Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book List for Junior High and High School

Recently I put out a Facebook call for "Must Reads" for high school students. I was looking for interesting, yet meaningful, reading material for my 11th- grader. Someone turned the tables and asked me what my recommendations were for Jr. High. I'm always up to creating a list so I couldn't pass up this request. :-)

The following isn't necessarily "Jr. High". Every child's reading level is different, and what one might read and comprehend in 7th grade another cannot grasp until 11th. With that in mind, here is a list of wonderful books my children and I have read, sometimes separately and sometimes aloud:

I really like historical fiction for my kids. It is a painless and interesting way to learn about history! My favorite set of books for this is the Trailblazer Series by Dave and Neta Jackson. They are fairly short and the authors tell you up front what part of the story is and isn't true. They make you feel like you know the historical figure. Many of them come with a study guide. Click here for a list of titles. I learned much more about Martin Luther through Spy for the Night Riders than I did in Bible History in college. (Maybe because it was more interesting.)

Other good books in this genre are:

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Christy by Catherine Marshall (Which is based on a true story with some creative license.)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

I really like Patricia St. John. Some of her books are Biblical Fiction like Twice Freed (The story of Onesimus) and The Runaway. Her books are a bit slow moving, but very meaningful and decidedly Christian.

My oldest daughter and I LOVE Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. (My youngest daughter didn't.) I consider it a must read. It is for a more experienced reader though.

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls is a really fun book. My mom told me for years I needed to read it to my kids. The title just didn't sound too interesting so I continued putting it off. What a mistake! It is a great book and fun read-a-loud. (There is a movie. Skip it and read the book instead.)

Little Professor of Piney Woods School by Beth Day. This is a must read for those living in Mississippi. Many of us have passed Piney Woods School on highway 49 for years without knowing its very interesting and godly heritage. Great story!

Classics we enjoyed include:

Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
In His Steps by Charles Sheldon (This book had a major impact on my life as a teenager.)
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (Very intense…high school students)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I recently re-read this. Absolutely one of the best books EVER! Definitely high school level)
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (I consider this a "must read" not because it is an oh-so-wonderful book, but because the movie is such a classic and American icon that students ought to read the original story and compare the differences.)

Other "Must Reads" though not classics:

These Strange Ashes by Elisabeth Elliot
Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
End of the Spear by Steve Saint
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (This is probably an elementary age book, but I still consider it one of the best Christmas stories out there.)
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (High School students only because of the nature of the story. This is absolutely one of the best books I have ever read!)

Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling . I realize they are highly controversial among Christians. I've read or heard all the pros and cons. I wouldn't allow my older two children to read them until they were grown. Then they put up the argument, "How can you condemn something you've never read?" I allowed my oldest daughter to read the first aloud to me and my then 13 year old. What can I say? I was hooked! Right or wrong, they are excellent read-a-louds and very entertaining. If all you've seen is the movies you don't have a good picture of the books. They do get "darker" as they progress, and I would NOT recommend them for pre-teens or younger. But I have to be honest, we really enjoyed them.

Another great read-a-loud is A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. They are so impossibly tragic you can't take them seriously. I love the author's use of language and way with words.

My all time favorite children's book series is Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (There are also spin-off series about her parents and grandparents.) Skip the tv series and read the books.

Arleta Richardson has a collection of books about Grandma's Attic. They are delightful, humorous, and innocent. They may be difficult to find, but they are worth the effort. These are good for younger kids too.

That's my list so far. I'm sure new things will pop into my mind throughout the day.

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 23, 2011

That First Step

"I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry." That was my mantra yesterday as my 23 year old son prepared to leave for his new life-adventure. He just accepted a job in Florida. You'd think that his five years in college would have prepared me for this letting go. He's lived in his own apartment for the last year, and his busy schedule prevented his dad and I from seeing him that often. Still, he was a college student then, only an hour away. Today he is a man; a man leaving for his first "real" job. A man about to live 0ver 500 miles from "home". A man making his own "home".

