Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year in Review

POST #2,000! What a way to end a year.



:: All sorts of introspective-ness.


:: Our crazy family vacation—all three nights of it (the third was unexpected). (Sorry the pictures are having trouble loading. I need to reformat the post and haven’t gotten around to it!) Sadly, this was one of only three overnight trips for our family this past year, and the other two were not particularly relaxing.

:: Time away with friends and a week with Andrew Kern.

:: We drove down to California for a few short days to attend my grandmother’s funeral. Sadly, I didn’t post a single picture from our trip.

Life into Death 


:: My birthday month felt derailed. All. month. long. I was honest about it.


:: Crazy, busy month. Memory Masters. End of Classical Conversations. Photographing the Spring Protocol Event. Easter. Outdoor School. End of choir term with performances. Swim meet. Bridal shower. End of AWANA. Illness. It was insane.



:: All about the Classical Conversations practicum speaking and prep.


:: More speaking. And thoughts on Classical Conversations. And on programs in general. And on Harry Potter (and rhetoric!).


:: Finally. A delight-filled, restful month. Sunshine and my two favorite places on earth. Here with sisters. Here with friends and family. And a few other outings. I think this was my most favorite month of the year.

:: A bunch of reading happened this month, as well.



:: This was a general relaxing summer month with various activities and our 3rd annual trip to Bend for a swim meet. Russ and I had a much-needed overnight get-away with friends. We took the scenic route home.

:: I spent some time reflecting this month: on joy, on the trivium (one of my favorite blog posts of the year), and on our big-picture educational scope and sequence.



:: I was a guest on the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast, which was a delight!

:: The beginning of the month was a crazy blur. Due to rescheduled classes, we fit in a family day in the mountains and a day at the beach.

:: Then our school year started in earnest. Levi’s transition to Classical Conversations Challenge A has been a whopper of an experience.

:: I also have proof that my house one room was clean for at least five minutes this year.

Ben Shan and Rilla 


:: I posted a few photo sessions. The above may be my most favorite photo of the year.

:: Poetry and Learning by Heart were on my mind.

:: And I was tired.


:: We mostly just put our heads down and worked. But I had more to say about poetry and music.



:: I am so thankful for my dear little family and the wonderful life we are blessed to live.

:: Even if raising an adolescent is a tough, tough job.

:: Now that Christmas has come and gone, I am spending some time reflecting over the past year.

And now there are only a few hours left in 2014, which I shall spend getting ready for my son’s birthday party tomorrow. Thirteen. I shall have a teenage son.

I wonder what else the new year will bring.

The Live. course launches on January 1st. I’m excited to spend the next 12 months exploring ways to live life to the fullest! And I’m even more excited to be the contributor for September’s theme “Learn.”

We are celebrating the new year by skipping school the first week back and going on vacation instead. Hello, Disneyland!!

When we return, I have a bunch of great things in store. A book challenge, for example.

Stick around for a great fresh year at Mt. Hope Chronicles!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Classical Conversations ~ Cycle 3, Weeks 13-24

January always sneaks up on me. It shouldn’t. I mean, my Foundations/Essentials boys will have had six weeks off. Six!! Granted, my Challenge student had fewer weeks off, with an adjusted schedule due to rescheduled classes (he had three community days at the very end, on December 1, 5, and 8), and work to complete over break which he has managed to spread out over the whole break. And we’ll be on a big family vacation during the first week back (wahoo!!), so Levi also needs to be ahead in a few subjects.

We also have Levi’s 13th birthday to celebrate on January 1st before we head to Disneyland a couple days later. So, you see, it’s difficult to imagine getting back into the swing of things on January 12th (a week late).

But come it must, and we’ll be ready.


We continue with United States history.

I posted a lengthy book list at this link, which includes history, literature, speeches and poetry memory work, and geography through week 24.


Again, we continue with U.S. geography.

My favorite two free online resources are:

:: Sheppard Software geography games (fantastic for U.S. and World geography in Foundations and Challenge A, and includes geographical features as well as states and capitals)…

:: and Draw the USA at Mahalo (video tutorial)


We move on to chemistry for weeks 13-18 and general science topics for weeks 19-24.

