We Are On Our Way!


Thanks to the wonderful support of our Go Fund Me site, we have been able to purchase some of our school books for the upcoming year already! So far, we have ordered all our grammar books. We also bought the books and supplies for a new spelling curriculum that we are giving a shot this year. The initial payment for PYCO is on its way, so Vegas’s paperwork will all be in order for the upcoming season. We are very thankful and excited to learn new things this year.

Stay tuned to hear how it all shapes up! Literally, the clock is ticking.

Helping the kids sort toys into give away bags, Shelley

Student Blog Updates

IMG_6821Elvis, Axel, and America have all updated their school blog pages. Click on their names in the navigation bar above to reach them. This year we are aiming for more writing, and I am looking forward to the bits and pieces from their weeks that they will post in their own words, for you to read.

It will be a challenge to get Vegas to write anything that doesn’t involve a pen and paper, maybe his posts will just be images of his handwriting.

Working on the basement, Shelley

Swimming, etc.

IMG_6760This summer, I gave the three younger kids a swimming challenge. After “learn to swim week” at our local community center, there were areas each one needed to work on.For Elvis, he needed to work on different strokes, as well as moving away from a full face snorkel mask, and towards regular goggles.IMG_6771For Axel, his work involved gaining confidence in the water without a life jacket, and bigger kicks.IMG_6767As for America, she didn’t even get in the pool at the community center. Honestly, this didn’t worry me, since I know it’s not a fear of water, it was the uncertainty of a strange teacher. She watched, we listened, and got some ideas for things she could work on in the pool over the summer.

Elvis’s challenge: Swim without a face mask.IMG_6981

Axel’s challenge: Swim without a life jacketIMG_7256.JPG

America’s challenge: Swim with less flotation devices, and get her face wet.IMG_6980

Certainly, these challenges should take all summer….or so I thought.

It took about three swims, or one week.

Elvis is swimming and even diving without a face mask, and only goggles.

Axel is now jumping, diving, flipping, swimming, for HOURS with no life jacket at all. He is a regular fish.

America is using only a small life jacket, and has even bravely jumped in one time.

Their reward was going to Dick’s sporting goods and pick out goggles and swim shoes. They were thrilled, and have been using them constantly ever since.

We are looking forward to a summer full of swimming and sun!

Reading about writing, Shelley

Fall 2016-2017 Go Fund Me

IMG_7184Here it is folks, a new fundraising site for the upcoming school year. Did I mention we are taking a trip to the Bahamas? Just kidding. But we do have 3 official students now, as well as a PreK draw-a-holic that needs her own paper budget. In addition, Vegas has been invited to join the PYCO, and there are some hefty fees that go along with the orchestra. {no more than a year of private lessons, but it seems like a large cost up front.}

So, that is why this years fundraiser is double last year, an attempt to offset the cost of his orchestra fee. 🙂 No Bahamas.

A baby, but no Bahamas.

In the last post, I included a spreadsheet of school books and supplies that we are hoping to use next year, along with prices, so you can get a feel for what it looks like, even on a small-scale with little to no electives to purchase books for a family of students. Oregon has many benefits for a non traditional schooling setup like ours, but no state funding for educational materials outside of public school. We can’t just turn in our receipts and get a refund. If we were to enroll in a charter school or some sort of web academy, we may get a budget for supplies, but they would all belong to the state, and would have to be approved. Not my cup of tea.

Sometimes we are able to find our books used on amazon, which is fantastic, and cuts the cost down, and sometimes our other supplies are found at the goodwill or SCRAP, which also helps.

If you are able to help out even with the cost of one book, that is a huge help to us in our present situation. Thank you for taking the time to read and tolerate my yearly fundraising plea.

Our Go Fund Me Site for 2016-2017

Reading grammar books, and googling DIY laundry counters, Shelley

School Supplies, and Books, Books, BOOKS!

Jacek Yerka 1952 - Polish Surrealist painter - Tutt'Art@ (5)

painting by Jacek Yerka

I have a big spreadsheet for all the books, and some of the supplies that I have planned so far. It is slightly large for the blog format, but I am posting it for those of you who like spreadsheets. (you know who you are, Stiles Brainery)

