Japan: The Land of the Rising Sun

This week’s post was delayed because I have been in Japan for two weeks visiting my oldest son. I have some takeaways and lessons that I have learned while being there that I would like to share today. (There are more to follow next week.)

It is crowded in the cities! Our daughter-in-law had us take the subway car during rush hour down to the busiest part of Tokyo. There is NO personal space and all you can hope for is that you arrive at your destination quickly and safely. If you can imagine a train car that is so packed that they have attendants whose job is to push people into the subway cars. I am thankful that I am tall because no one was in my face.  The top two pictures that are below are Shibuya crossing close to where my son works. This intersection is the busiest in the world and is known as the Scramble Crossing. During rush hour, this pedestrian crossing could fill a football stadium with all of the people that cross. The Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo has as many as 2,500 pedestrians crossing every time the signal changes. Lesson learned: I will not complain about things being too crowded here anymore!





Don’t pollute! I have told my sons for years, “The world is not your trash can.” The Japanse people believe that. There are very few public trash cans out on the streets. You carry your garbage with you and throw it away at a convenience store where there are designated recycling bins or take it home! People do not litter as a rule and the streets are clean and swept daily by those who live in the neighborhoods. Lesson learned: Even if I didn’t make the mess I will stop and pick up the trash I see.


People are helpful and polite. I don’t know about you, but I rarely stop and ask someone if they need help. When we arrived in Tokyo we had to navigate the subway and also the bullet train (picture below). I know we looked like deer in the headlights as we gaped at the Japanese names of cities and tried to figure out where we needed to go.  No less than four men at different times helped us while we were there. One gentleman even walked us to a different part of the building and delivered us right to the place we needed. Lesson learned: Help others when you can. Kindness and politeness go a long way!




Create beauty. Living in a large city such as Tokyo doesn’t afford for you to have a yard so people put pots of plants out near their apartment buildings and houses. I love pansies and this is one of the most common plants I saw while we were there. Lesson learned: Making things pretty not only brings enjoyment to those who live there, but also to others. I am going to plant pansies every year to remind me of my time in Tokyo and my family living there.


Kit Kats are a favorite candy with over 200 varieties to choose from throughout the year! Since we were there in the spring, matcha is a popular flavor right now along with strawberry. Our daughter-in-law took us to a candy store that was 6 floors! It had other snacks, but candy was the main item sold in this store.  さようなら approximates to “kitto katsu” – a Japanese expression meaning good luck. (Literally: “surely win.”)  Lesson learned: Try different flavors of candy and enjoy the sweetness of life.


That’s it for now! Have a great week.

Sayōnara さようなら



March Poetry

Put on a kettle of water, and grab some cups and tea or hot chocolate and some Girl Scout cookies to enjoy these poems. Here are some poems for copywork, memorizing or reading aloud this month as we celebrate Spring!

A Prayer In Spring – Poem by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Here is a fun poem to recite…

Spring, The Sweet Spring – by Thomas Nashe

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The palm and may make country houses gay,
Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,
And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,
In every street these tunes our ears do greet:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!

The Year’s At The Spring – Poem by Robert Browning

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his Heaven—
All’s right with the world!

Homeschool Must-Haves



When I first began homeschooling I thought there were so many things I needed to educate my sons. I needed the right curricula, a schoolroom, desks, a chalkboard (yes, I am that old!), and a wall of bookcases to hold all of our books. (The picture to the left is something I would have enjoyed having at my house.)

I learned along the way that no curriculum is perfect; my kitchen became our schoolroom, and a chalkboard wasn’t necessary to teach (although someone gave me one several years into my teaching at home lol ). You will notice I am not listing a lot of curricula in this post because I believe that is so much to choose from and it depends upon your philosophy of education and your teaching style. However, here is my list of MUST- HAVES with a few curriculum recommendations sprinkled throughout…

A love for learning- If you do not enjoy learning and want to impart ideas or opportunities for your child to grow, then homeschooling is arduous and difficult. Is it always easy? NO! But, I would say that without having my children’s best interests at heart, looking for ways to encourage a sense of curiosity and confidence, and wanting to see them succeed, I don’t think I could have successfully homeschooled them all the way through to graduation.

Planning Time- Carve some time into your schedule so that you can plan what you want to teach and what activities you would like your child to participate in outside of your home. Without a plan, it is hard to see things through to completion. Even if you are a relaxed or an unschooling family, you still want to have a goal in mind. Take for instance planting a garden and tending it; you have to know when the soil needs to be tilled and seeds put into the ground.  Without some thought and planning, time gets away from us.

Setting a schedule- This doesn’t have to be rigid but start your school day at a certain time, whether that be 8:00 or noon, let your son or daughter know that school begins and all else is to be done later.  Have a time you will end, otherwise, you will burn you and your child out.

