November 30, 2009

Term 2 Begins

Term 2 begins today.

We are studying Modern World History this year (AO Year 11 lite), and are just starting to move into WWII. This is my son's favorite period in history. He has read a lot of military history and biography already, but still has a keen interest for more detail. I am trying to give him a well-rounded perspective, to make sure he sees the horror, and not just the glory of war. Our term 2 reading list is as follows:

Devotions - The Cost of Discipleship (terms 2 and 3)
History US - Carson's Basic History series, vol. 5
History Bio - Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler
History Bio - The Diary of Anne Frank
History Supplement - The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman (all terms)
History Speeches - various per the AO website
Geography - The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
Worldviews - Seven Men Who Ruled the World by David Breese
Literature - The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Literature - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Critical Thinking - Critical Thinking course
Government - Power Basics US Government
Economics - A Beka's Work and Prosperity text
Shakespeare - Much Ado About Nothing
Poetry - Edna St. Millay
Math - Thinkwell Precalculus
Science - Introduction to Geology and Earth Revealed video series
Nature Study - Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Richard Fenyman
Foreign Language - Russian
Music - Music study along with hymns and worship/praise songs
Composition - The Elegant Essay, a 10 week course

Our goal this term is to progress through Math so that we are prepared for the ACT test this spring. Focus will be on writing well, hence the essay course, and also making good progress in all our other subject areas. My goal: consistency and discipline (making sure that the assigned work is completed). My son's goal: doing the work (LOL!)

November 29, 2009

Christmas Lights

It's that time of the year again...time to get the lights out and to decorate the house. I do love lights. I love to decorate my bushes and put the lights up on the roof. We are fortunate that here in AZ, lights on houses is BIG! Almost every street will have several houses (sometimes all homes in one block) will have decorations up. It is fun to drive around at sunset/dusk and see them come "alive!"

Our house is very small so we just go for big lights (the old fashioned bulb ones) with icicles. We put mini lights in various colors on all our shrubs. I have a lighted wreath that goes on the front of the house too. I usually put white lights in the windows, but last window ended up breaking my front window doing it. I am a bit gun-shy this year! LOL!

Oh well...lights signal to me the coming of the season. This Sunday our church lit the Advent candle, a reminder of what is to come (the coming of Jesus into the world -- our Light, our Savior). I am longing for a Christmas that focuses on Him and Him alone.

What is Your Rock?

Today at church, our Pastor gave a great illustration to help cement the life application portion of his message. He is preaching through the Book of John, and has been on fire lately (Amen!) The message today was on John 9 and the question he asked of us was to consider why God allows or permits suffering (trials, tests, hardships, affliction, etc.) in our lives. In the chapter, Jesus answers His disciples with this: (my paraphrase) suffering and trials come so that we can manifest the Glory of God. In short, when we suffer we are able to demonstrate God's glory to others. James 1 and Romans 5 both give testimony to this premise: suffering or trials are used by God to sharpen and hone us, to teach us how to be people of character, and how to be perfected (purified and holy). We are tested by trials, and as a result, our character is deepened. We become people of God's own possession, people who are like HIM in character.

The illustration he shared was this: Suffering of all sorts, trials, temptations, etc. are like rocks, rocks that are sharp and ugly and heavy and often very unpleastant to look at and very difficult to bear. Through the course of our life, we collect these so-called ugly rocks. We keep them, we carry them with us, and over time, they are refined, they are cleaned up, purified, and made into something beautiful. Someday, we will reach into our cache of ugly rocks only to pull out a beautiful polished stone, a stone that has been changed, has been made pure.

Our Pastor asked us to think about what our rock might say, once we pull it out after it has had time to be refined. He said his rock will say REST because that is what he struggles with most, and most desparately needs (rest from worry, rest from anxiety, rest from stress). I thought about what my greatest need is (or biggest struggle) and my rock will say LOVE.

My greatest fear is fear. It is something deep inside of me and something that has ruled my life since I was a child. I grew up in fear, lived in fear, and never really settled into any other kind of life. I am fearful of not having enough (of anything), of not being protected, of not knowing (what will be or happen). I live in fear -- fear controls me.

As I reflected on his message today, I realized that the thing I need most is not freedom from fear, but rather LOVE. God's Word says:

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love's complete perfection]. 1 John 4:18

What I long for and need most is complete, perfect love. This is the type of love that will drive all fear away, cast it out (expel it) doors, and remove every trace of terror. It is the perfect love of the Father, as seen through His Son Jesus. It is perfect, complete and lacking in nothing. It is love that is fully mature -- it is the love I need now, the love I long for, and the love that will enable me, once and for all, to no longer fear anything (any person, any place, any thing).

