Friday, December 26, 2008

HSD 2008 Year in Review

As 2008 draws to a close, so does my year in blogging. I will not have time between now and the first of the year to post again since we will be visiting family next week. Once back home, I have much to prepare for the second half of the school year.

Below is a list of the "Best of HSD." These are the posts that received the most comments or have special meaning to me. For my loyal readers, I hope you enjoy a look back. If you are new here, please enjoy this sampling of what HSD is all about.

  • June: My blogging adventure began by taking a look at how our children need for us to permit them opportunities for Learning from Mistakes. A firestorm of unfortunate events caused me to ponder the validity of Murphy's Law.

  • July: As we began the first session of our year-round school, we encountered a Providential Visitor. Michael and I enjoyed a trip to Memphis where we attended a retirement dinner for the man who was our college's BSU director. This dinner doubled as a great BSU Reunion.

  • September: I reminisced in Skidooing, sharing a lesson I learned as a young mother from LinkBlue's Clues. I posted video of BT's crowd-pleasing performance as Patrick Henry.

  • October: I began my Wisdom Wednesday segment with my Christian testimony in Why Homeschool Dawn? I shared the most important lesson I learned as an inner-city teacher in Harvest Time.

  • November: I shared how I learned to rest in God's sovereignty during a period of infertility and miscarriages in The Strong Tower. In Consolation Prize?, I contemplated the value of heavenly treasure. I lost the bid for Best New Homeschool Blog in the Homeschool Blog Awards but received rave reviews for My Concession.

I have a few plans for my return to blogging in January.

  • A New Name: I will reveal a new name for my blog which represents my vision for homeschooling.

  • A Series on Socialization: Every homeschooler has been challenged by this argument. As a homeschooler with ties to the public schools, I frequently find myself in the position of having to defend my world view. I will begin a series on this topic in January.

  • Shocking News from Subway: This will be the next installment in my Christian testimony series.

  • House Updates: Our remodeling adventure begins. Stay tunded for updates on the progress.

Have a blessed and Happy New Year. I look forward to rejoining you all here in the blogosphere soon.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Cookie Factory

Last Friday, my kitchen transformed into a cookie factory. I decided to do extra baking this year and make an assortment of Christmas cookies. By making two batches of four different cookies, I had enough to make goodie bags for our friends and neighbors and to fill a few cookie jars for my boys. Below are pictures of the treats I made with links to the recipes.

Peppermint Patties
These were the easiest of all to make. However, the white chocolate chips did not melt well. It made a thick, paste-like icing and did not drizzle. I had to frost each cookie with the melted chocolate instead. If I make these again, I will use white almond bark.

Holiday Trees
These were great! The dough was simple to make and easy to roll out. It kept its form well, too. They were yummy, especially after dipping them in almond bark.

Crunchy Cereal Wreaths
In my opinion, these win the cutest-cookie-ever award. My kids loved them. The coconut gave them a little nicer flavor than the run-of-the-mill Rice Krispie treat. They were messy to make though. I could not form them as instructed in the recipe. I had to spray a large spoon with Pam and scoop out a ball of the mixture. Then I placed it on wax paper and formed the wreath shape by hand. It was a sticky mess.

Sweet Coconut Snowballs
These got rave reviews from everyone, and they were very easy to make. I do not have a food processor, so I used my blender for that step.

Candied Almonds

Although not a cookie, this simple, tasty treat is post-worthy. I first made these two years ago when we celebrated a Colonial Christmas. My family loved them, and they are a must-have each holiday season.

Happy Baking!

Friday, December 19, 2008

You Need to Get Out More Often...

Or do you?

If you are a stay-at-home mom looking for a little encouragement, take a moment to read Making Home: Combating the "You Should Get Out of the House More" Mentality.

Jess at Making Home reminds us to guard our hearts against the temptation to get out and do more. I could talk, or write, all day on this topic but as I have many responsibilities and Jess has said it all very well, I will simply encourage you to visit her blog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Family Happenings

Dear Family and Friends,
What a wonderful year we have had serving the Lord in our home and community. As always, He continues to bless our lives, filling our days with the responsibilities and joys of parenting, teaching and serving.