[Y’all should know that those last 6 weeks of science memory work are a sneak peek and early preparation for what your student will be learning in the rhetoric strand in Challenge A, which includes the memorization of 57 similar sentences! The first 12 weeks of human anatomy memory work in Foundations cycle 3 help prepare the student for the body systems memory work encountered in the second semester of Challenge A, as well.]


::  TED-Ed launches an interactive periodic table with a video for every element

::  The New Periodic Table Song. (Too fast for you? Try the slow version with captions.)

::  They Might Be Giants: "Meet the Elements"


::  Memorize the first 20 elements of the periodic table using mental imagery.

::  Elements and Atoms by Khan Academy

If you’re like me, and no subject is complete without a few books to peruse…



:: The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe is a spectacular book that should hold the attention of kids and adults alike. Each visually-stunning two-page spread explores a single element, including current uses. Check out the “see inside” feature at Amazon, and you’ll see what I mean. Highly recommended. I’m adding Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything to our collection, as well.

:: The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! and Basher Science: Chemistry: Getting a Big Reaction. My boys are huge fans of all the Basher Series. These books are highly entertaining and perfect for boys who would rather be reading comics. Each element or concept is defined using personification (and quirky illustrations). For example:

“Alloy. The Man of Steel. I give a backbone to spineless metals. I make them fit for purpose with properties that better suit their uses. Without me, “supermetal” would be, well, just plain old Metal…”

“Radium. I am the heaviest of the gang and a completely captivating character. I shine in any social situation. Bright and luminescent…I’m a real stunner…”

“Lead…Over the years, I’ve gained a bad rap. People say that I build up in bones as a slow poison and that I have damaged children’s development. It’s true that I have an unfortunate ability to slip easily into the food chain—from pipes and cookware, leaded gasoline, and paints to fishermen’s weights. I have also been blamed for ending the ancient Roman civilization. Not fair! These days, I am closely regulated. But I am still used as a shield against x-rays, for roofing, and in stained glass.”

:: The Mystery of the Periodic Table. Looking for a good narrative science read-aloud? Or an interesting history of science chapter book for independent readers? We have enjoyed all of the Living History Library, particularly the books by Jeanne Bendick, so The Mystery of the Periodic Table is on our list. (Levi read it independently a couple years ago and enjoyed it.)

:: DK Eyewitness Books: Chemistry is a good choice for general chemistry information in the visually-attractive (but non-narrative) style of DK reference works—perfect for researching a specific topic or for a child who enjoys poring over books with pictures and detailed captions.

:: Exploring the World of Chemistry: From Ancient Metals to High-Speed Computers by John Tiner is a Chemisty course written in narrative style from a biblical perspective. (Memoria Press uses this series in 5th-8th grades.)


The following is a video set to my friend (and son’s tutor) Mindy Pickens’s rendition of John 1:1-7 in Latin from the Vulgate. (We use the same tune to sing the verses in English.)


Fine Arts



Great Artists:

Grandma Moses, Norman Rockwell, Georgia O’Keefe, N.C. Wyeth, Lichtenstein, and Jim Davis

:: Roy Lichtenstein (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists). I’ve purchased the books by Mike Venezia that correspond with the above artist. I love his style. Entertaining (but thorough) biographical and historical information paired with hilarious illustrations and the artist’s work along with period art and photographs. My boys LOVE them.

:: Grandma Moses (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists). [I am also purchasing this version of The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Grandma Moses. It will be a wonderful addition to Christmas book collection.]

:: Norman Rockwell (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) [I’m leaving out my Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book until after we’re through learning about the artist.]

:: Norman Rockwell: Storyteller With A Brush

:: Georgia O'Keeffe (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists)

:: N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims. We have several books illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, but this one is a lovely picture book example of his work.

:: 20 Years & Still Kicking! Garfield's Twentieth Anniversary Collection. We may have to add How to Draw Garfield and Friends (Learn to Draw), as well!