Yes, I need God's Perfect Love to replace the fear that still lives within my heart and in the innermost recesses of my mind. God's Perfect Love. Jesus Christ.

November 28, 2009

Psalm 46:10

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
~Psalm 46:10

(One of my favorite reminders from Scripture!)

November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving. My DH and son are off playing a flag football game as part of our church's outreach program. Our church hands out flyers in the neighborhood inviting anyone who would like to play flag football to show up at 7:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. Each year (three years in a row), they have drawn more and more crowds. The first year, they had about 30 people show up. The next, they had 50-60. Last year, over 80 people showed up to play. The church provides coffee, juice and donuts to all the participants. It is a fun way to start the holidays and it helps to remind us of our role in reaching out to our neighbors who might not feel comfortable attending church. Our Outreach Director has said that a number of the neighbors who played football with us, actually started to come to church regularly. God is so good. He uses football and friendship to help bring people to Himself.

Our day is pretty well planned. After football, we are hanging out at home until it is time to head to the inlaws for dinner. I am bringing the green bean casserole and raspberry jello (jello is made; green beans go into the oven later this afternoon.) In the mean time, I am enjoying the quite morning, doing some laundry, having coffee and muffin, and blogging on my computer. Just a nice quiet morning for me...thank you, Lord!

Update: Cello

I have been feeling better about my celloing experience the other night. I had some real doubts after Chamber reheresal on Tuesday evening, but after practicing yesterday, am now more confident that I can learn to play with a small strings group. I worked through all the music sent home, and I can do it, I can play these songs! Hurrah!

My son has written a cello solo for me to learn. It is the beginning part to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's song, "Christmas Eve/Sarajeva 12/14". This song is a medly of several well-known Christmas carols. I get to play the "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" intro. Fun! You can hear the original version on YouTube (click below):

We will have three violins, one cello (me), piano and electric guitar (my son). It sounds pretty good (not as well as the original, but still fairly decent arrangement). My son wrote the arrangement and I have to admit that he did a fine job with it. I am excited to play my part (other than the solo and one other part, I mostly just keep the bass line going - dum, dum, dum, dum -- I can do that!! LOL!!!)

So this Thanksgiving day, I am giving thanks. I am thanking the Lord for the usual things (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), but also for the little quiet mornings (and coffee); like flag football (and reaching the neighbors); like playing the cello (and loving it); like knowing that today is the day the Lord has made (and that I am covered under His marvelous wings, safe, secure, and abundantly loved and provided for). God is Good and it is to Him that I give my Thanks!

This is the day which the LORD hath made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

November 25, 2009


Today is a busy day. I have some testing to do (for my son -- the CAT test) as well as some prep work for next week (the start of our term 2). I also am getting ready for Turkey day. I am not hosting Thanksgiving, but will be making two side dishes to take over to my Mother-in-law's home tomorrow. I don't mind, really. I am happy to help out, and like making these dishes (green bean casserole and raspberry jello).

Thanksgiving is such a forgotten holiday. Our local stores have had their Christmas decorations up before Halloween. We barely got through October, before there were lights, tinsel and holly being put up. I realize that the economy has merchants worried, but really...will starting THAT early make a difference for them?

At our local mall, I have watched the shoppers go in and out, mostly without any bags or purchases. It seems people are window shopping or just enjoying the mall. They don't seem in any big hurry to get gifts. Maybe they are just waiting, so time will tell, but it does seem that folks are doing what they always do: looking for good deals and taking their time.

The GFWC Paradise Valley Woman's Club hosts a gift wrap booth each year at the mall. This is probably our 30th year. Each year our profits go either up or down, based solely on the economy. After 9/11, our profits were huge. It seemed like folks wanted to give gifts and spend money. During tighter times, we make less money. All our proceeds go to charity, and we keep very little to cover expenses (boxes, bows, ribbon and wrapping paper). This year will be interesting to figure out. Last year, we did OK, even in such a strong recession. It is hard to say whether or not folks will indulge in having their gifts wrapped. We cater to men, mostly, and to older folks who cannot wrap or are travelling and want to ship their packages ahead of time. We also get a lot of kids -- cute! They generally want bows to put on a package for Mom or Dad.

Oh well...Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat (sorry, that song just popped into my head -- with the Muppets singing it! LOL!)

