Top Ten Reads 2019

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What is a Girl Worth by Rachael Denhollander

Quote from my review:

“The quote from one of the women that testified in court was stated in this book, and it stuck with me. “Perhaps you have figured it out by now. Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”

This woman writing the story enabled many, many women to testify against their abuser. I believe this story will continue to inspire many more to speak out against abuse in every way. We are not seeking revenge, but justice and safety for every child.”

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How much is a Little Girl Worth by Rachael Denhollander

You’re beautiful, worthy, and you should be loved
Because of all that you are.
Different from anything else in the world,
You are precious beyond the stars.”

A book that is applicable to both young and old, male and female, and will have you choking up if you try to read it aloud. Worth every penny to buy.

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One Woman Falling by Melanie Campbell

“It is rare that a novel is written talking about the topic of domestic violence in an accurate way without being too graphic or not very accurate.
Take a walk through the life of a woman experiencing domestic violence and her journey to safety, done in one of the best ways I have ever seen in a novel. The author did her research when she wrote this book, and while some, the fear would be that this book could cause triggers to arise. I would say that this book will be empowering for you. It will can help you go through the steps of seeing the abuse, achieving safety, Finding hope and establishing new patterns. This is a manual packed into a novel without feeling like you got preached at.
It is also an amazing story.”

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The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden 

“I loved the history with Washington politics, Good Housekeeping, and also the secondary characters with blindness. I am so thankful to people that fought to have ingredients disclosed on labels for us. I am really excited to see this is a series as well, as I want to know more about the siblings.”

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As the Light Fades by Catherine West 

“This story was so meaningful to me. She shows how a realistic women’s fiction story can be inspiring and not depressing in the least bit. I loved every second of reading it and highly recommend it.”

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The Pages of Her Life by James L Rubart 

“Do you ever read a book and stop to wonder if it was written just for you (but you know it wasn’t)?

I can’t count many times I did that with this book. I was sitting there, absorbing the story and thinking about how real and just amazingly deep this story was.”

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Educated by Tara Westover

“It is weird when you read a book that you relate to so well, without feeling like she placed blame where it was not due.
I would say if there is a tone to describe a book, this one is gentle…..
She told her story of her journey. The stories of her family, which I was not surprised to see a backlash from her family that believe they are doing what is right, and she did not judge them, but protected herself by having to be separate from them.”

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Broken Heart Strings by Staci Stallings

If there can be an author that combines non-fiction and fiction, it is Staci Stallings. I learned so much from this novel in addressing hard life issues. You walk through it with Nelson and Paige.  I loved the way the teacher was teaching with film as well.

 

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Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay 

“If you are a book lover, a book that features other book lovers warms your heart. This book is totally that way.
The author takes a story of friendship surrounding books that will make you wish the bookstore truly exists somewhere. One thing that is unique about this story is that none of the characters have it “all together”. They have messed up, some more than others. They were not really destined to be friends, until life throws them together.

Love, forgiveness and finding what is truly important in life are the themes of this novel. It is published as Christian fiction, but it is more for the thread of hope, love and forgiveness throughout the novel than for sermons, bible verses and quotes.

I found myself wanting to highlight portions of the novel and remember what was said. I would highly recommend it.”

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An Hour Unspent by Roseanna White 

This book has such an intriguing hero that he overshadows the heroine. I loved the history, but also the family that chose themselves.

 

 

 

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The Realities of the Holiday Season

Lights. Cookies Baking. Sitting by the fireplace.

Many times when you think of the holidays, they may revolve around family, food or traditions.

What do I think of when I think of the holiday season?

This year, I am working hard, as not only do I run my own business, but I work part time  as a prep person for a private Amazon seller.

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Home Rental 

Paychecks were late coming in, so I am thinking about bills, making sure I got to the bank on time as well.

Many days, I wake up early and while not all the work is paid, I am working until late at night. A comment yesterday, a derogatory one, set me back on my heels wondering if I am making a difference at all.

As a single parent, I know I am not alone. I work three part time jobs to make ends meet. I am on call 24/7 and don’t get breaks for holidays. If I don’t work, we don’t have money. I am doing well, so we don’t get Christmas handouts, and we are fine with that.

This is a bit of a montage of what the realities of my holidays look like.

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My son playing basketball

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We watch a lot of basketball this time of year.