Michael continues to teach high school Spanish. We covet your prayers for him as he labors among a complacent generation. We are praying for a revival among the churched teens of our community and for the salvation of the many unchurched students in his classes.

When not at work, Michael spends his time playing with the boys. Their favorite activities are playing games together and tennis. Michael gave up his position as tennis coach at the high school because it required too much of his time; however, he and the boys still enjoy spending time on the court. He also serves as our church's catechist, teaching a Wednesday night class for the upper elementary children.

BT is in 4th grade. He takes piano lessons from Nohnie, plays golf and takes tennis lessons. Earlier in the year, he received first prize in the HER science fair, elementary division, for his project "What Makes the Red Spot Red?" In it, he demonstrated the science behind Jupiter's famous spot.

He and his brother are avid bird watchers. They compete with two of their friends from church in the Youth Birding Competition each year. In last year's competition, their team won first place in their age division for the most species identified in a twenty-four hour period, first place for the most money raised in their age division for conservation and the most improved award. Each member of the team came home with a new pair of binoculars, a new field guide and a new spotting scope.

Bruster is in 3rd grade this year. In addition to birding with his brother, Bruster plays soccer and golf. In the last few minutes of the soccer season, he scored his first ever goal! He is also the artist in the family. He draws non-stop and loves to paint. If I don't watch him, everything becomes a canvass, including his school desk! He painted a picture of a ruby-throated hummingbird for the Youth Birding Competition's Art Contest. I also entered this piece in Crayola's on-line art exhibition. His painting was awarded 4th place among the 3rd grade entries nationwide and will be included Crayola's Children's Art Exhibition book, due to be published in March.

My responsibilities are many. I spend most of my days teaching, cleaning, cooking... all of the typical homeschool mom duties. I also drive the taxi to soccer, golf, piano, birding events, church and field trips. In the evenings, I enjoy blogging. This is my new pastime, and the Lord has blessed this endeavor and brought friends from all over the world to my blog. Through this new hobby I have also had the privilege of reuniting with many of my dear friends from college. How glad I am to have you guys stopping in here at HSD! I pray that through my writing other moms will be encouraged in the Lord.

I have also taken on two new responsibilities within our homeschool community. I am coordinating our annual Spotlight Night, an event at which our children give presentations pertaining to their school accomplishments. I am also coaching our Mathletes team. There are seven super-smart kids in my group, and we meet monthly to take the International Math Olympiad exam. What a blessing it continues to be to serve my fellow homeschoolers in this capacity.

One last bit of news... over the summer, my parents moved from Tennessee to our hometown. They now live a mere 15 minutes away. My dad even teaches at the same high school as Michael. What a blessing it is to have Papaw and Nohnie nearby and apart of our church and community!

Thanks for taking the time to stop in and catch up on our family. We pray that you are having a wonderful Christmas season.

In Christ,

Michael, Dawn, BT and Bruster

Monday, December 15, 2008


Two of my dearest bloggy friends, Kathleen @ South Forte Farms and Kellie @ Blue House Academy, suggested that I repost some of my favorite "golden oldies" during my blogging hiatus.  Great idea, ladies!  Thank you!!

I first posted Legacy in December, 2008.  I thought it appropriate to pull from the archives and post today since my mom made it through her knee surgery successfully this morning.  Thank you for your prayers. 

She now faces rehab from surgery and has to begin walking again with the aid of a walker today.  Just hearing the word rehab is hard for her.  This post can help you understand why.  Please continue to lift her in prayer as she regains the use of her "good" leg and works to rehabilitate through the added difficult of her disability....

Orville began piano lessons recently. My mom, his Nohnie, teaches him. The piano has so much significance to her, and it is a joy to watch them together. I hope one day he will grasp just how special this instrument has been to her and the beauty of the legacy she is passing to him.