This is not his first adventure into the world. Just over 23 years ago he made his grand entrance - at 5:30 am. A few weeks before his arrival I remember thinking how difficult "letting go" would be. And it was painful, even with an epidural. Not just physically painful, but emotionally as well. He would no longer be a literal part of me. I might not always know exactly where he was or how he was doing. I wouldn't be aware of his every movement. Of course I wouldn't have stopped it for the world. There were exciting adventures to have and new discoveries to make. Many of these we made together. I cheered as he took his first steps and was his biggest fan during baseball season, basket ball season, football season. (You get the picture.)

Here I am at another "letting go". One an epidural won't even touch. My heart aches, my head aches, and, yes, I cried. (After he left.) Yet, this is not so much different from 23 years ago. He is moving a little farther from the influence and safety of "home" to a place less connected with my own life. Today I remind myself again I wouldn't stop this for the world. He has exciting adventures to have, more discoveries to make, new goals to achieve. And just as I cheered his first step across the floor, I will cheer this first step across the world.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

No Words

We've exhausted the English language trying to describe Your indescribable mercy, love, and grace. We use words like "awesome", "incredible", "marvelous", "wonderful", "overwhelming" in an attempt to put what You have done for us into words. Our vocabularies just aren't big enough. Our attempts at description are feeble. Our efforts just overuse those few really great words leaving us speechless and inadequate and, I hate to confess, not as in awe of You as we should be. We've heard those descriptions time and again so that they have lost their punch so to speak. Phrases like "Amazing grace how sweet the sound" are no less true, they've just become so easy to say without any emotion at all. What a tragedy! Please, Lord, take these words - they are all we have - and give them meaning again. Refreshen our faith. Give us a glimpse of Your splendor. Waken Your sleeping church from her apathy. Pierce our hearts with the magnitude of Your sacrifice and the power of Your resurrection. May we be truly overwhelmed by Your love for us.
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Advocate

My Advocate

April 6, 2011

Note: I’ve heard it said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” 1 The truth of the matter is, if one person’s freedoms can be taken, then no one’s freedoms are safe. You may or may not agree with home-education, but if you value the freedom to raise your children as you see fit, and if you value the freedom to serve God as you feel convicted, then you should be concerned when a district Judge steps outside the law to violate someone’s privacy and rights. And besides, that’s not really what this article is about. J

On April 2, 2011 all homeschooling families in Mississippi’s 13th district received a letter of notification that could very well have been the first step of the proverbial “Slippery Slope” - a slope that might endanger the rights of parents to home-educate their children in Mississippi. I wasn’t particularly concerned for my own “student” who only has to legally be enrolled one more year. 2 I was more upset about the intrusion into my privacy and the threat against this beautiful freedom we enjoy. I was concerned about my future grandchildren’s education and if my children would even have the right to home-educate if they so chose. I saw an injustice in the making - an overstepping of the judicial powers of big government, and I was not a happy camper. My first course of action? Worry. (Which always seems to be my default response.) Prompted by fear and indignation I began contacting other home-schooling families to see what they knew. Upon pooling our information it became clear that some counter legal action was needed. But what kind? How would you go about that? Who should be contacted? How much would such a thing cost? My anxiety level was on the rise.

Enter Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

For twenty-five years HSLDA has been defending the cause of America’s home-educators. For a nominal yearly fee they stand on guard protecting our rights and advocating on behalf of those who find themselves in legal battles over trampled civil liberties in the area of home-schooling. Always in compliance with State laws in a home-school friendly state I’d never given HSLDA much thought – until now.