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My book pile that I may or may not have time to read.

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Does this look like a potluck? Nope. History Class. We were studying the Titanic and had a food related class.

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The sign was a gift from a grateful student at one of my part time jobs that I do as a teacher. I teach History and Science.

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CPR Class certification that I set up for my students. We had some brilliant teachers.

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Plug cover missing from a rental where I did move out, new lease signing, repairs and other things to get it ready for the next occupant.

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Ravioli Making Day! 40 dozen raviolis made!

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Aren’t they pretty?

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A new occupant for our home. We have wanted one for awhile, but it was not something we were able to do until now.

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A box, from one of the many boxes of items that came in and out of the house. This one had a ruptured bottle in it. It caused many issues for me, and Ulta doesn’t have the best customer service, I have learned.

Lights? Fireplace sittings? Decor?

No. Not for me. There are so many expectations of the holiday season. Cooking, cleaning, baking and the like. I am aiming for survival and doing ok at it. I am unpacking my life issues with this time of the year as well. I am seeking to volunteer where I can to make a difference in the lives of others.

People may make their comments, because my house is not perfect, my life doesn’t look like everyone else’s and I struggle to get everything done. But in the end, I am thankful and grateful for what we do have. I have work. I have a home. I have heat.

I have the ability to enjoy life with my boys and those are the things that really matter.

 

If you are someone that is facing life this holiday season alone, as I know many of you are, I am standing with you. I know life is hard. I know it is hard to see all the photos of the beauty of Christmas at times.

My reality framed in a different way could look totally different. I could make it sound romantic and amazing. In reality, my house ends up filled with packing material, cardboard and dirty dishes that I don’t have time to take care of. Yet, I am thankful. I am thankful that I am free from a life of oppression. I am free to get a cat. I am free to leave the dishes if I need to. Freedom doesn’t come at a low cost, there is always pain in it.

But in the end, that is what the meaning of this season is to me. It is about freedom and reclaiming what is lost.

 

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With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book:

 

As a young soldier lies dying in Lizzie’s arms, she vows to relay his final words to his mother, but knows little more than the boy’s first name. That same night, decorated Mississippi sharpshooter Captain Roland Ward Jones extracts a different promise from Lizzie: that she intervene should the surgeon decide to amputate his leg.

Lizzie is nothing if not a woman of her word, earning the soldiers’ respect as she tends to the wounded within Carnton’s walls. None is more admiring than Captain Jones, who doesn’t realize she is pledged to another. But as Lizzie’s heart softens toward the Confederate captain, she discovers that his moral ground is at odds with her own. Now torn between love, principles, and promises made, she struggles to be true to her heart while standing for what she knows is right—no matter the cost.

From the pages of history and the personal accounts of those who endured the Battle of Franklin, Tamera Alexander weaves the real-life love letters between Captain Roland Ward Jones and Miss Elizabeth Clouston into a story of unlikely romance first kindled amid the shadows of war.

 

My Review:

As always, the tale set in the time of the brutal war is beautifully captured in this novel set with a caregiver of soldiers. It has some detail that would be hard for sensitive readers to read, but not in an excessively graphic way, but more giving you the raw details.

There was so much of this that happened in history and reading a novel like this will open students, parents and others eyes, while enjoying a truly well written novel.

 

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One Thing I know by Kara Isaac

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

My Review:
A trope of being forced to keep a secret is not always my idea of a great book as I am generally screaming at the author, “Just let her tell him.”
This one did a good job of not making me as frustrated because the writing is so good. I love her characters. They are real. Rachel wasn’t seeking out romance, fame or the limelight. She wanted to write and that is what she did well.
This more unique story will make you think that you love contemporary stories and will want to read all her other books too.

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A Song Unheard by Roseanna White

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

My Review:

Roseanna White has a talent for pulling you into a story. This one was harder for me to catch up and get into, but once you did, the family pulled me in and made a part of theirs.

There is danger, intrigue, music and some romantic threads in these stories that will make you want to get all her books. Plus, the cover are really beautiful as well.

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Stress. Anxiety. Self-Doubt.

What do these words have in common?

They often are buzz words that we hear today, driven by a society that leaves us little time to reflect.

How do we change it? Does it mean because they are buzz words, they are inaccurate?