Just before her seventh birthday, my mother wanted to learn to play the piano. Her neighbors owned a piano and offered to let her visit their house daily and practice. They even gave her a few "lessons." She truly loved playing and went to their house as often as she could. Soon, everyone saw that she had a remarkable ability. She could play by ear but was learning to read music and play by the rules, too. It was not long before she could play like a pro.

A few months later, my grandmother and she went downtown to shop for a new dress, a common practice of theirs. There were no malls at the time, so they would park where they could find a spot and walk from specialty store to specialty store. However, this shopping trip would be different.

Mamaw (that's what I called my grandma) got out of the car and walked around to help her seven-year-old baby girl out. Mom took two steps and fell to the ground. Mamaw thought she was joking at first and prompted her to get up before she soiled her clothes. However, Mom could not get up. She was rushed to the hospital and after a long series of tests was diagnosed with infantile paralysis or polio.

The good news was the paralysis was isolated to her left leg. The bad news was she would have to relearn some very basic motor skills, including how to walk. For the next year, she could not go to school, go outside to play or do many of the activities that a "normal" seven-year-old girl would do.

My dear Papaw was not a rich man but he had a heart of gold. He painted houses for a living and money was often tight, but he knew my mom needed something special to help her through such a difficult season. She needed something that she could call her own, that could occupy her days and give her joy as she worked so hard to rehabilitate. He worked extra hours and saved the extra pay until he had enough to buy her a piano of her own.

Her hands and arms worked just fine as did her right leg. She could play and work the foot pedals and forget all about her troubled left leg. She played and played, and her abilities grew. Soon, everyone recognized that she had a very special talent given and blessed by the Lord.

She did eventually walk again but only with the aid of a large, stiff metal brace that ran from her hip to her ankle. She could only move her left leg by swinging it way out to the side. To the kids at school, she was laughable. She was mimicked and teased. They called her "Chester" after the disabled character on the t.v. show Gunsmoke. To her teachers, she was little more than a nuisance. She was behind in her studies from being out of school during the year of rehab. Most thought of her as slow, a poor, little, crippled girl who would never learn anything.

But, she had her piano. It was a comfort to her, a reminder that the Lord had made her exactly whom He wanted, that He was all-loving and ever-present. Her remarkable gift grew and grew as she poured herself into her studies and practice. It was the one thing she could do well and she did it with gusto. By the time she was ten, she was her church's pianist.

Just before Mom's sixteenth birthday, a family moved to Knoxville from St. Louis and visited the church where she played piano. The family's eldest son had just graduated from high school and wanted very little to do with the South. He had protested the move, feeling sure there would be no indoor plumbing and that everyone would eat "possum" like on the Beverly Hillbillies. He intended to endure life in Appalachia for a couple of mandatory months and then take off for college- back to the Midwest where he belonged.

However, at church that morning, his plans were derailed.  He liked what he heard coming from the piano. When he noticed that the pianist was a pretty teen-aged girl, he liked what he saw, too. After the service, he complimented Mamaw on how well her daughter played. She told him that he should tell her daughter himself. He did, and, as you have probably guessed by now, the pianist and the Midwestern boy soon fell in love and married.

My dad would not be the only fellow to fall in love with my mom and her piano playing. Nine years ago, the pianist became "Nohnie".  Her first grandson, Orville, loves to hear her play.  He has since he was born, and it was the one thing that soothed his colicky spells as a newborn. He wanted to start lessons this year so he could learn to play like Nohnie and spend time with her.  What a wonderful time they have together as his precious hands follow hers!

Hers is a legacy of faith and of love. I pray the Lord will continue to bless her life as she passes that legacy to the next generation of our family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One in Her Arms

Wisdom Wednesday

In my first Wisdom Wednesday post, "Why Homeschool Dawn?", I shared my Christian testimony. A few weeks later I wrote "Harvest Time" in which I revealed the greatest lesson I learned as an inner-city teacher. The next month I continued the chronology of my life's lessons in "The Strong Tower." In it I wrote about how God's sovereignty became my resting place as I faced the challenges of infertility and miscarriages. After reading these posts, a few of my bloggy friends sent me e-mails asking for the rest of the story. I will probably dedicate a few more posts to this series of testimonies, but for now, here is the next installment.

