Homeschooling Curriculum Choices

Jul26

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Homeschooling Curriculum Choices

We’re back from the mother of all field trips (a month in Italy) and ready or not…here comes August and school. I’ve spent the last week evaluating where my kids are and which curriculum will work best for them. Let’s be real. It can be daunting. Overwhelming. Make you want to suck your thumb in a corner. And I don’t attend curriculum fairs for this very reason. It’s simply too much. So how do I reach a decision that I pray will work for each child this year? I answer the following questions: Picking #homeschool #curriculum intimidating? @Cara_Putman shares tips. Click To Tweet Where is this child excelling? For one child it may be math, for another it may be handwriting. I need to honestly assess where the child is. If they are doing well, then I will stay the course with the curriculum that is working. For example, I adore history and minored in it in college. It is easy and a joy for me, so the kids and I are taking the slow road through American history as a group. My daughter who will be a junior (Gulp) has never been a huge fan until we discovered the Mystery of History. Then she discovered a text she would willing read on her own without any prompting from me. This year, while we wrap up American history in August or September, she will launch into the final volume in the Mystery of History and also read Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Renaissance World. My daughter has really loved these. My younger daughter (3rd grade) has discovered and inhales the Who Was? books.  It is not unusual for us to walk out of Barnes & Noble with 2 or 3 of these. I’m all in if it ignites her love for learning about important people. And I love how much she takes from them. While we will do traditional texts to make sure she understands how history fits together, these books are what turned her on to biographies. Where is this child struggling or has the potential to struggle? If you’ve followed my homeschooling journey at all, you know that spelling was a struggle for us until we discovered the All About Spelling curriculum. Then the light bulbs began to pop for my kids. And it’s a program I don’t hate. I had to hunt and ask a lot of people before I found this curriculum. It also means this is where we have to supplement to make up ground with the older two from the years I didn’t know what I was doing with spelling — fortunately, this program makes it easy. Higher math is another point of transition where I have to really evaluate where my child is and what they need to help them most. I am terrible about grading on a consistent basis. I don’t enjoy it and there are other things that demand my time, so Teaching Textbooks has been a God-send for us. It has a teacher on the interactive CD that walks the students through the lesson, and when the student answers problems, they get immediate feedback, a chance to try again, and then a step-by-step tutorial on how to solve the problem correctly. It’s made a difference for my teenager. Now that I have...

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Fiction Friday: History Meets Fiction in Shadowed By Grace Video

Jul22

Posted by in Fiction Friday, Italy | 0 comments

Fiction Friday: History Meets Fiction in Shadowed By Grace Video

This summer I got the privilege and joy of teaching 29 undergrads in Italy. Yes…I just typed that magical word…Italy. My family was based in Siena while I taught every day for two weeks. Then we had some flexibility as we split time between students and seeing a bit more of Italy…particularly Rome. This was an incredible trip…dream come true really. Photos like these say it all. When #fiction intersects with #history – @cara_putman shares in video. #amreading #MonumentsMen Click To Tweet But what I loved most of all was getting to see so many of the places I researched and wrote about while working on Shadowed by Grace. I love knowing what’s real in the novels I read, and I have a feeling some of you do as well. So here’s one of the videos I made. And then scroll below for a few more...

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What if Our Dreams Came True

