Back Porch Book Chat: Mystie Winckler (Blogger, Author, Podcaster, and More)

Back Porch Book Chat: A casual, virtual conversation about books. Join us as we chat with book lovers like ourselves about a topic we all love! Our guest today is Mystie Winckler from Washington. She chats with us about reading with her family, her new book, and more! Check out her bio after the interview for more about Mystie. Interview conducted by Betsy.

Getting to Know Mystie

Before we begin, tell us what warm beverage you’d like as we sit, huddled in blankets, in our rocking chairs on this winter day: Coffee? Hot chocolate? Tea? Or are you a cold beverage person, even in the winter?

I am a too-much coffee person, for sure. I take it black when it’s my husband’s home-roasted coffee, but with a splash of cream otherwise. If it’s too late for coffee, I’ll grab a LaCroix. 

I’ll enjoy my coffee (with cream) alongside!

Some of our readers may not know of you, particularly if they aren’t homeschoolers. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your work at Simply Convivial and Scholé Sisters?

Simply Convivial is all about homemaking, homeschooling, and doing life cheerfully—because when we want to get organized, what we really want most of the time is just to feel competent in dealing with our life, but that’s a deeper issue than containers and labels can solve. Scholé Sisters is a podcast and community for classical homeschool moms who want to become more educated themselves while they’re educating their children. It’s a group effort between Brandy Vencel, Pam Barnhill, Abby Wahl, and myself. Both keep me busy, but they also keep me engaged in my own real life duties. 

I’ve enjoyed your resources on both platforms. Readers, you should check them out!

Reading in the Midst of Real Life

Mystie, I know that books permeate your life like they do mine. Tell us what reading looks like in your home and how you use books and stories as part of your family culture.

Books permeate my home, that’s for sure! Look on any surface anywhere and you’re bound to see a pile of assorted books. I try to keep our school hours concentrated—short but meaty—and the house stocked with books so that everyone has time to read and material to read. Both my husband and I felt like the most valuable part of our own homeschool experience was the time to read widely of our own accord and interest, so I rarely assign reading beyond bare school spines as long as wide reading is happening voluntarily. Audiobooks also definitely count as reading in our house, both in my own book tally and for my kids. I have one child who very much prefers listening to her books while crafting or drawing, and so I keep her in audiobooks. We don’t do a lot of reading aloud as a family or in school, but everyone does read copiously and widely.

Hear, hear on the “audiobooks count as reading” claim. We agree wholeheartedly here at Redeemed Reader; in fact, some books are better in audio than they are simply read by oneself.

I know you’re an avid reader and always have a few books in process. Do you find yourself personally drawn more to fiction or nonfiction? Do you prefer print or e-books? Audio? Any favorite books you like to revisit? 

Great Tradition

I am more of a nonfiction person overall. I love books on history and education and philosophy and theology. I do think reading fiction is important, but it’s hard to get drawn into an emotionally charged world when you have duties in the real world that can’t be neglected, so I have to be careful to pick up fiction on school breaks or choose audio versions so I only allow myself to listen while walking or folding laundry. I prefer real books, and have found that keeping them handy is key to actually picking them up. I’ve set myself up a little reading corner of the living room where my books live, and if I sit in that chair, I have an assortment of books in progress to choose from. When I make sitting there with my coffee the first thing I do in the day, I read more. I don’t sit in that chair to use my phone, so my habits help me turn to reading instead of easier entertainment. I also keep pens and pencils and a stack of index cards there. I like to write thoughts or favorite quotes on index cards as I read, but sometimes I just add a flag and an index card on the page to come back to. I have a lot of books with dozens of flags sticking out, waiting for me to come back through to copy out my favorite bits. 

Janie is an avid reader-with-index-card-in-hand person, too! I find myself dog-earing with abandon (*coughs* don’t tell my library).

Mystie’s 5×5 Reading Challenge

A couple of years ago, you created a unique reading challenge for your community at Scholé Sisters: the 5×5 Challenge. Tell us a bit about how that works and why you approached it that way.

At first, I thought of the 5×5 reading challenge for myself, then I realized it’d be fun to do as a community. My dad set the example as an avid reader. He loved picking up new hobbies and interests, and the first thing he always did was check out at least 5 books on the topic from the library. So that’s where 5 came from. I was staring at all my shelves realizing that I bought more books on particular topics than I read, and I wanted to deliberately choose to shop my shelves and read what I bought, because they all did interest me, but they were languishing on the shelves. I buy books on education, philosophy, theology, and history, and I think classic quality fiction is an important stream to keep up, so there was another 5. 5 times 5 is 25, which is not an overwhelming number of books to read in a year, but it is significant, so I chose 5 books from those 5 categories to read that year. Now we use that in Scholé Sisters as a template to create personal reading plans that help keep us reading both widely—because we’re choosing 5 different categories—and also deeply—because we’re reading 5 different books on the topic and not just one. It’s so fun every quarter to chat with our reading challenge participants via Zoom about what they’re choosing and reading. 

