New Year, New Curriculum

Each spring home school parents all over evaluate the past year.  Last year we did a curriculum change in the middle of the year because the one we were using simply did not suit the child using it. I loved the curriculum and had used it successfully with other children, but the current student not so much. End of year found us unhappy with the skills development in other subjects as well. New Year, New Curriculum and a few outside programs are the result.  We even thought about the public school and a Montessori school. As there are a couple weeks before school begins, those options remain open!

I picked up a math curriculum that comes with videos of a teacher teaching each concept called MATH U SEE. Mine love using the computer, so we will be doing math class via screen time and the exercises using manipulatives. One child will be enjoying a math concepts class at the home school center too. If this doesn’t boost the math understanding we will sign up to test for learning disabilities.

I hope to find a co-op with a math class that fits as well. A co-op can be an asset to the homeschool family.

What is a co-op in home school? It is a group of parents who have come together to help each other teach. Often the co-op is anchored by a parent who has the knowledge of advanced math to teach the older students. The parents offer what they do well to each other as a sort of barter system. Coops usually meet once a week and in between families continue to work at home using whatever curriculum they have chosen.

I used to be the kind of home school mom who had no interest in coops, but recently I find myself seeing how one could be of benefit to my children. Especially in math.

I’ve a Brave Writer conference coming up too. I am educating myself to better educate my children.

The Brave Writer language arts materials are awesome! I love how it is based on a routine for learning rather than a schedule. This is very much a home school pattern for learning. This is a learn about reading by doing sort of program. Copy work yields skills development aimed at making children proficient in language for their own use.

There are online Brave Writer Classes and Brave Writer videos. The videos are also searchable on youtube. The videos are for mom, to encourage and inspire. They are really really GOOD.

Brave Writer isn’t just for home school though. It would be excellent for families using the public and private schools who want to boost their language arts with at home enrichment. The routine can be applied after school as a good positive time with mom, dad, grandma, etc.

Dear Lord, Thank You for all the options for teaching our children. Please help all parents to choose well for themselves and their families. +Amen.

Vent Haven International Ventriloquist ConVENTion

THE best time of my life–EVER!  I attended my first Vent Haven International Ventriloquist ConVENTion.  

I am in the far far back, near the guy with the large green dragon puppet. Up front is Jimmy Nelson holding his puppet, Danny O’Day, and his wife next to him is holding Farfel, his dog puppet. I got to MEET him! Such an incredible honor, the number of great ventriloquists who credit their success to his encouragement and his recordings of how to do ventriloquism is huge. In many ways he is the father of all the ventriloquists who teach their craft.

The classes were filled with so much information I only caught part of the total. Amazing!

The shared performances amazed and entertained. The mass of talent represented in that photo is incredible.

The conVENTion is a fund raiser for the Vent Haven Museum.  The museum is completely dedicated to the art and puppets of ventriloquism.  If you are into puppets, dummies, or even dolls, this is one museum you really do not want to miss!!

Did I ever share the link to the course I not only took but continue to repeat so as to keep improving my ventriloquism? Learn-Ventriloquism.  If you ever wanted to learn, this course has been worth every CENT I paid for it and more.

I’ve always loved puppets, from Captain Kangaroo’s Moose puppet with the ping-pong balls, to the Muppet Show on PBS, the passion was there.  I failed to catch on to ventriloquism when I had my first toy dummy, but the desire stayed with me.  My professors for education courses finally told me, no more class projects with puppets! And my apartment’s dining table was my workshop for molding heads for marionettes. I did my best but the kids that looked could still see my lips move.

Now, years later, I’m learning lip control and improving my breath control. I have two hand puppets with distinctive voices and personalities, and my one “hard figure”, which means the traditional dummy with the jaw that works from a lever, who has the best voice and well developed back-story and personality.  I performed at one of the general open mic nights and got laughs. Wow, now THAT is addictive!

Dear Lord, Thank You for all these gifted people and for this conVENTion. Please bless them all and give us excellent lip control. +Amen.

The Coming School Year

Education of our children is a major concern of parents. We are our children’s first and primary teachers and have the responsibility before God to give our children the education they need to grow into good Catholics and good citizens. This weighs heavily on me every fall as I look at the new curriculum I have chosen and ask myself if I chose rightly. Home School is ever-evolving and I with it.

I have a teaching degree and classroom experience, but I have home schooled far more years than I ever spent teaching anywhere. I love it, the challenge and the freedom. As a teacher, the freedom to make every decision for my school is intoxicating. The huge museum in a nearby city is having a special exhibit? Pull out the planner, write in the day you will take the kids and go, then start preparing them with books at their level, and email the homeschool list the date you are going in case others would like to join you.

Home School is rarely done alone. We network, talking in person and through the computer, encouraging each other. I worry about the slow reader and my experienced homeschooler friends share stories about their own slow readers and how well they have turned out. One points out that you don’t have to enroll in the school system to request an evaluation for learning problems. Another shares the name of the private specialist they paid to test their son.  Home Schooling families work to help each other succeed.

