Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Djembe Drumming Course

My husband, Avo has been studying percussion for as long as I have know him. His degree in ethnomusicolgy was only the beginning. As a musician, he has continued to explore world music and specifically to study, in depth, African and Brazilian percussion styles. Living in Chicagoland has given him opportunities to learn more, perform and to teach the understanding of these styles he has acquired. He loves sharing and teaching those skills to others.

As a way to document some of those skills and to share them, Avo created an online intro to Djembe drumming class on the Course Craft platform. That online course is being offered to music camp students of his this month at a reduced fee. The wonderful thing is that because of how he set it up, it is also available to anyone for that price through July. Check it out and see if it's a summer learning option for you or anyone you know.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dance Adah Dance

Dance has now become Adah's study pursuit of choice. 

Achieving and celebrating; together.
View the video of their group dance.
This year Adah began pursuing dance skills and techniques with a passion. All that she learned as a gymnast about consistent practice and hard work has paid off for her this year as she applied it all in the dance studio.                                                           The best part for me, as her mom, is seeing her happy. Despite her demonstrated commitment, she has a relaxed and joyful approach to her goals. Competence through daily practice does not have to be excruciatingly painful. The process of achieving excellence can be accompanied by gladness.

Adah was given the opportunity to perform in Hinsdale Dance Academy's productions of the Nutcracker, Midsummer Night's Dream and recital. 

Adah with Jennifer Grapes,
Founder and Director
Hinsdale Dance Academy
Adah with Shannon Hershman,
Choreographer, Director
Hinsdale Dance Academy's Junior Company

As a member of the Hinsdale Dance Academy's Junior Company, she participated in dance competitions in group dances and with solos, winning two 1st place awards at Showstoppers - Chicago. Additional acknowledgement secured her transition to dance: she was honored with a scholarship. Following the recital she was awarded her studio's annual scholarship. Presented by Hinsdale Dance Academy's founder and director, Jennifer Grapes, the scholarship was newly named for a beloved studio staff member and dance patron Janet Saxton-Croughan. 

Thank you, Ms Jenn!

"Each year, HDA offers a 50% tuition scholarship to one student who demonstrates strong work ethic, positive attitude, and an eagerness to learn. Beginning this year, the scholarship has been named the JANET SAXTON-CROUGHAN SCHOLARSHIP and a full scholarship to our Summer Intensive has been added in loving memory of Ms. Janet."

"We are extremely proud to announce this year's 2017-2018 recipient is ADAH RUNYAN-RANDRUUT!"
Hinsdale Dance Academy
Many thanks to all the staff at Hinsdale Dance Academy for nurturing, inspiring and teaching! Your commitment to creating and maintaining a supportive environment for learning is much appreciated! 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May Celebrations

Whether you are a homeschool family, private or public school family, have babies, young children or grown children, late spring schedules are filled with ceremonies and celebrations of accomplishments and transitions. A few photos of some of ours are included here. Enjoy each and every season, they pass so quickly!


Senior Prom
Young men.
Kim and her lovely daughters.


A first dance competition. 
Celebrating a win.
Hamming it up.


Longtime baseball buddies.
The whole team.
Asher and Coach Till
Asher and Coach Ruge.


Avo's DePaul University African Ensemble rehearsals and performance added some rhythm to the mix.


And for the last weekend of May, a jammed packed schedule, a graduation and a final high school baseball game. After years of homeschooling, Asher made the choice to attend public high school beginning in his freshman year. He found his niche on the baseball team, improved his study skills and is ready to move on to the next chapter. I can't believe how fast those four years flew by!

Leadership and composure
under pressure. Useful skills for
any life situation.

Congratulations, Asher!
A job well done!

We wrap May up with Memorial Day, acknowledgement and appreciation, for the sacrifice made by others for our freedom! 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spring Means Baseball

For our family, organized sports participation began with our children when our oldest was seven. It was a late start by our local community standards, but it wasn't long before we were all in. My husband initially became more involved by "helping out" with team practices. His involvement grew year by year and a few springs later he was managing and coaching a Little League team. 

At the Little League World Series

Both of our sons have continued to play baseball most of their young lives. My husband continued to coach into our son's travel team participation. Family summer time activities were dictated by game schedules and team practices. As a homeschooling family, the baseball field is where we developed relationships with other parents in our suburban neighborhood. Family vacations even included trips to watch Little League championship games in Williamsport, PA. (A great family vacation destination, by the way.)

Many hours were spent at one field or another. Whether as parent spectator, coach or player we each enjoyed being outdoors through the spring and summer. As a family we have many wonderful baseball related memories from on and off the field.

I especially loved seeing my husband work with all of the young players. Our sons were observing his leadership first hand and up close in a context outside of our family. I am beyond proud of the integrity he demonstrated for them to emulate one day. Their relationship with each other has been enhanced because of their shared interest and participation. They will always cherish the memories of those extended moments practicing and developing skills together. 

