Saturday, January 13, 2018

Still Classically Educating After All These Years

I grew up reading. I grew up learning from books and to books I turned when we began homeschooling 27 years ago. Books have figured heavily into our family life, homeschool world and larger community. (I edited a book this summer, The Cup of Salvation, by Rabbi Pesach Wolicki and am currently reading a review copy of Nancy Pearcy’s book, Love Thy Body). Basically, everyone around here is either reading, writing, or listening to a book of some sort around here most of the time.
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We began homeschooling with a great books approach using a literature based curriculum and  pedagogy for years, despite seeing obvious holes and weaknesses in it. I loved the idea of Classical Ed and had a well-loved copy of The Well Trained Mind that I read yearly, but I just could not make it all come together.

In 2006 I discovered Classical Conversations as I was researching curriculum for the large local co-op that I had started and was running. Leigh Bortins just happened to be speaking a few hours away and I took the opportunity to go and listen to her. She changed my understanding of education and learning. We changed our curriculum, co-op, and focus and haven’t looked back. Leigh Bortiens talked practical application of the theory of classical ed. She was compelling and challenging. She told me that I could in fact learn grammar. This was a paradigm shift for me as I thought that you either had the grammar gene or you didn't. She said teach to your kids strengths (check) but also teach to their weaknesses (oh, we should shore up our kids academic weaknesses, too!). 
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Classical Education is a catch-phrase for a lot of things, but at its core it focuses on skill building through a series of stages, most commonly known as the Trivium (Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric) and the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy). The Trivium is what is mostly talked about in homeschooling circles, as it’s the foundation for higher level thinking.
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The Trivium is comprised of the Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric stage. The Grammar stage focuses on Memory work, the Dialectic stage focuses on the rules of Logic and argumentation and the Rhetoric focuses on presenting well through the written and spoken word. Classical Education is also word versus image focused (for a more in-depth analysis of the differences, check out Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman).
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Utilizing the classical method has saved us enormous amounts of time and money. We are focused on developing skills and honing those skills so curriculum is often non-consumable. Also, being committed to a pedagogy, versus a curriculum, allows far more freedom in how and when materials are gathered. There is no longer the yearly confusion about whether our curriculum is “working” or not. We have either learned the skills we set out to or we need more work on those skills.
Teaching classically has built my confidence and ability to teach. Mainly because I am not “stuck” anymore. Classical Ed has gifted me the freedom to not know, to learn and to grow beyond self, or school, imposed limitations.
And more stuff I’ve learned educating classically. Important stuff:
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  •  You aren’t going to learn most things the first time you see it; that’s overview. You must become familiar with material in order to really learn it.
  •  Memory is the mother of learning. Memory works requires time on task and drill. And more drill.
  • Overlearning is underrated and misunderstood. Overlearning is taking a difficult and uncomfortable behavior or skill and turning it into an automatic skill.
  •  Learning something for long term memory is not the same as the short term memory required to cram for a test.
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  • When you memorize something, you own it. Memorizing material allows you to make connections and see relationships that don’t happen when you don’t own the material.
  • We should teach to our kid’s strength and allow them to go as fast and far as they can, while at the same time, shoring up their weaknesses and requiring them to push beyond comfort. Difficult things are often uncomfortable. It’s o.k. for our kids (and us!) to be uncomfortable.
  • Kids are capable of working much harder than we give them credit for or they often belive.
  • Fun is great but solid academics afford our kids the opportunity to push beyond their comfort level and gain the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from working hard and accomplishing much.
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  • Building copiousness goes way beyond a set curriculum. Scaffolding information is very helpful to mastering difficult material.
  • Using planners and breaking down long term projects does not come naturally to most kids.
  • Most people do better with a study buddy or drill partner.
  • -Envisioning what could be versus reacting against is a much more effective long term motivator.
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  • You are not going to know everything. You can learn more than you probably give yourself credit for. Even if you were terrible at grammar or science in elementary school, you have the tools and skills that you have learned as an adult. Things will come easier to you know. Be the lead learner in your home. Wrestle with concepts- it won’t hurt you or your kids to see you struggle to learn something or gain mastery over new concepts.

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Classical Eduacation has allowed us to go far beyond the simple surface of things, dive deeply, teach and learn efficiently and well.
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While we love the pedagogy of Classical Education, our goal is not to turn out little intelligensia robotrons. Our goal is to educate life-long learners who know and will continue to appreciate and discover Truth, Beauty and Goodness. 