[Romantic and Modern periods] Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Stravinsky

:: My most favorite free online resource is far and away Classics for Kids. Many composers are featured (including all three of this cycle’s composers). Click on the composer’s name for biographical information. Then click the top left (green) option “View past Classics for Kids shows about _________.” The shows are radio-style with narration and music. Some are about the composer. Some are about a specific piece of music. Often there are coordinating activity sheets you can print. [These are the options for Tchaikovsky.]

:: Story of the Orchestra : Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music! If you are wanting to purchase the single best resource for composers and instruments for elementary students that will carry you through all 3 cycles of Classical Conversations Foundations composers and instruments, this book is my highest recommendation. The first half of the book covers 15 different composers in chronological order as well as a page on each period (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern). All three of cycle 3 composers are covered (and two each of the previous cycle’s composers). The biographical information is fairly short, and the illustrations are entertaining. The second half of the book covers the instruments, divided by sections of the orchestra. The accompanying CD includes short tracks for each composer and instrument.

:: Igor Stravinsky (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers). Again, my boys devour Mike Venezia’s biography series. We own a plethora of composers, artist, presidents, and inventors, and the boys immediately sit down to read them if I leave them out. Venezia uses a combination of hilarious illustrations and period photographs and art to complement his generous (but child-friendly) biographical information. Very informative and entertaining. Highly recommended.

:: Peter Tchaikovsky (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers). I just wish Mike Venezia would write one about Debussy!

:: Tchaikovsky Discovers America. My kids adore all of the Classical Kids recordings. They are radio-style full-cast stories with music. I highly recommend the whole collection.


Instruments of the Orchestra:

:: Children's Classics - Prokofiev: Peter & The Wolf / Saint-Saens: Carnival of the Animals / Britten: Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (CD). These three recordings are essential to a child’s cultural literacy. [This animated version of Peter and the Wolf is stunning if a tad dark.]

:: The Story of the Orchestra (details above)

:: Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin. A delightful picture book for younger elementary students.

:: The Philharmonic Gets Dressed. This is a charming, unexpected book. Just for fun.


I think that wraps up new content for the second semester! Are you ready for January?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Walk


A few rays of sun were beaming down as soon as Christmas dinner was finished, so we skipped out on dishes to seize the rare moment.

Christmas Walk

[Documenting the shaved eyebrows…]

Christmas Walk 2

Alas, the dirty dishes didn’t clean themselves while we stretched our lungs in the fresh air.

Then games, pies, naps, conversations in quiet corners…

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day

Christmas Display

The kids opened stockings at our house first thing Christmas morning. Then breakfast. Then gifts from siblings. Then we loaded up and drove two miles down the country road to Bambi and Poppy’s house where everyone gathered for Christmas Day.

Mom and Dad (Bambi and Poppy), Holly, Casey, Ilex, Drake, Ivy, Shannon, Ben, Rilla, Olive (Little Ben was at his Dad’s house), and our family of six.

Christmas 2014

After we had unloaded, taken pictures, and settled in, we opened our stockings.


Then gifts (one at a time, youngest to oldest). The kids receive small gifts from each family. The adults (16 and up) exchange names. My sister Holly usually has a lovely gift bag for each family filled with homemade items (jars of dried apples, blackberry jam made by Ilex, cinnamon ornaments made by Ivy, a family story or calendar…). My sister Shannon’s wrapping is always photo-worthy. My mom’s decorating is lovely. I tell them that they make me look good when I post pictures of them and their handiwork on my blog. [I make myself feel better about my lack of contribution by claiming to be the family’s chronicler.]


Best gifts:


(Due in May. We are so excited!!)

Our kids “fainted” in a heap when we told them that their Christmas present is a trip to Disneyland—next week!! Surprise!!


Leif’s shirt was my only attempt at crafting this Christmas season. I figured I could probably draw Fred with craft paint. Close enough. (Despite the look on his face in the picture, Leif did indeed love the shirt. He’s read our collection of 25+ Life of Fred books many, many times each.)