Jul20

Posted by in Dreams | 0 comments

I’m just back from living a dream — spending a month in Italy. Hard work, but a dream. For ten years, I worked toward the dream of writing for one editor at one house. I’ve had the great privilege of writing many books for many wonderful editors, but there was a special click when I met this particular editor at our first ACFW. Last week I turned in the macro edits for the book we are working on together. You can get a sneak peek at the cover here. Dreams? @Cara_Putman asks if you have the courage to pursue yours? Click To Tweet That’s the beauty of dreams. Dreams can inspire you to work hard. In fact I think a dream isn’t truly a dream until you’re willing to sacrifice and do hard things to give it a chance to breath and grow. Dreams also require courage. It takes courage to let a dream you’ve harbored in your heart come to light and risk defeat or lack of support from those around you. That’s one of the things I love about ACFW. Theconference is coming up next month, and I can’t wait. The place is ripe with expectancy. Everywhere I look, I see someone with the dream of writing, the dream of one day seeing their name on the cover of a book. That was me in 2005. This year I’ll be co-teaching with Deborah Raney — an unbelievable thrill. It’s an opportunity to breath life into some tightly held dreams. Dreams can take so many shapes and sizes. The rose in the photo above? It’s at a home I walked by at least once a day as I hiked down the hill to catch the bus into Siena. It was another dream. One that while I was headed in to teach, I kept looking at the skyline, the architecture, the landscape, and thanking God for the crazy chance to work hard to get the experience. What’s the dream in your heart? Do you have the courage to chase it? What do you need to give it a...

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Four Tips when writing about something you’ve never done

Jul12

Posted by in researching, writing advice | 2 comments

Four Tips when writing about something you’ve never done

Several years ago when my writing bud Nicole O’Dell asked me if I wanted to be part of a novella collection with her, my initial reaction was “of course!” Nicole is so prolific and accomplished I couldn’t imagine not writing with her. And if it also meant I could help a Valerie Comer, a debut author, get her first contract, then my enthusiasm for the project only went up. Then they told me the topic for Rainbow’s End. Writing what you don’t know? @Cara_Putman shares 4 tips. #amwriting #research Click To Tweet Geo-caching? It sounds fun, but I’ve never tried it. Never been to the Ozarks either. Still, I wanted to be part, so I put on my research hat. Here are some tips to help you when you find yourself in a similar position. 1) If you can’t go to the location, talk to people who have been where your book is set. As God would have it work out, my sister and brother-in-law were on their way to Branson. Being the great folks they are, they detoured through Lake of the Ozarks just to let me know what the town was like. That’s how I learned about the turtle ice cream shop and the outlet mall that became pieces of my novella. 2) Hit the Internet.  While it’s never the only stop for me, there is a wealth of information to discover. For example, find maps, information from chambers of commerce, etc. online. Also look up the websites of local businesses you want to reference. It’ll give you a great starting point to build on. 3) Utilize social networks. I know the theory of the geo-caching, but haven’t participated yet. I asked folks on Facebook if they’d gone. I talked to a friend who enjoys the hunt with his kids and made plans to participate at some time. Each of those details gave me a better idea what someone participating in a hunt like Rainbow’s End would experience and how to write the scenes. For A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, I asked for help naming businesses and got FANTASTIC ideas from online friends. For my book that releases in April, I asked for help naming a coffee shop and creating quirks for a heroine. People’s suggestions were brilliant! Others can be so creative when I’m braindead. 4) Look for hard to find resources. When writing Shadowed by Grace, I ran across a reference to a book that one of the Monuments Men had written about his time in Florence and surrounding areas. The challenge was the book was out of print, but Purdue University in my backyard had a copy of Art Under Fire. Because I’m faculty, I was able to borrow it for three months. It was the perfect resource to help me understand what he experienced during the war and make sure my hero was on target. It also was a free use — so don’t be afraid to try university libraries, interlibrary loan, etc. All of these can help you find that recourse which will give the details that make a book come to life. By the time I finished writing Love’s Prize, one of the novellas in Rainbow’s End, I wanted to pack my bag and head to the Ozarks for some geo-caching. My prayer is that...

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3 Tips to Lessen Summertime Craziness

