Monday, June 10, 2013

Classical Education - The Report Card

We recently completed our first year at Providence Preparatory School in Belton, Texas.  My son completed 5th grade and my daughter completed 8th grade.  The results are in!  My children each earned very impressive grades on their report cards.  More importantly, we can all attest that this was a year of great learning and spiritual growth.  In all honesty, we were not familiar with the classical education model prior to our first visit to Providence, but I must say that after the excellent introductory presentation that we attended, we were very much excited to explore this method of learning.

The Providence model is a blended-model education.  The instructional time is divided between the classroom and home.  This is, without a doubt, the best of both worlds!  After a year of homeschooling, our family recognized the need for a more structured approach to education.  We also wanted to be part of a community of like-minded families with which we could establish and develop relationships. Providence fulfilled those basic needs but, more importantly, it provided the richest, all-encompassing learning experience that we have encountered.   The curriculum is based largely on classics and a variety of multi-disciplinary primary sources.  The instructors are experts in their fields. It is a systematic, horizontally-integrated, language-based method of learning that provides a foundation that will enable the students to enjoy a lifetime of learning.

The goal of classical education is to teach children how to learn.  A full explanation of this approach is provided here.  What a gift this year has been!  My children grew academically and gained confidence as they mastered new and difficult subject matter.  They began to see the world differently and were able to put current events into historical context and analyze them with much more clarity and maturity than many adults. They came to understand and appreciate the importance of an exemplary education.  They truly value the time that they have spent at Providence.

It is impossible to summarize the 2012-13 school year and do it justice.  We have the fondest of memories.  Our intellect and imagination were expanded and are primed for another year of stimulating study.  We worked incredibly hard but we had lots of fun too!  Check out some of the fun things that we did this year:

Model Contest

All the students of Providence were challenged to build a model for the Second Annual Model Contest.  Models were required to depict an historic event from the time period they studied this year:  Early Modernity, 1600-1850.  My daughter made a model of the Great Wall of China out of cake.  The entire model was edible, including the plaque in the forefront of the picture (it was make of fondant and food-grade ink).  My son made a Lego model of the Boston Tea Party.  He added actual tea leaves for authenticity.

Two happy kids showing the ribbons they earned for their model contest entries.  Blue ribbons for both!

'Hello Shakespeare' Play

The upper school did a production of Hello Shakespeare in the Spring.  Visual Arts Instructor Mrs. Ledellayter and Performing Arts Instructor Mrs. Eshbaugh led the students through a highly comprehensive theatrical experience.  The students did everything from stage design and construction to costuming, ticket sales and, of course, acting.  The play was a huge hit!  It showcased the student body and their many talents.  It was clever and entertaining.  My daughter designed the artwork that graced the Hello Shakespeare program, tickets and t-shirts.  Her artwork was selected by her peers.  So proud of her!

Field Day

Field day was a blast!  The fierce battle of tug-of-war proved that the students are as physically accomplished as they are academically.  I love the fact that there is a mom cheering right alongside the kids.  That demonstrates the spirit with which our parents support their children at Providence!

House Competition

All of the students are placed into houses, or groups, for their time at Providence.  During the school year, the students spend time with their housemates and participate in friendly competitions with the other houses.
 In the picture above, the headmaster, Mr. Billman, presents the trophy to the Augustine House, for accumulating the most points for the competitions during the 2012-13 school year.  
This was the second time that Augustine won!
My children were in that house!

Thanking God that we live in a place where we have the freedom to educate our children in the manner that we see fit.  Grateful that we can study the Word of God without persecution.  Praying that those freedoms will always exist in this country.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

India Unit Study

We found a new love---INDIA!!!  Our India Unit Study was everything that you would imagine when you think about that part of the world.  It was full of exotic sights, sounds and tastes.

While we studied, we enjoyed tea and candies that Mrs. Tanaka brought us from a recent trip to India.
Before I begin summarizing our study, I want to mention a fabulous event that happens right here in Central Texas at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton.  It is called India Night and it is hosted by a group of international students that attend the university.   Each year they organize this event which features song, dance and food.  It is a wonderful way to experience the culture of India. My daughter and I were fortunate enough to have been invited to attend this event shortly before our study by the UMHB Director of International Student Services, Elizabeth Tanaka.  Elizabeth has been instrumental in developing this program, and the participation of students from India in particular, and it is truly a hidden gem in our community.

