Part I, in which I ramble on and on about how you should always trust your own parental instincts over the experts, can be found here. This is Part II where I share some of my favorite parenting/family resources.
This list includes books and resources that I:
A) Just enjoyed reading.
B) Found practical information and/or strategies I actually have implemented in the parenting trenches.
C) Keep around because they remind me that I’m not alone in my struggles – and joys – of being a mother.
D) Return to again and again. (I’ve starred my absolutely favorite, must-read books.)
E) All of the above.
I hope some of these books might be helpful to other parents out there; however, as this beautiful article (HT: Melanie B.) reminded me: it’s far more important to read your child than to read the books.
General baby/toddler care:
The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears
I’ve given this book as a shower gift to several friends, and everyone who has ever added it to their parenting library has said it’s a helpful resource. You don’t have to read it cover to cover, but it’s handy to have nearby when you want to look something up – like let’s say, dealing with a nursing strike. The book is quite comprehensive covers virtually every topic you might wonder about from newborn to age 5, and I personally like Dr. Sears’s approach to parenting.
Kid Cooperation by Elizabeth Pantley
Actually, I love anything written by Elizabeth Pantley. Thanks to Jessie for introducing me to her long ago. Pantley is a mother herself and while she has years of experience as a parenting coach, she doesn’t have a lot of professional initials after her name. That’s exactly why I like her so much. She doesn’t ramble on about parenting theories. Instead, she gives you strategies you can apply in your everyday life as a mom. Her writing style is down-to-earth and conversational, and she gets it that reading a book is one thing, but putting it to practice can be difficult (like when she suggests in her sleep book, which I mention below, sometimes putting your wee one down to sleep instead of always holding her but then admits that she rarely followed her own advice when her kids were babies).
The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears* by Elizabeth Pantley
This Pantley’s updated discipline book. Very helpful read!
Taming the Spirited Child: Strategies for Parenting Challenging Children without Breaking their Spirit by Michael H. Popkin
I don’t own this one, but it was a Godsend when I checked it out from the library a few years ago when I was struggling with a tenacious, spirited child of mine. Part of the reason I liked this book is because the author makes the analogy of taming a horse without breaking its spirit (think: Seabiscuit) and as a former equestrian, I could really relate.
General child development:
The Child Under Six* by James L. Hymes, Jr.
This one is an older book that my mom-in-law gave to me, and I’m afraid it’s going to be tough to find. But start digging around in thrift stores and at garage sales because this child development classic is fantastic and a fascinating read.
Here’s one of many insightful quotes from the book: “When you work with humans, you are not dealing with dead, inert matter but with live, changing organisms. Our role is not to provide the engine power. We need not push or prod or punish children into maturing. We guide children, yes. We remove roadblocks from their path. We make sure they have the emotional nourishment so their growth continues. Now and again we have to help all children get back on the main track of growth. These are tremendously important, yet relatively easy jobs. The child himself takes care of the biggest job of all: To grow! The human must grow. He wants to, with the fiercest kind of fervor.”
How to Really Love Your Child* by Ross Campbell
Loving our littler cherubs comes easily, right? In my heart, I always love my children, but do my actions reveal the kind of unconditional love a child deserves even when her behavior is unlovable? Campbell’s book focuses on concrete ways to show your kids you love them such as giving them focused attention or physical touch. His book was a great reminder for me that saying, “I love you” isn’t always enough. He also addresses why a healthy marriage is critical to making children feel loved. Every parent should read this book.
Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education* by Shinichi Suzuki
A friend of mine who was way ahead of me in her mothering journey (her daughters were older than I was when I first became pregnant) gave me this book. She inscribed its inside cover with: “As a parent, this is the most influential book I ever read. It’s about much more than music. Hope you enjoy and may we all be ‘nurtured by love.'” She was right on. We haven’t enrolled any of our children in music lessons yet, but I do hope I’ve taken some of Suzuki’s (this is the Suzuki who developed the Suzuki method for classical music education) advice to heart.
