Christmas Program

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If your children take music lessons, at least twice a year they have recitals, programs, and concerts. Typically, in December and in May. The pandemic messed up that routine, of course. We have had to do Zoom recitals at home and skip going to nursing homes. But we kept on going with our lessons and did our best to monitor the progress of our children.

Strings

Playing in church with friends motivates children to practice.

One week before Christmas this year, the kids played violin to accompany our church’s choir for the beautiful “How Great Our Joy” by Craig Courtney. What a piece! Such a refreshing sound from the usual round of Christmas carols. It was only one piece, but a new experience to give them a taste of what it is like to accompany a choir. They enjoyed it and said they would like to do it again if called upon. Continue reading »


Institute for Excellence in Writing

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After three months of studying writing with Andrew Pudewa of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), my children and I have decided this curriculum rocks. We decided this after three weeks, but I wanted to wait a few more months to blog about it. We got Level 1B, which is for grades 6-8. Since my daughter is in sixth grade and my son in eighth, it is perfect for us.

Puzzle

My daughter building puzzles – a metaphor for learning writing

You should know that Andrew Pudewa used to teach Suzuki violin. If you know anything about the Suzuki method, you know that it teaches step by step, in a very systematic way. Pudewa took the Suzuki method and applied it to IEW. This incremental approach to writing helps children and teens understand how to write. There will be no expectations beyond their ability. Continue reading »


Thanksgiving Break

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We only take three days off for Thanksgiving. For my nonAmerican readers, Thanksgiving always happens on a Thursday – the fourth Thursday of November. I cook a lot on Wednesday and Thursday, we have our family luncheon on Thursday, and then on Friday they decorate the Christmas tree. Thus commences the Christmas season at our house.

Thanksgiving Plate

Thanksgiving plate (clockwise): dressing, vegetarian turkey, cranberry salad, corn, green beans, potatoes, stuffed eggs, salad.

This year we had a cozy Thanksgiving, the four of us, and it was wonderfully relaxing. Besides, I came down with a bug the Sunday before, and spent Sunday-Wednesday in bed. No fever, no coughing, no sore throat, just a general fatigue that kept me in bed. So… the children took care of their own schooling on Monday and Tuesday. Continue reading »


Sam Houston Historic Schoolhouse

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Every year, Cedar Springs Homeschool Support Group organizes a Thanksgiving Feast at the Sam Houston Historic Schoolhouse in Maryville, TN. It happens on a Tuesday a few weeks before Thanksgiving, but the menu reflects the holiday. It starts us celebrating early.

Sam Houston Schoolhouse

Sam Houston Schoolhouse

The children get a tour of the schoolhouse, historical details on the life of Sam Houston, and demonstrations on how to make butter, candles, cornmeal etc. After the workshops, we have the meal, and then they play capture the flag. Some of the parents and coaches used to bring their children many years ago, so this tradition has been going on for years. Continue reading »


Meeting Ambleside Online Co-Founder

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Last week, I had the privilege of meeting one of the co-founders of Ambleside Online. Lynn Bruce worked with five other homeschool moms more than 20 years ago to put together a Charlotte Mason curriculum for homeschoolers. They fought in court to keep it free. Details, details, details. You don’t want to know. But trust me, the world of homeschooling curriculum creation can be as brutal as the business world.

Lynn Bruce

Lynn Bruce and I, at Seven Islands

By the way, have you seen the Ambleside Online website recently? It is new and improved. Totally worth a visit.

When my children were younger, we followed Charlotte Mason and principles, guidelines, and recommendations. Many evenings, I would go to Ambleside Online to get guidance and book titles for my children. Good times.

Continue reading »


Algebra Going Well

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Our son is in 8th grade and taking Algebra I for high school credit. He has always found math easy to understand. Our curriculum of choice was Math Mammoth since 2nd grade. We tried Singapore Math and found it too easy.

Thunder on book

Thunder, our cat, used to keep us company before he disappeared.

Then we tried Right Start Math Level B and found it so great, we ordered Level C for the following year. Level C proved too weird for me to teach. I do not understand math in that way. So we had to ditch that and tried Alpha Omega Publishing’s math textbook, which we found too colorful and printed too closely together on the page. Picky, aren’t we? Continue reading »


Hiking Our Hearts Out

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Once a week, we go hiking with a group of local homeschoolers. It helps that we live five minutes from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but we go other places, too. Last week, it was Panther Creek State Park. Next week, it will be Seven Islands Birding State Park.

Fern Branch Falls

Fern Branch Falls

The thing is, the National Park is so immense, some of the trails are still an hour from my house. So even if the destination is in the Smokies, we still have to drive for 30 minutes or longer. What can I say? America is big. That’s what this Israeli family told us last week, when we were at Grotto Falls and started chatting with them. “America is big.” They could not believe how long it would take them to get from point A to point B. Continue reading »


There Goes September

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October looms large and what have we learned? Lots. For one, we love middle school. Our children are in 8th grade and 6th grade respectively. Maybe they are more mature or maybe I am more relaxed, but things are going smoothly.

Grotto Falls

Hiking the Grotto Falls trail

With the pandemic, nobody is living their Plan A, and we are no exception. We wish we could do orchestra again, but alas, they require masks. My children cannot play violin for one minute with a mask on, let alone one hour. This is our second year of not doing orchestra and we miss it dearly. Continue reading »


New School Year

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And… we’re off! Grade 6 and Grade 8 (with three high school credits), here we come! I am so much more relaxed this year because we do not have that March exam looming over our heads at the old umbrella school. It was good while it lasted. That achievement test gave me a calendar and a benchmark. I am glad I don’t have that anymore though. We have entered a new era.

Mom and students

Mom and students before 6th and 8th grade

With our new umbrella school, we do not have to take a test. If we test at all, it is because we need to figure out if the kids like the ACT or the SAT better. Once we have decided, we only prepare for that one test as we look long-term to college admissions. Continue reading »


Here Comes August

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We start homeschooling in the middle of the month. I am spending the first two weeks of the month taking it easy. However, here and there, I am getting ready. For one, we will do IEW for the first time and there is a bit of a learning curve for me, even though we got the forever streaming. While Andrew Pudewa will do the teaching, I need to understand the philosophy behind this curriculum. With the downloads, I got these audio presentations Mr. Pudewa gave at homeschool conferences. They are inspirational.

HS Meme

The more I homeschool, the more I want to homeschool.

I am knee-deep in middle school, so I need a sense of humor more than ever. Memes to the rescue. If you ever get tired of homeschooling, or angry at the kids, just Google homeschool memes. Of course, you will have to toss out the memes created by public school teachers and students… who totally misunderstand homeschooling… For the most part, you will find many memes that will make you laugh and appreciate the journey further. Continue reading »