I am thankful for the opportunity to be at home, to share in the holidays with my family, and to know that whatever the rush, the real reason for thanksgiving and Christmas is Him, the One who died to save me. I am thankful for all the bountiful goodness that comes from God's hand. He has blessed me, He has saved me, and He has loved me with a love that is so complete. He is good to me, and I give Him thanks and praise today!

I survived Chamber!

I did it! I survived Chamber reheresal yesterday evening. My son's teacher had asked if I would learn a small piece in "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" for Chamber. My son arranged this traditional hymn for three violins, cello and piano. His part was to practice conducting the group, so they needed someone to play cello. I agreed (sheepishly), but thought I could do it with some practice. I practiced, practiced, and practiced, and did it! I made some mistakes a first, got off track twice, and forgot the ending part. But with a couple tries, we played it successfully. It felt so good to play a part -- to make real music with other musicians.

After my initial success, I faltered badly. My son's teacher suggested some other easy pieces, but my sight reading skill is not good enough yet. I did my best, but couldn't follow along. They are just too good for me! LOL!

I came home a little dejected, feeling low. However, after some time to think on it, I actually accomplished my goal: to be able to play a piece of music with other musicians -- and do it in the proper timing. I did it and I am very proud of myself. I have some more music to learn, so I will see if I can play through it this week. I am not sure if I can learn more than one piece per week, but I will give it a try. It was a good, positive experience for me.

I learned that performing in a group is not as easy as it seems. It takes patience and practice. I need more of both. In time, I think I will be able to play cello as a small group.

November 24, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a New Cello...

Ok, so I have decided to make the cello my "thing!" I am absolutely in love with the cello. I love it, love it, love it. My desire is to become a very good cellist. I love to practice and to see myself improve. I love to make music -- finally--after about 3-4 months of just noise. The cello is what I dream about each night -- I actually hear the music in my head. Weird, huh?

So now I am on the hunt for a new cello. Don't get me wrong, I love my Kay Cello. It has been the perfect instrument to begin on. It sounds OK, but my ear is getting better and I can tell where it lacks emphasis. It is a laminate-type instrument, you know, the old "beat um' up and trash um" that the schools used to hand out to kids. I am ready to play a cello that actually plays like a cello should play, kwim?

My son, the pianist, can tell you what I mean. He plays on a Korg studio piano. It is all digital and is good for making digital music. When he goes to lessons or for recitals, he plays on a Steinway. Yep, there is a big difference between a digital grand and a real Steinway.

I have been looking online for cellos and they are pricey. Southwest Strings is close to me (in Tuscon), so I guess I will go there and give their cellos a try-out (the cello pictured is a Scott Cao, a Chinese made cello. It has a very good reputation as being playable and resonant -- a good beginner to intermediate cello). I have done some research online as well, and have in mind what I would like to spend as well as what features I want it to have. I am leary of buying without trying, so I think SW Strings is probably my best option. I know many people buy instruments online and are satisfied with them. I don't know if I am that good yet, to where I would know the difference. I think going into a warehouse (yep, that is what SW Strings is like) is better than just buying something I see online.

A cello I really like and would someday like to own is the Soloist II or Kallo Bartok cello. These cellos are hand carved in Romania and are beautiful. They are available locally in Appleton, WI. Otherwise, you can order them online and have them shipped to you. Check out Stringworks is well-known for it's fine selection of violins, violas and cellos. The cello pictured at the right is the Soloist II.

I also like the sound of the Emil Gillet cello. These are avaiable online as well at

Lastly, there are other good Chinese, German and Italian cellos out there. I have a limited budget so some of the nicer ones will have to wait a long while. Right now, I am looking for a good intermediate-advanced cello, a cello that I can play for many years with good success!

Oh well...I will have to wait awhile to get a new instrument, but in the meantime, I will just dream about getting one. LOL!

November 23, 2009

Cello and Christmas

It has been four months of practice, and I am finally going to play a piece of music with my son's chamber group. His teacher has asked if I would play the cello part on "O, Come O, Come Emmanuel" this Tuesday. I looked at the score and thought it looked easy enough for me to play (she assured me that I could play it). I say "yes" (tentatively).

Well, yesterday I started practicing it with my son's computer (he wrote the score so it is available to listen to in Finale). I have to tell you that it is not easy to play along with another instrument. So far, I have only played by myself. I have not had any other accompianment. Oh my!! I played through my part (which is very small) about a dozen times and still do not having the timing right. UGH!

