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Small Talk: Learning from My Children About What Matters Most {review}

Small Talk: Learning from My Children About What Matters Most is the latest book from author and blogger Amy Julia Becker. Becker takes moments (life) with her children and shares through a variety of topics. The book is broken up into three sections: Holding on with topics like Jesus, beauty and failure; Letting Go with topics like happiness and waiting; and Growing Up with topics like tragedy, forgiveness and, of course, listening.

small_talkIt is obvious Becker has listened and paid attention along the way, which is why the reader gets a sometimes funny and thought provoking read. Her observations are ones that may cause the reader to pay more attention to our children while they are in their presence. As they say, those moments will be fleeting and, before you know it, your children will be gone and you will wonder where they went.

I found the chapter about failure and the vegetable garden quite amusing. Becker makes us laugh at the expense of her, which is probably, because we can see a lot of ourselves in her. Becker simply explains her failure as the fact that she will never be the mother to her children, her mother was to her. Because of that, she may often appear to be less than perfect in the eyes of her children.

On the other hand, Becker does have some other explanations as to why she is the mother she is and those reasons are ones many mothers (like me) can relate to. That is the beauty and fun of reading through Small Talk. Becker is me and it is that connection that makes Small Talk fun to read and you rally behind the mother while also learning the importance of paying attention to the needs of your children…and just doing the best you can.

About the Book
Every day, one of Amy Julie Becker’s children says something that prompts her to think about life in a new way. “Mom, does Santa love me?” William asks, after his mother explains the meaning of Christmas…In a chat with her dad about the children who died in the Sandy Hook shootings, Penny asks, “Did they go to heaven?” …”You was a jerk, Mommy?” asks Marilee one morning in the car.
These conversations deepen Amy Julia’s relationships with her children, but they also refine her understanding of what she believes and what God is doing in her own life.

In Small Talk, Amy Julia draws from the wisdom and curiosity of those young voices to reflect on beauty and kindness, tragedy and disability, prayer and miracles. As she moves through the basic questions her kids posed when they were very young to the more intellectual questions of later childhood, she invites us to learn from our own day-to-day conversations with the children in our lives.

This eloquent parenting memoir is about the big questions little hearts ask, the thoughts their words provoke, and the laughter and soul-searching their honesty brings—to adult and child alike.small_talk01

About the Author
Amy Julia Becker writes about faith, family, and disability for, the New York Times Motherlode blog,, The Huffington Post parents page, Christianity Today, The Christian century, and numerous other publications. Her first book, A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny, was named one of the Top Ten Religion Books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly. Amy Julia lives in western Connecticut with her husband and three children.

Official Website: Small Talk

Amy’s Website: Amy Julia Becker

Independent binders

independent binder

Even before school started, I knew my biggest challenge this year was going to be figuring out how to keep two (and sometimes three) people busy with schoolwork, not with busy work, while I either worked with another child or completed some other daily-mommy/homemaker duty. I have been forever putting this same schedule on a spreadsheet (can’t get enough of Excel), but finally moved the idea to a school sheet that the children could use and follow themselves. Voila! The Independent binder.

There is nothing more to say (but I will anyway) other than it has been a success with the children and a burden/stress reliever for me. I have set up River and Lily using the independent binders with River having a little bit more independent work included in his binder because of his ability to complete more work alone . As the year progresses, I expect to be able to add a few more subjects to Lily’s binder.

independent binder

How I use the binder is I plan the material to be covered each week in all of their subjects. Some of the subjects included in the binders are also ones I cover with them, but there is other work in these subjects they can complete on their own, and that is what goes into the binder. Using the daily listings as a guide, I put together all of the material that will be used in the binder for the week. Although I do this, I still fill the binders everyday for each subject. Right now, our work is too daily specific where working ahead does not work well for us.

folders for an independent binder

I found these really cool plastic folders at an office supply store. Each folder has three pockets of only two we use for now.

independent binders

They also easily pop out of the binders without me having to open the binder rings and pull out the folder. I can slip in a new subject folder at anytime or easily remove one we don’t need for the day or the week. For now, I just leave it empty if there is no work for them in that subject for the day.

Once they finish the work, they return the assignment to the folder and check off that it is completed. Sometime throughout the day, I go through and check everything that they have completed. Any work that needs correction is placed back in their binders in the front flap pocket of the binder for them to correct the same day or they know to check it first the following day. They check that flap everyday before starting their independent work for the new day.

Our days have been running more smoothly. River and Lily often start their independent binders before our school day officially starts. At the beginning of each week (usually Sunday night), I go over anything that they might have questions about (ex: I cover River’s vocabulary words with him).

The remainder of their work that they complete with me is put into a separate binder (which I may share about later). I give them access to both binders, but only one is for them to work independently. Since they can see the work in both binders, this has eliminated the continuous questioning from them of how much more work needs to be done before “I’m FINISHED!”

So far, this is working well for us. Along with them feeling a sense of accomplishment when they finish their binders, it also warms my “home school heart” when I see them sitting quietly doing their work without any prompting. One for mommy!

Check out all the great bloggers in the Crew blog hop!

And be sure to visit a few of my blog friends:
Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy
Crystal @ Tidbits of Experience
Rebecca @ Raventhreads
Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool
Monique @ Living Life and Learning
Erin @ For Him and My Family
Lisa @ A Rup Life
Beth @ Weavings

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