He writes in the book’s postscript: “My heart brims with a desire to help make all children born upon this earth fine human beings, happy people, people of superior ability. My whole life and energies are devoted to this end. This is because of my discovery that every single child, without exception, is born with possibility.”
I share the same belief, and I hope my whole life will be devoted to this end as well. Nurtured by Love explains Suzuki’s beliefs further and gives parents the inspiration to developing their children’s potential.
When Your Child Drives You Crazy* by Eda LShan
Bless you, Mom-in-law for handing me this book when I thought something was wrong with me because my kids’ antics were starting to drive me stark raving mad. I highly recommend this book. It’s not all about your kids driving you crazy. It offers practical advice and insight into why children behave the way you do, which really helps in mitigating the amount of crazies you feel on any given day.
Another older book series that is written for several ages and helps you know what’s “normal” for your child’s particular stage of development by Louise Bates Ames* (Your 1-year-old, Your 2-year-old and so on…). These books have really helped me understand what behavior is appropriate for my children at any given age.
I remember when my 4-year-old became fascinated with poop. I really was wondering if my dad’s potty humor jokes had ruined her for life. Then I read that this is a very normal part of development for a child her age, and I was relieved that we didn’t have a future proctologist in our midst. So often parents set themselves and their children up for failure simply by thinking certain behaviors are not appropriate or are just plain weird when, in fact, they are completely normal and even necessary for a child’s growth. These slim volumes shed light on appropriate child development and also include lists of toys and games that are good for the child’s age.
Siblings Without Rivalry* by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
If you’ve got more than one child, get this book. It’s chock full of advice on how to raise siblings who care about one another and gives plenty of advice on how to help everyone get along (most of the time).
Sleep (you know that thing you used to get in limitless amounts, uninterrupted by 3 a.m. cries):
My first child was born wired not to need much sleep. I’m happy to report that at the ripe, old age of five, she finally sleeps through the night (she actually now takes the title for “best sleeping child” in the family, so if you have an insomniac on your hands, there is hope!), although she still has more energy than plutonium and runs circles around the rest of us on most days (and I’m a pretty high energy person myself). My second was easy. She’s actually fallen asleep during the hiding phase of Hide and Seek (I found her snoozing in a closet), although we have had some sleep issues (e.g., nightmares, etc.) lately. My third daughter still wakes up to nurse, but that’s okay. She’s helping to naturally space my babies. I call that grace after my bout with postpartum depression. Ask and you shall receive. For my babies, it’s ask and you shall nurse.
At any rate, I’ve read a lot of sleep books on the market, but my all-time favorite is – you guessed it –The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. Now the book is a bit of a misnomer because there are still likely to be some bedtime and/or nighttime tears (from you and/or your child), but following her strategies can help you get the sleep you need without feeling like you’ve abandoned your baby. I also own Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers.
Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking by Stephanie O’Dea
I don’t have quite as impassioned of a love affair with my crockpot as the book’s author and creator of the blog A Year of Slow Cooking does, but I have to say my family and I have enjoyed several of the book’s recipes, especially the homemade Chex mix, the Greek Chicken, and Crockpot Applesauce. (I hope to share some of my own crockpot concoctions down the road, if time allows.) The main dishes are great for nights when you won’t have a lot of time to cook. Prep everything in the morning, dump it in, and viola! Dinner’s ready!
Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely
This is a wonderful book that not only includes delicious but practical recipes for busy families, but it also provides complete menus and shopping lists. I’m a big believer in meal planning, and this book does most of the leg work for you.
Whole Foods for the Whole Family * published by Leche League International
I’m a foodie and have dozens of cookbooks, but this is hands-down my favorite. The recipes are wholesome, but they don’t skimp on flavor. I can feel good about any recipe I cook in this book – even the desserts.