I will be playing through it again today and tomorrow...hopefully, I can do this and not throw off the violins or piano too much (my greatest fear is just freezing and not being able to play a note OR playing so horribly that everyone just stops and stares at me!) LOL! In truth, I doubt either will happen. My son's teacher is sweet and very nurturing. The other students (3 high schoolers and one eighth grader -- I think they will be just fine with a beginner cellist sitting in).

Still...this Mom is having nerves and is feeling like she was back in 7-8th grade tryouts for choir! Ewh!!

Winter's Arrival is late

No one living in Arizona (southern) thinks winter ever arrives! Our fall has barely begun, and the thought of winter temperatures and frost on the ground just seems nonsensical. We had an extraordinarily warm fall. Finally, our daily highs are in the lower 70s (down from what seemed a long, hot summer -- 90s well into the first of November).

Now, with thoughts of Christmas and the desire to hang lights and wreaths, somehow, a 70 degree Christmastime just doesn't cut it. It is not that it hasn't been cold in the early morning hours. I was out early Saturday (around 7 am) and the temperature was hovering just at 50 degrees. Mind you, we have very little humidity, so cold clear mornings make 50 feel like it's 40 outside. I know, I know...40-50 is nice weather in the Midwest, especially if the sun is out.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago and remember early morning walks to school. I remember walking in the freezing cold too (thankfully, when it was below zero, we always got a ride to school). I was trying to remember when I started to wear my winter coat. My mind is all fuzzy now, some 40 years later. I think we wore our winter coats around Thanksgiving. I might be foggy, but then again, we may have worn then sooner, IF they were new for the season (wanting to wear it as soon as possible). I just remember it going from summer to fall, and then between October and November, being very odd (some days were cold and even with flurries, and other days still warm like Indian Summer). You never knew how to dress in the morning, because you could be walking home with far too many layers on. Oh well...

So here I am thinking about cold and Christmas. I guess my childhood memories of snow and icicles, just goes together with the timing of this season.

November 21, 2009

Looking at Colleges

My son has decided to pursue a music degree in college. We are thrilled about his decision. He is a gifted pianist and loves writing and arranging music as well as performing it. The question, well the BIG Question, is where to go for college?

We have already checked out a couple music programs near us. They are all good, but each has it's own flavor or focus. Some are more performance oriented; while others offer a more general education approach (for music education or ministry).

Up to now, our son has been leaning towards a more general music degree (BA in Music). He has recently decided to focus more on composition, and therefore, needs to start looking at schools that offer that as a specific concentration. These schools offer BS in Music and typically are more challenging on acceptance.

He has good grades (from home school), but many schools look down on parent given grades, so he will have to score high on the ACT test. He has already been seeking scholarship money (a big need), and we are hopefully that he will receive some assistance based on his ability (versus purely academic standing).

One school we are considering is Wheaton College in IL. Wheaton has a well-known Conservatory of Music. They are a Christian college, with a very reputable standing in academics. Their standards for acceptance to their conservatory are high -- mostly performance based. It will be interesting to see if our son sticks with his decision to study composition. It will mean focusing intensely on piano over the next year and half, and really working hard at writing original composition (he has some, but will need more classical arrangments to submit as examples of interest).

Either way, we are delighted that he will have the opportunity to study music and pursue something he is passionate about. Our hope is that whatever he does eventually, he will find his purpose and come to know the Lord's plans for his life. God has created him uniquely, and has equipped him with great skill and ability. We are confident that the Lord has something special in mind for him.

November 20, 2009


Thinking about God's goodness is like picturing the sun rising over the horizon. It starts out as a glimmer and then grows into the blazing noonday sun. As the day wears on, the sun slowly sets and then returns back below the horizon. God's goodness is just like that, it comes over us slowly and gently warms us. As the day passes, it keeps up comfortable and then when our day closes, it slowly returns to it place of origin and gets ready to begin again the next day.

November 18, 2009

Feeling Blue

Do you ever have one of those days when you wake up feeling blue? I do occassionally. I am not sure why, as I tend to be a pretty even keeled person, emotionally speaking. I am sensitive to changes in weather, light conditions, etc., but since living in AZ for thirteen years, you would think that wouldn't be a big factor (always sunny, always warm).

Today, is just a blue day. I woke up late, after a fitful early am. My kitties are settling down, finally. Gus, is the big issue for me. He is an half-neutered male cat, now almost two years old. He had just one testicle at the time of his surgery. The Vet did exploratory surgery but was unable to find the second one. She recommended further surgery (at the cost of several thousand dollars), but we said no. Gus has some adult male behaviors, and some really bad kitty behaviors. He cries all the time (semi-howling like intact males do, but with a mixture of siamese tossed in -- if you can imagine it -- it is very LOUD).

