  I could still fit all of it inside the dishwasher!

But now I homeschool and we do more clean-eating and so most days I'm cooking three from-scratch or mostly from-scratch meals at home per day, which makes for lots more dirty dishes!  Being a messy cook on top of that can mean some nightmarish clean-up when supper is done.  It wasn't unusual for me to literally spend hours in my kitchen and still leave dirty dishes in my sink when I went to bed, all because of some really bad habits I had allowed myself to begin developing years ago.

But I've learned...

2.  When I'm cooking, I CAN do better job of cleaning as I go.

I would have told you I did this already, but it's really been my dying dishwasher that has shown me that I've really not been so good at it after all.

It's amazing how much a few simple habits can help cut down on the kitchen cleanup time.  Starting supper prep with an empty sink makes a huge difference.  I can fill one side with soap and hot water and then drop in measuring cups and dishes and utensils as I go.  It's pretty incredible how much time that can save.  I can wash things while I'm waiting for water to boil or between stirs when I'm browning meat, and I actually accomplish much more in these little spurts of work than I ever dreamed possible!  And washing pots and pans while they're still warm is SO much easier, rather than waiting until the food inside has turned to concrete!

And when I take little steps like this, I really find that...

3.  Not having a dishwasher, (or at least not having a good one,) doesn't mean kitchen cleanup has to take a lot longer.

I've had people tell me they don't have a dishwasher and they don't want one and I must admit to you I've mostly just given them blank stares because I absolutely cannot fathom that.  Like I said, we will have a new and healthy dishwasher at the earliest opportunity.

But at the same time, I fully recognize that much of my hatred for kitchen cleanup has been due to my own bad habits.  I've allowed my kitchen to get out of control and for the dirty dishes to pile up in ridiculous ways.  And that's been MY fault.

Washing dishes and cleaning up my kitchen doesn't have to take as long as I've allowed it to take.  In fact, I can even believe those who have told me they can clean up their kitchen faster without a dishwasher.  I believe they can!  (Though personally I'll still opt for a dishwasher's help.)

And finally...

4.  I don't really mind washing dishes.  

Okay, that was a little hard for me to admit.

I was convinced I HATED washing dishes, that I despised kitchen cleanup almost as much as I hate putting folded laundry away.  (And I. HATE. THAT.)

But you know, it's really not so bad!  I mean, when they're really dry and crusted over it can be rough.  And I still struggle a little when I have to empty all the gunk leftover in the drain.  Blech!  But especially if I make the family do the dish-scraping well, it's really not bad at all.  Washing dishes, even washing all of them, isn't nearly so awful as I used to think.  In fact, with a little music or, (my personal preference,) an audio drama or book going, I can semi-enjoy it.


Now don't get me wrong:  There will be a new dishwasher in my home at the earliest opportunity!  But I do have to confess that I've learned a lot since mine has been on its way out.  I've learned some lessons I think will help me in the kitchen from now on.  

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

3 Reasons Christians Need Christian Fellowship

You start considering what encourages healthy growth in the life of a Christian and a few things immediately come to mind.  Or at least they should come to mind:  Reading and studying the Bible.  Prayer.  Sitting under the teaching and preaching of a doctrinally sound church.

But what about Christian fellowship?  Why does that never come to mind?  Why is it we rarely look at the communion and companionship of other believers as an essential part of our growth and development as believers?

Maybe it's because Christian fellowship is usually just lumped in with church attendance, as if the two are somehow inexorably linked, though it is very possible to attend church services on a regular basis and never actually take part in fellowship with other believers.

Don't believe me?  I don't think you have to be part of most churches for very long before you see some of those who always manage to slip into church services late and slip out again early, making any kind of fellowship with them within the church virtually impossible.  And while companionship with other believers does not have to take place within the four walls of a church, a person who has no time for fellowship inside the church will likely find little time for it outside of it.  And, interestingly enough, I've never known an individual or family who did the "pop-in-and-out-of-a-church-but-never-really-be-a-part-of-the-church" thing who continued long-term with any congregation of believers or who developed into a solid, mature Christian.

Because Christian fellowship matters.  Time and conversation and companionship with other believers contributes to our Christian walk in ways we often do not recognize and appreciate as we should.

So why is fellowship important?  For these three reasons, if not for many, many more.

