Thursday, March 27, 2008

7 Interesting Things About Me

I was tagged by Mrs. Wilt at The Sparrow's Nest for this meme simply by reading every one of her 7 interesting things, so . . . here goes-

1. I was a cheerleader in junior high and 9th grade.

2. I used to be blonde!

3. My husband and I met while working in a restaurant (he was the chef and I was a waitress) and we have been married for 27 years.

4. Growing up, I used to go to my basement and sing along with all my mother's old records.

5. I used to hike up this wonderful hill at my neighbor's farm and run across the top like Maria in the Sound of Music singng "The hills are alive with the sound of music".

6. Senator Kennedy was assassinated on my 10th birthday and buried on the day of my 10th birthday party. I went out and bought a 45 record of Andy Williams singing Ave Maria from his funeral and used to play it all the time. I think the other side of the record had The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

7. I love to break out in song in public place, which really embarrasses my family.

The Presence Ministry of Alberto and Kimberly Rivera

Not so long ago a dear friend asked me to listen to a song on a music CD. Now, I am not a real big fan of what is known as worship - style church music. I love hymns and great choral music from the Western tradition - Bach cantatas, Handel oratorios, etc.

But I wanted to be polite, so I sat down and listened. I was absolutely amazed at how this music touched me and truly ministered to my (wounded) heart. The music was from a CD called Longing by Alberto and Kimberly Rivera. I have since had the opportunity to hear another song from this CD. My friend told me that this music would transform the atmosphere in my home. With nine strong personalities living under one roof, the atmosphere in my home is not always, shall I say, peaceful. I have just placed an order for this CD and one other. Should get here in 2-3 days. I'll let you know what I think of the other CD. And how it brings peace.

You can read about the Riveras and their ministry here.

California and Homeschooling

This just in from Homeschool Legal Defense Society-

Court of Appeal Grants Petition for Re-hearing

On March 25, the California Court of Appeal granted a motion for
rehearing in the 'In re Rachel L.' case--the controversial decision
which purported to ban all homeschooling in that state unless the
parents held a teaching license qualifying them to teach in public

The automatic effect of granting this motion is that the prior opinion
is vacated and is no longer binding on any one, including the parties
in the case.

The Court of Appeal has solicited a number of public school
establishment organizations to submit amicus briefs including the
California Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department
of Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and three
California teacher unions. The court also granted permission to
Sunland Christian School to file an amicus brief. The order also
indicates that it will consider amicus applications from other groups.

Home School Legal Defense Association will seek permission to file
such an amicus brief and will coordinate efforts with a number of
organizations interesting in filing briefs to support the right of
parents to homeschool their children in California.

"This is a great first step," said Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA.
"We are very glad that this case will be reheard and that this opinion
has been vacated, but there is no guarantee as to what the ultimate
outcome will be. This case remains our top priority," he added.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Daily Workout for a Beautiful Voice

I recently purchased a DVD called Daily Workout for a Beautiful Voice to use with my choir. Although not every chorister takes voice lessons, a director can teach a lot of technique in the warm-up time. The choir demonstrating the warm-ups in the DVD is a treble high school choir, but the warm-ups are appropriate for any age choir. I am very pleased with the tone and vitality that I am hearing from my choir as a result of these warm-ups. There is movement (which is done in place - no roaming around the room) for each warm-up which is very helpful in releasing a great sound and preventing tension.

In fact, I have been so impressed with these warm-ups that I have begun to use them in my private voice studio. A few young high school girls are finally giving me sound that I have never heard from them - I think the movements with the warm-ups are the key. Something has clicked and I am thrilled!

From the booklet that accompanies the video -
"The Daily Workout exercises are designed to help singers develop a free warm tone, to sing with ease, and to increase range. They are clustered into five dynamic groupings. The sequence of these groupings is significant. The concepts focused upon in each group progressively build upon one another."

Let me know if this DVD helps you with your choir or your own voice students!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Dear Friends,

Are you struggling with a problem - maybe even a problem no one knows about? Do you have darkness in your past that haunts you? Is your marriage less than perfect? Have your children disappointed you? Your parents let you down?

Life is such a struggle. I used to think that Jesus would fix everything that was wrong in my life - and He did, really, on the cross and by His Resurrection. But while His death and Resurrection overcame the power of sin and death for us in all eternity, there are still scars that we bear in this life from our past sins or even from the way that others have sinned against us.