America Axel Elvis Vegas Shelley Supplies
Math Ray’s Primary $0 Ray’s Primary $0 Strayer-Upton Book 1 $14 Harold Jacobs Geometry $53 Geometry Solutions Manual $35 Scientific Calculator $16
Books 2 & 3 $29
Science BFSU Vol. II $35 BFSU Vol. II $35 BFSU Vol. III $29
Biology II $0
Grammar Reading: McGuffey $0 Harvey’s Elementary Grammar {pdf} $0 Harvey’s Revised Grammar $20 Harvey’s Elementary Key $10
Language Lessons, Evans $0 Elements of English Grammar, Evans {pdf} $0 Harvey’s Revised Key $6
A New English Grammar, Harvey {pdf} $0
Language Arts Get Ready for the Code $4 Get Set/Go for the Code $13 Explode the Code 6-8 $15 Magnetic boards $10
All about Spelling $15 All about Spelling 1 $30 All about Spelling interactive Kit $23
History Story of the world 3 $10 Story of the world 3 $10 Story of the world 3 $10
Great Courses Western Civ $50
Language N/A N/A Latin’s Not So Tough 2 $20 Wheelock’s Latin & workbook $24 Latin’s Not So Tough CD $5
French 1
Art Art Camp Art Camp Art Camp Rendering in Pen and Ink $16
100 flashcards 100 Flashcards Kahn Academy Art History
100 flashcards
Music Elementary Music Elementary Music Elementary Music
Drums with Elvis Piano Violin Orchestra
Violin Drums w/Nick $50/mo PYCO $765
PYP Class Private Lessons Sketchbooks $25/each
Other Elementary Education Elementary Education Leuchtturm Notebooks $20/each
copy paper $20
Home Skills Home Skills $30 for all 3 Home Skills Home Skills
pencils/pens $45
Handwriting Magna-doodle 3-5 Handwriting Guide 3-5 Handwriting Guide Spencerian Penmanship Penmanship copybooks $15
Total:$4 Total: $95 Total: $ 110 + $50/mo Total: $190 + PYCO fees Total: $ 55 Total: $ 175 Total for All: $735(less music classes and fees)

Here are the books and supplies we need to purchase, in list form, for each student.


Get Ready for the Code $4 {phonics and letter formation}


BFSU Vol. II $35 {also used by Elvis}

Reading: BOB $10-$30

Get Set/Go for the Code $13 {phonics and reading}

All about Spelling $15

Story of the world 3 $10 {also used by Elvis}


Strayer-Upton Book 1 $14

Books 2 & 3 $29 {depending on how fast they go}

Harvey’s Elementary Grammar  The PDF is $0, Book is about $10

Explode the Code 6-8 $15 {phonics and vocabulary}

All about Spelling 1 $30

Latin’s Not So Tough 2 $20


Harold Jacobs geometry $53

BFSU Vol. III $29

Harvey’s Revised Grammar $20

Great Courses Western Civ $50

Wheelock’s Latin & workbook $24

Rendering in Pen and Ink $16

Shelley {teacher’s manuals}:

Geometry Solutions Manual $35

Harvey’s Elementary Key $10

Harvey’s Revised Key $6

Supplies and materials:

Scientific Calculator $16

Magnetic boards $10

All about Spelling interactive Kit $23

Latin’s Not So Tough CD $5

Sketchbooks $25/each {X4}

Leuchtturm Notebooks $20/each {X2}

copy paper $20

pencils/pens $45

Penmanship copybooks $15

*If additional books or supplies are needed, I will amend this spreadsheet, and write a new post.

Having some Steven Smith tea, Shelley

A New Year on the Horizon

Over the last few months we have been pushing to finish our work for the 2015-2016 school year. There are about 5 science lessons to go, and a few odds and ends for the younger kids, while Vegas has a full summer of Algebra and Biology to chip away at. At the beginning of this last year, I planned for working through the summer, and I am so glad I did. The stress of finishing everything by June is gone, and an easier pace has allowed for us to go on several unplanned field trips, and work on household skills that might have been pushed aside otherwise.

The natural product of one year ending, is to think about the next year, and to begin planning for it. Having our struggles and successes fresh in mind as I am looking through potential textbooks is key to choosing wisely for each child. I recently read through For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and was struck by how different our American education system is from how a child’s mind actually learns or processes. I was challenged to change my mentality from a segmented, goal oriented, test based plan to a long-range, whole child, preparing for life, holistic approach.

The book that has been the most successful this year with the younger kids has been Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, by Bernard J. Nebel. Because of it’s popularity within our family, I ordered Nebel’s Elementary Education, Creating a Tapestry of Learning, also by the same author. I was surprised to find his philosophy of learning and teaching to be so close to that of Charlotte Mason, who Susan Macaulay writes about in For the Children’s Sake. It was very satisfying to find two seemingly unrelated books that were in complete agreement.

With these books on my mind, I set about carefully reading through different reviews and samples from textbooks in all subjects.  Using the resulting books, I have been putting together a curriculum for the next few years that I hope will serve each child well. The goal being to build a broad structure of thinking, and consequently implementing those subjects into meaningful tools for life. I cannot put it as eloquently as these other authors, but what I can say is, I am excited to be thinking outside of the grade level box.

With that said, next year Vegas will be in 9th grade, Elvis in 4th, Axel in 1st, and Meri in PreK.

By age.

Each child has areas of exellence that surpass that ‘grade level’, as well as areas that they are still working through. Rather than feel pressure to meet certain ‘normal’ levels across the board for each one, I am motivated to use those areas in a complimentary fashion, recognizing that each strength and weakness is part of a unique and wonderful person, who is exactly who they are meant to be.

I am hopeful to steer each child in the direction of mastery and passion that is particular to them, not create a ‘jack of all trades, and a master of none.’

