December 28, 2015

Treasure Valley Homeschool Conference

If you are local to the Treasure Valley, we would love to see you at the Treasure Valley Homeschool Conference! It is coming up in February 2016. For all the details and to register, go to

December 9, 2015

Title Swap

Rascal by Sterling North
And What About College by Cafi Cohan
The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

My Favorite Quotes from the Wizard of Oz

1.  “You have plenty of courage, I am sure," answered Oz. "All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”

2.  “Can't you give me brains?" asked the Scarecrow.
"You don't need them. You are learning something every day. A baby has brains, but it doesn't know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.”

3.  “Oh - You're a very bad man!"  “Oh, no my dear. I'm a very good man. I'm just a very bad Wizard.”

4. I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas."
"That is because you have no brains," answered the girl. "No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home."
The Scarecrow sighed.
"Of course I cannot understand it," he said. "If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine, you would probably all live in beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have brains.

5.  You have had the power all along, my dear

6.  “For I consider brains far superior to money in every way. You may have noticed that if one has money without brains, he cannot use it to his advantage; but if one has brains without money, they will enable him to live comfortably to the end of his days.”

7.  “My people have been wearing green glasses on their eyes for so long that most of them think this really is an Emerald City.”

8.  “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others”

9.  “I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”

November 9, 2015

In Memory of 7 Habits by Jeni Sidwell

When I was about 14 years old my dad was reading a book call 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  He would reference it often, using words like ‘Emotional Bank Account’ and ‘First things first‘. Not understanding what these phrases meant, I paid them no attention. Now that I am in my 30’s and have taken the time to thoroughly understand what these words mean, I realize my father was trying to improve himself and those around him. I want to explain what a few of these habits discussed in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey mean to me.


Instead of worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two categories: Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about such as their children, where they work, how they use their time. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. These are things they have little or no control over such as how their sister is raising their niece. A proactive person uses proactive language--I can, I will… A reactive person uses reactive language--I can't, I have to, if only.
I thought that I was doing well with what I felt was my circle of influence until I read this section. I find myself saying words like ‘I have to’ quite often. Apparently I need to evaluate what is causing me to say these words.


Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day or project with a clear vision of a desired outcome. If you don't make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life. It's about connecting with your own uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself. Steven states that the best way to begin with the end in mind is to develop a mission statement that focuses on what you want to be and do. I have heard this often with self development programs and have found it effective when I am implementing it in my life.


Putting first things first means getting your priorities straightened. Illustrated in his book are 4 quadrants categorized as important/urgent, important/not urgent, not important/urgent, and not important/not urgent. He advises us to spend as much time as we can in the important/not urgent quadrant. Again this is a habit I could work on.


To rephrase this would be: Try to understand how a person is feeling and put yourself in their shoes before expressing your own opinion. Sometimes you may never get to express your feelings because you change how you feel in the time it takes them to talk. I do recall my father truly doing his best to change from first being understood to first understanding. Human nature is to first be understood and we are often as children taught that our opinion is less valuable than our parents’. Before passing my father mastered this habit.

Steven R. Covey is a well of self-improvement knowledge all of us should be partaking of.

October 19, 2015

History Through Classics by Sara Sweet

In my childhood, history was a series of to-be-memorized dates and events strung together in a classroom and important only as a means to pass an upcoming test. Perhaps the re were some stories here and the re thrown in the cracks between dates and events, but somehow I didn’t come away with anything memorable (probably because the stories weren’t on the test). It all went in one ear and out the o the r, with some vague impressions of major events lingering in a misty timeline of US-centered history.

My first brush with history in a novel form was the book The Worst Hard Time, which related several true stories of experiences from the dust bowl era. Suddenly a part of history came alive to me. My grandfather had lived through this time on their Kansas farm. I felt the pangs of despair as I read of a mo the r unable to save her baby from the lethal dust-filled air despite draping the crib with damp sheets. I felt the trapped desperation of people unable to grow food or to relocate, but doomed to suffer and die from a man-made natural disaster. I felt hot anger against progressivists and speculators who had caused the disaster but not really suffered its devastating results as those did who fell prey to their schemes. I felt a new found appreciation for before scorned government programs intended to prevent the death and suffering experienced at this time from repeating in the future.

Another time, while reading about the life of Thomas Jefferson with my kids, I learned that this founding father had an affair with a slave woman who was a half-sister to his deceased wife, and that he himself had children with her who were considered and treated as slaves. These facts and others I read in some sections a book called Lies My Teacher Told Me, opened my eyes to both the shortcomings of idolized American heroes and the techniques employed by many historians to present the m as infallible icons. I also became aware that I knew very little history unrelated to US history, and realized than history isn’t benign, but charged with many subjective views.