Grace Before Meals: Recipes and Inspiration for Family Meals and Family Life*
I’m a big fan of Father Leo (you do know the priest-chef who dueled it out with Bobby Flay – and won!) and the Grace Before Meals movement, and I was fortunate to meet this holy foodie and snag an autographed copy of his first cookbook (I’ve heard another one is in the works). Although the recipes are tasty, what I really love about the book is how it’s organized by holidays (like Mother’s Day) and liturgical seasons and includes more than recipes for delicious dishes but also recipes for strong families. The book includes conversation starters for mealtimes and other ideas to make gathering around the table a memorable and meaningful family affair. Speaking of conversation starters, my girls and I have really enjoyed The Meal Box: Fun Questions and Family Faith Tips to Get Mealtime Conversations Cookin‘. This is a deck of cards that includes fun questions and exercises as well as faith applications.
Here’s an example:
One one side of a card it reads: “If you had to wear an object around your neck at all times, something that would be attached to a thin chain or string, what would it be? (Don’t choose something too heavy – you have to wear it all the time!)
On the flip side is this “Food For Family Thought”: One of the most powerful ways to nurture a living faith in your child is to adorn your home with objects that represent your faith – a cross, a family Bible, a statue, a prayer. These objects speak to your child around the clock of the faith that sustains us in this lifetime.”
Magazines (listed here are only the ones that pertain to mothering and family life; I happen to love literary journals and political mags, too, but I’ll spare you my artsy-fartsy leanings and strong political opinions):
I’m a big fan of this magazine because it offers healthy but flavorful recipes that usually don’t require highly exotic ingredients. Each issue features quick-prep meals and recipes that use whatever produce is in season. I’m constantly clipping and trying out new recipes from the glossy. My husband and I also both love Cook’s Illustrated. It’s just a beautiful publication and fun for a foodie to read.
Faith & Family*, the magazine for Catholic living
Think of this as a Catholic’s Woman’s Day. The magazine isn’t heavy-handed; yet, virtually every topic is covered through a Christian perspective. The magazine also always includes ideas on how to live the liturgical year and turn your home into a domestic church. It features a wide-range of articles and covers everything from marriage to fashion.
Crafts, recipes, fun activities that encourage time together as a family. I’ve enjoyed this popular mainstream magazine for several years now (though some of the projects are too complicated for craft-challenged mom such as myself).
I’m not too impressed by most mainstream parenting publications, but I do enjoy Mothering. Not only are its articles well-written, but the magazine does a great job of promoting breastfeeding, natural childbirth, and healthy eating while at the same time encouraging and supporting moms in their roles as nurturers. Although it rarely mentions God, the kind of parenting it promotes agrees with natural law and the way I believe God, rather than our fast-paced society, designed moms to mother. My only minor quibble with the publication is its endless barrage of anti-vaccination articles/blurbs (forgive me, my granola friends, but my crunchiness begins to crumble when it comes to vaccines.).
Charlotte Mason Companion* by Karen Andreola
Although this book, which I adore, is the perfect primer for anyone wanting to learn about the Charlotte Mason model of education, it’s also an encouraging read for all mothers who want to make their children’s childhood a little sweeter. From poetry to picnics, Andreola’s essay-like chapters give readers practical suggestions as well as living book recommendations on how to put the Charlotte Mason method into practice. FYI: The book has a strong emphasis on Christian principles.
Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education by Laura Berquist
If you’re drawn to the Classical approach to homeschooling and are also Catholic, this is a valuable resource. The book includes sample schedules, resources, and book lists.
The Handbook of Nature Study* by Anna Comstock
Highly recommended. Whether you are including nature study as a part of your homeschooling curriculum or are just a parent who wants to accompany your intrepid bug-catchers on their expeditions, this book will help you and your children cultivate a love of nature. The book was written in 1911 by the founder and first head of the Department of Nature Study at Cornell University and was originally geared toward elementary school teachers. It covers countless nature topics, including bugs, weather, plants, farm animals, etc. Each topic begins with an expository paragraph. Then a group of discussion questions follows to encourage the child (and you) to take a closer look at the object at hand. In addition, there are snippets of poetry and nature writing marbled throughout the book. I’ve also enjoyed following one mom’s personal blog that she’s transformed into a nature journal based on Comstock’s book. The blog author also includes outdoor challenges to get your family outside.