1.  God created us to be social creatures.

"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone..."
Genesis 2:18

Yes, we usually apply this scripture to the man/woman relationship, and well we should, since certainly that's what God was addressing here specifically.  But doesn't it also speak to the nature of human beings?  We were not designed to be hermits...recluses...Lone Rangers.  We were created for social interaction.  And isn't it interesting that, in spite of the fact Adam had God Himself with whom to commune, the Creator still said the man was ALONE?  Obviously, (and even modern psychology bears this out,) we were pieced together with an inborn need for social contact with those of our own kind.

Yet for the believer, not all social interaction is created equal.  The Apostle Paul cautioned the church at Corinth about being "unequally yoked" or bound together, with unbelievers and then questioned,

"...For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?  
And what communion hath light with darkness?" 
2 Corinthians 6:14

Not that we withdraw ourselves in every sense from those who don't share our faith  -- even Paul acknowledged we could never do that without withdrawing from the world completely (1 Cor. 5: 9-10) -- but the unconverted sinner should never provide our closest attachments, not because we think ourselves better than them or because we fear they might pollute us with their sinfulness, but because we have set our affections on things the unbeliever cannot understand.  We befriend them and love them and do our best to share Jesus with them, but there should still be such a difference in thought and attitude and ambition as to make it difficult for us to form the most intimate of alliances with those who don't share our faith.  

And yes, I realize God may sometimes call certain people apart for a time so they may give themselves to prayer and to study, as he apparently did with Paul for three years in Arabia (Gal. 1:17-18).  He also calls men and women to carry the gospel into areas where there are no other believers, though even then it is rare for a missionary or pioneering pastor to embark upon his mission field completely alone, without other ministers or at least members of his own family.  Paul again sets the example here:  Though the book of Acts and his epistles seem to indicate there were times when he traveled alone by choice, sometimes even for extended periods, whether to provide him with solitude for prayer and study or just for time to think, he also traveled, ministered, and broke bread, (which just means he ate and fellowshipped,) very often with other brothers and sisters in Christ.

But let me add a note here if I may:  Social needs can vary a lot from person to person.  Some people want almost constant fellowship; others crave more time alone.  (Like me!)  Some people flourish in a large social setting while others, don't always enjoy crowds or bustling social interaction.  Those are personality differences and one preference and approach to fellowship is not right and the other wrong.  My parents were always more reserved and avoided crowds, but I remember them sharing coffee and conversation with other Christian couples often.  The important thing is making time for fellowship, no matter the exact form it takes.

2.  Fellowship can provide comfort in times of trial.

If ever there is a time when those in the body of Christ can benefit from the fellowship and communion of their brothers and sisters in the faith, it is in times of grief and pain.  When a fellow-believer is suffering, they usually aren't looking for eloquent words of wisdom or great acts of kindness, though the latter can certainly be a blessing.  Usually people just want someone there, and the mere presence of a fellow Christian can be a tremendous source of strength and reassurance, and a reminder that God Himself is near at hand with grace enough for every situation.

We should never underestimate the power of two hands clasped in even the briefest prayer.  We should never doubt the value of a few minutes' visit to a funeral home or the impact of a call at a hospital room where an awful report has been received.

It's a way to say simply, "You are family and I love you.  I'm behind you.  I'm so sorry for what you're going through, but remember that our Father cares, and that I do, too."

Who doesn't need to hear that from time to time?  Sadly, we say things like it far too seldom.  We're hurt when we're not hearing it in our own times of crises, yet we're often pretty lousy at saying it to others when the tables are turned.

"Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."
Romans 12:15

Interesting, isn't it, that Paul didn't recommend nosy staring or speech-making, (think Job's comforter's,) but just being there with our sense of compassion engaged?  YES, that alone is fellowship.  

"Bear ye one anothers' burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Galatians 6:2

And though fellowship can be imperative in times of obvious distress and sorrow, it's amazing sometimes the hidden griefs that can surface through even the most casual conversation between believers:  The woman who is still grieving a miscarriage, even 5 years after the fact;  the man who grew up with an abusive father, who struggles desperately to understand what biblical fatherhood should look like;  the former soldier who witnessed things on the battlefield that torment his mind to the present day.  

Though it can take a whole host of forms, even Christians carry secret "baggage" and what a blessing it is when we can lighten one another's loads by sharing and loving and uplifting.  Fellowship is part of God's design for making it through the struggles and difficulties and questions of life.  When we can help one another along, what a world of difference it can make for our faith and our endurance.

3.  Fellowship encourages and challenges us in our faith.

When my husband and I sit down with our Christian friends and family, it usually is not to discuss theology and biblical doctrine.  That happens sometimes, more by accident than by anything else, and it's fine when it does, but it isn't the norm when we're in fellowship together.  Usually we're talking and laughing about other things; things that aren't really spiritual per se.