I am currently reading Gone With the Wind, and this novel is presenting ideas and concepts to me in ways that no history book has ever done. Without asking outright, the story poignantly asks questions like, “What immoral acts were committed against southerners in the name of ending slavery? What alternatives could the re be to war? How does the actions and effects of the Civil War compare to o the r civil rights actions that have happened since the war?”  Questions like these are asked through the novel side by side with o the r questions of individual morality and actions.

In an engaging way, classics and historically-based literature can show us the way of life in different times, help us consider the motivations of parties involved in notable conflicts, make real the impact of events on individuals and nations. The Ku Klux Klan is rarely referred to with any sort of understanding or compassion as it is in Gone With the Wind, or the motives of its participants (such as powerlessness created by the governing Yankee officials who had stripped many southerners of many rights such as the right to vote or rely on officials for redress of wrongs) given any consideration. A novel can do so in a non-threatening way, without personal argument, but through a relation of experiences leading to actions. Before reading this book, my understanding of the Ku Klux Klan was limited to the disgusted, condemning variety of information and images about the m.

I am beginning to understand that every subject can be found in classic works, if one is reading between the lines of the story. There is math, science, language, and geography. History, in particular, is prevalent in many classics. Of course not all pictures of the past are historically accurate, and neither are the “facts” related by historians in history textbooks. I understand better now why the study of original documents is an important way to discover history, rather than relying only on the interpretations of o the rs. I am grateful for the expanded vision that classics have offered me about history and look forward to many more discoveries through reading classics.

September 12, 2015

Come Explore Europe on an Educational Tour

Ever Dream of explore 7 different countries in Europe.  Now is your chance.  Come join our tour in May of 2018. Perfect for you and/or your student. The European Carousel Educational Tour covers your air line tickets, your hotel stays, your admission into attractions, travel between cities and 2 meals a day.

EFTours specializes in group traveling and guarantees the lost prices.  They even allow you to set up a monthly or bi-weekly payments.  If you sign up today for every other week, it is just over $50 per payment. If you have any question, email at

I was Better after I had Cried

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before--more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” 
― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

August 19, 2015

Is America a Communistic Country?

Karl Marx and Frederick Engles wrote these 10 planks of Communism in the 1840's.  Are we as Americans, on the road to Communism too?
1. Abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the state.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal obligation of all to work and the establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

10. Free education for all children in government schools and abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form – combination of education with industrial production, etc.

August 15, 2015

Title Swap

The Compound Effect - Darren Hardy
Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party - The Epoch Times
All Joy and No Fun - Jennifer Senior
Therapeutic Storytelling - Susan Perrow
The Child Whisperer - Carol Tuttle
Boys Adrift - Dr. Sax
Strategic Relocation - Joel Skousen
Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims - Rush Limbaugh CD

July 13, 2015

Facts Are Stubborn Things

"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."

July 11, 2015

Title Swap

The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family Method to College Ready by Age Twelve by the Hardings
And What About College?: How Homeschooling Leads to Admissions to the Best Colleges & Universities by Cafi Cohen
Founders and Prophets by Jeff and ShaRee Hymas
The Wright Brothers by Davie McCullough
Better Than Before, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand
Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell
American Sniper by Chris Kyle
The Fourth Turning by Strauss and Howe

June 12, 2015

The Talent Code

As a hard-core-Suzuki-violin-mother of four violinists, I came across this title at a Summer Suzuki Institute camp.  Both of the teacher trainers talked about this title to the parents.  I thought, hum... I need to see the book for myself.  I bought a copy and read it a year ago.  This last year our practicing has gone to a whole new level of deep and effective practicing.  I may dare even say that my children made more progress in this last year, than the did in the 3 years prior of practicing.  I began video recording our teachers' (Suzuki and Fiddle) lessons.  We studied every sound and every gesture that our music mentors made.  My children started to study the very Essence of what made their teachers so great.  It worked. They are playing more beautifully than ever.  This book  is a fascinating read that can help you with any Talent you want to develop.  Enjoy some of my favorite quotes.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. —W. B. Yeats” 

“The sweet spot: that productive, uncomfortable terrain located just beyond our current abilities, where our reach exceeds our grasp. Deep practice is not simply about struggling; it's about seeking a particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions.” 