You are not alone. Satan wants you to think that you are and in your despair to pull even more inward. Look to Jesus. He is there and willing to help, even when He seems far away. Be brave and share your story with a Christian friend that you trust. They just may encourage you in ways that make the next day easier to bear. And then ~you~ listen the next time a friend needs to tell their story.

Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter

I remember hearing this song for the first time years ago. I just discovered it on YouTube with a video of Jesus of Nazareth. Very powerful and touching. He's alive!!!

Matthew 28:6a
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken was suggested to me as a good read many years ago when I was in college. Van and Davy's love for each other, and later for Christ
touched me deeply. I loved the way it portrayed Christianity as something
of which intellectuals could be part, as I had not seen that in my limited
experience with Christians. Reading this book also opened up a world of
authors for me to explore, particularly C.S. Lewis. My spiritual path is
rather complicated, but suffice it to say for now, that Mr. Vanauken's
writings influenced me greatly in pointing me to Christ.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fly Lady

Do you all know about Fly Lady?

When you join FlyLady, you will receive daily FLYmail. Your FLYing Lessons will guide you through babysteps to help you set up routines, get rid of your clutter, and put your home and life in order. FlyLady's approach has worked for thousands. Join anytime you want (there is no cost involved)! You are not behind - you are just getting started!

Now that David's recital is over and I can stop practicing night and day :-), I need to get to work on this house!

Read more about Fly Lady and her wonderfully encouraging system here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Baking Your Own Bread

We bake our own bread. Seems normal to us, but out of all our many relatives, we are the only ones to do it. Our family has had the same Bosch Mixer for almost 8 years. For years, we made two batches of 6 loaves every Monday morning! That had to stop on Mondays as that is my day to teach piano and voice, but for years that worked great for us. My husband is a chef and he often makes the bread. He first borrowed a Kitchen Aid Mixer and tried mixing the dough with that. I can't remember what he didn't like about it, but he loves the Bosch. We also bought a Whisper Mill at the same time we bought the Bosch. So we grind our grain fresh as we bake.
My husband also used the Whisper Mill a few times to grind popcorn to make corn bread. We buy wheat berries in 50 lb bags and then grind the wheat. And then bake YUMMY bread!

I can say that we have had fewer illnesses since we began doing this. And the bread is SO delicious!! It is nice to bake a lot at once - I always have bread in the freezer to pull out and give to someone if there is a need. I don't always have time to make a whole meal for a friend, but a loaf of homemade bread means love and has been a blessing to others.

We also have re-couped the money we spent on both machines. Grocery store bread is expensive!

Good Questions about the Attack on California Homeschoolers

Bill Huff writes,

"Is Kalifornia poised to launch one of the biggest manhunts in history? Are they going stamp out the scourge of homeschooling, once and for all – before it’s too late? Is a free market in education the greatest domestic threat after al-Qaeda? Was John Connor homeschooled?

I have taught in government schools and thought I was a slow learner because it took me five years to leave. John Taylor Gatto stayed and documented an exhaustive indictment of the system. However, we should never be as upset about the "failures" of public education as we are about its "successes": Charlotte Thompson Iserbyt can tell you more than you want to know about the real agenda of government-controlled education. The dumbing down is quite deliberate."

Read the rest here.

Children are a Blessing

Since I am the mother of seven children, you may have correctly guessed that I believe in the sanctity of all human life. You would be right!

Abortion was not heard of when I was a child. At least I hadn't heard of it. I really don't remember much about Roe v. Wade, although I was in high school at the time. My health teacher might have mentioned abortion to us in class, but I know I had very negative feelings about abortion.

Then I went to college. I don't remember hearing much about abortion at the state college I went to but I transfered to a Christian college and had an ethics course. The professor was very feminist and told us about all these very hard cases where abortion seemed to be the only choice. I came away confused, thinking that I would probably not have an abortion, but no longer believing they were wrong for everyone.

Fast forward several years. I was married and thinking that I could not bear children due to my endometriosis. We had been married for four years and no babies. I had decided to continue my music education and have a music career, decided that I really didn't want children anyway. Then lo and behold I was pregnant! At my first doctor's appointment, I remember the nurse asking, "Are you pleased?" I said,"Well. it's too late to do anything about it now!" She began to tell me that no, it wasn't and to give me abortion literature. Thank God that I refused to even look at it.
How heartbreaking to me to think that I could have believed the lie of abortion and not had my precious eldest son.