Jul05

Posted by in family, Parenting | 0 comments

3 Tips to Lessen Summertime Craziness

Summer is upon us. After a winter that threatened to never end, the days are long, the weather is warm, and the pool is open. Summer Calendar going crazy? @Cara_Putman shares 3 tips to easy the #crazy. Click To Tweet If your family calendar looks anything like ours, it’s downright scary. We’re only four days into June and I’m already daunted. I could spend my entire day in the car shuttling kids around. I literally haven’t had time to go to the grocery store — but don’t worry, kids. I’ve got 45 minutes carved out tomorrow. If I could only find the desire to meal plan. Not. My. Thing. this week. So how can we not only survive, but thrive this summer? It’s something I’m really praying about, because if this is what the summer is going to look like, let me off this merry-go-round now. I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few ideas. I can’t wait to hear yours, too. 1) Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. We’re in the middle of a home renovation project with another on its heels. While I have to recognize that this chaos is part of the process, I can’t wait until I get some things back out of my bedroom and in the bathroom where they belong. That’s how my days feel as well. Right now my girls are on opposite gymnastics schedules. One goes in the morning, the other in the afternoon. It means the next two months, I’ll make double trips to the gym, but in the fall they can go the same days. What is chaos today won’t be in a couple months. 2) Carefully look at your calendar and make choices. Yes, the woman who just talked about going to the gym four times a day is making choices. Sometimes I don’t even believe it. The choice is that our girls are doing the same sport. In the long run, it will make life less chaotic.  Another choice is that the little two are taking swim lessons. That means the first two weeks of June have one extra appointment a day. But long term it means that I can know my kids will be more comfortable and confident in the water — very important since we tend to spend a lot of our free time at our community pool. It also means I endured the little guy crying throughout the first lesson yesterday because he was tired and didn’t want to cooperate, so that he could be all smiles and have fun today. 3) Involve your kids in the process. The older they are, the more they get to make choices about their summer goals and activities. So my oldest will likely take an online art class and possibly do a book club with a few girlfriends. My ten year-old — well, we’re still trying to figure out what his summer will involve beyond swimming and clash of clans. So we went to Barnes & Noble and picked up a couple books so that he’ll engage his brain. We also keep up with English and math over the summer. I try to exercise realism, but it’s important to keep some structure as we speed through summer. Summer can be a crazy time. It can run away...

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Traveling Tips for Writers: Part 2

Jul01

Posted by in writing advice | 2 comments

Traveling Tips for Writers: Part 2

 Last week I started explaining what tools I make sure I have in my writing suitcase as I launch on a new writing adventure. Those included a killer what if, a lead character I can build a story around, and a setting that can become a character in the book. Since it’s still vacation season, I want to share the next items I want before I begin writing.  Are you a writer? @cara_putman shares 3 more tips for a great novel. #amwriting Click To Tweet 4) Commitment. Writing a book is a long-term project. It’s not something that can be done in the span of a few days. Instead it’s a project I will return to over and over again. That means I have to be willing to sacrifice some activities and plant my fanny in the chair time after time until I read the end of 20,000, 60,000, or 90,000 words. Stopping before then will lead to an incomplete book. And I firmly believe a book isn’t really finished until readers have interacted with it. So commitment is an absolute must!5) Conflict. The next item that is absolutely critical to my book journey is conflict. Have I created sufficient conflict to propel my characters through 300 pages? Is it enough conflict matched with goals and motivation to keep readers engaged. If not, I need to keep working on the plot. A book that can be really helpful when you’re trying to wrap your writing muscles around conflict is GMC: Goals, Motivation & Conflict. It’s a helpful explanation of the roles these three internal and external motivators play in driving characters through a plot. 6) Twists. No vacation or journey would be complete without a few unexpected detours and twists. This is a key part of any novel. Something unexpected needs to happen to kick the hero or heroine away from their goals. And then it needs to happen again. And then again. They need to feel so low, they think there is no way they can recover from the twists and danger.  You have to be mean to the characters through the twists. We don’t necessarily want to be mean on vacation, but if you don’t do it in your book, it will lead to a put-downable book.  What would you add to the writer’s suitcase?...

