the performing arts

The Hofen house has been busy this last month or so with a lot of rehearsals and performances, some big and some small.  As many of you know, Mr. Superman and I have had our fair share of performances on one stage or another through the years.  And I hate to disappoint, but there won’t be any pictures of that stuff today!  Sorry.

But now we’re in a new phase where we get to be the proud parents in the audience and watch our kids have their turn at taking the stage and participating in productions.  The first was “Journey Through the 1700’s” with Central Oregon History Performers.  This has been an annual thing for us for quite a few years now, but this time all three kids got to be a part of it.  There was a lot of singing, dancing, acting, narrating, costumes, and everything else that comes along with it.

Our kids have loved this group and welcome the opportunity to take on whatever roles they are given.  During the performance, one of the directors took some time out to thank all the parents for working with their children to learn their lines and practice their music.  At this point, I leaned over to Brent and whispered, “I don’t think I’ve even spent five minutes working with our kids on any of this stuff!  Most of the lines I’m hearing them say tonight, I’ve never even heard before!”    We laughed a little and just realized that sometimes you just have to point your kids in the right direction and say, “Go for it, kid,”  and then let them handle the rest.

Here are some pictures from that show.  The costumes are a mix of skits about different events in the 1700’s.  So you’ll see Scotland, Native America, and a variety of other places represented.

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The other performance in our family was a totally different style.  Lauren has been a part of her very first ballet class this fall.  It’s the best set up ever:  the class is taught by two lovely young ladies and it meets in their home.  Lauren gets lots of attention and instruction in a wonderful and nurturing atmosphere.  She’s loving it!  For Christmas, they did a dance for family and friends to a piece from “The Nutcracker.”  So cute!

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It will be awhile before we have anymore productions at our house.  But we feel that this has been a rewarding season of the performing arts for the kiddos.  And for the parents, a very rewarding season of being audience members.  We’re very good at giving applause!

evidence that I am a total school nerd

And proud of it!  When people get some free time, there are many options available to them.  They can catch a movie, get ice cream, go for a walk, whatever.  But when I had some time to myself the other night, do you think I chose any of those options?  Oh no!  I went to Barnes and Noble Bookstore.  And I didn’t even sit in the cafe with a cool drink and my iPad.  Instead, I roamed the children’s department and used my smartphone to take pictures of possible books to buy for homeschooling.  I know what you’re thinking:  totally nerdy!  And you’re right.  What can I say?  I just can’t help it.  I don’t even think there is a cure for this. It’s just something I’m going to have to learn to deal with for the rest of my life.

When it was time for the store to close, I took a deep breath and said goodbye to the books.  Then I calmly walked out to the parking lot and went home.  I didn’t even buy one book!  No one has ever accused me of being a a big spender, that’s for sure.  I guess that spending quality time with books was enough for me that time.  All I took with me were some more ideas and a pictorial list of resources that we might use (or might not use).  Spending time among all those books was relaxing for me, but also exhilarating at the same time.  That’s just how it works for me.  Rather than fight it, I embrace my nerdiness!  It’s who I am!  And in about a month, I’ll probably come back and do it all over again.  What can I say?  I just can’t help it.

A science supplement.  We're doing earth science this year.

A science supplement. We’re doing earth science this year.

Art appreciation

Art appreciation

More art appreciation

More art appreciation

Even more art appreciation

Even more art appreciation

story starters & writing prompts

story starters & writing prompts

Possible stocking stuffers:  bookmarks with a built in timer!  Genius!

Possible stocking stuffers: bookmarks with a built in timer! Genius!


what’s in the basket?

After #3, new art, more color, less clutter

Not just for decoration, there’s a lot of stuff hiding in there!


Last week I posted about reorganizing our school stuff in the hallway, and then explained in GREAT DETAIL about what was on the bookshelf.  Congratulations if you made it all the way through that post.  It was kind of a marathon.  In fact, it was so long that I never showed you the rest of the reorganization:  the basket.  So here is the much shorter follow up to tell you what kind of stuff I’m hiding in the basket.



On top of the basket is one piece of our growing collection of old soda crates.  It’s holding some frequently used supplies.  There is a jar of geometric blocks that the kids play with a lot when I’m reading aloud to them.  There are containers and boxes filled with the typical school stuff: pencils, colored pencils, scissors, etc.  There’s also a stapler that you can’t see and a box of markers.  This crate will probably get reorganized a few times before school starts in September, but it’s pretty good for now.