Learning Ideas at Serendipity
The girls and I journeyed down Serendipity’s Alphabet Path last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. There are tons more ideas and resources (including wonderful book lists) for literature-based homeschooling.
Little Saints Catholic Preschool Program
I bought this when Madeline was three and while we haven’t come even close to completing all the activities, I used a lot of its ideas and themes and book suggestions with my old homeschooling co-op for our Pre-K class. I also still use some of the craft ideas, etc. with my girls. We just recently made tissue paper trees just like these to represent each season (iridescent glitter on the tree for winter, pink crunched up tissue paper for spring, red and orange for fall, and green for summer).
Another helpful series of book for preschool activities are written by some of my mom-in-law’s friends (she used to run a church preschool with these friends). They sent me several of the books, including Science Activities A to Z, Math Activities A to Z, and Reading Activities A to Z. Although the books are designed to be used in a preschool setting, many of the ideas are simple enough to be used at home or with a co-op. The activities are organized by theme and/or season (e.g., Christmas, Fall, etc.). The reading activities book is particularly helpful as it has tons of fun activities to supplement whatever phonics program you choose to use.
The girls and I have Tuesday tea time. We not only practice our manners, but we try to incorporate a saint or something from the liturgical season. I’ve gleaned lots of teatime ideas from Alice Gunter’s site.
A free (yes, free!) Charlotte Mason-style Catholic homeschooling curriculum. This was so very helpful to me when I was planning for this year. Although I created my own curriculum and plan for the year, I used many of the resources suggested in this thorough curriculum, including Cay Gibson’sCatholic Mosaic: Living the Liturgical Year, an illustrated book study for Catholic children.
mater et magistra*
What a gem of a magazine! I just recently subscribed, but I wish I had a long time ago. I thought that as a mom of little ones (my oldest is only 5 – almost 6!) and a newbie homeschooler it was premature for me to subscribe to a homeschooling magazine. Not so! The first issue I received (Winter 2010) inspired me so much.
I seem to question this homecoming vocation on a daily basis, and I too often assumed that veteran moms were much more secure in their mothering/homeschooling shoes. Yet, the winter issue helped me to know I’m not alone in my doubts. It’s many a homeschooler’s daily bread. Every day I have to reaffirm my beliefs as to why we are choosing homeschooling for our family right now. This magazine helps me to do just that. It also has curriculum resources, sample unit studies, and feature articles dedicated to making school at home run more smoothly.
Pondered in my Heart
This is the personal blog of a Catholic homeschooling mom of seven that never ceases to inspire me. This post on strategies for early readers was very helpful, and my oldest (a budding artist) and I were in awe of the joy of watercolors her family brought to life. (Inspired by this post, I recently bought her some Yarka watercolor paints for her birthday since she asked for a “real” art kit. No Crayola for my little Monet.)
Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home* by Elizabeth Foss
This is one of those books that I marked all over. It’s also a book I will revisit year after year whether we decide to continue to homeschool or not. Elizabeth is a veteran homeschooler and a mom of nine. She’s also a wonderful writer who encourages as much as she inspires. I first discovered Charlotte Mason through her, and Real Learning is a great resource for any home educator wishing to introduce her children to “living books” and nature study, but it’s so much more and would be a worthy addition to any mom – homeschooling or not – who wishes to create a peaceful and happy home environment.