And yet they are.  As followers of Christ and believers of His word, everything in our lives inevitably leads back to Him, and our faith can be encouraged and strengthened whether we're discussing the infallibility of scripture or the funny thing that happened on the way to the doctor's office yesterday.  It's our mutual faith, the common bond that cements us together as believers.  Our conversation, whether it seems particularly spiritual or not, circles back to Him, even if only in subtle ways, again and again and again.

I love what Paul says to the church at Rome:

"...I long to see you that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, 
to the end ye may be established..."

But then he corrects himself,  

"That is, that I may be comforted together with you 
by the mutual faith both of you and me."
Romans 1: 11-12

And I love the picture Luke paints for us in the book of Acts.  Remember the story of Eutychus, the young man who fell asleep during Paul's preaching and fell from an upper-story window?  The poor kid gets a bad rap for falling asleep in church, but "there were many lights in the upper chamber," a little detail Luke includes for a reason.  No doubt the air was thick with smoke and fumes and it was probably very hot.  Anyway, in the midst of that story there's a verse that may not seem so significant, but I think it gives us a little glimpse into early church fellowship.

"When he (Paul)...was come up again and had broken bread and eaten, 
and talked a long while, even till the break of day, so he departed."
Acts 20:11

I can't prove it of course, but if Paul had been teaching his companions all night long, I think Luke would have said so.  The word "talked" here more literally means "to be in company with," and I have no doubt both Paul and the Christians with him that night at Troas were encouraged and strengthened in their faith just in being together.  Who knows what all they talked about?  Probably some about Paul's travels.  Maybe some about the church there at Troas.  Possibly about their own personal lives and their families.  I would say the conversation likely bounced between some very serious discussions and times of laughter.  But whatever they talked about, apparently it was so engaging they kept at it all night long.

Now it's important to remember our faith is NOT encouraged in gossip, verbal razing of the pastor, or in discussion of every ill of the local church.  But it can be under-girded and strengthened in both profound doctrinal discussions and in casual conversation between believers.

"Wherefore comfort (encourage) yourselves together and edify (build up) 
one another, even as also ye do." 
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (Parentheses mine)


Consider this admonishment from the writer of Hebrews:

"...Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works:  
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is,
but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching."
Hebrews 10:24-25

We usually tie this scripture to church attendance, but when you consider that this epistle was written at a time of great persecution among Jewish Christians, it's very likely open gatherings of believers weren't happening often, if at all.  More than likely this verse is addressing those who had completely withdrawn from other believers.  Their fears were very real and their concerns for themselves and for their families were warranted, yet the writer of the epistle, whether Paul or someone else, cautioned against pulling away from other Christians, particularly at a time when they needed the encouragement of one another like never before.  

Fellowship is important.  We need to make time for it somewhere in our busy schedules.  

And we have to keep in mind that Christian fellowship can never be perfect in every sense because it is conducted between imperfect people.  If we refuse fellowship on the basis of our fellow believers' shortcomings, or accept it only with those who think exactly like us or agree with us on every issue, we'll likely never fellowship at all.  Granted, our faith is only mutual if we agree on basic tenets of the faith, but nitpicking every practice and choice and even the personality traits of our brothers and sisters in Christ does much to reveal our own pride and makes plain sometimes our true motive for refusing fellowship -- we're selfish, self-centered individuals and we don't want our lives complicated by people.  And that includes God's people.  

The desire of the Christian's heart should be perfect fellowship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  We can have that.  And someday we will even have it face-to-face.  

Until then, however, we can fulfill our social needs, find comfort in times of trouble, and be encouraged in our faith through simple fellowship with those who seek HIM as we do.  

"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also 
may have fellowship with us.  And truly our fellowship is with the Father 
and with his Son, Jesus Christ."
1 John 1:3

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Do-It-Yourself Book Snowballs

While I'm trying very hard to acclimate myself to the world of e-books, there are few things I find warmer and lovelier than an old-fashioned hard-copy book.  I love the look.  I love the feel.  I even love the smell!  And the more the pages yellow and become dog-eared, both signs of a book well-read and well-beloved, the more I tend to like them.

Old books make me happy.

Which is why I tend to use them all over my house as decoration.  I have them on the desk by my bed...

...on top of my dresser....

...high on the bookshelf, (which is already books from floor to ceiling,)...

...and even in the bathroom!  Though I have to confess these two aren't real books, though I love them because they look like the real thing.

But then imagine my delight when I walked into a local library to find it had taken decorating with books to a whole new level!  For autumn...

And for Christmas...