Every family will determine their own level of involvement and their goals for "extra curricular" activities. We have seen many benefits of participating in non-academic pursuits, specifically sports. Each of our children has come away from sports participation with a realistic understanding of what it takes to excel in any endeavor.

Organization skills or how to
take care of your own equipment
has been a sports participation benefit.
  • Discipline
  • Work Ethic
  • Commitment
  • Self awareness
  • Compassion
  • Team work 

As parents, we all have high hopes for our offspring. We have seen more then our fair share of extreme commitment from parents in the hope of great lifetime success in a sport. We want to provide opportunities that weren't available to us. We are all susceptible to attempts at living unrealized dreams of our own through our children. There is a fine balance between recognizing the talents of our children and our expectations for them of utilizing those talents. Being realistic without trampling on their dreams, it is important as parents to be realistic about the possibilities of sports greatness.

Learning to play by the rules.
And respect for authority.

At every level of sports participation the numbers decrease dramatically. Many community team players never have a chance to play in high school. According to www.scholarshipstats.com, only 7% of high school athletes (all sports) play in college and from there to professional sports the numbers are reduced even more dramatically.

Our oldest ended his participation on a team as an 18 year old, after a knee injury. College academics took precedence over an athletic come back. Our second son is still playing. As a high school senior, this is his last season as a high school player. As parents, we have made an effort to keep all of the sports participation in perspective. We are glad to have developed connections to community members that are rooted in the mutual goal of supporting our children and teaching them the values of hard work and being a team player. We have wonderful family memories of cheering and winning and losing. Our children have an appreciation and respect for competition. They also have personal understanding of the benefits of health and physical fitness. All things that they will utilize in all areas of their lives.

All gains - no matter our son's future in baseball. For the moment - we are enjoying the game!

After four years of developing team spirit and comradery,
our son's days of  high school baseball are coming to a close.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

It is a precious gift, this job of mothering. There is no work, in thought or deed, that connects a woman more to all the creatures in the world, all the other women or to God than the work of mothering. Enjoy your babies, no matter how grown, how near or far away. Thank you for all the mothering. Enjoy the day!

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Big Decision

Our beautiful daughter, Adah, has always loved to dance. She is also a talented and accomplished athlete.

She has been surrounding by the athletic prowess of her older brothers and has done an amazing job of keeping up with them in their activities. In physical activities like running, skating, volleyball and skateboarding with them, she has consistently held her own. She drew the line at participating in any organized way on a baseball diamond and left the hitting and pitching to the boys.

Her individual athleticism expressed itself through gymnastics. Gymnastics gave her a significant physical challenge with a bit of artistic expression thrown in. It also offered her some girl time with teammates who were likewise driven. With high achievement goals, the expectations she placed on herself and the demands of gymnastics practice, she was forced to leave formal dance training in the wings while she pursued her sport at a competitive level.

                          Gymnastics at Virginia Beach. USAG Eastern Nationals 2016.

Regional and national competition participation is an achievement. Adah accomplished both for several years. We traveled, we cheered. Her performances at meets were excellent. We were proud and we were all (athlete and parents) stretched in many ways. Then we began to be stretched, too thin.

Participating in competitive gymnastics is exceptionally demanding and as a family we began to reconsider the path our daughter was on. During that process, I wrote about those demands in this blog. After years of daily intensive practice and seasonal competitions, we began to re-evaluate her participation in such an intense sport. We enrolled her in a once a week dance class to determine if her love of the art remained and we watched, and we waited, and when we began to discuss the possibility of making changes, the tears began to flow. She admitted to the chronic physical pain that many gymnasts experience. She shared her questions and her fears of injury and uncertainty of being offered a college scholarship on one hand and of leaving so much accomplishment behind on the other. She also revealed her desire to have an opportunity to pursue training in dance.

At the age of 14, our daughter was making a long term life decision. She had already invested a lifetime into one endeavor. She had acquired skills and techniques reserved for the talented and dedicated. Fortunately, acquiring those skills and competing them had only resulted in one "minor" injury (a broken thumb) for her during years of participation. Unfortunately, it was taking its toll in many other ways. After years of investment, we pulled the plug on our daughter's pursuit of gymnastics.

Learning and moving in a whole new setting.

Hinsdale Dance Academy

Like many important decisions in life, the way was not crystal clear in advance. The decision to change directions was difficult and sad, as well as exciting and hope filled. This spring we are coming to the close of one full competitive season following this momentous choice and so far, so good. This season, Adah is dancing. It is an art that suits her. When asked, she has not shared any misgivings about moving on from gymnastics, not even in the midst of hearing of the competitive accomplishments of former teammates.