Ad gloriam Dei! 

What do my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about their Homeschool Method? Go visit them to find out!

Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 15th.

How Our Academic Co-op Completes Our Eclectic Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

A Method to Our Madness by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Finding Our Homeschool Method by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

How We Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool

Give Us.... by Annette @ A Net in Time

A day in our Home by Sarah@DeliveringGrace

Lit-Based Education: How We Homeschool by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Overhauling Our Homeschool - Adjusting our "How" to fit our "Why" by Sabrina Scheerer @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ

A Day in the Life of a Homeschooler: Expectation Vs. Reality by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Captain's Log, Supplemental - Our Homeschool Days by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

How we get it done. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love

How to Organize Daily Curriculum with the School Cart by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine

Learning For LIfe by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens

Eclectic Homeschooling: When It All Comes Together by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool

A Typical Day? by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home

This is the Way We Do Our School, So Early in the Morning by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

A Little of This and a Little of That: Eclectic Homeschooling by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World

Still Classically Educating After All These Years by True North Homeschool Academy

So what exactly is Life Led Homeschooling? by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool

The way we learn ~ 2018 Virtual Homeschool Fair by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning

Our Homeschool Routine by Joelle @Homeschooling For His Glory

Homeschool Methods – 8 Tips for the Journey by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Ravi Zacharias | Truth
@Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Homeschooling: The Big WHY


We've homeschooled for a while now (27 years this year) and it has defined a large part of our family life. Why homeschool? I always knew that if I ever had kids I would seek out an alternative to public education for them. I moved every 2 years as a child and being shy (which I was, no lie), this was painfully difficult. I was always the new kid, always the outsider and I missed vast amounts of information. Plus, school just wasn't that interesting. Maybe it seemed that way because I spent so much time wondering what we were talking about (did I mention I missed out on a lot by moving?) I compensated by doing things I thought were interesting. I read. A lot. In high school I sang in choirs, played in bands, threw pottery, studied photography, played tennis, swam on teams, held jobs, and read thousands of words and hundreds of books. And worked. I learned a lot, but not necessarily in the traditional expected ways.

My family traveled a lot growing up and my Mom was always taking us camping and to factories and parks and points of interest on vacations. My dad was the best question asker on every docent-led walk. I remember sitting in the total pitch black of a cave as a child, listening to my Dad pepper the Guide with questions about bats, and guano. My Dad’s family could talk to anyone about anything and their inquisitiveness about people and places opened doors and opportunities to us to see, explore and understand in new ways. My Dad taught my sister and I both to read at young ages and books have been part of my life since. In many ways, my parents primed the pump for my own homeschooling adventure.

My husband and I started homeschooling in southern California when our oldest was 5. At that time, you didn't have to register your kids for school until they were 7 and we would have finished the part of grad school that required CA residency and moved somewhere else. Which is exactly what happened. The CA schools that we visited had issues. I won't bore you with the details but they covered the gamut from academic to social. We figured we could handle phonics instruction, which we did (thanks Samuel Blumenfeld- LOVE AlphaPhoncis!), and then reassess once we were re-settled.

From there we spent a year in Ohio, knowing that the military would move us again in a year. Which they did. We believed that homeschooling for the interim year would provide more consistency than enrolling and de-enrolling once we moved. We spent the year hanging out with friends from college, family and taking care of our very sick newborn. Dr. Dh's internship cooked his grits time and energy wise so we didn't see him as much as we would have liked but we had a lot of fun going on field trips, reading books and being close to the people we loved.

After that we landed in NM. Home of abysmal test scores and the drug corridor of the west. By the time we'd left Ohio I joked that we were in a rut, which is why we continued to homeschool. Sadly, folks failed to laugh at my droll and dry wit, so I quit joking about it. The fact of the matter is that homeschooling had become a life-style for us. My husband and I are committed to education and sharing our faith with our kids and believed that a private educational model, specifically tutoring, delivered by invested, caring adults was the way to go. Homeschooling was the way that we could do this affordably. 

It hasn't been all joyful educational pursuit. We've birthed strong-willed kids, changed locations and social support a couple of times and had our share of challenges. Yet we continue to homeschool. Why? For us, it boils down to a couple of simple things.