Winston is also two. He is a great cat. He is a little pouncy, likes to jump and climb a lot. He mostly is good in the mornings, though he will give a good chase if the mood suits him.

I have changed my bedroom around to keep them from crossing over me all the time. They still do it, but now with my nightstand out of the picture, it is less of a tempation to them. They jump from dresser to bed (with me in the middle) often, especially in the am hours.

I am not sure what to do, but we are decided to take Gus back to a new Vet for evaluation. We want to see if "perhaps" that other little guy has shown up or if there could be something else wrong. Gus was adopted by us as a wee kitten (3 weeks old). I hand raised him, bottle fed him. He has social issues, which is weird, because of all my other hand raised cats, this is the only time a kitten has not bonded with me. He has bonded, but in a weird "Psycho-esque" way. He follows me around the house, cries at me (either howls or wee cries like a baby). I know he is mixed up emotionally (if a cat can be that way), and am pretty much at my wits end with him.

Oh well...perhaps the blues will fade as the day wears on.

November 17, 2009

Celloing update!

I am so excited...I have finally pushed passed the point on the cello to where I can now play on all four strings! I know, sounds silly, doesn't it? But, for this old Mom, it is HUGE! I am still working on note reading, and will occassionally get the notes mixed up (especially those on the D and G string). Flats and sharps throw me a bit too, but overall, I am getting it.

I played through my Carl Fisher book and can play almost all the exercises slowly (I was having to stop, reposition my fingers, bow). This is a great improvement and I am beginning to sound like I am actually playing music (versus just notes). My next hurdle is working on timing, and learning how to bow in time (half bows, quarter bows, slurred notes, etc.) Slurring notes is really hard, and is like "rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time!" Oh, I am not ambidextrous!!

My goal in cello is to learn to play well. I am learning for enjoyment, not to attend school or perform as a professional. I have always wanted to play an instrument, and have loved the sound of the cello for so long. I want to be able to play classical, Christian hymns, as well as other favorite tunes. I am hoping to learn to play it well enough so that my son and I can play together (either as two cellos, a guitar and cello or piano and cello).

November 16, 2009

Unschooling...does it really work?

A post came up on one of my home school lists that asked about the benefits of unschooling a child. I am not familiar with pure unschooling, but I am familiar with the "better late, than early method," which many home schoolers seem to advocate.

My son was a good candidate for the "better late than early"method. He was not eager to begin school, even though he was "ready" for it. He had no interest in reading. He had no interest in math or numbers. He had no interest in sitting still for long periods of time. He wanted to play, to create, and to dream/imagine. He was a little boy filled with endless curiosity about his world. He spents hours in imaginary play, never stopping to ask anything of me. From the time he got up until it was lights out, he was a non-stop ball of energy.

We kept him busy, that is for sure. We did preschool (with little success). We did Awana (with little success), and we arranged play dates with other children (again with little success). Our child, it seemed, preferred to be at home and wanted to play independently.

Mind you, we did have a routine at home. He got up at the same time each morning. We did breakfast, followed by our morning routine. We did lunch, also followed by our afternoon routine. We did dinner, and yes, followed by evening and then bedtime routine. Our life was fairly scheduled, and he seemed happy and content within the boundaries of our home and our daily routine.

When he turned five, everyone asked about school. In Arizona, children need to be six to begin 1st grade, and since our son was born in September, he naturally missed the cut off for school. He started kindergarten at age six instead of five. Most people told us that this was GREAT, so much better to start later, especially for a boy. In truth, this was the case. However, once our son got into school, it was quickly noticed that he was far, far, far ahead of his kindergarten peers.

He did know his numbers and the alphabet. He had an incredible vocabulary. He still could not read. He couldn't do math. But something, just something set him apart from the other children. He had a great memory, and through Awana training (Sparks K-1), he had memorized all the required Scripture (including the Extra Credit books). He took whatever instruction was given in his classes, memorized or processed it, and was ready to move on. He didn't need weeks and weeks of Calendar or Numbers -- he got it the first time out.

This was really the first instance where we were confronted by our son's giftedness. He was just our boy, you know, our baby. We were so delighted with him that we never really noticed how different he was from the other children. I will never forget sitting in his kindergarten class and looking around at the other children. Most of them were crying, they were so baby-like. There was our boy, right up front, listening to the teacher (still bobbing and weaving -- never sitting still -- but definitely engaged in whatever the teacher was doing). The other children were lost. They were so young and so scared to be left in the classroom.