After the doctor had the dreaded talk with us, Michael and I decided we were not ready to begin fertility testing. We had been told that things did not look good for us and that we should be prepared for the worst. We knew that would require extra measures of grace. The school year had just begun, so we committed to spend the year praying for that grace and focusing on the work to be done at our schools.

I taught third grade at DES, Dilapidated Elementary School. No, that is not its real name but the pseudonym I have given it in order to protect the innocent. DES was in one of Memphis's poorest neighborhoods, not far from the Mighty Mississippi. It was a "best practices" school. That probably is not what immediately comes to mind when you think "inner city" and may come across as a bit pretentious. It's really just a term used in education circles to indicate a dedication to looking beyond oneself. We sought out what was working at other successful schools, not just in our district but nationally.

Before Christmas break our school decided to adopt a program widely used in the New York Public Schools, specifically at primary schools in Manhattan. A team of five teachers was chosen to go to NYC and observe schools using the program. I was selected as a member of the team.

We arrived in Manhattan in late January and spent a week and a half observing and taking notes. About mid-way through our stay, I experienced dizzy spells. My colleagues said it was probably from riding the subway and elevators. That might seem silly, but I do get motion sickness and am afraid of heights. However, I thought I was getting an ear infection.

Once back home, I went to the doctor expecting to be given a prescription for antibiotics but received prenatal vitamins instead.

What a great day it was when I held BT in my arms. He was born without any problems, full of life. Everyone had a different response. There was laughter. There were tears. Michael jumped around the delivery room, smiling from ear to ear.

All I could do was hold BT and feel the comforting presence of the Lord. It had been an arduous journey, filled with heartache. But, He had been with me every step of the way. His will had been accomplished in losing and in receiving. And I was fully aware that the gift of this little baby was His alone to give. Just as Hannah rejoiced in God's Sovereignty after the birth of Samuel, my heart sang, "There is no one holy like the Lord. There is no God but you. There is no Rock like our God." 1 Sam 2:2

People often ask me what happened. Did the doctors know what had caused the previous miscarriages? Had we opted for a particular therapy? At that time, however, there was no medical explanation, only the knowledge that as our Sovereign God willed, "the woman who was unable to have children, now had seven." 1 Sam 2:5

Well, at least three… two, possibly more, in heaven and one in her arms.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Questionaire

Saw this at Mercy Every Morning and wanted to play along...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial. I have alleriges and can't handle a real one.

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the day after Thanksgiving but put it up two days before TG this year.

4. When do you take the tree down? January 2nd

5. Do you like Egg Nog? Yuck! No!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? an Atari with the Frogger and Donkey Kong cartridges. I just dated myself with that one, didn't I?

7. Hardest person to buy for? My dad. I usually end up buying him something with UT on it.

8. Easiest person to buy for? my kids

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Actually, I hand most out in person. If I can't do that, I mail them. I seem to be sending out a lot of holiday greetings on Facebook this year. I guess I don't really fit into a category here.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? an ugly shirt that didn't fit

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I'm going to be really unpopular for this one but I don't really like any of them.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? It varies from year to year.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don't think so.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas and favorite Christmas dessert? My mom always made spinach dip for our family Christmas party when I was young. I always want that at Christmas. Dessert: My mamaw's apple stack cake

16. Lights on the tree? White lights.

17. Favorite Christmas song? The First Noel, O Come All Ye Faithful, Carol of the Bells

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Always home on Christmas Day but usually travel before or after.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yes, only because I read them while copying this from Mercy Every Morning!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? We have one Christmas Eve present and open the rest on Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Commercialism.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? My ornaments are mostly clear, red and gold. Though I also have some keepsake ornaments and our Jesse tree ornaments.

