The Harmon Academy 2017-2018

Our new fundraising site is up!

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.

Handwriting is the New Black


In an age of emails, and text messages, we are fighting back with some handwriting intensives this year. Most of what ends up delivered by the mailman to our front porch includes bills, ads for stores we never shop at, credit card offers, and mail for people who don’t live here. I imagine that is what most of your mailboxes look like too…on the rare, bright occasion that a handwritten card arrives, everyone in our house wishes it was for them, and eagerly awaits their own. It is pretty sad that we just don’t bother to write to anyone regularly anymore…and one of our yearly goals is to incorporate weekly letter writing.

Part of writing a letter, is of course, legibility. While beginning handwriting is cute, that only lasts for so long. And there aren’t always 4-year-old interpreters around to translate reversed letters and chicken scratch.

Vegas has been studying Spencerian Penmanship for a few years now. I bought it for him to use in second grade, and it made him weep and gnash his teeth…. given back to him a few grades later, he took off with it independently, and if you have ever gotten a card from him, you will have seen the results.

Not wanting to induce more weeping or gnashing of teeth, we are not starting off with Spencerian Penmanship in the early grades, rather we are using Peterson Directed, which is sort of a broken down, less fancy version of Spencerian. At the same time, it is dramatically different from using the ‘loop group’ type of cursive, which teaches individual letters, as opposed to basic strokes that can be used to build any letter, and can be practiced, mastered, and used in conjunction to form any combination of words.


So, if you want a letter, send us your address! You can email it to us directly at

Buying stamps, Shelley


Plugging along… 5 weeks and counting!

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There are about 5 weeks left before the new baby arrives, and in that time I am frantically trying to remodel the basement, finish summer projects at church, gather all the baby things we need, and plan a school year. Last summer’s Go Fund Me made it possible for us to buy the books we needed for the 2015-2016 school year. I am hopeful that we can reach our goal this summer too, we are well on our way! Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 7.48.51 PMAs always, books are like Millions of Cats, and there will forever be one more “way down in a corner, which (is) too lovely to leave”, and so I have actually purchased a few things not included in the original spreadsheet. One was Art & Science, another was Ethics for Young People, and the third was a Roaring Spring Teacher’s Daily Plan Book. Altogether, that was about $37. It’s all fine and dandy though because we were fortunate to find several deals on other books, in addition to receiving some gifts by mail, and as a result, we have a lower goal!


Now, instead of aiming for $1500, we are aiming for $1330, of which $155 has already come in. Thank you so much for your help! We are down to about $1,175 for books and supplies to carry us through the next school year. Out of that $1,175, more than half {$715} will go towards Vegas’s involvement in PYCO, and the rest, $460 will cover lessons, supplies, materials and our remaining textbooks.  Thank you again, your support means so much to us.

Planning my next trip to Office Depot to get books spiral bound….. Shelley

More Books On The Way


I am so excited, I could just spit.

We ordered Art & Science, a  curriculum that “mines the treasures of the Getty Museum to explore the many intersections of the visual arts with scientific disciplines. Full-color images of antiquities, decorative arts, drawings, manuscripts, painting, photography, and sculpture illuminate lesson plans (that are) divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels for step-by-step learning.”

We also ordered science and math books!

Thank you again {at the risk of sounding like a broken record} for everyone who has helped with our Go Fund Me goal, we would not have been able to order all these books without you! Our goal this year was to raise enough money to pay for PYCO, and music lessons, as well as curriculum and school supplies. We are hoping to start lessons in August, and get a head start on settling into a groove before the baby arrives and I take a little break. So, if you are interested in seeing what books we still need, or what supplies we could use, check out the School Supplies, and Books, Books, Books! post. I have put a stikethrough  over all the books we have already ordered. Anything without a stikethrough  is something we still need.

And, more than anything, we appreciate knowing that our friends and family are reading these posts, and are involved with how we are doing. Thanks for all the support you have given us over the last few years!

Thankful for AC, Shelley

Some Things Don’t Change


This is Meri two years ago, playing the half-size Violin as if it were a Cello. (Note the glove and flowered dress)IMG_7230

This is Meri at the beginning of the summer, when the boys started up lessons with Lia. She picked up the violin and immediately played it the same way- as if it were a cello. The only difference is, she swapped hands and gave up the glove. 😉  She also seems much more serious.

We will have to find her a tiny instrument for Christmas, or her next birthday!

Busy moving rooms around, Shelley