Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Other Non-Traditional Education Options

In the course of a discussion on getting started in home education, I noticed several bits of misinformation being circulated. Although this was likely unintentional, I wanted to clarify a couple of things.

First of all, K-12 is NOT homeschooling. It is public schooling from home. The state provides free curriculum, and a teacher oversees your child's education. Most people who homeschool do not go this route because their whole goal is to move away from public education. With K-12, the government still selects your curriculum and determines your schedule.

However, I personally feel that K-12 is a legit option for some. Cases where K-12 might be beneficial: you have a child with life-threatening illness; you have a child with learning disabilities that are not compatible with a classroom setting; your child is pregnant; you plan to return your child to public school in a year or so and/or your other children are remaining in the public school system. I'm sure there are other cases in which K-12 would be a good fit. I am a big advocate for parents having the freedom to decide for themselves what is best for their children, and this may be a good fit for your situation. Just know that it isn't homeschooling.

Article from The Tennessean about K-12's poor performance, resulting in likely closure:
Huffman Orders Closure of Tennessee Virtual Academy

Of course, the Virginia-based, for-profit curriculum company does not want it to be shut down, as it would miss out on all those Tennessee taxpayer's dollars. Same for the tiny school district in East Tennessee which handles enrollment for the entire state. They receive over $5k per student with the advantage of not having to haul them in busses or put them in classrooms.

It has come to my attention that there is also a K-12 Private School option that is doing well and will not be affected by the closure of the virtual public school. But again, this is not traditional homeschool, but rather private school at home. 

Next, there are other options such as Gateway's extension program and Classical Conversations that are not full-out homeschooling. Gateway offers three services. They have a regular private school campus. They have an extension program of this private school, where you take their material home and teach it, then come in for weekly testing. And finally, they serve as an umbrella school for traditional homeschoolers, keeping up with transcripts.

Gateway Christian Schools 

Classical Conversations is another private school/homeschool hybrid, with CC choosing some of your curriculum and you choosing for certain subjects. Students attend class once a week, tutored by parents. The other four days they are at home. There is a local chapter in Millington. You can get more information about Classical Conversations here: Classical Conversations

As parents become more aware of alternative options for the education of their children, more options seem to be offered. This can be rather confusing at times. But it is also great to know that parents have the freedom to choose an option that is best for their family.

Getting Started in Homeschooling

We interrupt this two year blogging hiatus to bring you an article about getting your homeschool off the ground in the great state of Tennessee. I am asked this question often and decided it would be better to have it in one permanent place than to type it from scratch once or twice a month. This blog post is for Tennessee in general and Tipton County in particular.

So, you are considering home education for your family and are wondering what you need to do to get started. Might I first recommend that you and your spouse are on the same page? Because if hubby isn't behind you in this, it ain't gonna fly. Assuming you are a Christian, you and your spouse should be praying that this is the direction God is leading your family. It's pretty important.

Also, when it comes to state law, don't take my word for it! You should read the actual law for yourself and ask questions if you do not understand. The Home School Legal Defense Association lays it out nice and neat for you at this link:

 HSLDA Home Education Laws for Tennessee

Now that the fine print is out of the way, let's break this down. To homeschool legally in Tennessee, you need three things. Two are essential, and the third is highly recommended for a successful homeschool.

The first essential is an umbrella school. (Legally, there is an option to register your homeschool with the public school system, but this is uncommon.) I believe that Gateway Christian School's Total Home-Education program has probably served this area for the longest. They require you to send grades in twice a year, and they do not offer standardized testing (although there are places to have this done if you want it). More information can be found in the link below.

