Author: theharmonacademy

Professionally Good-Looking

Vegas is going into his second season with the Portland Youth Philharmonic, which is very exciting. Last season was wonderful, and the pieces that he was able to perform were wonderful, and truly memorable. PYP just released their ‘trailer’ for season 95, and what do you know? Vegas is in several of the shots. I’ve been telling him he is now a male model, mostly in jest, but I am actually very proud. Take a look, pass it on! We are working on building a Patreon account for him, to aid him in the purchase of his own bass by the time he graduates. The one he is currently using belongs to his high school.  Stay tuned for more details!

In the meantime, take a look at PYP’s YouTube channel, which features several of the pieces that Vegas was able to perform last year.

Putting my blinders on to the school displays at EVERY store, its still the MIDDLE OF SUMMER, people!





The End {not really!}

5059A4BA-5E46-4A32-86A8-68725065A233There are a few weeks left of the ‘school year’, although we have had a long pause for a myriad of reasons. One reason, is that the seasons are changing, and I have a hard time keeping the kids inside, when they could be outside, getting vitamin D and burning off all their winter energy. Another reason, is that we have had a hard spring, and I am having a hard time keeping myself on track. Out of all our books, there are some that I really want to ‘finish’, and some that I am not worried about at all.

8F57F2B7-1D0D-4073-97FD-E823247FF9BC{Axel read “Charlotte’s Web’ in a few days, watched the movie, and then re-read the book! I am so excited for him to transition into this stage of reading!}

One of my goals for the year was to really work on being tied to ‘finishing’ a certain amount of work, as opposed to knowing that the kids ‘understand’, and have actually learned a suitable body of work. I have residual learning habits that are leftover from my school days that I am still trying to break. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. {for anyone teaching or thinking of home educating, I recommend Sarah Mackenzie’s book “Teaching From Rest’, for encouragement, as well as John Taylor Gatto’s writings on school, particularly a compilation of speeches/essays entitled ‘Dumbing Us Down for a good kick in the pants.}BBCDF036-C973-4530-9FE5-15AB0FBA7EF3As the traditional school year draws to a close, there have been about a thousand events to attend. Everyone had end of year concerts, {although Axel’s was about a month ago} and of course we went to all of them. There are tests, and projects, and even Prom. I know. It’s hard to believe. But there are pictures to prove it. AFFE5189-1BFC-44B8-A8AC-BEE28EA02390Elvis joined the Metropolitan Youth Symphony this year, during the spring term, and jumped right in to difficult music, new instruments, and a whole different group of kids, and rose to the challenge with amazing determination. His final concert was on Sunday, and included Ballet music from Faust, which was his favorite piece. 97BFE8B4-7E50-43DA-8827-A3A387B26100A9DE3A33-8A64-4B6F-841A-F08F85365DE6The very next day, Elvis’s 5th grade band had it’s final performance at the middle school. Next year they will be the 6th grade advanced band, so it was really fun to hear the current advanced band, knowing that he will be working up to some really fun music next year. The 5th grade band program has been great for him, learning to play in a big group, and giving some context to all his practicing and learning at home and at his lessons. There is nothing quite as satisfying as playing music with other people, and hearing it all take shape in a concert! What a great year. AD1680AA-A495-4F82-9A71-48CDC4A1A35BVegas had his final orchestra concert last week as well, where he played the piece he performed for the state solo competition, along with one of his fellow bassists, who also happened to perform the same piece {the Dragonetti Bass Concerto}. They played the solo, while the rest of the orchestra backed them up. It was truly wonderful to watch. Vegas has such a fantastic stage presence! His last concert of the year will be Jazz Night, which is next week. EBC56772-3420-49DF-9C48-EA445363A25DLast weekend, Vegas also went to Prom. At the risk of him disowning me, I have to post a couple of pictures. It is still a little hard to take in the reality of him getting older, and more independent, but I have so enjoyed his whole person at each stage, that I can only expect the coming years to be just as wonderful. Bittersweet, but that’s to be expected. 3FA10F27-64E8-44D2-BB85-CFCA977266B5

8BCDF1EA-5C7B-49F5-B508-82169A66084BMeanwhile, the girls are playing, the boys are wrestling with their middle childhood, and I am running to catch up. {Meri was so wiped out by her cello lesson this week, that she literally just fell asleep in the car afterward. I feel like doing this every day, unfortunately, I can’t.} 81E98809-1213-40C5-93DA-E41C3690011FI’ve been reading a few fantastic books, my favorite right now is this book: Children’s Special Places’ by David Sobel. Naturally, fort building is a high priority right now! He also writes this book on map making , which is at the top of my shopping list! EB179E5D-6B7E-40D2-8703-164E422479E1D3D83EFD-7B45-49DB-A9A8-674366B534C6We have had a long winter. The advent of warm weather and new growth in the garden gives hope to me after a season of feeling like I have a thimbleful of energy and patience. Over a year after I started this project, the herb garden path is completed. Bea has been a huge helper, sweeping sand in the cracks, and gathering onions for scrambled eggs. She is very anxious to see the strawberries turn red. 0B892891-4BED-4D14-B94A-F3F0C4C881F2317EE23A-FC98-4BB1-91F7-9407EF8B2CF7This week, we are planting a whole bunch of little ‘sticks with roots’ that we purchased at a nursery stock sale last week. They are in a bucket of water in the back yard, and trying to figure out where they will all live is a fun challenge. Elvis picked out a plum tree, Meri picked out a spiky little juniper, and Bea just likes to help water. Axel was in Seattle when we went to the sale, so he didn’t get to pick out his own plant, but we got a honey crisp tree, which everyone will enjoy!