The chapters read like conversational essays and cover everything from battling burnout to children and chores. Since distance and circumstances prevent me from sharing the joys and challenges of motherhood over a cup of tea with Elizabeth, I have to settle for reading (and re-reading) her wisdom. Passages like the one below are ones I return to when I’m in need of a little pick-me-up or a gentle reminder to take a deep breath and let God in:
“If we shatter time into into tiny fragments we cannot be fully present in it. We cannot be conscious that our work is a prayer and find the sacred in the ordinary. We cannot feel the presence of God. To go even further, if we bustle along at this pace, we are not readily available to the people in our lives either. And, finally, we are on the short track to burnout, the inability to see, or hear, or feel, or sense the joy that is abundantly present in everyday life. We are simply too tired, too stressed, too preoccupied.”
Science At Home
This former science teacher shares lots of creative and often simple ideas on how to make science come alive for your children. She also offers a free e-book called Young Scientists geared toward parents that has tons of tips on how to teach science to your kids.
This wonderful website’s slogan says it all: “Never let your schooling interrupt your education.”
Simply Charlotte Mason
A great online resource of fans of CM.
This is another personal blog of one talented and creative homeschooling mom. She shares free Catholic coloring pages, ideas for garden parties, and other domestic and learning inspiration.
The Well-Trained Mind* by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
This is a must-have resource for every home educator, especially those wishing to embrace the Classical approach to education or at least marble in bits here and there. This book has been invaluable to me in helping me choose various resources, especially for reading and math. It also gave me ideas on how to structure my day and exactly how long we should be gathered around doing “real” schooling.
Natural Structure: A Montessori Approach to Classical Education At Home by Edward and Nancy Walsh
This book shows how to combine two methodologies into your homeschool. The book also briefly discusses the history of the Montessori and Classical methods as well as details on how both can provide a solid foundation in the Catholic education of a child. There are lots of photos that show you how to set up your school room, and the book also includes some sample activities.
Okay…I know I’m leaving some homeschooling resources out. I discover new ones nearly every day, and there are just so many helpful books and websites out there. This might just deserve its own post one of these days. But for now, I will add that when I need some humor and a realistic look into homeschooling that doesn’t always involve perfect crafts or seamless days, I enjoy reading Minnesota Mom and Rosetta Stone. Both of these veteran homeschooling moms are inspiring while keeping it real (and hilarious).
On my nightstand now:
The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Soule of Soule Mama(NOTE: I will never sew or be quite as artsy as this mom, but I love her philosophy, and some of her ideas – like having regular theatrical performances – aren’t too difficult or messy to orchestrate.)
Discipline that Lasts a Lifetime by Ray Guarendi
Rewards for Kids by Virginia M. Shiller
I’ve never a big fan of stars and charts, but one of my friends who has her Ph.D. in school psychology and is a licensed psychologist highly recommended this book and encouraged me to see the distinction between bribes and rewards. There is a difference, and the book helps you understand it. It’s also full of creative chart/reward ideas. My preschooler loved putting animals in the zoo when we were working through a certain behavioral issue (every day she went without hitting, she got to put an animal sticker on a black and white drawing of a zoo).
Simplicity Parenting* by Kim John Payne
I’m not finished with this one yet (I squeeze in reading it between my novels and a spiritual book), but so far it definitely ranks among my favorites.
On my wish list:
Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry) by Lenore Skenazy (I love Skenazy’s Free Range Kids blog.)
Parenting With Graceby Gregory and Lisa Popcak
Believe it or not, I actually had more books I wanted to share, but I’m losing steam (forgive any typos; I didn’t have the time or frankly the energy to proof all this). Some other book “genres” I’d like to include down the roads perhaps are books that fall under “creative inspiration” (crafting books, etc.) and “heavenly inspiration” (books like that encourage moms in their vocations as mothers and wives). In the meantime, what are some of your favorite parenting books?
The Fine Print: I participate in the Amazon Affiliate program. Therefore, if you click through an Amazon link on this post (or via any part of my blog) and make a purchase, I will receive a small credit from Amazon. As an extreme bibliophile, I’m very grateful for this credit and will use it to support my book habit as well as apply it to the cost of some necessities. We BUY everything on Amazon these days – skin lotion, snacks – you name it. :-)