Now for the basket.  Everything in the basket falls into one of three categories:  Binders of kids’ work from past years that we want to save, curriculum that we will use someday but not this year, and writing portfolios.  I’m not a big saver so this stuff will probably also get a few more edits, but I’m glad to have most of it in one place.  Someday I’ll show you what we have in the portfolios so far. and the beautiful quiet book that Emma got for her first birthday (just cannot get rid of that!).  Each child has played many hours of their early childhood with that book.  So there you have it.  The short and sweet look at the hallway basket.  If I find something else to organize, I’ll let you know.  And now the hallway tour is complete.


a fun find for school

When it comes to science, you can study one topic in depth all year long.  But sometimes, it’s good to mix it up a little bit and do something just for the interest and fun of it.  The Homeschool Scientist makes a monthly science calendar, complete with links, that can be downloaded to explore all kinds of cool science topics.  If you need a break from the regularly schedules science plan, just say, “What does the calendar say?” and do some exploring.  Have fun! Click on the image below to link to the Science Calendar. Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 9.38.30 PM

anatomy of a homeschool bookcase

As someone who is addicted to books, I love-love-love looking at what people have on the shelves of their bookcases.  And as a homeschool mama, I also love to check out how others organize their school resources.  Schooling always brings lots of opportunity for decision making.  What subjects will we cover?  What are my expectations for each child?  What curriculum should we use?  Or should we use a prepackaged curriculum at all?  Which resources should I give away?  Which resources should I keep?  What is worth my investment?

I find that looking at what other people have done and how they do it helps me to make more informed decisions about what to do.  Plus, I’m just curious and interested in what people are doing.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s true nonetheless.  So here is the breakdown of each shelf on the bookcase.

At the top, there is a basket filled with paperbacks of The Chronicles of Narnia with a reference book about the whole series.  Experiencing everything about Narnia is a rite of passage in our family.  There are also a few jars of shell and rock collections just for fun.



The top shelf isn’t very tall so it holds mostly paperback children’s novels plus a few science books including Anne of Green Gables, Mandie, and Christian Liberty Nature Readers.  There is also a stack of high school level literature that I’m saving for the future.



The next shelf is a lot taller, so it has more “teacher books” smushed in there.  There is no particular theme or topic to this group of books.  I just started putting books in that are of the same height so it will look orderly when I walk by it about twenty or thirty times a day.  There are books about all kinds of things:  history, poetry, math, nature journals, language arts, etc.  The stack on the side is mostly Life of Fred books.  This is the math curriculum we use and I only kept out the levels we’ll be using this year.  (I still have to order the advanced algebra book.)



The “I’m a Pepper” old school lunchbox isn’t there just for decoration.  Inside, there are all the supplies we need for our history timelines.  The pictures are from our student notebooks of A Living Hisotry of our World.  We liked this curriculum a lot, so we’re going for it again this fall with volume 2.  Each child keeps there timeline entries on a metal ring.  Each card has a picture on one side and a student-written summary on the other.



Next shelf: baskets!  I was pretty stoked to find three matching baskets at Goodwill that would fit well on the shelves.  It just makes my teacher heart happy!  The left basket is full of history and geography resources.  Some are for this year, some are for future years.  In the middle is a jar of unifix cubes.  These are my favorite math manipulative of all time.  They can be used for counting, patterns, measuring, or just fun play.  They’re not too big to take up a lot of space, but big enough to be handled by little hands.  And I have found them to be a lifesaver when it comes to learning place value.  I would’t dream of teaching elementary math without them.  And the basket on the right is for science.  At least science books.  Other science tools have been stashed away, out of sight, in an undisclosed location.  I could tell you where they are, but then I’d have to kill you.  No, I’m kidding!  But seriously, they are stashed away in a nearby closet.



Moving on, we have our hardback set of The Chronicles of Narnia.  A treasure indeed!  The glass containers store everyday supplies like erasers, scissors, glue, tape, and pencil sharpeners.  We don’t have a designated container for each type of supply.  It all just gets thrown together.  If everything ends up inside a container and not spread out on the floor, I’m happy.  The other books are mostly fiction that will end up on the kids’ reading lists.  Each child reads for an hour every day, and this year I’m hoping to document all of that reading much better than I have in the past.  Speaking of reading, now that my youngest child is starting 3rd grade, I don’t have those cute little beginning reader books anymore.  It’s kind of sad so see that stage of books gone.  I loved listening to my kids read those little books.  Oh the memories!



We made it to the last shelf!  There is a lot of gathering of odds and ends going on here.  Folders, spiral notebooks, handwriting paper, files, and a few teacher books.  The basket in the middle holds our picture books from my favorite curriculum of all time, Five in a Row.  This was the core curriculum of our early elementary years.  We have read, discussed, and enjoyed these books so much that I simply cannot get rid of them.  This may sound corny, but they are like our friends.  There are a lot of memories on the pages of those books!  I loved that we learned this way: snuggled on the couch with a good book and lots of questions and conversation.  Anyway, these books are treasures to me and I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them.  Sometimes the kids like to read through them just for fun, too.

