Looking Back

I had forgotten about this post that I had written a year or so ago, but these images of Meri are always in my mind as she practices her cello. Ever since she was very small, she has wanted to play the ‘violin’. How she played it was fascinating to me. She always held it upright, as if it were a cello. So, for that reason, I have always had it in my head that she would play the cello if she ever played a stringed instrument.

This year she is able to participate in a beginning strings class, and she is fortunate to play the cello every day. I think it is harder for her than she originally thought it would be. Her hands get sore, her arms are tired, she has to learn a whole new language – music – from a teacher who is new to her…but she is doing great.  We are so proud of how hard she works!

Happy that it is Friday today, Shelley


This is the End of the Beginning


Ursa Major, a vintage print that we are using in today’s Art and Science lesson.

Well folks, we have reached the end of our first almost full week of school. When I say almost full, I mean that there are still more classes starting up in the next few weeks, but we made it 5 days in a row THIS week. That is an accomplishment. Vegas is playing in the high school Jazz Band this year, a departure from classical music, but I think he is enjoying it so far. Don’t worry, he has plenty of classical music to play! Jazz Band meets at 0 period, which means we have to leave the house at 6:15am every day. My red bull needs are high right now.

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This week we also had two orchestra classes with Axel and America. They have been playing and learning their new instruments, which has been super fun. I am so excited to hear how they progress over the coming months.  Taking a cello, a bass, a baby, and three kids {plus lunches and books} singlehandedly to class in Oregon City twice a week is a bit of a challenge for me, but we are getting the hang of it. Elvis is a wonderful helper.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 8.18.52 AMSpeaking of Elvis, he starts 5th Grade Band this coming Monday! We rented a ‘bells kit’ for him, since percussion starts on the bells in this particular band. He has been learning scales and how to choreograph his mallets…and all the other kids want to play them. All the time.

This is the last week of a partially full schedule. It is the end of the beginning, even though it has been jumping in the deep end in so many ways, there is still more to come.

Band, bass classes, Jazz Band, possibly more PYP involvement for Vegas, PSATs, and then….Christmas.

For now, I will take comfort in the fact that tomorrow is Saturday, and I can sleep in.

Listening to teaching lectures and drinking old coffee,


The Doorbell Rang…


{these are not Elvis’s books, don’t worry…I just liked the picture;) }

And it was FedEx! We got our first delivery of textbooks today, and it was very exciting. We got almost all of Elvis’s math books, as well as the DVD teaching lectures that go along with them. We also got the next book in our spelling series, which has been a great set.

Amazon Packages at Doorstep

Today Vegas and I went over to the high school to get his new schedule, and pictures, and ID card. Last year his schedule was only orchestra and early dismissal. This year, it’s packed full of classes. Orchestra,  music theory, science, math, French, and an AP geography class. I tried to talk to him about school supplies, but he was way less into that conversation than I was. Sigh.

We have one week left before school starts. One week to left to collect books, get haircuts, find suitable backpacks, plan lunches…

Plan lessons!


I better go get busy planning.

Thank you for all your help getting us off the ground this year!

Shelley {and students}

Our Schoolyear Wishlist


{this photo was taken by Vegas on the ‘men’s camping trip’ this summer}

Visit our Fundraising Site

Each summer I evaluate the books we used during the prior school year, and based on how we liked them {or how well they did their job}, I make choices on the next set of books. Last year, we were very happy with most of our books! A few of them weren’t completed, so we will use them again this year.

I am still compiling the books we need, so this wish list will be a somewhat evolving one. As I acquire each item, I will cross it off, so you will know how we are doing!