“According to a 1995 study, a sample of Japanese eighth graders spent 44 percent of their class time inventing, thinking, and actively struggling with underlying concepts. The study's sample of American students, on the other hand, spent less than 1 percent of their time in that state. “The Japanese want their kids to struggle,” said Jim Stigler, the UCLA professor who oversaw the study and who cowrote The Teaching Gap with James Hiebert. “Sometimes the [Japanese] teacher will purposely give the wrong answer so the kids can grapple with the theory. American teachers, though, worked like waiters. Whenever there was a struggle, they wanted to move past it, make sure the class kept gliding along. But you don't learn by gliding.” 

“Although talent feels and looks predestined, in fact we have a good deal of control over what skills we develop, and we have more potential than we might ever presume to guess.” 

― Daniel CoyleThe Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Everything Else

June 11, 2015

Title Swap

The Bronze Bow- Elizabeth George Spear
Calico Captive - Elizabeth George Spear
Jon Schmidt Music Lessons - Piano Guys
The Blue Caste - Lucy Maude Montgomery
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloo
The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family's Method to College Ready by Age Twelve

May 11, 2015

Favorite "Emma" Quotes

"Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.”

“I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control. ” 

“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken.” 
― Jane AustenEmma

May 5, 2015

Treasures Found in Treasure Island by Sara Sweet

When Treasure Island was assigned as our book of the month, I groaned (silently to myself) about reading it. Isn’t it just when we think we won’t enjoy something that it has room to pleasantly surprise us?

I enjoyed my time spent in the imagination of Robert Louis Stevenson reading this book. I was attracted to the ideas of growing into our true selves, discovering our real purpose and inner character in the crucible of trials, and defining our allegiance to principles and people as our story takes shape. That was just what happened to our unlikely boy hero in Treasure Island. Young Jim embarks on a treasure hunt and is presented with the most alluring and well polished specimens of men from two opposed walks of life. Who would be his mentor? One is the pirate Long John Silver, and the other a gentleman and physician named Dr. Livesey. A gentleman might be what every responsible parent guides their boys to become; polished, articulate, accomplished, knowledgeable, well-to-do, influential, refined. A pirate might be what every young boy would like to be (just ask Tom Sawyer and his gang); tough, mean, powerful, indulgent, rich and lazy, commanding, terrifying. When confronted face-to-face with both icons of the “perfect man,” will Jim’s fantasies prevail, or will he be convinced of the value and advantage of a gentleman?  Can Dr. Livesey fight and win against the principal pirate? is his strength and ability sufficient? or is a pirate as invincible as his reputation purports? On the other hand, is Long John capable of kindness, concern, and domineering power? Can as person, perhaps, have it all wrapped up into one hero? How can Jim, in his naivety, tell if the men he’s associating with are manipulating, scheming, honorable, or trustworthy?

Through the persuasions of flattery, in-your-face brutality, personal endangerment, and real-life adventure, Jim must take sides in order to survive. He must choose his allegiance, and is forced to abandon his objective perch on the fence of indecision about who he is, and what he wants to become – a perch that all adolescents find themselves upon.

What I believe Jim learns is that the world isn’t black and white. The Yin and Yang of the universe are intertwined, and we can often see the drawbacks of choosing “good” as well as the benefits of choosing “evil.” What guides us, then, are our principles and our allegiance to what we honor. It is why women endure childbirth in order to hold and raise that precious baby, why we toil in the soil that we may reap the bounty and feed ourselves, why we are loyal to our spouse and choose to be old and gray together instead of to pursue forbidden pleasures.

Not only do principles rightly guide our judgment, but outcomes do not prove the value of a principle-driven life. (you might want to read that again…) If Dr. Livesey had failed in this adventure, if he had been marooned on the island instead of pirates, would we say Jim had chosen poorly to place his allegiance in a gentleman over a pirate? Would we then wish Jim had sided with the brutal Long John and lived (if the gentlemen had all died on the island)? It’s easy to be proud of the boy for siding with justice when justice is served, but what about when it isn’t? What about when the tables are turned, and evil prevails as it did in the stories of the prophet Abinidai or the slaughter of the people of Ammon in the Book of Mormon, or the early Church’s temple builders in Kirtland, Ohio? Do we labor, as did Moses, for the welfare of our people, our families, only because we know we will find success in this life? And if we never realize the fruit of our earthly pursuits, as Moses who never himself reached the promised land, do we conclude that we have failed and our trust misplaced?