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There you have it!  The exhaustive tour of our homeschool bookcase.  Every year of schooling is different so I’m sure the shelves will look different every year too.  No, I didn’t forget the crate and basket right next to the bookcase.  But this post is already pretty long, so we’ll visit that other stuff in a few days.  Let’s hope that this organizing kick that I’m on won’t stop abruptly, but will continue on to other things in the house that need it.  Now where are those Legos?

bookcase before and after

With a new school year coming in a little over a month, all teachers are in planning mode, even we homeschoolers.  We don’t have a dedicated schoolroom in our house, but the upstairs hallway has been delegated as the place where most of our schoolbooks and supplies are stored.  This week I was able to take some time to edit and organize the space.  There will probably be some more minor changes once school starts in September, but I’m pretty happy with it right now.  For now, here are a few before photos and a few after photos too.  It’s not a complete turnaround, but enough of a change to get me motivated for the coming school year.

before #1

before #1

before #2

before #2

ta-da!  After #1

ta-da! After #1

After #2, the organized bookcase

After #2, the organized bookcase

After #3, new art, more color, less clutter

After #3, new art, more color, less clutter

New here comes the fun part.  I joke with Brent all the time about these blog posts.  I know that he sees them and at least looks at the title and maybe some of the pictures.  But I’m pretty sure that he rarely actually reads these things to the end.  Please understand, it doesn’t bother me.  It just gives me something to tease him about.  So now I’m writing this down here at the bottom of the post to see if he actually notices that this paragraph is about him!  Shhh!  Don’t tell!  We’ll all find out if he made it through the whole thing if he leaves a comment.  What do you think?  Will he make it all the way to the end?  How many days before that happens?  We’ll see!


When I was a kid, every year we would get the big Sears Christmas Catalog. I loved that thing! I could spend hours upon hours looking at all the pages of clothes, tools, and other department store stuff. Of course, the toy section of the catalog was where I spent the most time. I could come up with an impressive wish list if I really wanted.

Now that I’m an adult, my catalogs look a little different. I’ve been having lots of fun looking through the Rainbow Resource Homeschool Catalog. This thing is huge! We’re talking 1360 pages huge. Bigger than the phone book huge. I like browsing through some of the pages and finding products I might not have ever thought about using before. Then I look them up on the Rainbow Resource website to get a closer look tosee if it’s something I might use.

Another catalog I’ve been reading through is from Lego Education. The stuff is a little spendy, but it’s got some pretty cool stuff, especially when it comes to engineering. Who knew?

I know that some people would rather have a root canal than research school stuff, but for a teacher like me, it can be pretty exciting! Almost as exciting as a Sears Christmas Catalog. Not quite, but almost.



no more stalking!

Confession:  I have been a Pinterest stalker for quite some time.

I could tell you that I go to that site for research.  Which might be true some of the time.  But really I just think it’s cool to see what other people like and to get ideas about fun stuff like decorating and travel and parties.  After months and months of exploring the site without actually signing up, I finally broke down and made my own account.  I’m so weak!

Some of you probably have some extensive Pinterest experience.  But I know that’s not true for some of my readers (I’m talking to you, Mom and Dad).  For you non-Pinterest people, the site in an online bulletin board where you can “pin” things from the internet to your “board” so you won’t forget the great idea that you found on the internet.  It’s sort of like an online idea book.  And it really cuts down on the bookmarking of websites.  Now, instead of adding a bookmark, I can just “pin” it to one of my “boards” on Pinterest.  Warning:  it can be a little addictive because you will never ever ever run out of things to research!

My new board is pretty little compared to most.  Right now it’s got a few ideas for school next year and some plans for my upcoming Vacation Bible School class.  These are all noble causes to be sure, but don’t be surprised when you start to see some boards dedicated to different rooms in the house, or holidays, or even traveling in the RV.  If you’re curious, you can visit my profile.  If you’re reading this in your email, you have to go the blogs website, then you can see the profile by clicking the little P over to the right, right next to the little envelope.  The P, of course, stands for Pinterest.

Once you get there, just start clicking on whatever you want.  Or start a new search.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Happy pinning!

quotable quotes

Right now I’m reading Jim Trelease’s The Read Aloud Handbook. I’m enjoying this book immensely. It is reinforcing all the good stuff that I know to be true about children and reading, which are two topics I happen to love very much. At the beginning of each chapter, the author begins with a quote. Some of them I’ve heard before. But I wanted to share a few that were new to me.

The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together. -Eric Hoffer

Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way. -Orville Prescott

Just some food for thought. Happy reading – especially of you’re reading to a child!

nature field trip

Yesterday we took a field trip with some friends to the Sunriver Nature Center.  We had a great time viewing all kinds of plants, animals, bones, birds, eggs, and rocks.  The kids really enjoyed to great horned owls and the golden eagle.  I’m glad the weather cooperated and we were able to have a picnic lunch and a little hike.  Maybe someday we’ll return there at night to check out the observatory, too.

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