Sunday, April 24, 2016

State of the Academy Address ~ 2016 [Looking Back]

The Reading Life @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


I haven’t talked much about the details of our homeschool this past year (2015-2016), have I? I didn’t even keep a book list for the boys!

It has been a lazy, relaxing year. Probably our laziest yet. I purposefully stepped back and took a rather significant break.

Lola [4/5, K4]

Lola started Classical Conversations Foundations in the fall (she turned five in October). Her tutor, my good friend Jessye, was wonderful, but Lola was not exactly invested in the experience. She basically attended just to learn the routine, get used to following directions, and all that. She memorized nothing. In fact, she hardly even said the words. She’s not much of a science project, map-tracing, fine arts kid, either. She was in her own little world. A very talkative, wiggly, opinionated world.

She has been learning to read slowly and casually, but has little interest in any other learning. This is a completely different experience compared to her brothers, especially Leif, who entered CC at barely four and could read all the memory work and add double digits (though he, too, could not sit still or be quiet or participate cheerfully). Because there is such a large age difference between the boys and her as well as a lack of interest and ability to listen or cooperate, she rarely joined our group learning time at home. She either did her own thing or interrupted us (mostly interrupted us if she wasn’t on a screen, because she does not play independently). She is an expert at Minecraft, however. I’m being really honest here. This is reality, folks.

Leif [9, 4th Grade]

As a 4th grader, Leif enjoyed his sixth year of Foundations, tutored by my “little sister” Lindsay. She had her hands full, but she also was a fantastic tutor. Leif has always struggled with maintaining control of his body and mouth, and he knows all the things and how they should be done and he must say everything out loud the moment it pops into his head. He also takes up the space of two kids because he has no concept of personal space. He was diagnosed with Tourette’s, impulsivity, and ADHD at the beginning of the school year—all things I already knew, but it was nice to be affirmed in my mother’s intuition and know that he wasn’t trying to be a difficult kid. In fact, he is one of the biggest, most affectionate teddy bears you will ever meet. He is also a very smart kid who looks much older than he is because he’s huge. He has most of the memory work down cold, but I dropped the ball in geography so we’ll have to work a bit over the summer to complete Memory Master at home.

This was his first year in Essentials. Class was a struggle for Leif because he had already expended all his energy on being “well-behaved” for the whole morning and had nothing left in the afternoon. He is a whiz at grammar, but writing is a struggle. We did only a few of the writing assignments together. He has plenty of time (at least 2 more years of Essentials), and he was the youngest kid in class. There were days when I just let him read a book in the back of class.

Leif did very little formal work at home this year, but he reads voraciously and is working above “grade level” with Khan Academy math. He also swims four afternoons a week with the swim team.

Luke [11, 6th Grade]

Luke also completed his sixth year of Foundations, but as a 6th grader. He was tutored by Char, my best friend of 28 years, and it was a joy for me to sit in their class often. She did an excellent job, and I’m glad she and Luke had that time to bond. Luke has matured so much over the past couple years, so morning class was much easier for him. He completed Memory Master for the 3rd time (his 2nd time for cycle 1; he missed cycle 3 last year) without much effort, but he did little else at home for CC.

This was Luke’s third year in Essentials. He was often in his own little world during class, as he’s not all that fond of grammar and certainly not at all fond of writing. We worked on many of the papers together at home. [I don’t know if I could have tutored without him, though, because he was my right-hand man when it came to loading up in the morning, setting up class, tearing down class, cleaning up, and unloading at home.]

Luke did very little formal work at home this year, but he reads voraciously and is working above “grade level” with Khan Academy math. He also swims four afternoons a week with the swim team.

Luke did spend quite a bit of time this year baking. He is my most focused kid when it comes to something he is interested in! And he’s a tremendous help to me when I need assistance in any way.

Levi [13/14, 8th Grade]

After a rough year of CC Challenge A last year and for various other reasons, I decided not to enroll Levi in Challenge B for his 8th grade year this past year. He spent most of our community days home with Russ, working on independent tasks and reading. He spent another day each week working with his friend McKinnon and McKinnon’s mom (my best friend, Char) on Challenge B Latin and Logic. One other day each week, McKinnon, Levi, and I worked together on Challenge B literature discussions and The Lost Tools of Writing. Levi didn’t do much formal independent work in these subjects other than reading the literature selections. [Levi did nothing for Ch. B debate and did no science research other than reading through a few books.]

Levi read several pieces of more challenging literature [To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chosen, The Book Thief, The Silmarillion, The Boys in the Boat, The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged), and others]. [I intended to work through Roman Roads Western Culture Greeks with him this year and I totally fell through on that, but he read quite a bit of The Iliad.] He worked through some of Life of Fred Pre-Algebra and is almost finished with Pre-Algebra on Khan Academy. He spent a bunch of time doing his own story writing and drawing. He loves Skyping with friends and planning projects (mainly fiction writing, Minecraft videos, and such). He also swims five afternoons a week with the swim team. Levi has joined three other boys from CC (they were all in the same class six years ago) and one of the moms (my good friend Heather) for a monthly Bible study.