We read several books as part of our India Unit Study.  Here is our reading list,:

Daughter of the Mountains - Louise Rankin
Gandhi: Peaceful Warrior - Ray Bains
India: The Culture - Bobbie Kalman
India:  The People - Bobbie Kalman
Teresa of Calcutta: Serving the Poorest of the Poor - D. Jeanene Watson
William Carey: Obliged to Go - Janet & Geoff Benge

I think that our reading provided a good foundation for this study.  Clearly, this is a complex nation with a rich history.  Our reading allowed us a glimpse into several key areas that comprise a very important part of our world today.

We watched the movie Gandhi, a critically acclaimed masterpiece which is a story of activism, politics, religious tolerance and freedom.  We learned about a man who lived and breathed his commitment to these ideals in a completely non-violent and peaceful manner.  I wholeheartedly recommend this film for both it's message as well as the magnificent cinematography.  I purchased the movie on DVD here and I am glad that I did as it is worthy of more than one viewing.

While studying the art forms of India, we learned about miniatures.  The kids painted their own miniatures on tiny canvasses.  My daughter painted a peacock and my son painted an elephant, one of India's treasured animals.  Look at their paintings:

These miniatures are painted on canvasses barely larger than two-inches square.
We celebrated the end of our study with a trip to the Red Onion Indian Bistro in Killeen, Texas.  My daughter and I had already tasted this food at India Night, so we were hooked, but it took a while to convince my son that he would like the food.  After much coaxing, he found that he could indeed appreciate the food of India and we decided that as a family, we would definitely visit again.  In fact, I even got inspired to try my hand at cooking some new foods at home.  I will post some of my favorites very soon on my recipe page.

This study was just another reminder of how beautiful and engaging our home school experience has been.  With each new study, the doors to another part of the world were opened to us and thus our hearts expanded with love and appreciation for all the peoples of God's magnificent world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trip to Nashville

Just got back from Nashville!  See details HERE.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

China Unit Study

Wow!  China!  I can honestly say that I have learned more about China over the past several weeks than I have in a lifetime.  I am so pleased that my children have a much greater understanding of China than a great deal of the U.S. population.  More importantly, they have a heart for the people of China which I believe is every bit as important to their education.

Here is a sampling of our reading for this unit: 

God's Adventurer: Hudson Taylor by Phyllis Thompson
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis
Eric Liddell: Something Greater than Gold by Janet and Geoff Benge
Mission to Cathay by Madeleine Polland
The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong

We read all of these books aloud together, which was quite an undertaking,
but well worth the time and effort.  

We also watched videos:

Chariots of Fire (to complement our reading on Eric Liddell)  *Netflix
China From the Inside: Power and the People (a look at communism in modern-day China)  *PBS Home Video
Modern Marvels: The Great Wall of China  *Netflix

My children built a replica of The Great Wall of China for their project.  The wall itself is constructed entirely of Legos.  It is approximately 40 inches long.  My daughter sculpted and painted the landscape and added sprigs of greenery, rocks and sand to add a realistic touch.

One of the interesting things that we learned about in this unit was Calligraphy.  The essential elements of this art are called the Four Treasures of the Study.  They are the ink brush, ink, paper and inkstone.  We received  a Chinese calligraphy kit in our Sonlight Eastern Hemisphere curriculum package.  Our friends, Sam and Susan, who are Chinese and own Buffet City, were kind enough to join our family for an American-style holiday dinner and then demonstrate this ancient art.  Sam and Susan both learned this very intriciate skill as schoolchildren in China.

Sam writing 'China' in calligraphy.

Susan grinding the inkstick with water on the inkstone.

Sam, David, Sarah and Susan
The characters say "Happy Family"

My favorite observation about this study came from my son who noted. "When I think about China, I don't think of the Great Wall, I think about Sam."   To me, that is the greatest measure of success.  We have acquired a good foundation of knowledge while establishing a personal connection with our international friends. We are, indeed, a Happy Family!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Legend of the Christmas Rose

This story draws on the legend of the Christmas Rose, an actual flower—Helleborus niger—that blooms in winter conditions.  A fun way to combine our study of botany and the celebration of the birth of our Saviour!

A little girl, the sister of three grown shepherds, desperately wants to see the newborn baby. Despite being forbidden to go, she follows her brothers, who, having heard from heavenly angels the news about the baby, take their prize lamb as a gift. Suddenly she realizes she has no present for the baby. When she begins to cry, an angel appears waving a small white flower, and soon the ground is blanketed with the little flowers. The little girl carries these to Jesus, who is pleased and touches them, turning them pale pink.