Adah is a beautiful dancer. There is joy in what she is doing and it shows. Of course, as her mother, I will always think that she is an amazing dancer, was an amazing gymnast and most importantly is becoming a most amazing woman.

So far she says she has no regrets. For that, we as parents, are grateful.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jobs for Teens

Each of my three children have always been interested in earning their own money. We have always expected each of them, as family members, to contribute by helping with household chores. Those chores have been based on their age and ability and we have never actually given them an allowance for helping around the house. As a result, they have all been especially eager, to get jobs somewhere, to earn a pay check. Simple enough, I thought. Not so, it seems. Jobs for teenagers are harder to come by, then when I was a kid. An after school position, or even a summer job, isn't as easy as just asking at the local grocery store anymore. In Illinois, where we live, anyone under sixteen is required to have a work permit. Those permits are issued by the local district school superintendent.

First employment - at the sandwich shop.

As a homeschooling parent, I'm a bit miffed by the requirement to ask permission from the district superintendent for my children to work an actual job. It adds one more hoop to jump through and in my opinion, gives undo authority to district schools over a teen's earning potential. There are, however, "jobs" for teens that are not required to have permits - sports officiating (umpires at the local baseball field) is one, delivery of newspapers or caddying at the golf course are others. So without wandering to far off into the political weeds....

My oldest's first experience with earning his own money, came as a newspaper deliverer. At that time, a local community newspaper gave each edition to every residence in the community, delivered to each door by a local teen. This provided an excellent first "job" opportunity for preteens and teens in our neighborhood. These first opportunities were coveted in our town. Other families in our vicinity held the same positions, handing them down from one sibling to the next for many years. Unfortunately, the newspaper made the decision to end direct delivery and eliminated the jobs held by young people. Since then, most of the earning opportunities for my teens have come privately from neighbors and friends. Many based in the connections my oldest made as a delivery person.

The next ongoing, lucrative opportunity, came as a dog walker. Everyday, during the school year, my son walked a beautiful German Shepard whose owner had long work days and wanted her pet companion to have much needed daily exercise while she was at work. My younger son filled in on days when the primary dog walker had a schedule conflict. Dog walking was an excellent way for both of them to spend time with a canine friend without our family having to make the commitment to dog ownership. The bond established between boy and dog was, none the less, significant and meant a positive pet experience for both of them as well as earning money.

The pet care opportunities have expanded and my daughter has enjoyed taking care of a neighbor's ducks when their young family needs assistance. More challenging then poultry care, she has also had the opportunity to babysit and more recently she has become an assistant in a gymnastics program for beginning gymnasts. All of these experiences are leading toward a greater understanding of making a contribution in return for financial rewards.

Pet sitting includes feathered friends.

Besides the financial benefit, the experience of accepting responsibility has been extremely beneficial for for my teen-aged children. Having the reinforcement of a paycheck from outside of our family emphasizes the importance of creating value, doing a job well and responsibility. Having teenagers in our family, who hold part-time jobs, requires me to add to my own responsibilities. Scheduling family meals is more complicated and driving them to and from jobs has been added to my to-do list. However, the benefits of them increasing their financial literacy and learning about employment is well worth the effort.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentines Day!

Celebrate the art of love with these free Fine Arts Pages from Enrichment Studies.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Learning to Read

I will never forget - the joy of watching my children learn to read!

Curious and eager, children are little learning machines. They readily absorb the information around them and want to actively participate in the world of the people they know and love. As we all know, acquiring the skill of reading is fundamental and essential for participation in that world. Giving them an environment rich in print, teaching them basic phonics skills and offering them encouragement and modeling, they will become readers and participate in our world of written words.

Teaching a child to read.

Teaching reading isn't really that hard. Especially, if as parents, we are aware of the range of readiness in our children. Not all children are early readers. If a child begins to read "late" as defined by our current education system, it doesn't mean that they won't become excellent readers. As a child, I was an early reader myself. Attending kindergarten was a disappointment for me because I thought I was going to school to learn, not to play in a playhouse and take naps. However, my early reading as a child did not predict early reading in my own children, as I expected it would. It was my misplaced expectation that threw my family's reading enjoyment off track for a period of time. Oops! Thankfully, we had already chosen to home school and also, fortunately, I was able to pay attention to my child and set my early reading expectations aside. I had to regroup and trust. Our focus was to enjoy words, stories, reading and books with my children.

It worked. A little instruction. Lot's of reading together. They became readers.

Encourage your children to become readers, the basics:

  • Read aloud with your children.
  • Provide a print rich environment.
  • Carve out silent reading times for your family.
  • Make sure your children see you reading on your own.
  • Explore the places that offer the adventure of reading.

Some of the best reading resources that I am aware of:

Excellent reading resources at Old Schoolhouse Teachers

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