Language Arts

Teaching Writing with Structure and Style

Student Writing Intensive {IEW}

Fix-It Grammar 1

Fix-It Grammar 5

Writing With Ease

Writing With Ease Workbook

Primary Language Lessons

Intermediate Language Lessons

Explode the Code {A,B,C}


All About Spelling


Math-U-See Beta

Math-U-See Gamma

Math-U-See Primer

Math-U-See manipulatives


Book Shark US History

Road Trip USA


Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding 1&2

Exploring Nature With Children

Science and Art


History of Classical Music

Music Lessons

Instrument Rental


Drawing Textbook

Art and Science

Art Camp


Latin’s Not So Tough

Slightly Dangerous Lessons

Code Academy

Supplies, Etc

Printer/Copy paper

Ticonderoga Black pencils

Pilot Hi-Tec Maica Pens $8


Washable Markers

Colored Pencils

Sketchbooks{X3} $13

Small grid notebooks $9

Three Ring Binders {avery, easy open}

Notebook Paper Narrow Rule


Our reading list is HUGE. Too long to post. If anyone wants a copy of that, just email me, and I would be happy to send it out. I have Vegas’s reading list for the rest of High School all worked out…although I am sure there will be additions along the way.

Thank you for taking time to read this, and for all your support. We love to hear from you, and the kids write back, so if you want to send us a letter, please do!


Shelley, and the Harmon Academy


The Harmon Academy 2017-2018

Our new fundraising site is up! https://www.gofundme.com/HarmonAcademy2018

Hello again family and friends! The school year is looming larger than ever this year, with many challenges and new opportunities.

This year, America will be starting kindergarten, Axel will be in 2nd grade, Elvis will be in 5th grade! {This marks his last year in elementary school! I cannot believe it!} and  Vegas will be in 10th grade!

Bea will just be a cute reminder of how fortunate we are to have so much time together as a family!

Elvis and Vegas will both be participating in local school music programs, which they are looking forward to very much.

Vegas will also be attending our local high school for four academic classes in addition to music classes.  This year he will also be playing with the Portland Youth Philharmonic, which is a goal he set three years ago for himself, and we are so excited for him!

As many of you know, we moved over the last year {again~and hopefully the last time for….ever} Tim is still pastoring a small church in Northeast Portland, and working part-time at Western Seminary.  I am holding down the fort, planning school curriculum, cleaning the house, working in the yard, and sometimes getting away to the local nursery to look at new plants.

This year, I was torn about doing a fundraiser, but there are many practical considerations that helped make my decision.

We have music lessons to pay for.
We have co-op classes to pay for.
We drive kids to classes all the time, which takes gas.
Vegas needs a tux shirt.
The kids all need school supplies, and books.
Our markers wear out, shoes wear out, coats get small, and life provides unexpected costs just for good measure.

So, if you have any of the items on our wish list or are able to contribute in any way to our fundraiser, we would appreciate it so much. Our last few years would not have been possible without all the support we have received from you. Thank you!!

The Harmon Academy

Spring is Here, After a Long Winter.

Well, blogging has certainly been on the back burner for me this year. I think the last time I posted anything was when Beatrix was born. Since then, we have done nothing. Sitting around mostly, looking at blank walls.  Ha! Just kidding. We have been super busy, so busy in fact, that writing a ‘catch up’ post seems totally overwhelming. So I won’t bother. I will just tell you what is currently happening, and little bits and pieces will fill in on their own.

{A brief recap of September-March: We have totally loved Beatrix, School has been up and down, Orchestra endeavours for Vegas have been exciting, he is going to State next weekend after taking first place in the regional solo competition, We have loved our schoolbooks this year, and are finished with a couple already! We moved. Yes, we moved again. The yard here is huge and fantastic, so a garden is on its way…there is more, but this was supposed to be brief!}


I just bought Exploring Nature with Children, even though another curriculum tool may not be what I actually need! It looks simple, easy to use, and sort of revolving, so that at any point we can jump in and use it. There are weekly nature walks, and everything corresponds with Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock, which I have been wanting to get for a couple of years now. I found that there is a free archived version online, which we will use for now.


Having a new nature book is perfect timing for the spring nature exchange! We signed up for this one, the first one we have done in quite a while. Our ‘pal’ family is in Ohio, so we are looking forward to meeting them through this process. If you have never heard of the nature pal exchange, I highly recommend it! It is super fun, and changes the way you interact with the out-of-doors permanently. We are always scanning the ground for treasures, and still call things we sent in the first exchange by their Latin names! {I still REALLY want a Tamarix ramosissima for my garden!}

As far as academics go, this year has been a challenge. I am reading Teaching from Rest, which is hard for me, because I want to be able to say we ‘finished’ or achieved a certain level of work. I tend towards the vice of being a servant to my books, rather than using the books to serve us.  My goal is to finish reading that book, before I freak out about the fact that it is almost May and *some* of our students have a hefty amount of book service left before next year starts.