This version of the tale is written by William H. Hooks and is published by Scholastic, 1999.  The book is out-of-print, but can still be found with a little effort.  Start here to find it!

Here is a photo of Helleborus niger:

Finally, for your listening pleasure;)

Merry Christmas to All!!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cookie Contest!!!

Announcing my first annual Christmas Cookie Contest!!! 
Win a plate of my legendary homemade Christmas cookies and candies!
Open to anyone who lives within 30 minutes of the Temple/Belton area.
Tell me why you should receive this highly coveted tray of treats.
Submit your entry of 50 words or less
via e-mail at or message me on facebook.
The winner will be selected by a highly qualified, impartial judge.
Entries due by 12:00 a.m. CST on Wednesday, December 14, 2011.   
Cookie tray will be awarded on Wednesday.
Ready, Set, Go!!!

Congratulations to Misty Herrington,
winner of the Christmas Cookie Contest!!!
Thank you to all those who entered!!!
Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homeschool - Las Vegas-Style

My husband had a conference at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada this week and we decided to join him.  We always struggle a bit with this location as it is IMPOSSIBLE to shield our children from the constant barrage of worldly (often downright sinful) influences of the city, but we always go with a clear plan of action to avoid any unnecessary situations.

My mission this trip was to make it the most educational experience possible.  With some online research in advance, I was able to find some really neat opportunities for learning.  I brought some of our regular reading curriculum to supplement our 'field trip'.

We started our first day with a visit to Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.  These beautiful gardens feature white lions, white tigers, leopards and panthers.  The Dolphin Habitat houses a large family of Bottlenose Dolphins.  The dolphin habitat is designed for observation and educational purposes.  The kids enjoyed the experience and did learn several interesting facts from the brochure that was provided and the short narratives given by the trainers.  David was disappointed that there wasn't a show or animal performances like at Sea World and Sarah wished that the cats were available for viewing during the nocturnal hours when they would be more active (it closes at 6 p.m. and we missed it the evening we arrived).

Later that day, we visited the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art to see A Sense of Place: Landscapes from Monet to Hockney.  This exhibit featured more than 30 world-class artworks.  A complementary docent tour provided additional background information and helped us learn to observe intricacies such as lighting and perspective when observing the paintings and photographs.  A particularly interesting work of art titled Montagne Sainte Victoria by Vik Muniz was composed from powdered pigments which were then photographed.  This work of art was also recreated completely from flowers and other plants in the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens---It was remarkable!

Floral version of Montagne Sainte Victoria by Vik Muniz

The last lesson took place at BODIES...The Exhibition at The Luxor Hotel & Casino.  Sarah felt the exhibit was 'disturbing' while David found it to be 'cool'.  The exhibit featured over 200 actual bodies and specimens, dissected and displayed in a respectful manner.  The revolutionary polymer preservation process retains the look of the original anatomical specimens, but appears rubber-like.  We toured eight of the nine rooms which were divided according to systems such as Skeletal, Muscular, Circulatory, etc.  We saved the ninth, the Reproductive System and Fetal Development Room for another day, based on age-based recommendations that were provided.  There was an emphasis on making healthy lifestyle choices, for example, by showing a healthy lung and a smoker's lung side-by-side.  We learned that for every pack of cigarettes that a person smokes, he takes 3 hours and 40 minutes off his life!  At the end, David and I got to touch kidney and lung specimens---WOW!!!  David wished for more hands-on experiences while Sarah wished to get the heck out of there ASAP!!!  There are wonderful teacher's guides, available upon request, for free here.  We are going to use these at home as a follow-up to our trip.

Upon our return, we resumed reading one of our Chinese literature selections titled Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze.  We happened upon an ancient piece of advice befitting much of what we had observed in Las Vegas:  "He Who Rides on a Tiger Cannot Dismount."  Indeed, we decided that bad choices entrap us.  They are like a tiger, who once mounted, will become angry and dangerous to dismount.  We vowed to pray for those in that city who were ensnared by sinful choices and to be vigilant ourselves.

Our mission to make our trip one of educational value and fun times was achieved.  We had a great time of learning, fun and relaxation.  If you have the opportunity to make a trip to Las Vegas, don't hesitate!

We had fun too!!!
SpongeBob Squarepants 4D Special FX Ride at the Excalibur Hotel