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Review: Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup

Over the years Ruth Soukup has taught me much about topics ranging from blogging to dejunking to productivity. She’s an inspiring, enthusiastic person with a difficult past who writes to the average woman from the heart, who shares her own struggles, and who often points to Jesus. Besides that, she’s fun, authentic, and Dutch.

In her new book Do It Scared Ruth explains something she’s been living and talking about for years: courage is acting despite your fears instead of being immobilized by them. She describes various kinds of fears, shares hard won principles of courage, and outlines tested ways to turn the ideas into action.

After conducting an extensive survey, Ruth and her team identified seven ‘fear archetypes’, ways of letting fear rule your life. She discusses these in detail, explaining how each one of them has positive attributes, what habits they can lead to, the words we use to express them, how they can hold us back, how we can overcome them (reframe, take action, have accountability), and how to move past them.

I have never seen myself as a person ruled by fear (except the fear of wild driving and of accidentally eating gluten and causing all my celiac symptoms to return), but as I read about these fear archetypes, I realized something startling. I can identify with some of them and they have impacted my life negatively! Once I discovered this, I stopped reading merely because I like Ruth Soukup and realized that this book just might have something very important to say to me personally.

In the second section of the book, Ruth shares seven principles of courage. These do involve courage: dreaming big, daring to think for yourself, accepting responsibility for your choices, inviting accountability, working with your mistakes, setting priorities, and persevering. She’s encouraging but also tough, because reality is tough—and she reminds us just how hard it can be with inspiring stories of hardship overcome. Most of us know these principles of courage, but it is always good to be reminded of them and to see examples in action.

Finally, because the biggest practical antidote to fear is action, she discusses seven ways to turn courage into action. This section is about determining what it is we are called to do and how to go ahead and do those things. Ruth discusses goal setting, motivation, action plans, positive relationships, comparison, excuses, and celebrating wins, but this is not just standard goal-setting advice. (How often does that work anyhow?) Ruth’s personal take, her research, and her suggestions are actually more likely to help you achieve your goals.

As you can imagine, this is a very positive book. It is also grounded in reality. Although Do it Scared is not evangelistic as, for example, Unstuffed, (link to my review) Ruth’s thought is grounded in her Christian worldview even though she does sometimes use words that suggest the opposite. Yet it is sad that in a book this personal and deep she does not even touch on our sin or on the salvation Jesus provides.  She does not mention the fact that, as sinners, we cannot do it all ourselves and need to rely on God to be able to serve him.  However, it is obvious that this book is meant to be a practical encouragement to those who are unable to follow their callings because they are paralyzed with fear, and such encouragement from a fellow-Christian is valuable even though the gospel does not shine through.

Do it Scared is a very personal book and it is impacting me personally:

  • Although I have been living rather well with illness, I would very much like to be healthy. Even though health is most likely out of my grasp in this world, I could be more determined about striving for it and that would have its own benefits…as long as I approach it right. Just this weekend, for example, feeling better than usual and optimistically ignoring warning signs, I forgot to pace myself. I am currently paying the price for that. However, Ruth’s story of taking ownership of one’s responses is inspiring me to systematically analyze what went wrong, how to fix it, and what I can learn to minimize both the severity and length of future crashes and perhaps even eliminate them altogether.
  • Even though I am an experienced homeschooler, I always procrastinate on preparing the final high school records and often on planning. I could never figure out why; now I realize that I want these important things to be just right and that goal of perfection could be what is driving the procrastination.
  • When I become aware of a problem, I automatically think of all sorts of ways to address it and then try to apply several of them at once.  I’m realizing that it may be more effective to just choose the most important one and finish it before tackling the next ones.  Yes, I knew this before, but now I’m learning to actually do it.  So far, so good!

Some people do not seem to have an issue with fear; they just do things and let the chips fall where they may. The rest of us, however, can benefit from this book. Yes, it is scary to face the fact that we may have been acting in fear-based ways that negatively impact us, our families, and our service of God, but it may be a very important thing to face.  And once we realize this is a possibility, we can use Ruth’s practical suggestions to help us understand and apply the following texts to our lives.

2 Timothy 1:7 “…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

Yes, we will have to think for ourselves and evaluate the things Ruth says in light of the Bible, but reading Do It Scared could be one step toward learning how better to love the Lord and those around us. I recommend it to all.  In fact, even though I have a review PDF, I bought the hardcover book so that I can leave it lying around for my kids and others to discover.  You might want to do the same.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read, or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up. 

Disclosure: I received an advance review PDF of this book from Ruth Soukup.

This may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Fighting Quack Grass—and Sin

Every spring I come face to face with weeds in our garden. There are the little ones, easy to uproot and get rid of.