Right now, I just need to start a load of laundry.

Scouting out a good planting spot for my Vine Maple, Shelley

Beatrix is Here!


After much waiting, and anticipation, Beatrix arrived safely on September 8th. img_8223

She was scheduled to be induced, because her big sister was rather ginormous! {9lbs, 14 oz} We didn’t want Beatrix to get really big on us! Fortunately, she was over a pound smaller, which makes a big difference in someone so small! The labor went quickly, and out of all the kids, I think it was the easiest.img_8242

We only had to stay at the hospital one night, and everyone was happy to be back home together.img_8267

Time…marches on, and this post is three weeks overdue.

During that time we have all been adjusting to our new family configuration. All the kids have been awesome helpers and extra arms for me, and even do their schoolwork {which was intentionally light these last couple weeks!}!


America is very pleased with her new ‘girls’ room, and is always on the lookout for more pink stuffed things to put on her bed! 😉


Life looks like this most of the time: wearing the baby, or sitting with the baby.


We are all enjoying Beatrix very much, amidst the mess and falling behind that usually comes along with babies. She is a good reason for a household stay-cation, and the break is totally fine with us. Now that September is gone, we must be on to more academics, and I will be updating you on Vegas’s involvement in PYCO and David Douglas orchestra next!

Still sitting with Beatrix,  Shelley

If You’re Out of Schlitz, You’re Out of Beer.

As one Ph. D. of mathematics describes Harold Jacobs’ Geometry, “The applications to “real life” are the most realistic and compelling that I have seen anywhere. I keep finding things that I didn’t know, and ways of looking at geometry problems that I hadn’t considered.”

Today’s Geometry lesson was on conditional statements, and one of the statements was the Schlitz Beer slogan, ‘If you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer’. For some reason it seemed too completely ridiculous not to post. How many high school math texts use a beer ad to teach deductive reasoning? Ah, the joys of choosing your own books. I do love how Jacobs uses the most obscure areas of life as opportunities to teach, even if it includes Schlitz.jacobs_crosscut_areas

One of my favorite new {to me} curriculum authors and educational resources, Bernard J. Nebel, strongly advocates the connection between real world objects and math. His position is that arbitrary math facts are meaningless to younger children, and simply memorizing tables isn’t enough to actually understand what is happening mathematically. Using familiar items to represent the numbers in equations instantly gives students something to connect what they already know, to what they are learning. This, in turn, gives them a strong foundation to build a system of understanding that will last their whole lives. When I was looking through books for Elvis and Axel this year, it was a priority to choose texts that consistently reflected this approach. The Strayer Upton Practical Arithmetic Series, as well as Ray’s New Primary Arithmetic both use word problems that incorperate real world objects, and we have enjoyed using them so far this year!


As a plus, today’s Geometry lesson was returned to me with such wonderful handwriting, it was a joy to grade! Years of tears over penmanship have paid off it seems, so we are launching into a few more painful years with the younger kids, knowing it will be worth it in 5-7 more grades.


One thing that should help with penmanship, is fancy pens. We found these Japanese import Pilot Hi-Tec Maica pens at a good price, and they have been a hit! Everyone wants to write neatly with them, and having ‘just for school’ pens is a treat!


We also ordered these fancy notebooks, for the older two boys who will be using them for note taking in all subjects. Vegas is already in the habit of note taking, but this will be Elvis’s first year really working at it. It may be a slow road, but it will be a rewarding undertaking in the grand scheme of things.


Nebel’s Elementary Education strongly suggests a high quality, hardback notebook for note taking. This notebook should ideally include numbered pages and a table of contents…The Leuchtterm 1917 notebooks fit the bill perfectly!download

For September, we are studying one of  Jan Van Kessel’s pieces, and looking at illustration through the eyes of a scientist in Art & Science.