A relative was telling me how anxiety is the plague of the modern generation. They are fearful of things that are not something to be afraid of. It is controlling their lives to the point that they are disabled by it. Does that mean the anxiety is not real?

No.

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The reality is our lives are fast paced. We are on a hamster wheel that we have created for our society, but we are unable to get off.

We spend energy on things like not using rain water collection, restricting raw milk, and other laws that have had good reasons, but waste people’s time and energy in forcing the matter.

We have a higher need than ever for people that have Emotional Support Animal’s, but some people care more about themselves than anyone else around them. Other people care so little for themselves, they will do anything for someone else, but restrict their mercy to others, and will not extend it to themselves.

So how can we change our lives?

This is the million dollar question that no one seems to have the answer to.

I work three different jobs at the moment, plus a side job as a doula.  I am making a living, but at what cost?

How will my health be affected?

Yesterday I went to get my oil changed. They always take forever, but I enjoy it. It is like a mini vacation. You are stuck in a comfortable chair with your book, free wi-fi, tea and snacks.

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I got to thinking though. If this is the closest we get to relaxing, reflecting and slowing down, is this the way we want to live?

I live fairly simply. But for example, my phone stopped charging well recently. I investigated what it would cost to replace it. I could get a used one, that may die again in about a year, or I could spend over $600 for the bottom of the line phone on a similar system to what I am used to. They offer a payment plan, which is not something I am ok with usually, so it irritates me. Why I am trapped now, in a society where if I do not have a good cell phone that meets my needs, I could lose my business.

It is a business expense, but one that I was not counting on the moment.

Expenses that come up like this can drain you of energy, but also make you feel slightly trapped.

What is the answer?

I long at times for reducing my expenses to a minute amount where I can be earning less and thriving more.

I am mystified at this battle I am engaged in.

Recently I had to decline going to something I wanted to go to because I had a previous engagement. Do you know what the previous engagement was?

It was my shower. Yes, I had been battling to find time to take a shower, in bussing kids to college, running bank disbursements to the bank, mailing packages, dealing with delinquent UPS drivers that missed packages, settling insurance claims, and just the basic stuff, it is the really basic stuff that gets missed. When it comes time where I have to schedule a shower and eating in so it can get done, it is to a point that is not healthy.

Last night I woke up at 4 am in a pool of sweat from anxiety. I walked the house to make sure everything was ok, which it was, but the temp in the home was about 50’s-60’s. It was not hot.

On the surface though, I am here. I am thriving. I am keeping up. I am “amazing”. I am working hard. I am here for everyone else. I love that, but I also don’t want to collapse and fail.

What are the answers you have found to reduce Stress, Anxiety and other evils of daily life?

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First World Blindness?

I was listening to a speaker give a talk recently and had thoughts flood through my brain.

I started scribbling notes as I thought, and figured I could share them with you all.

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We live a fairly sheltered life when it comes to poverty, many people would say. But still in that, comes a certain amount of blindness to the kinds of poverty we have here.

My mom is visiting Africa right now, and no, our poverty looks different than it looks there.

(You can find some of her adventures here on “Adventures of a Midwife”)

This was a new kitchen that she shared a photo of.

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For us, in most First world countries, we would be thinking that this was not something we could live with.

This would not be a grocery experience that we would think was adequate.

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I often see posts on social media how they can’t make ends meet, or make their special diets work. They have to have gluten free, dairy free, soy free, nut free, low carb and the like. I am not anti-special diets. They are needed to help people remain healthy. But sometimes I think, we allow our mentality and freedom to choose take away our common sense.  I think sometimes reframing how we think about nutrition and food, and what we think we “need”, we could be much healthier eating simply.

What if we walked everywhere? Could you eat rice, beans and squash every day?

What if you only ate what you could grow in your yard? Would you take the time to cultivate your yard more?

I struggle with this as I lack time. I am so busy working to survive, that I don’t have the time to often do everything needed like that. But what if I simplified things, so that I needed less, and gained time?

Often when you hear people talk about saving money in the USA, at least, we hear the old adages.

“Stop ordering coffee once a week and you will save $260 a year.”

“Everyone has $5-$30 to spare. You can find it somewhere to share with us or save.”

 

What if you never order coffee? What if your grocery budget is $5-$30?”

Often people think that in this country of plenty, there are not any hungry people. They talk about food banks, food stamps, and other programs to help those in need.