Yesterday morning I called HSLDA and joined. By evening I received a kindly phone call from their legal team telling me what they knew about the case and assuring me they had been hard at work on the issue. All necessary papers had been drawn and filed. All parties involved had been notified of the intent to fight this rights violation. They had everything under control, and there was nothing for me to do but relax and let them handle it. I can’t describe my relief. They were knowledgeable about what I didn’t understand. They had power where I was powerless. They had contacts where I knew no one. A weight was lifted. Someone in the know was in charge.

As I breathed one more sigh of relief and gratitude this morning I thought about another Advocate3 I have. One I should turn to at the first sign of trouble but don’t always. One Who is powerful where I am weak, knowledgeable about all things, and has connections all over the world and beyond. One Who patiently waits to intervene on my behalf if I will just ask. He says to me, “I have done all that is necessary. I have everything under control. I’ve been working diligently behind the scenes. You don’t have to do anything except relax and let Me handle it.”

What a relief! And He paid the fee Himself!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”4

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”5

1 Attributed to various people including Voltaire and Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

2 Students may opt to drop out of school at the age of 17 in Mississippi.

3 Job 16:19

4 Matthew 11:28

5 1 Peter 5:7

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What am I giving up for Lent?

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Facebook had numerous mentionings of it. Several are actually surrendering Facebook during this 40-day period before Easter; others are sacrificing, well, the list is endless and doesn't really matter. Lent’s about sacrifice, right? Giving up something important as an act of worship, a reminder of Christ’s sufferings on our behalf, a clearing of “life-clutter” to create more time to focus on Him? I think it is a wonderful thing: self-sacrifice in order to grow closer to Christ. And the lists of things to give up, sacrifice, or fast from (however you want to word it) are legion. Facebook, television, secular music, Internet, alcohol, cigarettes, fast food, meat, sweets, soft drinks, new shoes, or anything that robs our time with God or replaces Him in our lives are good choices for the chopping block called Lent.

But I’ve been wondering….

What might please God more?

Giving up shopping trips or giving up grudges?

Forgoing Face Book or forgoing gossip?

Feeling chocolate cravings or feeling an overwhelming burden for the lost?

Leaving the TV. off or leaving our comfort zone to share God’s love with someone out of our social standing, religious convictions, or racial class?

Last year the Christian radio station K-Love gave a 40-day challenge to “do everything without complaining.” (Philippians 2:14) I opted out of the challenge. It was summer time in Mississippi and I knew, “It is SOOOOO hot!” would come out of my mouth numerous times. Giving up chocolate would have been easier.

This brings us back to the question. What am I relinquishing for Lent this year? I haven’t yet decided. Maybe nothing at all. (Just being honest.) I like what Barbie Bassett said, “As a Christian I am to deny myself daily.” Hmmmmm…. 365 days is a lot longer. Maybe I should choose sacrificing for Lent instead of daily for the rest of my life. (Is that even an option?) Also, if something has such a grip on me that it is worth giving up for 40 days, should it be in my life at all? These are the questions that plague me.

As I search for answers I’m reminded of two things:

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

“If I give all I posses to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3

Hopefully I’ll get it figured out before Easter.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why you should….What’s that called again?

What would happen if you bought a medium size waterproof container, filled it with cheap trinkets, hid it somewhere outside, determined its GPS coordinates, and then posted those coordinates on the Internet? People from all over would come and find it! They would sign their names on the log book you included in the container (because you want to know who found it), they would take a trinket from the container and leave something in return, they would later report their find on the internet, and they would go off to find other such hidden containers. Oh, and they would call it Geocaching! (“Geo” meaning “earth” and “cache” being a collection of things.)

I wish I could take credit for devising such a clever hide and seek game, but I can’t. I can tell you to visit to learn all about this high-tech scavenger hunt. (That’s where you find and post coordinates and log in your finds.) I am fairly new to the geocaching adventure, but I can tell you it is great fun, educational, and highly addicting!