Living Books- Perhaps you have not heard that term before, but it is a fabulous way of describing good books that draw you into the story and don’t let you go until you have read the very last page!   Simply Charlotte Mason,  Sonlight, and Memoria Press all have terrific booklists and literature packages you can purchase. Or if you are on a tight budget, get titles from the library or purchase a few at a time because you will want to build your own library. Having a school filled with lots and lots of books is such a wonderful way for your child to enjoy learning and develop interests. If your daughter reads a book about Sally Rider and finds her life interesting, this may spark a desire to read more about space and astronomy. You can always do a unit (mini or larger) and provide opportunities and resources to further that exploration of a topic.

A library card- I know this sounds simple, and it is, but I loved and used the library weekly throughout our years of homeschooling. In fact, the librarians knew all of our names and still ask about my sons when I see them. Libraries are a gold mine of resources from books to movies to programs and even study rooms. See if your library has a teacher’s collection card. Our local libraries allow you to get one if you are a homeschool teacher, which affords you the opportunity to check out books for a longer period of time, forgives a certain amount of overdue fines, and even puts together book collections upon written request!

A good math and phonics program. Both of these, I believe, are foundational to every child’s education. As far as recommendations are concerned, I think there are several solid math programs including Horizons (young students); Bob Jones, Math-U-See, and Modern Curriculum Press (multiple grade levels). Teaching Textbooks begins at 3rd grade, and while I think it is a good curriculum, I am not 100% sold on it if you have a student that is going into a career that will be mathematically or scientifically based. Something more substantial such as McDougall Littel is recommended by my good friend who teaches and tutors students junior high through college.

Phonics programs such as All About Reading or the Veritas Press Phonics Museum are both good choices. Spelling U See and All About Spelling are great accompanying programs once your student has learned to read. I believe in making sure a student has mastered phonics before adding a full spelling curriculum. Phonics and spelling go hand-in-hand, but we did TONS of reading and copywork and, “How do you spell…..?” at the beginning of learning to write.

If you are just starting out and are going the traditional route, I recommend finding a packaged curriculum to give you time to adjust to homeschooling and teaching. Cathy Duffy has an excellent resource on various curriculums called Cathy Duffy’s Top 102 Picks. Her book will help you sort through the plethora of wonderful programs there are available. Rainbow Resource also has fantastic reviews and I like to recommend people to order the catalog and read their reviews after you have narrowed your selection. I have purchased quite a few things based upon the reviews in their catalog. CBD also has reviews that help make curriculum selection easier. I appreciate the information and descriptions that are given.





10 Steps to Decluttering


I have to admit that this blog is written as a reminder for ME as I sit here at my desk suffocating under three large piles of papers that I have let accumulate since school began. I would have to admit that is about 7 months of papers, so it sounds better to say it the other way around! I have been at this for several hours and thought this would be a great time to give myself a pep talk and write this post. Perhaps you might be in the same situation as me and I can give us both ideas to power through and get things done.

  1. Do not beat yourself up! You may have a cluttered mess, but life happens and many days it is a victory to have made it through school and getting dinner on the table. Have today (or this week) be the time you get things decluttered so you can have a clean slate. No condemnation or guilt; it does not help!
  2. Break the task into smaller tasks. I am just going to tackle putting all of the papers in one pile away before I tackle the other two piles. I think by filing papers where they belong I will see some progress and it will encourage me to continue. If you are not working on papers, but clutter throughout your house, start with one area of your home.
  3. Set a goal. This morning I want to get the largest stack of papers put away and I plan on coming back this afternoon and filing the other two piles. What is your goal? To see the kitchen sink again? That is a great goal! Put the dishes in the washer or wash them while having some of your favorite music playing.
  4. Set the timer. I am setting the timer for one hour and see how much I can finish in 60 minutes. I am going to reward myself by taking a 10-minute break before I go back to tackle the clutter.
  5. Find a place to put things. “A place for everything and everything in its place.” is a great adage. Since I am working on papers I am putting things in binders- particularly two subjects that I teach. I told Dale that I have probably been responsible for the harvesting of a small forest with all of the papers I have for my classes. Think of a system that will work for you and stick with it.
  6. Throw away, give away. If you are decluttering, ask yourself, “When is the last time I used this?” If you really haven’t used it within the last few months consider giving it away or throwing it away. I have one trash bag next to my desk for the papers that I will put in the recycling bin when I am finished. I feel better knowing that they will be recycled instead of wasting them and throwing them away.
  7. Put away. Discipline yourself to put away whatever it was you got out. Is your family contributing to the clutter? Set the timer for 15 minutes at the end of the school day and have everyone assigned to an area. Play lively music and have everyone clean up for that amount of time. By making it short and lively everyone can pitch in and help make your house clutter-free or less cluttered.
  8. Celebrate your success and admire your work. I admit, I NEED this because I want to feel like I didn’t just work here for several hours (or days) and not take the time to look around and savor the moments of a clutter-free area.
  9. Treat yourself! If that is calling a friend and sharing the good news of your accomplishment or sitting in the area that you just cleaned up- Do It. It will help you…
  10. Choose another area to declutter and start the process all over again!

I must get back to work while I am motivated. 🙂 PS- The above picture is not my desk, but it is close to what it looks like!

Have a great week! Lisa