The other two umbrella schools that most people in this area use are Home Life Academy and Faith Heritage Christian Academy. Home Life is all online as it is based in Middle TN. They require two grade reports a year and do not offer testing. Price is comparable to Gateway. Faith Heritage requires quarterly grade reports, is a little bit higher in price, but offers yearly standardized testing (Stanford 10). It is conveniently located in Millington and has a different accreditation than GCS or HLA. I am happy to go into the details about accreditation, but it will need to be in a separate post. Here are links to these three:

Gateway Christian Schools

Home Life Academy

Faith Heritage Christian Academy 

I will add that there are other umbrella schools in this area and online, including Aaron Academy, Lighthouse Christian Academy, etc. The three mentioned above would be considered the mainstream for this area, but you can Google and research other options, as well.

So we have the first thing covered - umbrella school. Second, you need curriculum. Most first-time moms choose an out of the box, traditional textbook approach, like ABeka or Bob Jones. You can always branch out later, but with these you can be secure that your child is learning what they need at their particular grade level. If you are feeling adventurous, purchase the book "102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum" by Cathy Duffy. This book helps you determine your child's learning style, then suggests curriculum for that style, as well as including lengthy reviews on each top pick. Cathy Duffy also has a website with great reviews: Cathy Duffy

And finally, I would highly recommend that you plug into a support group. I belong to Homeschooling Under Grace (HUG). Our mom's meetings are free and open to all; we welcome prospective homeschoolers to come sit and listen, ask questions, etc. More information can be found by searching for our group Facebook and reading the Group Info post (which can be seen by the general public).

There are other great support groups in this area, as well, including Tipton County Home Educators, Covington Home Education Association (CHEA), and Memphis Home Education Association (MHEA). In addition, there is a local Facebook group called Tipton County Christian Homeschoolers. They often plan social activities.

I hope this information has been helpful, and wish you the best in your child's education! 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Making Butter

What better way to pass a long summer evening than by reading a good book together as a family? We are currently in the middle of "Little House in the Big Woods." I insisted on reading this particular title. If I had to hear Pa speak with the voice of Sean Connery I would be scarred for life.

As we were reading the chapter about Ma making butter, I remembered that we have this lovely wooden butter mold from Grandmother Hinton (Benny's mom):

It is cracked, but isn't it lovely?

So last night we made butter. The children really enjoyed shaking the jar of cream, salt, and a few marbles for agitation. We tried taking turns telling part of a story while shaking, but that only lasted until we got to Katie, who makes everything into a story about herself being half-dragon. Then we tried singing as we churned, but they were all being too silly.

 Daddy and the Girls

 Go, Audrey!

Katie Takes a Turn

Owen is a BLUR!

Next, the kids watched me try to work all of the buttermilk out of the butter. I will confess that I didn't do a very good job, resulting in poor results later with the butter mold.

Katie, what are you doing?!?!

We had saved a bit of the cream to whip with sugar. While we waited for the butter to harden a bit in the refrigerator, the kids dipped apples in whipped cream. YUM!

Then it was time to try the mold. Owen watched me pack it down:

And out it plopped. Very, very messy looking. But still delicious! (For those who are tempted to say that I should have done _________ to prevent the butter from sticking to the mold, let me inform you that it was 9:30 and I really didn't care anymore.)

This morning I made gluten-free biscuits with the buttermilk and then spread the fresh butter and some honey on them. Even I had a bite...so good!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

You Don't Always Get What You Ask For (but sometimes you get something better)

Every spring I have an overwhelming desire to plant a vegetable garden. And every spring something happens to prevent that desire from bearing fruit, so to speak.

This year I decided to start small. All I really wanted were some tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, basil, cilantro, and mint. Everyone in my family enjoys these, and I already had empty beds outside my back door, ready to be planted. Easy, right?

So during one of Katie's art lessons, I lugged Owen and Audrey over to Fred's to see what they had to offer. The plants all looked healthy. I got exactly what I wanted, plus a few things that I didn't really want. I have a hard time saying no to children who are asking for healthy things! So we added in one watermelon plant, one catnip plant ("Hugo will LOVE this!"), and a few flowers.