God still had some work to do, though, to change my thinking about his gift of children. Even though it had taken four years to conceive a baby, right after his birth, we began to use birth control. When our son was about 2 1/2 years old, I read a book called The Way Home by Mary Pride. The author challenged me to re-think birth control, pointing out that prior to the 1930s all Christian denominations were united in their firm rejection of contraceptives. Hmm, no one had ever told me that before. I checked it out and, you know what? It was true. From churches accepting birth control to churches accepting abortion. . . When you realize that all of Christianity had rejected birth control for close to 2000 years, isn't it frightening to know how quickly the Protestant churches rejected that thinking and one by one have accepted abortion?

I thank God that the Roman Catholic Church has stood firm against this madness, still teaching that children are a gift and a blessing from the Lord. And I am Presbyterian!

But back to my story - I talked to my husband and we decided to throw out the contraceptives. It wasn't long until the next baby came along. And after a little while, we were the mother and father of seven children! We have never regretted the decision to oust the birth control, even though many other people (including some relatives and church members) have hassled us about another baby, and yet, another baby! Our youngest is now eight and honestly, we both miss having a baby or a toddler.

Maybe you would like to read more about birth control and its beginnings. You can do that here. Children are a blessing from God. Don't listen to the lies of this world that say otherwise.

Good New Choral Resource

There is a new book (new to me, anyway) that I have discovered last summer that I wanted to share with you children's choir directors. Choral Excellence for Treble Voices by Marie Stultz. When you buy the book, you also subscribe to a website that has all kinds of fabulous helps. Mrs. Stultz has annotations of over 300 pieces of quality treble voice choral literature on this website, all the information you would need, teaching suggestions, ideas for programing, etc. I am really excited about it. After reading the book and perusing the website last summer, I placed a huge order for choral octavos. Then came the fun of deciding which ones to have my choir sing this year! Having this resource has revitalized my choir program. Anyway, here is where you can check it out- there are some free articles you can read. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Classics for Kids

Homeschool moms often ask me what they can do for music , as in my state music is a required subject. I usually ask, do you have a church involvement? If a family is attending church regularly, their child is singing hymns or worship songs each week in church! That would count by presenting it in a portfolio as "group singing". I also encourage moms to take advantage of free concerts from the two colleges in our area. You can hear student recitals on voice and almost any instrument - there are choir concerts, handbell concerts, wind ensembles, brass groups, orchestras, and then the faculty recitals which are top-notch! Last fall, I took a vanload of friends and family to hear Rebecca Wilt play Rhapsody in Blue with the Messiah College Orchestra. It was fabulous - and FREE!!!

In our town we have a small homeschool orchestra and there is the homeschool choir (directed by yours truly!), as well as many opportunities for private lessons.

Libraries abound with books on how to make musical intruments, composer biographies, songbooks, music history, CD's and DVD's on composers and their music. You can teach music at home with books from your library.

One of my favorite sites on the internet is Classics for Kids. It is wonderful! If you
look at the site carefully, there are worksheets that go with each musical composition. There is imformation on the composer and at least one gave a timeline of how the composer fit into history the child already knows about. This site would be a nice way to begin a music listening study.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Children's Choir

In the spring of 2005, I decided to start a homeschool choir. The core of
my choir was five of my own children, all of whom are very musical and
good singers. I had 28 singers my first semester, 32, that first spring
and now in my sixth semester I have 45 singers ages 7 - 17 yrs old. They
sing very well and can easily handle two part music, even the little ones.
I have had two concerts a year - a Christmas concert and a spring concert.

For last spring's concert, I added a girl's ensemble using 8 of the older girls in my regular choir and adding with them 9 older homeschooled girls who enjoyed an opportunity to sing. They sang three songs in the spring concert - two 3-part songs and one 2-part song.

This year, instead of the girl's ensemble, I have a select group auditioned from the regular choir called the Concert Chorale, 24 singers who sing more challenging music.

The choir performs the concert alone usually singing 6 songs, then the Concert Chorale sings three, then after a short intermission, the choir sings 6 -7 more pieces. I have added in some instrumental solos depending on the instruments I have accompany the choir.