I will say that I have been a starving person in America. I did not have access to food banks, food stamps or any program to help with food. Later when I had access, I had been taught how wrong it was to use those programs, so refused, and even if I could get past that, the judgment from others that went towards the people that did was enough to make it more worthwhile to starve.

I remember standing in the grocery store, staring at the apples and wishing I had the money to buy one. I had $5 to spend for food. I bought a loaf of bread, some flour and yeast and a thing of turkey ham, if I remember right that time. It was enough when combined with things in my pantry at home that I could make some meals. If I could get a vegetable, I would buy cabbage or lettuce.

There were times that I had $20 for the month to purchase food for the family. It is shameful, but we would go dumpster diving to look for expired food that was in packages to use. If it was still cold, we would wash off the packages and eat good. I remember being so happy to find some meat and tortillas.

We read books on wild foraging. Rose hip jam with homemade bread, soups with wild onion and garlic, steamed cattails were things we tried or my friends did. We didn’t like everything. Wild meat from hunting or animals that were raised was used as well.

You learn how to survive, but not always thrive. I lived in a brain fog. I would frequently pass out from exercise, even though I was a healthy person. I suffered a broken bone from lack of nutrition and poor medical follow up caused me long term issues.

Poverty in a first world country is not as rare as you think. Sometimes it is caused from people making poor choices. Occasionally it is people ending up in abusive situations that cause them to be stranded in those poor choices. We were eventually restricted from dumpster diving for food as the leaders felt it was a poor example to the community. The issue still remained that we were lacking food.

So, what is the answer?

I think that sometimes there are multiple avenues you can go with this.

  1. Identify the poor in your community.
  2. Seek out ways to help them to find safety, choices and healing not by always giving them a hand out, but offering them a helping hand to find resources to be independent.
  3. Don’t assume that there are not any poor in your area that might need help. These are not the ones you will see at the food bank usually. These are more likely the ones serving in the community.
  4. Look for the overwhelmed that seem like maybe they need help with yard work, they have extra stuff around or might need help in more physical ways. Often we don’t realize that poverty can mean you can’t do landscaping, or afford to get rid of things. It might mean you are stuck with repairs that need to be done, and you just live with it the way it is.
  5. Don’t be entitled. It can be hard to realize that something that is so simple to you, like hiring a plumber, or mowing your grass, might be out of reach for them. They may not be able to pay the plumber or buy a mower, if they want their kids to eat that week.
  6. Watch for things like being unable to obtain medical care, they don’t have socks, their shoes are old, or perhaps struggle with personal hygiene. Toothpaste, deodorant and soap can sometimes be out of reach, especially if all the money is going to food or electricity.
  7. Never shame someone for taking government assistance or using programs to help get out of the situation. Don’t say, “Well, someone is paying for that. It isn’t free.” While true, those words can shame the very people we are wanting to help, rather than stopping the ones that abuse it.

It is easy when we have never experienced it, to think that someone is lazy. It is easy to think that they just need to pull up their boot straps and get it done.

The poor in America are not like in a third world country, but they in some ways, have a greater disadvantage. They are the working poor. The overlooked. Others do not see them. They are most likely sitting next to you in church. They are likely working with you. They may be a teacher at your school or a student.

Don’t turn a blind eye on the poor of America. They need us to be able to be the support of the nation.

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As the Light Fades by Catherine West

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When I read, “The Things we knew”, I hoped for a sequel, which this is not a sequel, but a stand alone. I wanted to read more about the siblings.
There are a lot of family dynamics without even extra things added in because you have a lot more people making different choices. This story follows another sibling, but you can read it as a stand-alone. I think you would gain more from reading “The Things We Knew” beforehand, but you will totally enjoy it on its own.

I loved the art threads throughout, the therapy done with elderly people, as well as how there were the stories of the secondary characters woven all throughout. I don’t know that there is another author that can have the story encompass more than one point of view, but still not make you feel dragged all over the place with such talent.

This story was so meaningful to me. She shows how a realistic women’s fiction story can be inspiring and not depressing in the least bit. I loved every second of reading it and highly recommend it.