The mint never sprouted. The cilantro bolted to seed in the heat of June. The cucumbers dried up and shrivelled away. The bell pepper plants kept blossoming, then...nothing. I did get a handful of grape tomatoes, and currently have exactly four small, green slicer tomatoes on the vine.

 Gangly Tomato Plant

 Sad Little Pepper(less) Plant

And what became of that superfluous catnip? And the watermelon, which I personally dislike?

Beautiful Monstrous Catnip

 Eight-Foot Long Watermelon Plant

Baby Watermelon (Okay...so it IS cute.)

My friend Lee Anne says there must be a Gospel message here. I haven't had time to wrap my brain around it yet, but I think she is right. I do know that there is one plant that clearly displays getting something we do not deserve - my sunflowers....

We studied birds last year for Science class and managed to attract many of them to our tiny, suburban back yard. Almost every bird likes sunflower seeds, so we keep some scattered on the patio outside our kitchen door.

When Kevin mows the yard, he uses the leaf blower to blow all the hulls away. Much to our surprise, a small growth of sunflowers began to sprout up in a tiny corner of the patio. Today, they blossomed. It was so lovely to see the yellow petals, which we had not intentionally planted, open towards the morning sun. What a beautiful background for our bird watching!

 Lovely Sunflowers

 Sunflower Blossom (Look closely to see a tiny ant!)

Mockingbird Enjoying a Cool Drink

Undeserved favors...thank You, God, for your blessings!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Recipe for a Holy Marriage

Galatians 5:22-24

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Young brides often like to try new recipes to make their husbands happy. But God has given us a proven “recipe” for a marriage that is holy, reflecting Christ's love for his Bride, the church. The end goal of marriage is your sanctification. Your marriage will never be happy if it is full of sin, but you can experience true joy when you obey what God has commanded. It is even possible to find that joy when you have married a sinner!


Christ is our supreme example of true love. He set His love on us while we were His enemies! We were completely unlovable, yet He chose to love us anyhow. His love is not based on what we do, or on fluctuating emotions, but on His choice.

Romans 5:6-10

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Christ, by his incarnation and death, gives us an example of humility and a love that is beyond comprehension:

Philippians 2:3-8

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

There is no greater example of true love. And because you are a believer, the Spirit dwells in you and gives you the power to imitate the love and humility of Christ! Selfless love and humility are key ingredients to a God-glorifying marriage.

Patience – Longsuffering – Forgiveness

I have a news flash for you. You are a sinner, and you are marrying one! Ask God for a heart of patience when you are sinned against, and be quick to forgive. When you are the offender, be quick to confess, repent, and ask for forgiveness. Never assume that you are 100% in the right in any situation! Our hearts are deceitful and we are often blind to our own sin. Pray that the Spirit will reveal any hidden sin in your own heart, through His word or through the counsel of godly friends.

Jeremiah 17:9-10

The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
     and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
    according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Colossians 3:12-15

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Luke 17:3-4

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Also, when you forgive, you should not dwell on the offense any longer or continue to bring it up to the offender or to others (unless the offense is great enough to require mediation):

Proverbs 17:9

Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
    but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up strife,
    but love covers all offenses.


Strive to make your home a refuge from the world. Surround yourself and your husband with scripture, good books, or whatever draws your thoughts to God. Proverbs 12:20 says, “those who plan peace have joy.”

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Now, look at all these warnings in Proverbs about a home that is NOT a refuge, and a wife that is NOT full of peace!

Proverbs 17:1

Better is a dry morsel with quiet
    than a house full of feasting with strife.

Proverbs 15:17

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
    than a fattened ox and hatred with it.

Proverbs 21:9 AND Proverbs 25:24

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
    than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

Proverbs 21:19

It is better to live in a desert land
    than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.

Proverbs 27:15-16

A continual dripping on a rainy day
    and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
 to restrain her is to restrain the wind
    or to grasp oil in one's right hand.

