Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture"

Many people mistakenly believe that the "1812 Overture" is associated with the War of 1812 between England and America. However, Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," composed in 1880, commemorates Russia's defense of its homeland against Napoleon of France. Still, it is a common accompaniment to Independence Day fireworks displays in the USA, especially since Arthur Fiedler's 1974 Boston Pops concert. Expect to hear cannons! Read more here and here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Essential Life Skills for Teens

Got teens? 

One thing I know: They need life skills!  I've had eight teenagers grow up in my house. Four of them have moved out on their own, and two of these are married with children.  Even after all that experience, I still have a long way to go with instilling life skills in my remaining kids! I've got some serious work to do here. I am thankful that it's not all up to me. My husband has taught them a lot, and so have mentors and other teachers.

Just a few thoughts...


Education is not just about stuffing information into the brain. We need to know what to do with it, how to apply it in daily life. No matter what careers our children choose and no matter how technology changes, they will need some basic life skills. Occupations may come and go, but in my opinion there are certain work skills that will never become totally obsolete. They are applicable for both men and women in almost any life pursuit. We must teach them to our children, largely by our own example, but also by specific instruction. Let’s train them well!

General Life Management: how to manage time, set goals, evaluate options, make decisions, plan details, use discernment, organize resources and space, control impulses

Communication and Leadership: how to converse pleasantly and effectively, use proper body language, write clear correspondence and reports, give oral presentations with visual aids, debate logically and persuasively, offer direction to colleagues and subordinates, and appeal to those in authority.

Finances: how to earn money, budget, manage a checking or savings account, make wise purchases, avoid scams, stay out of debt, stretch and conserve resources, interpret financial and economic data, make wise investments, do personal and/or business bookkeeping, and most importantly, maintain contentment in a materialistic society.

Study Habits & Computer Skills: how to master comprehension skills, find a quiet study environment, organize study time, take tests effectively, use highlighters and flash cards, do word processing and spreadsheets, send e-mail, locate reliable information on the Internet, study in a group, participate in a group presentation, submit on-line assignments, back up information to a flash drive, design a blog or web site

Job Skills: how to fill out an application, write a resume, go for an interview, make an appeal to a supervisor, know what kind of behavior and conversations are appropriate in various kinds of work settings, assess strengths and weaknesses, explore long-term career options

Home Care: how to perform basic household chores that they will need now to contribute to the family and in the future to care for themselves: cooking, laundry, dishes, cleaning, organizing, lawn mowing, gardening, household repair

Transportation: how to take a public bus, drive safely, understand traffic rules, read a map, plan a route, fill a car with gas, add air or change a tire, check and add fluids, call for roadside assistance, perform basic auto repairs

Health Care: nutrition, exercise, sleep habits, personal hygiene, body change, avoiding substance abuse, mental health awareness, taking medications, monitoring health symptoms, basic first aid and nursing skills, caring for young children

Recommended Resources:

I'd love to hear what you are doing to help your teens develop life skills!


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China (With Links on Missions, Prayer, and Home Schooling)

Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was raised in a devout Christian home filled with much Bible reading and prayer.  Often, missionaries would come to visit the house and share their stories. At his birth, his parents prayed that he would eventually become a missionary to China. Despite his Christian upbringing, Hudson somehow managed to wander away from the faith during his teen years.  He had been working at the bank where his co-workers were a bad influence.  However, a problem with his eyes forced him to return home for several months to recover.  During this time, he happened to pick up a Christian gospel booklet called “It is Finished” in his father's apothecary shop.  He promised himself that he would only read the interesting story at the beginning and then set it down when it got to the religious part at the end.  However, he was so fascinated that he read the whole thing.  The Holy Spirit worked in his heart to trust in Christ's “finished work” – his sacrifice on the cross for our salvation.  Hudson didn’t know it at the time, but that very day his mother, who had been away for weeks visiting her sister, had been gripped with a desire to pray fervently for her son.  After several hours of praying, a sense of peace came over her and she was certain her son had become a Christian.  Some time later, Hudson mistakenly picked up his younger sister Amelia's notebook, thinking it was his own, and read that she had been praying every day for his salvation for a month prior to his conversion. 