This year we will be participating at the Community HomeSchool Center, and I have enrolled my older two in classes that I think will be good for them. I feel we need more community support than we had last year. The CHC is community. They exist to support parents and to provide services, like classes for children with special needs, and hands on science exploration. Two will be signed up for the hands on science which will save me having to collect the supplies for experiments and will supplement what we do at home. The younger will be taking a child oriented cooking class, while the older will be taking a supplemental class in math concepts and reading skills.

I’m still looking at co-ops.

I think we are going to have a very good year.

Dear Lord, Thank You for all the dedicated teachers in public and private schools, and thank You for all the parents who home school. Please bless ALL the teachers and their students. +Amen.

My Current Prayer Routine

Everyone Knows that prayer is essential for spiritual growth. We seek to grow closer to Jesus, to become better conformed to His plan for our lives, and so we incorporate both planned and spontaneous prayer into our days.  Prayer routines are as varied as the people who have them.

Some pick up the book, CHRISTIAN PRAYER, and pray the psalms for morning and evening prayer. Others use the full multi-volume LITURGY OF THE HOURS and pray some or even all of it. Some pray one or more Rosaries a day, and some spend a daily time reading in the New Testament, and others a daily reading in the Pslams, others choose to pray novenas, and more.  I used to keep a notebook in which I placed prayer cards of Saints, and printed out novenas, and kept a list of people for whom I was trying to pray by name. I’ve tried those, and many more plans but nothing has stuck until recently. Recently I joined a group of women online who were taking the Nineveh 90 challenge.  We set up private groups to support each other in this rigorous set of prayers and novenas. It wasn’t easy, but it certainly was fruitful!

My plans for my day include prayers for family members, the prayers for the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, and a handful of other, short prayers. I seem much better able to keep the routine if every bit of it is short!

I include prayers for all my immediate family members, using Habitica to keep track of them, prayers are listed both as Dailies, and a couple of prayers that are good to repeat, so as to refocus onto God in the course of the day, go into Habits. I blogged on the use of Habitica in a previous post.

These are some of the prayers I am using: The Creed, The Angel’s prayer from Fatima, several prayers for purity, and an evening examination of conscience with act of contrition for my sins. That last ends with a plan for one thing I can do the next day so as to avoid repeating one or more sins.

Of course, that act of contrition and examination of conscience is going to require its own blog post. For something so simple it is huge and complicated!

Dear Lord, please help each of us to grow in holiness and closer to Jesus. +Amen.


Travel Links

I return from the Vent Haven ConVENTion with great inspiration and a need to store the links that proved useful for my planned travels. proved to be an easy service to use when scheduling my flights. They were helpful in every imaginable way and patiently answered questions that came up as I added a TSA pre-check number so I could stand in a different line for security and not have to unlace the hiking boots I wear for foot support.  I was able to choose my seat on each flight too. This proved to be an excellent service.

Marriot  turned out to be another useful connection. Our ConVENTion was at one, but I have since found reasonable prices for other locations. Time will tell if I remain a fan of the company or not.

United Airlines: lived up to their reputation on baggage, but everything did get there! Surprisingly I found the seats comfortable, the staff very pleasant, and once I formulated the two personal item sized bags so as to carry my most valuable puppet with me in the cabin, there ceased to be a problem.  The BEST part was that once I had my itinerary from CheapAir printed out, with the TSA pre-check number on it, I was able, from the United website, to print my boarding pass 24 hours ahead and pre-check my big bag, paying the fee ahead of time. This helped keep my time at the airport much less stressful.   The Baggage page for United is the page where the size restrictions are located and explained. I found this information extremely useful!

This trip has been one of the best events of my life!

Beekeeping Revisited

Our lovely colony in our top bar hive is thriving. Calm is now the norm for me when opening the hive and refilling the feeder. You feed new colonies because they need the help getting started off well. This is because the new set up happens between big blooms, and without a lot of blooming plants close-by, the colony might starve before it can get things rolling.

I discovered the right sort of canning jars for the feeder at Tractor Supply. I did not know that Tractor Supply carried supplies for canning! This gives me plenty of jars for the bee feeders and I can make up bulk amounts of the feed, fill the jars, seal them, put them in the refrigerator, and speed up refills of the feeder! I am VERY happy with this.

Learning curve is steep. I know to leave the comb alone now that we know the queen is good and laying well. I have photos of comb!

Our colony is considered a very gentle one. There is no hostility at all when I open up the hive to inspect. A couple of puffs of smoke at their door to be sure, and easy work.

I’m starting to enjoy my forays into the bee yard. This is mostly due to our bees being amazingly gentle.

Now, I have found a couple of beetles between the roof of the top bars and the rain lid. I need to find out what sort of trap I need to place in that space to handle the problem. The little beekeeper squashed one of the beetles– so there is one less for the bees to have to manage.

Dear Lord, thank You for the bees. +Amen.

Puppetry and Ventriloquism

Ventriloquism is to Puppetry as Square is to Rectangle.  A Ventriloquist IS a puppeteer, but not all puppeteers are ventriloquists.