As time went on, the difference between our son and the other kids became more and more apparent. Most of the time, you couldn't tell the difference until our son opened his mouth and began to speak on some subject. It didn't matter what the subject, he just seemed to know something about it. His vocabulary continued to be several grades ahead, and his understanding of subjects ranged from a casual conversation to near Ph.D. level intensity! LOL!

This post was to be about unschooling, and as usual, I sidetracked into my own experience. I guess I should get back on topic! LOL!! The thing about unschooling is many ways, we did unschool for a time. We also did traditional public schooling for a time. Now we are ardent home schoolers, blessed and so proud to be coming to the close of this journey. In all, unschooling for us had great benefit. But so did public schooling. Even though our public school experience was less than satisfying, it did bring us round to home schooling. Once we started home schooling, everything just clicked. Our son was finally able to school the way that worked best for him. We have found a happy-medium, someplace between doing your own thing and following a structured program. For us, student-directed learning is possible and works well, so long as it is surrounded by a structured curriculum. We combine the best of both methods -- allowing our son to explore and learn at his own pace, all the while making sure we cover the basics (to enable him to interact socially and academically with his peers).

November 14, 2009

Recital and Nerves

Today is another piano recital. My son has been taking piano lessons for six years and is an advanced pianist. He will be playing Chopin's Minute Waltz. He is also playing guitar and cello with the chamber ensemble (on some Beatles and Led Zepplin tunes). He is ready -- having played the last two weeks with near perfection. Still, he tends to get nervous right before he plays. We laugh because he typically has each piece memorized and it is the memorization that throws him off. He gets "lost" in the music and will forget where he is at. His teacher requires him to read from the music, just to help him stay on track. I am sure he will do just fine -- he always seems to pull it off, no matter how difficult or complex the piece of music.

Now...if I could just get my nerves in order. For some reason, I am nervous for him today. Ugh! What is a mother to do?

Minute Waltz - Chopin

November 13, 2009

Understanding Growth

It is interesting to think about how we grow and change over the course of our lives. I was just over at the Ambleside Online user groups (at Yahoo), and after reading through the posts, was struck by how things have changed for me over the course of six years.

It seems like just yesterday when we started using this Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum. I had little experience with home education, and found this curriculum after a mad-dash search on the Internet one night. My son, then age 10 and finishing 5th grade, was rashly pulled from public school to be home schooled. Neither my husband nor I were actually ready to school him -- we just knew we didn't want him to remain in the public school any longer than necessary. For us, the entire preceding year was TOO LONG!

When I think back on my experience using Ambleside Online (AO/HEO), I cannot believe that we have actually worked through almost all the upper level book lists. We started off badly, beginning in the wrong year, and then found that we had to divert ourselves mid-stream to try and slow down (to allow maturity to set in). Finally, after several years we seemed to hit our stride and make forward progress. We are now at the end of our high school journey, and have travelled these years with CM and the AO curriculum, and feel confident we will have good success in college.

The funny thing is how the questions posted today are the same questions I (and others) posted nearly six years ago. The transition from traditional schooling or unschooling or public schooling to a CM-type education seems to require parents to pause, take a deep breath, and then divest themselves of everything they know or thought they knew, before they can actually accomplish this type of home education program.

It is not easy, that is for sure. It is one of the best programs available (IMHO), but it is not for everyone. Those who do not want to read classical literature or who do not want to read (period), will find a CM program ill-fitting. Those who love to read or at the least want their children to come to love to read -- will find it a perfect fit. We tend to be in the latter class, even if neither of us are ardent readers. We do read, we do like reading; we just don't read as much as many of the families on our home school group.

Still, with our lack of enthusiasm for reading, we have read a great many classics, delved into historical fiction and non-fiction, delighted in biography of great people, and come to find the study of Nature fascinating. Overall, our time with CM and her "living books" has been well-worth the effort. I am confident that my son will do fine in college and that he has read far more than the average high school student. He is well-read, literate, and highly education...all in part to the curriculum developed by a handful of homeschool Moms who longed to give their children a 19th century education in this modern day and age.

November 12, 2009

Sharing the Holidays

I am not sure if this is something you deal with or not, but around here, holiday time brings a lot of juggling of responsibilities. My parents and parents-in-law live relatively close to us (within 10 minutes). Therefore, when it comes to hosting dinners for the major holidays, this means traveling to one families home or another. Most often, both sets of parents attend (if they are in town).