When our faith, or in other words our action, is rooted in eternal principles, the temporal outcomes and whether we “succeed” or “fail” in them is largely irrelevant. Because our goal is eternal, we may look past the present and the temporary to what we cannot see, which is true. We may look on to eternal accomplishments. On the tropical Treasure Island, Jim chose sides before he knew the outcome of that choice. He didn’t know that the gentlemen with whom he sided would have the physical and mental capacity and stamina to prevail over the band of rugged pirates. Perhaps in “real life” they wouldn’t have. But what Jim did know was that he didn’t want to be used or manipulated, and he didn’t want to perform the atrocities he witnessed firsthand. I’m sure as he watched the brutal murder performed by Long John and witnessed that betrayal, the boyish allure of ultimate and unrestrained power and force quickly withered to give place for the growth of the reason and understanding that supports instead justice, compassion, and mercy. Dr. Livesey, on the other hand, exemplified mercy as he aided injured men from both camps with compassion.

Treasure Island was a great tale of the process of forming one’s own principles over time through experience and understanding, which is vital to establishing good character and allegiance to those principles. It is definitely a story that can help a reader of any age consider his or her own character and determine which practices and pursuits reflect his or her principles. Thanks for choosing it!

April 11, 2015

"As You Like It" Quotes

“Do you not know I am a woman? when I think, I must speak.” 
― William ShakespeareAs You Like It

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” 
― William ShakespeareAs You Like It

Title Swap

Latter Day Liberty by Connor Boyack
Leon Garfield's Shakespeare Stories
Shakespeare - the Oxford School Version
The Jefferson Lies by David Barton
Alicia, My Story
The Real George Washington by the National Center for Constitutional Studies
The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
Little Men by Louise May Allcott

February 4, 2015

Title Swap

Blood Brothers - Elias Chakour
Headgates - Kerri Tibbits
Unsteady - Jeanette G. Smith
An Enemy Hath Done This - Ezra Taft Benson
Return to the Hiding Place - Hans Poley
Inequality for All - Documentary on Netflix

February 3, 2015

My Thoughts on “A Thomas Jefferson Education” by Jesse Edwards

I read this book after several people have told me how wonderful it is and how it is THE way to homeschool my kids.  However, I came at it with mixed emotions.  Some people use this philosophy/model with great success, but others do not.  I do not agree with the idea of not “requiring” things of your children being an excuse to not expect things of them, and to not encourage them to become who they can. I believe our children can’t reach their potential without a strong education. 

I firmly believe that education is the key to success in life.  It gives us confidence and self-worth.  It opens windows and doors that otherwise we may not be able to open, and allows us to see things more broadly, and clearly with a more expansive view.  The huge question is how.  How do we do it?  I am a product of public school and got through school not learning much, yet receiving high marks in my classes.  I want my kids to know more.  We never learned ancient history.  We never learned world history.  We never learned about principles of freedom or the constitution.  We didn’t learn finance.  We wasted so much time.  I want different things for my kids, and I want their learning to be deep and ingrained into who they are.

Since I started homeschooling I knew I wanted my kids to have a classical education.  I was given many suggestions on how to do that, the main one being “The Well-Trained Mind.”  As I read “A Thomas Jefferson Education,” I didn’t find the two styles contradictory.  They both encourage the usage of classics as a source of true lasting education.  The difference, for me, was the idea of the mentor.  That I, as a teacher, need to do more to guide my children in a better way.  The things that the DeMille’s suggest for a teacher/mentor are not easy however.  It is time consuming but building.  This is probably the section of the book that I will take the most from.

I did find some arguments wanting.  For example his thoughts on a national book.  The idea I agree with.  I did not like, however, how he claimed each country’s national book to be defined by their great writers.  England with Shakespeare, Italy with Dante etc.  If we were to continue that argument, the USA would not have the bible be it’s national book, but something by Mark Twain, or Faulkner.  The bible would belong to Israel.  I would think that many people in Italy and England would love to claim the bible as a national philosophy just as many people here would and do.  In fact, with the Vatican they might stake a claim on it.  The fact that people revere their great writers is different than a national book that people turn to as a guide on how to live and act and govern themselves.  I would say that most countries would source some sort of religious text as a national book, like the Bible, the Torah, the Quran and other religious texts.  That’s a side note, but it bothered me.

All in all, I came away from reading “A Thomas Jefferson Education” thinking that it seemed pretty innate.  Do I think I’m going to drop everything I’m doing now and join the DeMille cult?  No.  Will I adapt some of the mentor ideas and standards?  Yes.  I think that section was the best, and from it I will try to be a better guide and leader to my own children and family.