He grew a bunch and is now a few inches taller than me, and he spent the year in orthodontics. He’s hairy (and he is partial to the mop of hair on his head). He now loves to stay up late and sleep late in the mornings.




Despite all the challenges, Classical Conversations was one of the main threads holding us all together. This was our 6th year in community. I tutored an Essentials class (English grammar, writing, and math games) in the afternoon with Leif and Luke and 13 other students (plus parents). The experience was overwhelmingly positive, and I look forward to tutoring again next year. As always, the friendships within our community are priceless to me. Our community days give structure to our week, and I know that we have learned something and challenged ourselves even if we do little else all week long.

Khan Academy was another huge success this year. I posted about it at length here. In short, it is a brilliant FREE online math program. It is interactive and gives students excellent video instruction, step-by-step help, and instant feedback. It requires students to master concepts. It is rigorous and comprehensive, but attractive and motivating. Math has never been my favorite subject to teach, but it is extremely important to me that my boys have a consistent program to work through. After using Teaching Textbooks for several years and Saxon for one, I’m thrilled that the boys can complete their math education with Khan.

The boys and I also finished reading A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens this year (probably my favorite read-aloud accomplishment) and we also read Heidi together (the boys’ favorite read-aloud novel).

I led a Book Detectives parent-child literary analysis group monthly during the school year, and the boys participated in those discussions.

For my own scholarship, I joined a group of CC moms who met at my house each month to discuss the works of Flannery O’Connor, led by my brilliant friend Mindy. This was an incredible experience for all of us, and we have one or two more meetings ahead. (This was in addition to meeting with a slightly different group of women several times to discuss The Question, a book about Aristotle’s 5 Common Topics for the logic-stage student by Leigh Bortins, as well as meeting monthly with my long-time book club, ChocLit Guild.)


Coming up: Looking Forward

Summer Plans [May-July] and 2016-2017 Plans.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Oregon BEACH

Newport, Oregon Beach @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

It’s not really the beach. In Oregon, it’s the coast. Because rain. And mist. And cold temps.

But Sunday. Oh, SUNDAY. As we were leaving church, my sister Holly mentioned that they were heading over to the coast because the weather forecast predicted mid 70s! Yes, that’s worth making the one and a half hour drive west, even though we had to leave Russ at home to work (he works so hard for us) and we were in the midst of a rather busy week/weekend.

We didn’t arrive until around 3 pm. The weather forecast was wrong. It wasn’t mid 70s.

It was 88 degrees. On my favorite beach.

In April.


I don’t know when I’ve had more fun. Ilex, Holly, and I were in the water for hours (what?!) along with Ivy, Levi, Luke, and Leif. Ilex, Holly, and I were not appropriately clothed for hanging out in the water up past our waists, but it didn’t stop us. Really, one couldn’t NOT get in the water—it felt amazing. There was a slight breeze, but it was hot! I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.

We did sneak in a little reading as we dried off. The three musketeers (Ivy, Luke, and Leif) never dried off. They were in the water until it was time to go.

What an afternoon.

[P.S. I love Oregon. Coast, mountains, streams, waterfalls, beach. I’ll take it all.]

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The End of our CC Year

Classical Conversations Protocol @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We have just completed our sixth year of Classical Conversations!

This past year was my first year tutoring Essentials (the afternoon class of English grammar, IEW history-themed writing, and math games for students ages 9-12). It was Lola’s first year in Foundations (the morning class of memory work in 6 subjects, science and fine arts projects, and public speaking for students ages 4-12), Leif’s first year in Essentials, Luke’s last year in Foundations and Essentials, and a break year for Levi. [I’ll soon be sharing details about this past year and plans for next year, so be watching for those posts! It’s going to be a bit crazy next year.]

Luke was a Memory Master again this year. This means that he recited (several times) all of this year’s memory work in one sitting—161 events and people in a chronological timeline; 44 U.S. presidents; 24 history “sentences”; 120 locations and geographical features in Africa, Europe, and the Americas; 24 science lists and facts; 5 Latin noun endings and their singular and plural declensions; English grammar facts (including 3 definitions, 53 prepositions, 23 helping verbs, and 12 linking verbs); and multiplication tables up to 15x15, common squares and cubes, and basic geometry formulas and unit conversions.

Leif had all of the above memory work solid other than geography, which we’ll master during during break.

I again took pictures at the protocol event for the upper Challenge levels this past Friday evening. [pictured above]

Saturday I spent 11 hours in CC Parent Practicum speaker training (we chatted over lunch and dinner, so it was a full day of stimulating conversation!). I’m not positive if, when, and where I’ll be speaking, but I’ll be sure to mention it when I know for sure.