Our new friend ‘Fiona’ is proving to be a terribly fascinating pet, and object of study. She will totally shred any insect in her jar, without hesitation, and is extremely aware of what is going on around her. She watches us out of her jar, pivoting her head and fixing us with a creepy stare. We have been drawing her, and will incorperate her into our own Van Kessel piece.


I could go on, but then this post would be long and horrible. More pictures and updates will follow, although it may be a few days, since we are headed to the hospital in the early morning tomorrow for an induction, and if all goes well, should be home friday with another little Harmon. 🙂

Changing sheets and mending stuffed animals, hanging pictures and organizing random pen jars, Shelley

While the Boys are Away…

The first few days of this week were a little different around here, mostly because all the ‘men’ were away on the annual ‘men’s camping trip’. Meri and I had movie night, ate too much popcorn, and worked on a giant baby to-do list. Although we didn’t really make a dent in the list, we did get many things done, and had fun doing them. I finally repainted our bedroom, and hung up some art. We built the co-sleeper and put a headboard on the bed. bedroomAmerica was a huge help in organizing all the baby clothes by type, which is wonderful because up until now they have all just been jumbled into the wardrobe with no rhyme or reason. We packed the baby’s hospital bag, as well as mine! wardrobeThe big news is that we are scheduled for an induction on September 8th, one week from today. I am truly hoping that she just decides she is done ‘cooking’ before that, since the idea of being induced is something that I do not relish. At least I know that it won’t take longer than one more week, which is a comfort because all of a sudden, everything hurts and is exhausting. mantisWe caught a praying mantis for the boys to examine after camping. He is gigantic, and seems fairly angry, but at the same time, he is fascinating. Our first Art & Science lesson is on insect anatomy, and the ‘scientist as illustrator’, so the timing is perfect!meri ice creamMeri and I also exercised some of our most important skills in the kitchen, and made ice cream.

Our book orders have been rolling in, and I have been typing syllabuses like a madwoman. I think there are only one or two left to complete, and then I can just sit back and fill in my teacher’s plan book with a cup of coffee!

Today was the first day that the end of summer seemed like it was getting closer, although I still haven’t smelled an autumn morning yet. I’ll believe it when it gets here. Until then, it’s shorts, and swimming, ice cream and sprinklers…after our studies of course!

Hanging up our pull down map, Shelley

What Are We Waiting For?

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As promised, I am writing a small update on the School Supplies, and Books, Books, BOOKS! post. We have purchased many of the items on the book list, but there are a few things we still need. Many  of these things are consumable items, such as drawing paper, printing paper, washable markers, water colors, and some more specific pens for handwriting. There are a couple of books in particular I would love to get, and I’ve listed all of these things below. 🙂

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The Harmon Academy would like to thank each of you who has helped us out in various ways over the summer to prepare for this crazy fall. The donations and support has been priceless, during a time of uncertainty and tightening finances.

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Our Go Fund Me goal has dropped a bit, since we found some great deals on things, but there is still a chunk that remains for musical lessons and fees for the two older boys, as well as general supplies. {just in case you were wondering what in the world we needed any of that $$ for!;) } Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 4.04.02 PM

Thank you again, and we look forward to posting all we are working on this year!

Madly painting my bedroom, {9ish days and counting}


Here is the list of remaining books and supplies: {don’t read this if you have recently been forbidden from any shopping of any kind…you know who  you are!} For anyone else, this is just food for thought. We will be chipping away at this list over the next few months, and would love any contributions you may be willing to make, even if its random paper for crafts. 🙂


Strayer-Upton Practical Arithmetic Books 2 & 3 $29 

Great Courses Western Civ $50

Rendering in Pen and Ink $16

Madam How and Lady Why $6

The Story Book of Science $15

Elementary Geography $9

Supplies and materials:

Magnadoodle $17

copy paper $29

Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pens $14

Pilot Hi-tec Maica gel roller pens $11

Ticonderoga Black pencils $5

Pipsqueak markers $19

Penmanship copybooks $15

Total: $235 110  $33 {amazing – thank you! } Yikes! I sometimes can’t believe that half a dozen books and some pens and paper can add up that quickly.