But this was my personal favorite:

We had snowball bushes when I was a kid and these remind me so much of those big, greenish-white balls of blooms we would have in the spring.  When they dried, they were very similar in shape and color to these.

I started peppering the librarian with questions and she was quick to confess these ideas weren't all her own.  Naturally she had come across several book craft ideas in that 'creative promised land' we call Pinterest, but then she had built upon those ideas and made them uniquely her own.  Which was exactly what I hoped to do!  I asked for permission to snap some pictures and then could not wait to get the supplies I needed and get to work!

So how do you make your own Book Snowballs?  Believe me, it's not hard, though it is a little time-consuming.  But I shared the project with my daughter and we had a ton of fun working on it together.  And now both of us have beautiful creations made not from just any book, but from our favorite books, which makes them all the more beautiful in our eyes!

What you need:  

An old book  
3-inch circular craft punch
2-3  styrofoam balls  (I used 1 5-inch ball and 2 3-inch)
Flat end of a pencil or pen
Hot glue gun and multiple glue sticks
Wooden skewers or dowel rods


Start with an old used book.  Not too old, mind you -- a book with brittle pages won't work for this craft -- but one with a little age and some yellowing will be perfect.  Check our thrift shops or your local library's discard section for books.

A Tale of Two Cities is my favorite book ever, but my paperback copy was old and pretty ugly.  Not to mention the fact the guy who wrote the lengthy afterword left me convinced he never actually read the book.  

Now my only copy of my favorite book is gone, but I've been wanting a pretty hardback copy anyway.  And my daughter already has a lovely set of hardback Jane Austen novels, so it wasn't hard for her to sacrifice that awful paperback copy in the picture above.

Carefully tear pages from the binding, no more than 5 or 6 at a time to keep them as whole as possible.  For your information, it took a 350 page book to make three snowballs.  And while, yes, you can certainly use more than one book on a project, keep in mind that the colors of book pages can actually vary quite a bit from pure white to yellow to a weathered tan.  Just make sure the pages of the books you use are similar in color.

Start punching circles from your pages.  My book was fairly small, so I was only able to get two punches per page.  My punch has scalloped edges, by the way, which definitely makes for a prettier snowball in the end.  These punches aren't exactly cheap, but with a 40% off coupon I managed to get mine for $12 at Hobby Lobby.  And I will be using it A LOT, so it was a good investment.

Fire up your hot glue gun.  Hope yours looks better than mine.  I've had it close to 20 years and it looks like it, but it's still working, so I can't complain.

Fold one book circle over the flat end of a pen or pencil, press a bead of hot glue onto a styrofoam ball, and then press your "blossom" onto the glue.  Hold it there just a few seconds to give the glue time to cool and voila!

LOVE being able to read lines on my book snowballs that I recognize and love.  "Recalled to life..."  But if you're using a book you aren't familiar with, don't worry:  Nobody's likely to see and be able to read anything much...

Keep adding blossoms....

...And more blossoms....

...And more blossoms....

...Until your ball is completely covered, keeping in mind that the tighter you place your book blossoms, the fuller your snowball will look and the fewer gaps you'll see up close.

Use thin dowel rods for "stems", pushing them into your ball and then cutting them to whatever length suits your fancy.  I actually had some wooden skewers on hand that worked perfectly because they're sharpened on one end.

Arrange your snowballs in a vase or Mason jar.  I filled mine with strips of burlap, but you could also use decorative stones, marbles, buttons, dried beans, or even sand.

But, then again, these snowballs are just as pretty without stems at all!  My daughter loved the look of a single snowball on this Mason jar.

In her room she set her Pride and Prejudice snowball on the base of an overturned wine glass.  She plans to add a couple more at different heights.

But these would also be lovely hanging from the ceiling.  Just tie thread or fishing line around a stick pin and press it into you snowball, then suspend it from the ceiling with a thumbtack or a small hook.

And just so you know, the 5-inch ball took me just over 2 hours to complete and the 3-inch balls just over 1 hour apiece, so I didn't do this all in one sitting.  But it was a fun project to do with Polly Wolly, especially since we were turning our favorite books into something beautiful for our home.

I'm anxious to use the same concept to make an entire wreath.  And I'd love to try using hymnbooks or sheet music.  Or colored maps!  And I may try making book snowball ornaments for the Christmas tree next year.  When you're decorating with something you truly love, the possibilities are endless.  

Now, I know there's a box of old books out there in the garage somewhere.  They haven't been touched in years, let alone read, so I'm thinking they're perfect candidates for some snowball-making...

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