After gift-opening, the living room transformed into a dining room with the help of many hands. On the menu this Christmas: rib roast, bread dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, rolls, candied yams, fruit salad, our favorite jello salad, and Martinelli’s sparkling cider.

Christmas Dinner

The sun was shining, so we snuck out before dishes to soak up some rare and precious rays on our traditional after-dinner walk. [Next post…]



Christmas Eve-Eve we drove around with the kids to look at Christmas lights and then stopped by my parents’ house to see my mom’s stocking display. She made all-new stockings this year for all 18 of us!

Christmas Eve day was spent cleaning house and baking. Russ took all 4 kids to swim practice in the morning and then to town to pick up a couple things. I was grateful for the quiet time to work.


I made my new favorite, strawberry almond shortbread thumbprint cookies (gluten-free for my mom and mother-in-law).


We spent the evening with my in-laws. I made barbequed steak, grilled onions, roasted yams, salad, and gluten-free biscuits. We had crème brulee for dessert.

They are two of my most favorite people!


Thursday, December 25, 2014



Merry Christmas, from ours to yours!

[And for posterity’s sake, yes, this is the Christmas Lola shaved her eyebrows off. Yes, she did. Because life would be boring without Lola.]

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Family Movie Night

Hilarious and intelligent. Those are two words to describe my favorite genre of movies.

If your kids aren’t old enough for The Librarian or Indiana Jones or even National Treasure or Night at the Museum

Or if you’re just searching for a fun, smart movie to keep all ages entertained, try Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

My history-loving boys were lighting up. Hey, there’s Agamemnon! Queen Hatshepsut! I know that date! Van Gogh! Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine! Hey, I know those dates!

We’ll be buying this one for our collection.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Boys’ Room

boys quiet

I’ve spent hours and hours in the pit of despair the boys’ room the past couple days, trying to make it livable. Three boys in this small room for the past 8! years has taken a toll. It (desperately) needs to be repainted. It (desperately) needs new carpet. I need to get rid of the small, abused book shelf and replace it with a dresser for more clothing storage, and transfer a bunch of picture books up to Lola’s room (which is next on the docket).

Even with all the cleaning/organizing/purging I’ve done, it sure isn’t the sweet room it used to be. But we’ve added more books and shelves, so that’s forward progress, right?!

The boys decided to string little white lights up in their room, and I’m going to hang myself (accidentally) one of these days. Just when I thought I had made their room less dangerous…

boys rowdy

And if you’re wondering what it’s like to have three boys in the same room at bed time… There are no words to describe their mother’s frustration.

Just. Go. To. Sleep. Already.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our Christmas Season


I realize it’s been fairly quiet the past few weeks here at Mt. Hope. We’ve been relaxing and savoring the season in a low-key way. We’ve had a few activities, but I’ve chosen not to fuss with pictures so that I can fully enter into the moment.

:: The boys had their Christmas choir concert the first week of December in a gorgeous old stone church with stained-glass windows. The church we attend on Sundays meets in a middle school cafeteria (the middle school I attended years ago) and jeans and flip flops are regular attire, so the atmosphere at the concert felt especially lovely and festive to me with all the kids in their Christmas best. The choir additionally performed earlier in the week at a local retirement home.

:: Levi’s CC Challenge class met on December 1st, 5th, and 8th, and he has had some work to continue the past two weeks. Apparently, he has decided to make his short amount of work take all. break. long. to complete.


:: We had the house decorated by December 10th for a belated St. Nicholas Day celebration—our traditional Christmas party with our best friends. We spent a lazy and glorious afternoon together making marzipan and enjoying each other’s company.

:: My best friend, Char, is my own personal Christmas elf. She loves Christmas so much and her excitement spills over to bless me. My sister stopped by to chat and complimented me on the darling star garland hanging at the top of my entertainment shelving unit. I had to tell her that Char made it for me. [Shannon was not surprised.] And then she complimented me on my gorgeous greenery wreath. Yep—Char. And then Char sent me home with a container full of decorated sugar cookies and fudge, which I shared with the kids, and homemade baklava, which I shared with no one.

:: Russ bought me a new flute as an early Christmas gift, and I’ve been playing daily.