24. Handmade ornaments or store bought? Both. I got most of my ornaments before M's and my first Christmas by hosting a Christmas around the World party. We have made most of our Jesse Tree ornaments.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A new mixer. I've already shown M where to find it at the store! LOL

I hope you enjoyed this. If you decided to participate on your blog, leave a comment letting me know so I can read your post.

Merry Christmas!

Mentoring Moments for Christian Women

My article, "Gift Baskets for Christmas," was published at Mentoring Moments for Christian Women. I want to say thank you to the staff for including my ideas and invite my readers to visit this helpful on-line magazine.

Each edition is filled with "encouragement, training, and practical tips for women in their everyday walk with the Lord Jesus Christ."* I have found it an edifying read, look forward to each month's new issue and am honored and excited to be included.

The "Twelve Days of Christmas" is their current feature and where you will find my article. As the name suggests, there will be twelve issues containing Christmas devotions and ideas for creating a warm and Christ-centered season.

*quote from Mentoring Moments home page,

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pioneer Piggy Builds a Home

Teaching Tip Tuesday

Last week the boys had fun traveling the Oregon Trail. We finished reading Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen. They also played the game Oregon Trail on the computer and kept a journal of their journey.

Today they built these homes for Pioneer Piggy by gluing pretzel sticks to empty milk cartons. Too bad he is too tall to go inside! LOL!! Of course, thar's nary a door ner winder in the place, so I guess he couldn't enter even if he were a wee, little pig. I suppose he doesn't mind. After all, he has been confined to a much-too-small Conestoga for five weeks now!

Great Giveaway

Christy @ Mercy Every Morning is hosting a giveaway. You have until Thursday at midnight to enter for a chance to win one of two Trigger Memory Publications, Clean n' Flip or Times Tables.

I have used Bedroom Cleaning for Kids, also from Trigger Memory, and very similar to Clean n' Flip. I have had really good results. You can read more about my experience with Trigger Memory in my post "Cleaning Rooms." Christy has also written great reviews of these products.

You can read Christy's reviews and enter the giveaway by leaving a comment here.

Feel free to participate if you do not homeschool. These charts are not designed just for homeschoolers but could be helpful for any parents looking for a good cleaning system or way to help their children master the times tables.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Exciting News!

I just received word that Bruster won 4th place in the 3rd grade division of Crayola's Annual On-line Art Exhibition. His art work, "Eco-Friendly Fuel," will be published in the Crayola Art Exhibition book, scheduled for release by March, 2009.

The theme of the competition was "Go Green." As a bird enthusiast, Bruster wanted to paint a picture of a bird. He had completed the winning picture earlier in the year for the Youth Birding Competition's Art Contest. He noticed that the hummingbird eats good fuel and decided to write a statement about the good stewardship of using alternative fuels.

You can see his winning art and statement here.

Congratulations, Bruster! Mommy is so excited for you!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Celebrating the Season

Thrifty Thursday

Molly @ Counter-Cultural Mom is hosting a blog carnival. Join her as she asks us to share our favorite Christmas resources. This week, we are to share our favorite books and music.

There are two books that we read every year, The Advent Book by Jack and Cathy Stockman and The Tale of Three Trees, a Traditional Folktale retold by Angela Elwell Hunt. For more on how we use these books in our celebration, see my posts "Advent" and "The Three Trees."

The Advent Book is expensive. However, I found it for $25 with no shipping charge on Amazon. Amazon was also holding a promotional special for the Amazon Visa card the year I bought it, $25 off your first bill. So, I really got that one for free. I bought The Tale of Three Trees on ebay for around $6, including shipping.