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Summer Plans? 4 low-cost ideas to try with your kids

Jun28

Posted by in Parenting | 3 comments

Summer Plans? 4 low-cost ideas to try with your kids

Summer is officially upon most of us. The calendar is turning to July and that means school has been out awhile for most of us. It also means we need to fill the empty days that seem to be dragging on. Whether you homeschool or not, here are a few ideas to get you started. Then let me know what ideas you can pass on to the rest of us! Desperate for cheap, #summer activities? @cara_putman shares 4. #kids Click To Tweet Become a tourist in your own back yard. With just a little digging, I bet you’ll find some museums that you’ve never explored. I can think of an art museum in our hometown that the kids and I have only visited once. Then we’ve got the local university which I just learned has an Amelia Earhart collection. How about visiting all those parks you always mean to picnic at, but never actually go? Don’t forget water parks, state parks, and other places you can get outside and away from screen time. I’m sure there are resources like these in your hometown or nearby, too. With just a little searching we can create lots of inexpensive outings and day trips for our families. Keep a little school in the schedule. Math flashcards or workbooks can be a great way to keep the math skills sharp over the summer or focus on weaker areas. Summer is also a great time to enhance areas your kids enjoy but may not have time to focus on during the school year. For example, my older two children have had private art lessons in the summer. It’s a subject they love, but slips to the side during the school year. Enhance that reading list. Many libraries and bookstores have summer reading programs. Sign up and then read together or listen to audiobooks as a family. We love audiobooks when we’re traveling. Scour garage sales or thrift shops for things that will let their imaginations play. Everything from dress-up clothes to books and games can be found inexpensively. And no matter how many plans you make, rainy days will come. On those days your kids will be thrilled to have some new to them items to play with or read. And any time we can encourage them to tap into their imaginations it’s a good thing. Does your child have friends they don’t want to lose touch with over the summer? Then try something like an interest club. One summer, my oldest had a once a month bookclub for her friends. They had a lot of fun. We added things like pool parties and sleepovers, and it became a great way for her to spend time with her friends and mix her friends across groups. Other moms graciously sent snacks so it wasn’t even a drain for me. My oldest son attended a summer camp at Purdue, our local university, with a friend. The camp was free — it took a little digging to find, but not much — and he and his buddy enjoyed learning computer programming together. This is by no means an exhaustive list. What do you do with your kids to fill the summer and minimize...

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Traveling Tips for the Writer: Part 1

Jun24

Posted by in writing advice | 0 comments

Traveling Tips for the Writer: Part 1

It’s summertime and that means many of us will take vacations of some sort. Maybe we’re staying close to home and exploring places around us. You know you drive past them everyday and never quite make the time to stop. Or maybe you are traveling where the flight takes 10 or 15 hours and you have to deal with jet lag. Maybe you’re on a cruise ship, exploring the world from the deck of a huge vessel. However you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to pack a few things in your suitcase.   Are you a writer? @cara_putman shares 3 tips for a great novel. #amwriting Click To Tweet The same is true when writers are launching into writing a new book. Today I wanted to share some tips for things to make sure you have in your writer’s suitcase before you embark on a new writing adventure. 1) A What If: Most books start with the idea of a what if. My next book is Beyond Justice, and it’s a foray into a new genre for me: legal romantic suspense. From the time an editor asked to see something to the point I had a proposal to shop took over a year. Why? Simple: I needed a what if that would keep my interest for the year of writing and the year of promoting the book. It also had to be a what if that would capture the attention of an editor and hopefully countless readers. So take the time to massage and brainstorm your what if. Work at it until you have a question that captures your attention for the long haul. 2) A Lead Character: When I’m starting a new book I have to know who the lead character is. Sometimes it’s only the hero. Other times it’s the heroine. But once I know the lead character, I can build the contrasting hero/heroine around that one. The supporting cast will often spring pretty organically to life as I write, but getting that hero/heroine identified and nailed down is critical. Take the time to explore books like 45 Master Characters. This book and many others will help you build contrasting characters that will interest your readers. A couple others I like are Please Understand Me II and Getting Into Character. 3) A Setting: Next a book — just like a vacation — needs a setting. Where will the what if and characters interact? I like to write in such a way that the book could not take place anywhere else. In a sense the setting becomes its own character. Readers feel like they’re taking a vacation in a book, with enough details to be transported to the location. Readers who live there or have visited shouldn’t be jarred from the book because they feel like you got the details wrong. One of the highest compliments I received from readers for Shadowed by Grace was that they’d been to Italy and couldn’t believe I hadn’t. They felt transported back to the location. That’s exactly what I wanted to happen. So these are a few of the items I throw in my suitcase when beginning a book. When I have these locked in place, I feel ready to start the journey. Come back next week for a few more items...