And then there’s quack grass.

quack grass

In the early spring it looks beautifully lush, soft, and green. It is possible to pull isolated clumps out, the ones that started from last year’s seeds, and sometimes the roots seem innocent.

But sometimes the nasty truth shows even with an isolated clump: This weed has long, energetic roots that creep far underground and pop up in unexpected places. You need to dig deep, feel for that tough white sinew, and pull it up along with all the new little plants it has started.

quack grass with roots

If you let things go for even a few summer months, you end up with a tangled mess of roots going everywhere with aggressive energy. There’s no solution but to chop up the sod, shake the dirt from it, and feed it to the chickens, because the roots would flourish in the compost pile. And then you need to go through the dirt with your hands, pulling up all the remaining roots of which there are usually many. Inevitably, I miss a few and the cycle starts again.

I think of Jesus’ comparisons of weeds and sin each spring when I pull up quack grass roots.   This is what sin is like. Even though sin may look good on the surface at first, it silently grows an all-encompassing underground web of evil which can—and eventually will—spread everywhere if it is not rooted up, year after year.

How do we deal with this mess in our own lives? We are able to fight it step by step, root by root, day after day because sin no longer defines us—Jesus saved us from that! Yet, sin is a far bigger problem than we can hope to manage even as Christians; its roots slip silently through our lives and surface in the most unexpected places. Thanks be to God for sending us his Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God for preparing good works, like footsteps, for us to walk in, and for promising a future where sin will be no more!

It is such a comfort to know that, now already, God leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake! Amen, Lord, and thank you!

Homeschooling Ideas from The Brainy Bunch: College Ready by Age Twelve

The Brainy Bunch by Kip and Mona Lisa Harding

You probably read that title and scratched your head. Really? College ready by age twelve? That must be only for geniuses. Besides, who would want that for their kids anyhow?

Kip and Mona Lisa Harding, parents of ten of whom the seven oldest entered college by age twelve, answer these questions and more in their upbeat book The Brainy Bunch.

They and their kids share their story, from their marriage at age 18 to their current life with ten kids. They discuss issues like: How does something like this actually happen in a family that insists they are not geniuses? What are their days like and what do they do? Isn’t it bad for 12 year olds to be in college?

Overview

The Hardings write about practical steps that worked for them, with details on what the children learn at age 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12. After breakfast and chores, the primary focus is on the Bible, and this is, obviously, fundamental. Next is math—the Hardings mention their curricula and online resources. The children write every single day (letters, journals, whatever) and they learn grammar as their parents proofread these things. Most of their other learning (English, History, Science) comes from reading, reading, reading. Foreign languages can be introduced but real competence comes from a kid’s interest and dedication.

The Hardings encourage their children to challenge contemporary ideas, to ask questions rather than just to memorize material, and to mix and merge subjects because that is how life works. “More than being able to memorize random facts, we want them to become critical thinkers and know how to ask the right questions.”

Kip and Mona Lisa are convinced that academics are not everything. Emotional maturity and social awareness are just as important. They ensure that their children know home is a safe place for laughing and crying. They also teach them to identify, assess and control their emotions while in the university classroom, keeping themselves together emotionally until they get home. (Such emotional maturity is something many university students have a hard time with these days; all parents should be teaching their kids these ‘emotional intelligence’ skills.) They also teach them social awareness, knowing how to dress, when to speak up, when to be quiet, how to seek out the person who is being left out in a group, how to show empathy.

In her chapter on tough times, Mona Lisa points to God over and over. She also points to Kip who pointed her to God during financial stresses, marriage stresses, moves, night school, and children’s illnesses. Elsewhere, she explains, “Even when things are really bad, he shows the kids and me how to be thankful for our salvation and to count our blessings.”

Mona Lisa’s attitude is amazing: “It was so much fun trying to keep one step ahead of him,” she says of one of her children. Note that this is a mom who had a houseful of other children to care for, tiny university students to chaperone, and often a part time job as well. Obviously she has good health but her positive, godly approach to life is an inspiration.

The Harding kids write that they learned how to learn, how to find their own answers, how to research, how to deal with getting the wrong answer and to keep searching for the right one, how to accept responsibility for the mistakes they had made, and how to fix them.

The Brainy Bunch contains an annotated homeschool and family resource list that would work for all families, homeschooling or not. They recommend and discuss supplies, books, people, movies, music, ideas on education, and websites. They also share a transcript form and a schedule.