Later that year, Hudson became convinced that God was calling him to be a missionary to China.  To prepare for this, he had to learn the Chinese language, get used to living simply without a lot of money or comforts, and start training to be a doctor so he could go as a medical missionary.  (He didn’t finish his medical training then, because it seemed urgent for him to go to China, but he did complete them later when he was on furlough back in England.)  On the way to China, his ship nearly ran aground on an island with cannibals, but Hudson prayed and a strong breeze blew them away from the shore.  He arrived in China at the age of 21.  During his 51 years of service there, he faced many hardships, including civil war, people who were hostile to the Christian “foreign devils”, riots, severe illness, more eye problems, the death of his first wife and four of his children, deep depression, lazy fellow missionaries, conflicts with the mission agency, difficult travel, a fire which destroyed his supplies, and the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, in which 56 CIM missionaries were killed.

However, Hudson Taylor’s work was still very fruitful.  In his own lifetime, he founded the China Inland Mission, established 20 mission stations, recruited 849 missionaries to work in China, trained about 700 Chinese workers, raised $4 million by faith (instead of appealing for money), developed an evangelistic Chinese church of 125,000, and revised a Chinese translation of the New Testament.   It is believed that he personally baptized about 50,000 people.  To help his efforts at reaching the Chinese people, he even dressed and wore his hair like them.

Hudson Taylor’s legacy continues.  After the communist (atheist) takeover of China in 1949, the China Inland Mission removed its workers from China and reassigned them to other countries.  The name was changed to the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, which still serves today in many Asian countries.  Even though CIM missionaries left China, there is still a strong “underground” Chinese church that grew from their efforts.  John and Betty Stam, Lottie Moon, and Gladys Aylward were some other famous missionaries to China, though they weren’t with CIM.  Although mission work is officially forbidden, many Christians still go to China as teachers and build personal relationships in order to share their faith.

Hudson Taylor’s work was birthed in the prayers of his family, and he became quite a prayer warrior himself.  His son Howard’s book, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, is about the strength he gained from prayer. Here are few of Hudson’s quotes about prayer:

"I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done."

"Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him."

"You must GO forward on your knees." 


I compiled this information for a handout to supplement the study about China in the World Geography class I teach three days a week.  I wrote much of it years ago, but added to it today using information obtained on-line.  Here are some resources for further study:
Here are several of my related blog posts about Hudson Taylor, world missions, prayer, and home schooling to make a difference in the world:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Art Show Pieces and Another Graduate!

"Still Life 1"
from the book
James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl
(Yes, those are the sea gulls carrying
the peach across the ocean.)

Photo by Joanna Knowles
My daughter Lydia was home schooled up through 9th grade, then transferred to a public school where she took primarily honors and AP courses for 10th and 11th. She was also president of the art club and a member of the drama set crew.  (See Making the Transition into Public High School or College.) She wanted to dual enroll at Seminole State for her senior year to take advanced math, science, and more art.  She couldn't dual enroll full-time while enrolled in the public school, so she decided to re-enroll in the private home school program she had been in before.  Next week, she will be our fifth graduate from The Regent Academy.   

One of the great perks about dual enrolling is the opportunity to take art classes from professional college level instructors.  Lydia really liked her teachers there, and I guess they liked her too since two of her pieces were selected to be included in SSC Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition and the pencil sketch won a prize.  She is trying to decide whether to go to art school after she gets her AA, or whether to major in science.  Either way, I'm so proud of Lydia and her artistic accomplishments!  She has three more large ceramic pieces sitting in our dining room now, and I'll try to photograph them soon.

Virginia Knowles

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ten Musical Pieces from Baroque to Romantic

The high school students in our home school co-op just read a lesson from the Notgrass World History Curriculum about music history.   Here is a selection of 10 pieces from the composers featured in the chapter.  I haven't personally listened to all of these.  Some of them are full-length, and the students might want to just listen to several minutes.  I hope they will be inspired to look up more pieces for these composers and for other composers in these musical periods.  I will try to compile a list of 20th century links soon.
For more information, be sure to visit these classical music sites:




Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Using Free Kindle Books for High School Literature Classics

Dear friends,

Product DetailsI am learning to love Kindle for high school literature.  So far my son and I have read parts of the Iliad and more than half of Frankenstein.

No, I don't own a Kindle, but we do have a desktop computer, laptops, and two iPods.  You can get the Kindle apps free for any of these, as well as many other devices.  I don't know if you can do the same thing with a Nook or other e-reader.