You should go geocaching because:

1. It’s fun!

2. It’s fairly cheap as far as hobbies go. You probably already have what you need: Internet access to (where you can sign up for a free account), a GPS, gas in your vehicle, and a sense of adventure. Of course, like any hobby, you can spend lots of money on geocaching too. You can invest in special GPS’s and/or smart phone apps, you can pay for a premium membership, you can purchase special trinkets to place in caches and “official” gear, and you can drive all over the country. But you don’t have too. Chances are there are hundreds of caches within a day’s drive of where you live.

3. It’s cross-generational. I love it, my 16-year-old daughter loves it, and my 69-year-old father loves it! Because it is an ageless activity it creates great opportunities to bring families together.

4. It gives you something to do on those beautiful days when you want to be outdoors but you don’t own a boat or a membership to the country club.

5. It is educational. Well, it isn’t ALWAYS educational, but many caches are hidden in or around historical areas. One of our best “finds” wasn’t the actual cache (which was too small to contain anything except a log to sign), but the nearby church that was built in the mid-1800’s. We were able to go inside and sit in the slave balcony on the original benches. That had a profound affect on my 16-year-old and sparked some great discussion. Also, some variations of the geocache are non-traditional ones which aren’t containers, but places including geological treasures and historical sites. Because of this…

6. You never really know what you will find or where you will end up! That makes it quite adventurous!

7. It creates great memory-making opportunities… like going caching with good friends along the bank of the Mississippi River. Or when you and your daughter give up the search for a cache deep in the woods but your dad refuses to give up and you think he is truly lost because you can’t hear him any more. (He does make his way out only to trip over a fallen tree and land flat on his back. He’s ok though.)

8. You get to see some beautiful places. If you like photography then this is the hobby for you. Like I said, you never know what you will find. It could be that previously mentioned old church, or a beautiful sunset, or a most unusual magnolia tree, or gravestones marked CSA (Confederate States of America).

9. I’ll let you fill in #9!

If you decide to accept my challenge and sign a log sheet that has already been signed by Jeffcoat5….that’s me!

Happy Caching!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Race Update

Just wanted to let readers know that Kyle ran his 1/2 marathon in 2 hours 25 minutes! He was well pleased and so was I. He is already making plans for a couple more 1/2 marathons and a full one! Upon reading my previous post he commented,"That was sweet, Mom, but I'm really not eating better." I said he might increase his time if he did.

Hmmmm....I feel another inspirational thought coming. :-D

Thanks for all the well wishes.
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

At the Finish Line

My son is in New Orleans today running his first ½ marathon. I’m impressed! This is the son who loves chocolate chip cookies for supper and hates vegetables. This is the boy who hid his spaghetti under a bookcase when he was five and always has a little milk with his chocolate. Yet for months he’s been working out and training for this event. Even watching what he eats. (To some extent) I have no doubt he can do it, and I’m cheering him on all the way…from home. I want to be at the end of his 13.1-mile journey through the French Quarter to greet him at the finish line and applaud this accomplishment. I want to tell him how proud I am of his hard work, determination, and resolve to keep going. But I won’t be there. Obligations beyond my control prevent me.

I said this was my son’s first ½ marathon, but it isn’t his first race. When he was younger he decided to run the race of faith set before him by Christ, a race I myself started years before he was born. It too requires hard work, determination, and resolve to keep on keeping on. There are distractions, detractors, and detours on this path. Some places are smooth and scenic, and others contain rough, ugly terrain. And unlike a ½ marathon, we don’t really know how far it is to the end. We just have to keep our eyes on Jesus and run with perseverance the race set before us. Two things are certain, I know he can do it, and I will be at this finish line to welcome my son and applaud his accomplishment.

This is the most important race of our lives.

I love you, Kyle! See you there!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

© Drewe Llyn Jeffcoat 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011


I just loaded a blogger app and wanted to see if it really works.:-D
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Friday, January 21, 2011

A Mother's Heart Blessed by Her Daughter's....

God has been doing some amazing things in my daughter's life. I want to share it... (She'll be 16 this month!)