Helpful Homeschooling Ideas

The Brainy Bunch is full of effective approaches to the homeschooling life. As I ponder Kip and Mona Lisa’s story, it seems to me that the following aspects are part of their success as a family and as homeschoolers:

  • Remember, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
  • The parents’ attitude is upbeat, down to earth, common sense, and full of scripture, and they work together.
  • Kip is intimately involved with the children. To keep their oldest, Hannah, occupied while he was studying calculus, he taught her some practical aspects of the subject at age four! This set her on a road to accelerated learning.
  • Kip’s pep talks continue to encourage all the kids. The Hardings talk about ‘positive ambition’ and nurture their kids’ motivation.
  • The family works together—everyone has chores—and they eat together. They recognize that mealtimes can be a golden opportunity to help boost the emotional intelligence of children and teens, and they capitalize on that. They also discuss ideas, share thoughts, ask questions, and so stimulate critical thinking.
  • They help their kids make well-informed choices, passing vision on to their kids and realizing that confidence can be contagious.
  • They encourage kids to work hard at their interests, and their young teens often became leaders at college despite the age gap.
  • They believe strongly in dual enrollment and in applying to university at as early an age as possible, but they are also fine with poorer grades at university—these are not molly-coddled kids who cannot handle a ‘C’ grade.
  • Whenever an opportunity or challenge comes up, the family asks, “What is the worst thing that could happen?” If it is not the end of the world, then they pray and often go for it.
  • They play outside and enjoy walking as a family. This and the lack of ‘twaddle’ in such accelerated schooling reminds me of some of Charlotte Mason’s ideas.
  • Because learning works best if it is interesting to the learner, Mona Lisa shows how to build learning onto video games, how to set learning goals with your child, how to deal with internet temptation (‘the real secret to success in life is to overcome temptation’).

Some Comments

Having homeschooled for decades, I have a few comments:

Often nowadays, screens detract from education itself as well as from the constant reading and active living that lead to the greatest learning, but of course it is also possible to use screens positively in education. That requires parents who enforce careful rules and kids who listen to them. It also requires parents who let their kids explore once their kids have learned that ‘entertainment-oriented fun’ is not as much fun as learning.

Even though I would not want a 17 year old to attend university, a 12 year old faces an entirely different situation with less peer pressure and is therefore probably safer than the older teens. Also note that the Hardings were careful to chaperone their young university students.

The Harding’s way of learning reminds me of the old, very successful Robinson method, with bits of delight-directed learning added in.

Conclusion

Throughout this book, I see two God-fearing parents who understand and apply biblical wisdom in their own lives, and I think that is, ultimately, the basis for their children’s success. What is startling is that both Kip and Mona Lisa had difficult childhoods due to either divorce and death, both became Christians at a young age, and both were only 18 when they got married. “Looking back, I remember how we had such a childlike faith…we trusted that God would take care of us. He always has.”

The other thing I notice is that they actively grew in their faith through their challenging lives, not settling for the status quo but encouraging each other to serve the Lord. Despite listing one amazing academic achievement after another, The Brainy Bunch nonetheless shows a happy, cohesive, well-adjusted family; the main reason for this seems to be that the parents love the Lord, obey his Word, and love each other.

In fact, this book was terribly inspiring to me, not because of the idea of getting our kids into university at 12 (our kids are past that age anyhow) but because of the parents themselves.

The Brainy Bunch is practical, detailed, and upbeat, and the family’s example of a godly attitude, marriage, and family can inspire all. If you need a bit of encouragement and refreshment in your homeschooling journey, this book will deliver both.

For more information or for a consultation with the Hardings see the The Brainy Bunch website.

If you enjoyed discussion, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up

Disclosure: I borrowed The Brainy Bunch from our library and am not compensated for this discussion.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Christian Homemakers, Friendship Friday.

Books: Clouds and Nature Photo Essays

Sometimes when I go out into nature I don’t know what to look for or even what I’m looking at. I need someone with knowledge to be my guide, but such guides are hard to find.

Books can help, though. Two books that I have read recently help me to understand, give me vocabulary, and show me things I would never have thought to look for.

The first is Extraordinary Clouds by Richard Hamblyn, a little volume of astounding cloud pictures. You cannot imagine the kinds of clouds God makes! Truly, the skies do proclaim the works of his hands. Each photograph in the book has a short description, like a friendly guide showing you what is important and helpful. Quite a few of the cloud photos are from the Cloud Appreciation Society, a site worth checking out. The author also wrote The Invention of Clouds (link to my review) about the man who developed our current cloud naming system and made the systematic study of clouds possible.

(On the topic of clouds, here is a gorgeous time lapse cloud film, The Invitation by Davo Laninga.)

The second book is Beauty Everywhere, a collection of nature photo essays by naturalist Myrna Pearman. Based on a monthly column, this book showcases Pearman’s photographs and discusses topics from moose, squirrels, and chickadees, to aspen clones, how birds stay warm in winter, and what can be seen while travelling down back roads. She has some magnificent photos! She also has some very personal words about how she is humbled by nature and overwhelmed with awe at the things she is privileged to see and experience.