My Top 10 Reasons for Reading High School Lit with Kindle
  1. You can get a huge selection of classic literature absolutely free.  Others are very inexpensive -- just a dollar or two.
  2. You can read wherever you go if you have a small enough device.  All of these books in one place!
  3. You don't need a bookcase for these books.
  4. Parent and student can read together on different devices.  As long as both devices use the same Kindle account, it should be easily available to both.  And if you paid for it once, you can read it off of multiple devices using the same account.
  5. You can adjust the font size, style, columns, color and background color to make it easy on your eyes.
  6. The device keeps track of where you left off.  Or you can hit the bookmark button to mark you spot.
  7. You can easily do a search on words that you need.  This is great if you have an assignment on a particular person or topic in the book!
  8. If you don't understand a word or phrase, you can highlight it and a definition will appear.  Or click on the More button and Google it.
  9. You can highlight good quotes that you want to remember.  Later, you can view all of your highlighted areas in one spot.
  10. If you will be answering literature questions or writing an essay based on the material, you can highlight areas that pertain to them, and then come back to them easily later on.  This cuts down on having to write things down as you go.  You can also take notes right in Kindle that will be linked to the relevant spot in the book.
I know there are other benefits to doing literature with Kindle, but for now I will leave you with a list of links free Kindle classics.  Please double check the free-ness of them before you order, just in case they decided to start charging for a certain title!  I'm sorry if any of these are in the wrong categories or if anything looks weird.  I don't have time to twiddle too much at the moment!

Please note that I have not read all of these books.  Use at your own discretion.  Some may have material that is unsuitable for your family.

If you find other free titles, please add them in the comment section!

British Literature

The War of the Worlds H. G. (Herbert George) Wells

World Literature

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Iliad by Homer

American Literature

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer's Comrade by Mark Twain 

Other related blog posts:

Web Sites for Free High School and College Level On-Line Learning

Have fun, folks!
Virginia Knowles

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What We're Doing for High School This Year

What We're Doing for High School This Year

Dear friends,

On my other education blogs, I've been posting about what we're doing for elementary and middle school this year. We also have two high school students.

My son, a sophomore, is continuing with our home school co-op. He is taking/using:
  • McDougal Littell Algebra II
  • Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistry, 2 Volumes, 2nd Ed.   -     
        By: Dr. Jay L. Wile
Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistrywe also purchased the optional DVD but haven't used it much yet – it will be more vital as the work gets harder
  • Exploring America: History, Literature, and Faith--Curriculum Package, Second EditionNotgrass Exploring World History for World History – I mostly like this publisher, which we also used for American History last year, but there are a few small things my son and I don't appreciate as much, such as the slightly condescending tone towards those with whom the author might disagree philosophically.
  • Christianity, Cults and World Religions (DVD and workbook) and other resources for a half credit in World Religions
  • Easy Grammar for English, along with a variety of literature, vocabulary, and writing assignments.  Many of the literature and writing assignments are associated with the Notgrass history curriculum.
  • Year Book
Away from the co-op, he will be taking a half credit each in Health and Computing. I haven't yet written out the agenda for either course yet, but he has already finished a lot of computing hours with an on-line curriculum, and I'm going to find a first aid & CPR class for part of the Health hours.

I enjoy learning along with my son for history and English. He likes to read aloud to me, so we have a chance to discuss his lessons. This is fascinating for me and I appreciate the one-on-one time I get to spend with him. His English class is now studying C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, which I had not read in several years. It's been a wonderful refresher and quite inspiring and challenging for me. Lewis has such a way with words and ideas, and my son often pauses to comment what a good point the author has made. (What makes it extra interesting is that the 5th-6th grade English class that I am teaching is reading Lewis's The Lion, theWitch, and the Wardrobe. I find many of the same themes there, just in fiction form.)

My husband tutors our son in Algebra 2 and Chemistry, and grades all of the assignments for those two subjects. This is a huge load off of my plate. I couldn't even imagine doing that right now, plus home schooling three of his four younger siblings.


My daughter, a senior, was enrolled in public school for her sophomore and junior years, excelling as an AP and Honors student and active in theater cast and crew. This year, she wanted to dual enroll full time at one of the local colleges, but the public high school would have restricted the number of courses she could take. She decided to re-enroll in the home school enrollment program from which her four older sisters graduated. At the college, she is taking General Physics, Analytical Geometry & Calculus, Technical Writing (on-line) and Ceramics. The only classes she is taking besides the college ones are AP Government and Economics on-line with Florida Virtual School. These courses are free for Florida residents; she has taken Web Design, Latin 1 and Algebra 2 from FLVS before. I will probably not help her with any of her classes this year, as she is already far beyond me in all of those subjects. :-)  See: Making the Transition Into Public High School or College.

So that's what we're doing for high school next year!


Virginia Knowles