Education. Our kids are getting a solid education. Is it perfect? No. Are there gaps? Yes. Is that normal. I think so. Do we continue to hone and improve what we do? Yes. 
Faith. Our kids are committed to their faith and have years to refine, define and own it before the world and peers, and a whole host of other voices come along to batter and beat it into something almost Christan. Our kids leave our home with a solid understanding of the history of the church, the importance and personhood of Jesus and a glimpse at how imperfect people attempt to live a live of vibrant faith. Is it perfect? No. Do we fail? Yes. Is that normal. I know so.
Family. It's a busy world. We've had hours to spend together, playing, reading, learning, building, re-modeling, cooking, gardening, arguing and laughing together. The good side of that is that everybody really knows each other. The downside of this is that everybody really knows each other. Is it perfect? No. Do we get on each others nerves. You betcha'.

We’ll be graduating our fourth homeschooler this spring; with one to go. It’s been a sweet season and the best job in the world. We have learned, laughed, traveled, wrestled, struggled, grown, prayed, cooked, celebrated together over these past many years. We have had our share of heartache, struggles and failures, as well as our share of laughs and wins.

Is homeschooling the way to ensure picture perfect academically trained kids? Is homeschooling the way to raise people of character? Is homeschooling the way to ensure that no troubles or heartaches will come your way? None of these are true. Homeschooling is an option, with no guaranteed outcomes. Your kids will struggle, they will not be perfect, they will fail; as will you. They may turn their back on everything you hold dear. But if God is calling you to homeschool, your job is not figure that out. Your job is to be faithful to do what He is asking you to do. Outcomes are above your pay-grade.

Even with no guarantees, and after all these years, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to homeschool. It’s been a great joy and a blessed calling.

Find out more about the Virtual Curriculum Fair here

Visit the bloggers participating in the Virtual Homeschool Fair:

Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds Laura @ Four Little Penguins Dana @ Life Led Homeschool Jenn K. @ A Peace of Mind Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset Kim @ Good Sweet Love Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool Jen Duncan @ A Helping Hand Homeschool Lori @ At Home: where life happens Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool Annette @ A Net In Time Lizzy @ Peaches@Home Sabrina @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ Michele Pleasants @ Family, Faith and Fridays Brittney @ Mom's Heart Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Lisa Nehring has 1 husband, 2 graduate degrees, 5 kids and a black-belt in homeschooling. She is the owner of True North Homeschool Academy, which delivers 6th-12th grade courses live, on-line. Check out TNHA FB page for up launch information and specials! @Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Home School Happenings

It's been a busy year chock full of working, teaching, learning. This is our 4th consecutive year of Classical Conversations and our 3rd consecutive year of Challenge. Challenge is challenging. As we speak my Challenge 1 and 3 kids are working on a Power Point for a Shakespeare project and a 5 minute Philosophy Lecture. It's a full and amazing program. When they work, I work. Yeah, if you need help with sentence diagramming or Latin translations, or delivery a presentation, I'm your girl.

I was bumped from my cute little Jr. High kiddos up to Challenge 3 this year - our class consists of nine 11th and 12th graders. I started this year with no small amount of fear and trembling. Chemistry,  Trigonometry, Philosophy, and a boatload of presentations and projects -  14 total in all this semester and 19 next  includig essays, individual events, impromptu, Lincoln Douglas and policy debates, Shakespeare Recitations and more. It's been amazing.

Challenge 1 and III go along with each very well this year, including Shakespeare and American History. I am loving the fact that my Senior, who also went through Ch 1 is making amazing connections and integrations in History, Literature, Philosophy and Theology. I live with some true-blue nerds and honestly, I love it.

In other news, I quit the job I've had for the last 4 years. Almost to the day. It it was a great blessing to get the job and a great relief to let it go. I'm still Directing Challenge and I am also taking on another Academic position with a newly re-branded on-line homeschool titled True North Homeschool Academy. So, it's not like I'm not working, it's just like I'm working and it's fun again. You can keep abreast of all the good things happening there by liking, following and sharing at True North Homeschool Academy. Courses schedules and descriptions will be posted as soon as we launch our brand spanking new web-site, coming soon!

What's been keeping you busy?

@Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

55 Things I've Learned in 55 Years

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I had a birthday. It was a crazy busy week full of work, homework, people, friends, responsibilities and blessings. Monday we traveled to see the totality of the solar eclipse; my science-loving husband's birthday present to me. It was so beautiful and awe-inspiring. We were humbled and amazed.

Saturday, we were able to attend another inspiring Bible Study with our friend, Rabbi Wolicki of CJCUC -you can soon purchase his terrific book, Cup of Salvation.  (listen to the pod-casts, buy the book- it is excellent!)