I really am loving directing this choir. I had studied Children's Choirs with Helen Kemp about 23 years ago at Westminster Choir College. I bought Mrs. Kemp's Video from Choristers Guild that first summer as I was planning my choir and have borrowed another vidoe of hers that is out of print from a local college library. Also ones by Doreen Rao and Henry Leck. So I guess you could say I am homeschooling myself and relearning about children's choirs. There are marvelous resources on the Internet that of course did not exist when I was in college and a new teacher.

Homeschooling & Extracurricular Activities

About five years ago, I was asked a question about homeschooling and extracurricular activities. Here is the young mother's question, along with my reply.

"One concern of mine is that my children will not get the benefit of the
sports and music programs that I loved so much going to public school.
Music was my life the entire time I was in school. How do you get your
children involved in these things? My oldest will start either public or
hs in September for kindergarten. But I worry about future years. We can
not afford to give them private lessons. And even if we could that
doesn't allow them the competition of being in band or choir or school
team sports. So much is learned I believe by team activities. I myself,
did not play sports, but I learned a lot about working together and much
more from band/choir.

So, what do you do about that for those of you with children old enough
to play sports and band/choir?


Dear Jane,

I want to tell you about my family’s experience. I am Kathy, mother of seven wonderful children ages 3 - 17. We have always homeschooled, but I taught public school music before I had my first baby.

I also loved music in school - was in band and choir and all the school musicals. But because of my belief in Jesus, no way was I going to turn my children over to the state to raise. So I began organizing little programs for homeschoolers at Christmas time. Some years I directed a choir, other years I just had families or individuals sign up to perform. My children have always sung in our church’s children’s choirs. My oldest began to sing in the adult choir when his voice changed in 9th grade.

We also thought that we could not afford private music lessons for our seven children. I had taught some piano before children, so over the years I have tried to teach my children piano, but I was never consistent. Two years ago we decided we really wanted to give our oldest an opportunity to play an instrument. He choose violin. I felt so bad for him as a 15 year old to have to start with baby songs when some of his friends were playing in a local youth symphony.

Well!!! God has really blessed us! Our son worked really hard at his violin and this year after only 2 years of lessons (which this year he is paying for himself) he not only auditioned for the local Youth Symphony and is 4th chair 2nd violin, but he was accepted as a student of the Concert Master of a nearby Symphony Orchestra. This teacher is absolutely wonderful and is giving free Master Classes every month for his students. It has been a fabulous opportunity and one I never would have dreamed of for my son - but God did!

This same son also takes voice lessons and has won first place awards in National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competitions. I am not trying to brag, just to show you that homeschoolers have wonderful opportunities.

What I value far more than my son’s musical successes (and I am VERY proud of him!) is his godly character. He is a very nice young man who obeys and honors his parents. There is just something special about David and I think at least part of that is due to homeschooling him. His homeschooled friends are just as special.

In our area there is a homeschool orchestra that my son was part of last year. It has been in existence for abut 7 or 8 years, I think. I have heard of homeschool choirs and there was a homeschool group in in a nearby county that did The Sound of Music one year not long ago.

Back to my family. Since I have a large family and they all sing well, we have a ministry to nursing homes and senior citizen groups. We do a program every month or so. My children play piano (I am teaching them again on a more consistent basis), 2 play violin, one plays trumpet (God has provided the means for this - pray!!! Don’t limit what God can do!), and they sing solos and we sing in harmony together.

To me, this is so much better than what I did as a music teacher in the government school. We can sing about Jesus and share our faith. You can’t do that in school.

I guess the sum of what I am trying to say is that what God will provide for your child through homeschooling will far outweigh what they would have missed in the government school. Read ~Homeschooling, The Right Choice~ by Christopher Klicka. Pray and seek the Lord’s face on this issue.

Homeschooling has been such a blessing to our family in so many ways. I can’t imagine not having done this (or continuing - I still have many years to teach!)

Hope this helps!


The Wonderful Gift of Music

What joy it is to teach young people how to make music! I have the best jobs in the world - teaching my own dear children, and then having the privilege to teach the precious children of many friends. To see that light bulb of understanding in a child's mind when they finally understand a new concept,  such as intervals, to hear a singer finally get that high note, to watch the concentration of an older student as they master an intricate passage. . . what a delight!