Beauty Everywhere by Myrna Pearman

Beauty Everywhere by Myrna Pearman

Have you read any good books about nature that are like experienced guides taking you by the hand on a tour of their specialty? If so, please let me know!

These are the kind of books that could be used as homeschool science and math reading for all ages.

If you enjoyed these mini-reviews, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up

Disclosure:I borrowed Extraordinary Clouds from our library and Beauty Everywhere via Interlibrary Loan.

This article may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Christian Homemakers, Friendship Friday.

Preview: Women’s Health: Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good

Women’s health is complicated, largely because of incessantly fluctuating hormones. Although these hormones, as well as many other factors, define a woman’s health, much women’s health advice centers mainly on reproductive issues. On the other hand, Women’s Health from Traditional Cooking School discusses many more aspects, providing Healthy recipes, tips and info so you can look good, feel good and do good.

Although this is a large course, with 18 lessons, dozens of videos, and a 376 page course book, I thought I could go through it in a short time, apply some of it, and write an objective and informed review in time for Mother’s Day. After all, I’ve been interested in general health issues and women’s health issues for decades, so I thought there wouldn’t be all that much for me to learn.

I was wrong. After reading the course book, I have not just a few, but over a hundred action items, from recipes to try and books to read to new approaches to research and consider! There’s no way I can write a thorough, personalized review at this point.

So far all I can say is that this is a thorough course. What it teaches agrees with what I’ve learned elsewhere, and it’s full of concepts that tie those isolated practices together. It gives reasons, cautions, and explanations. It is both practical and spiritual, focusing on equipping women to be healthy so that they can serve God better.

When you take your health in hand, you begin to look better and feel better—from the inside out—and then you do more good in your life and in your family’s life…all for God’s glory. (6)

In Women’s Health, ten authors discuss nutrition; herbs and essential oils; healthy habits; what every woman needs to know; balancing hormones; PMS and dysmenorrhea; weight loss and insulin resistance; adrenal and thyroid health; natural remedies; infertility, PCOS, and endometriosis; sexual health; natural pregnancy and birth choices; pregnancy nutrition; natural remedies for pregnancy difficulties; the joy of breastfeeding; nutrition and exercise when breastfeeding; natural remedies for postpartum; menopause and beyond.

That’s a full list, and each of the topics is discussed carefully. Probably no one will agree with everything in Women’s Health, want to try all of it, or even want to know all of it. But it’s always good to know what’s out there, and I love it that in this course concepts and recommendations are filtered through the eyes of other Christian women, some of them health professionals. I love it that the express goal is to help us strengthen our bodies so that we can serve God better.

One can read the course book in a relatively short time, but to watch the videos, try the ideas, and actually build its practices into your life will take time, several months at minimum. The pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum chapters can, obviously, be applied over the course of a year, and the whole book is helpful from puberty to menopause and beyond. As such it is a long-term kind of course, but even just applying what would be helpful at the moment requires sourcing supplies (there is a very helpful list of resources), learning new ideas, practicing new techniques, and developing new habits. This book could change your life for the better, but lasting change is never quick.

Who would this course be for?

  • Women’s Health is a treasure for any woman, young or old, who wishes to understand her body more thoroughly, to care for it better, or to get well. The course is from a Christian point of view, unlike most women’s health resources. It also is based on the idea that natural food, practices, and approaches are preferable to our society’s conventional ones.
  • I suspect this course would not be ideal for women who are not interested in natural health, do not want to take charge of their own health, or have no time to invest in their health (although that in itself is a bit of a danger sign.)
  • Even though the information in this course is thorough, well-explained, and valuable, I am still deciding whether or not it would be suitable for my teen girls since it is obviously written for married women. At minimum it will be helpful for me to pass on useful health tips, and it could perhaps be a significant section of a high school health course.

As I said, I had planned to write a thorough, personal review for Mother’s Day, describing what our family tried. That is not going to happen. However, this outline and summary may help you decide whether or not this course would be a good fit for you or a good gift for a loved one for Mother’s Day. If you are interested in increasing your own health or that of loved ones in a natural way, I highly recommend Women’s Health.

You can buy lifetime access to the ebook or the entire course. Alternatively, you can invest in a few months of Traditional Cooking School, download the Women’s Health ebook as you go through the course, and explore the other products as well, but if you choose this route, make sure you do it when you have spare time to devote to learning! I also recommend Fundamentals 1 and Fundamentals 2 and you may wish to begin with them, depending on your family’s current health situation.

I hope to provide a follow-up article later on in the year to share how we have been using this course in our family.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to  friend me on Facebook where I show up once in a while , or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure:  I have received a free membership to Traditional Cooking School in order to review several of the courses.

This article may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Christian Homemaking, Friendship Friday.

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