In the midst of it all,  I received lovely flowers, thoughtful cards and beautiful birthday wishes  and my dear friend Ruth even came and cleaned my house. I am blessed by the simple and profound things of this week. 

With that, I wrote a list ('cause I love doing that)- 55 Things I've learned in my 55 years in this world. Some things on this list are simple, some are profound. 

1. Kindred souls are found in unlikely places.
2. Marriage is a messy sacrament.
3. Laughter is good and healing medicine.
4. In the end, all will be well. If it's not well, it's not the end.
5. Glitter is the herpes of the craft world.
6. Life is never what you expect.
7. You are not responsible for outcomes.
8. You are responsible to be faithful.
9. Do not despise the little things
10. Children are little things.
11. Children are a gift from God. Have many.
12. Growing old is a double edged sword. Honor the elderly.
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13. Enjoy your knees while you are young and they still work.
14. Run after wisdom.
15. Don't suffer fools.
16. Search out the Master of the Universe. Nothing else makes sense. He always does.
17. All things work together for good to those who love Him. If you love Him, it will all work together for good.
18. Travel. Talk to the natives.
19. People love to be invited to the party, into the ministry, alongside the work. Invite others in.
20. Don't waste time being timid.
21. Books.
22. All great writing is redemptive.
23. Repetitio mater memoria
24. Listen well.
25. Flowers are always appropriate.
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26. Children's laughter is the music of the Universe.
27. Jesus is alive and well, lives and reigns, loves and exhorts. You are His child. He loves you.
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28. Ora et Labora.
29. Staying married takes hard work and sacrifice and can bring great joy. Stay the course. Love as best you know how. Extend mercy and grace. Laugh together- be a friend to one another.
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30. Marriage vows are before God, not man.
30. Raising children is not for the faint of heart.
31. God loves your children more than you do.
32. There will always be those committed to misunderstanding you. Quit explaining and live your life.
33. Do hard things.
34. Finish well.
35. Be bold and courageous.
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36. Let others tell their story. Listen well. They are waiting for a ready audience.
37. Prayer changes things. Mainly those praying. Pray without ceasing. The world needs it, you need it. Don't lose hope.
38. Feeding people is a simple and profound ministry.
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39. Serve others out of their need, not your abundance.
40. Life sacrificially. It won't kill you. It might strengthen you.
41. Don't grow bitter. Choose life, not death.
42. Make your bed everyday.
43.Drink water.
44. White sugar is of the devil.
45. God has a perfect plan for your life. The Enemy of your soul has a perfect plan for your life. Choose the Master Strategist, not the master deceiver.
46. Sin makes you stupid.
47. G-rated living keeps you young. Cleanliness is a simple pleasure. Keep you heart, mind and kitchen clean.
48. Grow things- plants, people, blogs, ideas.
49. Find people who are smarter than you and learn from them.
50. Don't be afraid to look up and get in touch with people you don't know but want to. Call them up, email them, write them a letter- introduce yourself; make a friend!
51. Laugh at yourself. Laugh. A lot. Learn the art of humor. Practice it.
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52. Take the long view.
53. Time is fleeing, life goes fast. My Gram, who died last summer at 99 said, "Honey, if you think it goes by fast now, wait until you're my age. You go to bed and wake up and it's a decade later!"
54. Sleep is cheap medicine.
55. Live with no regrets
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@Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Beating the January Blahs

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January is cold, windy and dark around here as the sun sets early and rises late. The winter blahs are a  real thing around her and beating them is a yearly goal of mine.  Since we can't spend weeks at the beach, we manage by filling our time with productive pursuits.

This year, Challenge B and friends had a Science Fair to wrap up an entire unit on the Scientific Method.  Flower came away with First Place in the Jr. and Sr. High School group with her project on, "Salt Crystallization and Super Saturation."
The kids were judged on the project itself, Research, Lab Book, Project Board and verbal presentation. A lot of time, energy, heart and soul were put into each and every project. I was immensely proud of my Challenge B class. As always, they rose to a challenge and excelled, even when planned events happened to fall on days with ice storms. 
Cub missed the science fair because he spent the week at our State Capital, interning for Family Heritage Alliance.  He was thrilled to work alongside Dale and Norman and can't wait to go back. 