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What is a Girl Worth? By Rachel DenHollander

 

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My Review:

As I read through this book, I felt the pain of a person that survived sexual abuse in a way like no other book has touched me. This book is not filled with graphic descriptions of abuse. It is not about a story of someone you struggle to relate to.
This is the story of a little girl that grew to be a woman, and led an army to challenge an abuser. In doing so, so gave hope to millions of people, I would say. She gave hope that while there are so many people that will hear a story of abuse, attack it, reject it or downplay what happened to you, it is worth speaking out. The pain is worth it if it saves one other little girl. How much is a little girl worth? She is worth everything.
The quote from one of the women that testified in court was stated in this book, and it stuck with me. “Perhaps you have figured it out by now. Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”

This woman writing the story enabled many, many women to testify against their abuser. I believe this story will continue to inspire many more to speak out against abuse in every way. We are not seeking revenge, but justice and safety for every child.

Some readers might be afraid that if they read this book, they may be triggered by the topic. I would say that the triggers you will have from this book might be hard, but worth it in the end as I believe they will empower you. They will show you that sometimes people that are victimized, get justice. It is worth it in the hard times to push through, even when it seems like no one is listening. In the end, even if one person, namely, yourself, knows you are of value, it is worth it.

I obtained this book from the publisher. All the opinions and thoughts contained herein are my own.

 

You can purchase this book on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

“What is a Girl Worth” 

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The “Bad” Book.

“That’s a bad book.” The voice of a child, about 12 years old startled me as I heard them telling their sister to not touch a book on my table. I looked to where they were pointing to see “A Tale of Two Cities” there.

“Well, it is a matter of opinion.” I smiled and kindly replied.

Her stare could have melted through concrete. “My parents said it is a bad book.”

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I was struck by the interchange for several reasons.

  1. I had never heard that particular book have any description that it was “bad”. My mind went nuts thinking that maybe it was because it spoke of executions, compared the good vs. evil among the characters and that the playboy in the story, had detailed exploits with drinking.
  2. She believed her parents were absolutely right. No matter what. They were right. Others were wrong, and her sister needed to be warned from it.
  3. She didn’t even think to judge for herself at all. She simply accepted what had been told to her.
  4. It is highly likely her parents told her that it was not a book they wanted her to read at her age, and forbade it at the moment. They likely did not explain beyond, “It’s bad.”

All of these things are not wrong, but in combination, can set up for a very dangerous cycle. It wasn’t really anything I could fix with this, nor was it my place, but it taught me a lesson. It wasn’t really about the interaction. It was more about the life lesson that I observed.

What happens if in high school, her parents assign her to read “A Tale of Two Cities.”? They will have brought up doubts in her mind as to what else they have not told her the truth about.  If they don’t ever require her to read it, and she finds out as an adult the premise of the story, she may then begin to doubt everything else she was taught.

Often it seems easier to just tell our children what they should or shouldn’t watch. What they should read or shouldn’t read. We pre-screen everything, protect them from the possible evils that we know are out there, but forget that children grow into adults.

When is it time to stop protecting and teach wise judgment?

  1. We should be teaching our children right, wrong and ethics from a young age.
  2. We should be teaching kindness vs. judgement of others that do differently than we do.
  3. We should have a time, ages 8-12, where we start to allow them to make more choices that we guide, rather than dictate. Instead of saying, “That is a bad book.” we would say, “I am not sure that this book is appropriate for your age. Let’s take a look at the back.  What do you think?” You can still make the final call, but asking them to take a look themselves, gets them to think for themselves.
  4. When they start to hit ages 12-18, you want them to be working more and more to make wise choices on their own. This means, you should be a guide more and more to the point that you work yourself out of a job. Give them chances to choose their own books, after guiding them for the previous four years, see how they put it into practice. When they choose something you don’t like, instead of forbidding, ask questions. “Why do you think I might not like this book/movie?” “How do you feel after reading this?”

 

When we work from this direction, we will find that instead of children that walk away from our beliefs, morals and ethics, you will have individuals that you have raised that may not always agree with you, but they will know how to do so with aplomb. They will have grace in it.

I smiled at the young girl at my table, sadly. I was saddened by the choices I saw, in that in their desire to protect, they had harmed.  A comment from someone else that heard it, “That is homeschooling for you.” or something similar.

In reality, it doesn’t have to be.  Those parents were truly doing what they believed was best for their children. But, I believe we can change this and be better. Teaching our children kind, wise and ethical judgement is something we can change for the future.  We can change the future, but changing how we teach our children.

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