Making extra coffee, Shelley

P.S. My next post will be a school supply and book list.


Year 2 of PYP Classes

This was the second year that Vegas and Elvis participated in the PYP double bass and percussion programs. It was amazing to see them both progress so much, and fun to see them perform at the end of year recitals. Vegas is considering a few auditions this summer, for the high school orchestra, and also possibly PYP. Here are some very low quality videos I took with my phone, forgive the wobbliness of them, and the inability to zoom in very well.

First up, Vegas on his own, playing a solo which he had very little time to prepare. I don’t even know if I heard him practice it, so I was super excited to hear him play. 🙂

This is his intermediate bass class as a group, playing part of a Mahler piece.

Finally, both the beginning and intermediate classes played a piece together. I loved seeing {and hearing} the perfect unison between Vegas and his teacher, the gentleman on his left.

This is Elvis’s percussion class, performing a piece that his teacher composed for this group. I accidentally recorded this in slo-mo, but after some googling, was able to fix it enough to watch. My favorite part is how Elvis really gets into it, nodding his head. He is such a fun drummer, and has come so far this year!

We are looking forward to a summer with a few less classes, but much more playing!

Wading through a giant backlog of photos to post, Shelley


Grandfather Apple



Meri eats at least one apple every day. Sometimes, she will eat five. It’s not unusual for all the kids to have apples and peanut butter for lunch. If you do the math, that makes 4-6 apples a day on the low end, and 10+ on the high end.

Every day.

You have all heard the saying: “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, and I believe it must hold some truth. The more fruits and veggies my kids eat, the healthier they are. And I don’t mean fruit servings in a fruit snack or energy bar, or a drink, but an actual piece of fruit. One of the kids friends referred to apples as “nature’s toothbrush” once, in telling a story about someone that didn’t use a regular toothbrush and how “…he wasn’t very wise”. Whether apples are good dental care stand-ins or not, they are definitely part of our family’s diet, and the number of apples we require is almost embarrassing.

You may remember our Farm Day post, where we spread woodchips around our yard, and made plans for our urban farm. Part of our strategy included at least two apple trees, so that we could offset our apple purchases with home grown fruit.

Last week we were the happy recipients of a free espalier* apple tree, which is actually two trees in one, grafted together. One part of the tree is “Melrose“, and the other part is a wild apple from Kazakhstan! I have been doing some reading on the wild apple forests of Central Asia, and everything about it is fascinating.



We may have to do an apple research project for school!

Here are some things I learned over the last few days:

“The Latin noun malus can mean either “apple” or “evil,” which is probably why the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the Garden of Eden is often depicted as an apple tree, even though the biblical book of Genesis does not say what sort of fruit tree it is.” via National Geographic



The wild apples of Central Asia are the grandfathers of all apples, worldwide, and every apple you see at the local grocery store is one of those grandbaby apples. {Also, the apple forests are in danger of disappearing due to pests, climate change, and deforestation.}

The Kazakhstan apple graft came from a retired CDP {customs and border patrol} agent, who seized it from a traveling scientist/professor. You can read more of that story here.



  1. 1.
    a fruit tree or ornamental shrub whose branches are trained to grow flat against a wall, supported on a lattice or a framework of stakes.



We brought our tree home, and planted it in the front side yard, where it will get plenty of sun. When spring comes, and the tree starts to wake up and grow, we will continue training the branches by building a support system for them. Eventually it should look like a mature dwarf apple tree, just flattened out.  My hope is that is will be the friendliest fence, providing snacks for the neighbor girls, as well as a bit of privacy for us.

One small piece of our farm objective has been implemented. On to finding a Salt Cedar!

Avoiding cleaning for Thanksgiving,


Forty Something Days ‘Till Christmas

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 10.19.33 AM

The painful truth is, that what seemed like the longest stretch of time in my entire childhood, is in fact the most terribly and paralyzingly short season as an adult. Before October was half over, Christmas decorations were going up at Target. The kids were making wish lists, and until today, I had been indulging my childlike belief that Christmas morning is SO. FAR. AWAY. But it isn’t.

And it is.

After reviewing my class syllabuses today, the amount of work we need to accomplish before the holiday free for all schedule can begin is quite intimidating. The work is doable, but it will require actual doing…not cutting snowflakes, or making cookies, or procrastinating. Work.Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 10.16.56 AM

All I can think of is watching Elf.

Regardless, we are plugging along, completely enjoying our new science book, and these Bible Project Videos that the kids have been watching, which give a brief illustrated overview of how each book of the bible fits into the whole story. They are pretty cool, and help make sense of some of the more difficult to understand books. 😉  The boys are all working hard on math, reading, and music. Axel is still undecided on an instrument that he would like to play, he mostly plays a harmonica at this point.Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 10.18.58 AM

We will be planning some Christmas workshop days today, and putting them on the calendar, so that we are setting aside time to prepare for presents and activities, rather than letting them sneak up on us and overwhelm us.

Attempting to maintain reason while cultivating excitement for the upcoming weeks,