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If You Only Knew…

Jun21

Posted by in faith thoughts | 0 comments

If You Only Knew…

  As a writer I have this quirk…it might be one you have, too. My mind constantly spins with what-ifs. If my husband is late, I wonder what-ifs…and they’re rarely positive. I wonder what-if so and so wins the election. What-if such and such happens when we travel? Did you know I seriously clean the house before we leave so that if something happens on the trip, there is less to do for those who come behind. How morbid is that?!?! What would it be like to take God at His word..If I only knew via @Cara_Putman Click To Tweet But if I can be brutally honest with you? This year I’m on a different sort of what-if journey: What would life be like if I audaciously loved God? If you’ve been on the Grove, then you know that I have loved God my entire life. But the last year or two there’s been this unsettledness inside for more. That I don’t want to settle for a good life…but long for a transformational life. Maybe you can relate. And this journey was spurned by two books by authors I love: Audacious by Beth Moore and If by Mark Batterson. Both authors have had a large impact on my spiritual walk. I’ve intentionally read Audacious slowly and have If primed to read next. One of the principles from Audacious I am forcing myself not to rush past is what Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John…if you only knew the gift God had for you… That is resonating with me on such a deep level right now. There are so many things…If I only knew what God wanted to do if I abided fully in Him…If I only knew how He could bring abundant life to me…If I only understood how much more He has for me and how His plans truly are the best for me…If I only knew… What if I allowed God to have more of me, all of me, the complete total package that is Cara Putman? I’d love to think I’ve done that…but what if there’s more? This is a question I think we all wrestle with. It’s also one my characters wrestle with. In Beyond Justice, the book I’m editing right now, Hayden is wrestling with whether she can ever be enough on her own. We know the simple answer to that. ..it’s impossible to do and be that on our own. But our world sure tells us we should. I have a necklace that reminds me I am only enough because He is. Jesus was enough. He is the all in all, the Alpha and Omega, the God who was, and is, and is to come. And in Him all what-ifs are answered. Does God you have on a journey of whispering to your heart, If you only knew…you would ask...

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Fiction Friday: Fading Starlight

Jun17

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Fiction Friday: Fading Starlight

I have a secret weakness for stories that weave in pieces of Old Hollywood. In her latest novel, Kathryn Cushman does that as she tells a story of unexpected friendship. Lauren Summers has her dream internship and a dress she worked on walking the red carpet. Then it all derails and she’s left desperate for a job and place to stay. Next door is a reclusive woman who used to move in Hollywood’s vaulted air. This book is a sweet story of two women — separated by generations and experience, but united by the ostracizing they’ve experienced. Lauren simply wants to be her friend, but Charlotte doesn’t know how to respond. Add in a tabloid reporter, a host of secondary characters, and a serious fixer-upper, and it’s the making of a story I enjoyed. There’s very little romance. Instead, this is a story about figuring out how to move forward when events try to slap the life from us. It’s a story about how even the most unlikely can form genuine friendships. And it’s about setting aside our fears to be willing to embrace what God has in front of us. Love novels rich in relationship? @Cara_Putman recommends Fading Starlight. #FictionFriday Click To Tweet This story is perfect for those who are looking for a contemporary story rich in relationships, without a focused romance. A Tale of Unexpected Friendship and Old Hollywood Glamour Lauren Summers is hiding. Her fashion house internship should have launched her career, but a red carpet accident has left her blackballed. The only job she finds is unpaid, but comes with free lodging–a run-down cottage in the shadow of a cliff-side mansion. Unsure of what comes next, she’s surprised to be contacted by a reporter researching a reclusive former Hollywood innue who lives in the nearby mansion. Kendall Joiner wants Lauren’s help uncovering the old woman’s secrets. In return, she’ll prove the red carpet accident was a publicity stunt so Lauren can regain her former job. With all her dreams in front of her, Lauren’s tempted by the offer, but as she and the old woman get to know each other, Lauren realizes nothing is quite as it...

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