Last night (Monday) we had our end of the year celebration.

This morning I slept in. [Who am I kidding? I never get up early. Grin.]

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Walk in the Woods

McDowell Creek Falls (16) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

When the weather forecast predicted 80 degrees last Thursday, I knew we had to get out of the house. Since we celebrated the beginning of our CC school year with a hike at McDowell Creek Falls, it seemed fitting to celebrate the end as well.

We hiked and hiked and hiked until our legs felt like jelly.

McDowell Creek Falls (3) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We got our toes wet.

McDowell Creek Falls (8) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We explored the water falls.

McDowell Creek Falls (4) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMcDowell Creek Falls @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We climbed to the top of the waterfall above later in the afternoon (an arduous path of steep stone stairs) and the waterfall below (an arduous path of wooden stairs).

Paradise @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMcDowell Creek Falls (11) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We also enjoyed the smaller falls.

McDowell Creek Falls (10) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMcDowell Creek Falls (9) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMcDowell Creek Falls (12) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMcDowell Creek Falls (7) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMcDowell Creek Falls (1) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

This next photo was taken above the 3-tiered waterfall.

McDowell Creek Falls (13) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMcDowell Creek Falls (15) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I think we’ll make this a summer habit.

McDowell Creek Falls (14) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Pet Verbal

My Pet Verbal (6) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

It all started as a class joke. The word “verbal” is such a funny word, and it reminded us all of a gerbil. I told the students in my CC Essentials class that if I were ever to have a pet, it would be a verbal (because I’m not a pet person, but I sure do enjoy grammar).

On the last day of class, two of the girls came up to me with a gift. A box. With air holes. I got a little nervous. What sort of tutor gift did they get me?! Inside the first box was another box with air holes—a box labeled “verbal.” Yes, this is my kind of pet.

My Pet Verbal (7) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

What is a verbal, you might ask? How does one care for a verbal? Luckily, my new pet verbal came with an informative—and downright hilarious—booklet. 

My Pet Verbal (4) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMy Pet Verbal (5) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMy Pet Verbal (2) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesMy Pet Verbal (3) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

This is one gift I’ll treasure forever.

My Pet Verbal (1) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Homeschool Snapshots Podcast

Ed Snapshots Podcast

I had the opportunity to chat with Pam Barnhill on The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that we talked about books, but I won’t give it all away. You’ll have to go listen and tell me what you think!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Sun Sets on Spring Break

Garibaldi Sunset (1) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We drove back from Oceanside, through Garibaldi as the sun was going down. I love these rock formations and the craggy tree with birds.

Garibaldi Sunset (2) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesGaribaldi Sunset (3) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We arrived back in Rockaway just in time for me to walk to the beach and capture the sunset. It was a beautiful note on which to end our spring break.

Rockaway Sunset @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Oceanside Beach [Friday]

Oceanside Friday (1) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I begged Russ to take me back to Oceanside to enjoy the beautiful weather on Friday afternoon. It was exquisite.

Oceanside Friday (2) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (8) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (3) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (4) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (10) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (5) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (12) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (6) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (14) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (7) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (9) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles Oceanside Friday (13) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (16) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (11) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesOceanside Friday (15) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Rockaway Beach [Friday]

Rockaway Beach Spring Break @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We intended to leave on Friday, but it turned out that the best weather of spring break was finally arriving (still cold, mind you, but not threatening rain all day). We spent the late morning back on the beach. Luke and Leif both got in the (frigid) water.

Rockaway Beach Spring Break (2) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We had to get them back to the beach house to take warm baths before they ended up with hypothermia.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Rockaway Beach [Thursday]

Rockaway Beach (Thursday 4) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

After spending all of stormy Wednesday curled up with cozy blankets and books (and ordering pizza in), we took advantage of a short break from the rain on Thursday. It was cold, but that didn’t stop Luke from getting in the water. Brrrrrrrrr.

Rockaway Beach (Thursday 1) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Russ was working at his desk on the third floor of the townhouse, looking out onto the beach. If you look really close, you might be able to see him. [kidding]

Rockaway Beach (Thursday 2) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Clearly, one’s perception of the weather depends greatly on which direction one is gazing.

Rockaway Beach (Thursday 3) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Soon it didn’t matter in which direction one was gazing. It was just plain threatening and we had to make haste back to the beach house before the clouds let loose.

Rockaway Beach (Thursday 5) @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesRockaway Beach (Thursday 6) @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The blue sky peeked out again for a few minutes when we went back to “town” for a quick seafood dinner at the Old Oregon Smokehouse. We took our “picnic” dinner across the street to the playground area, but the wind was so chilly we didn’t stay long.

Rockaway Beach Old Oregon Smokehouse @ Mt. Hope Chronicles