Music is a skill that a child can carry with them their entire life. My great uncle learned music reading in his one-room schoolhouse long, long ago. God gave him the gift of a lovely tenor voice which blessed me (and many others) as a child hearing him sing the tenor line in hymns in our little country church. He sang in his church choir well into his eighties. Many other musicians are also active in later years. Two of my favorite people in my town are private music teachers in their seventies. Helen Kemp, a national specialist in children's choirs who recently turned ninety, is still training children and their teachers in the art of choral singing.  The famous concert pianist, Vladimir Horowitz, played in concert into his eighties. Truly, what you learn with music will last your whole life long!

There are so many wonderful reasons to study music-
  • making music relieves stress
  • playing the piano (or other instrument) makes you smarter
  • playing piano teaches discipline
  • playing piano gives one a sense of achievement
  • playing the piano strengthens eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills
  • in playing an instrument for others a child is taught to serve 
Music has been such a gift to me and such a part of my life. I have taught music in the schools, taught private music lessons, directed adult and children's choirs, accompanied singers and instrumentalists, played piano in worship services, sung at weddings and funerals, performed for civic clubs, senior citizens groups and retirement homes. I am so thankful for the way God has used this gift in my life.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More on California and Homeschooling

Barbara Simpson reminds us here that what is happening in California "could spread nationally".
Please pray that Christian parents have the courage to continue to teach their children what is most important and that they will have the freedom to do this in their own homes, protecting their children from what is evil.

For our family homeschooling our children has been a wonderful experience. They have done well academically, but more important than that is that we really know our children. Our children are each other's best friends. Homeschooling has given us the flexibility to include my husband more in their lives than he would have been if they were in school. Finally, homeschooling has been a lifestyle for us - and a perfect way for us as Christians to teach our children what is most important for them to learn - in the words of R. C. Sproul, Jr, "who God is, what God has done, and what God requires".

Christopher Parkening's Christian Testimony

I love to listen to Christopher Parkening's recordings of classical guitar. I recently found out that he is a Christian. You can read his testimony here. Being a musician and having a son who plans a career as a musician, I love to hear about classical musicians who are brought into the Kingdom. There are several who are close to my heart that I am pray for regularly. I pray that my son stays close to His Savior and leads others in the music world to Christ and His church.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Never too Old to Learn to Practice Better

In preparing the music for my son's recital, I coached with two wonderful local pianists , one at the college where son attends and the other a former piano professor at the college, now teaching privately. In addition, I read and read about piano playing, piano practicing, etc.

One book I found that I love to share is Practiceopedia: The Music Student's Illustrated Guide to Practicing by Philip Johnson. What a wealth of information! I found many creative ideas to help me practice more effectively and help me through some really tough spots.

My Son's Senior Voice Recital

Last Friday night was a really special night for our family. Our oldest son, David, gave his college senior voice recital. David is a baritone and a very fine singer. He planned an ambitious program and pulled it off wonderfully. David sang songs by Schubert, Ravel, Mahler, and Vaughan Williams. Some of his college friends assisted him in pieces by Handel and Samuel Barber. One of the most exciting parts of the evening for me was having David's friend and opera director come to sing a duet with him. David had met this amazing singer last fall when he sang in I Pagliacci with Opera Lancaster. John Darrenkamp performed with the Metropolitan Opera for 22 seasons and the New York City opera for 7 seasons. He sang professionally for 38 years.  At the recital, David and John sang Suoni la tromba (I Puritani) by Bellini. Since I am my son's accompanist, I had the honor of accompanying this incredibly talented and gracious man, as well as my dear son. It was a night I will never forget!

California Homeschoolers Need Our Help

A California court has ruled against homeschoolers, essentially outlawing homeschooling unless the parent is a certified teacher. I first heard this awful news by reading WorldNetDaily. Homeschool Legal Defense Society (HSLDA) has a petition you can sign to request depublishing of the case on their website. Please pray that this situation is resolved soon. And visit HSLDA to sign the petition. 


Welcome to my new blog! I am a Christian homeschooling mother of seven, a piano and voice teacher, director of two homeschool children's choirs, a collaborative pianist and a church musician. I have many interests besides homeschooling and music, so you never know what you may find here!