:: My ChocLit Guild book club met for our annual cookie exchange. I always look forward to book club, but book club plus a huge plate of goodies to bring home is as good as it gets. I shared my favorite almond strawberry thumbprint cookies.

:: Russ and I attended a Christmas party for one of the businesses he works for. We’ve been attending this particular party for years—a room full of truckers. As in truck driving instructors. Seriously. But I get both prime rib and lobster, so it’s all good.

:: We attended a quintessential small-town nativity pageant with Char and her mom and kids. It was about 45 minutes away, held in an old elementary school (now the small town’s event center). This pageant has been a community tradition for 74 years! There were nine scenes with full sets and costumes, and a choir singing numbers between scenes. So lovely.

:: This year, Russ had the brilliant idea to put our Christmas tree on the front porch. Now I’m wondering why we have never done this before! With such a tiny living space for our rambunctious, always-home family, even a small table-top tree feels overwhelming in the living room, but this year we purchased a slightly larger tree and the boys had a blast decorating it. We can easily see it through the windows, so it doesn’t feel as if something is missing.

Right after we put it up, a major storm blew through with high-wind warnings. I was questioning our decision for a few hours there. Now we’re in the middle of flood warnings. It’s a blustery, wet, sloppy mess out there.

[You can see our new paint color in these pictures. It didn’t get finished [sigh], but at least it isn’t blue with a mismatched blue shop in front of the house. I guess I’ll have to put up with the caulk marks by the front door, random blue tape here and there, and the piles of stuff on the porches and around the shop until the spring. I’m learning to not care.]


:: The kids continued with AWANA this month, and now they are off for a couple weeks. Swim team practice continues all month long for Russ and the boys.

:: Levi and my sister both ended up with the stomach flu a couple nights ago (several days after Rilla was sick) and I’m having déjà vu. We spent weeks last Christmas break taking turns with the stomach flu, and I’m praying it doesn’t continue to make the rounds this season.

:: When I first pulled all the Christmas books off the shelf, I didn’t think I’d need to do any other Christmas decorating. We have so many!! So the boys have been reading and we’ve been working our way through the Christmas movies.

:: Christmas cards go out on Monday. Nothing like the last minute… I suppose I should wrap gifts at some point also…

:: We’re spending Christmas Eve at our house with Russ’s adopted parents, Ron and Haley.

:: Christmas Day will be spent with my family, as usual.

:: Levi’s 13th birthday is the following week—on New Year’s Day.

:: And then we have something fun planned for two days later… [surprise!]

How are you celebrating this Christmas season? Are you busy or relaxed? Or both?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

With Love, The Scovel Family [2014]


Instead of working on getting my Christmas cards mailed, I creatively procrastinated by reminiscing over our Christmas card pictures through the years.

And now I’m sharing them with you instead of mailing this year’s Christmas cards.

This was our first family Christmas card picture back in 2002. Levi was almost a year old.


I don’t know if we sent out pictures or cards the following year, but this is what our little family looked like. I was pregnant with Luke when we attended my sister’s retro Christmas party.


We did manage family pictures the following year.


This is one of my all-time favorites.

2005 Family

Then Leif arrived. We were in the process of moving during this Christmas season. This picture was taken in my parents’ driveway, and our house is at the base of the hill in the background.


I had a blog by the following Christmas. My favorite out-takes were from this family picture session.


We took family pictures at the beach this year (here and here), but I ended up scrapping them for this picture collage and it is my favorite Christmas card out of all the years.



I loved our family photos this year. [I can’t find the pictures of this month on my computer, so this size is the best I have.]



And then our family was complete!



I LOVE the following picture of all the kids.


Christmas Card 2011

This is the year I had pictures way ahead of time, and then didn’t get the cards sent out until February. Oops.



We managed a picture of the whole family last year. Hurrah!


Christmas Greetings


Now that I’ve taken a nice little trip down memory lane, I suppose I should sent out my Christmas cards. Tomorrow.


Do you send Christmas cards in the mail? (I know I’ve gotten cards from a couple of you!)