Simply Convivial: From Blog to Book

Mystie, your Simply Convivial platform has really grown and changed over the years. Can you tell us how that started and how it has led you to your latest endeavor?

Simply Convivial grew out of my own struggles as a young homemaker and mother. Since I was the oldest of 7 in a home with a stay-at-home mom, I thought I’d take to it like a fish to water and it’d all be easy. But it isn’t. As I made plans for increasing my own skills and competency and recovery ability after babies and moves, I would write about it because it helped me process and apply what I was learning. Now that’s expanded and grown over the years and become a community of hundreds of women all intentionally seeking to fulfill their responsibilities at home well and cheerfully. Society doesn’t value homemaking or even family, so it helps to have a group of likeminded women reinforcing how important the mundane, hard work really is. We all work out our sanctification through homemaking and homeschooling, the callings God has given us and is using in our lives, and it’s a fruitful journey. Simply Convivial Continuing Education has a dozen courses to help moms get a grip on the many pieces of home and personal life, but all of it focuses on the heart and attitude first, not superficial quick fixes. Moms often come to us feeling overwhelmed, and we walk through how to overcome overwhelm and avoid perfectionism and focus on attitude first.

Your brand new book, The Convivial Homeschool*, hit amazon shelves right around Thanksgiving. How exciting! We know there are aspiring authors in our audience, and we want to know: How did you approach your writing and publishing process? Did you set a word count each day? Editing deadlines for yourself? Do a lot of research on the process first, or simply dive right in?

convivial homeschool

About half the book* started out as old blog posts, but then I worked them over and basically rewrote them. I started out with an outline of topics I wanted to address, but it definitely shifted and changed many times through the writing process as it all came together. I wanted each chapter—and there are 30—to include a real-life homeschool story, so the most important prep work I did was sit down and brain dump as many incidents as I could think of from my 13 years as a homeschooling mom, but also 12 or so years as a homeschooled student. It was a challenging and strengthening exercise to take as many “bad” homeschool day stories as I could muster and shine light on them to show how God works good when our plans don’t seem to work out. 

I am very grateful for having several friends who went through both the traditional and self-publish routes before me and were able to refer me to a great editor and designer. Everyone needs an editor, and Harmony Harkema, my editor, definitely made the book so much better each time around—and we did 3 rounds of edits. I am a small-business entrepreneur at heart, and I don’t like other people having control over material with my name on it. I listened to the pros and cons of traditional v. self publishing from my friends and going the self-published route was a no-brainer in my mind. I still had a professional editor and a professional designer, so you’d never tell by looking at the book that it wasn’t traditionally published, but I could make it happen on my time frame, I retain all rights and control, my royalties are four times what they’d otherwise be, and no one is requiring me to do this and that to publicize it. I believe I know my audience better than any traditional publisher, and this book is for that audience of in-the-trenches homeschool moms who need real encouragement that the hard days that feel like bad days really aren’t, if we look to Christ.

I agree: your book looks and feels great! Sometimes self-published books feel off in their print quality, but yours looks professional (and, readers, it’s a delight to read, if you’re in the homeschool trenches with Mystie and me).

Last Words from Mystie Winckler

Any last words of advice or practical tips for busy parents hoping to make reading a part of their personal lives AND their family’s culture? 

My tip would be not to overcomplicate and overburden your personal or family reading life. It’s better to start small and build rather than trying to jump into a life makeover plan. Play an audiobook in the car or during lunch. Put a book by your bed or chair and leave your phone in the other room during one chunk of your day (morning, lunchtime, or evening). Thirty minutes a day adds up and increases our ability and desire over time. It’s ok to start with easy, accessible books—kid books, even, to build the reading muscle and taste. Our reading life—and our children’s—is built of decades, not single years’ book counts.

We definitely agree that “kid books” are worth the time. And to the small reading habits adding up over time. Little chunks make a big difference in the long run.Thank you, Mystie, for sharing your reading life (and yourself) with us!

Readers, you can read the rest of our Back Porch Book Chats here (our guests have been authors and homeschool moms like Mystie, bookstore owners, teachers, and more.)

Mystie and her husband Matt, both second-generation homeschoolers, raise and educate their five kids in eastern Washington state. Mystie provides support and encouragement for moms to tackle their responsibilities with a good will and good attitude with her blog, podcast, and community at

*amazon links are affiliate link. Fine print: We are participants in the Amazon LLC affiliate program; purchases you make through affiliate links like the one below may earn us a commission. Read more.

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Get the information you need to make wise choices about books for your children and teens.

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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