My house is the logical place to host dinner, and since I am younger and able to do it, it should be where we all gather together. However, my home is small, with an almost non-existent dining area. I can host about six people total -- especially for dinners. I do try and have the family over often, but it tends to be more convenient to go to the grandparents house.

The issue this year (and in the previous few) has been whether or not the grandparents were up to the challenge of hosting a dinner. I normally fix dinner at my parents home. My mother is able to do it, but it is taxing on her. I will often cook the dinner and then take it to her home. My MIL is a different story. She is very used to being the hostess and has hosted many large gatherings for years. She is also not able to do this well anymore, but is unwilling to let it go. I understand her feelings, after all, she has enjoyed hosting dinners and other special events, and has always been known as the "life of the party."

As the family ages, the responsibilities of family get-to-gethers change. I am the only child living in close proximity to either set of parents. My brothers and my SIL are on their own, so to speak, and are pretty much able to do whatever they please. They can have dinner, go out to dinner, or go to a friend's house for dinner. There will be no hurt feelings if they don't do a specific thing. is difficult to navigate the waters of age. I wish it were easier; I wish I had a larger home. I would be happy to host all the family get togthers from now on, if only, I could.

Perhaps...Santa will bring me a new house -- all fit out with a nice size dining room and kitchen!!

November 10, 2009

Thinking More

Today, as I was reading through my morning devotional, the thought struck me about how God's timing is so perfect. I wrote a blog post about it over at A Simple and Modest Life.

God's timing (kairos) is always perfect. It is His way of bringing things (circumstances, situations, and events) to pass. God's timing is not always linked to chronological time (chronos). Somethings the two coincide, but often God's timing seems to occur when we least expect it. Almost always it happens when we need it most.

This is how I feel about my future and the plans the Lord has for my life. I have been longing to attend graduate school since before my son was born (even conceived). I was applying to graduate schools when I found out that I was pregnant. I had hoped back then to become a college English professor. The Lord had other intentions at that time (His Kairos). I felt in my heart then that I was supposed to attend graduate school, but God's timing was not right. I now know that I was to go, but not then. I am to go now -- sixteen (will be seventeen) years later. I am just as eager and excited about it now as I was then. I think I am far better prepared -- having home educated my son using a classically inspired curriculum, lead a group of adult readers through a classical studies list (for almost five years), and enjoyed experiencing a Renaissance type of education at home. Yes, God's kairos is perfect. His will is perfect and His timing, well, is always spot on.

The Lord knows when things are to be: we must wait, and some times that means waiting a very long time for them to come to pass. I am so glad that the Lord has proven faithful to me (is He not always faithful?) in this regard. I spent a great many years wondering how to let go of that nagging feeling that said "you are supposed to be doing something different." I never understood that the feeling was telling me the truth -- just that the time was not yet.

I am willing now to follow after the Lord and to do His will. I know that the plans He has for me are so good. I am trusting for Him to bring everything to pass (the acceptance, the financial aid, etc.) so that I can do this thing. If it is truly of the Lord, then it will come to pass. Of this, I have no doubt.


As part of our yearly curriculum (Ambleside Online/House of Education), we read one worldview book each term (or three per year). Over the course of the last couple years, we have read some really wonderful books which have helped us to understand our world, the philosophy of the past and present age, and given us fresh perspective into the thinking patterns of our modern culture.

I love these types of books, so much in fact, that I am planning on returning to college to study ethics and worldviews at some point. My plan right now is to pursue a graduate degree in English Literature (with the hope of teaching literature at the local community college). My long term goal is to complete my Ph.D. in Communications (theory and methodologies), another key area of interest to me (understanding how we communicate, and then learning more effective strategies for communication within the church and on the mission field). As part of my graduate work, I would like to study ethics, morals, and worldviews. These are important topics to me and I believe that they are critical to any study of communications.

I have found a great Literature program, fully online, that I hope to begin next fall. It is delivered through Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY. It aligns perfectly with my BA in Humanities degree from San Jose State University. It is a good, all-around, Literature program, with readings from all periods in history. The program is only 30-units, so I should be able to complete it in 1 year and a winter/summer session.

For the communications program, I have chosen Regent University. They have a Ph.D. program in Communications that is based solely on research and theory. It is right up my alley -- as I am more of a researcher than a practical communicator. This degree is also online, though residency is required for summer workshops throughout the degree. I don't have a formulated subject for my dissertation yet, but hope that I will think of something interesting, a good research project, over the next couple years.