This morning, I need to water, before all the plants wither in the hot sun.

Also, I need to scrub the pool, which is still un-greening itself from winter algae. It is a long learning process. Summer in Portland is a trickster, because it is so hot and great, you almost forget how horrible winter is.

Next winter, we are going on vacation somewhere sunny.

Off to make a second pot of coffee, Shelley


What Margin?


5DB8C368-8F2F-4268-875A-94EE7B7D41F8This year has taken all of our energy.

We have worked so hard. There have been times that we have had to cancel everything and do nothing, just to get back up again the next day. Our schedules have been pushed to the absolute limit, but somehow, everyone has arrived to school music programs on time, no one has been forgotten on a sidewalk somewhere, and we are the closest to being ‘on track’ with our academic goals than any other year.

8A775084-E47F-4FB3-9D6D-A6F818838AB3I am tempted to call it good and close up shop for the summer though. This spring we have had a particularly intense period of high demands on our time, plus family losses, and some sickness. In the middle of it all we took a road trip. {road trip=fun+exhausting} When you have had a year of pushing, those seasons can push you over the edge. The edge of what? I don’t know, the edge of the road you are on?

We have been blazing a trail through unknowns.

Vegas has been a full-time student at our local high school.

Elvis has joined the band at our local middle school. 44F62D10-BAAE-45B2-9505-294D0899DF64

There are FIVE kids to bathe, and launder, and lunch. Five. Plus a house to keep up with. So, you know, we added a few more things. Naturally! Elvis auditioned in to the Metropolitan Youth Symphony as a percussionist for the spring term. He is enjoying it very much, however, it is really challenging. He had two concerts coming up! One is for 5th grade band at the middle school, and one is for MYS. I cannot wait!  America started cello lessons again with a new teacher, which has been good for her, and also very challenging. Who else has a 5-year-old in music lessons? Do they love to practice? Do they listen well to their teacher every lesson? I didn’t think so. Those are learning experiences too, I keep telling myself. The struggles for discipline and respectful/intelligent listening are valuable battles to be fought hard. I believe they will be a benefit to whole life learning.


In the moment-sometimes I doubt myself.

Are we doing too much? Not enough? The wrong things? Do other people have house where everything is sticky?


In more positive news, all stickiness aside, Axel finished his first year of the PYP bass class, playing a wonderful recital, and truly amazing us with his ability to learn a difficult instrument. He listened hard all year, was respectful and hardworking with his teacher, and rose to the challenge of it all. I am excited to see what he does next! We are just renting his bass, but I hope to find him one he can keep soon!

8756AE42-2954-447C-A461-B5533FCADD48Vegas just finished all his state competitions, placing both individually and with his symphonic orchestra through the high school. He will probably be horrified that I posted this screenshot, but what are parents for? I believe one of my primary jobs is to proclaim the wonders of my kids to whoever will listen. Oh, and to embarrass them in the process.

Not really, but I still can’t help it. 45BAEC68-F09F-4AAA-B9A4-75F1307E583E


Vegas is already working on next year’s solo pieces. I don’t think I have ever had to ask him to practice. I am amazed in every way.

Next year the plan is for Vegas to take his academic classes through a community college, and continue to participate in the high school music programs that he is a part of now. This was his first year playing in Jazz Band, and he has really loved it-even though he was doubtful going into it. Thankfully, he can play in both the jazz band and symphony orchestra next year, provided the college classes don’t overlap. The only problem with this plan is that we need to find a good calculus class for him to take over the summer so that he can take the math he wants in the fall. Alright, that isn’t really a problem, more of a good hurdle to overcome. There may be some scheduling hairiness in the fall, but hopefully he can do some of the driving by then!


Through it all, Beatrix has been astonishing us with her letter ‘reading’, recognition, and musical aptitude. She can sing an arpeggio, knows several songs, and loves to dance. I have no idea what she’ll be doing by next year, probably first grade.


This post is titled ‘what margin?’ Because I literally have had no margin all year. The things I mentioned briefly here are not even a drop in the bucket of all the kids have accomplished over the past several months. I finally figured out how to post here without being tied to my computer, which is in the music room, and so consequently unavailable to me if someone is practicing. Being able to post mobile-y will be a big help, and I am planning  to create more space in my schedule for writing, so you won’t spend six months in the dark again.

Our go fund me is still active for this year, which seems silly, because we have all our books, but we do still have ongoing lessons and opportunities that come up. If you are interested in helping out the kids with a lesson or two, or instrument rental/purchase, they would be forever grateful.

Enjoying a few moments of silence before all the kids roll down the stairs,



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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 8.19.02 AM

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!

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