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 theharmonacademy@gmail.com.

Buying stamps, Shelley



Plugging along… 5 weeks and counting!

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 7.50.40 PM.png

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


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