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Meanwhile, we were putting in about 6 hours a week dancing and practicing for Tantara, Festival of One Act Plays. Cub and Hannah both walked away with "Best Actor" and "Best Actress" Awards. the play was fun and funny and I was so proud of our Cast! We had 15 kids this year, 6 of whom had never been on stage before! 
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Kari and Julie were an amazing part of the team, too and helped with choreography, props, costumes, wigs and the zillion little details that went into 1/2 hour performance with 15 kids! 

In the midst of all of that, Flower has been doing TeenPact alumni homework for our upcoming State Class, doing tons of research on entitlement projects. We brought TP to SD 10 years ago and now our youngest is an alumni. A decade sure flies by when you are having fun, working hard, being slammed, busy living.
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Introducing TeenPact to the state of SD, with then Governor Rounds in 2006.
Our entire family, sans Flower is in the picture above. Cub is front and center, saluting! 

And here he is below~
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Having survived 5 hours of Karate testing for his next belt, including the Bull Ring with Instructor Mike just yesterday. Mike is an awesome teacher and runs a fun and rigorous program. 
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And because it's the season, we are also studying for the National Latin Exam. Cub didn't realize that the old tests had all 4 exams on them and flipped out, thinking he knew nothing! What a relief to just focus on LNE 1 and realize that he is, in fact, in great shape for the exam!  Cub is doing the LNE review with Memoria Press

In the middle of all of this the kids are reading great literature, studying Latin and Math, writing essays and creating 1 AC's for an upcoming debate, reading great apologetics books like Defeating Darwinism and Saving Leonardo, creating art, practicing Music and even hanging out with friends every now and then. 

And, best news of all, the days are getting longer, it's actually light out after 6 p.m. (o.k., just barely, but still) and spring is just around the corner! 
What are you doing to make it till spring? 
 All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Washing Dust Off Our Souls

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. - Pablo Picasso

We are artist types around here. Creating is what we do. This takes many different forms, depending on seasons, location and who lives here. 

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Drama is a huge part of the art we do in any given year. Yesterday, the kids performed in a fun smash-up, "Dancing with the Greek Olympians," (published by Brooklyn Publishers) in a One Act Play Festival and both came away with "Best Actor/ress" Awards for the parts of Hera/Euterpe.
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and Hermes
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Sculpey creations happen so regularly around here that tools are a huge part of any gift list and clay is always welcome! Flower finds inspiration on Pinterest, our Animal Encylopedia and through Literature.
Art History Live Course or You Teach Kit
This year we are also doing Veritas Press' Art History program, including art cards; the kids are memorizing the periods and specific art pieces as we go. It's a sweeping overview of all of the major art periods, with beautiful color reproductions.

Currently E is doing a Fine Arts Course through Challenge II as part of History of Western Civilization. It's a Humanities Course, complete with Museum and Gallery viewings, Art Evaluations and and Art Grant Proposals, which he created a Power Point for. All good things! Last year, he did a Music Appreciation Course, titled, "Math in Motion," that inspired him so much he started taking piano lessons.

Piano and violin happen weekly; local homeschooling neighbors who have taken music for years are our sweet instructors- friends and teachers all at once-twofer! 

Writing is something most of my kids have always done. We have used Writing With Ease, Writing With Skill, IEW, Lost Tools of Writing and The Grammar of Poetry. My "boys" (22 and 17) spend time talking character and plot development with regularity.

One of my favorite movie lines is from Kate and Leopold , It's said without the culinary arts, the crudeness of reality would be unbearable. 
Just broaden this statement out to include all arts, and you sum up our beliefs. With art, we learn to express beauty, goodness and Truth.

What are you using for Art this year?

Now I invite you to visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about seeking beauty in their homeschools:

Links will all be live by Monday at 12 noon EST.
Living & Loving Art by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Putting the Fun in School by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Art Fun In Our Homeschool by Amanda @Hopkins Homeschool
Fine Arts Is The Fun Part by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Washing Dust Off Our Souls by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Seeking out the beauty… by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Joy in Home Education by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Teaching Drawing (When You Can’t Draw) by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Jesus, Peace, Freedom & Our Homeshool by Meghan W @ Quiet In The Chaos
Fine Arts Options in High School by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Reluctant Artist? What do you do? by Annette @ A Net in Time
Making Fine Arts a Priority by Lisa @ McClanahan 7
Creative Pursuits by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Arts and Crafts in Our Homeschool by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Where Do You Find Beauty? by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
Looping our Beauty Topics Saved our Homeschool by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully
 08-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!