Kindness – Goodness – Faithfulness

Often we think of faithfulness in marriage as being about restraining from sexual immorality in all of its forms, and this is true. But you also must remain faithful to your husband in your words. For the subject of how we must use our tongues for God's glory, I am considering kindness, goodness, and faithfulness all together. Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” God has given us the ability to build our house, and we can use words of kindness and goodness to do that.

Proverbs 11:13

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
    but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.

Proverbs 12:4

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
    but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

Proverbs 31:10-12; 23

An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
 She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
Her husband is known in the gates
    when he sits among the elders of the land.

This last passage is so beautiful! The heart of her husband trusts in her. He can confide in her without worrying about what she will say to others. He is well-known and respected; this would not be the case if his wife were sharing all his faults with the neighbors! The virtuous woman is faithful, good, and kind to her husband with her words.

Finally, this is all quite overwhelming. On our own, we have no power to do any of this. But we can praise God that He has given us the gift of His Spirit within us, to guide us and direct us. He has given His church, to support and counsel us and to hold us accountable. And he has given YOU a godly husband to shepherd and comfort you! For that, we are very thankful!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Praying God's Word in Suffering (2)

God of Peace,

You have commanded me to not be anxious about anything. Remind me to make my requests known to You by prayer and supplication. Help me to make these requests with thanksgiving, for You have promised to guard my heart and mind, in Christ Jesus, with your peace - a peace that passes all understanding.

Cause me to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. May I put to practice those things I have learned, received, heard, and seen, so that You, God of peace, will be with me!

Make me content in whatever situation I am in - in any and every circumstance - for I can do all things through You. Give me strength! (Philippians 4)

God of Provision,

Assist me in obeying Your command to not be anxious about my life. Thank You for examples of Your provision and care in the world around me; You feed the birds of the air and clothe the grass of the field, and You consider my life to be of more value than these. Being anxious will not add a single hour to my span of life. Increase my faith! You are my heavenly Father, and You know what I need. Above all, help me to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, and to trust You to supply my needs. (Matthew 6)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Praying God's Word in Suffering (1)

Sovereign God,

Cause me to rejoice in the hope of Your glory! But even more than that, may I rejoice in even my sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Thank You that Your love has been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to me! Thank You that while I was an ungodly sinner, Christ died for me, to justify me from my sin and save me from Your wrath. (Romans 5)

Compassionate Father,

I praise You for Your Spirit, who helps me in my weakness! I do not know what to pray for as I ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for me with groanings too deep for words. And You who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for me according to Your will. And I know that for those who love You all things work together for good, for those who are called according to Your purpose. So what should I say to these things? If You are for me, who can be against me? Who can separate me from the love of Christ? Can tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No! In all these things I am more than a conqueror through You who loves me. For I am sure that nothing in all creation will be able to separate me from Your love. (Romans 8)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Learning to Trust

Shortly after Audrey was born, I was diagnosed with a rare blood-clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden. This is a genetic disorder, and most people who have it are heterozygous, meaning that one of their parents has FVL and has passed on a mutated gene. Being the overachiever that I am, BOTH of my parents have FVL and I have inherited the mutated gene from each of them (homozygous). Without scaring myself all over again, I'll just say that I'm at high risk (I think I read 30-140 fold) for several dangerous possibilities, including blood clots, stroke, and heart-attack. All three of my children will be heterozygous for Factor V.

Back in mid-May, Kevin and I went to see the new Henderson baby. On the way home my arm went numb and I felt close to passing out; I felt as if I couldn't breathe. We headed straight for the nearest emergency room and hung out there for lots of tests and monitoring. A few hours later we were sent home with no answers and a hefty bill. I followed up with my general practitioner's office and was made to feel that I had experienced a panic attack, which would be very strange, considering that I was on a date with my husband when this happened! I almost believed this diagnosis until I was telling my dad about it. He kept nodding and finally said that he'd had that happen two or three times. "One time I was getting some tea out of the refrigerator and woke up on the floor in a puddle of tea!" Of course, he didn't TELL anyone - crazy man! My mom has also had a TIA and said the symptoms were very similar.