I am irked when ventriloquism and puppetry are separated out as if they were two different things. They are not. The misunderstanding comes from the time when the popular ventriloquists of the day used the hard figure or ventriloquist dummy exclusively, but ventriloquism is not limited to the use of these traditional style instruments. Shari Lewis’ Lambchop is a ventriloquist figure but is not a hard figure.

These days ventriloquists talk of hard figures and soft figures to differentiate between the types of puppets used by ventriloquists.

ANY puppet that is speaking and the voice is coming from a visible person who is not moving their lips and thus creating the illusion that the puppet is doing the talking IS a ventriloquist figure.

The puppeteer doing the voices in plain sight of the audience is a ventriloquist whether that puppet is the familiar dummy or a soft sock puppet.

Jim Henson was a great puppeteer, but he was not a ventriloquist.

Shari Lewis was a great ventriloquist who used hand puppets in place of the hard figure (I wish the American Heritage Girls would correct that part of their puppetry badge!).

I’ve delighted in puppets from childhood–who has not? In college I did more with puppets for use in education and found myself longing to be able to do ventriloquism. Years passed without puppets, until last fall when I suddenly got the wild hair to take an online class in ventriloquism.

The inspiration to pick up a puppet again is largely the result of being inspired by Habitica to revive dreams.


Dear Lord, thank You for puppets of every imaginable kind, and thank you for puppeteers and ventriloquists and classes. +Amen.

The Bee Keeping Home Educator

Kinesthetic learners do best when doing. Hands on, action, and linking this with the material to be mastered. This has been a huge shift in my understanding of my vocation as a home educating mom.

I’ve a bug nut. This is the kid who for most of her 7+ years has followed insects through the grass, getting up very close to see what they were doing. This is the kid who rescues bees from water buckets and places them on leaves to dry out and does not get stung.

This is the kid who needs to be channeled into pollinators and away from arachnids because mom is phobic.

Therefore this family now has a hive of bees.

Our first hive, first bees, and I honestly do not know what I am doing!

Of course, everyone has to have a bee suit. I have a white one, very thick layers of mesh, I can feel air movement through it but have not been stung yet.

The little bee keeper has a cute bee suit:

This is a really cute kids bee suit.

And this is part of the hands on style of education. Learning about insects, the environment, pollution, pesticides, plants, native plants vs invasives, native bees, other native pollinators, our food supply, simple basic economics…

Dear Lord, thank You for bees and all they do for humanity. +Amen.


The autoharp is an instrument I never tire of hearing or strumming. Not that I am a musician by any means, I love music, but my natural talent is meager at best, and my inclination to make time for practice is weak. However, I have persisted in collecting several lovely instruments and wanting to play them in spite of myself.

Enter Habitica. I wrote about this useful tool in another post here.

On the site of Habitica, there are groups called Guilds. I joined a guild for people who were struggling. The premise of this group is to discover ONE SMALL THING we could do to move forward some dream that we’d felt was too overwhelming or difficult. I decided to work on my dream of playing the autoharp.

All the autoharps were in cases, put away. One was waiting for me to get around to restringing it to a two key AE configuration. So I made a list of steps to get that done. Accepting that I was unlikely to get it done myself, I decided to send it off to a luthier who does these things. But even THAT was tough.

So here was the list I made for Habitica. Pull autoharp out of the closet. Contact Luthier. Email details of what I needed done. Find address of the Luthier. Locate string set. Locate new bar set. Print three address labels (inside, outside, and other). Pack to ship. Take to UPS store. SHIP.  As you can see, the steps are each small, each easy, but there were quite a lot of them(10)!

Practice happens when the instrument is easy to access. So I determined to find a place to safely have one or more instruments out.

I also needed to put them on stands. I found one stand, could not find the other stand, ended up buying two more stands. This was NOT a fast thing as I kept hoping to locate the missing stands.

Then I pulled an OS set up in BbFC out. I got the AE back from the Luthier. I pulled my Orthey chromatic out in its bag, and finally placed them at the head of my bed. Where they SAT.

Clearly, having them out was not enough to over-come whatever prevented me from practicing (mostly, time, “I ought to be doing…” and then I never practice).

So I added to Habitica a habit “touch the autoharp” and this was ALL I asked myself to do. It felt silly to walk past and touch the autoharp.

Next I added a habit “strum the autoharp” and again, for a month it felt quite silly to pass the autoharp, touch the strings and strum them in passing. But I did it and it felt good.

Third month, I added, “pick up the autoharp” to “touch the autoharp” and “strum the autoharp” AND I got credit for each autoharp I did this with– easy points, fast, and suddenly I was growing a HABIT of picking up and strumming on my autoharps every single day.

I added “tune an autoharp” and “play a tune” to my habits as well.

Current challenge to myself is to play the tune I chose on each autoharp, in different keys or the same keys, every day. I’ve been doing this for weeks now. I estimate that it has taken me 8 or 9 months to get to this point, however, this is more than in the previous eight years.

Nobody in the family can figure out the song yet. I figure, if I get good enough at playing that one song, somebody is eventually going to recognize it!!

Dear Lord, Thank You for music, for autoharps, for time to practice, and for the people who helped me see that I could take tiny tiny steps toward a dream. +Amen.