I do not have many cd's. I think I have an Il Divo Christmas album somewhere, but couldn't find it. Mostly, we sing Christmas hymns from the Trinity Hymnal. I look forward to all of your suggestions. This is an area in which I need some help!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Desire of My Heart

Wisdom Wednesday

Yesterday, the boys and I read our daily chapter of Little Pilgrim's Progress. We are almost to the end of the journey. In yesterday's read, the foolish character, Ignorance, reaches the end of his so-called pilgrimage. When he arrives at the gates of the Celestial City, he does not have the scroll that is needed to be allowed to enter in because he never passed by the cross. He thought it unnecessary and felt sure that as long as he walked the path to the City, obeying the King's commands, the King would be sure to allow him into the Kingdom.

How wrong he was. What happened next brought to mind Mat 7:22-23 which says, "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name do many works of power? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, those working lawlessness!" Ignorance quickly learned that his works were in vain. His lack of faith in the King's own Son condemned him and his efforts. He was bound and carried away from the presence of the King.

As we finished reading, I looked at BT. Tears were streaming down his little face. "Did this chapter make you afraid?" I asked, wondering if it was too heavy of a topic. "No," he said and sobbed even harder. He fell into my arms and explained that his tears were good because he knew that what happened to Ignorance would never happen to him.

Soon, we were both crying as he explained that he understood that Ignorance was condemned because he had put his faith in his own efforts. He told me in his own child-like words that on the cross Jesus had taken on BT's sins. That Jesus had endured the wrath that BT deserves. That Jesus died and rose again. That faith in Jesus is the only way to salvation.

Sometimes I wonder if our homeschool makes the grade, if it meets the academic standards my boys need to be competitive in the 21st Century. Other times I get frustrated by the "socialization" question. I hear this argument so often that I almost begin to believe it.

However, moments like the one we experienced yesterday provide clarity. As I held my precious little boy, I knew that God's grace was at work and that He will be faithful to complete the good work that He has begun. I don't have to get everything right. I can't. I don't need to worry about the world's opinion. It won't change our standing with God.

Instead, I must spend my days at home, finding pleasure in the Lord's will, praising Him for what He has accomplished, praying that I will keep an eternal perspective. For that which I desire most has nothing to do with academics or socialization and everything to do with eternity. My heart's desire is that my boys will grow to be first and foremost faithful servants of Jesus Christ. I pray for the faith to "Delight [myself] in the Lord, that He may give [me] [my] heart's desire." Psalm 37:4

Monday, December 1, 2008


Teaching Tip Tuesday

The Advent season is upon us, and in our home, we have a few special traditions.

Each evening, the children join Michael and me on the couch where we sing either "O Come All Ye Faithful" or "Hark the Herald Angels." I have made a "song book" for each member of the family by printing lyrics on card stock and stapling the sheets together.

Next, Michael reads one page from The Advent Book by Jack and Cathy Stockman. In this beautifully illustrated book, each page is drawn to resemble the front of a church, and the church door "opens" to reveal the text. There is one page for each night of Advent, and each page tells part of the Christmas story. I have placed this book in my Shelfari in the sidebar for those interested in a closer look.

Afterward, the boys alternate turns finding the ornament for the night on our Jesse tree. I do not have a separate tree for this, but place the ornaments on our Christmas tree. Each night, we tell the boys which story of the Bible is the spotlight story. Then they tell us what they know about the event and find the ornament. Michael then reads a corresponding verse or Bible passage.

The ornaments we own were acquired at discount stores, most costing only $1, or we made them ourselves. We crafted an empty tomb out of clay and constructed Jacob's ladder from craft sticks. I only buy or make about four ornaments per year, so we use cards from the Bible game Redemption for those stories for which we do not own an ornament.

Our Variety of Handmade, Store-Bought
and Redemption Card Ornaments

Inside each pocket of the Advent calendar pictured to the left, I have placed pieces of candy and a slip of paper containing a memory verse. Each morning, the boys remove the paper from the pocket for the day and work on memorizing it in time for family worship. After our Jesse Tree time, they state the verse for the day and receive the candy.

We end our Advent observance with prayer and another Christmas hymn.

I so enjoy this season of family worship. It is simple to accomplish, has created lasting memories for our children and for us and keeps us focused on the only reason for the season, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.