Fast forward to last night, when Kevin and I were headed to bed. I had almost forgotten about the ER trip, other than the fact that the bill is on my cork board so I can remember to pay them something. The fingertips on my left hand had felt like they were asleep for a few hours, but I thought it might be from playing bass a bit earlier. We were in bed, chatting about this and that (okay, okay, I was chatting and Kevin was saying "uh huh" and probably hoping I would hush so he could sleep) when it hit me again.

As we both lay there, alternately praying out loud, I couldn't help but be afraid. What if something really happens? My family needs me. I want to live to see my grandchildren. I fought for some time to keep calm, breathe, and not think about the possibilities.

Sometime in the night a major storm rolled through. The lightening was so awesome that it kept our room lit almost constantly. Somewhere in that loud thunder I felt that God was rebuking me.

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." ~ Job 38:1-4

Does God need me? Can I add anything to His purpose? If it is His will for me to suffer, or even to die, will He not still do all that He sovereignly decrees? I have seen in the lives of dear brothers and sisters that God does, indeed, work through tragedy. I have seen His provision for those who have lost much. How small my faith must be to know these things, to see His work, and to still doubt. If Christ is all I need, why do I grasp at control? Why do I cling to loved ones here on earth as if they are all that matters? They are a wonderful gift from God, but they belong to Him. He can do with them as He pleases, and whatever He pleases to do will be for my good and His glory.

I do believe this. God, help my unbelief! I trust in you and ask You for peace in the storm. I answer You with the words of Job:

Then Job answered the LORD and said: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.' I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." ~ Job 42:1-6

Friday, July 10, 2009

Memories from the Union University Music Department

A Facebook status today caused me to recall some great memories from college. Here are some favorites.

There was the time that the entire music faculty was meeting in that classroom adjacent to the hallway we all bummed around in (Brownie points for the number...or the tonic, LOL!). Sam Mizell, oblivious to this fact, stood up and walked over to the barely cracked door. "Watch this," he said. He then lifted one leg in slow motion and executed a move he could have only gotten from watching too many Bruce Lee movies, complete with a loud cry of "Hi-YAH!" His leg forcefully kicked the door open, to the surprise of a room full of people who held his GPA in their hands. CLASSIC.


Voice boards were basically final exams for a voice student. Each student would pick a song from their repitore and perform it in front of the music faculty. Then the came the dreaded part - the teachers picked the second song. One semester there was this Berlioz song called "Villanelle." Three verses in French, all different. The tempo was allegretto, in cut time, with only a two-measure intro. I just knew they were going to pick that one. Dr. Roby, with his coffee-steam fogged glasses looked at me and smiled as it rolled off of Dr. Penny's lips.

I nodded to show that I understood the pain I was about to endure. Christa Friel, my ever vigilant accompanist, took that nod to mean "GO, WOMAN!" I had exactly two seconds to start singing. I started with the second verse. Then I sang the third verse. Then....I totally and completely made up a verse.

No one ever said anything about it. I either pulled it off, or they were gracious. I passed. The End.


During an afternoon (4:10!) recital, I sang a piece that had a huge pause between part A and part B. Dr. Roby told me to use facial expressions to indicate that the song was not finished. As I was wrapping up the first verse I spotted Chris Wann. He was sitting right under a spotlight and had turned his hat around backwards; leaning forward, he had his hands held out in front of him, ready to clap as obnoxiously as possible as soon as the final note faded. I have no idea how I managed to keep a straight face as his lone clapping filled the silent room.


Some fast funnies to end with...

Brad Bruhn and I got paired up for a class piano duet. During the performance, I finished the piece and Brad kept playing for a good two minutes.

Ben Clark got all the Proclamation guys in trouble for loudly whispering, "MARIA!" in the wrong place during West Side Story rehearsals.

Dr. Hartley accidentally had the Ninety-Nine Nuns in the Minnesota Monastery.

Anyone have others to share?