My desire to study worldviews, ethics, and communication is not new, but is newly formed. I have always been a strong communicator, with a very strong voice and opinion. I loved writing literary criticism in college, and delighted in debate in many of my philosophy classes. I still love to write persuasively, and enjoy spending time blogging online.

I believe that the Lord has equipped me as a writer and thinker, and my heart's desire is to do His will. I believe returning to graduate school is His will for my life (the next portion or season of it). I am excited at the challenge He has brought to me, and know that He will guide me through the entire process (from beginning to end). God is so very good to me.

November 9, 2009

Le Francais

My French language study is coming along nicely. I am using the Pimsleur Language Learning system and have to say that it works! I am primarily a visual learner, so the thought of learning language solely by audition didn't seem plausible to me (plus it brought back unpleasant memories from high school French 1 and 2 class!)

However, these tapes are really good. I am up to lesson ten and actually have learned how to speak French fairly well. Granted, all I am good for now is how to ask where a street is or how to order wine in a restaurant! LOL! Still, the method works and is really easy to use. I just pop the CD in and spend 30 minutes per day repeating what I hear. The key thing is that I actually can understand what is being spoken -- I am still a bit slow at answering, but I can understand the language lessons! Hoorah!

Update on Cello

I have been steadily working through my beginning cello method book, and finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. I may have mentioned before that a friend of the family gave us his old Kay Cello. Kay Cellos were manufactured in the USA and were primarily sold to schools for their orchestra programs. They have been around since the late 1920s/early 1930s. I am guessing that my cello is from the 1960s. It is pretty dinged up, but still plays a nice warm sound. Kay Cellos are not considered to be "good" cellos (now, Kay Basses are supposed to be well-liked among many players). Even though my Kay is old and pretty cheaply made, I am enjoying learning to play it. One of the things they were know for (Kay) is their ease of play -- perfect for the student player.

The book I am using to learn to play cello is the Carl Fischer Basic Method Book I for Violoncello. My son's piano teacher recommended the Alfred Books series, Strictly Strings. I haven't been able to find these locally, so I have been working through the one that came with the cello.

At first, this book was far too difficult for me -- given that I have had no real prior music instruction. I studied online, using YouTube and videos along with some very basic "how to get started with cello" websites. I practiced for about a month -- just open strings (very boring, but beneficial I think0. Since then, I have made good progress through the Fischer method book. I am up to playing on all four strings (I know -- wow!)

I find the cello to be enjoyable and interesting to play. I love the sound of the cello, especially the deep voice and the higher pitch of the A string. I am having a wonderful time learning how to play this instrument and also how to read music.

November 3, 2009

Finishing Out Home School

It is officially November (well, 3 days into the month), and as usual I am in the planning stages for next year. I tend to start planning the following year once we get into school, start making good progress, etc. This year, my son is working through Year 11 of the Ambleside Online House of Education curriculum. It is Modern World History and Literature, and is proving to be really a good program. My son has wanted to study this period for a while now, but I have kept him to the standard rotation (working chronologically through History). Next year, his 12th grade year, we will return to American History and finish out Year 10 (Civil War through 1900).

As I plan for next year, I have so many other things to keep in mind. Mostly, I am gearing up for the ACT test (hopefully taken in January), as well as for some Junior College placement tests (for Math). My plan is for DS to take the math placement test in the fall of 2010 and then enroll in Elements of Statistics for Spring 2010. He will also take two music courses, both on Studio Recording in the fall and spring semesters. I do not plan on having him take a full course load at the JC. More than likely, he will attend Southwestern College here in Phoenix.

Southwestern is a small Christian liberal arts school, located about 5 miles from our home. Though they are local, they have a strong academic record and a very solid Christian education program. My son wants to study Music, and this school is known for it's excellent music curriculum.

My goals for the next year and half are pretty simple: prepare my son to do well on the ACT test, and to pass the placement exam so he can take Math at the community college. In addition to his regular course of study (through AO/HEO), he will also be working on Russian and continuing his music study with his professional music teacher.

All in all, the next year and half will fly by...and it is hard not to whince at the thought of him graduating and beginning college. He is so ready for college, but I cannot help but look at him and see my little boy, the one who was always running around and getting into everything! I think I might cry right now! WHAW!

God is so good, though. He has provided a wonderful education for him, challenging and rigorous, yet thoroughly different than anything out on the market. Our son is well-read, well-spoken, and decidedly Christian. He has strong faith, a deep love for the Lord, and longs to use his music gift to serve and glorify God. What more could a mother ask for?